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Dungeons and Dragons Online Impressions 292

Tabletop roleplaying has been a fixture in my life since I was ten. You can probably imagine my enthusiasm when I heard of the joint venture between Asheron's Call developer Turbine and D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast. The goal: A Massively Multiplayer game set in a D&D campaign. Keith Baker's Eberron was tapped for the gameworld's flavour, with the d20 ruleset providing the skeleton on which to create the title's mechanics. The result is Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO), which has been in the works for about two years now. DDO is faithful in ways I wouldn't have thought possible, but still manages to raise conflicting opinions for me. DDO has real-time traps and combat, beautiful graphics, and still fails to interest me on any level of my gamer soul. Read on for my impressions of a most perplexing MMOG.
  • Title: Dungeons and Dragons Online
  • Developer: Turbine Entertainment
  • Publisher: Atari
  • System:PC
When I say impressions, I feel that I should emphasize my level of interaction with the game. I've only been playing the game for about a month total time now, which is hardly enough to take in the length and breadth of a game the size of DDO. When I reviewed World of Warcraft in 2004, I'd been playing the game for over six months. Here I just have my ten days of beta try-out and the time since the retail headstart began. As an MMOG, DDO will be changing and adapting as players play and devs develop. We'll do our best to keep you up to date on the game as it changes, and keep you informed if the state of the game becomes drastically different. That said, I do feel I have a good enough grasp of the game to offer a considered opinion on the game as it exists at launch.

One aspect of the title I know I have a firm grasp on is the setting. Eberron was developed by Keith Baker for a contest held by Wizards of the Coast a few years ago. Since then the pulp action setting for the D&D system has become the company's premier IP. Novels, sourcebooks, comics, and miniatures are all being created with the Eberron world in mind, and Dungeons and Dragons Online is the second work of electronic entertainment to use the setting. You may recall Dragonshard, the D&D RTS title. That too is based in Eberron, but with an (understandably) less immersive look at the setting. DDO delves deep into the backstory of the gameworld. Set in the settlement of Stormreach on the continent of Xen'drik, the game allows you to explore some of the elements that make Eberron unique. The powerful merchant and political factions known as Dragonmarked Houses make an appearance in the game, as benefactors and opponents. Dragons are rare, powerful, and mysterious. While I would have liked to get more of the backstory from the setting's main continent of Khorvaire, there is a definite sense of place in DDO. It's thin, but it's there.

Creating a character is the first of many DDO aspects that reinforce a D&D feel. Attributes are created using the 'point buy' system, allowing a player to build a character to fit a class without relying on random die rolls. If you're uninterested in tweaking a character's skills and attributes, you can simply select a class/race combo and accept the pre-built character the game will provide you. Prebuilt characters all have fairly sane choices made as regards attributes and skills, and if you're not interested in learning the particulars of D&D character creation it's a safe choice to make. All of the D&D iconic classes are available (even poncy bards), along with the typical player races. The Warforged are the stand-out race for the game, living constructs that resemble animated statues. In the game's lore, Warforged were construct troops created for a titanic century-long war. With the war at an end Warforged are emancipated creatures and can fill any role the fleshy races do. While I find them intriguing plot elements, I've heard a lot of player commentary about their inhumanity. It's a fact that the race most often played in a MMOG is 'human', and the unliving nature of the Warforged may make them an unpopular race. Just the same, their inclusion is a powerful reminder of the setting's background. The classes available are typical to what you'd find in most MMOGs; With good reason, as most MMOGs stole their class concepts from D&D in the first place. One class element that might surprise some folks who haven't done table-top gaming before is the role of the cleric. D&D clerics are almost as powerful front-line fighters as your fighter or paladin. They wear heavy armor, kick ass, and take names in the pursuit of their god's goals. Rogues are also fundamentally more useful than in many typical MMOGs. There are plenty of traps in D&D dungeons, and rogues are the only ones who can disable them. Making your character 'feels' very D&D, and sets the stage for your integration into the Eberron setting.

Once you're in the game, you'll find that the D&D setting is the least of the elements setting DDO apart from other MMOGs. Combat is a very different animal than almost any other title in the genre. In a word, DDO combat is realtime. Instead of hitting fight and using abilities as they become available, or simply watching as your avatar filets a bunny, DDO is a click-fest worthy of either Diablo game. Each click is a swing of the sword, and whether you 'hit' or not is determined by your stats. In the corner of the screen you're shown your to-hit roll, which is a random number between 1 and 20 modified by your Strength score. To score a hit, you have to get higher than your opponent's AC, and on a natural 20 you do more damage (a critical hit). In other words, you're going to do a lot of missing. This gets frustrating very very quickly. In fact, it's gets just boring after a while. Tabletop D&D combat is fun because it's abstract, with the blows landing on the screen in your mind. Actually having to sit there and watch the swords swing over and over is more than a little tedious. D&D monsters aren't like the villains of Diablo; They jump around, move out of range, and generally do their best not to get killed. That means that in addition to repeatedly clicking on your opponent you're going to be trying to follow their movements. It's all too dang chaotic to be truly fun.

