Jan 022014
 

2013 in review

2013 was an awesome year in many ways. Everyone got married, or at least, my son did. And then later, I did too. So did my Gamer Girl, although that may not count extra since it is sort of the whole reason why I got married.

There were other highlights, including the live DDOCast from GenCon, one of the favorite things I have ever done. And many other personal highlights. Coupled with an amazing shortage of personal lowlights, 2013 ranks right up there among the greatest years of my life.

But that’s just me. Let’s see how DDO did this year.

New Content

  • Update 17 Epic Gianthold 9 updated quests 1 updated adventure area 1 raid
  • Update 18 Shadowfell Intro 2 new quests
  • Update 19 Shadowfell 10 new quests 2 new adventure areas
  • Update 20 Critical Return 2 new quests

A total of 14 new quests, 9 updated ones, 3 adventure areas and one raid. Better than some years, but not overwhelming. Out of the whole batch, the two from Critical Return were the most intricate, the capstone quest in the Storm Horns was the most difficult, and the prettiest quests – ever – were in the Storm Horns.

A Study in Sable and Lines of Supply were completely different, both from each other and from everything else, proving that applied creativity can still create something fun and unique even using our ten-year-old game engine.

If, like me, you lived through the Great Content Drought of 2008-2009, this year will seem like a win. And it does. More content would be better, especially in a year with only one new raid, but this was a nice yield.

System Revamps

There was a whole lot of effort put into redoing things that already worked. Stutteringly, in the case of Armor kits, (kits that were only effective on one piece of armor, ever?) but still, they worked. More or less. Like the changes to Stealth, I can see how the new system improves on the old one, but not enough to really care too much one way or the other.

On the other hand, Reincarnation had to be redone as part of Turbine’s effort to give us an end game, an effort which I applaud. It is too early to see if the new endgame will be successful, for that matter Turbine still has not revealed it, but I like the fact that they are trying. Two thumbs up.

Similarly, while the old enhancement system worked, the new one is so much better that I completely agree with the two-year effort that went into creating it. That may be just me, I like building characters, and now I get to rebuild them all again. For me, the new enhancement system is a big win. Two thumbs way up.

New Systems

We received more new systems in 2013 than we did anything else:

  • Augments
  • Chest Reroll
  • Daily Dice
  • Epic Reincarnation
  • Hall of Heroes
  • Iconic Heroes
  • Level Cap to 28 (and new Epic Destiny Feats)
  • Sagas
  • Shard Exchange
  • Skill Tomes
  • Spellcraft skill

2013 was the year of the Astral Shard. I am not a Shard prolificant; Chest Reroll is useless to me. Daily Dice are fun, and the XP bonus is nice, but again, not a big Shard spender which diminishes the utility of the system.

Which brings us to the Shard Exchange. It is good for the game? Or bad? I am unsure. I’ve bought and sold things, so apparently I am in favor, at least partly. I don’t think there is any doubt that the platinum-based economy has been filled up; in seven years, most players who care about acquisition have multiple characters that are at the plat cap. The most desirable items are simply not available for platinum alone, and haven’t been for several years. The Shard Exchange fills a gap in that even a casual playing someone, selling carefully, can hoard enough Shards to be able to – now and then, with patience – buy something that would normally be unattainable.

Although I find it interesting – and full of arguments against the Shard Exchange – that Blizzard gave up on their own real money auction house.

Augments: A nice piece of variety, sort of in conflict with Cannith crafting but not entirely, and it adds a whole new type of fun things one can find in a chest. I am always in favor of fun things one can find in a chest. Also, I should point out that as complicated as Augments are, they seem remarkably free from bugs. I don’t recall hearing about a single augment-related issue. A useful and fun addition, and made with quality too. Very well done Turbine!

Iconic Heroes: This should be very welcome to a character builder like myself, but I am self-handicapped by being in a halfling-only guild and do not get the benefits that I should considering these are basically four new pseudo-classes. On the other hand, they are not really new classes, and they are not really new races. They are instead only newish, which may be why my enthusiasm flags? But I do wonder if anyone is still playing a regular-old warforged?

