[NW] Development at Cryptic

We asked Cryptic Studios to walk us through their development process, from inception to implementation. Also, any examples on something cut rather than making it live? Lindsay Haven, System Designer, please take it away:

Because we have so many creative people that work here in the studio, and each idea is different, not every feature has the exact same development cycle. In general we follow the cycle I’m about to outline. Sometimes we make exceptions for creativity, scope, and feature timeline; however, we do find this process works well for us in most cases.

Rough outline of Neverwinter development process:

  1. Idea!
  2. Outline
  3. Kickoff with leads and implementers
  4. Implementation
  5. Revision of the plan
  6. Implementation
  7. Testing, iteration, testing, iteration…
  8. Final sign off!

Any feature first starts as an idea, here at Cryptic this is usually brought on by some clever person playing in one of our playtests and thinking “this could be more fun if…” or from brainstorming ideas to fix a known issue. Once the idea is born a developer, or sometimes a producer, will outline the new feature, zone, race, or other addition to the game. The outline is then reviewed and updated by relevant department leads and people who will be directly implementing the feature. When a consensus is reached implementation begins!

Sometimes, especially with big features, not everything we envisioned is possible, worth the time investment, or as fun as we thought it would be. If this happens we will revise our original plan and continue implementing. Usually these kinds of changes are small, such as specific quest drops not matching the lore of the adventure zone; rarely they are really big, like changing what technologies we use to create the tens of thousands of equipable items we have in Neverwinter. In the event that we end up cutting a feature instead of implementing, it usually happens here. We have a lot of eyes on features at any given time, because of the early input we get it’s rare that a feature would be cut beyond this point.

Once implementation is nearly complete, we begin testing the feature in playtest meetings in the room we call “The War Room.” This is particularly true with adventure zones, dungeons, PvP zones, and player classes. The war room is where most of us first see a feature come to life and, if you’ll pardon the cliché, where the magic happens. It’s where the mood is measurable, first impressions are made, and bugs are shouted out (usually by more than one person at a time) for the nearest producer to put on a punchlist. Eventually we get to some number of playtests where everyone is happy with the outcome and we give the final development sign off. From there it moves to QA testing where they test it for exploits, typos, and other things the developers missed. Once it passes QA, the feature is done!

The great thing about working at Cryptic Studios is that everyone is an integral part of the development cycle. We frequently have all team playtests and sometimes all company playtests. Everyone is encouraged to send feedback and contribute to all aspects of the game. Because of this, Neverwinter is the culmination of the love, determination, and passion of everyone in the studio. We forward to Neverwinter going live and hearing what you think!

Thank you, Ms. Haven
: Zubon

3 thoughts on “[NW] Development at Cryptic

  1. Asmiroth

    In all honesty, I would not have thought Cryptic followed anything close to a logical dev cycle a few years back. Since STO went free to play though, it’s like they went through a massive shift, aiming for quality before quantity, within their budget space.

    While their comments aren’t earth shattering, it’s nice to have a peek behind the curtain.

    Reply
    1. Zubon Post author

      As the category listed, I have been referring to the game as “Neverwinter Nights,” because it is still 1991 (or perhaps 2002). I’ll switch that.

      Reply

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