Besides just poking the baddies, there is actually a good deal of depth to DDO combat. All characters have the option of using some tactics in their fighting. Skills actually play a large part in combat if used correctly. Diplomacy attempts to throw off aggro, making a monster attack someone else. Intimidate is the opposite, encouraging foes to attack your character. Rogues can use the Hide and Move Silently skills to avoid notice, and bypass monsters if need be. If they don't, they can strike from hiding and possible score a sneak attack for massive damage. Rogues can even do sneak attacks in combat by using the Bluff skill to throw an opponent off balance. Magic is more your typical MMOG fare. Wizards, Clerics, etc, have mana points which are used up by spellcasting. Even with that as the base mechanic, the system is very D&D. Spellcasting classes have only a few spell slots, and can only swap out what they have online when resting. Further, arcane spellcasters only know a subset of their available spells and must find or purchase additional spells before they can use them. These elements are all laudable additions to the game, but in reality many combats feel more like a group of individuals doing their own thing than a party effort. Because of the frenetic nature of real-time clicky combat fights are fast and hard to manage. A group comfortable with each other, with voice chat in use, will have a good deal of success. Pick-up groups, though, are at even more of a disadvantage than in most games simply because things happen so fast.

That's what you do in combat. What you're actually *doing* when you play DDO is almost entirely dungeon-crawling. You receive quests from the people of Stormreach, all of whom need help with this or that. Like City of Heroes/Villains, your missions are instanced, meaning that you and your party get to play around with your own copy of the dank basement/decaying sewer/giant ruin that you have to explore. With the missions instanced, DDO dungeons are allowed to do some really interesting stuff. Traps, for example, are deadly challenges that affect the world in real-time. More than just kicking open a chest and being set on fire, razor-sharp blades swing from the ceiling. Splashes of acid fly from spigots in the walls. If you don't have a rogue with you, some traps can be avoided by using your platforming skills to time the gap in a trap's movement. If you do have a rogue handy, the trap mechanisms can be searched out and disabled. The traps are a very cool addition to the genre, but the quests are unfortunately laughable. The thin layer of Eberron that I mentioned above is mostly related through quest text, and what is offered through NPC interaction is cookie cutter and boring. Quests usually have a voice-over, from an intangible Dungeon Master, to spice up your understanding of the situation and evoke the table-top setting. In my opinion, the voice-over doesn't add much. In truth, the storytelling that Everquest 2 and World of Warcraft manage through questing makes the story attempts of DDO look like a student project MOO in comparison.

Besides traps, dungeons are populated with all manner of gross and icky critters. While you start off fighting skeletons, slimes, and kobolds, you eventually graduate to some of the archetypal monsters of the Dungeons and Dragons product line. They're smart, too, with even the dim-witted kobolds doing their best to dance outside the range of your swordarm. You get real satisfaction from slaying enemies in DDO, both because they're a real challenge and because you can stop clicking for a little while. What you don't get is XP. Experience points are only handed out at the end of the mission, when quest objectives are completed. While some missions may have a subquest asking you to slay x number of monsters in the dungeon, each individual kill nets you nothing more than a clear hallway. I'm pretty ambivalent about this design decision. On the one hand, I like that they're emphasizing the quest instead of bashing in a kobold's brains. On the other, I don't feel quite the surge of success for whacking the baddie I might get in another game. Additionally, since the quests are so blah the XP I receive for completing them seems ill-gotten somehow. It's a toss-up, but it mostly feels like they made this decision just to be different.

That XP is put towards your next level, as with all MMOGs. There is a difference here, though, in that each level is a very long time coming. You do gain in power on a semi-regular basis, but instead of gaining a level you gain a rank. Each level is broken down into four ranks, waypoints along the road to your next level. Each rank nets you an action point, which can be spent on a character enhancement. Every race/class combo has different enhancements available to it, and all of them increase specific aspects of your character abilities. (+3 to Search, for example.) With every level being a major milestone, it won't come as a surprise that there aren't that many to gain. At the moment DDO only allows you to achieve level 10, rank 4. You can go no higher than that, but there are plans in the works to add level 11-20 content at a future date. For most normal players this will take a while; the much loved experience penalty is enacted if and when you wipe. If you die and other folks are still alive, they can take you to a resurrection shrine in the dungeon to revive you. Rest shrines are usually nearby these areas, allowing characters to regain hit points and mana mid-dungeon. Besides these rest shrines, the only way to heal HP in-dungeon is with a potion or clerical spell. I hate hate hate almost everything about these design decisions. In reverse order: Long downtimes suck. HP and MP not regenning sucks. It is not fun to sit in an inn after a mission is over watching my hp bar creep upwards. You can buy food and drink to improve this rate of regen, but it's nothing like the regeneration you'd see in other modern MMOGs. Experience penalties are evil. Taking away accomplishment from a player is the worst thing you can possibly do. It's not as harsh an experience as you'll get in FFXI, but it's still frustrating to have XP taken away because of something you may not have even had control over. Finally, their decision to ship with only ten levels is a very bad one. I'll expand on why that is below.

