To get a better idea of the changes and additions the U7 patch brings to the game, as well as how the team intends to handle some of the game's current issues, I chatted up design director Ian Currie:
GB: You're getting ready to release the seventh update since Dungeons & Dragons Online went free-to-play. For those who haven't been following the content being added with this patch, can you give us an overview of what's to come?
Ian: Update 7 is our biggest update yet. We're releasing two new races - the Half-Orc and Half-Elf, which players have been requesting for some time now. We're also releasing our second free adventure pack that includes 3 new adventures for level 12 characters and a new raid that supports levels 6 through 10 as well as epic difficulty. We've put a brand new coat of paint on our UI, spiced up the auction house and have added an spiffy new view of the inventory panel that allow players to be more organized and quickly find items . Also in Update 7 is our most ambitious live event to date. It features a preview of a new barter system that we'll be seeing more of in the future. In addition, Update 7 contains new prestige enhancements and all sorts of tweaks such as hireling AI improvements and many bug fixes.
GB: What new enhancements will you be adding with the addition of the Half-Elf and Half-Orc? What will make these races unique, particularly in the case of the Half-Elf?
Ian: Most people know the Half-Orc is all about an extra +2 strength, making him the strongest race. But it doesn't stop there. In addition to that, the Half-Orc gets an interesting line of enhancements called Orcish Fury. The first version gives the character a +2 morale bonus to strength when below 50% hit points. With Orcish Flury II you get an additional +2 when below 50% hit points and Orcish Flury III provides an additional +4 (for a total of +8) when below 10% hit points. It's a pretty cool concept that can allow a nearly defeated Half-Orc to make an incredible comeback.
The main attraction of Half-Elf is the Dilettente feats. This allows Half-Elves to choose a '˜splash' of another class without having to truly multi-class. Some examples of this are that a melee character could use scrolls and wands like a first level caster, or a Wizard could gain proficiency with martial weapons. In the future we plan on adding enhancement lines to further improve these 'semi-multiclasses'. Of course Half-Elves get access to all Elf and Human feats and enhancement lines by default, allowing for a lot of flexibility.
GB: At the moment, most classes don't have access to all of their intended prestige enhancements, and others - like the sorcerer and favored soul - have none at all. When might we expect more prestige enhancements? Do you intend to add race-specific prestige enhancements, too, such as the Dwarven Defender and Warforged Juggernaut?
Ian: We intend to release new prestige enhancements regularly. Update 7 contains more prestige enhancements than any previous update and if all goes well, we will add a nice batch in Update 9. Our to-do list in this respect is rather long and while I can't say when it will happen, I can confirm that the Dwarven Defender and Warforged Juggernaut are on the list.
GB: Where do we stand on the Druid? Do you still plan on adding the class in a not-too-distant update? Have you considered the addition of any other classes?
Ian: The Druid has always been on our to-do list, but various reasons have prevented us from introducing it in the past. We are now revisiting it and it's right up there near the top of our wish list. We also have a number of other classes we are seriously considering but nothing is set in stone at this time.
GB: Why did you decide to add a lower level raid in Update 7 rather than more high level content? We haven't seen the addition of a new high level raid since Tower of Despair was added in Module 9 (pre-Eberron Unlimited).
Ian: Players have been asking for a low level raid for some time and we felt it was a great idea to get players earlier exposure to one of DDO's greatest strengths. We had a concept that we thought was a fantastic match for such a raid and we went for it. We're very happy with the results. We realize that many players have been hoping for another high level raid so we did add an epic difficulty mode (epic is restricted to level 20 characters) for those who enjoy those types of challenges. Our next raid will be high level.
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