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team at Turbine is no stranger to the concept of
taking chances and doing things their own way. While free to play games
been around for a while, it was the Dungeons & Dragons Online
team that
took the plunge and saved a dying game by being the first to swap a
MMORPG title from a subscription-based model to a free to play model.
At the
time, it was a shock to everyone across the industry. Such a thing had
been done. A lot of industry veterans thought the team was crazy for
doing it,
but faced with the reality that the game was going to have to be shut
down, the
team took a chance – a chance that paid off in spades.

they’re looking to do it again. On Monday of this
week, Dungeons & Dragons Online released a new expansion
entitled, href="">Shadowfell
Conspiracy. The
expansion is packed with new features, new adventures, and more. While
through the release notes, there was one section (and a major selling
point of
the expansion) that stuck out to me – a new concept called
Iconic Heroes.

are four heroes available to players depending on
which expansion edition they purchase (and when). Those that
pre-ordered any
edition will receive the Bladeforged Iconic Hero. Those that purchase
collector’s edition will receive the Shadar-Kai Assassin
Iconic Hero, the Sun
Elf Morninglord Iconic Hero, and the Purple Knight Iconic Hero. Those
order the standard edition (without pre-ordering) will only receive the
Knight Iconic Hero.

what are they? Iconic Heroes are playable characters
that start the game at level 15. They have pre-determined skills and
but you can choose to ignore them and spec them out however you wish
(only the
first level has to be in the pre-determined class). If you decide not
to follow
the path laid out for you, you can essentially have a free level 14
of whatever class you desire.



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of the reasons Dungeons & Dragons Online
initially went free to play was because of a lack of players. This is
more than
just a statement about subscription numbers. There were pieces of
group content to progress past certain points. If you
couldn’t find a group,
you were forced to replay an inordinate number of dungeons to get high
in level to get through the group content by yourself. This was a real
for the game. Once players started leaving, the problem just continued
compound itself like a self-fulfilling Doomsday prophecy.


the game went free to play, all of a sudden there
was a flood of new players and there was rarely a time when you
couldn’t find
others to group up with to get past the content you were unable to solo
through. This is all ignoring the added benefit of the social aspects
as well.
More players make for a lively world that feels much more dynamic than
a game
filled to the brim with multiple ghost towns.


all this to do with the price of live spiders in a
mage bazaar? Everything. When I heard about players being able to start
with characters that are level 15 now, a couple of questions popped
into my
head. The first of which relates directly to the old issue of not
having enough
players to complete content with. I know for myself that once my
character hit
level 8 or so, I stopped playing. I would either start a new character
or leave
the game for a while and repeat the cycle. Keep in mind that each level
really 5, so level 8 would be the equivalent to level 36-40 in a
regular MMORPG
depending on how far along to level 9 you were so it’s not
like I was quitting
after playing for an hour.


as I mentioned, the first thing I wondered (still
wonder?) is whether or not there are enough players in the level 15
range to
complete content with. If not, this is an interesting idea for a
solution. Not
only does the company make a decent amount of money by selling an
expansion to
players, but it gives old players an incentive to come back and start
with a
mid-level character while at the same time increasing the number of
players in the game.



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this very act of being able to start the game at
level 15 that has me concerned though. When EverQuest was in its
heyday, there
was an issue with players selling accounts. That’s not really
anything new in
today’s world, but since the game was so complicated at the
time, you would
periodically run into players that had bought a high level character
but had
absolutely zero idea how to play it. One particular story of a
account was so famous that the EverQuest development team added
“Moving Burning
Woods…” as a line in the rotating stream of
humorous messages you read while
waiting for screens to load.


it’s funny to hear about, when you’re talking about
a game that depends on people playing together, it was a very serious
With so much content needing (or at the very least, being far more
with) a group, I personally hope this doesn’t bring with it a
string of players
that get others in their group repeatedly killed because
they’re unaware of how
to play a character they have little to no previous experience with.


be fair, we all had concerns when Turbine changed the
game’s subscription models and were proven wrong. Perhaps I
will be again. In
this case, I genuinely hope my concerns are completely unfounded. Time
tell. In the meantime, what do you think about the Iconic Heroes being
added to
the game?


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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016