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Dungeons and Dragons Online

MMO Mechanics: Lowering the barriers to entry

Dungeons and Dragons Online, EverQuest II, Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Endgame, Opinion, RuneScape, Guild Wars 2, Free-to-Play, Star Wars: The Old Republic, RIFT, Subscription, MMORPG, MMO Mechanics

MMO Mechanics title image
In the increasingly competitive MMO genre, games have to do all they can to keep you as a customer. MMOs have traditionally been quite difficult games to really get into since they typically require a considerable time and money investment and we tend to play them for stretches of several months to years at a time. The gameplay in MMOs is inherently social by nature, forcing you to relate to others, and there are some even more fundamental barriers that get in the way of new players signing up. I'm sure we've all enthused and rambled to our friends in the hope that they might check out our most recent gaming crush, only to see a repulsed look on their faces when they realise it's an MMO.

The classic subscription model is a substantial paywall for the average gamer, and this is what has traditionally kept MMOs niche. The early game can be daunting to those who aren't familiar with the genre, and developers pour a lot of effort into easing newcomers into that gameplay. In this week's MMO Mechanics, I'm going to look at how some MMOs manage to break down these barriers through the use of clever mechanics in order to open up MMO gaming to more people than ever before.

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Dungeons & Dragons Online looks back at 2013 and forward to 2014

Fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Patches, News Items, Free-to-Play

This dragon could not be happier about the situation.
December isn't just a month for frenzied consumerism; it's almost the end of the year and time to start reflecting on what went well, what went badly, and what needs to change. So it's appropriate that the latest producer's letter for Dungeons & Dragons Online focuses on precisely that, looking back at 2013 and counting up the game's big hits and misses. The team feels that Epic Reincarnation and the Storm Horn Mountains were big wins, while the bug-plagued Mabar Festival was definitely a nadir.

But there's no point in looking back if you don't look forward, and the letter does that as well. Four major content updates are planned for next year, featuring a boost of the level cap to 30, two new raids in the dwarven ruins of Thunderholme, a new set of guild airship models, and more beyond that. Take a look at the letter for an exact schedule and more discussion about the year's highs and lows.

Dungeons & Dragons Online launches Game Update 20

Fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Game Mechanics, Patches, News Items, Free-to-Play

Dungeons & Dragons Online launches Game Update 20
The latest update for Dungeons & Dragons Online is out now, and it features a whole lot of new options for reincarnation. More than you might expect. If you feel you haven't incarnated nearly enough, this update promises to fix that. Sure, there's True Reincarnation, but now you have both Heroic True Reincarnation and Iconic True Reincarnation along with Epic Reincarnation and... you get the idea. There's a lot of new ways to go back to the beginning and start a life over, that's the point.

These changes coincide with alterations to the amount of experience needed to level characters on their second lives, making it easier to hit 20 after reincarnation. There are also new quests and alterations to the quest experience rewards, changed so that longer quests are no longer less proportionally rewarding than shorter ones. Plus there are plenty of changes to Enhancements, a new Enhancement tree for Sorcerers and Wizards... you'd probably better just read through the patch notes. There's a lot going on. Too much? You can take a look at our preview of the update to help guide you.

One Shots: A flock of Beholders

Screenshots, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Culture, One Shots, Star Wars: The Old Republic, RIFT, Final Fantasy XIV, Miscellaneous

One Shots A flock of Beholders
Did anyone else watch that absolutely horrid Dungeons & Dragons movie from 2000 starring one of the more annoying Wayans? Just about the only redeeming part of that film was seeing a brief glimpse of a Beholder. I mean, there are few things more D&Dish than Beholders, unless you're going to pull a gelatinous cube out on me.

Reader Don sent in today's featured screenshot that has not just one Beholder but a flock of them. "Here is a shot of me in the Delirium drinking contest on my new DDO Shadar-kai," he writes, "featuring the one and only Pumpkin Beholder from Xoriat."

Pumpkin Beholder: Next Halloween, he comes for you! We've got this and plenty of other great eyecandy for you as you gorge on the leftovers from Halloween, so check 'em out in this week's One Shots.

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DDO Update 20: The past lives of robots and vampires

Fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Patches, Previews, Free-to-Play

DDO Update 20 does vampires and robots in equal measure
With two Forgotten Realms-themed expansions under its belt, Dungeons and Dragons Online might look like a game that's focused on this popular setting while sweeping its "other" world of Eberron under the rug. However, Update 20 shows that Turbine has love for both worlds and the playerbase spread across them.

DDO's Update 20 has three important features on the docket: an Eberron dungeon, a Forgotten Realms dungeon, and changes to the reincarnation system and enhancement tree. This looks to be a good update for the thrifty subset, as all of its content is coming to the community free of charge.

This update's coming next Tuesday, November 12th, so forge ahead and prepare yourself for the adventures to come.

