Because Monday morning quarterbacking is what all bloggers live to do, here are six things I would’ve changed or done differently with DDO from the start:
1. More info on building classes and better respeccing
D&D is, by its very nature, a complex game. That complexity is part of its charm, but it also acts as a barrier to entry to those who are bewildered with terms like THAC0 and 3d6 and what a Fortitude vs. Will save means. I think translating that into a MMO was a monumental task of which Turbine should receive a lot of praise for even attempting, but even their modified 3.5 ruleset was (and is) a little too unwieldy and prone to gimpage for the average player.
The sheer flexibility of the character building system in DDO is only matched by the vast ways you can make a less-than-optimal character and have no idea that you’re doing so until you’re well into the game. DDO needed to spend a lot more time explaining builds and to be more forgiving with respecs afterward.
2. Go Slower
To my knowledge, the classic tabletop D&D experience isn’t summed up by a party of players full-on sprinting through dungeons and wildly, frantically flailing their weapons at anything that moves. DDO lost a bit of its D&D-ness when it enabled — and promoted — players to focus on speed instead of thoughtfulness, careful party progression and combat that isn’t 99% mouse-clicking.
3. More storytelling elements
I really do love how awesome DDO’s dungeons are, especially with some of the scripted events that occur and the DM’s occasional voiceover. But I’ve always felt like the dungeons were disconnected from each other and the world, just little pocket MMOs that had no greater story attached.
Considering how Turbine hit a home run with their storytelling devices in LOTRO, especially with the epic book line, I would’ve loved to see more pre-dungeon storytelling in DDO (that isn’t just a text box, of course), including cut scenes and interactive role-play.
4. Fully embraced the Eberron setting
I actually approve of Turbine securing the little-known Eberron setting for DDO instead of one of the more familiar (and far more overused) campaigns, but I’ve always felt like they never really embraced Eberron enough. For one thing, the game takes place on a largely unpopulated continent that’s far away from the rest of the world’s population. Eberron has a really cool magic/steampunk/Indiana Jones vibe going on, but not as much of that made it into DDO.
In addition, after throwing in the Warforged as a race, Turbine seemed to shy away from the unique classes and races that helped define the Eberron setting, instead choosing to cling to D&D staples instead.
5. More social tools
Another odd exclusion from D&D — the heart of the role-playing experience, mind you — was anything but a bare minimum of social and role-playing tools. Unlike LOTRO, you don’t see players congregating in any areas for RP events (or, at least, any that I’ve seen), and there are few if any tools to encourage them to do so. Guilds always seemed like extended friends list, but other than constantly run through dungeons, there wasn’t much else to do.
I’m glad DDO’s throwing in guild airships soon, but I would’ve liked to have seen a lot more social and RP tools from Day One, if only to give the world more depth and the community more of a reason to bond.
6. Use the current business model
Okay, in retrospect, there’s no way they would’ve known a few years ago just how successful this F2P/subscription-hybrid model would’ve worked, but can you imagine if it had been in place from launch? If people didn’t have to choose between a $15 subscription for DDO and any other game, but could have both and just pay a little bit at a time to unlock modules?