Interview: Four People Who Quit DDO
Well, here we are with our monthly interview again.
I first contacted
Sporkfire (Community Relations Manager) and Samera (Community Relations
Specialist) for an interview about Turbine's impressions regarding the
launch of Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach (DDO) in early
March. Once they had agreed to the interview in late March, I sent
questions in a Microsoft Word document. Sporkfire and Samera would
answer them, ship them to Turbine's Public Relations department for
editing, get them back to edit, and then send them to me. It can be a
long process for an employee in the gaming industry to do an interview
because of every company's desire to ensure that it is represented
well. I was just pleased that they agreed to do it. I didn't get my
responses in April, so--at the last minute--I
"interviewed" Three-Fingered Thad
May brought about the hustle and bustle of the Electronic Entertainment
Expo (E3). It also saw Turbine announce the second module for DDO, Twilight
. It was a very busy month for everyone in the gaming
industry. You guessed it: I didn't get my responses from Sporkfire and
Samera this month either. I had held out until the last minute again,
too. But this time, I won't throw a lore interview at you as a
replacement. I visited a message board, sent an email, used instant
messenger (IM), and talked to my wife. The result: I give you the
stories of four veterans of massively-multiplayer online games (MMOGs)
who tried DDO but didn't stick around after the trial. Their tales
serve as examples of how DDO could be more popular and provide a basis
for evaluating the changes announced along side Twilight Forge.
A resident of Fort Lauderdale, FL, Tork is the most hardcore among the
people I interviewed. A computer technician and divorceè living
alone, Tork comes straight home from work and hops onto his computer.
Because of all of the time he has to play games, Tork is experienced in
many MMOGs: EverQuest (EQ), Dark Age of Camelot (DAoC), EverQuest
Online Adventures (EQOA), and World of Warcraft (WoW). Currently,
Tork's "home" is with WoW, where he commands a 60 hunter, mage, priest
and rogue. I caught up to Tork on IM and asked him to tell me about why
DDO didn't capture his attention.
"I didn't like the way
your health does not regenerate in DDO. There's no overworld, so there
is no sense of exploration. I want to be able to craft or to get a
mount--anything that helps me feel like I have accomplished something."
Let's look at Tork's complaints one at a time.
- His dislike of the health system of DDO can easily be
dismissed as a fundamental dislike or lack of understanding of the
Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) system on which DDO is based. But I'll
just make the point that the health system in DDO defies convention;
some people like games that stray from the norm and others don't.
- Turbine touted the omission of an overworld in favor of instanced
dungeons as a way to keep action flowing and prevent wasting valuable
game time traveling to a quest location. I bought that concept prior to
and during beta. Since DDO has launched, I find myself feeling
that an entirely instanced game has an episodic feeling that detracts
from a sense that your character is in a living world. As a roleplaying
(RP) gamer, it bothers me immensely. In Tork's case, he likely wouldn't
care for RP, but he just wants the thrill of getting lost in the forest
in the overworld only to emerge and find a massive, jaw-dropping
- Tork's third complaint is primarily that DDO lacks bells and
whistles. His call for crafting and mounts is about adding variety.
People often play their MMOG of choice for several months at a time. A
little variety goes a long way to maintaining the subscription base.
tech guy, Ryverwynd is a father and husband who regularly games with a
couple of buddies. His MMOG forays include WoW, EQOA, Guild Wars, and
EverQuest II (EQII). Ryverwynd currently bounces between WoW and EQII,
playing each for three months at a time before switching again. He
plays a 49 hunter in WoW and a 44 Warden in EQII. I sent a private
message asking Ryverwynd why he didn't buy DDO on the message board for
our old EQOA guild, which we both still frequent.
"For me, I have
friends playing several MMOGs now. I try to keep up with them as best I
can, but they have more playing time than I do. I have a new baby to
look after. WoW helps a lot with rested XP [editor's note: this is a
system that allows players to gain higher XP when they have not played
in a while]. I belong to a really great guild in EQII. When it comes
down to it, my friends and I blew through 6 or 7 character levels in
DDO during our trial and knew it wouldn't hold our attention very long.
Plus, I didn't like the combat."
Let's look at Ryverwynd's complaints one at a time.