You'll note I've usually said 'you' when talking about gameplay, but that's misleading. I should be saying 'you and your party', because in order to play DDO you'll have to be grouped. I'll say that again so you can be clear on this: It is not possible to play Dungeons and Dragons Online solo. The intention, of course, is to evoke the flavour of a table-top session. The publisher has even included voice chat as a built-in feature to the game client to facilitate team communication. The result is a title that you cannot play alone. Some classes, like spellcasters and rogues, will have trouble soloing even the introductory quest when you first get off the boat. Clerics are probably the best soloing class, as they can heal themselves most effectively, but after the first few 'figure out the game' dungeons they're outmatched by the strength of most monsters. I can't really fault them for deciding to go this route, but it's a very harsh line. Even Vanguard, the upcoming hardcore MMO being designed very specifically with grouping in mind, is said to have something like 15% of its content geared for solo players. There isn't even that much for the individual in DDO.

The one thing I can say without prevarication is that Dungeons and Dragons Online looks good. The streets of Stormreach are beautifully laid out, with a style of architecture that really gets across the character of Eberron. A floating inn out over the water is just the tip of the iceberg; DDO has a truly unique look. Character and monster animations are well done, and the soft lighting that pervades the game gives an otherworldly charm to the title. The visual look does more than anything else to establish the character of the dungeons and city streets you'll be exploring. The sound situation has likewise gotten a good deal of attention, but the results there seem merely adequate. Sound effects are competently accomplished, and the musical track highlights game moments without being offensive. There is 'combat music', though, which I'm already tired of. Combat music is fine in a single-player RPG, but FFXI is the only MMOG in which I find that acceptable.

Another website is quoted in a DDO television commercial as offering "A Genuine Online D&D Experience". Whoever it was that came up with that piece of pabulum has never actually played Dungeons and Dragons. Table-top D&D is about storytelling, camaraderie, and having fun with your friends. Somehow in the brave new electronic frontier, these qualities are translated into meaningless grind quests, chaotic click-fest combat, and swearing over voicechat. I'm enormously frustrated by DDO because there is just so much new and interesting going on here. The skill use and traps are real firsts for the genre, providing meaningful player choice in how to navigate a dungeon and how to do combat. These awesome mechanics are sandwiched side by side with other elements that seem more appropriate for launch-day Ultima Online. There are so many contradictions within this game that it's hard to know which is most confusing, but I have a top pick. For those who will like this game, they're going to just eat this thing up. And when I mean eat it up I mean "grind through the game in about a month or two". There were already characters at max level before the game's headstart event had finished out. Whoever did that payed about fifty bucks for ten days or so worth of play. They undoubtedly started a new character, but because of the simple questing structure there's almost no replay value currently in the game. Thankfully not all is doom and gloom. Turbine just announced that they're already planning to add 15 new dungeons and a raid on a dragon's lair in April. That commitment to new content is the going to be the only thing keeping the hardcore around because there is nothing at all available for you once you hit level 10. There is nothing to the endgame yet; It's all still in production.

So, let's review: The game isn't for the hardcore because they'll eat the content too quickly. It's not for the casual gamer because it's impossible to play on your own. Dungeons and Dragons Online is very specifically crafted for folks playing with other people at a non-hardcore pace. And in a way I think that's a good thing. It's good they have a target audience in mind, and if I were planning on adopting DDO as my game of choice that would probably be a good description of me. Just the same, it's a very bold decision to make. Only time will tell for sure, but I have a feeling it's a decision that will come back to haunt them. In the meantime: If you've got a group of regular online gamers you play with, you and your crew should consider giving DDO a try. It's got some interesting new elements that make it stand quite apart from most other Massive games. Don't be surprised if you get bored of it sooner rather than later, but if you and your group are tired of raiding Molten Core for the hundredth time this should keep you out out of Azeroth for a month or two. Hardcore gamers should stick to whatever they're playing now. They'll eat this title for lunch and find themselves frustrated with the lack of endgame content. Casual players should just keep on moving. If you're not willing to commit the time and energy to the constant search for a group, you won't find anything to do here. At the end of the day, DDO is a game with a great deal of promise squandered by some very confusing design decisions. Now go find your DM and give him a hug.
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Dungeons and Dragons Online Impressions

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  • Table Based (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @03:51PM (#14926723)
    I still play every second week, with the same bunch of people (including a female) that I've been gaming with for about 20 years. Not that it might not be a good game on its own, but I think I'd miss seeing the mischievous look on the DM's face just before he pulls something nasty.

