Turbine introduced their innovative hireling system in style="font-style: italic;">Dungeons and Dragons
Online, it was
both praised and cursed. Many people clamored that being able to hire
NPC party members takes the “massively multiplayer”
MMOG. Fans of the hireling system reply that it does not do so, that it
is just a tool. Where exactly does the truth lie? Does style="font-style: italic;">DDO’s
hireling system help or
hurt the MMOG genre? To answer these questions, we’ll examine
hireling system, and then look at the pros and cons of being able to
hire fodder….uh, I mean willing fellow adventurers.
To begin, let’s go over the basics of the hireling system in style="font-style: italic;">DDO.
As a player, you can purchase
the contract of an NPC hireling. The hirelings can be of any race and
class, except for rogues. They also vary by level. Once summoned, these
hirelings will travel with you as you adventure through dangerous
dungeons and fight, cast spells, and heal at your request.
You can purchase the services of hirelings with in-game gold or by
using Turbine Points, otherwise known as real cash. Once you enter an
area ripe for adventure, you can then summon the hireling to travel
with you. The time limit for the hireling is one hour and, once you
summon them, the counter keeps counting down. If you purchase a
hireling with in-game gold, then you can only summon a single hireling
to join you. If you spent Turbine Points on your hirelings, then you
can summon up to five. Each hireling is unique and you cannot summon
same hireling with a different contract if they are already active.
You cannot increase the maximum size of a party in style="font-style: italic;">DDO
with the addition of hirelings.
Hirelings allow players who cannot gather a full party to still play style="font-style: italic;">DDO
and experience the many
adventures and dungeons. Everybody has had the frustration of spending
a great deal of time getting together a pick-up group (PUG). Once
you’ve started the adventure, you might realize that the PUG
you’re in is home to some really bad players or first class
jerks. How many times have you spent an hour or more in a dungeon
getting close to the climax when some doofus quits on you, leaving you
with the decision to either spend time calling out for another player
or try to press on one player short?
Hirelings allow players to avoid those hassles. While some gamers can
spend endless hours every week playing online, other people
have that luxury. My friend Mattlow and I are a perfect example.
Between day jobs and families, there isn’t a ton of free time
waste trying to get groups together. When we’re running
we have only a few hours to spare. We’ll spend five to ten
minutes trying to get a group together through PUGs or guild members,
but if nobody is biting, then we’ll just hire some hirelings
away we go!
Those who say the hireling system takes the “massively
multiplayer” out of MMOGs will look at the pros listed above
exclaim, “See! You’re not grouping with other
players. You’re only playing as a solo gamer with AI-powered
There is some truth to that statement. The ease and use of hirelings
may discourage players from attempting to form PUGs with other players.
In an MMOG, there is no need for hirelings. Why have NPCs when there
are thousands of other players looking to form groups? In addition, by
not interacting with other players, you’re forgoing the
aspects of online gaming. If you’re not regularly grouping
other people, how do you form friendships or join guilds?
Like the glittering jewel sitting atop a dragon’s horde, the
hireling system is a trap--a beguiling trap, but a trap nonetheless.
The whole purpose of MMOGs is to discover a wondrous new online world,
meet other players, and together go out and adventure. If you rely on
hirelings, you might as well be playing a single-player game, not an
MMOG. The only interaction with a hireling is to summon or dismiss
them. Plus, they have an appalling lack of witty banter.
While those opposed to the hireling system in style="font-style: italic;">DDO
have some valid points, I think
that, overall, the hireling system is an amazing addition to MMOGs. In
fact, I wish other games would implement the system as soon as
possible. (On a side note, I do not include style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek
Online’s away team
as a hireling system because style="font-style: italic;">STO
basically plays like a single-player game.) To be honest, those people
who whine about the hireling system destroying the community and social
interaction of MMOGs are blowing smoke out of their asses.
The use of hirelings is a tremendous tool to players. It allows you not
to waste time worrying about putting a group together so you can play
the game. When I log into a game, I want to play it, not sit around for
an hour crying for companions to join me. If I can get a group together
quickly, then I’ll do so, but if not, then I’ll use
hirelings. Even if I use hirelings, I still am involved in the
“massively multiplayer” aspect of style="font-style: italic;">DDO.
I do trades with other
players, get involved in global chat, sell items on the auction house,
and many other activities that include me in the online world. Just
because I use hirelings does not mean that every other player on the
server immediately vanishes!
In the end, the use of hirelings is a boon to the game as a whole. By
making sure that players who are frustrated by the lack of ability to
form a group and play are actually able to play the game, Turbine has
ensured that those players will continue to keep playing style="font-style: italic;">DDO.
More players in a game equals
“massively multiplayer” in my eyes!
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