Mar 052013

State of the Game 2013
Everything you read in the state of the game is real. Everything you read here is speculation

It’s been exactly one week since Producer Glin posted this year’s DDO State of the Game Address. Note that he didn’t call it that, he called it a birthday letter, but we like to make it seem more important than it probably really is; therefore we all give it an important title. Extra Capital Letters Add to the Gravity of this Vital Missive.

Having said all that, it really is a noteworthy communication if you are a DDO fan. Like me. Turbine sets the game direction for the entire year. Details are not always 100% correct but are generally dependable in a more-or-less-eventually sort of way. DDO’s future is normally kept opaque, very difficult to parse, but here is everything that can be publicly disclosed about the company’s plans for as far in advance as the detailed planning goes.

But I digress. This article is not about State of the Game Letters in general, but specifically about this year’s version. As is traditional, time to take the letter apart line by line and see what interesting details fall out.

Note that all of my speculation is pure and baseless – the very best kind – and should not be taken with any seriousness. I get a lot of these things right, more frequently than my Gamer Girl would probably admit, but I am also wrong a lot and often, very wildly wrong. 🙂

Here we go:

It’s challenging but also exciting when we get the chance to update beloved DDO features to make them even better, and you’ll see that happening on a few different fronts this year.

This sounds like more of the Eberron content will be getting updated and probably, Epic-sized. I wonder how far they will take the Epic-sizing trend. Epic Tomb of the Shadow King? Epic Information is Key?

we’ll be overhauling our bug reporting tool with updated functionality

I find it very interesting and funny that the first specific feature to get a call out in the letter is the bug reporting tool. I hope this reflects a continued and enhanced commitment to quality. Or maybe it is a pet peeve of Glin. I know it is very annoying to try and report a bug and be unable due to bugs in the bug reporting tool (as happened to me as recently as last night).

Work on the new enhancement system is well underway and it will be heading to its first public beta this spring

This is not news but it is nice to see that the new system will soon be among us. According to other items in the letter (and Fernando’s addendum), we will see the system completed and out before the expansion pack this summer. But we’ll cover those items as we come across them.

… each class has at least two prestige class paths

This is a pull back, there were originally going to be three PrE’s per class. Note – I am not speculating on this, the ToD ring sets pretty much prove this. I assume it was determined to be better to provide two that really work for each class rather than three that are very spotty and often not yet implemented at all.

On the other hand, there has also been a lot of talk about racial PrE’s like Elven Arcane Archer; supposedly we are getting one for every race. Maybe that is a replacement for the missing third class PrE. There is no specific mention of racial PrE’s in the letter, but one passing item may be a reference, more on that later.

I wonder if this means that Rogues and Rangers are actually losing a PrE?

The UI, similar to the Epic Destiny tree, will be a long awaited simplification to planning your character build

The word “simplification” scares me. But we already talked about that yesterday.

… more uses for Astral Diamond shards

I’m not really finding anything good to say about this, but I imagine it must be really challenging for Turbine to address the need to create more income yet doing so in such a way that the player base does not revolt. I’ll reserve judgement until I know more.

we will add more ways for you to earn free shards

This is a big plus. If we can acquire Astral Shards in reasonable quantity in-game then most of my reservations about them go away. The current method, completing tasks in the Monster Manual III, is insufficient. They should drop in chests. Or in treasure bags while running Epic quests (really do we need more Blades of the Dark Six so badly that we get them in Epic Gianthold too?).

Regardless, any increase in Shard acquisition is a plus.

… compelling new ways to use them …

I am rooting for “compelling but not required”. But again, judgement reserved until more is known.

I should point out that Turbine has done a pretty fine job of keeping the game fun for F2P players and for those with a deep wallet. I believe it is fair to extend them the benefit of the doubt.

DDO’s second expansion titled ‘Shadowfell Conspiracy’ coming this summer!

There is a lot of blowback on the forums about a new expack so soon after the last one. Frankly, I am mystified. There is no downside to this, none. It represents a continuing stream of fresh content. If last year’s expack is any example, there will also be a healthy dollop of interesting new features as well as the content.

Come on people this game is seven years old and is still getting expansion packs!