    It's also nice having your own mental picture of what's going on, be it accurate or not.
  • by pl1ght ( 836951 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:01PM (#14926803)
    This is the main point IMO that causes this game to fail. Hundreds of people brought it up during beta, and bring it up now, about instanced gaming. The game is fun. But to have to pay monthly for a game with similarities to how Guild Wars is run(with no monthly fee mind you), it is hard to convince myself to get this game. If it was stand alone and didnt have a charge i would probably jump all over it. But this instanced gaming and lack of traveling that is supposed to be "convenient" for gamers ends up making it less of an mmorpg that it already is. If you read the DDO forums you will see this issue brought up time and time again. And the responses are the same flames. But i think its obvious that this is one of the root problems of this title and why it will ultimately be a huge loss for Turbine.
  • No single-player? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:03PM (#14926826) Homepage Journal
    It is not possible to play Dungeons and Dragons Online solo.

    Anyone else out there really disappointed by this?
  • by sheath ( 4100 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:06PM (#14926858) Homepage
    MMOGs don't interest me -- the graphics pretty much ruin in. I've thought about getting together with some other "over the hill" D&D geeks on occasion to try table top gaming again, but there isn't enough time for most people to make it a regular scheduled item.

    So, writing as an "over the hill geek" - my first roleplaying experience was in late 1983, I have a suggestion: put in the effort to find people who want to play!

    I started playing D&D 3rd edition again a few years ago with a few friends. At that point, we were all in grad school. Now, I'm a consultant, and most of the rest are lawyers. The game improves as you age. We haven't been in a dungeon in a year, but we've had fantastic debates over deposing the current ruler of an autocratic city-state ("Who will rule when we leave?" "Do we really have the right?"), the morality of killing the few to save the many (or killing the many to save the even more), and the banter between characters and between characters and NPCs is better than that in most fantasy novels. ('Cause, you know, we're older and more mature than we were when we were in high school.)

    So: go check out your local gaming store. Or the local grad school. Or ask around among friends and say you're running a D&D game. Get people to come for just one day of gaming. Some of them will turn out to be hardcore and play every week. Our current group of 4-6 people meets every Sunday for about 5 hours. (I haven't missed a week since January, in spite of working 60+ hour weeks).

    Some people will drop out, other will try to join, but it's worth the effort to making it work.

    Disclaimer: Children will probably kill the whole thing. But until then... swords high!

  • by arclyte ( 961404 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:21PM (#14926987)
    I don't know if this is exactly in line with your ideas, but I think it's close... [] Some gamers who play paranoia developed a java-based application that allows people to meet virtually for table top games. The app allows for chatting and has all kinds of built in features geared towards the game. It's not table top, and it's not a MUD/MMOG. I think it fills a nice place in the middle... It still requires all the imagination of table top, just not the space (and you don't have to share your junk food and soda with anyone!).
  • by e_slarti ( 731724 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:38PM (#14927140)
    In all honesty, it sounds like he's just running through a list of comparisons between WoW and EQ vs. DDO. (Obviously favoring the EQ-type model).

    I do applaud the makers of DDO for not going the easy route by making a clone of EQ with a D&D label slapped on it. He does have some valid points, but DDO is not EQ or WoW. Stick with those games if that's what you like to play and let this one be decided on its own merits.

  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:44PM (#14927206)

    Sadly, the majority of games developers dont seem to give half a shiznit about platforms other than WindowsXP (and vista soon) .. im not saying they SHOULD care about porting thier game to a serious minority platform (such as mine), im just pointing out that they DONT.

    True, but one of their major competitors and the game this will doubtless be measured against does. Hence, it is perfectly appropriate to point out that they will lose market because of this design decision. Maybe that will be insignificant, but it is one concrete way in which this game is inferior. Personally, I don't enjoy grinding games designed to take up as much time as possible. I'd rather go with a design that gives you as much fun in the smallest amount of time. This is why it is unlikely I would ever buy either WoW or DDO. When games sales methods provide a financial incentive to the developers for wasting your time and those companies have not built an extraordinary level of trust I'll always pass.

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:46PM (#14927237) Journal
    I think implementing stories in this kind of environment would be rather difficult. I think this particular sub-genre of roleplaying is probably always going to amount to dungeon crawling for this precise reason, and while I still enjoy the odd hack-and-slash session, in the quarter century I've table top roleplayed I've matured beyond that to the point where story telling is the very crux of the reason I play, and because of the nature of online playing, I don't see how group playing in this environment could ever effectively give that to me. The only kind of online roleplaying I have done that does give that story telling feel is the form of roleplaying that probably requires it the most; PBEMs. Most rule systems, even really light-weight ones like Fudge, still require at least some dice rolls, and in the end there's not a lot of efficient ways to reproduce that in a PBEM, so the narrative elements become much bigger. PBEMs have their drawbacks, mainly because the cycle for even the fastest game is going to be a day or two, and the one I'm GMing started at a four day cycle but now sits at a seven day one just because, oddly enough, posting PBEM turns seems to require more time and effort than table top.
  • Re:Table Based (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TekGoNos ( 748138 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:46PM (#14927245) Journal
    Heck yeah, I've seen nothing on the computer (yet) that comes even close to a table top setting.

