Neverwinter: Interview with Cryptic Studios CEO Jack Emmert
Tell us about the Neverwinter approach to microtransactions.
Our approach to free-to-play started with Champions, evolved with Star Trek Online quite a great deal and Champions evolved from what we learned on Star Trek. Get on to Star Trek and play it. The system we have in Star Trek is the system we’re looking at to bring into Neverwinter. It’s not necessarily cosmetics, but it’s not pay-to-win either.
In Star Trek, we have a currency called dilithium. You earn it in game by doing cool stuff. It tends to be a little bit harder, more committed stuff than your average missions, but it’s easily accessible. So each and every day someone can earn a bunch of dilithium. And then they can use that dilithium to buy gear in certain stores. Or you can put it on the exchange and sell it for microtransaction points. So a player can earn dilithium, sell it to another player, and then go buy starships or costumes or pets. In this way, it’s not pay-to-win, actually, we’ll pay you to play the game if you earn dilithium and sell it to other players. You can have everything you want without ever having to spend a dime just by playing the game. And that particular philosophy is 100% something we embrace at Cryptic Studios.
Can you explain the different kinds of currency for the game and role of each one?
Astral Diamonds are a time currency. Which means if you spend a lot of time doing cool stuff, you’ll earn a bunch of Astral Diamonds and you can use that to buy gear or you can sell it other players. This is the Neverwinter version of dilithium from Star Trek.
Zen, or microtransaction points, goes into our C Store and you can buy any number of different items. I think we’re still holding a lid on what exactly we’re selling right now. But you can see from our Founder’s Pack examples of things you can expect to see in our store like mounts. You buy Zen with real money or by trading for it with Astral Diamonds.
Gold is used to buy potions, consumables, and some low end gear to make sure your companions are fully kitted out or at a baseline for your level.
Seals are more for hardcore play and come from running dungeons. The Lion, Manticore, and Pegasus Seals are level banded. Certain dungeons from certain levels will give you Lion Seals, for example.
Every type of content should be the best at giving a certain kind of reward: experience points, gear, gold, Astral Diamonds. And we need to associate that reward with the type of player that would engage in that content. Tonight, I’m going to be leveling up. Tonight, I’m going to get more Astral Diamonds. I want to put that decision in the players’ hands so when they log in, it’s their choice with what they want to do.
I played a really entertaining player created mission during the beta weekend and tipped the creator with Astral Diamonds, essentially something they can turn into microtransaction currency. That’s pretty crazy.
That’s a good thing. Like I said, this is a free game. Anyone who wants to, get in and play. No one has to spend a dime. Our goal isn’t to get everyone to spend a nickel or everyone to pay a dollar, because that can get intrusive for the player. Many Facebook games are very focused on converting players to purchasers. Which isn’t better or worse, it’s just different. But we wanted to present a product that, if you want to pay there will be fun things for you to buy.