If anything about the new expack is bothering you, just cut out the last sentence of this post and tape it to your monitor or laptop. Repeat the sentence over and over until the angst goes away. If you love DDO, this is cause for celebration, not recrimination.

Forgotten Realms

The expack content will be in FR. Not surprising. But it is what it is, even if I eventually did grow to love Eberron.

… level 15 and up …

Clearly there is no perceived business case for developing low-level content. What an interesting turnaround. For years we would complain about the paucity of high-level content and get Atarexia’s Haven. Or the Sharn Syndicate. Now we have people who want to play low-level content in FR and they get more Epics.

… a foreboding prison city to the south east of Eveningstar called Wheloon … the Stormhorn Mountains, north of the high road …

It sounds like the new content will begin in Eveningstar, no need for another town, no need for another route between Eberron and Faerun.

Does this mean you need the first expansion pack to play the second one? Unless you are willing to create a new character in FR to begin with?

… raising the level cap to 28

Another item that is getting a mixed review on the forums, and another response that I just don’t get. Why is this bad? For those who are arguing that it is too soon, all I can say is the level cap was raised two times in the game’s first year and two more in year two. This was the old normal. Now it is the new normal too.

True, it is hard to keep up unless you play a lot. But there are many people who do that – play a lot – and they need love too. Besides, it is not like your game play is in any way affected by the knowledge that there are levels and content that you cannot yet do. It gives you goals, something to aspire to.

I do not imagine that any of the players who really play a lot are amongst those complaining about the timing of the new expack.

a new prestige character feature we are calling Iconic Heroes

I have lots to say about this. But I said it all yesterday.

… we plan to focus our attention on the True Reincarnation options …

This is the most puzzling statement in the letter. It seems that someone is really thinking outside the box here. I don’t even have speculation to add. It is too unexpected.

… update the system to work for Epic level players

I can see why this is a design goal. Right now the game is split into two end games. One involves continuously re-running your character through existing Heroic content until you have achieved Completionist and “you win DDO“.

The other involves repetition of the highest level content and especially, raids.

And there is no way to do both. It is one or the other. Maybe this idea will somehow tie them together?

Epic True Reincarnation would also introduce a new completionist track

This makes it sound more like an addition to the high-level content end game. Now you can repeat the latest content and raids and also work on your completionist.

I wonder if there will be a way to retroactively apply Epic Completionist efforts toward Heroic Completionist too, or whether those who really want to win DDO will have to do both?

two more stat points

I think this means doing both.

new D&D monster varieties

Yay for new models! Woo hoo! Encountering new creatures is my very favorite part of new content; I am always a little disappointed when “new creatures” in new content really means “old creatures with a new skin”. And yes, I am looking at you Vine Stalker.

… powerful new character abilities …

What does this mean? It is referring to something, probably something already addressed:

  • The new enhancement system? That is a rework of existing abilities so I am guessing no
  • Racial prestige classes would be (mostly) new. But not entirely new. So I guess no again
  • Aspects of the new Iconic Heroes thingie. That seems about right to me

Or maybe it refers to all of them together. It is such a vague statement. But so it goes when one is trying to draw concrete information out of an intentionally obscure PR communique.

Not that I ever let a lack of information stop me. It’s not baseless speculation if one starts with an informed base of information!

the owlbear monster

I love how much Turbine seems to love the Owlbear. I don’t understand it mind you, but I love it nonetheless. It is such a goofy monster. Yet our devs have all kinds of passion about it. They even dress up like it.

AD&D First Edition Monster Manual Owlbear But let’s face it, the Owlbear is a stupid monster. And by stupid, I mean really stupidly stupid. What does it bring to the table that a regular bear cannot? How did it even come into being?

I imagine Gygax and Arneson and assorted game founders in a smoke-filled room, banging the beers and playing the game that would become D&D. Suddenly the dice indicate a random encounter and the DM (Arneson?) in a fit of unpreparedness, frantically searches around him for a monster he can use to oppose the party. His eyes by chance alight on a Woodsy the Owl poster “You see something that looks like an owl … ” but no that’s not enough, it needs more, but the only other poster in the room is Smokey the Bear. “… and a bear … it’s an owl … bear. An OwlBear.”

Too bad he didn’t have Lion King and The Crow movie posters. I would have liked a Crowlion. Or a Partridgepanther.

