Jan 272014

Producer Rowan explains it all on DDOCast 321
Producer Rowan explains it all on DDOCast 321

Cordovan and Producer Rowan spent 45 minutes answering questions in DDOcast episode 321. They are on the podcast for much longer than that, but most of their time is talking about the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar. I try to not hear details about the Haunted Halls, I want to run the content when it is released with no spoilers, not even meta-gaming spoilers. I listened but did my best to not actually hear anything when the Haunted Halls came up. La la la, I can’t hear you!

Except of course I did hear, a little, in spite of my best efforts to the contrary.

But before the conversation got all spoilery, it was very informative, with an unusual amount of candor regarding what we will and will not see in DDO during 2014. Much less of the information-less tap dancing we normally hear in these things and much more of the “yes and no” kind of definitive answers. Seriously, definitive! From Turbine people! While on DDOCast!

Oh the times, they are a-changin’

Coming in 2014

This is the distilled list of yes-we-are-getting-these-things/no-we-aren’t in the coming year:

Yes in 2014
  • New destinies
  • New enchancement trees
  • Hireling AI revamp
  • Permanent guildship amenities
  • Bigger and different-looking airships
  • Sentient weapons that level up
No in 2014
  • Expansion pack
  • Shavarath content
  • PvP work
  • Crafting changes
  • New monster manuals
  • New Sagas or changes to the Saga system
  • Additional VIP perks
  • New events
  • A new class
  • A third raid
Probably not
  • Dev-hosted live events

Who exactly is Producer Rowan?

He is “the big picture guy”, in charge of the team, Glin and Purplefooz report to him. He splits his time between game direction and management: he is the one who has to deal with financial management and make sure that DDO stays profitable.

He does not play the game, except in dev walkthroughs and demos.

Clearly he is the New Fernando. Which begs the question, what happened to the old Fernando? LinkedIn continues to list him as an Executive Producer at Turbine, but as far as I know, all of Turbine’s games already have an EP. Maybe he is working on something new?

The outline for 2014

This update schedule represents commitments. There is a lot more they want to do around these commitments, if time allows, but the core commitments are coming regardless.

  • Update 21: raids
  • Update 22: guild airships
  • Update 23: Something that sounds like “anarock”. It is mentioned twice, but multiple attempts to hear this word do not provide clarification as to what it is. If you know, please explain it to me in the comments *
  • Update 24: new level cap

* [Edit] thanks to ka0t1c1sm who pointed out that Anauroch is a desert in Forgotten Realms.

On Player Input

Turbine is completely revamping the dev/player communication process, and that showed up in several places during this conversation.

At one point, Rowan gave a fairly blunt answer about sentient weapons that indicated the design would depend on what the players wanted. Cordovan started to flesh this out with some standard words about how preliminary the preview version will be, how much it will change, etc., but Rowan interrupted: “This is how we’re running the team now, how we’re running the game”. “The players will help to build that out”. Our input is now a planned part of the design.

The players council and the Lamannia revamp are part of the new process. There will be “more forum posts, more open opportunities for testing feedback, and more general requests for ideas and feedback”.

Welcome to the design process, DDO players, please don’t screw it up!

Running Commentary

My notes while listening to the first 45 minutes of the podcast. Items in quote marks are actual quotations, everything else is paraphrasing or my commentary:

Sentient weapons – “intelligent” weapons that grow with the player and are part of “end game power growth” that “level up”.

By the end of the year, the game will include new itemizations (? whatever that means ?) new raids, new destinies, new enhancement trees. New events were listed as “hopefully” and the changes of a new class were described as “if we can stretch it a long ways”. So don’t hold your breath.

Which existing systems are due for a revamp? Hirelings and the hireling AI are getting a deep dive, but crafting is not. Crafting is “a tough nut to crack” and will have to wait for later. Crafting came up again later in the conversation but “right now we’re very focused on getting a strong end game together”. Which has nothing to do with crafting. So … no.

Monster manuals are tough too. Players have to really want them to get any more (and from the sound of it, no more are otherwise coming)

Sagas? A couple of questions about sagas fall with a dull thud, as Rowan distracts the question into the upcoming Three-Barrel Cove epification which will “hopefully” include mage-fire cannons and “pirate ships dropping from the sky”. Which sounds cool but seems to indicate that sagas already are what they are going to be.

Guild amenities are getting a polish: adding new ones, removing the rental model so you can buy an item and keep it. Bigger ships, more space, more opportunity, more decorations, maybe even a role-playing space. Also, one will be able to get all the airship buffs at once.

PvP? “No. Not right now.” A refreshingly abrupt and straightforward answer. Once he’d shut it down, Rowan and Cordovan both came back to the question to add more words that sound less discouraging if you are a PvP fan, but still, the real answer is “no”.

