Eurogamer: You've mentioned there's going to be a fee to play Neverwinter. Is that right?
Jack Emmert: I did. We haven't talked about the business model at all. We've got some things planned.
Eurogamer: Will you charge from the beginning or is that still up in the air?
Jack Emmert: We haven't announced it yet. I wouldn't say it's up in the air; I would say some elements are still being debated.
Eurogamer: Are you tempted to make it a free-to-play product - one you download for free and then charge for after that?
Jack Emmert: Am I tempted? I can speak hypothetically! The time is certainly getting close where free-to-play... Triple-A videogames can be free-to-play. Now I'm not saying that's what Neverwinter is, but I am saying that free-to-play has traditionally been associated by pretty low quality products: very simple MMOs, extremely primitive graphically.
But DDO, for instance, has proven that you can put a pretty high quality product out there, make it free-to-play and you're going to attract an audience that is stable business-wise. What we're doing with Neverwinter, hey, we'll announce it soon enough.
Eurogamer: I loved your quote about an MMO being defined by what it was at launch rather than what was added post-release.
Jack Emmert: You should know that me saying that at the time was groundbreaking, because the thought had always been with MMOs is you launch and improve afterwards. It's a completely different world now.
That actually started with City of Heroes just prior to World of Warcraft. Because we launched, and we launched without PVP, without crafting. And even though we added it after the fact, we never gained any subscribers. It was a pretty groundbreaking thing to say. Of course now it seems obvious, but back in the day...
Eurogamer: Are there things you've left out of Neverwinter so that you can be as robust as possible at launch?
Jack Emmert: What I've done is carve out... If you read the comments, people ask why there are so few classes. Neverwinter 1 had something like 13.
Eurogamer: But you're adding classes after launch.
Jack Emmert: We will, you're absolutely right. But what we're saying is we're committed to making five great character classes. I'm going to be upfront and tell you exactly how it is. We'll add more afterwards. But I'd rather have a game that had five rock solid character classes than a game with 15 mediocre ones. That mediocrity sticks with the game, it just does.
We are creating an RPG similar to Dragon Age; a story with a beginning, middle and an end. We're not trying to create MMO with endgame. That's not what we're doing. We're focusing our efforts on quality, not quantity.
Eurogamer: Why aren't you making Neverwinter for console?
Jack Emmert: We just aren't. I want to do an MMO on console some day.
There are things I can focus and spend time on, like making a great Neverwinter game [on PC]. I'd love to do an online console RPG, but it just isn't... It's not for Neverwinter.
Eurogamer: You said you're only as good as your last game. Do you deserve a second - well, third - chance?
Jack Emmert: Hmm, that's really up to the consumers. Arguably no one should have bought Lord of the Rings after DDO and after Asheron's Call 2 from Turbine. Record of success doesn't always necessarily help, marketing budget doesn't always necessarily help - you've got to make a great game.
We have time, we have great guys, great developers. APB wasn't received well and look at what happened there. Here we are and we're kind of in a reverse position. I made some extremely bad decisions with Star Trek and Champions and misread the market completely and those games suffered as a result.
Hopefully our new focus and our change in the style of games we're making is going to match more what we can deliver to the public in a great fashion.
Eurogamer: What's the Neverwinter development cycle? When are we going to get a closed beta, open beta, demo, launch?
Jack Emmert: There's not going to be the traditional closed beta and open beta that we've done with MMOs, because it isn't the same product. We'll be following a testing cycle that fits with the type of game we're making.
Eurogamer: To clarify: can the public play Neverwinter this year?
Jack Emmert: Err, some lucky folks might. It's possible.
Eurogamer: Would those lucky folks be people that frequent your community site?
Jack Emmert: Yeah, yeah, it might be that, it might also by Neverwinter Nights people. People have done a lot of great mods and stuff. We researched that in secret and we definitely want to reach out to them because we want to make sure that the people who made great Neverwinter Nights mods over the years are included into the process of developing our UGC tools and really part of where we take this game.
Eurogamer: Are BioWare involved in Neverwinter at all?
Jack Emmert: No I'm afraid they aren't. It would be great if they were - I'm sure they could teach me a lot.
Jack Emmert is CEO of Cryptic studios. Neverwinter will be released on PC in 2011. There's a Neverwinter website, but little on it.