Mar 042013

Gauntlet II knows Iconic Heroes
Iconic Heroes circa 1985 (from the classic arcade game Gauntlet II)

One of the paragraphs in Producer Glin’s State of the Game letter addresses an upcoming new feature called “iconic heroes”. They are posited as a means to enter Forgotten Realms content directly at level 15. But don’t take my word for it. From the letter:

Shadowfell Conspiracy will have more than just new quests and regions, we will also be raising the level cap to 28 and providing something often requested by fans: faster access to the Forgotten Realms! With a new prestige character feature we are calling Iconic Heroes; we think we have an innovative solution that will get you right into the Forgotten Realms starting at level 15. Each of these Forgotten Realms born characters will start as a race class combination with new racial abilities. I canโ€™t wait to tell you more about these characters in the coming months.

Prestige characters? Is that like a prestige class enhancement such as Frenzied Barbarian or Arcane Archer? Except somehow applied to the entire character?

And how does that give us a headstart into Forgotten Realms?

Fortunately, I recently had live access to Jerry Snook, a.k.a. Cordovan, and was able to ask him about this, albeit without any specifics or details. I should qualify that by saying that I was able to “sort of” ask him about it, there were three of us asking and a lot of ground to cover.*

* For more information and the rest of Jerry’s comments about the state of the game – and many other interesting and DDO-related topics – may I refer you to the latest DDOCast episode 272 where Jerry made an extended guest appearance.

So here is what we know. New players, and for that matter existing players who are interested, will have the option of skipping the existing character generation screen and instead simply selecting a pre-made character. There will be some customization options but only limited ones, the whole point is to streamline the process.* If you want custom, you can still build a character using the existing, very detailed character generation screens.

* [Edit] Jerry comments below that the customization features are more comprehensive than what I am crediting here.

But an Iconic Hero that you select begins life at 15th level while a character that you generate begins life at 1st level (or 4th level or 7th level if you have Veteran status).

This represents a philosophical choice being made by Turbine that is worth discussing. If their only design goal was to provide players a quick entry to level 15, they could have extended the existing Veteran Status paradigm and allowed players to generate characters the old-school D&D way but at level 15. They could have done that. The technology already exists, it would have been the simplest way to address this.

But no, instead they create an entirely new way to create characters that is much simpler and more “accessible”. Which is often game-designer-speak for “dumbed down”. And yes, the word “accessible” does appear in the letter although it is discussing the new enhancement system rather than Iconic Heroes.

So the design goals include the continuation of game simplification and streamlining. I personally think that this is the wrong direction for the game, I truly believe it has survived and thrived precisely because it isn’t simple and streamlined. There are lots of other MMOs out there that are simple and streamlined but only one clunky, complex, Dungeons & Dragons-based DDO.

Part of me dies a little whenever the game drifts away from it’s D&D 3.5 core.

But this is probably not one of those times. There are many things I would have rather seen get attention before pre-made level 15 characters, but I do not have access to the reams of player feedback, exit polls, and other data sources that help Turbine determine development priorities.

And I have Jerry’s statement that the new system does not replace the existing character generator. Those of us who continue to prefer clunky, complex D&D will still have it. He promised.

Leaving us only to speculate on what sort of “Iconic Heros” will be available. I ran two of them by Jerry: Half-Orc Barbarian and Halfling Rogue. He nodded, but then he is an agreeable sort, and may not have really been confirming my guesses.

Here is my list, based a little on Jerry head-nodding but mostly pure speculation:

  • Half-Orc Barbarian
  • Halfling Roque
  • Elven Wizard
  • Drow Ranger
  • Dwarven Fighter
  • Human Cleric
  • Half-Elf … I dunno, nothing obvious jumps out at me for Half-Elf

Note that I included no Warforged at all. It is, after all, a system for entry into the Forgotten Realms. But even without the Warforged, the list is still pretty long, maybe too long to count as sufficiently accessible? Maybe they should just limit the choices to Blue Wizard, Red Valkyrie, Yellow Warrior, and Green Elf.

Simple, streamlined, and proven.

