Jan 092015

Turbine - Powered By Yet Another New Producer
Turbine – Powered By Yet Another New Producer

There’s a new producer letter over on the forums, and has been the case for the last couple of years, that also means that DDO has a new producer. Again.

I am not clear what a producer really does over there. They sound more like scrum masters than visionaries, but someone has to have the big ideas, don’t they? I don’t know. I’ve worked at places where “the business” (in the form of Business Analysts) made all the programming direction decisions and prioritization, but the developers themselves made all the other decisions. Maybe it is like that? Except substitute “Producer” for “Business Analyst”?

But I digress. This is not about the unbelievable turnover that the DDO team has had in the last 18 months. Or at least, it is not only about that. This is about the letter too, and these things usually (but not always) do contain information that (more or less) comes true. It’s a short letter, and one that we can read line by line. So, by all means, let’s do that!


My name is Robert Ciccolini, although many of you might know me as “Severlin” on the forums or from podcasts. I am the Executive Producer for Dungeons and Dragons Online. I wanted to take this opportunity to look back on our previous year and look forward to the year ahead.

Severlin was the producer and main programmer for Asheron’s Call until Turbine finally pulled the support plug on AC last year. He has been on the DDO team since July.

I’m not a big Vyvyanne fan (the producer as of July), nor a Malphunktion fan (the producer as of March), nor a Rowan fan (the producer as of Dec 2013) but we never really got a chance to know any of them. Severlin posts on the forums, and I think that is a good thing. On the other hand, he seems to prefer to create quests of a certain style that have more to do with numbers of bad guys and Red Dungeon Alert than with any other kind of challenge. But that is a topic for another post.

The last year has been eventful, and looking back we have seen many additions to the game.

In the last year we added lots of new content including three new raids. Our characters were able to explore the Haunted Halls as we had the opportunity to present that classic adventure to our players.

Player were able to band together to form more powerful guilds and update their guild airships and amenities.

High level adventurers were able to experience more powerful versions of some of some well known heroic content. We revisited both Three Barrel Cove and the most powerful area of the Orchard of the Macabre.

This past year has seen changes that have allowed for powerful new builds. Heavy armor is no longer relegated to niche builds and has instead taken its place on the front line of the fight. The year saw large improvements for Bard, Paladin and Barbarian, as well as a few improvements for Ranger and Rogue. We added a new Bard tree with Swashbuckler, and the new Vanguard tree is now available to Fighter and Paladin. We also added the Harper Agent enhancement tree. This year also saw changes to help some heroic abilities scale into Epic levels, and a rebalance of the melee oriented Epic Enhancement trees.

Looking back, I think that Melee Power and the Armor Up changes are intended to bring the Tank to DDO. Which makes sense, as no other form of crowd control works in any of the new content on Elite. Maybe Severlin likes Tanks. Maybe they are a key feature in Asheron’s Call. I don’t know, but I am not in love with the fact that it seems that I am going to have to make and gear a Tank. Boo.

The Mirror of Glamering was created to give players the freedom and flexibility to capture the look of their favorite weapons and armors from the game’s treasure. We have already seen players scouring the game for their favorite items to update their style.

Players in hard and elite content faced a new challenge in the form of Monster Champions.

I feel that 2014 was a better year than 2013 for players. I have no idea how that translates to Turbine income, but I hope they made more money this year than last; I want them to be encouraged to have more years like 2014.

I don’t pretend to be in favor of all of the changes in 2014. But the Haunted Halls really was a big win, and everything else was generally better than it was worse. So … a good year.

As excited as we are about the additions to the game, the true joy of working on our game has been the involvement of the community. The feedback on features and additions has been extremely helpful. Our players are a passionate bunch who clearly love the game as much as we do, and we love reading feedback, hearing what you love about the game, watching your videos, answering questions during live casts, and hearing stories about your in game adventures.

In the last year we have had some great people provide terrific feedback on the player’s council. I wanted to give those players a shout out for all of their time and enthusiasm. We are working hard on creating our player council for the coming year and we are both excited to hear some new voices and sad to see the current players pass the proverbial baton to the new guard.

