I read with some disappointment that Cryptic is closing the Foundry in its various MMORPGs next month. That means I’ll have to take the time to replay my husband’s missions in Neverwinter one more time. It is really sad to read that another avenue for genuine player creativity is being shuttered. The reason given is a plain one, too few resources and the loss of a key member of staff who was behind its development.
The history of the Foundry in Neverwinter, the MMO I have by far the most experience with, is rather checked. At launch it was a system with very real potential despite the bugs. There was a real buzz about the idea of creating your own adventure scenarios or re-creating classic tales from Dungeons & Dragons or beyond for others to experience (someone worked on recreating specific Everquest 1 zones for instance).
Sadly MMO players being what they so often are, min-maxers to the extreme, exploits were found and the system was heavily nerfed reward-wise. The random resource nodes were taken out as bots were (allegedly) farming them to create wealth. Players also made pits full of monsters that you could easily slaughter with ranged attacks from safety above as a way to speed farm experience. The justification for my statement at the start of this paragraph is that such missions quickly featured as popular and highly rated.
There was also the daily reward system for astral diamonds – a daily quest given by Rhix the kobold in Protectors Enclave. That gave a real incentive for players to try player-made content beyond the experience gain. But the qualification system for which scenarios counted for this or not was arbitrary and deeply flawed. It was based on a scenario’s average run time – set and amended over time by players running it. So a scenario could be comfortably over the minimum at the moment of first publication; but you might log back in a few days or weeks later to find it had been disqualified by the average runtime falling below the bar. This is a game that always attracted speed-runners so basing this on average runtime was a rather foolish idea.
Despite these issues the system was easy to use and rather powerful. Compared to other systems it was also very generous: you received all the available assets from the first moment. That contrasts rather strongly with the collection mini-game in Everquest 2, I’ve barely touched the Dungeon-maker in that game as I have so few assets collected to do anything with. There were also some achievements and a rather nice companion to earn if you really committed to using the Foundry. Players could rate and comment on your scenarios, or even send you a ‘tip’ of a hundred or so astral diamonds. Overall it was a system with great potential that never quite hit its full stride due to certain system decisions and the inevitable community approach to using it.