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Turbine addresses DDO True Heart controversy

Fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Culture, Patches, Free-to-Play

Turbine addresses DDO True Heart controversy
As the community protest over Dungeons & Dragons Online's True Heart controversy pushes past its third day, Turbine responded with a forum post regarding the key issue. The studio said that due to testing and feedback, it will be reducing the cost of the True Hearts of Wood planned for Issue 20 that are at the core of the sit-in protest.

"The prices on Lamannia are not final," Senior Producer Erik Boyer wrote. "Inspired by the Lamannia feedback, the Heroic Heart of Wood will be greatly reduced from the price displayed in the bartershop today. We'll be looking at your additional feedback and how players play through sagas, and adjust the costs appropriately. We expect the average player to, upon reaching the minimum level requirement, spend additional hours to obtain a Heart of Wood –- but never hundreds of hours.

Boyer also said that the Twelve barter NPC will continue to sell Hearts of Wood in Issue 20. Players who were upset at the original changes to the acquisition of the item have been staging an "Occupy Stormreach" protest on one of the city's bridges.

[Thanks to Robert for the tip!]

Dungeons and Dragons Online players protest True Heart changes

Fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Events (In-Game), News Items, PvE, Free-to-Play, MMORPG

Dungeons and Dragons Online players protest True Heart changes
A number of Dungeons and Dragons Online players are currently in the midst of an in-game sit-in spurred by Turbine's plan to remove the primary method for acquiring True Hearts of Wood, a necessary item for the game's True Reincarnation skill. The hearts, available via trade-ins of Tokens of the Twelve earned by dungeon running and other tasks, will require several times more tokens from epic-level sagas after DDO Update 20 goes live. In addition to the increase, the tokens are now character-bound, instead of account-bound, requiring even more farming.

The change has stirred unrest in the Dungeons and Dragons Online community, resulting in high-profile, multi-page forum threads along with the in-game sit-in that has now lasted for over 24 hours. The sit-in is currently focused on the Wayfinder server; dozens of players now occupy the city of Stormreach under the guild tag "Update Twenty Killed Me."

According to the DDO forum's dev tracker, no Turbine employee has offered a response to any of the protest threads.

[Thanks to Robert for the tip!]
[ Editor: Changed wording to clarify token issue.]

DDO plans changes to reincarnation system

Fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Game Mechanics, Patches, Previews, Free-to-Play, Dev Diaries

DDO plans changes to reincarnation system
Reincarnation, Dungeons and Dragons Online's "do over" system, is slated for a revamp with Update 20. When the update lands, there will be four types of reincarnation available to players: heroic true reincarnation, iconic true reincarnation, epic reincarnation, and lesser reincarnation. At the same time, greater reincarnation will be phased out of the game.

These four types of reincarnation reset your levels (either back a few or all the way to level 1) while giving you bonuses like past life feats and more build points for your next run. Epic reincarnation merely resets your epic levels to 20, while iconic reincarnation applies only to the new iconic characters.

There's a great amount of information about this complex system available on the forums, including a look at how different forms of reincarnation will work depending on your class.

[Thanks to Scott for the tip!]

Perfect Ten: MMO industry moves I didn't see coming

Asheron's Call, City of Heroes, Dungeons and Dragons Online, EverQuest, MMO Industry, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Vanguard, Final Fantasy XIV, Perfect Ten, Miscellaneous, WildStar, Defiance, The Elder Scrolls Online

Perfect Ten MMO industry moves I didn't see coming
Despite -- or more accurately, because of -- my love for video games, I would never want to work in the games industry as a developer or what have you. I think it's an industry that doesn't have a good track record of job security, sane hours, or products that you could feasibly spend years working on that might not make it to ship. But I love writing about the industry. I love the news. That's why I adore being at Massively.

I also love the news because MMOs and studios constantly surprise me. Hey, maybe you're an amazing clairvoyant person who can not only predict but accurately foresee all of the jukes and twists that the industry makes. I am not. When mental superpowers were being handed out, I got "setting people on fire with a mere thought" instead of what appears to be the widespread "know it all" ability. I don't regret it. I mean, you probably already knew that I was going to post a picture of Daniel-san and Mr. Miyagi being attacked by bees on the front page of Massively.

But I think that the surprises are part of the fun. No matter what we've seen in the past and no matter how knowledgeable any of us is about MMOs, the strange developments keep on coming. So this week I want to list 10 stories that I really didn't see coming at all.

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LotRO and DDO offline [Update]

Fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play

Lord of the Rings Online launcher - Installing pre-reqs
If you've been frustrated by attempts to log into Lord of the Rings Online or Dungeons and Dragons Online this morning, you're not alone. Turbine is experiencing some sort of technical issue that began on Sunday and continues to prevent customers from connecting to the live service for both free-to-play fantasy MMOs.

The LotRO Twitter account mentions that Turbine is working with "our vendors to resolve the issue," but it gives no indication as to the nature of the problem nor an ETA for any resumption of services. We've contacted Turbine seeking comment and will update this post if any is forthcoming.

[Update: All Turbine servers are now back online!]

