DDO 2005: A Year in Review
by Karen "Shayalyn" Hertzberg
January 1st is typically a time of reflection; we look back at another
year gone by, and ponder how we've spent it. In the online gaming
world, particularly as it relates to games in development, things are
no different. Another year passes and progress advances toward an
ultimate goalthe goal of releasing a massively multi-player online
game (MMOG) that has taken years to conceive and create.
The January 2005 producer's letter from Judith Hoffman, Executive
Produce of Dungeons and Dragons Online: Stormreach (DDO), proclaimed
from the DDO.com website:
Welcome to 2005! You could feel the change on January 3rd, when we all
got back into the office. Only a couple days had passed since December,
but now we are in Ship Year. Now we are in Beta Year. We're in for one
of the biggest years of our careers. And while Turbine may have been
in Beta Year for their game-in-production, it didn't turn out to be
Ship Year, after all. Ultimately, though, both devs and fans alike
would probably admit that delaying a ship-date goal to make certain a
game is finely tuned and ready for launch is a good thing.
February was a quiet month on media fronts, but in March, an interview
with Hoffman revealed some major changes for the game's user interface
(UI). DDO doesn't play like any other online role-playing games out
there, she said, and our first stab at a user interface reflected
that with a WASD-based control set combined with mouse-look targeting.
Based on feedback and focus tests, however, a lot of players had
trouble with the UI, so we've added an alternative interface with the
mouse cursor for targeting, which should feel more familiar to online
role-playing veterans. href="http://ddo.tentonhammer.com/files/gallery/albums/Site-Graphics/DDO_Stormreach_Port.sized.jpg"> alt="Defending Stormreach"
style="border: 0px solid ; width: 150px; height: 113px;" align="right"
By April, Turbine was able to announce that DDO had entered alpha beta,
and was accepting applications from the site's members only forum. On
April 20, registrations opened to all as Turbine prepared to kick off
the exciting first stage of beta testing. By April 29, Turbine
had successfully tested the beta selection process and the client
download system. Momentum was definitely building. While Turbine staff
played and tested the alpha build of the game, fans waited anxiously
for public beta servers to open.
As it turned out, fans would be waiting awhile before they would have
the opportunity to step foot in Eberron as beta testers. Fortunately,
news from the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) began trickling in
during the month of May to help appease growing appetites for
DDO-related information. In preparation for the big event, Turbine
released a href="http://www.fileplanet.com/153368/150000/fileinfo/Dungeons-&-Dragons-Online:-Stormreach-Trailer%20target=">game
trailer, which appeared at FilePlanet.com. A few days later,
Jonathan "Calandryll" Hanna threw fans a juicy bone in the form of an target="_blank"
update that included gameplay movies. On May 25, href="http://www.mmorpg.com">MMORPG.com released it's target="_blank"
report. Fans of DDO may not have been able to play beta yet, but at
least there was no lack of media attention.
In June, awards from E3 began to roll in, and Turbine had taken home no
less than href="http://www.ddo.com/index.php?page_id=66&pagebuilder%5Bmodule%5D=article&pagebuilder%5Bdisplay_item%5D=63">five
for its game, including Ten Ton Hammer's Editor's Choice Award.
As the months ticked by, with Turbine still testing DDO via internal
beta, and servers not yet open to the public, the game-hungry natives
were growing restless. Information came in the form of gaming site
interviews, such as href="http://www.mmorpg.com/gamelist.cfm?setview=features&loadFeature=164&gameID=163&page=1&fp=1280,1024,672037515,20050715154947">this
one, with DDO's lead designer, Ken Troop, at MMORPG.com.
Finally, on August 1, potential beta players received the news they'd
been waiting forthe first round of beta invites had been sent, and on
August 9 the DDO beta href="http://ddo.tentonhammer.com/files/gallery/albums/Site-Graphics/Dave_Arneson.sized.jpg"> alt="Dave Arneson"
style="border: 0px solid ; width: 113px; height: 150px;" align="left"
hspace="10" vspace="10"> href="http://www.ddo.com/index.php?page_id=66&pagebuilder%5Bmodule%5D=article&pagebuilder%5Bdisplay_item%5D=84">went
public. Later that month, Turbine seized the opportunity to show
off DDO at GenCon, the prominent and long-running gaming convention
where the legendary pen-and-paper role-playing game, Dungeons &
Dragons (D&D), has oft been showcased. D&D fan and DDO
community member, Mattllow, experienced the href="http://www.ddo.com/forums/showthread.php?t=10509">thrill of
lifetime when he partnered up with Dungeons & Dragons
co-creator, href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Arneson">Dave Arneson, to
take on a drow scorpion.
In late September, Turbine announced that it had reached a milestone
number of beta registrationsover 125,000. And yet, only a few thousand
players had been admitted to date, leaving a lot of restless natives
still chanting and drumming around Turbine's fire. "We appreciate
everyone's excitement and support for the title, said Jeffrey
Anderson, president and CEO of Turbine. We apologize to everyone who
has been patiently waiting for an alpha invite, but we just couldn't
accommodate more than a few thousand alpha players at this time.
October brought a href="http://www.ddo.com/index.php?page_id=107">media blitz.
Articles and interviews poured in, and excitement for DDO was at a
fever pitch. Over 150,000 registrants waited for an opportunity to play
alpha beta, and over 100,000 community members had subscribed to the
official forum. Turbine's DDO href="http://www.ddo.com/index.php?page_id=66&pagebuilder%5Bmodule%5D=article&pagebuilder%5Bdisplay_item%5D=111">marketing
campaign had officially begun.
In November, we learned that DDO would be the first MMOG to feature
integrated href="http://ddo.tentonhammer.com/files/gallery/albums/Site-Graphics/DDO_marketing.sized.jpg"> alt="DDO Marketing"
style="border: 0px solid ; width: 150px; height: 101px;" align="right"
hspace="10" vspace="10"> href="http://www.ddo.com/index.php?page_id=66&pagebuilder%5Bmodule%5D=article&pagebuilder%5Bdisplay_item%5D=145">voice
chat. (Voice chat in current MMOG titles involved using a
third-party chat client (such as TeamSpeak or Ventrilo) connected to a
third-party server.) DDO also featured as the cover story for target="_blank"
Gamer. To add to the growing hype, the magazines were published
with code keys, each having the chance to unlock one of 5000 beta spots.
And finally, on December 22, DDO fans received an early Christmas
present. The wait was overthe game was made available for online
pre-order. And as if the offer wasn't tempting enough, we learned that
the pre-order package came with enticing goodies such as a 10-day beta
pass and a pre-launch head start.
href="http://ddo.tentonhammer.com/files/gallery/albums/Site-Graphics/DDO_Beholder.sized.jpg"> alt="The Beholder"
style="border: 0px solid ; width: 150px; height: 113px;" align="left"
hspace="10" vspace="10">2005 proved to be an active and exciting
year for Turbine and DDO. On February 28, 2006, the doors to the online
world of Eberron and the city of Stormreach, with all it's dungeons and
adventures, will open to North American gamers. European gamers will be
able to jump into the fray some time in March. Although 2005 did not
turn out to be a Ship Year for Turbine as anticipated, it's likely
those extra months of waiting will pay off with a polished product on
release; one that will turn out to be everything we've been waiting
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited Game Page.