Commendations of Valor are going to be more of a central currency, with more places to get them and more ways to spend them. Could Rowan be referencing new ability to buy Commendations from the DDO store along with Otto’s boxes? Or is there more. According to Cordovan, we might be able to buy trapmaking grenades with them? Really? Trapmaking grenades?

VIP Perks: the biggest perk is solid, steady content updates. No expansion pack. Nothing else planned.

Dev communication: more. The players council and changes to Lamannia are not just some kind of phase, this is the new development process. Players are part of it.

There will be streaming video feeds soon, no clear way to hook that into the dev communication process, but Jerry seems to think the topics are tied together and he certainly knows things we don’t.

“More forum posts, more open opportunities for testing feedback, and more general requests for ideas and feedback”

How do you attract new players and retain old ones? A lot of verbiage about marketing opportunities that included “word of mouth” and sounded to me like word of mouth is pretty much the whole plan.

Content will be in Eberron too but mainly in Forgotten Realms. 3BC epification may be it for Eberron this year. Shavarath? “Sure”. With no elaboration. Meaning … no.

Will we see more modules like Haunted Halls of Eveningstar? It depends on how much we like it. Rowan likes the idea of converting more modules but it depends on the player response.

Questions which generated verbiage but no actual information:

  • Will new content be in Forgotten Realms or Eberron?
  • Which is easier to develop – new systems or old systems?
  • How do you balance grind and playability?

Two dragon raids are coming in Thunderhome and they are hoping to get a third raid in this year.

More server-wide events? “Absolutely”. In terms of festivals, more festivals are coming. Mabar needs a rebuild. In terms of “classic, dev on the world running a thing, we may do some of that”. But it takes people. So … no.

A followup question on dev-hosted live events got no traction: “I’d love to see a reborn Mabar with dragon events”

And then we are off into the depths of detailed Haunted Halls of Eveningstar discussions, as I mentally plug my fingers into my ears and play Jethro Tull to drown out whatever you may be saying.

So there you have it, details about DDO 2014 development, right there in the open in plainspeak, requiring no secret decoder rings or reading of tea leaves or any of that. I believe we have seen the last of “vast and mysterious” and I can’t say I am sad to see it go.

Rock on DDO development team! I love the things you are talking about, and even more, I love the way you are talking to us about them. Rock on!

๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ™‚

  11 Responses to “Producer Rowan Explains It All”

Comments (11)
  1. Anauroch is the great desert in Faerun.


  2. The hireling bit worries me. Last time they revamped the hireling ai they went full retard. There’s no coming back from full retard.

    • Them hirelings, always amusing.

      I will admit I’m not a very good hireling wrangler, though; the number of times I think I’ve “pinned” one and they run into a trap, most amusing.

  3. Advertising by “word of mouth” is good (assuming the words are good), but it can still be ‘augmented’ by an active advertising cmpaign. Yes, it costs money, but I still can’t believe that they don’t have one (and as far as I know, never have) or even plans to TRY one. I mean, OK, so you don’t have the budget that “massive winter snow storm” has to hire Mr. T or Chuck Norris, but does that mean you never want to even try to put an active advertising campaign together? Really? Seems short-sighted – and stupid, to be honest – to me. But then, I’m not an “ad-man”, so what do I know?

  4. The 2004 NWN game “Shadows of Undrentide” played with the Arunoch desert and a rather cool Netheril quest, complete with a floating city and mythillar. Yay on the Hireling AI change. If they can make that as nice as the stealth AI change, then that’s great. There are some folks that are never satisfied or think that DDO is a democracy (it’s not), but hopefully these changes not only please the existing players but attract others.

  5. Skim, skim, skim … always with the end-game. Be nice to see more Heroic content, even start a full Abeir-Toril campaign (you know, from level 1), I’m not very epic ๐Ÿ˜›
    (8 base Constitution, FTW!)
    We could always visit the Talenta Plains (Eberron), land of dinosaur riding small folk!

    If they want to monetise things, make us some nice armour, not all this “we watched too much Conan and girls don’t wear real armour” business!

    It will be interesting to see the airship changes.

    Good to see VIPs getting more stuff, I wonder if Premium players will get anything (Yeah, right!)?

  6. I’m afraid “broccoli” is before my time (only been around since August 2010). Besides, was that actually an “active” campaign? One that reached out beyond the DDO walls? I only mananged to stumble across DDO because I saw an ad-banner on another “social gaming site” (I think – “Kongregate”, if I’m remembering correctly). But then, I don’t subscribe to any gaming magazines, so I suppose they might have something in (the rapidly becoming extinct) print media.

What do you think?

%d bloggers like this: