Dungeons & Dragons Online Eberron Unlimited will usher in a new era of free-to-play DDO along with content and items bought in the Turbine store, but for the present DDO Unlimited has simply ushered in a lot of cautious enthusiasm, righteous indignation, and a whole host of tough questions. Ten Ton Hammer posed a number of these questions to DDO Executive Producer Fernando Paiz, Senior Producer Kate Paiz, Turbine PR Director Adam Mersky about the edgier aspects of the upcoming re-release and received some candid answers in return.
Did DDO Eberron Unlimited go beyond T for Teen with the Succubus? Nope.
Cody Bye, Ten Ton Hammer: First, the question on everyone's mind: what will the new class be? Is it the Favored Soul?
Fernando Paiz: Unfortunately we can’t talk about the new class just yet. We have a process that we go through and at this point we’re just not ready to talk. That said, we should have new information for everyone sometime next week, so keep checking the official site and news websites for the information.
Ten Ton Hammer: There seems to be a big ruckus going on over the “sexy” avatar that you’re using to promote DDOU. Why’d you go with the big-chested succubus?
Kate Paiz: The succubus came out so well when we created her that it sort of felt like a real natural fit for what we were doing. Obviously she's provocative. The whole lore basis for what she is and what she does; it really took course from that rendering. What you see on all the marketing materials and the website is the same character that you're going to play against in game. And this is really about reaching out to a new audience, getting some new attention, generating some new buzz, and it felt like the succubus really helps us do that.
Ten Ton Hammer: For the real DDO enthusiasts and those who aren't yet in beta, would you describe some of the specific items that we might be able to purchase from the store? Stuff that hardcore DDO'ers would be interested in hearing about, not just the potions.
Kate Paiz: Some of the things that I'm really excited about as a player are the rez cakes. If you think back when we did the holiday festival events, we had the Irian Jelly Cakes which allowed you to rez on the spot one of your friends in the party. That was so beneficial; you really felt the difference in your party's ability to survive some of the more advanced challenges. Giving that opportunity to players who are playing solo and they can raise themselves or for anyone that's in a pinch - I think it's going to help a lot. Based on the forum feedback, we've made them so that they're not usable in raids so that they're not breaking the basic gameplay that we're looking for.
Ten Ton Hammer: That leads me to my next question. On the Ten Ton Hammer forums, we had one poster that was vehemently upset. His belief was that being able to buy resurrections will lead to the removal of shrines and other core aspects of the game. How can you let players know that, while you'll be able to purchase items and content from the store, the core experience of DDO isn't changing?
Fernando Paiz: I guess the best thing we can say is: look at what we've done with the game. We aren't actually jacking up the difficulty, we aren't taking away cure potions from the vendors, we haven't made the game kick your ass in the new content any more than we normally do. There's still plenty of rest shrines, there's attention given to more casual players, the smaller groups, and even the solo groups through hirelings. It will all be easier in the final release. So the best thing we can say is our actions will probably convince you more than our words.
Quest series and instances are among the premium items available for purchase in the DDO store.
Ten Ton Hammer: Another poster speculated that content difficulty would be adjusted if not in the current content, than in future content. Obviously difficulty is being adjusted downward in current content, but can you give any assurances that you won't adjust the difficulty upward in the future to force players to use store bought consumables?
Fernando Paiz: What we're trying to do is give players options as to what kind of experience they want to get. I think on elite, it's appropriate for something to be really hard - not to drive you to the store necessarily, but to challenge the party. I think you might see us adding in new difficulty levels or something like that in the future which might be very difficult but there is always a player choice: you want to go for that thing and do you want to try and use store items to attack that thing, or not?
Ten Ton Hammer: Should players expect smaller, more frequent content updates that add more things to the shop for people to purchase? Is that something that's going to happen on a more regular basis?
Kate Paiz: I wouldn't say that we have a particular schedule in mind, but the store updates are something that we hope to roll out often. 'Often' to be defined when we get through beta and get through this process, but it's a lot easier for us to roll out a couple items here and there than to do an entire adventure pack.
Adam Mersky: We're deep in beta making sure we get everything polished up and all the things you would do in a beta, but the team's deep in development on the first major update to DDO Unlimited, which will be coming out soon after we launch. And very soon after we launch we'll give people a more forward looking view of what's coming and when it's coming.
Ten Ton Hammer: Has Turbine expanded the team for DDO Unlimited, bringing more people in to give this project a shove out the door?
Fernando Paiz: We pulled in a large number of people from the team and at one point we had our whole new west coast studio working on the Eberron Unlimited release. So yea, we definitely brought in some extra help for this release. There's a pretty significant investment above what would be one or even two modules for us.
Drow Elves and Warforged are two races seemingly available for purchase.