The player council seems to have been a mixed success, at least according to a couple of people who are on the PC. Me? No opinion. Having one seems better than not having one, but using it mainly to address weapon and item designs seems shortsighted; I’d bring them in during the big vision sessions.

But that’s probably just me. I know Micki reads this blog occasionally, I hope she’ll jump in and comment on her experiences with the inaugural PC.

Temple of Elemental Evil
Our next big update will include the Temple of Elemental Evil. We are all excited to present this classic dungeon to the players. The Temple grounds are quite large! Although players will be presented with a quest to accomplish when they enter the temple, there will be many dangers and treasures to find if the players take the time to properly explore the vast network of temple halls and chambers.

If this comes out even 80% as good as the Haunted Halls, then yay! Exciting! The original version was another dungeon crawl so it could be well-suited. This is potentially the best news in the whole letter.

Monster Champions and Mysterious Fragments
Characters facing the game’s toughest challenges have encountered a wide variety of Monster Champions – creatures that have increased skill and power. What is causing this increase in power? As characters investigate the source of this newfound strength they will begin to discover that many of these creatures carry Mysterious Fragments that seem to resonate with strange magical power. Could these fragments be causing these champions and their rise in power? What use could these fragments have for those looking for power?

Monster champions will have a chance to drop Mysterious Fragments. Players can gather these fragments and various agents and interested parties might trade them for a variety of rewards. Rumors of groups offering scrolls, potions, cosmetic items, and even prestigious and rare pets have begun to surface. Organizations do not have unlimited resources. As factions vie for power some agents and rewards might change as the year progresses.

Another currency and crafting system? Really? Could be fun, I hate to come off all curmudgeonly, but maybe we could re-use a currency and crafting system rather than building another all-new one? Just once?

We are looking into adding a new class during the year, and we are considering the Warlock class. The Warlock creates powerful eldritch blasts to destroy enemies in addition to a variety of spells to aid them in their adventures.

New classes are fun, so, good! This one would not have been my first choice, as it is pretty much just an arcane nuker and we already have that in the form of Sorcerors (and any caster in the Shiradi epic destiny). But still, new classes are fun. So, good!

New Storylines
The game will introduce a new story arc that will take the players to Shavarath for a new adventure pack. Characters on these adventures will work to prevent a catastrophe. That story will continue as the year progresses to bring the players once again to the Vale of Twilight. New threats have entered the Vale and more powerful challenges await in this chapter of the Vale of Twilight’s history. Defeating this new threat will require you to enter the more dangerous and powerful Vale of Twilight as you increase your level to 30 and obtain new treasures. More powerful items also await from the corrupted Greensteel found in the Vale after recent events have increased the magical power of the area.

Epic greensteel! That will be something to see. In another post, Severlin clarifies that Turbine is trying to combine the sentient weapons promised last year with epic greensteel; epic sentient greensteel. That ought to be very interesting. Very interesting indeed.

He also clarifies that the Shavarath content will be actual new content and not just epified versions of the Shavarath quests we have already. So, again, yay! Because new content.

Level 30
Characters will be able to gain experience to increase their level to 30. Characters who reach this milestone will gain additional feats and power, and they will be able to wield and even construct new weapons and treasures to face the foes that challenge them.

This could be promising. I hope it is more like the level increases we used to get – those that eventually took us to level 20 – and less like the increases we get in Epic levels.

New Festivals
The coming year will bring new festivals; a mimic event where players have to hunt down mimics that have infested all the corners of the land. The autumn will also bring a new seasonal festival that will haunt your favorite places and provide characters with more treats than tricks.

Mimic infestation. Now there are two words you just don’t expect to find together. “Mimic infestation”. Hey I’m game. And finally the new Mabar too! Although one has to actually see this one before taking it at face value; it has been promised before.

These are just some of the ideas and plans we are looking into for the next year. We don’t want to spoil too much about our new monsters, new treasures and other goodies we have planned. Our goal is to present players with a taste of the ideas we are working on, and we also want to remain vigilant to the requests and feedback from the players. Your ideas are important to us, and your feedback will help guide us over the course of the year.