Nonetheless, we can count on Epic Owlbears in our future. And I have to admit, stupid or not, I cannot wait.

Tomorrow I’ll break down Fernando’s addendum to Erik’s address. If you want to read ahead, you can find Fernando’s message here.

Owlbears. Epic Owlbears. Someone needs a hug.

🙂 😀 🙂

  11 Responses to “Detailed Analysis: Producer Glin’s State of the Game Address”

Comments (11)
  1. It’s too soon for me to even speculate on anything but overall I’m happy about the coming stuff. Some things are indeed scary but nothing we can’t handle.

  2. I totally agree with you that an expansion pack is not a bad thing at all. I think most of the forum angst is because there is a segment of the player population that just can’t stand bugs… any bugs. And lag is an issue for some, not all players, but if its happening to you, I can only imagine how frustrating it is.

    Overall I felt Glin’s letter was a teaser, it seems they didn’t show their entire hand in that letter and I expect more details from Pax East in a couple of weeks.

  3. I’m seeing a lot of people focus on the “two” part of Glin’s enhancement statement and ignoring the “at least” part. My read on this is that they’re going to concentrate first on making sure that artificers, barbarians, clerics and favoured souls have at least one alternative to choose from before adding more paths to the other classes that already have two or more. Is there really a reason to think that two is the limit, or that any class will lose an enhancement line?

  4. I had completely missed the part about owlbears… DAMMIT! Now I want an Owlbear companion!

    (Off-topic: I also want a pet Dretch named Glarb.)

    I’m looking forward to the new expansion, NOT so much looking forward to finding a way to pay for it. But new content is never a bad thing. I do wish, though, that they’d get the bugs and glitches worked out of the FIRST expansion before they do another one.


    Update 17 patch 1 release notes on Lammania… an Auction House with Astral Shards for currency! Also able to sell bound loot… now you can buy $$ your raid loot!

  6. I want a pet drow named Tizzen…

    I agree, “at least two” does NOT equal “only two”. It means barbs and artis will get another line (hell, probably means that artis will get another line and two-thirds). It probably means that the current lines will get completed (barb virt, rogue mechanic, maybe even ranger deepwood sniper). It *doesn’t* mean that classes with three lines will suddenly lose one (well, maybe deepwood sniper…)

    Simplification of the enhancement system is a good thing. It means the current hot mess of one long list of menus and submenus and “click here to see unavailable stuff so you can maybe figure out what you need to get what you want…” is going away. Instead, it will be clearly labeled. “Oh, to get this enhancement, I have to get this other one. Cool.”

    And you can get to Eveningstar without MotU – Lords of Dust/Servants of the Overlord (underlord? whatever)/Spinner of Shadows/Through the Rift are all F2P. So you could very conceivably get to the new expansion without MotU. But be honest… how many people are likely to purchase it who said “Nah” to MotU? MAYBE new people…

    • Are you sure that gets you through to Eveningstar? The quest is “Beyond The Rift” and you need to be able to enter the Demonweb entrance to access Beyond the Rift. As far as I can tell, the Demonweb entrance is only available to players with the expack.

      • That’s what I get for posting at 5 AM… and yes, Beyond the Rift is F2P. So you can get to ES, but you can’t do much ‘cept visit the brokers and get epic hires. And skate around on the icy river.

  7. I see this new expansion as largely a knee-jerk response to Neverwinter, which will offer pre-made characters with talent trees in a F2P game that is set in Forgotten Realms.

    The point of starting at 15 is to skip players past all of the pre-F2P content in DDO (and, incidentally, skip said newbies past the Eberron stuff into the campaign setting Turbine seems to think is going to be more popular). You’d do the MOTU content first (my guess is that MOTU’s quests will be broken up into smaller adventure packs, rather than requiring that you purchase all of them as a bundle that costs more than 2500 TP) and then go back to Eberron at epic levels to do all the stuff that has been revamped since F2P. The old content will still be in the game, but newbies won’t encounter it unless they choose to do so by re-rolling in the classic character system or TR’ing.

    If I’m right, the new pre-mades won’t require the expansion purchase. They’ll make effectively a new starter zone like the harbor that gets players – with no money down – through level 15 in the hopes of selling these players the content from level 16 onwards.

What do you think?

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