Atari and Hasbro subsidiary Wizards of the Coast seemed to have been in a legal deadlock for years over the Dungeons & Dragons license, preventing any activity involving games using it for years. That seems to have come to an end, as the publisher has just announced a partnership between the two which will see the release of a new online PC RPG in the Neverwinter Nights franchise, simply titled Neverwinter. They even announce it with three exclamation marks -- not what you usually see in a press release. Suffice it to say, Atari sounds pumped. Always nice to see this kind of thing resolved for the love of gaming.
Neverwinter is developed by Cryptic Studios, the folks behind City of Heroes and also Champions Online and Star Trek Online -- we're not sure how they're going to find the time between all that, but apparently it is possible.
The plot, you ask? It centers around the city of Neverwinter which used to be a busy place, but has faced multiple disasters in the past century. One disaster in particular -- the Spellplague -- takes out the Lord of Neverwinter, causing an upheaval in the population's stability, and even its dead.
Neverwinter is not an MMORPG -- for one, it can be played offline with AI. Either way, you'll be part of five-person groups, each of you adopting one of the five classic D&D classes.
Mod tools are already noted, with which you'll be able to create your own storylines and quests. Tentatively named "Forge", the toolset is said to be extremely user-friendly.
It gets better. Acclaimed author R.A. Salvatore is helping out, and also writing a book titled Gauntlgrym which will serve as a preview of sorts when it releases October 5.
“We're beyond thrilled to develop a brand new version of Neverwinter. It's been years since the original became a gaming icon and we’re honored to work with such a great franchise," said Jack Emmert, COO of Cryptic Studios. "We've been working closely with Wizards of the Coast and R.A. Salvatore to create an authentic D&D adventure filled with compelling fiction and exciting gameplay."
“Wizards of the Coast is excited to invite millions of fans back to Neverwinter with the launch of R.A. Salvatore’s Gauntlgrym,” said Liz Schuh, Brand Director for Dungeons & Dragons at Wizards of the Coast. “And we’re excited about the prospects for great digital gaming experiences based on this epic world.”
Speaking of digital experiences in the D&D universe -- fans can likely start to look forward to re-releases of the Baldur's Gate series, Planescape Torment and so on on classic games service GOG.com, with which Atari is a partner. Good Old Games (GOG) commented to us recently, "[We] are definitely working hard to get the Hasbro titles, as well. [We] really hope this will happen, sooner or later." Looks like more the former than the latter.
Neverwinter will launch on the PC Q4 2011 following Salvatore's book and also a tabletop roleplaying game from Wizards of the Coast.