Robert “Severlin” Ciccolini

Congratulations on the promotion Severlin, although I am not sure it is much of an elevation for you since you were the Executive Producer on AC. Nonetheless, I truly do wish you the best of luck, and hope that you are able to steer the game into fun and repeatable directions for years to come.

Happy producing Severlin, and may you outlast the last three producers combined, although that is an admittedly low bar to clear.

🙂 😀 🙂

  10 Responses to “Annual State of the Game Letter From (Yet Another) Brand New Producer”

Comments (10)
  1. I think its good that we get this guy as the new Producer. He has stuck by AC for a longer period, and apparently the players are relatively happy with how he conducted, apart form maybe seeing the game slowly waver over time.
    And its good that he has been in there, and worked with the team and has been involved in development work for the recent things too, to make sure that he knows the team and is part of the direction the game has taken over the last couple of months.
    The letter does show intent and some understanding of what DDO should be about, which is more than you could see in what Viv wrote (did we ever hear of her after that letter, maybe once?), although Glin and Rowan also looked to have a vision and neither got to do much good for the game. And Maj.Mal had been with DDO a long time too, and was then whisked off to follow Rowan to LotRO quickly afterwards before even getting to work in earnest as Producer.

    So all in all, I hope that we finally have someone steering the chip somewhere for a longer period of time, and from what I have seen of Severlin so far, he seems to have what it takes to steer a ship somewhere. Lets hope he can deliver and set a good course for the next couple of years till DDO reaches its final destination.

  2. Concerning the PC, I feel like it has great potential, it just wasn’t utilized enough. Also, communication needs to be improved.

  3. I am happy we are getting an real Halloween event to replace Mabar (I hope).

  4. /kobold voice
    another one? really? REALLY??
    /kobold voice off

  5. Well, I for one am glad they are trying to buff tanks and bring back S&B – that, to me, is quintessential D&D. I, for one, am glad the “monkuration” of the game has been greatly muted.

    As for the PC, having been on it – it was good and a learning process for both the devs and players. I think the devs thought DDO players would be, perhaps, ‘nicer” in their comments. We were blunt and critical with varying degrees of success. I do believe the devs tuned us out at times – particularly when they felt hurt or insulted by the criticism of proposals. The last 2 months of the PC were useless and we felt ‘out of the loop’ – that certainly could have been because there were sea changes in leadership occurring which is not evident.

    As for a thread like the one you link to – I take that with a heavy grain of salt. I am not worried about the opinions of unabashed exploiters for one. If you want to be constructive and help the game you claim you love to play – then apply for the PC and participate, constructively, in the DDO forums as well.

  6. FYI – I just found out today that Vyvyanne is the new LotRO executive producer (Rowan [the “old” LotRO producer] is “moving thirty feet down the hall to start a new project at Turbine”). So, the trend seems to be: promote new DDO executive producer; after a short while, laterally promote to LotRO; and then “disappear into the ether”. I think if I were a Turbine employee, I’d be afraid of promotions…

  7. Mirror of Glamering[sic], woo, I must remember to buy more of those!

    New crafting, I dabble in “most” of the crafting systems, ingredient is probably what most people dislike … I upgraded my ‘Bag Deposit’, so I guess I’m no longer qualified to comment on that. Either way, new crafting!
    (Perhaps someone can come up with some nifty way to trade unwanted ingredients for other ingredients, or gold pieces.)

    New festival, presumably replacing the old Mabar, should be interesting. I’ll lament the old one, but since we’ll have a new one, that lament won’t last long.

    Anyway, if we get half of what is suggested, good times 🙂

  8. It is discouraging to see the revolving door of executive producers continue. I hope Severlin stays in place for a while, having some type of consistency is just too important to simply throw away. I’m looking forward to seeing the epic versions of Vale and the continuation of the Shavarath storyline. I continually go out to the Vale but hardly ever venture to Shavarath, I think that is much needed. I’m hoping for a great year!! 🙂

  9. Sesame Street is brought to you today by the word, “powerful”. I count eight uses in the letter.

What do you think?

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