    The main difference is that everything is possible in a table-top setting. While in a computer game everything is limited by what the designer though of in advance.

    Just from my last game session :
    1) We had a brawl between players (i.e. we were not trying to do lethal damage, but only show off to see who's stronger)
    2) During which someone catched my shirt and shot through it (without harming me) just to get my attention
    3) we broke through the bottom of an elevator, because we hadn't the key for the floor
    4) we (magically) convinced a Guard that he was really thirsty and wanted to walk south till he got to a Bar.

    As for computer games :
    1) I dont know of any comp game that allows such brawls, but I might be mistaken. In general, fights in comp games have the only goal to do lethal damage, to kill. While in a table top, I might also fight in order to disable someone, to show off that I'm stronger, to catch someone, hit someone to let out frustrations, etc ...
    Related to that : I've yet to see a game where opponents surrender (side note : depending on the GM, they dont do that in a table top setting neither)
    2) I also dont know if any game allows to use guns for attention getting. It works well in real life (shoot into air, everyone turn your way and pays attention to you), but in the comp games I played, interaction seams to be limited to either fight or (exclusiv) speak. I've never seen implemented something like : fight a bit to show that you could kill the other, than speak and use the result of the fight as an intimidation ("I could have killed you").
    3) This might be possible once PPU's are standard. Currently, we have such stupid things as chests that cannot be opened without a key, even if I swing a maze that can break skulls (and surely chests).
    4) In a computer game a NPC can only do what the designer though off. The only way to break this is by either : developing strong AI, or making a game without NPC, i.e. humans play everything with some intelligence, even weak goblins. (Perhaps pay humans with XP for their main character, or free extentions to their account for such deeds.)

    Bottom line : while I like computer "R"PGs as a genre of their own, comparing them (in their current form) to table top RPGs is ridiculous. Maybe with PPU's and much better AI, but I doubt that this will be soon.

    And some things will never be translated to a computer game :
    Players : "we open the door"
    GM : "Ahh, I've waited for hours to finally get you to this point ... " (evil smirk)
    "and behind the door is ... nothing."
  • by Frazbin ( 919306 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:47PM (#14927252)
    Let's talk about how sissified these new MMOs are compared to the first worthwhile 3d MMO, i.e. EQ. Specifically, let's talk about how these sissified MMOs are less immersive, less social, and less interesting than the grandfathers of the genre (UO,EQ). I'll be addressing EQ in the context of "classic" EQ, i.e. Kunark, Velious, and maybe Luclin.

    We'll start with the death penalty. In EQ, when you die, you've just sacrificed somewhere between 10 minutes and 8 hours of your life. You have run back to your corpse to get back your things, and you have to do it *naked*. Sometimes this can take hours-- especially since the place you pop back up is determined by your "bind point", something that can only be set by casting classes and used in specific places. This, according to modern MMO players, sucks. I beg to differ. This kind of pain creates a real attachment to your character-- and to the people around you. To your character because his losses are yours. Your character loses his life, you lose a non negligible amount of time. To other people, because when you get *really* fucked, you need help from others to get your corpse back. Maybe it's not enjoyable by itself, but wheeling and dealing with a shady Necromancer, trying to get him to summon your corpse to a reasonable location at 3:00 AM is undoubtedly immersive experience.

    Transportation as well, is a big thing that I loved in EQ and hated in most other MMOs. The goal of transportation isn't *really* to get you from point A to point B-- it's to give you an idea of how big the in game world really is. To that end. In EQ, a ship ride from one continent to another could take the better part of an hour (much of the travel space was populated by crazy content, too). In WoW, the trips are woefully abbreviated. Step on a ship and... Whoop! You're there.

    For many people, the hardships of EQ may seem slightly insane-- but consider that in an easy game like WoW, you're getting something for nothing. Accomplishment without a challenge behind it is meaningless, and the feeling of accomplishment in a world populated by your peers is one of the big draws of MMOs. Hardship was *rampant* in EQ-- and you know what? It did kind of suck. It wasn't always enjoyable. But it made feats of daring all the more impressive and thrilling. The lows were lower, yes-- but the highs were much higher. In the end, WoW got my attention for maybe 5 months, as opposed to the 2 years and countless memories EQ gave me. I *know* WoW is more accessable. That's why so many damn people are playing it. But in my opinion, it isn't more *enjoyable*. The illusion of meaningful accomplishment is to central to the way I play MMOs, and WoW has never been able to make my accomplishments feel non-trivial (and please don't tell me about the PvP. I know it's the biggest draw WoW has, and there's some real potential there, but it's a completely different game when viewed from that angle, and I'm talking about PvE content).

