DDO Rolls 1d3

Wow… Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO) just turned 3 — has it really been that long already?

When it first came out, I was right on board, first train and pulling that whistle.  Choo-choo!  DDO seemed like it had a great chance to forge a new path in MMOspace — a solid IP that was synonymous with “RPG”, a dedication to party instance runs that would tell stories, and the ability to multi-class.  Right after launch, however, it didn’t take long for most of us to realize that this wasn’t going to make any great waves in the gaming industry, and in fact, was going to struggle hard for its entire lifespan.

For the record, I liked DDO, but they didn’t quite think everything through in development.  The Eberron setting was a mistake, as few D&D loyalists were familiar with the campaign, and confining the population to one city gave the game a downright claustrophobic feel.  D&D’s leveling and multi-classing system didn’t translate exactly into MMO terms, so they really had to torture it to give players a similar feeling of “leveling up” as they got in other titles.  Turbine had — and still has, in LOTRO as well — a crappy interface that was brutal and small to work with, and gave no “life” to the adventures.  A great UI is essential to a game’s success, I’m starting to support.

Because you would repeat dungeon runs over and over, players soon learned the fastest way of doing them, resulting in “speed runs” which allowed zero time for exploration, trap removal or fun — just faster XP and loot.  That sucked a lot of the joy out of the game for me.

Then you had to cope with the fact that DDO wasn’t a simple game to understand; on the contrary, you could really screw up your character before even loading into the first zone.  Magic-casters in particular had to do gobs of research and agonize over every little decision, as they’d be penalized mightily for making the wrong choice (which would stick with them for a long time).  D&D’s check and save system isn’t very intuitive for the non-D&Ders out there, and I believe this became a big obstacle to drawing in that crowd.  Finally, this just wasn’t a game that initially supported solo play, and some players started to chafe at being forced into groups (or be helpless without them) just to run content.

That’s all a shame, because there’s a GREAT core of a game inside all of that.  The combat is pseudo-real time, and carries with it real weight — you don’t regenerate hit points over an adventure (other than being healed or finding one of the very sparse healing shrines), which made players really think through their actions.  Traps, mini-games and exploration played a bigger part of instance runs, and that coupled with the GM’s voice-over narrative actually worked in making you feel part of a real quest instead of some FedEx check box list.  You had enormous possibilities in building your characters, if you had the advance knowledge for it, and Turbine did add in more class options later on.

This is one of those titles that, if it was $6 a month or cheaper, I’d probably keep on my computer and subscribed as a casual, part-time title.  As it is, the age of the game, coupled with its extremely low subscriber base (and probably skimpy dev support) means that there isn’t much of a future in it.  Alas.  It really did have potential.

7 thoughts on “DDO Rolls 1d3

  1. Maladorn February 25, 2009 / 5:16 pm

    I’m curious about what they will do with the new 4th edition ruleset. It seems like a lot of the rpg mechanics will translate well, so I expect someone to try it before long.

  2. Scott February 25, 2009 / 5:17 pm

    Everyone’s been gloom and doom for DDO since launch but here it is at 3. I don’t play often but I jumped on their $10/month program which seems more reasonable to me.

    If you were there at launch I’d have thought you’d have known that Eberron had nothing to do with “thinking it through.” Wizards would ONLY license that setting; they had no choice in the matter. I haven’t been playing long and even I know that.

    I can’t really defend the original lead designer Ken Troop’s theory that players *want* to repeat content/dungeons (although what do players immediately ask with new MMO’s? “What’s the end-game?” so go figure) but these days you only repeat content if you actually want to for the rewards or faction points. There’s enough content in the game to get to level cap without repeating a single quest.

    They’ve announced “big plans” for the game, which started with the new player experience that was released a few months ago. They’re adding a new race or two and another class this year, increasing the level cap and tons more content. I’m excited for it all, even if I don’t play often enough to actually see most of the new stuff.

    If they could come up with a way to keep DDO’s active combat system but in a full-world setting, people would probably be all over it. As it is, the game has some of the best-constructed instances I’ve ever seen (and I’m only on the low end of mid-level). But it’s very overwhelming for non-D&D players like myself who don’t necessarily know what they should be doing ahead of time with regard to character-building, etc. Maybe that’s how 3.5e really is, I don’t know.

  3. ustice February 25, 2009 / 9:26 pm

    It sounds like you haven’t been in the game in quite a while. A LOT has changed. You may find the game more to your liking now. Why not give the free trial a go. There is +50% XP this weekend, so you will be able to progress farther in that time.

    New players can choose paths which are basically templates that will grow their character from 1 to 20 (which is coming Mod 9, and due just about any day now). The enhancement system has been updated to allow for more diversification, and to make the intralevel ranks more interesting.

    There are a lot of new areas to explore, so the world doesn’t seem to revolve around one city. Explorer zones give something to do between quests.

  4. Syp February 26, 2009 / 4:42 pm

    Sounds like it might warrant a checking out, then. As for the IP, in every pre-release interview the devs did, they kept saying that they choose Eberron, not that it was foisted onto them. It might’ve been, but that definitely was not the impression they gave.

  5. ustice February 26, 2009 / 4:54 pm

    Whether or not you like Eberron or not is a personal choice, but I think that it was a good one. While I LOVE Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk, they are almost cliché in how they have been emulated over and over.

    Eberron brings something new to the table. I love how magic is treated in the setting as being a more common thing for people. How the technology level is almost on par with industrial revolution while being based on magic. Artificers are not only adventurers, but also craftsmen.

    Also, with the setting still being fairly young, (at the time) there was a lot of room to grow and expand. It gave them a lot of leeway without having to worry about the license holder nor the fans getting upset about missing a detail.

    I would have liked to see DDO highlight more of these differences then they have, but I still think that the theme comes through.

  6. DDOCentral June 1, 2016 / 12:41 am

    “As it is, the age of the game, coupled with its extremely low subscriber base (and probably skimpy dev support) means that there isn’t much of a future in it. Alas. It really did have potential.” And SEVEN years later…

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