A couple of days ago, DDO Franchise Director Athena “Vyvyanne” Peters posted a letter from the producers of the game to share some insights into their goals and plans. The thread is now 15 pages, with the usual assortment of praising as well as griping. Skimming through the responses, they appear to be more positive/supportive than not though, which is nice to see.
As far as what lies ahead, Vyvyanne smartly refers to her teams’ taking into account player interactions through social media to aid in determining their priorities. At the end of the day, the game is for the players and it’s nice to see that they consider our direct feedback in that manner.
The next update, following on the heels of the recently epicified Three Barrell Cove, will elevate one of the best looking areas of the game to epic level – Orchard of the Macabre. On Schir Gold’s many turns of the screw, i look forward to running through this large wilderness area. Granted, i’ve never ran the Ascension Chamber raid, but i have ran all the quests leading up to it and they are quite a bit of fun (even if they can get frustrating at times – looking at you, Flesh Maker’s Laboratory).
The next update will also feature some changes to DDO’s armor system, something heavy armor-wearing folks have been clamoring for since as long as i can remember. It is worth noting though, that evasive, lightly-armored MMO tanks are not confined to DDO. More than one games’ high-level tankers are folks like ninjas and monks, who do a better job mitigating damage by simply not being hit. That being said, i believe those in full plate ought to be at least as good if not better at holding the hate and being able to take the hits, and even though i never play tanks i am happy to hear this news.
Beyond Update 23, the letter mentions Update 24 and their plans for some new quests (yea!), and an event that focuses on looting chests. Not sure what that means but we all know how important it is to get that coveted treasure. The team is also continuing work on the Anauroch Desert area – a Forgotten Realms location – as well as developing Sentient Weapons and a new classic D&D quest similar to the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar – which is an adaptation of a module from AD&D 2nd Edition. Hey maybe they’ll adapt Expedition to the Barrier Peaks! That would be kind of neat.
After reading through the producer’s letter, it got me thinking about what sorts of features i would like to see come about in DDO. Overall i’m happy with the game, and having started playing so long ago, i definitely appreciate all the bells and whistles that have been added throughout the years. But if i had a few wishes that would come true…?
Implementing this classic D&D power source for players would probably be at the top of my list. In fact, given the chance to interact directly with members of the production team, that’s exactly what i proposed at Gen Con 2013. Psionics, or psychic abilities, have been around in one form or another basically since AD&D in the late 70s. Actually, there was a supplement to the original ruleset called Eldritch Wizardry that introduced the concept as early as 1976, which i learned during my research, but since i’ve never seen or heard of that before i can’t really say how fleshed out it was. Based on how complicated AD&D made it out though, i can’t imagine it was very easy to understand or utilize.
As regards Eberron, the original setting for DDO, psionics play a major role both in the realms’ history and grand stories as well as amongst the player races. The psionic power source is just as viable as arcane or divine, and i’m sure i’m not the only player out there who would love to see it come alive in DDO. In the past, whenever the topic emerges on the forums, at least one person will say “but it’s just like magic! what’s the point?” to which i say “so what?!” The point is that psionics are their own bag, and it’s about flavor. You think it stopped Burt Baskin or Irv Robbins at 30 when someone may have said “you’ve got 30 flavors of ice cream, why add another one?”
Another staple of D&D, at least back when i started rolling polyhedron dice, were henchmen. There was a time when these companions came along as a matter of course in your adventuring career, and depending on your class you could wind up with quite a few loyal followers. Throughout my revolving series of lives with Schir, there’s certain folks you come to expect at certain levels through the hireling system in DDO, like good ol’ Heystack Ironhorse who watches your back from 18-20 and Flare, the sorcerer who helps out with challenge farming.
But what i’d like to see is something along the lines of my own personal Alfred Pennyworth, or maybe Robin – a permanent fixture bound to character that stays with you the whole time. What i imagine is something like a blank slate that levels up right alongside you and is then reset when you TR. Actually, it might make more D&D sense if this henchmen would perpetually be one level less than you, beginning their cyclical career as a sort of 0-level packhorse. From there, you would have some degree of control over their destiny, albeit not as involved as your own. You could choose their class (but no multiclassing), and maybe make a few limited selections along the way, fill a limited number of gear slots, and so forth. Wouldn’t that be cool? For instance, say you’re running a cleric life – you could steer your henchman through a career as a tank perhaps, and outfit them with some of your leftover bank loot. And who wouldn’t want to have a permanent rogue henchman around for all those pesky traps and locked doors?
One possible downside to this idea is that it would further lead to more solo-ing in DDO, something that seems to put off no small amount of people. But let’s face it – there’s all sorts of different players and play styles in DDO. A lot of people play solo, myself included, and this would offer a nice bump to the already existing hireling system. Turbine would have to put some effort into the AI of course, and i think allowing henchmen access to raids would be something to include as well since they’d be more than a simple purchased hireling contract.
For this aspect of the game, i’d like to see two different innovations. Firstly, as regards Cannith Crafting, it needs an overhaul. When this feature debuted alongside the wonderful artificer class, i was overjoyed. Crafting in MMOs is one of my favorite things to do, and i went all in here deconstructing every piece of random lootgen, crafting and breaking down shards left and right, and so on. But overall, the system was fairly clunky from the get-go and i think a tad too complicated like several of DDO’s crafting systems. Green steel and Crystal Cove, in particular, also come off as waaaaaaay to complicated. At this point, i don’t even see the benefit of Cannith Crafting especially since the addition of so many new prefixes and suffixes on random drops that are so much better than anything a crafter can make. While it’s true i still use it once in a while for a really specific piece of gear – like the Holy Maul of Pure Good that i use for skeleton smashing, but overall its just disappointing. One thing that might make it more interesting would be the ability to craft on the go. Perhaps just limited to artificers since, you know, it’s entirely their purview; it would be neat if you could whip up a useful item mid-quest.
On a related note, and something several other games offer, it would be great if you could craft named gear. What i mean is that, given the highest levels of crafting ability, one ought to be able to create at least some of the existing named gear in the game. Why not? If you put in the time and effort to achieve top notch crafting scores, is there any reason i shouldn’t be able to forge items of the same quality found in the game’s coveted treasure chests? This idea works perfectly fine in FFXI, where pretty much any item in the game is fair game to be player-made.
Okay so maybe that wouldn’t work so well in DDO. So how about crafting our own named items? There’s more than a few reliable pieces of gear in my bank that i’d like to see upgraded with a dark blue icon outline. Take the aforementioned skeleton smasher. Is it asking too much that i could simply rename the thing, maybe add one top tier power to it and give it a fancy colored border? Admittedly, i’m a named loot fanatic and i like to have all my equipment be these sorts of unique items. Plus i enjoy at least mild OCD so it bothers me to be decked out in dark blue and orange items except for that ring with the green border! Let me craft named loot, or at least modify existing stuff with a little extra something to make it my own.
* * * * *
There’s certainly more than a few other things i’d enjoy seeing in DDO, but at least right now those are the top three things i’d love to see implemented. What do you think? At the end of the day, i’m happy to see the production team keeping in touch with the players, and taking our feedback into account. People have been crying doom for DDO for years and years, but it doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon thankfully!
From what i read on the forums, and my own observations on the Sarlona server, the populations aren’t all that thriving – especially compared to lots of other games where common areas are bustling with players running all over the place. Maybe Turbine should merge all the servers into one mega-server. i can’t imagine it would be so bad. Maybe it would put too much strain on their systems; i have no idea about that sort of thing. On the other hand if they took all the computing power they use to run all the servers and used it for a single big one, who knows? Perhaps it would run smoother?
Are you happy with the direction DDO is heading? What sorts of features do you wish they’d include?