Happy Winter Holidays!

We’re coming to the end of 2013, and with that I’d like to capture some important moments from this year and give you insight into next.

This year the DDO Team made a commitment to reduce bugs, increase quality and deliver the features we promised. We’re not 100% yet on all counts, but here are some points of success and failure.

Critical Misses:
  • Mabar Festival. This event was loaded with more bugs and design flaws than we expected, and our best option was to close it early. Gargoyles are serious performance hogs, and the Vampires shouldn’t be permanently invisible. Expect us to take this back to the workshop and rebuild it before we re-introduce it.
  • Item duplication exploit. This was the result of another bug that we fixed. It’s an MMO classic and strangely made me nostalgic, but still has negative impacts on the game. Natural 1, ouch.

Critical Hits:
  • Enhancements! This feature has been in development almost two years, so it’s great to see the light of day. From the feedback and activity we’re seeing most of you don’t actively hate it, which means a good number of people may actively accept it, and some players may secretly love the changes. The new enhancement structure makes it much easier for us to introduce new PREs, such as the Warpriest and Eldritch Knight.
  • Storm Horn Mountains. This adventure area is the largest we’ve ever built, and arguably the most beautiful. Our goal was also to recreate the experience of exploration in Dungeons & Dragons, complete with varied creatures and random encounters. I believe we succeeded.
  • Epic Reincarnation. Extending reincarnation creates new opportunities for you to customize and advance your characters. We view this as only one step along the path to create a stable and substantial endgame along with adding new level cap content, settling on a persistent level cap (30), and making endgame systems like items and advancement more robust.

All this leads us to 2014, and the next set of key features we have planned for DDO. The features listed here are confirmed, meaning we’re committing to delivering them in 2014 (barring divine intervention or disaster).

Our first update of the year introduces two level 30 raids in the dwarf ruins of Thunderholme. The adventure area covers 7 floors with multiple raid and group encounters, while the raids start with a mated pair of red dragons and culminate in a confrontation with Aurgloroasa the Sibilant Shade. In addition to these two raids, we’ve reserved the option to add a third later in the year.

With the 40th Anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, we’ll also be introducing a tribute to the classic Ed Greenwood module Haunted Halls of Eveningstar. This dungeon will have a version matching the published module, and an extended version using Ed’s unpublished notes that introduces you to Whisper’s Crypt. The Original Elminster (Ed) will provide the Dungeon Master voice and an optional author’s commentary around creating this beloved adventure.

Thunderholme and Haunted Halls will both be free to VIPs.

DDO’s second update of the year will be pirate-themed, with new Guild Airship models, layouts, decorations and amenities. We’ll also revisit Three Barrel Cove to extend it into Epic levels.

The third update of the year will take you to Anauroch, the not-so-barren desert to the north of Cormyr. You will have the chance to battle the armies of Netheril and challenge a new enemy – the enigmatic Phaerimm.

Our final update of 2014 will extend the level cap to 30, which is intended to be DDO’s “permanent” level cap and complete the Epic levels. With this update we’ll be looking at ways to complete and improve existing systems like Epic Destinies.

I hear the initial comments already – wow Rowan, good stuff but what about [my favorite feature]! Remember that I’m only listing the features we’ve confirmed. There are many other ideas in process, only some of which will go into the game and out to live worlds.

One concept that we’re working through (but not promising) is end-game items. Initial proposals for this had internal names like “Greensteel 2,” “Intelligent Weapons” and “Sentient Weapons.” (Yes, there are implications of difference between “Intelligent” and “Sentient” weapons, depending on the version of D&D.) Ultimately these are items that are acquired in the endgame, earn experience and advance with you, and could require you to sacrifice other equipment to them to develop their power. Design has barely begun on this, but it may release in multiple phases and include crafting elements.

The team is also considering (but not promising) a range of additions, including scaling more content to Epic levels, adding new Classes or Iconics, adding new Enhancement paths or Epic Destinies, and possibly introducing player housing in Eberron.

Please let us know what you’d like to see next year, and onward as we develop and improve Dungeons & Dragons Online.