    To ward off the Off-Topic police, please note the D&D Online appears to be another of these easy, quick-to-beat, unsatisfying games. Most likely it won't be successful for these reasons.
  • by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:54PM (#14927318)
    "There are no plans at this time to make a Macintosh compatible version."

    Guess that means I'll stick with WoW. kthxbye.

    What if you could run it in Darwine or dual boot your intel mac into Winxp?

    Well then it would be a moot point, but as of now you can't... So we won't...

    But maybe we will...

    That or hope Virtual PC 8 runs at full speed.
  • by Sir Pallas ( 696783 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:20PM (#14927551) Homepage
    I didn't start playing till college and you're right: it's not that hard to find other interested people. A number of the people with whom I play now had never played before when my group first met them. It's really a lot of fun, except the couple of time I've played with kids who are obsessed with being chaotic evil.

    We had one kid, the younger brother of the DM's fiance, who was forced to be chaotic neutral. He kept saying that even though it wasn't his alignment, he was going to "pretend" he was chaotic evil. When our party got to the fort the local king was staying at, we were invited into the throne room. We had just been chased for three days by a fear inducing monster of great power, saved by a bagpipe playing hobbit who teleported us many miles, and there was a great military clash on the horizon, rushing towards us. The kid, Theo, got free of the leash we had put on him and rushed, weapon drawn, towards the king. The sword bearer brought out a sword, and handed it to the king as we rushed to destroy or misguided teammate. Someone coup-de-gras'ed him and the king, jabbing him with the sword, declared him dead. Theo was always upset about this incident; when asked why he did it, he said, "If you kill the king, you become the king." Of course, the king wanted to know why we attacked him! I had the high charisma, so I declared that the madness that was pursuing us had warped and destroyed the half-orcs fragile mind. The king didn't believe that was the truth, but he believed that I believed that was the truth. The DM made him create a new character, one of the king's (read: lawful good) men.

    The key to role playing is story immersion. We all get together to create funny, heroic, deadly, glorious situations in which we were key players by proxy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:34PM (#14927713)
    I recently purchased DDO and share some of the authors opinion on the final product. I do have a fews problems with some of what is written though.

    "It's a fact that the race most often played in a MMOG is 'human', and the unliving nature of the Warforged may make them an unpopular race."

    Or it might have something to do with the fact that warforged are considered constructs and thus only healed for half the amount by clerical spells (unless they have a specific feat) and must be healed with a different set of spells (that most wizards don't bother with as they want to do damage). Such mechanics make the warforged a bit of a liability for some groups. I don't think thier humanity plays much of a role to informed players.

    "Instead of hitting fight and using abilities as they become available, or simply watching as your avatar filets a bunny, DDO is a click-fest worthy of either Diablo game."

    This is somewhat misleading. While you *can* play click style, there is an auto-combat option as with nearly every other MMORPG. It is dissimilair to some in that most monsters don't much care for dying and so you have to make sure you stay within swinging distance.

    "D&D monsters aren't like the villains of Diablo; They jump around, move out of range, and generally do their best not to get killed. That means that in addition to repeatedly clicking on your opponent you're going to be trying to follow their movements. It's all too dang chaotic to be truly fun."

    My group doesn't really run into these problems that much. Since the game includes collision detection, mobs can not just run through players. Thus if you pack fighters into a doorway with sheilds up, you don't have to worry about the mob running through. On the same note, if you surround a mob with well placed players, they have a very hard time getting away, something which I found woefully missing in most MMORPGs and was quite happy to see appear in DDO.

    "If they don't, they can strike from hiding and possible score a sneak attack for massive damage. Rogues can even do sneak attacks in combat by using the Bluff skill to throw an opponent off balance."

    Technically rogues get thier sneak attack damage any time the mob is not currently attacking them. This is one of the changes which I found somewhat hard to aggree with, sadly without flanking, it was the only option.

    "A group comfortable with each other, with voice chat in use, will have a good deal of success. Pick-up groups, though, are at even more of a disadvantage than in most games simply because things happen so fast."

    A good solid 80% of the pick-up groups I get in have all players with voice chat enable and normally 75% or more of the players use it (you have to enable it to be able to hear other people talk, but you do not have to have a microphone to enable). With voice, I hardly think that pickup groups are really at that much of a disadvantage if the players have some familairity with thier characters and someone disides to fill the leadership role. If they don't, then I doubt they would be doing well in any game.

    "Rest shrines are usually nearby these areas, allowing characters to regain hit points and mana mid-dungeon. Besides these rest shrines, the only way to heal HP in-dungeon is with a potion or clerical spell. I hate hate hate almost everything about these design decisions."

    Just a small clarification here, you can only use rest or rez shrines once per crawl, per shrine (some levels have multiple shrines). I can almost agree that the lack of regeneration is a pain, however I end up being swayed by the fact that it adds quite a bit of challenge and strategy to the game. In my mind it is similair to games like Resident Evil that go stingy on the ammunition to force you to think about every bullet shot. I can easily see how thie would be a point of contention though. Not to mention it's pretty hard to translate 8 hours of rest in PnP to an MMORPG.

