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Dungeons and Dragons Online

The Daily Grind: Do layoff announcements affect your MMO gameplay?

Fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Business Models, MMO Industry, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Daily Grind

LotRO's Wildermore
Yesterday's Turbine layoff announcement wasn't particularly surprising, given the fact that the firm has tied its MMO fortunes to a couple of third-party IPs and has been giving away access to its games for the past few years.

Regardless of whether or not we believe Warner Bros. "normal strategic alignment" statement, layoffs are layoffs and they reflect negatively on an ongoing game service to some extent. What that extent is varies from player to player, of course, and that's where today's Daily Grind comes in. Do MMO studio layoff announcements cause you to rethink the amount of time or money you spend on a given game, or is it just business as usual?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

Turbine suffers another round of layoffs

Asheron's Call, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO Industry, News Items, Miscellaneous, Infinite Crisis

Turbine
Gamasutra and Twitter are reporting that an unspecified number of Turbine employees have been fired today in a new round of layoffs.

A Warner Bros. representative responded with an official statement: "As part of our normal business process, we're routinely looking at the strategic alignment of our company. Unfortunately, in order for us to invest in growth areas at Turbine, we have to eliminate some positions. These are always tough decisions, which we don't approach lightly, but it's crucial that Turbine is structured in a way that reflects the current and coming marketplace."

Massively has reached out to Turbine for additional comments.

Dungeons and Dragons Online allies with Ed Greenwood to revive Haunted Halls of Eveningstar

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

DDO
Along with the names Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, Ed Greenwood is a keystone figure in the Dungeons & Dragons franchise. It was from his mind that the Forgotten Realms and Elminster sprang, and it's to his mind that Turbine has turned to make DDO's next update something truly memorable. So to celebrate D&D's 40th anniversary, Turbine and Greenwood have collaborated to bring the players an online version of the classic Haunted Halls of Eveningstar module.

Even if you've played Haunted Halls as a pen-and-paper adventurer, you'll be in for a new treat this time around. Turbine's created two versions of the dungeon, one that mimics the original module and an extended version that uses Greenwood's unpublished notes. Plus, for the first time in DDO, Greenwood himself will provide the narration and optional commentary as the module's DM.

We sat down with Turbine to take a look at how Update 21: The Legendary Halls is shaping up and what players will be in for when the past of pen-and-paper meets the present of online gaming.

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Dungeons and Dragons Online announces 2014 player council

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

DDO
Dungeons and Dragons Online now shares one more thing in common with LotRO: its very own player council. Today, Turbine announced that the 2014 player council has been established with 30 hand-picked members.

The player council members are listed by forum handles and will serve the studio and the community by providing feedback and testing for DDO throughout the year. According to Turbine, the council is representative of "a wide diversity of players and playstyles" and is under an NDA while serving.

DDO also posted a FAQ about the player council and its NDA for those with more questions.

Turbine announces DDO Player Council

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

Dungeons and Dragons Online
Want to make your mark on Dungeons and Dragons Online? Then you'd best apply for the newly announced DDO Players Council. Like its counterpart in Turbine's Lord of the Rings Online, and like EVE Online's Council of Stellar Management precursor, the Council "is a group of players selected to provide targeted feedback and valuable suggestions to the DDO Team."

Applications are due by January 20th, and Tubine hopes to launch the Council during the week of January 27th.

[Thanks Ehra!]

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!]

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