Ten Ton Hammer: What kind of support are you getting from Wizards of the Coast at this stage in the game's development? They've moved past D&D 3.5 to 4.0 and obviously things are changing in your studio, so are you still working hand in hand with WotC?
Adam Mersky: A week doesn't go by that we're not in contact from them. Every single thing that goes into the game, including the succubus, has been reviewed and approved by WotC. While they are certainly working on other editions and things like that , they're very engaged with this product. We had a meeting this week talking about how we could do more things with them at GenCon this summer, for example. They believe very strongly in what we're doing here, and together we're going to make this game something special.
I'll address this even though it wasn't asked, but it's clearly something that's being talked about: I think a lot of players got frustrated with the delays we had in making this announcement; that we certainly didn't deliver content in a timely way that they're used to. A lot of that was due to our desire to deliver this new product in the best way we can, working tightly with our licensors. That's not just Wizards of the Coast, that's Hasbro and Atari as well. While the only thing we can say to our players is that we're sorry they had to wait for it, this is all due to the efforts of the team towards making DDO Unlimited the best free-to-play MMO probably on the planet.
Ten Ton Hammer : Some players did seem to feel a bit betrayed that it did take so long. Some were talking about 9 months since the last content update, and you've obviously used that time to switch the business model around. Is there anything else you can say to clear the air for those players?
Fernando Paiz: We understand how they feel, we're sorry that they're upset, and we would have loved to release DDO Unlimited sooner. But ultimately we designed all of this content and the release to go together. It's a stronger release all together, and we're going to make the transition to Eberron Unlimited faster by releasing it all together. So, at any point in time, could we have made a different decision? Maybe, knowing what we know today. But given where we are today, this is the best we can do to give them the best product in the fastest timeline and ultimately the best future for the service that they love.
Adam Mersky: Nine months, even by our standards, is unacceptible, and I don't think you'll see that at any point in the future, especially with this title.
Hirelings are one way DDO has always been solo / casual player-friendly.
Ten Ton Hammer: A lot of new players will be coming in and DDO Unlimited will have a different feel than a free trial, in that players will know they have this character for as long as they want. What are you doing to make DDO Unlimited tough to put down for those new players?
Fernando: We're doing a lot of things. One thing we're doing is inviting a whole bunch of them - thousands of them - into our beta test as free players from the beginning and give us feedback on how is leveling, how is the rate of rewards, how is the rate of drops on the leveling sigils, do they feel like they're getting a good value for their time? There is some lower level content coming - some of the specifics of that we hope to announce next week. But you will absolutely see some paid and free new content for low levels at release and an early adventure pack.
Ten Ton Hammer: Other free-to-play games tend to have "fluff" events, bonus XP weekends, bonus drop events, GM-run contests in game. I can't say whether those are good or bad, but it's prevalent for F2Ps. Are we going to see that sort of thing with DDO?
Fernando Paiz: Yea, absolutely. No real firm plans there, in terms of in-world events there isn't necessarily a change that happens due to the change in business model. With the addition of the store we have the opportunity to do promotions and discounts and sales and exclusive items for a period of time. You definitely will see store promotions and otherwise the XP or loot weekends we probably keep doing just as we've done before as well as in-game events. It'll be a variety of things, and in part it'll be what the community reacts to and likes.
Ten Ton Hammer: One harsh post we found talked about how Turbine had a job posting for an RMT manager and at the time, the official Turbine comment was that this was for a "future unannounced project." However incorrectly, the community interpreted that as a separate product from Turbine's current projects. Care to comment on that?
Adam Mersky: Technically that was the correct answer, DDO Unlimited was the future unannounced project. It also pertains to more things than what we're doing with DDO Unlimited. We try to be as open with our players as possible, and in that case we were commenting on a job listing on our website, not on our game. In some cases, we're damned if we do give out information and we're damned if we don't. We do our best, and at the end of the day, technically we weren't lying: DDO Unlimited wasn't an announced project. But the reason we respond to those things is people start making assumptions about stuff and we try to keep that from going off the rails.
Ten Ton Hammer: Do you think allowing players to buy 32-point builds is in some way negating the effort players put into accomplishing that feat?
Fernando Paiz: I have a few things to that. One is, we're not allowing players to buy 32-point builds at the moment. I found it fascinating to see the reactions to this on the beta forums. Someone said 'What do you guys think about selling 32-point builds? If they're going to sell the drow class which is also something that you unlock with favor, why not sell the 32-point builds?' I fully expected the community wouldn't like it based solely on how the question was phrased, but the big surprise was 80-90% of the posts were 'Sell them, please! I love this game, I've gotten two character to 16, but I don't want to get 1750 favor. Just let me buy it, who cares? So I don't rule it out as we never will, but we're trying to go cautiously.
Ten Ton Hammer: I know some of those questions were pretty hairy, but I think the players are really going to appreciate your candor. Thanks so much.