Updated Fri, Feb 13, 2009 by Darkgolem
|Darkgolem: Now that DDO has
been around for a year, what are you happy about and unhappy about with
what Turbine has done so far in the development of the game?
James: You know, I think the thing I like about DDO the most centers around the active combat, and I really think that we have the best dungeons around there, the best player interaction around there. On the other side there are a lot of features we wanted to put in the game, which we didn't have a chance to add, which we plan to add later.
Dragon skin armor is coming with Module 4. What sort of armor
types can you make with dragon skins, and what qualities will these
armors have that makes them different from regular armor.
James: We are actually pretty excited about the dragonscale armor. It kind of introduces a new mechanic we haven't used in DDO before, there is more of a collection mechanic involved with getting different pieces in order to get the kind of armor you want. This is definitely geared to be level appropriate with the level cap increase that is coming with module 4, so it is targeted to level 14 characters. It is going to be better than any of the armor found before in the game, but it is also going to have a unique look and appearance. So we wanted to this be not only a good upgrade for the players, especially in the big battle with the Storm Reaver, but also be a status symbol for the players.
|Darkgolem: Regarding with the
encounter with the Storm Reaver, some of the previous raids, for
example with Velah or the titan, have a very specific way they are dealt with. For example with the titan you drop the
pillars on them, and so on. With the Storm Reaver is it similar
to that or is it a little more “free form”.
James: No, the Storm Reaver has it's own mechanic, as to the actual experience. With our raid bosses we've tried to be a little less traditional, as opposed to go in with 12 people, a battle of endurance. We try to make our raid encounters a little more “arcade-like”, it is a little more of an action adventure sequence. Things you have to do, such as breaking the pillars to get to the dragon. There's also going to be new game play mechanics, but I am not going to spoil it yet, since it's not out yet.
Dragonmarks are coming sometime after Module 4. A lot of players
want to know; how will these be acquired, and how will they work?
James: Yeah, you know we originally were planning to put Dragonmarks out with the module 4 update, but we decided to hold off because we were still having some debates about them, and also with our discussions with Wizards of the Coast, about how best to implement dragon marks. They will likely not be tied to favor, we are not really leaning that way. Right now it's more of action points and feat systems as far as implementing those. Final implementations are still being debated, we haven't exactly decided how we are going to reward them.
|Darkgolem: There are some
great improvements with monster AI in Module 4, such as enemies moving
away to find better positions to cast spells or use ranged
weapons. However, there are some other AI issues, such as
monsters standing still in cloudkill spells if done at range, that sort
of thing. What sort of plans do you have for improving monster AI
or related issues.
James: Part of module 4 we actually did a major overhaul of the underlying path mapping system in our core engine. One of the benefits of having multiple games built on the same engine is that enhancements that we make to The Lord of the Rings Online also benefit DDO. So we have a whole new path mapping system, and what that's going to do for us going forward is that it unlocks a whole new way to deal with the AI of the monsters. So as we move toward the fall, I would expect to see a lot of improvements to our AI in general. We're very excited about that because it will help change the dynamic of combat, making it just that much more interactive. You might see some of that in Mod 4, but most of it's going to come later in the year.
new enhancement system is great, but are there plans to add new
enhancements in addition to the present ones in the future?
James: Yeah, I think were going to continue to look at the enhancement trees going forward, especially as we add new levels, as we work our way up to level 20. It's very, very possible we will put in new trees. But we are looking at new classes of races, that are going to add into the enhancement tree, and of course the Dragonmark system adds into the enhancement tree. So yeah, you can expect to see new enhancements going forward.
Darkgolem: Some people feel they are discouraged from multiclassing because they cannot get the most powerful enhancements without being in a single class for most of their levels. Also, some rogues feel they have issues with their skills being high enough using the new enhancement system. Do you agree with this and how do you feel those concerns should be addressed?
