World of MMOcraft
I've said it before: It's impossible to discuss massively-multiplayer
games (MMOs) today without addressing Blizzard's insanely successful
World of Warcraft (WoW). Today on the Ten Ton Hammer network, our
Community Managers are reflecting on how WoW has impacted the
development of our favorite MMOs. Be sure to check out our href="http://wow.tentonhammer.com/">WoW site to see a special
perspective on how WoW has changed the gaming industry and ways in
which WoW can still cause new change.
The affect of WoW on Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO) begins before
DDO launched. Turbine's developers had heard the complaints that WoW
made MMOs too mainstream, and
they knew that the average person interested in Dungeons & Dragons
(D&D) likely wasn't the average gamer at all. Turbine saw the
market is primed by the mass appeal of WoW and looked to rake in those
gamers who would say, "A D&D MMO is just what I've been waiting
for!" Thus, Turbine set out to make a very different MMOs. They
intentionally ignored design facets of WoW that made the game popular
because they understood these aspects also brought about heavy
Turbine wanted to bring gamers combat that was more exciting than what
they had experience in WoW, and they succeeded. They achieved this goal
through the use Active Combat. Active Combat forces players to remain
alert, react to changing combat circumstances, and respond to the needs
of the party quickly. DDO doesn't feature monsters that "beeline" right
for you and stand toe-to-toe pounding away until one of you drops dead.
Enemies in DDO move around: they dodge, tumble, and run whenever it
gives them an advantage.
The combat in DDO, while sometimes too fast for my declining reflexes
brings a sense of immediacy lost on me in WoW combat. My foes in WoW
have a very predictable timing that doesn't really require movement on
my part. I just press a key. And then another. And then another--until
the monster is dead. I can do it with one hand while holding my
television remote in the other. Hell, I can even write a macro for it
and do it with no hands.
style="border: 2px solid ; width: 200px; height: 150px;" align="left">Macros
The issue of macros raises another of the problems people encountered
in the standard system used by WoW. It was entirely possible for lazy
players and especially gold farmers to "bot" their way through the
game. Macros allowed people to do minimal work and reap maximum reward.
So it was that Turbine decided, "Thou shalt not have macros do thy
bidding." Players in DDO have to perform their actions personally. No
amount of jury-rigging or programming can get us out of combat. If we
want gold, we have to go hunt for treasure and sell it. If we want
experience, we have to complete the quests ourselves and earn it.
The method by which we earn XP in DDO further prevents cheap methods of
leveling. I've explored this topic in a href="http://ddo.tentonhammer.com/index.php?module=ContentExpress&func=display&ceid=291">DDO
Poll before, and I have to say it is one of the defining features
of DDO. Skilled players and good macro writer can find a way to kill
the same monster or monsters repeatedly while away from the keyboard
(AFK) in WoW. DDO makes AFK XP impossible through a variety of methods.
Active Combat and the lack of Macros is just the tip of the iceberg.
DDO players gain XP exclusively through quests.
DDO's Quest require players to navigate through dungeons and
landscapes, loot specific chests or materials, kill a given number of
monsters, and (sometimes) to do it all in an allotted time. Quest XP in
DDO ensures that players earn their way to the level cap. With no AFK
XP possible, you can know every person in your party has been at the
keyboard for all of his levels.
When you're in a DDO party, you never have to worry that some punk will
ninja loot (loot with the speed and stealth of a ninja something not
exclusively for herself) the best gear of monsters. In fact, monsters
don't even drop gear in DDO. All loot comes from chests, and each chest
contains something exclusively for every member in a party.
The loot system in DDO reduces bickering over drops and makes everyone
feel as if he gets a good haul on quests. Even if you take into account
that DDO's loot system sometimes generates stupid loot (greatswords for
wizards), it's very easy to trade the stupid loot to a party member who
can use it because everybody gets something.
Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery
Wile Turbine made a concerted effort to differentiate itself from WoW,
DDO copies many WoW mechanics. Some of these mechanics went into the
game from the word go; others came later because of href="http://ddo.tentonhammer.com/modules.php?set_albumName=album02&id=img29&op=modload&name=Gallery&file=index&include=view_photo.php"> alt="skeleton"
style="border: 2px solid ; width: 200px; height: 142px;" align="right">
consumer expectations. Turbine knew early on that it wanted fully
instanced dungeons for DDO. I've href="http://ddo.tentonhammer.com/index.php?module=ContentExpress&func=display&ceid=288">opined
about that issue in an editorial, too. This decision aimed at
reducing kill-stealing and squabbling over raid monsters.
A very WoW-like feature that Turbine added based on customer demand was
the solo option on many quests. If anything, WoW created an expectation
among gamers that the average busy parent or student should be able to
play her favorite MMO in short bursts and make consistent progress on
her character. Turbine Executive Producer for DDO James Jones noted the
need for solo content as the biggest deviation from the original vision
for DDO in his href="http://ddo.tentonhammer.com/index.php?module=ContentExpress&func=display&ceid=307">interview
with me in September 2006.
Another thing gamers desired and considered standard fare for most MMOs
is the inclusion of player vs. player (PvP) combat. Turbine added PvP
with the release of Module 3, bringing DDO more in line with mainstream
MMOs like WoW. Like it or hate it, Turbine surely saw a potential for
customer retention or increase through the addition of PvP or it
wouldn't be there.
WoW isn't finished influencing DDO. Blizzard is set to release a WoW
expansion pack in January 2007. That's a mere two months before the
projected release of DDO's first expansion, Forsaken Lands. As long as
WoW remains the subscription juggernaut that it is, every developer in
gaming must consider how many customer it can pull from WoW and how
many it will lose to WoW.
From my standpoint, DDO is easily different enough that it sets itself
apart from the mainstream experience that WoW brings. At the same time
DDO has many of the familiar and comfortable features that I've come to
expect from the market. Turbine certainly won't need to worry about
losing me to the WoW expansion.
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited Game Page.