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Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO)
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Author Topic: Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO)  (Read 6194 times)
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« on: September 17, 2009, 08:16:27 AM »

Just yesterday I discovered that this was now free to play*.  I made an account and downloaded the game and then played it.  Total time = 4 hours, so by no means an exhaustive review.  I openly invite anyone who has played it enough to actually level a character up to reply with agreement, disagreement or more information that might be useful to the reader.

Background:  I have played D&D since about 1980, and was a avid (rabid?) consumer of all things D&D for years later, including Dragon magazine.  I think my active role in critical analysis of the systems helped mold my mind, as well as my view of gaming today.  As such I had to give it a try.

Executive summary:  I found that the game, instead of seeing the dice and numbers as a neccesary evil, has continued to integrate them into the game to the exclusion of allowing the gameplay to be organic in nature.  I believe it is a helpful tool for a design team to play to see not only how things are done, some well and some poorly, but to also see the math and numbers behind the game.  If you love crunching numbers and are able to not let the fact you are playing with a statistical analysis not interfere with your immersion into the gameplay, then you might actually not mind this game.

Character Creation:  Ideally I like a character creation where you make a person (or player character) with perhaps a background story outline, and appearance, etc.  And then you go into the game, and find your path.  This is very rare.  Even WoW requires your character to pick a class before you have gotten a chance to get to know your character (or for a newly discovered game, what the game is like).  I did like how you were able to make a decent looking character, making minor changes which big effect on the appearance of the PC, though ingame I did not figure out a way to view the character from the front, so you might want to pay as much attention on the back of their head...  Conveniently you wake up ingame with amnesia, but of course that means EVERY single player ingame has the same backstory.  It looked like there was 200 people in the starter village... all talking about how they were on a ship and woke up with amnesia and a rogue helped them out, gave them a weapon and... well, you get the idea.

Movement:  wasd control... also talk about how can change controls in settings.  I did not adjust anything.  Mouse-turn was not only backwards from WoW (as such hard to get used to, everything mouse-wise was backwards to what I was used to, but I think I could change that, and besides, not a huge deal, just pointed out to explain my experience) but it was actually slower than turning with the keyboard.  I use keyboard turns some.. if mouse is busy... but i found turning and controls to be clunky.  Again, let me know if you played this enough to get it fined tuned, was it awesome?  So far I say "probably not" .  The jumping seemed respectable.  Was able to make realistic jumps onto objects that many games would not let you jump on.  Not insane jumps like in Runes of Magic, but decent jumping.

At level 1 hotbar was overfilled.  Too many barely useful options and no easy way to see what you can use, and can not.  In WoW item is red if out of range for use, and dark with a clock hand sweep if recharging.  In DDO you have many MANY things that can go in hotbar, with no idea what you will want to use.  I think there was 10 slots, but to allow you to have more flexibility, there was 20 hotbars you could scroll through.(yes that is 200 hot keys available to use.  No longer playing a character, you are controlling a complex machinima)  Who wants to spend 2 hours setting up hotbars and remembering to scroll to the 3rd one if you see a monster that can be tripped but use the 11th one to search for traps.  I think I see how this might of evolved.  In D&D it was common practice to have a sheet with all your abilities and info on them. I called it the 'feat sheet' though skills on it as well.  As you used one, you would place a tick-mark next to it... when day is done, you circle all the tick marks and start over.  Sure you might have 20 feats, but you could quickly see all of them and which ones are still available.  I would even give extra exp if someone used all of their feats at least once, in a reasonably appropriate time, during the day's play.  Kept the players involved and awake, playing what one dubbed "Feat Bingo".  And yes, they would often yell "BINGO".  "I search the chest for traps and.... BINGO!".  When sheet got too cluttered or full up of circled ticks (months) it was time to make a new feat sheet anyway, or retire the character.

But with how DDO merges this old practice of many options with an attempt to fit them in a small hotbar would require me to spend weeks, if not months designing a hot bar system, or more likely, just never use all the options available to me.  I was tempted to make a feat sheet, but decided that in this age of computers, there should be funner ways to handle this.

I also did not like the targeting.  it appeared that as long as you swung near the monster it would hit it (assuming you made the roll to hit).  Monsters dancing around you as you keep left clicking and spinning using wasd keys.  If I am going to work that hard, at least you could make it more bady part specific or something.   Felt like old D&D game where players wanted you to "just determine the fight and tell us who won without asking us what we are doing now.. and now.. and now"  

Items:  The items are insane.. in started area everyone had the unique flaming sword.  (those with swords anyways, which was most)  It appeared that magic items are overused and inflated.  Item descriptions read like a monster manual entry.  Dry numbers including base damage (1d6 +1 for example.. yes, referencing actual dice!!!!  too bad they can not get a computer to compute.  )  as well as verbal descriptions that seem like a lost artifact.  ("this sword is better made than most" seemed to be on EVERY sword in the shop, and on character, except the rusty one you are given at the beginning.  I am sure later on they would say "this sword is just simply perfection and unique, just like all the other swords at this level".

Chat system:  As soon as you get to the village, you have to make a decision.  Read the chat logs or do anything else.  Chat flying by so fast you better reply with very short phrases, or the topic will have moved on without you.  I felt like I was in a room of ADD addled children, each with their own tv and own remote control.... and each remote affected all the tvs at random as they turned their tv...   I soon turned to the combat tab.  Essentially /ignore all.

