The realm of free-to-play massively multiplayer online gaming has long
been a place of undiscovered treasures for Western development teams.
Ever since games like MU
Online and Fly
for Free hit the marketplace, companies like Sony Online
Entertainment, Turbine Entertainment, and Electronic Arts have been
looking for the right moment to try their hands at this sort of
business model. It appears that 2009 is the time and the place for this
transition to finally occur. Companies all over the world - old and new
alike - pushed their free-to-play games to market in (or just prior to)
2009. Notable titles like FusionFall,
and - perhaps most important of all - Dungeons and Dragons Online
have all seen or are going to see free to play customers this year.
Recently, the Ten Ton Hammer team had the outstanding opportunity to go check out Dungeons and Dragons Online Unlimited in a special press tour hosted by Fernando and Kate Paiz. Although the client is still in beta, we received a special "freedom of speech" tour where I can describe to you everything that I saw in the game during my hour long play session. So sit back, grab a cold one, and learn a bit about DDOU with me and the Turbine team.
The Favored Soul
First off on the tour, Fernando and Kate urged me to jump into the role of the Favored Soul. Although they didn't have a high level version of the class available for me to tinker with, I was allowed to test drive the entry level version of the class. For the most part, the Favored Soul feels like an interesting blend between the Sorcerer class and the upper level Paladins. Although nowhere near as hearty or armored as the Paladin, the Favored Soul definitely has a flair for melee combat even while firing off heals with its extremely large spell point pool.
To get a few more details about the class, I asked a few questions of Kate and Fernando to see where the Favored Soul differed from the Sorcerer and the other classes in the game.
Ten Ton Hammer: What can you tell us about the Favored Soul and how it works compared to the pen-and-paper game?
Fernando: I think we've been able to keep it pretty true to the pen-and-paper game. We really started building the Favored Soul the same way we began with the Sorcerer; a Favored Soul is really to a Cleric what a Sorcerer is to a Wizard. We started with the basis of all the Sorcerer improvements, in that they get additional spell points cheaply and they get extra spell points from items.
The one thing that we didn't end up putting in because it made the Favored Soul feel pretty overpowered was the casting speed that a Sorcerer has over a Wizard. In the case of the Favored Soul, this just made all the healing feel way powerful. Otherwise you pretty much get all the benefits.
Of course, there are some trade-offs in that you're locked in to a particular set of spells, which you can trade off at the trainers. The other important one to note is that Favored Souls don't have access to the full spell list that the Clerics do. You don't get things like Remove Disease or Remove Curse, and you're still going to be hankering for a Cleric in those moments.
Kate: Anytime you go up against mummies, you're definitely going to want a Cleric nearby.
Fernando: On the fighting side, Favored Souls do get proficiency in one weapon. There's a class feat early on that will align you to one deity, so if you're a drow you could align yourself with Lloth. Mind you, this grants you a proficiency with a martial weapon.
If you're a Warforged for example, you can align yourself with the Lord of Blades, which gives you proficiency with a greatsword. So basically, when you align yourself with a deity, you get to use a martial weapon that's aligned with them.
Ten Ton Hammer: That's neat.
Fernando: It is, and although it isn't always obvious which proficiency to take, it's usually best to pick the one that's most preferential to your race so you can get access to the better enhancements down the line.
So if you're a drow, it's probably best to go with shortswords initially simply because by the time you're at a higher level, you'll be in a better position than if you'd picked the longsword feat.
During my character creation experience, it was nice to note that all of the character generation improvements that had been implement in Module 8 were still alive and active, with the Favored Soul falling under the "path" as the Cleric. Although we've already covered all the renovations made with Module 8, it's still a nice piece of the game that many of the new players attracted to the F2P experience will appreciate.
At this stage, the DDOU devs had to take the time to introduce me to the store. Since I was playing as a "free user" and not a VIP, I was required to purchase the Favored Soul from the store using my Turbine points. This process was fairly painless, and I'll outline it after the break.
The Item Store
To be honest, I was fairly impressed with the ease-of-use and flexibility involved with my "purchases" from the DDOU item store. Please note that all of the numbers and examples I use in my article are still subject to change, but this is what I saw during my play period.
But how much does each piece of content cost, you might ask?
Although these prices are by no means final, here are a few things that I happened to see while browsing through the items.
Favored Soul - 595 Turbine Points
Warforged Race – 300 Points
XP Potions - 30-90 Points (depending on the length of time they last)
Exotic Hair Dyes - 180 Points
Weapons and Armor - 20-80 Points
Siberys Spirit Cake (Rez Cake) – 90 Points
Bell of Opening (Opens Chests) – 20 Points
Moderate Health Potion – 45 Points
Adventure Packs - Varies
By far, the most expensive items in the entire store (that I saw) were the larger adventure packs. While the smaller areas can be purchased with just a few dollars, the biggest adventure areas can cost upwards of ten dollars, especially those areas that have hours and hours of experience for the characters embedded within them. These adventure packs can be anywhere from $3.00 to upwards of ten dollars a piece.
From a player’s standpoint, I can certainly see how simply purchasing a VIP pass could be well worth it in the end. If you’re gaming an hour or more a night, you’ll certainly want to access every piece of content available in the game, and there will be a number of adventure packs that aren’t going to be available to the free-to-play gamer. That said, providing a basic free experience in Stormreach may be all that some players want to tinker with, and when they want to explore more content they can buy it when they feel ready.
And this isn’t all that’s coming into DDO Unlimited, but that’s all the time we have for this particular article. Later in the week, we’ll explore the upgraded combat system, the improved targeting and a small portion of the Plane of Battle. Curious? Make sure you check out Ten Ton Hammer to continue your DDO Unlimited experience!