    Well thats about it. I just figured I'd chime in and toss my two pence about, though I doubt anyone wants to hear em'.
  • by Minwee ( 522556 ) <> on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:38PM (#14927768) Homepage
    "Blizzard playtests."

    I have already said this in another comment, but the reason that they can do that is this:

    Blizzard Has A Lot Of Money To Throw Around

    It's nice to say "We'll release this when it's ready" or "We want a few more months to test this out", but when you've just borrowed somewhere between five and ten million dollars (and don't run Infinium Labs), then people expect you to pay it back in cash, not promises.

    "Thus Blizzard gives you games that A) Are finished. B) Don't suck. C) Run on normal PCs. D) Run stable. E) Stay very fun for an allmost indefinite time.

    You forgot the most important one. F) Cost $100,000,000. That's why they can afford teams of caffeine-fueled playtesters. That's why they can spend an entire year in beta testing. Mere mortals have to show results long before then, and that's why you have seen dozens of "lesser" entries into the MMORPG arena fall apart with "tiny" budgets of less than ten million dollars.

    This isn't sour grapes. I have played WoW, and it's a good game. I'm just trying to point out that with all the briefcases full of cash that were thrown at it, it had better be good.

  • Re:From the FAQ (Score:1, Interesting)

    by norman619 ( 947520 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:45PM (#14927830)
    My problem with ALL of these games is that they expect you to pay FULL FREAKING PRICE for a game you can't play solo unless you pay the monthly fee. WTF is that? Why not give the thing away since again it's no good to you w/o the monthly fee. I downloaded a pirate copy of WoW and used a test account to play for about 2 weeks. I would have been pretty pissed if I actually bought the game for $40 only to find it's just another online RPG that's really only worth a few days of playing. I suspect DDO is no different. I for one will pass on this game. Why not make a nice single player game with online play for a monthly fee? At least the customer wouldn't feel as cheated if they didn't like the game. Oh wait because there are fools out there willing to shell out over $40 for a game you can't play w/o the monthly maintenance fee. There's a sucker born every minute seems to be what these game companies are banking on.
  • Re:Combat (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Phrogman ( 80473 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @06:28PM (#14928290) Homepage
    Collision Detection is what you are describing, and its precisely this that is one of the major elements keeping me playing City of Heroes/City of Villains. The combat in COx is enhanced tremendously by collision detection, and I am now spoiled. Any future MMO I play will need to include this feature or I will not want to play it. Lack of CD is one of the many things that turned me off of World of Warcraft - one of the most disappointing game titles I have ever tried to be honest (after all the hype I expected a good game and instead got an MMORPG in Easy Mode).

    If you liked this aspect of DDO but decided the game isn't for you, I urge you to give COx a try, there is a free trial I think. At any rate, its the best MMO on the market at the moment IMHO.

  • My conclusion (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @06:57PM (#14928514)

    I've heard that DDO has been getting less than favorable reviews, but this is the first review that I've read.

    Firstly, it seems that the developers have been as faithful as they could to D&D. This is not a Good Thing(tm). D&D has several flaws (some horrible) which seem to have been magnified by the conversion from books to bits. Even a well designed RPG cannot be ported without some concession to radically different play environment.

    Now that there is DDO, everyone that has played regular D&D can make an apples-to-apples comparison about how online and tabletop games differ in design and gameplay.

    I personally won't play any MMOG until one is developed which is capable of instantiating a living society, with an economy driven by the entire population (where 90% or more of the inhabitants are NPCs controlled by advanced AI). The Sims is the closest thing to this as far as I can tell, but there everyone is essentially an NPC. A fantasy setting plus Sims gameplay plus MASSIVE (the software written to control the digital extras in LOTR) is what I want to see, but this is at least five years out.

  • by GMFTatsujin ( 239569 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @07:33PM (#14928786) Homepage
    Okay, so my major problem with MMORPGs isn't with the clickity-click of combat. Heck, it's not even with the thin verneer of "role playing" that floods the chat channels.

    It's that there's almost nothing else.

    All the wacky skills that don't have to do with combat, healing, or trap discovery? Pretty much gone.

    What about the weird ones like Jump and Climb that let you really motor around the terrain in bizarre ways? How about Forgery or Disguise, for getting past those pesky guards? What about a Balance check for stealing across a tightrope held precariously across the chasm by the sharp steel of my grappling hook as part of the intricate plan I worked on for three months to steal the royalty's jewels right out from under their noses?

    D&D, the archetypal tabletop role playing game, has its roots in being *imaginative*, and one expression of that lays in finding creative ways through situations. When playing with humans, this is not a problem; humans can improvise, so the DM can make a judgement call on whether some creative action is plausable or not.

