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Conversation with Ken Troop

Jon Wood Posted:
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Jon Wood discusses the game with the brains behind it

This is the second on a series of three articles that are coming out of the event. You can read the first, “Eberron, Instancing, No PvP? No Problem: A Hardcore DnD Fan Has His Concerns Addressed” here.

On November the 8th, I had the opportunity to head across the continent to San Francisco for a Dungeons and Dragons Online: Stormreach press event. The event itself was a success, as members of the video game press descended upon The Dragon Bar for the event. There, we had the opportunity to listen to a presentation about the game from Lead Designer Ken Troop, and to play the game hands-on.

Throughout the event, the developers from Turbine made themselves available, not only to help us out with the game, but also to answer our questions. Fortunately, I was able to corner Ken Troop for a quick one-on-one interview.

When I asked Troop why the game was so heavily instanced, he came up with a couple of answers. The first was that they felt that they “wanted to be faithful to our Dungeons and Dragons heritage”, and that the only way to do that properly was to maintain the feeling of a party through instancing. He also said that they are trying to eliminate many aspect of the classic model of MMORPGs which are “not fun”, such as ganking, camping spawns and general griefing, not to mention having to stand in line to fight the big monster at the end.

The result of the instancing is that players feel more like they are playing with a small number of people around a table. The missing element would seem to be the Dungeon Master, the person who tells the story specifically for the characters. When I asked him whether players would be given the toolsets to make their own adventures (and instanced quests), Troop told me that there were no plans for this in the immediate future because they are going to “focus on trying to create a hit. We want to be the best in [what Troop calls] the 3 C’s: combat, character, and content.” Troop also told us not to count out the possibility of players gaining the ability to act as DMs.

With a mention of content, I had to ask him about the level 10 cap at release. It is an issue that has been causing many would-be players a great deal of stress. I tried to get a definitive date as to when exactly players would be introduced to content up to level 20. “Not right away, but it won’t be a super long time” was the response that I received.

The final question that I had time to ask brought us back to the issue of a heavily instanced game. When you talk about heavy use of instancing, the first game to come to my mind is Guild Wars, which seems to run in a similar way to DDO. I asked Ken Troop why, with the similarities in the instancing mechanics between the two, Dungeons and Dragons Online would be charging a monthly fee, while Guild Wars does not. After a moment, this was his reply: “We have a commitment to episodic content and features. In terms of quality and quantity, I think that we offer un-matched service.” He went on to say that “Dungeons and Dragons Online is a unique experience that no other game, regardless of the world model, can match.”

I would like to thank Ken Troop for taking the time to answer these questions.

As always we encourage your comments. Let us hear them here.


Jon Wood