Through the Looking Glass
A First-Day Look at Pick Up Groups
The head start event began with
quite a bang on Friday, February 24, and poor Euphonia was overwhelmed with
potential heroes arriving in Stormreach. As the port town was bowing
under the onslaught of wannabe heroes and treasure-seekers, I took the
opportunity to explore some of my familiar haunts from the beta event.
It was my intent to discover just how much Stormreach had evolved since
the last days of beta, and what, if anything, had changed.
Foremost on my mind was the group dynamic. During beta, pickup groups,
also known as PUGs, were plentiful and quite enjoyable. I had gotten a
real sense of the mercenary life as perfect strangers teamed up to form
lethal squads of treasure hunters. Integrated voice chat allowed
players to force communication and develop on the spot strategies,
which resulted in a pretty impressive level of cooperation and
enjoyment overall. I was able, during the last days of beta, to
put my “looking for group” (LFG) flag on and wait only a minute or two
before some industrious group leader sought my assistance. This
experience had been one of my greatest joys during the modest preview,
and I looked forward to the same type of interaction when DDO went live.
After registering with my own lovely guild--Ten Ton Hammer, of
course--I created a character to test the waters of Head Start group
dynamics. I dispatched Euphonia's challenge and Goodblade's
trivial tasks, made my way into the harbor proper, and sauntered over
to my old haunt, the Wayward Lobster.
To the group menu!
I gathered my quests and flicked on the LFG flag, confident in an
expedient invite…one that never came. I made a quick whiff of the old
armpit and looked in the mirror; was it me? Something had drastically
changed since the beta, and my mind raced to uncover a reason that was
not due to circumstance or poor character hygiene. I logged out,
created a more appealing elven female, and tried again. When the
results were the same, I began to do a player search. Only six groups
were LFM. During the beta, you could confidently view 15 or more
intrepid alliances looking for like minded tomb robbers or at least
some ‘morally unburdened' laborers. Something was amiss, and I was
determined to root out its cause and smite it…verily!
Why couldn't I find a pick-up group (PUG)? I
knew it was not the content. DDO as a product looked sharp, moved well,
had fantastic sound and environmental lighting, and a good number of
people logged on. It was obvious from my standpoint that gameplay
could also not be faulted for the shift in ‘PUG-enomics'. Deeper
exploration into the chat window revealed a wealth of behind the scenes
drama playing itself out: guilds were forming, organizing, and
planning; characters were being created en masse to reserve favorite
names; and overall it appeared that playing the game was taking a
backseat to preparing for the days to come. I did eventually find a
group, and was immediately solicited to join a fledgling guild.
“Join the Dwarven Elite!”
“Um…what?” I said.
“The Dwarven Elite need four more members to get our helmets.”
“I'm an elf.”
you are…” wink
This group, like many others, was trolling for members to gain them the
benefit of Head Start guild standings. I did not begrudge them the
invite, it was still nice to be welcomed, but I didn't think the
dwarves were being very up front about their motives. After
noticing the lascivious glaze in their eyes and the low cut nature of
my masterwork breastplate, I decided to move on and never again play a
female avatar. Shudder
After another hour spent searching around, meeting various people in
the Wayward Lobster and Leaky Dinghy, I concluded that the PUG
downshift was definitely due to organizational priorities. And I
certainly can't fault the folks at Turbine, whose hard work and
creativity was abundantly evident.
I accepted my findings with a grain of salt. As disappointed as I
was in the Head Start's seemingly isolationist spirit, I realized that
it would take time to establish the camaraderie amongst the player base
that was enjoyed during the beta phase, and found solace in the fact
that Turbine's opus was still sparkling with newborn potential. Finding
a server, tracking down friends and teammates from the beta, and
deciding on character builds were the order of the day, and my content
hungry elf was returning to the trash bin unfulfilled.
All in all, this really was only a minor disappointment compared to the
wealth of positives that I found
lurking about the digital pathways of DDO.
The attitude of most players was mirthful and open, the early content
was well developed, and the sense of fun and adventure was
palpable. Loading times seem to have been reduced; there was a
greatly reduced instance of lag upon entering an inn or crowded area;
and the problem of unresponsive NPCs seemed to have been alleviated
during the week of downtime before the head start event. All in all, I
was pleasantly surprised to see such a smooth launch for DDO and its
founding members, who swarmed the docks of Stormreach Harbor with an
intoxicating lust for adventure and sultry barmaids.
I sincerely hope that the game's release will bring back some of that
all-inclusive spirit that pervaded the final days of beta.
Perhaps it really is too early to tell how active and accessible the
player base is to new or unguilded individuals. Whatever the case
may be, I challenge everyone to remember that we are all new to the
game, or were at one point, and we should welcome each new adventurer
with the same sense of possibility that makes the fantasy genre so
rich. Potential heroes are all around and that newbie today might
become a good friend tomorrow…and therein lies a key draw to the MMO
genre. So, once your guild is established and your characters are
set, I encourage everyone to continue in the same spirit of cooperation
and fun that made the beta so incredibly successful. Let's make DDO the
game we all know it is by passing our enjoyment on to new or
inexperienced players. Don't be a PUG hater, and remember to
thank the Devs and Turbine for an awesome launch, and a great game. And
while you're at it, remind them of the free beer they owe me for
writing this article.
Oh wait...did I say that out loud?