Dungeons & Dragons Online Interview

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In case you didn't already know, Turbine recently announced that Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach has finally gone gold and will launch on February 28th (though it will be available on February 24th for those of you who have pre-ordered it). We've been following the game for a long time here on GameBanshee, so we wanted to sneak in one more interview before the game went live. Lucky for us, community manager Victor Wachter had some time to answer our questions. Here's what he had to say:

GB: Since we haven't spoken with you for several months, can you give us an update on how development is coming along on Dungeons & Dragons Online? How is beta testing coming along?

Victor: The beta is going really well. We're getting tons of great feedback and we're continuing to polish the game. It's looking better and better every day. The team is focused on shoring up the game and getting ready for our February 28 release date.

GB: You recently started taking pre-orders for both standard and Limited Edition versions of Dungeons & Dragons Online. Can you give us an idea of what we can expect from the Limited Edition version? Are you planning on including some sort of headset with this edition?

Victor: Players who preorder DDO though will get a free in-game item (a +1 AC amulet), and will be able to begin playing the game on February 24. The Limited Edition includes Boots of Running for every character on your account, a double sided posted and a double sided Feats chart. Those interested in the preorder can find our more about it here.

GB: While we're on the topic of headsets, let's talk a bit about the game's integrated voice chat feature. How advanced will the feature be and what advantages will there be to using it?

Victor: The biggest improvement with DDO's voice chat system is that it's fully integrated into the game and the User Interface. This means players don't have to set up a separate voice chat server in order to chat with their party-mates. In a game like DDO, with tactical combat and where a trap could be right around that next corner, having the ability to talk in real time with your party is a huge advantage.

GB: What can we expect in terms of multiclassing and prestige classes when the game launches?

Victor: The game won't have prestige classes at launch, however multiclassing is in for launch. For those not familiar with the D&D rules, this means when you gain a level in DDO you can choose to advance in different classes. So if you start your character as a Cleric and then gain a level, you could choose to advance as a fighter. Your character would then have some abilities of a Cleric and some abilities of a Fighter. Players can advance in up to three classes with one character.

GB: When the game goes live, can you give us an estimate on how long you think it should take the average gamer to reach level 10 in D&D Online? Additionally, how many different character "slots" will be available to each account for multiple characters?

Victor: It's really hard to judge how long it will take to (max out) a character since players vary so much in play style. I'm not sure there is any such thing as an (average) player!

GB: How much freedom will players have on the overall look of their character? Will we have access to a variety of clothing (for appearance only), equipment dyes, and perhaps even a way to change a character's face, hair, or body after character creation?

Victor: Character customization in DDO is very robust, allowing players to choose a variety of looks based on face, hair style/color, eye color, and of course choosing one of DDO's five races (Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, and Warforged). Characters customize in game is mostly through gaining items such as armor and weapons. Most of the wearable items in DDO are either armor or robes. We won't have equipment dyes or the ability to change the look of your character after creation (other than wearables of course) however anything is possible after launch!

GB: Assuming there will be some sort of banking system, can you give us an idea of how it will be managed? Do you plan on allowing players to share their banking space between characters on the same account in order to move items around without using a third party? How about an auction system?

Victor: There are banks in DDO that allow players to store items in a safe place. Characters cannot share items across banks. There is no specific auction system in the game yet, however a lot of players use the taverns in Stormreach to trade wares.

GB: In addition to content released in the form of expansion packs, do you have any plans for free downloadable content? If so, what sort of content do you foresee being released for free?

Victor: We will adding content to the game in primarily two ways. As either an expansion pack (which are sold in stores) or as downloadable modules which are included as part of the player's subscription.

GB: Aside from the dragon encounter recently featured in PC Gamer, can you give us an example or two of other epic encounters (demons, devils, liches, etc.) that we will be seeing in D&D Online? Will any of these encounters require multiple full groups of characters or will one solid group typically be able to make it through the most dangerous areas of the game?

Victor: I can't really talk about any of the other epic encounters yet. Even when talking about the Dragon encounter we didn't want to give too much away. We'd like to leave it up to the players to figure out what it takes to be successful in these encounters.

GB: Have you found it difficult to allow certain creatures to use their classic abilities, such as the many different effects of the Beholder's eyes or the Basilisk's ability to turn characters to stone? Have you had to tweak such abilities to make them work in an MMO, or have you been able to keep them faithful to the D&D universe?

Victor: We've been as faithful to the D&D ruleset as we can and whenever we do make a change, we always work with Wizards of the Coast to make sure the change is still in keeping with the spirit of the D&D rules. Fans of Dungeons & Dragonsâ„¢ will recognize many of the monsters' abilities, but we had to mix things up a little bit just to throw some surprises at you all!

GB: Some of the more exciting battles in PnP Dungeons & Dragons were against another party of DM-controlled characters. Will a group of players in D&D Online potentially be pitted against another group of NPC adventurers, each capable of using their own class-based abilities, spells, and even magic items against the players?

Victor: Absolutely. Players will encounter human NPCs, using the same abilities and spells as they have access to.

GB: What sort of AI can we expect from the foes of D&D Online? Will smarter monsters strategically use the environment (such as traps) to give them an edge while battling players?

Victor: Most of the monsters won't use the traps, however players are certainly able to use traps to their own advantage in a fight. Monsters in DDO can be pretty cunning and many have both melee and ranged attacks, giving them the ability to change tactics based on where the players are in a fight. That doesn't mean you can't trick a monster into running into that flamestrike trap you just past through a few minutes ago. As with many things in DDO, we wanted the players to be able to use their personal skills when dealing with monsters, in addition to the skills of their characters.

Thanks for your time, Victor!