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A look at the new changes and what players think of its new and improved form

03_mod_subterraneNote: If you picked up Issue #22 of MOG, we ran an opinion piece on the changes that have happened in Dungeons and Dragons Online: Unlimited. Due to space constraints, we were unable to run all of the questions and opinions, so here now is the entire article, exclusive to massiveonlinegamer.com!

On September 9th 2009, Turbine introduced an innovative new pricing model that allows players to download and play Dungeons and Dragons Online: Unlimited (DDO:U) for free, purchase adventure packs, items and account services from the new DDO Store, or subscribe to get unlimited access to all of the game’s content. So far from everything we have seen and heard has been about how successful this has been for Turbine.

With all that being said, I still wanted to get the truth about what regular players felt about the changes to the game and how it has impacted them. To get the best overall feel for the game, I asked Donna Brown, a New Player (and new to any MMO), Jerry Snook, a Veteran Player (and host of the famous DDO podcast), Zach Williams, a Switch Player (someone who has stopped playing another MMO to play DDO:U) and last but not least Fernando Paiz, the Executive Producer of DDO:U. Each one has their own unique view of the changes of DDO:U.

How do you feel the Free to Play (F2P) business module has worked for Turbine and the future of MMOs?
04_mod_necropolisNew Player
- Getting to play D&D with other people on my computer and not having to pay for it is awesome. From what I heard, it has already doubled its previous customer base. Opening it up to where basic quests are available to anyone who downloads the game was a brilliant marketing move. I mean, you can toss bits and pieces of food to any animal, but you always have to let it know that it can have the whole meal at anytime with just a simple move.

Veteran Player - I think it’s already worked out great for Turbine and will continue to be a revenue-generator for them for the foreseeable future. It’s broken down one of the last barriers for many video game players: the monthly sub. Also, it’s been interesting to read various articles saying that subscriptions are up and the game has grown by hundreds of thousands of players, many of which would not be playing without the switch to Free to Play.

Switch Player - From everything that I have seen, the F2P is a great way to get people to try out DDO. This works well for the hardcore players and the casual players who want to have fun, but don’t have the time to run quests over and over. We will have to see if this business module works for DDO and if it does, we might see a lot more MMOs changing to it. If it bombs, then everyone, except the simple games, will just keep on with the month subscription.

DDO Executive Producer - Our implementation of Free to Play has already been a big success for Turbine with DDO: Unlimited, and that fact alone will likely have a significant impact on the future of MMOs in North America. The key for us has been in offering players a choice in how they pay for the game, and offering plans that make sense for both hardcore and more casual players. This will definitely be a lesson that we will look to carry forward to future titles.

In your experience, what has been some of the best things about DDO:U that you have encountered so far?
11_mod_necropolisNew Player
- I like the character creation. I actually get to spend time on what my character looks like. If I want short red hair, brown almond-shaped eyes and scars on my face, by golly I can have it. Or I can let the program randomly choose for me. It's in MY control. If I want to spend hours number crunching and making the best cleric with the best wisdom score and suck at everything else, I can do that too, or again I can pick an already finished stat template. It ROCKS.

Veteran Player - New players. Lots of ‘em. It has been good to play with new players who are just now learning about the complexity and depth of the game. It’s also fun to watch all of the “new player” mistakes while questing! Zerging, group dynamics and the like have been fun. The DDO Store is a great way to pick up some cheap spell point potions with the monthly Turbine Points you receive as a VIP player. Adding character customization like hair dyes is nice. In fact, the whole store is actually pretty cool! The new quests and content is also excellent. That almost goes without saying, though. Seeing seven instances of public areas is cool as well. Actually, from a “game” perspective, getting your hit points and spell points back when you recall out at the end of a quest saves a ton of time and is very much welcomed.

Switch Player - Having been a long time WoW player (3+ years) and capping out several toons, the one thing that I like about DDO is that I don’t feel like I’m grinding my way up the levels anymore. The quests in DDO have more purpose than just go kill X random wandering monsters to get body parts. The instances effects really let you explore dungeons and wilderness areas with your group or solo. No more camping out an area waiting hours for a monster to spawn. The last thing a like about DDO is the combat system. The action starts right off at the first level, and the monster AI is awesome. No more just watching my toon fight and pushing a button now and then; now I’m part of the battle. Also one of the best things is the ability to multi-class your character (up to three different classes at one time). So if you want to be a Fighter/Wizard, a Barbarian/Bard or even a Paladin/Sorcerer/Rogue combo, you can give it a try. WoW only wishes it could do that.

