Mar 252015

DDO's Wheloon splash pageDDO’s Wheloon splash page
Click to enlarge

I’ve been looking at this splash screen now for the better part of two years. I’ve never liked it, quite the contrary, I find it troubling. But not so much that I needed to stop and decipher exactly why. Something about it bothered me, but that something remained unknown and uncatalogued.

Until now.

There are some obvious things that jump out right away:

  • It is an image of a crime taking place. Which is not particularly welcoming, nor uplifting
  • It is an image of criminals. No one in this picture looks heroic
  • It is dark and gritty.

Most fantasy art is bright and colorful and most probably features a dragon. This image is something else entirely. Skulking and ambush; darkness and pending thuggery. Daggers instead of dragons.

But none of these are what is wrong with the picture.

To be fair to the picture, the Shadowfell expansion that it advertises is itself dark and gritty. To me, setting half of the expansion in a prison was not the best of all possible ideas. Cool idea for a tabletop campaign, especially amongst veteran players looking for something different.

And don’t get me wrong, Wheloon is a well-done prison. Very prisony. And Oldstone Hall looks tremendously threatening, very well done, very well indeed.

But kind of dark for a fun online game. The prison city itself, Wheloon, is claustrophobic and chaotic, bad guys coming at you from all three dimensions, with a dingy palette of browns and blacks and darkness.

I learned to get around in Wheloon; we all did. Like all new content, it starts out imposingly difficult but becomes almost threat-less in time, trivial even, as one gallops through without thought or care.

It becomes harmless. But it is never fun. I never enjoy the Wheloon wilderness area the way that I enjoy the Menechtarun desert, or the Kings Forest, or Atarexia. It is not just the gloom: The Orchard of the Macabre is gloomier. Nor is it the size: Sorrowdusk Isle is smaller. Nor is it just the dark color choices: the Underdark is the darkest of all. It is all of that in combination with the closed-in walls and the cramped feel. It feels like a prison. Which it should! Except … prisons are not fun places.

I think, all things considered, Wheloon was probably not the best choice for a new content area. But I digress; this is not about Wheloon, not really, it is about this one specific image of Wheloon.

What is wrong with this picture?

It hit me this weekend, and once I saw it I could not unsee it. Now I know what is wrong with the picture. I can describe it in one word:


Cloaks! They are all wearing cloaks! There are no cloaks in DDO! They don’t exist – you can’t wear one, you can’t buy one, you can’t see one, they do not exist.

Yes, I know we have a “cloak” equipment slot. And yes, I know you can put things in that slot that are labeled as “cloaks”. But have you ever actually seen one being worn? No, you have not.

Screenshot or cloaks didn’t happen.

Yet there they are. Three bad guys, and even though they are bad, they have rich, swirling cloaks. Even if a bit ragged.

Murderers, thugs, and cloak wearers. I hate them and envy them, both at the same time.

Cloak envy. Cloaks!

πŸ™‚ πŸ˜€ πŸ™‚

  10 Responses to “What Is Wrong With This Picture?”

Comments (10)
  1. Agreed – we need cloaks!

  2. Some sort of visible indication of the amount of crap one is carrying would be amusing. We’d spot the pack rats, all 5+ bags of holding bulging with all sorts of fun mystery!

    Not to mention the Caramon styled walking arsenals (fighter carrying a weapon for every occasion, and their companion’s [brother’s] gear too. Sure, let’s sneak through this dungeon *clank-clank-clank*…

    After cloaks we could have gloves, boots, necklaces… OK, let’s stop at cloaks, LOTRO has them, borrow some code and the monkeys πŸ˜€

  3. Another interesting tidbit about this picture…well, not this one, but the one without the DDO banner on it. If you look closely at the buildings on the left, you can make out a large face looking down on the criminal. it is formed by the alignment of the torches and the eyes of the shadows lurking.

  4. πŸ™‚ I actually kind of like the gloomy Shadowfell pictures, especially the loading screen from Thrill of the Hunt

  5. They have cloaks in Neverwinter, but they look horrible. I always turn the visuals on mine off.

  6. I’ve never liked this particular at. But because I’d them tone or subject matter, I just don’t think it’s all that great. It also breaks from the style of, I think, all the other ones which I believe use graphics from the game.

    As for cloaks, that had long stuck in my craw. Cloaks are a D&D staple and it’s always bothered me that we don’t see them on our characters. Especially after LOTRO came out! But even before, some logoing in first in 2006 I was like *sigh* no cloaks?!

  7. I’m not asking for physics enable cloaks that moves according to your jumps, running and ambient winds (like in new MMOs).
    Give us cloaks, that is good for us; sell us cosmetic cloaks, that’s good for them.
    This is good for everyone!

  8. the guy in the middle with the torch looks like Dr. Doom from the fantastic 4!

  9. I always thought the two hiding behind the wall were getting ready to ambush the one with the torch myself. I would be extremely cool to have your cloaks appear on your characters.

  10. Cloaks aside (but I’d look more monastic if we could get some), I agree. D&D is generally upbeat with a clear illustration of what’s at least not-evil (like a Rogue) versus something clearly out to eat you. Wheloon is a great adventure spot but a downer for the reasons noted and also because you, as the adventurer, don’t get to “save” it as you did Korthos. There is no transformation. It’s “Escape from New York” DDO style and there is absolutely no hope, much less a Hope Spot. Now, it shouldn’t be so easy to kick the Netheril out of there, but there should be a high end option that transforms the place and perhaps sets the Cormyrian ball rolling to freeing the place again.

What do you think?

%d bloggers like this: