Catching Up: DDO

Slime, cubed
Slime, cubed

Anton has a funny quote about the potential benefit of DDO.

Before I left, I tried something out: I installed DDO on my work computer (do I game at work?  Rarely, but once in a while I’m stuck at the office for a 14 hour day during which I have a couple hours to kill between activities, and gaming’s a good way to pass the time), using the low resolution install, just to see if it’d work.  That machine is pretty old and could barely run WoW, but DDO chugs along on it just fine, which I thought was pretty spiffy!

I’m looking around for good DDO blogs and haven’t found many yet — if you find some, help clue me in!

The fallout from the free-to-play announcement is still hitting some hard, but I have to say, if nothing else it got me playing again.  And don’t you DDOers want to have Syp in the game, just to watch me fall on my face when I fail a klutz roll or something?

The single big — and it is BIG — news for the week is that Turbine’s finally released proposed patch notes for the long-awaited Module 9/Eberron Unlimited patch.  We still don’t know when it’s going to happen, but I’d say that “whenever Eberron Unlimited goes live” is a safe bet.  DDOcast discusses it, and here are my thoughts on a few of the notes:

New Class: Favored Soul

This is probably the most anticipated bit of DDO news out of all of them.  Many wondered if Turbine would be creating the Druid or perhaps the Eberron-themed Psionist, but instead we got… whatever a “Favored Soul” (henceforth to be referred to as “FS”) is:

Favored Souls draw on divine magic to both heal and destroy. Like clerics, Favored Souls have access to powerful healing spells, but they are also more skilled with weapons than any other spell caster. Like sorcerers, they get a larger number of spell points than other spell casters but cannot freely switch spells at taverns or rest shrines. Players will be able to unlock the Favored Soul by reaching 2500 total favor on a character or by purchasing it in the DDO Store! To learn more about Favored Soul features, be sure to check the class abilities and enhancement sections of these release notes!

So… LOTRO’s Runekeeper then?  It seems like this is the “everything plus the kitchen sink” class — huge reservoir of spells to fling at opponents, as well as great weapon fighting abilities.  Oh, and healing.  So what can’t they do that other classes can?  Disarm traps?  Um… play songs?  We’ll have to see it in action, but this announcement has to make a lot of clerics/bards/sorcerers/everyone feel pretty uneasy at being obsolete.  Does DDO truly want a “Death Knight” class that trumps all the other ones?

Note the “2500 favor or buy at the store” notice.  For those not playing DDO, 2500 favor is a ridiculous amount of work (2294 total favor available in the game as of 2007), so the chances are good that 95% of people playing FS in the future will have purchased them at the store.

Potentially OP and expensive class aside, new classes should be one of Turbine’s highest priorities for DDO.  Why?  They’re always in demand, they don’t have to balance them in a PvP situation (not real PvP, at least), and they’re a cheap way to extend content by urging players to revisit old dungeons with new characters.  I hope we’ll see more.  And more races, perchance.

Um… Lesser Announcements

There’s a lot to digest from here, but most all of it seems good.  Higher level 20 cap, bravo.  More adventures, always welcome.  UI, chat and guild improvements, yup.  And better targeting.  I’m sure more experienced DDO followers will pick up on the minutia that I’ve overlooked, but everything kind of does seem piddly compared to F2P and a new class.

13 thoughts on “Catching Up: DDO

  1. Wonder if the dev team was told to justify the F2P model fast. Because releasing a really powerful class and effectively restricting it to pay only …

  2. F2P RMT at its worst. The name “Favored Soul” already reeks of immense special benefits for money spent in the shop.

  3. I wouldn’t exactly take Rowanheal’s attitude as the overall one in the community. She’s single-handedly the most negative and opposed-to-change person I’ve ever heard of. Her “sky is falling” over every little thing and constant doomsaying is beyond old at this point. Ironically, how can one be *that* opposed to change and yet play an RPG, a genre where the overall *point* of the game is change? Even moreso with an online RPG, especially the massively multiplayer variety…

    Heh, my first thought at hearing the basic description of the Favored Soul was “oh, they’re porting the Rune-keeper to DDO?” But I guess it’s an actual Eberron D&D class or something. Kate mentioned a few DDOcasts ago that they’re having some issues with the Druid and that WotC moving Druids out of the 4.0 core rules (or something) puts it in an iffy position, despite the fact Turbine has been saying they’re sticking with the 3.5e rules for DDO… who knows. It sounds like the FS is essentially a healer version of a Sorcerer. More spell points, and packs a punch but limited in other ways. Or something.