    Computers, however, excel at running scripts and never deviating from them. I can't be creative in a MMORPG unless I can change the script. The only one I've heard of that really encourages that sort of on-the-fly redefinition is Second Life, but here's the other thing: I can't change the script intuitively, like, on a whim. Instead, I have to learn the freaking scripting language.

    Not being Neo, I'm stuck in the role playing world as programmed. And that blows. I fight, or I select from a few pre-programmed conversation trees, or I get nowhere.

    Like WOPR, I've decided the only way to win is to not play the game.
  • Re:Two problems (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rcastro0 ( 241450 ) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:20AM (#14930308) Homepage
    Indeed, by adding more rules and systems, you can drive away more casual players because they have no chance of understanding what is going on and making reasonable decisions.

    Good point. I agree with it, in general, but not when it is applied to RPGs, in particular. If the game is the rules, and the story is only an excuse or a spice (for instance, in Settlers of Cattan, other classic board games and even, dare i say, RTS games such as StarCraft and AoE), then a lot is lost and nothing gained when going for an extra ounce of realism.

    However I understand RPGs are a distinct game concept which brings to the forefront narratives, descriptions and (an illusion of) the widest, true to real life, range of decisions and paths. Knowing much about the specific stats would deviate players from the "what would I do if I were there" mood, and close the door to players experimenting with the world. I can imagine someone finding a new weapon and not knowing before hand whether it is better or worse than the old one, but having an intuition (from the context and the description) on whether it is (or isn't) and later on perhaps perceiving (with usage) the truth. Always learning in a qualitative, not quantitative manner.

    In DnD dices are just a way to keep the story going, and a way to add a level of impartiality that no human DM could achieve without them. The fact that dice rolls are visible to the player in PnP D&D does not help the Role Play at all. IMHO if more complicated stats can lead to a greater probability of players believing that the narrative "feels right", then let them be.
  • by east coast ( 590680 ) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:40AM (#14930380)
    Why do people have this overwhelming need to go online and play a game where thousands of other people are playing, and not work with any of them? What's the point of it? And who played D&D in whatever form (D&D, AD&D, 2e, 3, 3.5, whatever) with just one DM and one person playing one toon?

    The idea of playing solo, for me, is the fact that I don't have to meet with a group, I don't have to go with the flow and it doesn't take me 15 minutes of dice throwing and squabling over rules to kill what I can kill in 35 seconds in EQ2.

    It's something I can do for 15 minutes or 15 hours if I so choose. At the same time I can help people here and there but I'm not bound to them unlike a pen and paper group.
  • Huh? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 16, 2006 @01:48PM (#14934860)
    Somehow in the brave new electronic frontier, these qualities are translated into meaningless grind quests, chaotic click-fest combat, and swearing over voicechat.
    Sounds like WoW to me... Seriously, you must be a grade a WoW fanboi or something. I played WoW for like a week and couldn't make myself log in again.
    Sure it's popular, but then so is McDonalds. It looks like a disney cartoon and is pretty much a caricature/cliche cutesy mmorpg, with all the monsters having exaggerated hands and feet. It strikes me as very 13 years old. The WoW storylines are seriously weak compared to DDO's.

    DDO vs WoW - Pros:
    interactable environment: In WoW it's pretty much treasure chests. DDO has traps, underwater passages, secret doors, puzzles, etc etc etc. All the stuff that WoW doesn't.

    Storyline. The entire city of stormreach has storyline quests that are all related. In WoW it seems a lot more random and not tied together. You kill 10 of these or 30 of these for a quest reward. Go here and talk to this guy so you can fly somewhere and kill 20 of these. That's not a grind? In DDO, stuff like that is a subquest or part of the overal goal. In WoW it is the goal.

    Content: The game went gold 2 weeks ago and a new content patch is coming one month later. You are talking about lack of content?

    Blizzard was still trying to get their massive scalability issues worked out 4 weeks in. Content wasn't even on the radar 4 weeks into release. Bashing DDO for lack of content is downright unfair. Not only that, I'm a hardcore gamer (as much as a working adult with a kid can be) and I still haven't seen more than 1/2 of the existing content yet. Granted I got to 5th level in beta, and had to start over, then needed to wait for my box to arrive after release. I have a l4r4 wizard, l3r1 cleric, and a l3r3 rogue already. 12 new dungeons are due on April 1st. New content one month after launch is nothing to sneeze at...

    I think you need some perspective my man... WoW has 3 years (or whatever) of content development behind it since gold. DDO's been gold for 2 weeks...

    About the combat:
    You bash it for being chaotic? What do you thing real life combat with a bunch of kobolds would be like? Think they would stand in front of you in an orderly fashion while you beat them down with your macro? I think WoW's combat is completely retarded. DDO's combat is more real time and actually requires some skill beyond macro programming. I guess if you have no coordination and tend towards panicking it's a little hard to deal with... The AI is phenomenal compared to any other game I've played, including wow.

    I got a trial account for WoW again while I was waiting for DDO to go gold and get shipped to me. I couldn't wait for that DDO box to arrive...


I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel