Updated Fri, Feb 13, 2009 by Shayalyn
I'm always comparing today's MMOGs to EverQuest. I get some flack
for it from gaming friends, too. They tell me EQ is old school, and
that you can't relive your first MMOG experience because first times
only happen once. And I suppose they're right; I do have a certain
sense of longing for those virginal days, before I'd experienced half a
dozen or so various MMOGs, none of which, in the long run, ended up
flipping my switch.
So, what makes Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO) any different
than the MMOGs I've shelved because they just didn't turn out to be as
engaging, in the long run, as EQ first was? What does this game have to
offer to hold my interest for any length of time?
Initially, it didn't offer a lot. In fact, I'll step out on a limb
and say that when I first played DDO in the late beta stages I wasn't
sure the game would have any sort of staying power, at least for me. I
found the combat too twitch-based. I didn't like the fact that I
couldn't solo beyond the first few instances in the newbie area. And,
speaking of instances, I also didn't like the idea that there were no
open adventuring areas to explore--to step outside the city limits
meant stepping into an instanced area, either alone or with a group.
Despite DDO's hard line stance on forced grouping, the game felt lonely
But now, just over a month into the game, I'm beginning to get a
broader sense of its appeal. Combat is still twitch-based, but my
skills are improving. (Well, perhaps you'd better not ask the friends
that I've grouped with. Maybe just...take my word for it?) Soloing is
still next to impossible, but I've grown pretty attached to the new
friends I've made in game, which makes it feel far less lonely.
Traditionally, MMOGs have offered all sorts of incentives to keep
subscribers happily addicted, from the promise of advancement to the
highest levels, to quests for fantastic items. Level advancement will
always be an incentive in any online game, but decent items and cash
are actually easy to come by in DDO, making that grind-for-glory a
little less crucial than it seems to be in other games. So where is
that necessary incentive to keep playing?
More and more I'm finding that my enjoyment
of DDO stems from the good times I have getting together with friends.
And I think that's the subtle brilliance of this game. Turbine may have
accomplished what they set out to--to come close, within the framework
of a MMOG, to invoking the experience of gathering around a table with
a few of your closest friends to roll the dice and roleplay while the
cagey DM leads you down a precarious path to victory...or doom. Rather
than being a lonely game, it turns out that DDO is uniquely social,
from the intimacy of private instances, right down to the integrated
voice chat system that eliminates the necessity for being a decent
typist in order to communicate well.
Will DDO go the distance and hold players' interest for the long
term? Good question. After all, online friends are portable--mine tend
to game jump from MMOG to MMOG with me. Is there anything that will
hold them in DDO for any length of time? My crystal ball and tarot
cards provide no solid answers, so I'll offer up my best guess. I think
that Turbine is going to have to keep the content coming in order to
hold player interest. Fortunately, they've already begun to implement
their plan to keep the game fresh--the game's first free module, The
Dragon's Vault, is due to launch this month.
And maybe at some point Turbine will also wise up and add some solo
content for time-limited and casual players who just want to make a
little progress in their 30 minutes of free time.
But that's another topic all together. Don't get me started....