Turbine is celebrating International Talk Like A Pirate day a little bit early this year. Everyone's favorite holiday normally occurs in September, but this year players of Dungeons & Dragons Online will be growling "Yaarrr!" much sooner than that, with the launch of Update 22: Pirates of the Thunder Sea. We got a tour of Update 22 with the team that brought it to life: Turbine's Digital Communications Manager Leo Tan, Producer Athena Peters, Senior Designers Ben Schneider, Charles Miles and John Cataldo, and Community Manager Jerry Snook.
The focus of this update is, obviously, pirates. The first major bit that players will notice is the new Swashbuckler enhancement tree available to all Bards - perfectly suited for a pirate-themed update.
"The Swashbuckler is a new tree to go along with Spellsinger and Warchanter for Bards," explained Community Manager Jerry Snook. "They're essentially based on the Three Musketeers or other swordfighters along those times and styles. They focus on single light weapons such as rapiers, and a small shield like a buckler - or nothing at all. They're very nimble and dodgy, they focus on not getting hit and on making precise strikes of their own with powerful critical hits and things along those lines."
"One of the reasons we wanted to make Swashbucklers is we wanted to give Bards some help; they're traditionally not one of our more powerful classes, so they get a big boost by getting Swashbuckler. Bards are also free to everyone, so all of our players immediately get to use this. And we also wanted to introduce a new fighting style which we call single-weapon fighting, which, in contrast to fighting with two weapons or one gigantic weapon, this is the more precise style fighting with one single weapon to do a lot of damage with just that weapon. They get a bunch of interesting abilities, they get a lot of bonuses to their melee attacks, they get bonuses to their sonic damage because they're still Bards and they're still all about the music. They get Fast Movement so they can run very fast - that's very much in their background and play-style."
Among the other cool abilities of the Swashbuckler are the Slap in the Face - a literal slap across the enemy's face which leaves them stunned for a short period - and Coup de Grace, which allows for instant throat-slashing kills against sleeping, paralyzed or otherwise-unaware enemies.
Of course, there's more to Update 22 than just buckling some swash. Three Barrel Cove, a fine pirate haven if ever there was one, receives a major revamp, with new art and four "epified" quests.
The tour begins in a small coastal village that has not traditionally had a name, but which has been officially christened "Barrel's Bottom" by the dev team. The landscape has had a bit of cosmetic surgery, and some things have been relocated. The newly-epic landscape zone has completely different monsters and includes new explorer journals to discover, new monsters and new associated treasures. It also includes a bunch of funky moored airships that attack you when you get too close. Some will fire their cannon and other weaponry at you, some will send down enemy pirates on zip-lines.
We got a chance to engage in some hearty swashbuckling action aboard one of the airships for the new epic capstone quest. We commanded the crew of our airship to man the ballistae and mage-cannon, and got boarded by enemy pirates. The big "boss" ship closing in out of the mist was pretty creepifying and was great fun to watch. Interestingly, the glowing-red ghost pirate airship that attacked us is one of the new models of guild airship available to guilds.
We took a tour of the guild airships and the new amenities they offer.
Jerry Snook gave us a bit of a rundown on guild airships.
"Besides social interactivity, guild airships in Dungeons & Dragons Online are a key way to get buffs for your character that you will use in the dungeons and raids and such that you are running."
In addition to the buffs, they also house utilities - vendors, crafting stations and other town services. But it's more than just a private "town." Each guild airship is customizable, and high-ranked guilds can get bigger, roomier airships, capable of housing more cool stuff, than low-ranked guilds.
"As a sort of high-level summary," Senior Designer Ben Schneider explained, "when we sat down to design this stuff, we decided that guilds and the guild airships that support them are really important to DDO. So this new guild system is much more generous, good-looking and overall sort of helpful than the old system. Really, we want players to be in guilds, to have a good time, and to feel powerful and rewarded for doing it. And because we're in Eberron, we've really stretched the definition of what you could normally fit on an airship. Whether or not all those visuals are glamoured, we are not at liberty to disclose...."
"It's Eberron, so it's magic," Jerry Snook offered.
"Wizards did it," Ben Schneider agreed.
"What we've done for this update is we have updated the interiors of all the old ships and added six new ones," said Ben Schneider. "Basically, our improvements fall into two categories. We've made all the features of having an airship for your guild more convenient, and we've made them look cooler and more interesting as well. The contraption you see in the middle of the deck is a 'buff bar' - basically, you'll have amenities installed underneath your deck and when you want to go out and quest you don't have to go to all the rooms below. You just pop onto your guild ship, walk up to the buff bar and it grabs them all in one go."
We explored the revamped airship interiors and had a look at all those amenities.
"With the old airships, which were all much smaller beneath-decks, the amenities were sort of little things we placed in spots, and frankly the visuals were not up to snuff for modern DDO, and there was a lot of room for improvement."
Instead of little placeable objects, airship amenities are now essentially entire rooms. Or at least very large portions of staterooms.
"Because the amenities are large now, every one of them comes with several features," Ben Schneider explained, showing off a room with Green Steel crafting altars. He also explained the tweaks to the buffs from the bigger amenities:
"In the old system, buffs were short-lived, the amenities were rented and they would go away if you didn't pay attention, and when you died in the middle of a quest, the buff would vanish. We've made the amenities permanent, so once you buy a room you have it forever, even if you change airships. And the buffs last much longer, don't go away on death, pause in public areas and pause when you log out."
And if you don't want to use the buff bar on the main deck, every new amenities room has an interactable object in it which the player can use to receive that room's buff the old-fashioned way. The extra effort is well worth it - some of the rooms look pretty badass.
Here we see a blank stateroom waiting for an amenity to be added.
Here's that same room with a dojo amenity. Players can click on items in the room, or use the buff bar on the main deck to receive the dojo room buff.
Same room again, but this time with a creepy library amenity. Ben Schneider showed off a good handful of different amenities in this room, with an easy swap each time.
No official release date yet, but Update 22 is on the Lamannia test server and is expected to launch on live servers "Soon™".