James: You know, one of the things we did as we introduced this new enhancement system is we looked at the balance of some of the classes and how things have started to play out. We tried to adjust for some of those. The thing with this enhancement system is that it now allows characters to get enhancements at levels that we previously wouldn't have allowed them to get them, so it changes the enhancement trees. As part of that system, we had to look at the spectrum from levels 1 to 14, but also from levels 1 to 20, and try to keep that progression as smooth as possible. The end result is that at certain points, say level 12, characters may not be as advanced as they were prior to this new system, but they have a lot more flexibility in how much they can customize their character.
We had a lot of debates about the implementation of this, because we knew that it in certain instances characters had made a very specific build which would no longer be quite the same with this system, but overall, I think 95% or more of the characters in the game will be able to get a better character than in the past. And we will continue to look at specific instances.
I know there is a lot of debate about the rogue right now ,and whether this enhancement system has made it better or worse, you know, whether you are better off just getting 2 levels of rogue and never worrying about doing a pure rogue anymore. So as the level cap rolls out we are going to kind of explore that. One of the things that we are firm believers in is listening to the community, taking the feedback, you know I think we have proven over the last year that we listen, we figure it out, and see if it needs to be changed.
|Darkgolem: Sap, Hamstring and
Slicing Blow bonus weapons are being changed soon. Recently
backstabbing weapons were changed. What other sort of changes to
items can be expected?
James: Well, we constantly evaluate items and the effects that we can put on them. Each time we raise the level cap, something else that happens is we introduce new spells, and once we build those new spells, DnD is not like most RPGs or most MMORPGs, where you just get your new round of spells and it is just upgrades of your last level's spells. With DnD you usually get entirely new functionality, gaining a new spell level is a big deal. When we do that we usually do a lot of engineering work and technical work to introduce the new spell systems. To support that, we can actually go back and introduce that into the treasure tables to introduce those effects. So every module we go through and look at items, look at what their current stats and functionalities are and adjust that, especially as we add new effects. Sometimes we made an affect and it was underpowered, and we decide to power it up. Sometimes we see one that, in different combinations, is overpowered and we may adjust it a little bit.
What sort of features or creatures can we expect with the Litany of the
Dead 3 update?
James: Right now our content plan for the year is shoring up, and it is looking that the Litany of the Dead series is going to be a major chapter, it could even be the core story arc for Module 5. We have had chapter 1 and 2, we are looking to wrap it up with chapter 3, the final battle with the lich. Right now we are kind of leaning toward actually making it the primary story arc of the next module, which would make it much, much larger in scope that the last one we did.
Darkgolem: So it would be a full module with a raid, and all that sort of thing, instead of the way it was handled with Litany of the Dead one and two, which was sort of in-between material between the larger modules?
James: Right, they were kind of the mini-chapters, mini-updates to give the players some extra content while we are waiting for the big module. So our plan now is to have the big final chapter of the Litany of the Dead series with a big module.
Darkgolem: Would that include any increases with the level cap if it's going to be a large module?
James: Probably not for Module 5 release, definitely for Module 6.
|Darkgolem: So Module 4 comes
out in less than a month, barring any development concerns.
You've got a lot of features coming out, new spells, several new
monsters and 2 new areas. After that there are going to be
Dragonmarks. In the summer you're going to have Mod 5. In
the fall you're planning monks, half orcs and half elves. What
sort of things can we expect in the between now and module 5?
James: One of the things we are introducing in module 4, that I think may not have gotten as much exposure but I like, is our new landscape adventure system that we put in. We've got the two adventure zones coming in module 4, the ones called the Cerulean Hills, which is lower level, and then there is the high level area based around the primary story arc, which is Gianthold. These new adventure areas give players a great re-playability. You go in, you play in what I call “meta-quests”, it is either kill quests, or exploration quests, or special encounter quests. There are a series of many dungeons connected to them. They are open landscapes, and when you leave, the next time you go back to that landscape, your status, your place is remembered.
One of the things we want to do this year is continue to introduce these adventure areas, these landscape adventures. And we will probably touch some of our old adventure areas, Tangleroot, Three Barrel Cove, previously areas that didn't get a lot of play outside the one or two times you go in to get your favor points. We want to really open these areas up, give players a lot to do there. And part of those revisits will include new dungeons, new encounters, new monsters, new quest series, across a wide range of levels.
