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DDO Update 5: Massively's interview with Fernando Paiz

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

Dungeons and Dragons Online Update 5 has been out for a while now, and it came on the scene to mixed reviews. Some players were unhappy about the combat changes, bugs here and there caused problems, and there were a couple of hotfixes in the first few days.

The new adventure pack and guild renown system balanced it out nicely, though. In spite of continued glitches they were viewed overall as a great addition to the game. We were curious about several aspects of the update and what Turbine has planned for the immediate future, so we posed a few questions to Executive Producer Fernando Paiz.

Follow along after the jump to see what he had to say about DDO's Update 5.

Massively: Update 5 had a bit of a rough start and required two hotfixes -- one to fix the guild renown system and one to fix the auction hall. Many players felt that was an unusually bumpy update launch -- do you feel like this one was more troublesome than the others? What was at the core of these issues?

Fernando Paiz: No one here likes to have to take the service down longer than planned. So from that point of view, we are not satisfied with any release that ends up needing two hot fixes.

With Update 5 in specific, we had a few bad issues show up in live that we had not seen before. At the core of the most severe problems are some problems that did not show up until we had high enough load on some of these new systems. The guild system in particular was a very large undertaking for a live update – this was a massive system with lots of moving parts that included participation from a majority of our players working in large groups towards shared goals. Even some large and successful Lamannia test events did not expose the crash issues.

Also, we have begun to perform several "under the hood" engine changes to improve game performance and allow us to receive some exciting features like DX11 graphics improvements later in the year. Unfortunately, these changes can have unforeseen consequences that did not show up in our beta testing.

Update 6 is just around the corner, do you think the fixes to update 5 will make for a smoother launch to the next update?

Update 6's main feature is a new adventure pack. There are no planned major new game systems or engine upgrades so we do not anticipate any major issues when it launches.

The small guild bonus to renown was temporarily removed. Can we expect to see that back again soon?

Absolutely. Small guild bonus is on track to return with our first planned patch to Update 5. It is an important feature to us, but we decided not to hold the release to fix it since we found it needed a small design re-work late in our test cycle.

The other thing I would point out with this is that guild size is used in two places to scale values in the guild system. The "small guild bonus" was only one component that scales up renown values as you accumulate it. The other important one which is already live is decay scaling. Small guilds will get a big help there also, so small guilds were not without some support on the build we launched with. The thing is that decay only comes into play as guilds advance beyond level 25 so small guilds were still probably feeling like they were missing their renown bonuses in the early part of gaining their levels.

You guys worked very quickly to resolve the auction house issue, and a fix is coming for players who lost items. Any idea on a time frame for that? [Note: We sent these questions to Turbine before the AH bug was taken care of. The bug has since been fixed and items restored.]

This fix is in testing now. It should be applied to live servers very soon -- maybe even by the time players are reading this.

The community in general seems very divided on the combat changes brought about with this update. Many feel that it's an improvement and any loss is no big deal, but others feel it's a significant nerf. TWF is one of the biggest topics. How do you feel the combat changes are working overall now that the patch is live?

OK, this is near and dear to me, because my main is a level 20 TWF Fighter build... So you can bet that we would not have let this change go out if we didn't really believe that it would have significant benefits to the game!

There are two big benefits with this combat change: First, two weapon fighting had become the only combat style choice for many characters because it was generally so much more powerful than two handed weapons and sword and shield. We want each combat style to offer its own set of pros and cons and we think this small adjustment to TWF and improvements to other combat styles brings them more in line.

Second, the new implementation yields a very significant improvement to server performance in situations with lots of combat. The performance issue wasn't always enough to bring our servers to a crawl, but it was enough that two raid groups on the same physical server could easily cause slowdowns. The new system should keep our servers running well and let us do more interesting kinds of content in the future.

So while we know no one likes to see a nerf to their character, we do think the changes are a positive overall change for DDO. We were careful to test this with our private and public test servers and made adjustments based on user feedback. In the end, two weapon fighters are still powerful and fun, and we stand by the change.

The issue with some VIP accounts being downgraded to free accounts seems to have flared up again this week, but was resolved quickly. Any word on the underlying cause of that, and do you feel it's gone for good?

As it would turn out, this breakage came about as we were trying to remove the part of the system that has caused this issues from the login flow. Sadly, there was a class of users who lost their premium status in the transition and were treated as free players for a few days. We apologize to these users for the inconvenience and we appreciate their patience.

The introduction of Astral Diamonds as a new currency seemed like a pretty big addition for a single line of airships. Can we hope to see something more to spend those on in the future -- more airship styles, perhaps?

I can't comment on specific details, but that is definitely the plan. Over time you will see a few more NPC's who will be very happy to accept astral diamonds in exchange for goods or services -- guild related or not. We'll keep you posted when we have something to announce.

Thanks for your time, Fernando!

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