Producer's Letter - February 2022
Today I’d like to reintroduce myself to everyone. My name is Amanda “Tolero” Grow, and I am the new Producer for Dungeons & Dragons Online. Some of you may remember me from previous roles in Community, Commerce, and other behind-the-scenes work. Severlin and I have worked together closely for years, and I expect that to continue in his role as Executive Producer. Today I’m here to talk about the latest excitement going on with DDO and things to look forward to!
For those who are newer to DDO, a little about me: years ago, circa 2006, I had the great fortune to stumble on what became my all-time favorite game. From that first moment when I heard the Dungeon Master’s voice warning me about broken splinters on the floor (back when the tutorial dungeon was completely different) I was hooked. I went on to work for the game the next year, and DDO and its players have been my great love for approaching two decades now.
In that time there have been many incredible changes, from the transformation into a Free to Play game, to adding Forgotten Realms and other classic D&D content, and a host of big game systems. Since the founding of Standing Stone Games, we’ve brought big additions into the game that my younger fascinate-bard-playing self would have been thrilled by. If I could go back in time and tell myself we were going to get mounts and cosmetic cloaks, go to places like Eberron’s Sharn, or actually fight Strahd in Ravenloft, I’d be beside myself. Just this past year, we’ve gone to the classic tabletop module Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, and we’ve done a major overhaul of the Epic Destiny system.
This year we’ve got more fun planned, and it’s surreal for me to get to be the one to tell you all about it!
We’ve just jazzed up the Snowpeaks Festival with a new additional challenge quest. If you liked slipping and sliding down Flurry’s ramp challenge you can still do that, but for those looking for a tougher challenge, gather up your Frozen Keys and check out “Too Cold to Continue” by visiting Flurry in the Eberron Hall of Heroes, where you’ll face an uphill climb to try and get the goods!
The next new content you'll see will be Update 53, called "Hunter and Hunted", for levels 7 Heroic and 32 Legendary. This is set in the Feywild universe, where you'll be investigating the mysterious Wild Hunt. Update 53 also includes a new Legendary level raid. You do not need to own the Fables of the Feywild expansion in order to play this adventure pack, which is free to VIPs and available in the DDO Store. Update 53 will be coming out just as we’re heading into one of my personal favorite times of year: DDO’s Anniversary!
We are making our 16th anniversary extra sweet by giving away some free stuff from the D&D Player’s Handbook…permanently!
That’s right, when the Anniversary update happens, we will be making the following races and classes from the core D&D Player’s Handbook permanently free for everyone in DDO:
If you have already purchased these races and classes we will be giving you a gift of a Greater Elixir of Discovery for each of the races or classes you own prior to the Anniversary patch! These gifts will be distributed when the patch goes live. Yes, that means between now and when the patch happens if you buy any of the races or classes on the list above, you'll get the gift too as long as it happens before the patch goes live.
For VIPs, we want to thank you by increasing your free Gold Rolls on Daily Dice from once per week to once per day through the end of the year! We’ll post another announcement with further details when the Anniversary patch launches. We’re so grateful for your patronage, and we look forward to seeing even more people building unique characters in DDO for years to come!
Now it’s time for me to tell you about my absolute favorite thing happening this year...
I think the world underestimates how much the team loves dinosaurs, and this Spring we are about to go to the most dinosaur-laden D&D module of all time: The Isle of Dread! This will be an Expansion, so expect to see fun goodies available in a pre-purchase opportunity this Spring, including the new Tabaxi character race. Later in the Spring when the Expansion launches you will need all your daring to face the threats of Isle of Dread, but one thing I’ll tell you now is that with this Expansion there’s going to be a level cap increase further into Legendary levels, up to level 32. We can’t wait for you to come play it!
After Isle of Dread:
Beyond Isle of Dread, there’s a lot of important things on the radar. On the serious end of the spectrum is improving game performance. For a while now we have focused on creating tools to let us see what's happening so we can be more proactive rather than reactive. We've also created a multi-disciplinary strike team that meets regularly with myself and Sev to focus on what these diagnostics are telling us. Our IT/Ops are tackling the server environment, our DBAs are working on upgrades and efficiencies, and our game engineers and designers focus on problematic monsters, NPCs, and systems that need improvement. Here are some of the things we've done and will be doing:
- We found and fixed a nasty amount of lag in the guts of the Heroic and Reaper Enhancement trees system.
- Another place we found problems was with part of the system that manages people’s class pets (think Druid wolves and Artificer dogs), which was periodically causing huge lag spikes under certain conditions.
- We’ve reconfigured server resource utilization so it’s more efficient, and added some new alarms to let our Operations team better detect excessive CPU load in a way that they couldn’t detect previously.
- We recently adjusted the bandwidth settings of the game, which we suspect was slowing parts of the UI and also giving raiders trouble. The game and player’s characters have grown more complex over time, passing through more events than back when those defaults were set.
- The recent 52.1 patch included some fixes to areas of the Shadowfell landscape that were too performance heavy.
- The engineers just this week were telling me that they’ve pinpointed some lag-causing behavior lurking under the hood of the quest system, which they’re still working through.
I’m very hopeful that by being proactive, we’ll be able to target the worst sources of lag and make a real dent in things as we go.
Here are some other things on the horizon:
- A new Hardcore League this summer! We'll be shaking things up after our winter redux season with a twist, but we're keeping it secret for now. We’ve also identified some server performance optimizations for when the seasons kick off, which should make the opening day and first weekend of Hardcore perform better.
- We will be touching up Crystal Cove, both to help with performance during the event and also to mix the monsters up and keep the rewards relevant.
- We’ll be updating a classic adventure pack so that it is able to be played at higher levels once the level cap increases with Isle of Dread, but I’m not ready to announce details on which pack that is yet.
- There will be another new adventure pack this year as well, where a familiar villain is up to new trouble.
- We’ll be adding some new character build options later on in the year, but I’ll tell you more details about that when we get closer to it.
- There’s even a feature that should be both a boon of better performance and something people have asked about: an updated Character Bank. Not only will we be able to offer more character bank space (finally!), but it’ll perform better from a server perspective too.
- We’ll be updating DDO.com, and after that the forums too, but we’ll have more information on that once we’re ready.
I’m so grateful for all the players who make this possible! I look forward to telling you about new fun things in future letters, which I plan to do regularly throughout the year. I’m also looking forward to seeing you at our DDO livestreams, and other places around the Community. I can’t wait for us to have many more years of adventures together. Have fun, and I’ll see you in game!