I’ll freely admit to anyone that asks that I am a Dungeons and Dragons fan and have been since I was a kid. I’ve written about this before but the bug bit me when I looked at my uncles’ character sheets when I was around 4 years old and watched them and the members of their group move their miniatures around a Greyhawk hex map. I think that is where my fascination with maps started too. I also credit R.A. Salvatore with my desire to read. Before I picked up Exile when I was 12 years old and read it I never read for fun. Once I read that book, however, I was hooked. I immediately went back and read Homeland, and The Icewind Dale Trilogy. I couldn’t get enough of the Forgotten Realms but especially the tales of Kelvin’s Cairn and Ten Towns.
Because of my fondness for Icewind Dale, and we won’t even get into the great RPGs from Black Isle Studios, I looked forward to finally getting a chance revisit those environments in Neverwinter. When Bill, our Editor in Chief at MMORPG.com, asked me if I would mind taking a look at Module 3: Curse of Icewind Dale I told him absolutely. It had been a while since I had played, I’m still logging in daily to pray for those tokens though, but I had been looking forward to this content update and I would dive back in and take a look. When I tried to do that though I hit a little bump in the road.
The new module is stuck behind a content gate. There are three requirements to travel to Icewind Dale in Neverwinter. First you have to be level 60. No problem there. Second you need a gear score of 10,000. Mine is at 9600. Besides my undershirt and underpants (that feels weird typing that out) I have all epic quality gear. Maybe a 10,000 gearscore is a little much? You also need a boon from a previous module. Introduced in Module 1 and expanded upon in Module 2 boons are additional benefits you character can earn in the campaign system. If you want to look at them with a positive spin they are beneficially stats your character can earn by participating in the campaigns. They are a post level cap progression system. If you want to look at boons from the perspective of a returning player that had no interest in Feywild or the Dreadring boons are a big time sink. Instead of patching up and diving into Icewind Dale you have to spend time playing content that you probably did not want anything to do with from the beginning. It’s worth mentioning that you can also earn a boon through PvP, but is earning a PvP boon so you can PvE really what most people that spend time playing PvE content want? Probably not.
My question then is why? Say what you want about Neverwinter and their overpriced companions and mounts, as some of you know I’ve called them out on those every chance I get, but until now their PvE content has been very accessible. You get to level 60 and then you can pretty well do whatever you want. You do not have to finish the main story to take part in modules 1 or 2. You do have to have a certain item level to take part in the expert dungeons, but I can see how that makes sense. I do not see how preventing droves of returning players that want to take part in content they may have nostalgia for and forcing them to play in content they have no desire to touch is a good idea. There are a lot of places Cryptic could have visited in Toril.
They (Cryptic) choose Icewind Dale because of its popularity and were counting on it as a draw. Why then bank on those people either trying your game for the first time or returning to give the game a second look and have Icewind Dale stuck behind an artificial barrier? If it is solely because the content is, “harder”, let people go there at level 60 and get their butts handed to them and let those players know that you recommend they have certain requirements to be effective in the Dale. I had a similar concern for DDO when they added the Forgotten Realms. I never really cared for the Eberron campaign setting but once we got a chance to play in Turbine’s version of the Realms I was interested to give it a try. However you were still forced to play through portions of Eberron until you could get to the stuff you really wanted to play and at times it was painful. This game will lose people to attrition before they ever get what they really came for. I can understand this strategy more if the games were subscription based and the developers were making money off of eating up a players time. But in a microtransaction-based game where developers want players to get into the action and then charge players for convenience items or cosmetic ones I cannot reconcile the logic of developers preventing players from playing the game they want and would hopefully pay for.
I have gone back to the Dreadring and I’m working on getting that boon so I can get some hands on impressions of the Curse of Icewind Dale for a future column. But in the meantime we did get some interesting news out of Cryptic and Wizards of the Coast yesterday. WotC announced Tyranny of the Dragons and is aligning all of their D&D products and unveiling “new serialized entertainment offerings.” This is going to be a campaign that ties all the new D&D core rule books together as well as Neverwinter and a miniatures by WizKids. Turbine was noticeably absent on the press release from WotC. The Sundering is set to conclude when Ed Greenwood’s book, The Herald, releases next month so this new Tyranny of Dragons will hopefully pick up where the Sundering leaves off. Also the first two adventures for the pen and paper game are titled Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of the Tiamat.
I’m curious what your thoughts are about gated content in microtransaction based games. Am I way off in my thinking or do you agree that preventing potential customers from playing the game they want and would be willing to pay for is silly? Let me know in the comments below. Also let me know what you think about the upcoming D&D 5e ruleset. I’m interested in what the community thinks about it after the 4e fiasco. Thanks for reading.
Robert Lashley / Robert Lashley is a Staff Writer and Online host for MMORPG.com. Rob's bald and when he isn't blinding people from the glare on his head talking in front of a camera you can find him spending his free time checking out the latest games and technology. Feel free to hunt him down on twitter @Grakulen
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