We sat down with Fernando Paiz to discuss the future of Dungeons & Dragons Online in 2012!
2011 is over, and we’re going to party like it’s the end of the world in 2012. Which it might be, if the Mayans are right! But whatever happens, Turbine has made sure that 2012 will be a huge year for Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO). I had the chance to chat with Executive Producer Fernando Paiz, who gave us a brief overview of the state of the game in 2011, and what to expect in this new year. Big news is on the horizon, including a new class, an increase in the level cap, and the first premium expansion, which will bring players out of Eberron and into the Forgotten Realms for the first time. ZAM has the scoop: read on for more!
<2011 marked the second year of Dungeons & Dragons Online in a free-to-play (F2P) format, and its fifth anniversary overall. Since September 2009, Turbine has released 12 updates to the game; recently unveiling the challenge quest system, which involved voice acted mini-games. In the latest update, 21 new challenge variants across four different maps were released; and leaderboards were added to post high scores on the new mini-games. Over the past year, the game has taken on a more steampunk feel as it followed House Cannith, which industrialized magic. 2011 also saw the dawn of a new crafting system and a brand new class, the Artificer; DDO’s first pet summoning class. And perhaps most importantly in a meta-gaming aspect, the French and German versions of the game were brought to the F2P format and integrated with the North American versions. This meant that all updates of all versions of the game would be released simultaneously, rather than the typical delay for the European users.
The past year has set forth an ambitious campaign for 2012. Fernando first told us about update 13, which will be a free adventure pack. For those not used to the terms of DDO, content updates are usually purchased from the game’s store, but minor content is provided for free. In this case, the update sets the stage for even bigger news: come this summer, DDO will release the first ever premium expansion for their game. We’ll get to the “Menace of the Underdark” in a moment, but update 13 has a bunch of information first!
The next content update is for players around level 16. As said, it will be available to all players as an introduction to the brand new storyline for the expansion. “The update 13 storyline will introduce a new major villain, and a major faction. It will introduce Lolth, the Spider Queen. She’s a demi-god in the world of Eberron, she’s a deity in the Forgotten Realms setting. She’s been quite famous in the D&D canon for some time,” Fernando informed us. “The players will get the first taste of the storyline of Lolth and her followers with update 13.” The storyline progression won’t be the only feature of update 13; Fernando was quick to speak about the new creature companions to be introduced to the game. “They are cosmetic pets, who will follow you around the game. Initially there will only be a few of these released, but you’ll be able to earn some of these in the game or buy them in the store, and to customize them a little bit. They don’t impact gameplay; they’re deliberately something just for players to have fun with and show off to each other.” Over time, players will accumulate them in their stables and will be able to summon them at will; and they’ll be able to perform tricks and there will be gear to put on the pets as well.
Lolth, for those who are not long-time D&D players, sets the stage for this summer’s expansion. “Set up by update 13, we’re going to be facing our first ever premium expansion, ‘Menace of the Underdark.’ Six years into the game it will be our first expansion; both our regular players and VIPs will have to purchase it,” Fernando told us. “There’re a lot of big announcements that come with this expansion. First, the Underdark. For those who know our lore, this is not a place in Eberron. For the first time, we are leaving the Eberron campaign setting and going to the Forgotten Realms campaign settings. We love Eberron, we had fun with Eberron… but next year, we get to go where the fans have been asking us to go since we announced the game, which is the Forgotten Realms, which is where a lot of the really iconic locations and stories have taken place.”
The itsy-bitsy Spider Goddess went to the Forgotten Realms...
Turbine will be working closely with Wizards of the Coast to make sure their expansion follows the lore of the Forgotten Realms; but that doesn’t mean the game world and the lore world will necessarily overlap 100%. According to Fernando, “DDO’s version of the D&D universe doesn’t match Wizards of the Coasts’ perfectly… we treat it as a separate dimension. But we’ve been working with them around the plots that they’re going to be rolling out next year, and we’ve got our own spin on those stories that will end up connecting to Eberron, and our champions in Eberron.”
One of the big changes that DDO will be bringing about in the expansion is the Druid class. “The druid is one of the classic D&D classes, one of the ‘core classes’ of the game. Players have been asking for it for a very long time. One of the unique features is that it can shapeshift into different forms. They are also a pet class; they have a creature companion (not like the non-combat pets that will be released) that fights with them and supports them in battle.” Apparently the Artificer was a pre-cursor, technology-wise, to pave the way for the druid class. Druids will become available from level 1, so anyone with the premium expansion should be able to play one. No word yet on what the shapes are or what the animal companions will be… however, Fernando mentioned that the level cap will increase from level 20 to level 25. In the 3.5 rule set, the natural level cap was level 20, but the next five are called “epic levels,” and are promised to be much longer than the levels found in standard MMOs!
So we’ve got a new class, a level increase, and a new storyline. Update 13 will be available to everyone for free in the coming month, and come this summer the first premium expansion will be purchasable by all the players, bringing them out of Eberron and into the Forgotten Realms. To cap off all the fun, February will bring about the anniversary of DDO, and gifts and fun for all the current players. After the success of the LOTRO expansion in 2011, Turbine feels that a buyable expansion will work just fine for a F2P game model. Will the gamble pay off? We’ll find out this summer as Dungeons & Dragons Online unveils its newest product… and rest assured that ZAM will be there to tell you about every bit of it!\
Paul "LockeColeMA" Cleveland, Staff Writer.