I recommend playing this if only to see the numbers behind the game and to see what you like, and do not like.  Again I want to state, I did not play this for hours and hours and I would LOVE to hear how my review is incorrect.  But one point stands, this is not an intuitive game to get into.  It felt like I was in my friend's basement and the only difference was the game was faster with the dice rolls and there was zero social interaction among friends.  I pick pen and paper over DDO.

[edit] I have a couple level 1 characters on Khyber server, poke me if you want to meet me ingame, but I do not regularly play it.  Good luck finding me by chance [/edit]
« Last Edit: September 28, 2009, 09:04:19 AM by Bamko » Logged
« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2009, 09:28:18 PM »

I'm actually happy they finally allowed DDO to become free to play. Upon release it was struck with many bad reviews as well as some good ones. Almost seemed like it was destined for the Hall of Fail. I haven't had the opportunity to play it yet but I should be giving it a look at some point.

This game from what I've read about it was mediocre at best as far as the D&D scene goes. As it seems you lose some of the initiative and interaction of the surrounding world you also gain an easy and guilt free environment which allows you to actively explore without  forced debate with your DM or players. I'll give it chance before I criticize it too much. As with any free MMO I assume the chat to be filled with an abundance of random chatter losing its RP aspect.

Will review after some experience with it.
« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2009, 09:11:11 AM »

So I have spent some time running through DDO. I haven't really spent anything over about 10 hours of play.  While I did find it entertaining for a bit, it couldn't keep my attention. Some of the good and the bad to follow.

Story: In the starter area, you wake up shipwrecked. A rogue shouts out at you and talks to you a little bit. Eventually gives you a weapon. The tutorial portion of this is almost identical to AoC (Age of Conan.) Immediately I was turned off. Let me explain a bit more. In both DDO and AoC, your ship was wrecked, you wash up on the beach, no recollection of your past, the newb npc shouting at you. At least in AoC the starter area is full of mini quests for the new adventurer. Now I didn't completely just toss it down due to the similarities. After you complete the tutorial dungeon, and find your way out, they toss you in the starter city. As Bamko stated, it's almost like they were handing out the fire sword as door prizes.

Char Creation: The initial creation is decent and allows you to customize your character to a fairly unique level to not look like everyone else. However, there is no possible way to ever see your character from the front view without using a seperate account while playing. I spent a good hour trying to find a free look or profile aspect. You can zoom into first person which allows a more immersed style of gameplay. I personally prefer third person.

Movement: As a Ranger, I found it incredibly easy to solo the elite dungeons... The movement of DDO allowed me to simply run circles around the dungeon with the monster chasing me... Shooting an arrow every round while moving and staying relatively safe distance from my victim at all times. The occasional spell might make it through my clever movement and deal a few points of damage. I never found it difficult though I'm use to the WASD control setup. I'll also note that my aim never really seemed affected by my movement. While behind the scenes it may have been, I never noticed a difference from standing still or running while pelting the monster. The Mouse Look movement is great for you FPS players. The controls can be changed inside the options for different button or play styles if you don't like it. The keyboard movement was fairly easy for navigation, but while in combat I found mouse look to be the better option.

Hotbars: Would like to expand on this a bit more. While these are generally overfilled with weapon sets, items, skills, and magics, you can add multiple bars to the interface much like that of WoW. It's nice to be able to customize the bars so the more useful things are easy to access. But if you hate clutter, well you'll probably spend a lot of time scrolling through them looking for your selections. While they aren't terrible they aren't that great either. I found myself using them about 5% of the total time I played as Ranger for healing potions or my stealth ability.

Chat: As I was expecting jumping into the fray, the general chat is full of random useless conversations 75% of the time, occasionally someone asks a question or gives advice for something useful. RolePlay is almost dead from what I could tell. Players tend to live through their Avatar rather than living as the avatar. While this doesn't bother me much, I find it hard to submerge myself into the story or environment of the game when the "Your Mama" jokes are flying by at an unreasonable rate. Eventually, like Bamko, I found myself turning off the general chat and focusing more on combat related echos.

Items: To further expand, initially the references for the items base damage can get tedious. If you've ever played any D&D before it's not much of a problem but seems a little lazy to me. Understanding they wanted to keep that same Pen and Paper feel to it, it was bearable. Your still forced to figure out what you have to roll per round to hit or get a critical. While the system does roll for you in real time, it seems to always be in the back of your head. There is no realistic feel to the overall gain of items, 100 people all using the same armor or weapon from a dungeon or shop. Descriptions are heavily overused. Earning money seemed as if I didn't even have to try. Within my first 2 hours it seemed I had enough to buy a small section of land and build a mansion. Dungeon loot seemed somewhat decent. Even the lamest of loot would fetch some coin to the local shops.

Overall, it is a fun game. If you need something to kill some time, this one will do it. It lacks in some areas but excels in others. I'll probably continue to play this one occasionally when I have nothing better to do. Originally I felt that DDO wasn't going to be worth the space it took to install it, but after some time my opinion on it changed. To finish this off, I feel it's like they took P&P D&D and just added the WoW engine... It's hardly unique. But I wasn't expecting it to be.
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