All those quarters spent on Gauntlet in the 80’s can’t be wrong.

๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ™‚

  9 Responses to “Iconic Heroes”

Comments (9)
  1. If you take an iconic hero and then go and LR… what happens?

  2. I’m not sure I see the point.. it ‘s like choosing the pre made builds at the start of the game, then realising they are rubbish and re-rolling your own customised build ๐Ÿ™‚

    And all that content will be missed…

    Nope, don’t think I shall be doing that. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Good to know we can keep clunky and complex. Let us see what happens with these ‘Iconic Heroes’.

  4. Just to clarify: You can customize your Iconic Hero, similar to the way you can customize your regular character builds (stats, feats, etc.) It’ll all become more clear once you get the chance to preview them on Lamannia….soon-ish? ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Hmmm… personally, even though it does get to be grindy after doing it with a few bazillion toons already, I’d prefer to go the long clunky route. BUT, I’d definitely consider having an Iconic Hero on the six servers where pretty much all I do is favor farm when I need a few TP.

    It’ll be interesting to see how much customization is possible. I’m thinking about all the “pay-to-win” uproar over inexperienced players using the Stones of XP. Iconic Heroes might be a better alternative to that, if it allows those players to start out at roughly the same level but with builds and/or gear suitable to level-appropriate content.

    ‘Cause c’mon, we’ve all ended up in a Shroud PuG with someone who XP-stoned to 16 and was still using the gear that came with the stone and a build that would only be feasible in the hands of a VERY knowledgeable player. And maybe some of those people got some good advice and guidance and learned how to build and play their toons well, but I’d bet most of them got ripped and ridiculed and ditched DDO for Skyrim or SWTOR. So if this turns out to be a way to get new people into the game as viable party members and keep them there, I won’t knock it. It’s just probably not something I’ll use myself other than favor farming.

  6. I think DDO/Turbine is taking the lazy-man route. Instead of offering new low-level adventures and quest packs for FR, they are just going to fast-forward the starting characters there at level 15 with this “accessible” iconic heroes idea. I honestly would like to see the removal of all veteran status level-hopping (i.e. 4, 7, 16, etc.), and rather keep the game designed for players to experience it, not skip it.

    What I’d rather see is more starter areas for beginning characters/players. Instead of just boring old Korthos, why not have other starting zones that eventually connect the players to either Stormreach (in Eberron) or Eveningstar (or some other hub in Forgotten Realms/Faerun)?

    I think another failure by the designers is the grindy xp required for multiple life and epic characters in the game. Players often skip entire quest packs just to farm xp from certain high xp quests, when TRing and power-leveling through to 20 again. Instead of enjoying the game, it becomes a farm-fest, and I often see and hear players complaining about the constant grind, rather than praising the game for interesting and enjoyable adventures/content.

    How many times do players skip entire quests, just because they don’t have a good xp to minute ratio? This happens at all levels in the game. And when players get their characters to epic destiny levels, they often opt for quests like Impossible Demands and other fast xp farming quest, rather than the rest of the high end content. I think if anything should be overhauled, it should be xp. DDO should be a game where players desire to play each and every quest, not just the ‘good ones’ or the ones that award lots of xp for little time. The game just seems to grindy.

    A rule we always use in our pencil and paper gaming is, if we aren’t having fun, let’s change things or just play something else. DDO certainly could use some changes, but giving players the easy button to skip half the game doesn’t seem like the right one. If each quest gave balanced and proper rewards (in regards to loot, xp, flavor and fun) then everyone would want to play the game, simply to play the game! It’s about having fun. It is a game, for crying out loud.

    I hope Jerry and Mr. Glin read this and think on this before the next xpack. Thank you.

  7. I would really like to see content “fill in” instead of just climbing up. Making a new character in DDO is essentially grind all over again, given that I’ve cleared through Korthos so many times I’ve memorized most of the dialogue…

    I would like to see more content for the lower level ranges to give some variety, instead of sewers and crypts over and over with a few side missions.

  8. DDO is currently complex?oO

What do you think?

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