In our first interview with Turbine, Dungeons & Dragons Online was in such an infant state that only a few questions could be answered. Now, over two months later, we sent another batch of questions and this time received a sizeable chunk of information about the MMORPG. Our questions and their answers to follow:
GB: First of all, where do you currently stand in the development cycle of Dungeons & Dragons Online?
Turbine: We’re in the prototyping phase, laying down a lot of the basic foundations, and pushing our engine to see just how many cool things we can squeeze out of it. Big achievements in recent days have included the first stage of the new combat model, some very cool dungeon object scripting, and putting some pants on our test avatar. In early development, you cheer for pants.
GB: Do you intend to offer most of the spells available in the Player's Handbook? Or will you initially begin with the most popular only?
Turbine: How many spells will we have? A lot. That’s not very helpful, is it? The more open-ended spells, like suggestion, speak with dead, or commune, for example, are tricky to include. The best uses of spells like that tend involve DM-judgment-calls – something which is hard to replicate. Still, I think it’s safe to say “most”, and leave it at that.
GB: Will character advancement go beyond level 20? If so, how far do you plan on allowing characters to advance? If not, how do you plan to keep players busy once they're done leveling?
Turbine: We are using the D&D advancement system from the 3.5e core books, including multiclassing and prestige classes. As such, we will be launching with a level cap of 20. That, like in the pen and paper game, will be a heroic achievement, but we are developing plans for post-20 adventure as well.
GB: How large will the game world be, as compared to other MMORPGs? Can you tell us about any types of transportation you are planning to implement (horses, boats, teleportation, etc)?
Turbine: We’re deliberately going for a smaller physical space. We feel that rather than have a huge world that feels empty, we’re better off taking our content, and putting it into tailored spaces that are packed with things to see and do. Time that you used to spend running across a featureless landscape can be better spent in We’d rather maximize the amount of “Hey, look at that!” versus the amount of “Hey, where the heck am I?” Exploration of densely packed areas tends to be a bit more rewarding – without density, the answer to “what’s over that hill?” is too often “another hill!”
GB: Tell us a bit about the "private dungeons" that designers will be able to build. How exactly will this design process work, and how will they be able to keep other adventurers from entering?
Turbine: In brief, Private Dungeons are exactly that – a dungeon that only you and your party are able to enter. The Private Dungeons are our way of trying to re-create the friends-at-the-table experience of D&D – it’s just you and your friends against the baddies. Many of our quests will direct players to particular private dungeons in order to complete them, though the option of a simple hack-and-slash romp with your friends is always available as well.
GB: What type of perspective will a player have of his or her character? (First person, third person, top-down, etc)
Turbine: The game will be played from a third-person perspective.
GB: Any comments on how the inventory or banking system will work?
Turbine: Players will be able to purchase storage at banks, and store items and money there. Encumbrance will definitely be an issue in the game, so people will need to make choices about what they bring into the dungeon – bringing a suit of armor for every occasion is going to present some problems. Especially if you want to do more complicated maneuvers, such as walking.
GB: To conclude, what do you feel are the most important features that you're working to incorporate into D&D Online?
Turbine: There are a lot of D&D players on this team. Several of us play a weekly game at the office. Often, you’ll hear us talking and laughing about this week’s exploits; the good luck and the bad, the funny moments and the tragic ones. More than anything else, if we can recreate that feeling; parties working together to overcome challenges, kick butt, and have a good time, we’ll be in good shape. It’s not any individual feature that does that – it’s a combination of good quests and stories, good dungeons, and great combat and characters that make it all come together.
We'd like to give our thanks to the Dungeons & Dragons Online development team at Turbine for taking the time to answer our questions! We'll be watching this one closely, so check back from time to time for even more information in the future.