We expect to work on those throughout the year, a lot of our monthly updates are going to include having some of those landscapes redone, and introducing some new dungeons as we have done in the past.
Some the features mentioned in the State of Game Address from Kate Paiz
included Crafting and Guild Housing. I wanted to ask about
those. The Guild Housing system is also planned for late this
year or early next year. Kate mentioned they might have a bar and
a bank manager. Again, that's a long time in the future, but at
this point, could you expound what they would be like?
James: Yeah, we have actually got two major systems planned for this year, two major feature additions I should say. One of them is crafting. We have started work on it now, I think the players will really like the way we are doing crafting. It's different from other games, we are trying to stick with DDO being unique, that we are not your standard MMO.
One of the purposes we want guild house to serve, is we want to give guilds what we call conveniences. So the conveniences are that a guild can have their own banks, repair merchants, their own auction house vendors, so it's kind of a one-stop shop. Guilds would have to unlock them, they would have to earn them. Guild conveniences are definitely something we want to be a part of guild housing
|Darkgolem: At high levels
there are several issues for pen and paper that are not found in lower
level adventures. There are spells that are need case-by-case
adjudication by game masters, such as limited wish, or spells that
might be iconic, but difficult to place into DDO, such as
earthquake. How are these sorts of things going to be reconciled
in the future with DDO?
James: Those are definitely tough ones. We started an implementation of Wish, back in the fall, seeing what we could do, and we had some, what we think are interesting, variants. But ultimately it's one of the spells where if you cheapen it too much, it almost isn't worth putting it in, and that's what we decided with wish. Some of those spells we are going to have to look at them that way, which is; this is still an MMO, still based upon dungeon crawl grouping adventurer mechanics which make this game so much fun. We want the spells to be able to feed into that.
We want to try and stay as true to the DnD rules as we can, we've done a pretty good job with that I think, and we want to try to stay that way. So those higher level spells that are unique in implementation are a challenge for us. We kind of look at them one at a time. We see what can we do that will still make this a powerful spell but wouldn't do things like collapse tunnels, obviously we are not going to be able to do that, but that doesn't mean couldn't still do a form of earthquake that does things different from that, that makes say, rocks fall from the ceiling, something like that. We just look at them case by case.
that pvp has been out for a while, do you think it is a success?
Do you have any plans for changes or additions to it?
James: You know I think with pvp we will continue to do some revisions to enhance or improve it, add a little bit more awards, leader boards. Our main reason for pvp was to give players something else to do inside the game world. There are some people who like to play it, some who don't like to play it. It was successful for what we wanted it to be, giving players something else to do. It wasn't a product changing feature, it definitely helps the game in Asia, where pvp is a much, much more popular feature.
|Darkgolem: Some things are
missing from classes already implemented in the game, such as domains
for clerics or animal companions for rangers. Are there any plans
to add these sorts of features to classes already implemented?
James: Yes, definitely. We are always looking to fill in some of the gaps we know are there. Cleric domains come up a lot in particular. “Real” pets so to speak come up quite a bit, some of the AI stuff that I mentioned earlier will open up our ability to revisit pets in a different way sometimes in the future. With druids we will have shape-shifting and other things like that which then opens up a whole another avenue of spells and effects and skills we can look at adding. We will have some new races too, some Eberron specific races like shape-shifters that we might be able to put in by adding in those types of systems. So the druid, the druid is on our list after the monk, and coming with the druid will definitely be some new functionality that will feed out to other areas.
James: You know we are really excited about where we are at with DDO, we have a big year planned and we have got some big features coming. We have got module 6 in the fall and we really expect that to be a very, very big thing for us. We are adding a lot of new stuff for our content in that one, it's going to be very, very epic, and I think the players are going to really like it. It has a great classic DnD feel. We haven't released what it's going to be yet, but we are going to be talking about that over the summer, and I think they are really going to like what we are doing.
Darkgolem: Are you thinking about opening up the 12 over in the marketplace.
James: There are rumors that The Twelve is going to open up for the fall as well.