Of all the things this trip to Neverwinter
has shown me, the ability to continue a character's story beyond the quest that Cryptic
provides stands as the greatest thing I think any online game can give us. Although I don't believe that Neverwinter
(or any other game, for that matter) gives me everything that I ever hoped for, the Foundry does allow those who enjoy dungeon mastering in the classic Dungeons and Dragons sense a chance to test out their skills at creating a story within a realistic development environment.
Most writers would love to have a blank slate, a platform to do whatever they want to do, but realistically, that never happens. Every development environment contains its own limits and challenges content creators have to overcome. Sometimes the engine doesn't allow writers to do what they would like. Sometimes budgetary limits constrain the creative process. Sometimes writers forget that they are making a game and not a novel, so "fun" adds its own limits. As a writer and a gamer, I have been given a taste of what it takes to make an enjoyable quest for a gaming community.
On multiple occasions, the community following this column chose items that I did not believe it would. Even as late as last week, when I asked about the special effects for the dream world, I truly expected the community to choose fog because of its ability to hide things, but even though it was a tight race, the community wanted to see twinkling lights.
I'm not one who believes we should always cater to the majority. (I'm a roleplayer in MMOs; I'm far from the majority.) But there is something to be said about assuming you know how people are going to react: You can truly never know what will be popular at any given moment.
I have heard many developers say things like we are gamers, too, so if the game is fun for us, it will be fun for our players
. I don't want to discount the nugget of truth in that statement because I believe it is essential for a creator to enjoy what he's creating. It will show in the finished product if there isn't a bit of love sewn into the fabric of the game. But creators can't lose sight of why players jump into their games or quests in the first place.
As a writer, I wanted to open my quest with some sort of enchantment or spell to get the player into Reed's dream world, but I couldn't lose sight of the game. Ultimately, I had to understand that not all of my audience wants long introductory commentary. Sometimes the actions in the game environment can tell the story. In fact, I would continue that trend while in the dream world by making one of the boss fights not a fight at all but rather a run for one's life.
In college, I had an art professor who explained that a creation is never finished; it's just stopped. At some point, there has to be an end. You can perfect the environment. You can continue to tweak the dialogue forever, but at some point, you have to say it's done. You have to let the baby bird out of the nest to see if it will fly, which is what I am doing with this adventure. I have a couple of more items I promised to drop into the quest before I stop, but you will see it published this week. The title is Sleepless Dream, and my username is TheRealShaddoe. I will be sure to tweet it when it's completed.
As a final closing on this adventure, I'd like to give you, my readers, a thank-you. I know it's cliche to say that I could not have done this without your encouragement and support, but it's absolutely true. Besides being the people who nudged me in the directions you wanted me to go, you allowed me to learn a few lessons about creating game content. Thank you, and I hope to see you in a new adventure really soon.
Larry Everett loves MMOs, but sometimes when he gets stuck in one particular MMO, he loses sight of everything else he's missing. Direct his game time in Choose My Adventure on Wednesdays and on The Stream Team.