Cryptic Studios, in its years of independence and later, as part of Atari, made a name for itself in the video game industry as a leading developer in massively multiplayer online games. Their first MMO, City of Heroes, was a major success and led to the creation of City of Villains. With their expertise in online games and the superhero genre they landed a deal with Microsoft and Marvel to develop a licenced MMO.
That was canned and the work already done was evolved into Champions Online. Cryptic also picked up the pieces of Star Trek Online to develop that into a full-fledged licensed game, and their next major title, with new parent company Perfect World Entertainment, takes the studio into the realm of fantasy: Neverwinter.
Neverwinter is a free-to-play fantasy MMO that – like its name indicates – is based on the rules and lore of Dungeons & Dragons. We played it at E3 2012 and were pleasantly surprised with Cryptic’s work, and over the last few months have participated in the closed beta weekends. Each of these weekends however, had a limited amount of playable classes and restricted content available. Only Founders, press and a select few had access but as Perfect World and Cryptic announced yesterday, this all changes later this month.
Cryptic Studios Executive Producer and COO, Craig Zinkievich, reveals the open beta date for Neverwinter:
“The direct response and support from the Neverwinter community during our Closed Beta Weekends have pushed us to make Neverwinter the best free-to-play MMORPG anyone has yet seen. On April 30, we go into Open Beta. That’s when the world we’ve labored for years to build comes to life — that’s when every gamer can login and play what we’ve worked so hard to create. We could not be more excited.”
Jack Emmert, Cryptic Studios CEO, talks about rewarding founders with an additional fourth weekend of closed beta before the current version of the game goes public at the end of the month:
“We’ve never been in a better place launching a game. While the entire team is focused on launching Neverwinter’s Open Beta on April 30, we still wanted to thank those committed Founders who stuck with us. Since the beginning of Neverwinter’s Beta Weekends, our Founders have shown us that Neverwinter offers engaging game mechanics, unique features and a gameplay experience that is parallel to subscription or paid games. They have become our biggest supporters and we wanted to give them Beta Weekend 4 as a token of our appreciation.”
There are three tiers of founders packs, each adding exclusive content to purchasers, ranging from an extra racial class to a giant spider mount. Details on those can be found here. And here’s an epic gallery:
Did we mention that players can actually build their own content? The Foundry feature lets players used a toolkit to literally contruct and share new adventures, and players can rate and play them throughout the game.
Neverwinter releases for PC in open beta April 30, 2013, and in full later this year.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.