Dungeons and Dragons Online has been hovering around the vicinity of our list of potential replacements activities for the instance group, though we were waiting for the “Eberron Unlimited” free to play version to show up and settle down before we took a look.
Potshot had looked at the game about two and a half years ago and had found it a bit wanting. Brent at VirginWorlds also devoted a show to exploring DDO from the view of the dungeon crawl experience, but wasn’t totally convinced it was the best thing ever.
Time, however, has passed. And, as those who have played Lord of the Rings Online know, Turbine does not let things stand as they are. They keep improving things over time, and DDO has had a lot of time since any of us last looked at it.
So we thought it would be worthwhile for a couple of us to scout out the potential of the game for the group. Potshot, Gaff, and I all downloaded the client last week and created characters on the Khyber server. (No doubt I was feeling some nostalgia for tales of the Northwest Frontier.)
The download itself was relatively painless. I hope we are finally past the days of, say, the Vanguard beta, where multi-gigabyte downloads fail or get corrupted and have to be restarted over and over. Turbine has a download manager that keeps the data flowing. I let the download for the premium graphic client run over night, though that was probably unnecessary. It looked like it was going to take well under two hours to transfer.
The only thing that did not go smooth was account creation. I already have a Turbine account for LOTRO, and from the account management page, it seems that I should be able to have multiple games on the same account. However I could not figure out how to add DDO to my current account, so I ended up just making a new account. Yay, another account name and password to remember.
Once downloaded and installed, the game looks a lot like LOTRO. Or, rather, given the relative ages of the product, LOTRO looks a lot like DDO. Once in the game the interfaces diverge to meet the requirements of either game, but they are quite clearly the spawn of the same team. And some activities, like logging in, patching, character creation, and character management, are as alike as makes no difference.
I created my first character on Khyber. When playing for free, you are allowed to create two characters per server. I chose a human paladin, not being sure what Potshot might pick (Gaff will be a fighter of some sort) thinking that a hybrid would give me some flexibility.
As I said, character creation is very much the same as LOTRO. There are a couple of differences.
The first is that the area your character occupies while you change the settings is very dark. In LOTRO you are outside in the sunlight, in DDO you are in a dungeon. But it is so dark that it makes seeing the various customization options rather difficult. And if you are in a bright room, forget about it.
The second is that, in LOTRO, your character is wearing what you’ll see them in when you first enter the world. In DDO you have a very nice set of armor on, but when you actually create the character and get to the management screen, your character is wearing what appears to be a cocktail dress hastily crafted from a soiled tablecloth.
Fortunately, this look is a temporary situation. After running through the tutorial dungeon my guy ended up looking more like an adventurer and less like a victim of some fraternity initiate rite.
Not shown is the nice looking sword he got as part of the tutorial.
And once in the game I had to relearn some things.
First, the camera appears to be stuck forever looking over your should, so I gather that I am never going to be able to take an in-game picture of my character’s face. I will forever be looking at his backside. Not the tragedy of the ages, but you may have noticed that I am fond of those touristy “being there” photos; us at King Ymiron’s throne, us standing over the corpse of Prince Keleseth, us before the corpse of Onyxia. Any shots like that in DDO will have to exclude me it seems.
And then there is combat. You click to attack. You can auto attack, but it seems to be less effective, so I stuck to clicking. However, if you are used to holding down the mouse button to adjust your camera, things may seem awkward. You can spot me in town, I am the one who keeps swinging his weapon for no apparent reason as I yet again futilely try to adjust the camera angle.
Movement, however, is not click based, thank the devs. You can run around via the traditional WASD control keys, though for some reason E and Q were not mapped to strafe right and left. The keys were not mapped to anything by default and the option to map strafing was in the list of movement keys, so I had to wonder why somebody chose not to just connect those two. It didn’t take me long to figure it out, but still.
And while I was there I had to remap the key to take screen shots. Control-P? No, the Print Screen key on my keyboard lives only to take screenshots. My fingers hit can find and hit that key with amazing accuracy, considering its location, so that must be mapped.
This week we are warming up a bit, learning the basics of the game, with an eye to actually running something as a group this coming weekend.
Of course, there are concerns in my mind. There are only three of us and, like LOTRO, the default party size appears to be six. Back in LOTRO this was a big issue because we only regularly had four people, which meant that we could not run any of the instanced content at the appropriate level without it becoming a wipe-fest.
I understand that you can hire NPCs in DDO to fill out your party, though I have not looked into it yet. That could cover us depending on the cost and their effectiveness. We shall see this weekend.