New Neverwinter set for 2011

Atari and Cryptic are working on a new not-quite-massively multiplayer online game set in the Dungeons & Dragons universe.

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In May, onetime Cryptic Studios chief creative officer Bill Roper confirmed that the massively multiplayer online role-playing game studio would push ahead with new projects beyond Champions Online and Star Trek Online. With the industry veteran promising a late summer announcement for Cryptic's next project, many speculated that the Atari-owned studio would soon bring a Dungeons & Dragons-themed online game to market.

Neverwinter's gates will open to gamers next year.
Neverwinter's gates will open to gamers next year.

Speculate no longer, as Atari and Cryptic announced today Neverwinter, an all-new online game based on Wizards of the Coast's D&D brand and set in the fantasy universe's iconic city. Neverwinter is expected to launch for the PC in late 2011.

Though it shares the name and many of the locales seen in BioWare's acclaimed role-playing game Neverwinter Nights, Cryptic's MMORPG will tell an alternate story, one in which the once mighty city has been decimated by a century of hardship. The land is plagued by civil war due to an unclear succession, a matter complicated by an actual plague that claimed the lives of many of the land's denizens.

While Neverwinter will require players to connect to an online server to play, Cryptic stopped short of calling it a massively multiplayer online role-playing game. In the game, players can choose from five traditional D&D character classes. Gamers can then join five-man squads composed of other online players to venture forth into the city's dungeons, completing quests and gathering items along the way. Neverwinter also offers a single-player component, in which players can recruit computer-controlled allies to accomplish the same missions.

True to the D&D experience, Neverwinter will also let players craft their own in-game storylines and quests by way of an in-game content-generation system currently known as "Forge." Additional details on Forge have not yet been revealed.

The game will launch alongside a new trilogy of novels written by fantasy author R.A. Salvatore, which are also set in the Forgotten Realms--the books will touch on the game's main characters, monsters, and storyline. Also planned for the launch of the online game is a new tabletop game from Dungeons & Dragons license owner Wizards of the Coast.

The game's announcement will likely agitate a lawsuit filed by Dungeons & Dragons Online creator and recent Warner Bros. acquisition Turbine, which sued license holder Atari in August 2009. In its suit, Turbine claimed that Atari deliberately underpromoted the relaunch of D&D Online under its new free-to-play business model as part of a licensing-agreement "termination" strategy. The suit claimed that the termination strategy was being pursued in bad faith, as Atari planned to launch its own competing product.

For more details on the game, read GameSpot's exclusive interview.

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