Dungeons & Dragons Online Interview

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Despite the fact that Dungeons & Dragons Online isn't as popular as The Lord of the Rings Online, Turbine has invested a significant amount of time and energy over the past couple of years into keeping DDO updated with regular content modules.  There have been so many updates, in fact, that the game is a much different experience than it was in 2006.  To get a better idea of what some of the latest modules have brought to the table, as well as what the team's plans are for the immediate future, we chatted with executive producer Kate Paiz:

GB: For those who haven't followed DDO for awhile, can you give us an overview of what you've added to the game over the past year and what we can expect from Module 8: Prisoners of Prophecy?

Kate: You bet. We've added a tremendous amount of new game features and content over the course of the year, starting with Module 6, The Thirteenth Eclipse. Mod 6 was released in January, and included a new content module, the Vale of Twilight, and increased the Level cap to 16. The level cap included new feats, enhancements and level 8 spells. My favorite 8th level spell introduced was Trap the Soul, which allows a Sorcerer or Wizard to force a particularly nasty monster's life force and its body into a gem on a failed Will save. This gem can then be used as an ingredient in an Eldritch Device for certain crafting rituals.

The Vale of Twilight brought to life a storyline which has dominated our playerbase this year the invasion of the Devils Armies of Shavarath, the Plane of Battle. In this first chapter, players had to go to the Vale of Twilight and defend against the Pit Fiend General Arraetrikos, who was aligning the power of Shavarath with Xen'drik in an attempt to open a permanent, coterminous gateway between them.

Also included in Module 6 was some great changes to make the game more fun and accessible for players we changed the death penalty to an item wear system (instead of an XP penalty), rest shrines became reusable on solo and normal difficulty level and on landscapes, and solo difficulty level XP and loot rewards were increased.

Our 2nd Anniversary Release, which went live on February 27, 2008, featured an amazing live event in which the Shavarath devils, enraged that we had defeated their general Arraetrikos, staged an invasion of the Marketplace which resulted in the destruction of the Market tent live the evening of March 8th. Tons of players logged in over the course of the week to watch the gradual progress of a great vortex over the tent and deter the hordes of devils invading the marketplace, and we saw amazing concurrencies the night of the explosion, as players witnessed firsthand the awesome power of the Shavarath Devils. Also released for the anniversary was a slice of Birthday Cake, which summoned a Djinni willing to grant one wish to the player. Many players enjoyed the rain of ham that accompanied some of the options.

Module 7, which went live on June 3rd, introduced the first new class to DDO Monks! Monks are an awesome class to add because they bring a really cool, visceral hand-to-hand combat mechanic to the game. The animations look great, and their martial arts style really enhances the active nature of the combat in DDO. Module 7 also continued the story of the Shavarath invasion, with the discovery of an underground cavernous region below the marketplace. Players can venture into one of three raid wilderness areas under the city and fight Giant Skeletons, Beholders, and more Devils to thwart more city-wide destruction. A lower-level area, Three Barrel Cove, also brought a great pirate vibe to the game, as we filled it with mid level monsters outfitted in pirate gear.

With Module 8, players get a bunch of new features, most notably Hirelings, new Character Generation, and a new story-themed tutorial and introduction to the game. Hirelings are a great system which will be released in a series of live events over the course of November that enables players to hire NPC combatants to join them in their adventures. Each player is allowed to bring one Hireling on a quest, which will really help small party and solo players take down difficult challenges. The classes of hirelings offered will be: Clerics, Paladins, Barbarians, Fighters, and maybe Wizards and Sorcerers. Players can control what their hirelings do through a Pet Bar, and each hireling has its own personality, which may result in them taking surprisingly initiative from time to time.

The new Character Generation allows players unfamiliar with the 3.5 Edition D&D rulesset to make more enjoyable, well balanced characters right from the start. We guide the player through choosing a class that suits their playstyle, and then offer them three different pre-built paths that define feats and skill points, but have enough variety that two different fighters in the same party will likely have totally different builds. The paths last all the way through advancement, so that players can get a real sense of what makes a good choice for their character at all levels, and can stray off the path anytime they want to do something different. We still support all the depth that character generation did before, so that players well versed in the 3.5 rulesset will still be able to customize their hearts out.

To go with the new Character Generation, we have a new story-based introduction to the game. Players will now start on a beach on one of the islands in the Thunder Sea, having been washed up there after a white dragon attached their ship. They'll immediately join up with a group of level 10 NPCs, who help explain the basic mechanics of the game while leading the player back to civilization. Once in the village, the player will need to rescue the villagers from raiding bands of Sahuagins and the attacks of the dragon. Each dungeon adventure comes with a few tips and tricks for how to play the different classes in DDO, and provides a great, engaging opening to the game.

For high level players, we have a continuation of the Dragon and Giant conflict from Module 4, Reaver's Bane. This time, the Stormreaver has realized the errors of his ways, and is helping the Dragons from Argonessen defend against the nefarious plots of the recently undead Sor'jek. After players killed him in Tempest Spine, the Truthful one, an undead Dracolich, changed him into a Giant Lich, and he is eager for his revenge.

Module 8 was released last week and is available now on our US servers.