    Regardless, I think the Freemium approach will really help the game. Despite all the work and good attitude of the current DDO dev staff, the population is miniscule right now. Initially there will be the influx of new blood simply because it’s F2P but in a month or two there should be a decent balance of subscribers (VIP… pfftt… whatever) and free players. Being a Guild Wars player myself, I am very much in favor of the idea of buying adventure areas, character slots, etc. but I’m much less keen on the idea of buying consumables.

    Bottom line is the game was going under and Turbine already has one black eye from canceling AC2 a few years ago. This is a way to save of of the most unique and often challenging games out there, and I’m glad they’re making the effort instead of pulling an NCSoft and just canceling the game outright. One of the many major design flaws with DDO is that unlike most well-rounded MMORPGs, there’s no “world” out there, which also means there is nothing to actually *DO* in the game outside of being in a group. I usually go weeks to months between being able to get a group and do anything at all in DDO because of the population problems. It’s too bad DDO is (in a sense) a multiplayer action RPG that is stuck running on (at this point) older MMORPG server tech. In addition to the Freemium model, the ultimate population-saver would be a Guild Wars-esque “invisible server” scenario where we can just pop into whichever hub instance has the most players rather than being fully separated into servers.

  4. The Favored Soul sounds good on paper, but speaking strictly from pencil and paper experience, it isn’t as strong on it’s own as a cleric. It’s less flexible, due to the loss of prepared spellcasting. The FS can cast more times, but it casts fewer different spells. If you try, you may be able to make a FS as good at healing as a cleric or as good at fighting as a fighter, but you won’t make it both. Clerics, with their ability to prepare different spells from the whole divine spectrum, are more likely to be the “Death Knight” class, I would think.

  5. I saw a gallery of some of the mini-transaction items for DDO, and they showed stuff like access to areas and quests for real money.

    How is that going to affect the F2P players? Are those dominant enough that we’ll be forced to buy them in order to group and play, or will they be just side-quests that fewer people will even want to experience?

  6. @ Beej – As Turbine’s said, you should be able to play up to level 9-11 without feeling the content squeeze, which is fairly considerable. After that, the “free” adventure content grows more scarce, so either you’ll end up running one or two dungeons over and over and over again, or you’ll pony up for more variety.

  7. I rolled on the Thelanis server when I renewed my sub, because I’d heard it was the most populated. It’s not crazy booming with people, but it’s not a ghost town either.

    DDO is such an odd little game. It seems to have a very quirky population too. I’m glad that Turbine is making to effort to save it. It’s pretty dated, but hopefully those lesser announcements you mentioned will make a big difference there!

  8. The best DDO blog is http://ddocast.com, and I run a news feed for DDO over at http://ddoreports.com.

    From what we have seen already of Mod 9/Eberron Unlimited, it’s looking pretty good. Some of the additions that they have mentioned in the release notes sound nice too. I’m VERY leery of “grazing hits” mechanic coming to DDO. Unfortunately details on it are a bit light. Armor class has some problems in DDO, so it could be a good thing, but at the same time, I think that it is a fragile system, and if they aren’t really careful and have a very long view of the system, then it could really make the game frustrating.

    All in all, I’m excited for what is coming. I just wish it was here already, and that the ill-informed “closed” beta would end so that fans of the game can once again actually talk about it.

  9. @Beej: I haven’t pored over specific images yet (and working too much to install the beta and see for myself) but they’ve said the free part will include all the Stormreach content. Not sure if that totally includes everything up to level 9-11 like Syp just mentioned though; my Wizard is currently 9 and has been in areas not associated with Stormreach already. But it sounds like entire areas such as the Menachtarun Desert and all its content will be compiled into an Adventure Pack, and the free players can pay a one-time fee to permanently unlock those areas on their account. Players have been asking for that type of model for a long time, so that’s cool. What the current DDO community has issues with are consumables like “oh, my ranger is out of arrows, excuse me while I login to the store and spend a couple bucks to buy more” and the buying “rez cake” after a wipe issue which was discussed at length during DDOcast #121.

  10. Great. The main thing I want is a solid distraction for the little time I have to play, and if I can get that from the F2P DDO, I’d love to.

    I tried RoM, but it just doesn’t seem to have the polish I have come to expect in a game. Mainstream MMOs have spoiled me, I guess.

  11. Actually, 2500 favor isn’t too much a big deal. It took quite a few favor to get drow and even more to make a character with an extra 4 points.

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