Hall of Heroes: this one gets a grade of “Incomplete”. We’ll see what we see in 2014.

Level Cap and Epic Destiny Feats: Yay! Not a lot needs to be said here, earning XP is always better than not earning XP. It would be nice if gaining Epic levels meant something in the way that a new Heroic level does, rather than just everyone getting the same hit points and saves, but I repeat: earning XP will always be better than not earning XP.

Sagas: this one gets a grade of “Incomplete” too. Except I fear that this new system may not get any more love, it was supposed to be part of the end game design but was removed due to general abhorrence of the proposed Commendation of Valor economy. Player revulsion may have turned this into a dead end. Unfortunate if true, as they are now Sagas are interesting, and yet one more way to speed up leveling. But they don’t do anything new, or even newish, and that seems like a big waste of a big new system.

Skill Tomes: I am always in favor of fun new things one can find in a chest.

Spellcraft skill: Adds another build tradeoff decision for skill-starved classes like Cleric. The name “Spellcraft” certainly has legitimate D&D roots even if the implementation has nothing in common with tabletop Dungeons & Dragons except the name. The new skill is not really a big addition, but it is an addition, and I like it.

Expansion Pack

For the second year in a row, Turbine released a Forgotten Realms-based DDO expansion pack, Shadowfell Conspiracy. The release has unique content, new Iconic Heroes, and assorted baubles that were primarily available to early pre-purchasers like Owlbear hirelings.

But the 2013 release did not have the universal acclaim that was accorded Menace of the Underdark, the first DDO expansion pack. Several reasons exist, but I think part of the problem is just how good MotU was. Shadowfell has less content, and no raid. MotU had Epic Destinies, challenges, and Druids. They even threw in a bunch of classic Eberron adventure packs. Meanwhile, Shadowfell had Iconics and that was that.

There are other issues that are less about quantity and more about feel; MotU gave us a whole new world while Shadowfell gave us a prison. Getting our first expansion was exciting! Getting another one started to feel like an extra annual expense. It seemed a particularly poor value for VIPs in particular (and I am one) as we basically spent a lot of money for what should have been two free updates.

Fails

Failure to launch: the new Saga system had to be closed within 48 hours of it’s release. An entirely new system, but not even able to stay up for two days, instead essentially withdrawn until the next release. Two patches later Sagas were re-released, and incredibly, failed again and had to be closed two days later. Again.

Quality problems continued to plague DDO in 2013: Updates 18 and 19 both required three patches to function properly. Three!

Mabar Lag Fest: the festival known as “MayBan” for it’s infamous history of causing players to be banned was itself found to be deficient and had to be brought down more than a week before it’s scheduled closure.

Duping exploit: While various exploits come and go all the time, this one seemed to be more publicly visible, even making Producer Rowan’s holiday letter. The exploit allowed anyone to duplicate any item that could be stacked in the bank and many people took advantage, changing the economy in ways that are still being felt, and motivating Turbine into the unusual step of logging directly into player accounts and deleting ill-gotten items from character inventories.

Wins

Bugfix emphasis: According to Producer Rowan’s holiday letter, “This year the DDO Team made a commitment to reduce bugs, increase quality and deliver the features we promised.” This seemed to show up, finally, in Update 20 which while a small release, was also remarkably less bug-ridden than its predecessors. Note also the number of major new systems (Iconics, Augments, Skill tomes) which appear to have no bugs at all.

Wayfinder protest: For a week, hundreds of determined players took to the Marketplace bridge on Wayfinder and rooted themselves there in protest of perceived unfairness in the proposed Reincarnation system revamp. Did the protest work? Turbine did end up making most of the changes that the players demanded, so maybe, although the impetus for the changes may not have been the protest. Nonetheless, it was fun! And brought many players together in a way that hasn’t happened since greensteel was first released and needed to be de-puzzled.