[Thanks to everyone who tipped us!]

The Game Archaeologist: Classic MMOs in August

Anarchy Online, Asheron's Call, Dungeons and Dragons Online, EverQuest, Lineage 2, PlanetSide, The Matrix Online, News Items, Opinion, Ultima Online, Vanguard, The Game Archaeologist, Miscellaneous

The Game Archaeologist Classic MMOs in August
How few players do you need to have before operating an MMO becomes ridiculously unprofitable and in need of closing? In the case of The Matrix Online, we found out that the magic number was 500. I wouldn't have even guessed that so few people were in that game when its shutdown was announced, especially considering the vocal anguish that arose when SOE lowered the boom.

I guess it goes to show that we're often quite clueless what goes on behind the curtain. There's always this balance between the number-crunchers (who need players and money to justify continued operations) and the passionate creators (who are often developers putting in the effort because they simply love the game and its community). If nothing else, it reinforced my belief that SOE does bend over backwards to keep these games running as long as possible, much longer than some other studios would in a similar situation.

So what other news regarding classic MMOs happened this past month? It's time for another one of my patented roundups, complete with archaeological commentary!

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Shadowfell Conspiracy now live in Dungeons and Dragons Online

Fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Expansions, Launches, New Titles, News Items, PvE, Free-to-Play, MMORPG

Dungeons and Dragons Online: Shadowfell Conspiracy
The next major content expansion for Turbine's Dungeons and Dragons Online, known around these parts as Shadowfell Conspiracy, is officially live. Dragon-slayers across the globe can now cruise the prison city of Wheloon and venture into the mountainous passes of Stormhorms, killing new monsters, collecting new loot, and earning new levels along the way.

Shadowfell Conspiracy brings a host of features to Dungeons and Dragons Online including new iconic heroes, the now-standard geographical expansion, and a level cap raise to 28. Two versions of the expansion are available: one collector's edition ($49.99) that includes three character slots and three iconic heroes and a standard edition ($29.99) including one character slot and one iconic hero. Both include varying quantities of Turbine Points and skill tomes.

If you're curious to see Shadowfell Conspiracy in action, be sure to check out our in-depth look from July.

[Source: Turbine press release]

Mountain hiking in DDO: Shadowfell Conspiracy's Stormhorns

Fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Expansions, Lore, Previews, Free-to-Play

Mountain hiking in DDO Shadowfell Conspiracy's Stormhorns
Dungeons and Dragons Online: Shadowfell Conspiracy, the game's second expansion, isn't just mucking about in a trashed prison city with your new premium classes. Turbine is taking us beyond Forgotten Realm's civilization to the Stormhorns, a mountain region that comprises DDO's first mountain wilderness area.

For our third tour through Shadowfell Conspiracy's new content, we put on our hiking boots and headed out for some fresh mountain air. Will this region bring out the beauty of Faerûn or show the creaky underpinnings of this aging title? And why are we going out there to begin with?

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Creating the DDO: Shadowfell Conspiracy character of your dreams

Betas, Fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Classes, Expansions, Previews, Free-to-Play

Creating the DDO Shadowfell Conspiracy character of your dreams
Last week, we sat down with Turbine to look at Dungeons and Dragons Online: Shadowfell Conspiracy's new adventure hub of Wheloon. But running through these special missions and dungeons are only part of the expansion, as your character's growth and build are always at the core of DDO. So for our second sit-down session covering the upcoming expansion, Turbine chose to focus on the three new iconic classes coming to the game and the overhaul to the enhancement system that should make building the character of your dreams a lot easier.

Prior to adding new enhancements, reincarnations, or epic destinies, DDO had only a meager 250,000,000,000,000 possible builds to choose from. No, we didn't fall asleep pressing the "0" key. But now the choices are even greater, which is why it's of increasing importance that players understand what their characters are capable of doing and how to best build a functional toon. After all, even Turbine admits that many of the 250 trillion builds "are not really great to play with."

So what will be fun to play? And why should players be interested in rolling one of the new iconic classes instead of sticking with their tried-and-true Bards?

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Touring DDO: Shadowfell Conspiracy's prison city

Betas, Fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Expansions, Previews, Free-to-Play

DDO Shadowfell Conspiracy takes to the streets of Wheloon
Take a formerly prosperous town, wall it up, and turn it into the region's largest prison. Then add a handful of adventurers who are sent in to rescue a kidnapped official while kicking all kinds of butt. If Dungeons and Dragon Online's Wheloon sounds a little like the 1981 movie Escape from New York, well, that's intentional.

Turbine's team wasn't afraid to put in a sly reference to John Carpenter's seminal prison film when the devs were constructing this new adventure area for DDO's Shadowfell Conspiracy expansion. The devs also weren't afraid to push the boundaries of what's been done and seen in the game up until now.

We took a tour of Wheloon's highlights and managed to escape that wretched place with a first-hand look at the sinister goings-on of this unusual penitentiary. It's all the purple you can stand and then some when you head over the wall into this town!

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