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Exploring Eberron: What's next for Dungeons and Dragons Online?

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

OnedAwesome began actively currying favor with the Coin Lords of Stormreach this week in Dungeons and Dragons Online, by heading into the Steam Tunnels and tackling the Shan-to-Kor Adventure Pack. So what's next for OnedAwesome? We're taking on another explorable next week, this time in the level 4-10 range. Searing Heights is a bit more challenging than some of the other explorables that we've done in the past, and offers a fair amount of XP -- simply running around the area and finding all 15 landmarks will earn over 4,000 XP, and if you luck out and come across all nine rare encounters, it's another 6,075. You'll find several quests in the area as well, along with the slayer bonus for killing as you go. We'll meet at the gate to Searing Heights next Wednesday, at 9 PM US Eastern time -- the gate is in the Marketplace, just west of the Harbor gate and marked by a yellow "X."

I want to take a minute and mention something that I read yesterday that really made me appreciate how exceptional the Massively guild is. Fernando Paiz gave an interview that I'll cover more later in this article, but he made an interesting statement: "Right now, if you're in a guild, you might see guild chat going by, but you don't really run into the people that much in the actual game." OnedAwesome is a glaring exception to that rule, thanks to each one of you in the guild. We play together Wednesday nights in constantly changing groups, something that allows us to get to know the guild members as a whole as time passes. I regularly see members logged in and helping one another outside of our scheduled playtime as well. It's this group dynamic that really brings the game to life, and each of you has my sincere thanks for showing other players how great the game can be with a good guild.

Okay, Hallmark moment over (although you guys seriously are wonderful)! There are lots of happenings to discuss in the rest of the Dungeons and Dragons Online world, so follow along after the jump as we get all caught up!

To put it mildly, the DDO Offer Wall didn't turn out as expected. Turbine certainly earned back any lost ground with fans with their quick response to the community's unhappiness -- they maintained communication while simultaneously dealing with the problem, apologized, and gave players exactly what they wanted in the space of about 48 hours. The Offer Wall was taken out back and shot, and Turbine looked at other avenues for point-earning opportunities.

Their newest attempt arrived yesterday with the introduction of the Referral Program. It's a tried-and-true method for a lot of MMOs: Send a friend our way and we'll send a little thank-you gift your way. In this case, you'll get some Turbine Points every time your friend purchases some Turbine Points of his or her own. It's a generous offer for bringing friends into the game: they join through your referral link, and any time they buy points from then on out you'll receive a bonus equal to ten percent of their purchase.

Turbine anticipated many of the community's questions, answering them ahead of time in the FAQ included with the announcement. The offer is not retroactive -- something that was disappointing to many players -- but think about the chaos that it would invite. Tracing new players back to the players who recommended them, then sorting out their purchase information, is exhausting even to think about, let alone try to implement.

Many questions were raised about VIP status. What if you refer friends and they go VIP? Sorry, nothing for you -- the referral program is only for Turbine Point purchases. However, the phrasing on this answer was very interesting: "There's no bonus at this time for players who become VIPs." "At this time" seems to leave the door open for that answer to change in the future -- a concept that's pretty common in sub-fee MMOs. Turbine hasn't said anything to indicate that they're considering this route, but apparently it's not out of the realm of possibility.

Finally, the obvious Amway joke -- admit it, you made one, as did I -- doesn't apply here. If you refer someone, then he refers three people, he gets the benefits from it but you do not: "No, the friend of your friend isn't really your friend. Or your enemy. Just an acquaintance you wouldn't mind going out to dinner with once in a while but probably don't want to see on a daily basis because you've never really connected and you've noticed they have the tendency to make inappropriate jokes, which is just irritating." While amusing and true, it's essentially Turbine saying that they are not going to open that can of worms, which is fair. You can find the complete FAQ on the DDO site.

Moving on to the next thing in DDOs future: Update 5. You can expect to see a hands-on peek at the update here at Massively in the coming weeks, but in the meantime ZAM lucked into an interview with Fernando Paiz all about guilds, airships, and more.

Guild Renown is the focal point of the update: "There's a system called 'guild renown' which is basically like favor for your guild, and you earn that through the accomplishments you complete with your guild – basically by completing more difficult and challenging experiences. We're imploring the users to challenge themselves if they really want to be competitive with other guilds." Guilds will use the system to earn and maintain renown, unlocking items for the guild. The long-anticipated guild airship is one of those items, unlocked early on -- and yes, OnedAwesome will be working toward that goal. Renown isn't a static thing where a guild can say, "Okay, we're level 100. We can stop now!" The inclusion of renown decay means that guild members will have to work together to maintain their standing.

The interview went on to expand on the details of this concept, and is a great read for all of us looking forward to Update 5 -- especially those airships! Until then, I'll see you Wednesday.

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