DDOCast marches on: after two years of dedicated work, DDOCast hosts Anne and Sig Trent needed a graceful way to hang up their kobold-based enterprise and ride off into the sunset. Fortunately, Patrick/Shamgar who does the Epic Education and Building Blocks segments agreed to take on the hosting duties.  Anne and Trent (and me) said our goodbyes during a live podcast from GenCon in August, while Patrick has been handling the chores ever since, and in a most admirable fashion. It is good to know that DDOCast will live on. 317 episodes and still going! Thanks to Jerry for starting it, Anne and Sig for continuing it, and especially, Patrick for taking it into the new year.

Raiders Reward Boxes: this started out as a Fail actually, as the Shadowfell update introduced a bug that prevented players from getting their 20th raid completion reward list. But Turbine craftily turned this into a win by creating a new item – the Raiders Reward Box – and granting it to everyone who completed a raid (ever) or TR’d between Update 19 and Update 20. Failure threatened again on Update 20 day when it was realized that not everyone who should have gotten a box did. Turbine’s response? To give everyone a box! Or in most cases, another box. Twice the raid-weapony fun! A definite win for Turbine and even more, a win for us!

Turbine/player communication: Turbine seems to be turning a new leaf in terms of the way that developers interact with the player base. While this has always happened, it happened rarely, and most of the developers stayed out of the forum fray. But no longer, it seems someone is twisting their arms to come out in public and talk about what they are doing. As the year began we had mainly MajMalphunktion talking to us but by year’s end developers Purplefooz, Feather_of_Sun, Knockback, Piloto, Vargouille, and of course a variety of producers introduced themselves and previewed their plans for DDO. The new communication is a big plus, one I hope that will continue into 2014.


So there you have it, everything important that happened to DDO in 2013 – that I can remember at least – and what I thought about all of it.

Did I forget anything? Or get it wrong? Let me know in the comments. And while you’re there, why not tell everyone about your favorite 2013 DDO moment?

Happy New Year!

🙂 😀 🙂

  5 Responses to “2013 In Review”

Comments (5)
  1. “why not tell everyone about your favorite 2013 DDO moment”

    I’m going to have to think about that….. there’s so many

    ( Yes, Samius & Tobril, joining the Defense Guild would be in there 😀 )

  2. I agree 2013 was a huge year some moments were questionable but some were great I’m in favor of new enhancements and new reincarnation system the hall of heroes is a pain giant hold is nice sagas are finally decent and daily dice who doesn’t like free stuff and xp shards eh it’s ok great year

  3. I love that the dragonmark upgrades were folded in with the new enhancement system – my Halflings are now very happy and healthy.

  4. For someone who left before 2013, none of these particularly make me want to come back (although Turbine would rather have me spend money on LOTRO than coast on my DDO TP). Skill trees look interesting, but were terrible for clerics and it would take a lot of adjustment to get a working sorcerer (the wiki still lists my sorcerer build from 2010[?], which replaced a moldy build that likely predated f2p). Not sure how the rest of my characters would go (one true heart would likely give my repeater wielding hagglebard some artificer levels: free feats, rune arm, and trapfinding here we come!).

    Bringing DDO players together to fight Turbine’s ill-treatment of them (I joined in the first wave of f2p. I couldn’t imagine plunging my mats in the altars without knowing what could come out)? Well that’s one way to look at it.

    HUZZAH! for 2013 and Gamer Geoff. May every year be as good for you.

  5. 2013 was definitely an interesting year in DDO. I agree that the enhancement pass was well done. I also agree that the Shadowfell Expansion pack was pretty light when compared to MOTU. Perhaps the changes in the loot system, especially concerning weapons, is something I won’t forget that came out of 2013. The uproar of the random loot changes and great “ghostbane” hate will forever be burned into my mind. However, the devs are trying to correct this and I hope they continue to work on it as they have promised for 2014. Excellent article Geoff!!

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