Neverwinter: Jewel of the North Interview – Bard Class, Reworked Progression, and More

Lead designer Randy Mosiondz speaks with GamingBolt about the MMORPG's big new expansion and everything that it brings to the table.

Posted By | On 09th, Aug. 2021

Neverwinter: Jewel of the North Interview – Bard Class, Reworked Progression, and More

Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment’s free-to-play MMORPG Neverwinter has been running for quite some time now (it’s over eight years old at this point), but its developers are clearly coming up with major ideas to keep changing things up even now. The game has received one its more significant expansions in recent memory with Jewel of the North, and it brings a whole lot to the table. On top of adding the Bard as a new playable class, making things more streamlined and accessible with a new Adventurers system and better tutorialization, and adding an Adventurers Guild, with its newest expansion, Neverwinter has also completely reworked progression, bringing it more in line with Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition rulesets and lowering the level cap from 80 to 20. Obviously, there’s plenty going on in Jewel of the North, and to learn more about the ways in which it has changed Neverwinter, we reached out to its developers with some of our questions. You can read our interview below with lead designer Randy Mosiondz.

neverwinter jewel of the north

"The story is more linear, and gives a better sense of continuity. It also gives us an opportunity to more clearly tutorialize all the aspects of the game, so by the time you get to level 20, you know how to play your class and the rest of the game before you start playing through epic-level content."

What was behind the decision to rework the game to bring it more in line with the D&D 5th Edition ruleset? What are the biggest ways this change affects the game?

The decision came more out of desire to streamline the leveling experience, especially with all the newest content designed for players who have already reached max level. When we started talking about shrinking the leveling time considerably, it made sense to give it parity with D&D tabletop from where Neverwinter gets its roots.

Instead of 40-50 hours to get to the max level — which before was level 80 — it now only takes you 10-12 hours to get to the max level, which is now level 20. The story is more linear, and gives a better sense of continuity. It also gives us an opportunity to more clearly tutorialize all the aspects of the game, so by the time you get to level 20, you know how to play your class and the rest of the game before you start playing through epic-level content.

Neverwinter’s reworked its progression to considerably de-emphasize grinding, and reaching the level cap now requires much less time than it used to. What led to this change? How does it benefit the overall experience?

Neverwinter has been running a long time — having just celebrated its 8th year anniversary in June — and has accumulated a lot of content. We didn’t want people intimidated by a wall of content just to get to the latest update, especially if when you have veteran players who want to play with friends who are new to the game. It also allows veteran players to more quickly level-up alternate characters of classes they wanted to try.

neverwinter jewel of the north

"Neverwinter has been running a long time — having just celebrated its 8th year anniversary in June — and has accumulated a lot of content. We didn’t want people intimidated by a wall of content just to get to the latest update, especially if when you have veteran players who want to play with friends who are new to the game."

The Adventurer’s Guild is a pretty major new addition, especially from the perspective of newcomers. Has that become an important consideration for the development team, to make Neverwinter more accessible to new players? How have you reconciled that with making sure that those who’ve invested hundreds of hours in the game don’t get a more compromised experience?

The Adventurer’s Guild was a big part of the leveling streamlining design, giving new players a single focal point for the 1-20 level progression. Even veteran players who have played through during Closed Alpha and Preview have expressed that the Adventurer’s Guild alongside the larger leveling has a much tighter flow that they enjoy.

Can you talk about the changes you’ve made to the progression system? The milestone system and gear-based progression upon hitting the level cap are interesting changes, but what led to the decision to implement these?

The milestone system is another carry-over from D&D tabletop. While you can still play used experience point progression in tabletop, a lot of the official modules have moved to milestone leveling where once you complete a major step in the story progression, you gain a level. By having milestone progression in Nevewinter for levels 1-20, you have a more focused experience that is more about story and learning the game. Then when you get into epic-level content, the focus is more on campaign-play and how to gear up your character while going through all the different post-level 20 Adventure Zones.

The bard class is Neverwinter’s first new class in a while, and has been in the works for some time, and seeing as it comes to the game at a time where it has reinvented so much of itself, it’s shouldered plenty of responsibility to highlight Neverwinter’s biggest strengths in its current form. Can you talk about how it does that, and what the process was like of deciding which new class to put in the game and how it should be balanced to fit the experience?

There was a lot of discussion about possible classes, and it included the Druid and Monk as contenders. Between what we discussed internally, what the Neverwinter community expressed, and what Wizards of the Coast gathered from public surveys, Bard seemed to be a clear choice for us. It fit the bill as being both an interesting and creative new class, and adding in the ability for players to actually do play their own music for other players was a fun aspect that was a big clincher for us.

Balancing is a big factor when you introduce any new class. Once the basic class was built, there is a lot of iteration on how it performs in a team in Dungeons and Trials since it’s filling a specific role (DPS or Healing). Then there’s a lot of how it feels solo in leveling (powers progression) and epic-level item progression. Once we got all that worked out, we knew the Bard class was in a good state and that it would be a great fit for Neverwinter.

neverwinter jewel of the north

"There was a lot of discussion about possible classes, and it included the Druid and Monk as contenders. Between what we discussed internally, what the Neverwinter community expressed, and what Wizards of the Coast gathered from public surveys, Bard seemed to be a clear choice for us."

Looking forward, what are your plans for Neverwinter in the coming weeks and months? Can players expect any other major content updates or additions anytime soon?

We’re already well into post Jewel of the North development. We definitely want to get back to getting some more content out there for all players, including veteran players, soon.

Do you have any plans to bring Neverwinter to the Switch at some point in the future?

We have no current plans, but anything is possible!


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