DDO Executive Producer - One of the most satisfying things has been just sitting in Korthos Island (our landing area for new players coming from the tutorial) and watching the general chat. You see thousands and thousands of new players experiencing the game for the first time and commenting on how impressed they are with the quality – especially as compared to other games in the Free to Play space. You see many others returning after a long time and rediscovering the game. Finally, you see many of our veteran players participating there just to welcome the new folks and answer questions. It is a great sample of what is going on in our community and how our players have embraced this change to the game.

If you had the freedom to change/improve or delete/add something to the game, what would that be and why?
mog004New Player
- I'm not too far into it to really say anything needs improving... except for lag issues from time to time. Oh wait Druids... it need some Druids. Oh and maybe half races... you know, Half Elf, stuff like that.

Veteran Player - More classes, races and customization. Being able to be “whatever you want” in DDO is one of its key strengths, so adding more core options would be good.

Switch Player – So far in the game, the one thing that I miss is the crafting that you get in WoW. I would add more crafting to the game. Let wizards make scrolls, or clerics make healing potions. Now to be honest I have yet to make a “green steel” weapon, but I have started to collect some of the items needed. The next thing I would add is, letting wizards/sorcerers have familiars and letting clerics have domains. I would not delete anything; just add more quests.

DDO Executive Producer - Hey wait, I thought I did have that freedom! (laugh) OK, but we can’t do everything at once and some projects take a lot of time and resources. If we could do anything today with no limitations, I would love to add Dungeon Master tools to the game to empower our players to create new quests and areas of the game. It is a natural fit for Dungeons & Dragons and it would really unleash the creativity of our player community to get to expand the world and make it their own. In the long term, I envision opening up huge parts of our world of Eberron and filling it up with the best examples of the player-created content. Plus, I’d love to give DMs some powers to go into their content and mess with the players trying to beat their quests. That would be awesomely fun!

The DDO:U store lets you purchase new content and game-enhancing items/features. What do you think are the pros and cons of the DDO:U?
New Player
- Well I personally think it's great. If I don't want to spend the time getting a certain item/feature (more character slots, 32 pt build etc), I can simply buy it and I'm ready to go. The downside to that is that the "veterans" feel cheated out of their dedication to the game for the past three years.

Veteran Player - More pros than cons. The biggest con is that not everyone can play many of the quests. It has become harder in some cases to fill up groups to run Pay to Play content like Shan to Kor because there are so many players who do not have the quest. The biggest pro is flexibility. If you need arrows, you can just buy them. If you have some Turbine Points lying around, they can be used to boost XP and loot levels of chests for a while.

Switch Player – I started off F2P and after a couple of days, I had to have the Drow (one of my favorite races), so I bought it. Then I thought what the heck, let’s see what the rest of the content is like and became a VIP (monthly subscriber). For $15 dollars a month, this game is a great deal. The pros of the DDO Store: makes leveling a lot easier as you can by potions that increase your XP and loot; you can buy potions or rez items during dungeons and that can be a big help for people who like to solo a lot; several items are just plan useful like all the gem, collectible and ingredient bags; and being able to buy Drow and Favored Soul without running around for weeks getting the favor. The cons of the DDO Store: some players get real upset if you buy potions or rez items during a quest, as they think it’s like cheating. Other than that I don’t see a downside to the store at all, except they need to put more stuff in there!

DDO Executive Producer - The single best thing about the DDO Store is that it lets new players experience the game at their own pace. They can play a lot of content in the early game for free and then whenever they progress far enough in the game and feel ready they can choose to buy new adventures as they go. For other players the Store offers a huge number of convenience items that can smooth out their gameplay experiences. Say you are in a party without a Cleric and your character gets hit with a Curse. Rather than living with it or heading back to town, you now have the option to buy some Cure Curse potions from the store and continue your adventure. You don’t have to, but if it’s worth it to you to save some time, the store provides that option. You’ll probably remember to keep a few of these in your pack for next time too, so you can save your Turbine Points for the next time you need them.

From your current experience with DDO:U, what advice would you give people trying out DDO:U? What do you feel are some of the most important things they need to know?
New Player
- It's a game where people go to have fun. Some take it more serious than others, but even they were new players at some point. TAKE THE TUTORIAL, as it explains a whole lot. Make sure to group with people who will explain things to you and not treat you as if you’re dumb.

Veteran Player - Don’t stress over builds and gear yet! Just play the game for a while and worry about the number crunching later. Relax, take your time and run every quest you can. Also, form groups! The game is much more fun (and a bit easier) when you play with others.

Switch Player - This is a great question. The first advice I would give is to try out some of the quests on solo, and don’t get discouraged if you die a few times. The combat in this game is a lot more involved, even starting at the lower levels. Next, don’t be afraid to ask questions on the advice channel (type “/a” and then your question). Most members in the DDO community are friendly and come from a pen and paper Dungeons & Dragon background, so they are used to teaching new players the ropes. The most important thing is to try out all the classes/races (if your type of membership lets you). Find the one you like the best, or even multi-class some and give them a try.

