Sorry for the intrusion of reality here, I prefer a happy and upbeat sort of DDO blog, but sometimes real life sticks its ugly real-life head into whatever you are doing and forces you to acknowledge its existence. Pulling your covers up and hiding from the monster-under-your-bed works when you are a kid. We may be playing a game but we are no longer children.
Yesterday the monster stuck its real-life head into Turbine headquarters and laid off a bunch of Turbine employees, some of whom were on the DDO team. Speculation is easy and everywhere, but a few details have been confirmed: at least 28 people altogether (rumors are much higher, who knows, they are rumors after all), lots of QA people but touching every role: content designers, system coders, an associate producer, even a production manager.
I’ve been through these things and they suck. The worst is being laid off, obviously, but not being laid off sucks too; there is relief, then guilt for being relieved, then a continuous and gnawing worry about your future. Just as bad (in some ways anyway) is being the guy that has to decide who gets laid off; I’ve been that guy too. I hope the Turbine management had the decency/cajones to do it in person and with empathy, usually people just pull the trigger remotely and then rely on HR to do the dirty work; the approach is not an honorable one but it is a common one.
The DDO team remains, albeit lessened, but still standing. Life goes on. DDO goes on. But it is appropriate to take a few respectful minutes and sing the praises of the fallen. We’ve lost an unknown number of QA and staff as well as the developers TheRockingDead, Melange, and ChainsawGolem. I had never heard of ChainsawGolem, but what an excellent name, and thank you for your efforts! [Edit] now we know more:
I was never really as active on the forums as some of the other devs (sharing a cube with Solar Dawning made me afraid to post, God bless him), but now I wish I had been. TRD taught me everything I know about random encounters, and if you’ve run around the Storm Horns landscape, you’ve seen my work. I can take credit for a number of dungeons since MotU, but the one I’m most proud of is Brothers of the Forge. I feel like it was a good note to end on.
And if you find yourself cursing the traps in the Tunderholme landscape, please remember I was giggling uncontrollably when I was placing them.
Melange once answered a DDOGamer question about the favorite DDO thing he* had worked on:
It’s hard to pin-point one specific favorite thing, but if I were to try, I suppose it would be the Campaign System. It was my first task that I feel I had complete “ownership” on – it was a new feature that I was building up from scratch with the engineers. Personally, I think it turned out really well. I remember getting excited when people started talking positively about it in Korthos. I hope it is still a positive feature in your eyes.
This was a year ago, one assumes there was even more awesome DDO work since this was written, and thank you for that Melange! [Edit] And indeed, now we know more about Melange:
Melange is a guy. (Edit: ouch! Sorry!). And for the record, while making the Campaign System was one of the favorite things I did at DDO, I suspect that the players’ favorite things that I did were Impossible Demands and House of Rusted Blades.
TheRockingDead was, I believe, on the original DDO development team and was at Turbine for nine years. He also answered about his favorite DDO contributions:
This is a three-way tie for me:
I am still very proud of the Rainbow in the Dark dungeon. To me, it encapsulates the feeling of a classic dungeon crawl. It’s dark, expansive, tricky, and very deadly. There’s a good mix of monsters, traps, and puzzles. On top of that, it encourages good teamwork. This is a dungeon that I’ve had fun converting to a pen and paper D&D experience, and you’d be surprised how well it holds up.
“In the Flesh” also stands out in my mind, because I created a memorable boss character. Yaulthoon was ultra-creepy, yet oddly endearing. The combination of writing and voice work really brought him to life. I like the overall vibe of the level: skulking around someone’s home who is most definitely not from around Stormreach – someone who is simultaneously preparing their finest tribute to their lord and master. Macabre displays come to life with little warning. I enjoy the feeling of tension throughout it, and the fact that you’ve got this boss that knows the player is there and is so confident in his abilities that he slings passive-aggressive taunts at them the entire time. Couple that with what I feel is one of my favorite boss fights in the game. The whole quest is such a delicious mix of malevolence, lightheartedness, and creep-factor.
Lastly, I am really proud of the Random Encounter system we shipped with Menace of the Underdark. To my knowledge, there are not any other MMOs before us that had the sort of randomized dynamic content that we have now. Sure, there have been random roving monsters in MMOs, but many of our Random Encounters are like mini-quests. With this system, I was able to make some really unique sets of encounters. Whether it’s finding out that a lost villager isn’t what she seems, or saving a Purple Dragon Knight from a grisly undead fate, players are always kept on their toes.
While I worked on the majority of Random Encounters in the King’s Forest, one of my favorites is still Veraxiena, the Green Dragon from the “Deal with a Dragon” encounter. Being that Green Dragons are notorious wheelers and dealers and naturally curious, I had a lot of fun with her dialogue. I figured that particularly savvy players would enjoy being able to outwit a Dragon or otherwise encouraging it to help them.
Thank you for everything, TRD, I love those quests too, and we all appreciate your efforts.
Although not a DDO team member, Hannah Foell has a most tasteful first name but was also a Turbine recruiter who recently became an associate producer on LotRO. She has the best twitter feed ever.
Don't tell my boyfriend I got laid off. I wanted to surprise him for Valentine's Day.
— Hannah Foell (@hannanimal) February 13, 2014
[Edit] I may have posted this too early, and have since learned of other DDO fallen, including Piloto who was heavily involved in Iconics amongst many other things, he was on the team for a long, long time. Thank you Piloto!
There are others too, names I don’t yet have and cannot call out individually. Thank you all, sorry if I wasn’t able to thank you specifically but you know who you are, and we all appreciate what you did for us. Thank you, good luck, and godspeed.
🙁 🙁 🙁
* My apologies for a gender pronoun mismatch. No idea where that came from. My bad.