Dungeons & Dragons Online Update 7 Preview

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Atari
Developer:Turbine
Release Date:2006-02-28
Genre:
  • Massively Multiplayer,Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
I've played an absurd number of massively multiplayer RPGs over the past couple of decades, and can say without any reservation that Dungeons & Dragons Online is one of my all-time favorites. I know some of you won't agree with that statement, but as long-time GameBanshee members can attest to, I'm a big fan of role-playing games of any kind that have a lot of depth to character creation, advancement, and overall progression - and DDO has it in spades. So when I was invited earlier this week to take a guided tour with Turbine's Adam Mersky and Ian Currie through the game's next major content patch (Update 7 since the launch of Eberron Unlimited, for those of you counting), I jumped on the chance.

To give you a little background information, Update 7: Half-Bloods represents Turbine's largest update to the game to date. Among the additions it'll bring to the table are two new playable races (the Half-Orc and the Half-Elf), a brand new level 12-oriented adventure pack that spans three quests, a new twelve-man raid that'll be playable by low or epic level parties, full DirectX 11 support, a significant renovation to the game's UI panels and auction house, a handful of new character spells and prestige enhancements, and an ambitious live event that introduces a couple of new technologies that Turbine is experimenting with (more on those later).

When Turbine added the auction house to DDO, it was a huge boon to the game. Over the years, though, its current presentation has really started to show its age. As anyone who plays the game on a regular basis can attest to, finding an epic scroll, a particular suit of mithral armor, or a specific weapon effect takes quite a bit of legwork. With Update 7, the auction house will see two major advancements - the ability to search for an exact item name string ("Green Steel", for example) and the ability to sort all item results by name, duration, current price, and buyout price. These advancements aren't going to make things perfect (you still can't search by specific imbued spells or effects not listed in the item's name like you can in our equipment database), but they're going to be very nice additions nonetheless. The sorting feature should help keep prices in line, too, as you'll be able to search for Large Devil Scales and then purchase the one that shows up with the lowest price rather than buying out the first one you stumble upon.

The UI enhancements don't end with the auction house, though. Character inventories have been given a facelift, starting with the paper doll. Now you can simply click on the helmet slot to toggle its display on or off, and my two tour guides pointed out that this will eventually evolve to the point where we can toggle the display of clothing items while hiding away the protective but less-than-attractive armor we're actually wearing (as some of you might be familiar with from The Lord of the Rings Online and other MMOs). The standard five-bag inventory layout is still present, but if you choose to do so, you can switch it over to a more informative item listing layout with a text search box for tracking down the stack of Remove Curse Potions you could swear you purchased a few days ago.

Before I could check out more of the UI refinements, we headed off to Delera's Graveyard, where Adam and Ian gave me a sneak peek at the "Mabar Endless Night" event they're planning for Halloween this year. Delera's Graveyard will be crawling with all manner of undead during the event, and will officially be opened up to all players (minus its embedded quests) whether they're free-to-play or not. Casters can now cast in the area, too, as I quickly realized when I started dropping Walls of Fire to clean up a small army of ghouls. As the creatures died, various ingredients (Cursed Fingerbones, Black Opals, and Chipped Skulls) were automatically added to my backpack with a quick on-screen notification of what was being placed there. I realized the efficiency of such a system rather than forcing players to run around clicking on treasure bags, so I quizzed Adam and Ian about whether a similar system would be used in the future for epic scrolls, antique bronze tokens, and other collectibles. Their general consensus was that other collectibles will indeed use "a similar tech" down the road, but it won't be made available in Update 7. They assured me that they're "committed to improving" the ninja-favoring system used for epic scrolls at the moment, so hopefully we won't have to wait too much longer.

Once I had a pile of ingredients gathered up, we proceeded to a device called "The Night Trader" that allowed me to turn in my undead treasures for "Motes of Night". The motes are something of a currency and can be used at another device called the "Mote of Night Collector" to barter for all sorts of new magic items. I didn't have enough to actually purchase anything, but I did take notice of how it all works. As an example, one of the items listed on the device was a Cloak of Night. The baseline level 4 cloak required a certain number of Motes of Night to acquire, but then you could upgrade it further to a level 8, 12, 16, and 20 version by turning in ever-increasing amounts of ingredients. The most powerful versions of each item require a Spectral Dragon Scale, which can only be obtained during a 24-man battle with such a beast during the event. In order to face the dragon, there's a particular server-wide ingredient count that must be fulfilled. According to Adam and Ian, the team has balanced the ingredient requirement to take about 2 hours for the first Spectral Dragon battle, and then 45 minutes to an hour for each encounter after that. Successfully defeating the dragon will automatically reward all 24 participants with a single dragon scale each.