DDO Executive Producer - The most important bit of advice I can give to new players is don’t try to play DDO like a typical MMO! You won’t do that well if you just go stand toe to toe with a monster and hit skill buttons until one of you dies. Let’s just say that with that strategy, it won’t always be the monster that falls first. DDO is an action RPG and one of the most important aspects of this is learning to use the environment, your position and your skills to your advantage in combat.

What has been your best DDO:U experience/story so far?
New Player
- Seeing that dragon kill the mindflayer! It was wicked awesome! I had to run that quest twice because I missed it the first time. I was just trying to get out of the way the first time through and thought it would come after me. I didn't realize it was focused on the flayer until after it was over.

Veteran Player - Busting through dungeons with my Favored Soul! Leading the kill count, having the most traps disabled (I’m an FvS/Rogue multi-class), spotting the most secret doors and breaking the most boxes! He’s uber. Probably the best experience has been getting two Muckbanes in a row in Durk’s Got a Secret.

Switch Player - Most of the upper level content is great, but the funniest story I have takes place in a mid level quest. It’s called “The Fire Caves” and you pick up the quest in Three Barrel Cove. In the quest you are fighting inside a volcano filled with lava pits. You fight tons of monsters on high stone ledges and bridges. The graphics are awe-inspiring. I and three others started off the quest for the first time. The party leader said that he had done the quest and would lead us through. Once in the instance we buffed up and the party leader said, “Follow me,” and then jumped off the side of a stone bridge, so the rest of us jumped. It was at that time that the party leader yelled, “Don’t jump off!” Later he told us that his key got stuck, but it was too late for everyone as we all committed suicide following him in to the lava below. I laughed so hard, I had tears in my eyes. I still quest with those guys to this day.

DDO Executive Producer - One of the experiences I have had the most fun with is soloing my way through some of the mid-high level quests in Gianthold with my fighter character. At different times, I play the game solo, with pick up groups and with friends, and each of these is rewarding in its own way. But before DDO Unlimited went out, soloing past a certain level got very difficult. Our game remains very much a party-based game, but thanks to the changes in DDO:EU, it is now possible to bring along some Hirelings and complete many of the higher level quests on your own. I recently completed four of the giant hold quests with just a Cleric Hireling and a Wizard Hireling. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment when for one of these I even got the full 10% flawless victory bonus – meaning I managed to keep the whole party alive through the whole quest. Not an easy thing to do with some of our Hirelings!

What new content would you like to see in the future of DDO:U, both for the game and the DDO:U Store?
New Player
- There is plenty for me to do, as I haven't done much, so as far as any new content, anything would just add more options to my plate. In the DDO Store, maybe some non-fighting clothes – you know, like the ones adventurers wear when they are NOT on a quest – and regular clothes – trousers, dresses, casual attire, formal attire, in-between attire – would be really cool. It might get some role-playing going too.

Veteran Player - I would love to see more combat at sea. Also, a Pirate King raid! My idea would be to make it the first player-created raid in DDO, developed by Turbine and based on player input. Otherwise, just more “nonessential” fun stuff in the Store like armor dyes, hair styles, etc.

Switch Player - Ok, now I think the island of Korthos is a good starter area, but I think there should be more places to start from. One of the things I miss about WoW is the fact that every race has its own starting area. I’m not saying that DDO has to give each race its own area, but please give us more than just one place to choose from at the start. I was hoping to see goblins riding the backs of worgs, or even encounter an Owlbear in the explorer areas. Bring in more of the traditional D&D monsters from the monster manual. Also more level 4-12 content would be nice. Any new races or classes would be a bonus. The one option I would like added to the DDO Store is the ability to buy Turbine points for other players (come on, Christmas is right around the corner). The items I would like to see are: recipe books for the stone of change (so I can see what I need to make what) and clothing/armor skins (maybe even caps, like in LotRO).

DDO Executive Producer - One of the more exciting features for me, which will be coming soon to DDO, is a character respec mechanism called Reincarnation. Through different flavors of Reincarnation we will offer through the DDO Store, players will be able to change decisions they made long ago as to how they advanced their characters. Like anyone who has been playing this game for three and a half years, there are a few things I wish I could do differently now that I know my character and the game a lot better. From the content side, I am looking forward to when we can eventually build out the rest of Shavarath. I just love the work the artists and designers did in that area in the top level content released with DDO: Unlimited and we have some fun plans for how we will revisit that storyline over the course of several future updates.

Thank you all for answering the questions and being honest with how you feel about the new changes to DDO:U. Everyone please come and visit the forums at www.massiveonlinegamer.com to learn more about DDO:U and share your MMO experience with us.

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