Module 7 and More: A Chat with Kate Paiz
News Manager Keith Cross recently had the opportunity to speak to Kate Paiz, Senior Producer for Dungeons&Dragons Online. It was our regular monthly chat with the folks at Tubrine and coming into the interview I was concerned that there wouldn't really be anything to talk about, with the GDC and Codemaster's connect events being so recent in our memories. But in the fast paced world of game development there's always something new to talk about, such as Module 7 and the Monk, the recent Shavarath invasion, and a few hints at Module 8.
Module 7 for Dungeons and Dragons Online is looming on the horizon with its May release, and the free content expansion is full of features that DDO fans have been looking forward to for a long time. Module 7 will include improved crafting and new eldritch rituals, a high level wilderness area and two new raids, a revamp of Three Barrel Cove, and the big one, the Monk will finally make its debut.
The last time anyone form MMORPG.com spoke to the folks at Turbine, the monk was in the alpha testing phase so my first question to DDO Senior Producer Kate Paiz was how far along is the Monk now? She said that Monk development is locked down and now they’re in the balance and bug fixing stage from a design point of view, and the art department is busy fine tuning the animations.
In version 3.5 of the D&D rules the monk is one of the more moderately difficult classes to use, being a little more complicated than a fighter. I asked if this would also be the case for the monk in DDO and Kate responded with a no. They have had to reduce the complexity a bit but that’s inevitable when transferring a complicated class from a pen and paper RPG to the medium of MMORPGs. The bottom line is that veterans and new players alike should be able to enjoy the monk.
The monk is meant to be an equal part of the party as a fighter and is a very melee focused class with a little added versatility. Monks gain some useful self healing abilities from their meditative nature, and they also have several elemental based paths that they can develop along. Monks can focus on the 4 elements earth, air, fire, and water, gain different abilities depending on their focus. Earth based monks are more resilient, air focused monks hit faster but with less force with an overall higher dps, fire monks do more damage, and so on. Monk fans also need not worry that the monk won’t be fully supported in the gear department, players can expect to find plenty of monk specific gear like all of the other classes get, as well as special named items for monks.
But Module 8 has more than just monks. Like I said in the opening paragraph, there will be a new high level wilderness area, 2 new raids, and a revamp of the pirate themed Three Barrel Cove on an island in the far north. They decided to enhance the pirate theme of the area when they redid the outdoor space and added three new adventures in the area. In the past the region had a human settlement, but the folks at turbine wanted to fill the area with more “piratey” monsters. My first thought when I heard this was a beholder with an eye patch, and maybe a peg leg, but they meant more along the lines of humanoid pirates, like hobgoblins, bugbears, and their ilk.
DDO also recently celebrated its 2nd anniversary with a number of events revolving around their Shavarath storyline, to which they say their player base has had a very enthusiastic response. To pull off these events they used some new technology which allowed them to more easily plan and execute the events much more easily and on a more massive scale than in the past. Basically they are able to script events like they would when creating a dungeon but on a more massive scale. Instead of running events for a few hours individually on different servers, events can now unfold over weeks, simultaneously on all servers. Not only are events now larger and easier to create, but they can be more dynamic, giving the illusion of spontaneity and creating the feeling that events are unfolding around the players. It all goes toward helping players feel like their heroes living in a living world rather than just being dungeon delving adventurers with no purpose beyond killing monsters and gaining loot. This is all in response to player feedback, and I must say that one of my complaints about this game early on was that it lacked that feeling that they have been working to create with each new module.
The story arc revolving around Shavarath’s invasion was a good testing ground for the new technology, but it was also a good time to test a few other game design elements as well before they hit full implementation. Kate mentioned that the wish spell would be entering the game in a future module, and being someone who enjoys playing high level spellcasters in the pen and paper version, I had to ask how they would implement such a powerful and open ended spell in an MMO game space. Basically they’re in the process of coming up with a lengthy list of standard uses for the spell, and they gave some of these uses a dry run during their second anniversary event. Players were rewarded with a special cake. They eat the cake, they get a wish. It was the first time that the wish spell entered the game and it apparently went well, with Turbine receiving a lot of useful feedback.
Players have more than just the wish spell to look forward to past module 7. In module 8 players will get to repay the denizens of Shavarath for their invasion when they’ll get to go to Shavarath themselves. And players can also look forward to the full implementation of the crafting system which will be broadly applied to equipment, not just weapons and will also feature a deconstruction/construction element where players can take apart old gear to make new stuff.