Bring Your A-Game is switching gears a little this week. We’ll be featuring stories on a pair of non-table top games. During GenCon Bring Your A-Game was invited to take part in an interview with the folks at Turbine Warner Brothers about their cross-over with Wizards of the Coast, Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO). We did the interview at the show and, as we promised, we opened a DDO account to try things out for ourselves. We’ll give the game a test drive and probably have a review in the coming weeks.
Erik Boyer: Are you familiar with DDO?
BYAG: No, not at all. I primarily stick to table top games, though I have played my share of Dungeons & Dragons in my lifetime. I’ve tried DC Universe Online, but that’s the extent of my online gaming. I’ve never been a fan of the genre.
EB: Well, let me give you a brief summary. We’re Turbine Warner Brother Games; we’re based out of Boston. We work with Wizards of the Coast, who is our IP holder.
We originally launched as a subscription MMO several years back. It was focused on the 3.5 rules set and the Eberron Campaign. Over time we have evolved and grown. We changed our business model to make it a free to play game. It has a subscription option, so it’s a play-however-you-like type of entrance. It’s much more accessible than subscription only. Certainly we give you perks for a subscription, if you want to play all the content, if you play regularly, it’s definitely worth getting a subscription.
If you feel like you only play casually, once in a while, buying it a la carte, or then just playing the free content might be the path you want to take. We want to open it up so the user can decide how they access the game.
BYAG: What does a subscription cost?
EB: Anywhere from $9 to $15 a month. We run promotions frequently, where buying multiple months at a time gives you a price break. It’s pretty standard for an MMO cost. You also get Turbine points to spend in the store, with that subscription, call it a $5 value so you’re getting a return on your game play time with your spending.
That’s the basics for the business model. Now, for the game play.
The game itself has a cap at Level 20, standard for D&D. We’ve modified the system to be a little less focused on 3.5 rules and more on D&D being fun, the monsters being classic, the dungeons have a DM telling you what you’re seeing and describing the sites and smells, and giving clues. We’re really getting that Dungeons & Dragons experience in the game. We’ve also expanded the campaign to reach out into the Forgotten Realms, and that’s come out recently this year.
That is one of the things we’re demo-ing here at GenCon, we’re letting people play that prequel experience, “how did that rift between the two universes actually open up?” We tell the story of Lloth in Eberron she’s the Spinner of Shadows, a demi-god, in Forgotten Realms she is the goddess of the Drow, much more powerful, much more epic. Her realm is the Demon Web, a place in between the Forgotten Realms, the Underdark and the Eberron worlds. It’s sort of a parallel universe story. We’ve opened up that gap.
Now players and their high level characters can travel to the Forgotten Realms and we’ve extended to Level 25, Epic Levels. You can earn Epic Levels as well as Destinies. Destines is really the thing we have done that has opened up huge class builds and diversity in those upper levels. Pretty much what you get in your Epic Levels in D&D, it’s not very interesting. It’s not very class based. It doesn’t diversify very much. But Destinies allow us to continue that tradition of being very diverse for character builds, customizable, multi-classing, multiple skills.
With Destinies we’ve offered to start to satisfy any of the classes we have a tree of different enhancements that you can earn XP towards, so you get XP toward leveling but you can put XPs toward Destines. If you fulfill a Destiny you can activate another one and continue to put XP into that. You’re not trading XP or parrelling XP, so when you actually hit cap, you can continue to put experience into your Destinies and make an even more broad, diverse character. You can switch between these Destinies and it makes the game play at endgame more interesting as well.
BYAG: I have to admit, I haven’t played Dungeons & Dragons since second edition. I read through third edition and decided it wasn’t for me, so a lot of this alien to me.
EB: Destinies is something we borrowed mostly from fourth edition rules. It was not something we had prior to that either. We get to do that because of the type of gameplay. We don’t have to restrict it to pen and paper because it doesn’t always translate well to video game, but we can still stay true to the core, which is really the goal working with Wizards of the Coast.
BYAG: Having the Dungeon Master in-game makes it different from many other video games anyway.
EB: Yes, that’s true. We’re just releasing a Monster Manual in-game. The way we’re doing that is you can purchase volumes, the first ones we’re giving away so players can see what it’s like.
BYAG: Your first hit’s free.
EB: Your first user experienced monsters are in that volume. But the Monster Manual is initially a blank. As you start to kill monsters, you learn about them. You’ll get things such as, “what are they immune to, what are their general stats, how many of them typically appear, how many have you killed.” You’ll also get deeds and achievements based on the number that you’ve killed.
You could be getting Turbine points for the store. You can get experience for your character; there are accomplishments you can get by completing your Monster Manual.
It educates you a little bit as you go. For example, you may not know why a certain weapon didn’t work. Then you find out the monster has immunity to certain elements.
BYAG: Are there expansions in the works?
EB: We just launched the expansion, which is the Forgotten Realms campaign. Two months later we’re doing another update with an adventure pack. We’re already in development on another one that we’re supposed to release this year. We’re hoping to continue that cycle. We hope to do more expansion packs and bigger content releases, but we continually do the updates.
I hope this gives you a little sense of what we’re about and what we’re doing. Thanks.