Oddly enough, I've only been following this title very casually since its first announcement. Sometimes I get swept up in all of the pre-launch hype, and sometimes it just passes me by. In this case, I've dipped my toes into the waters of interest from time to time and found it pleasingly warm. Yet it's kind of a no-brainer to be interested in this game for me because I do love Cryptic's titles and free-to-play philosophy (especially for Star Trek Online) and also because I'm at the right point in my life to appreciate some bite-sized gaming.
Bite-sized gaming? Is that just vernacular for "fun size" candy bars that are neither filling nor sized for a party? Nay, I say to you. It's just a good alternative to have in a gaming diet.
Some of you are probably blessed with as much gaming time as you could ever want. Some of you might be like me, however, and exist on a very limited budget when it comes to free time to game. It's just how it is when you grow older, busier, and add more responsibilities to your life. There are only so many hours in the day, right?
When you have very limited play sessions -- and here I'm defining them as anything as small as a half-hour to perhaps two hours a day -- then you can't afford to waste time. It not only rules out very time-intensive activities like raiding; it means that when you log in, you're under the gun to get something substantial done in that period. It really does force you to reorganize priorities.
Whether or not you have strict time limitations, there's another factor to consider. Many MMOs are certainly massive and require a substantial investment of time, effort, and attention to make good headway. It's really difficult to juggle multiple MMOs of this variety because the more you put on your plate, your progress in any given title will invariably slow to a crawl.
That's where the bite-sized MMOs come in: They allow you to add more games to your rotation without requiring as much up-front time investment. They're the games that you can jump in, get something done in a little bit of time, and then jump out. Some of the bigger titles, such as RIFT and Guild Wars 2, are embracing such options while giving players the opportunity to go far beyond that. For casual or time-conscious gamers, they're a godsend.
From what I've read and experienced of Neverwinter, this is a game that's setting itself up as a terrific bite-sized MMO. Sure, you could (and some definitely will) invest large chunks of time and marathon gaming sessions, but the game model seems to have a lot more in common with lobby-based MMOs. That's not a coincidence, as Neverwinter originally began as such and was fleshed out into a more full-featured MMO at Perfect World's insistence.
The core of Neverwinter is getting into the action quickly and painlessly. This could be solo, as in logging in to pray to your deity, running a solo mission, or doing a few quests. But it definitely is angled toward quick group content, especially with PvP, events, Foundry missions, and dungeon runs. The interface is set up to allow you to queue up for these and run them with either a PUG or your guild. It's the meat of the game, not the side attraction, and a vast majority of these experiences (again, from what I can tell) are not insanely demanding of one's time.
What excites me about my upcoming play experiences in Neverwinter is that I won't be going days or weeks before fortune and coincidence intervene to give me a good dungeon run. No, if the game lives up to its promise, then every night should be a quick, fun romp through interesting content.
It just feels like a pressure-free game to me, one where I don't need to get to the level cap to experience the best content or have to grind out in an open world for the gear I need. It's a title that I will be comfortable giving a solid half-hour a night without feeling as if it was a wasted login. With greater hope do I look forward to an active guild that will be eager to team up to tackle such content so that PUGs won't be as necessary.
Identifying an MMO or its content as "bite-sized" isn't an insult, at least not from me. We don't always need a huge feast to gorge on every evening; sometimes a tasty morsel can be just as memorable and filling in its own right. If Neverwinter settles into the space between time-intensive virtual worlds and stripped-down lobby games, I'll consider that a win for gamers looking for another option.
Chances are that at any hour, Justin Olivetti is prowling the streets of Neverwinter to bring lawful goodness to where it's needed. He chronicles his adventures in his bi-weekly column, Neverwinter Days, and will appreciate any alms or feedback you have to give.