- Ryverwynd's first comments discuss his limited playing time. With
his consistent playing group, limited playing time wouldn't be a
hindrance to DDO. His game hopping would,
though. Two or three months spent playing WoW or EQII would give his
friends with more playing opportunities ample time to hit the level 10
character cap. Ryverwynd would return to find his character left behind.
- His second complaint mentions how quickly Ryverwynd and his
friends chewed up the content in DDO. I happen to know that the time
they spent playing was merely a 3-day pass during beta. While some
quest rewards have changed, the premise remains the same: even
non-power gamers can blast through DDO with a regularly scheduled
group. Repeating the most rewarding quests--a tenancy I consider a
natural inclination of all gamers--can get DDO players levels in no
- Ryverwynd's final complaint is about the active combat system
used in DDO. Like Tork's disdain of the health system, we could dismiss
this grievance as personal preference. Still, combat described as
"twitchy" is uncomfortable for many MMOG veterans I know.
lives in the greater Seattle area with her husband and their daughter.
Myrelle primarily plays EQOA, where she has a 60 bard and my 60 rogue
at her disposal, but she is a fan of the pen-and-paper version of
D&D. Myrelle used my 7-day key to try out DDO. I sent her an email
to ask why she didn't continue playing after the 7-day trial.
"Being quest-based, gameplay feels...well, I
don't know how to describe it, chunky? You do a quest from
start to finish, and if you can't finish in the time you can play, you
start over. While there are multi-part quests, in general, it's not
like quests in EQOA where you can get so far and say 'well, it's 10PM,
I'm done for the night, I'll meet you [here] tomorrow and we'll finish
this up.' You really have to decide before you start if you're going to
make that commitment for the next hour."
Myrelle's problem with the quest-based gameplay of DDO reflects
what I said earlier. Just trotting from one sewer to the next gives DDO
a feeling of being an action game similar to Diablo II or Baldur's
Gate. Both of those are games you're not likely to finish in one
sitting, they incorporate character leveling, and players get to choose
skills. Baldur's Gate even uses D&D lore and skills. The outcome is
that players can end up feeling like DDO only warrants a fee for the
updates to content (as
Shayalyn mentioned in our last FriEd
), forcing players to decide if
the updates are worth the cost. In Myrelle's case, the answer was not
favorable for DDO.
wife (screen name Cirel) has tried WoW, EQ, and EQOA, in addition to
DDO. She left her 58 cleric in EQOA behind in August of 2005, and she
has not settled on any MMOG since. She played some DDO during my beta
experience, and she has access to my account any time she wants it. I
asked her yesterday to articulate why she hasn't played DDO since it's
sitting right there and we're paying for it each month already.
"I don't like having to
group all the time."
may be one short sentence, but I know what Cirel means when she says
it. DDO requires 4-6 people to get anything done once you play beyond
the first two character levels. The lack of bells and whistles
mentioned by Tork means that players cannot occupy themselves in any
way when they have only 30 minutes to play or just don't feel like
grouping. Turbine made it no secret that DDO is a party-based game, but
the lack of an overworld and other MMOG staples gives the game the
feeling of something other than an MMOG--like maybe Diablo II, as I
I've shown you the details of four people who played DDO on a trial
basis but didn't become a regular subscriber. While four people do not
, I feel as though these four people do a good job of
representing others in the same situation. Tork points out that DDO
lacks an overworld and other MMOG traditions. He and Ryverwynd each
found one of DDO's unconventional mechanics (health and combat,
respectively) uncomfortable. Myrelle feels the game is too episodic.
Finally, Cirel doesn't enjoy a game that consists entirely of grouping.
She wants some solo content.
The folks at Turbine want to know the complaints of those who don't
subscribe--maybe even more than they want to know about the beefs we
paying customers have with DDO. They want as many subscriptions as they
can get. So, how will Turbine address such concerns? Just look at the
announcements made during E3.
Twilight Forge will introduce solo content. This decision caters to the
demands of many MMOGs players and should make Cirel a little more
interested in DDO. The announcement that a future module will initiate
player-vs.-player (PvP) combat adds a conventional MMOG feature. PvP
will also give players something
to do besides quest. Finally, Turbine's CEO says the company is "committed
to delivering future DDO modules that include features that continue to
expand the game." It sounds like DDO is headed in a more mainstream
direction to draw in more gamers. Turbine boasts of "over 300,000 units
sold worldwide," but they want--and need--more to compete in the
glutted MMOG market.