We got a chance to meet up with some of the Turbine crew at this year’s PAX East for a demo of the “Sentinels” Adventure Pack that launched with Update 4, as well as a glimpse of what the future holds for Dungeons & Dragons Online in 2010. On hand for the demonstration were DDO Producer Erik Boyer and Design Director Ian Currie.
We were first brought up to speed on some of the additions DDO has seen since its relaunch as a hybrid Free-to-Play/Subscription game last year. The game has since seen growth of a million new players and the switchover has also helped boost actual subscription numbers, which have more than doubled.
Update 3 removed leveling sigils from the game, allowing free players to get to the cap without having to fork over any cash. Update 3 also introduced casual difficulty levels which were implemented to give solo players and small groups who were having a hard time tackling some quests at Normaldifficulty a way to progress. Of course, the casual difficulty does mean you earn less rewards. For those who are looking for a challenge, Epic difficulty has also been added to select dungeons, allowing for level 20 players who have completed certain content at Elite difficulty the ability to go back and kick things up a notch, earning even greater rewards. Epic difficulty also allows players to upgrade their named items to new levels of power. More recently, a DDO Player Feed Facebook application has been launched that will update your friends on Facebook with your in-game accomplishments and even let them know if you are online. Looking ahead about a month, Erik Boyer mentioned that Turbine will also be making available DDO Store point cards at retail outlets.
Getting to the main event of the demonstration, we were introduced to the “Sentinels” adventure pack that just released with Update 4. Sentinels is a level 6-8 adventure pack that sees players teaming up with the mercenaries of House Deneith to rout the Blood Tide pirates that are assaulting Stormreach. The Blood Tide pirates aren’t your everyday garden variety pirates either: they’re zombie pirates! This really throws a wrench into the whole Pirates vs. Ninjas conundrum. Sentinels is now available on the DDO Store for 450 points, and includes Epic Mode right out of the gate.
During our demo we followed Design Director Ian Currie as he explored the depths of a Blood Tide stronghold as a fireball slinging wizard as part of one of the early quests of the Sentinels adventure pack. When we reached the top of stronghold we witnessed how the crafty zombie pirates were assaulting Stormreach. Not to be content with simply sailing in on pirate ships, or even ghostly pirate ships, instead the zombie pirates were dropping in through the use of truly magnificent looking airships. The quest ended with Ian setting the airship on fire, resulting in a fight with the ship’s Captain who was not-too-happy about this.
Following the demo we spoke to Erik and Ian about the future of DDO, which certainly sounds promising! In a recently released State of the Game letter, DDO Executive Producer Fernando Paiz announced that DDO will feature guild housing as part of an update to be released later this year, but what we didn’t know is what form said guild housing would take. To that end, Erik and Ian were excited to share with us that guilds will establish their bases in airships, which will be fully customizable on both their interior and exterior. You’ll even be able to add amenities such as banks and auctioneers to the airships, and upgrade the ships crew. Guild airships will also serve as transportation, allowing guilds to unlock transportation points so that they can quickly travel throughout the game world, including being quickly whisked away to DDO’s various dungeons and raids. Guilds will participate in a new guild leveling system in order to access and upgrade guild airships, and the system will scale for both small and large guilds. The leveling process was described as being similar to earning favor, just on a guild-wide scale. Interestingly, airships will also be viewable in public spaces, as the developers are emphasizing the ability for guilds to show off their creations.
Looking ahead a bit further, another new adventure pack is in the works, which is said to be designated for characters around level nine. The pack will feature underwater combat, and an entirely new wilderness area. A new race will be available for play in DDO later this year, as well. In the aforementioned State of the Game letter, Fernando Paiz announced that Half-Orcs will finally become a playable race in DDO this year, but we were able to find out just a teensy bit more about the new race at PAX East, learning that Half-Orc’s will be one of the game’s strongest races, coming out of the gate with a +2 STR racial bonus. Half-Orcs will be available as both females and males, and will allow for a good level of customization. The new race will not be based on either the 3.5 or 4.0 editions of D&D, but will instead be a bit of a hybrid of the two. Rounding out our glimpse into DDO in 2010, we also learned that players can look forward to a bevy of new cosmetic items, including hats and shields that will be available exclusively in the DDO Store.
It’s looking to be a stand-out years for Dungeons & Dragons Online in 2010, so be sure to check back at MMORPG.com for all the latest developments! We’d also like to thank DDO Producer Erik Boyer & Design Director Ian Currie for their time.