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Exploring Eberron: A look back at the six updates of 2010

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

Well, they kept their word and made their goal. The developers at Turbine planned six major updates to Dungeons and Dragons Online for 2010, and while a lot of fans speculated that it'd never happen, Turbine made sure it did.

It's been an interesting year with lots of changes to DDO. We can expect even more in 2011 -- particularly around DDO's fifth birthday at the end of February. For now, let's take a peek at where we've been in 2010. Follow along after the jump as we look at the DDO updates of the past year.

Update 3 -- February 3rd

"More free" and "more accessible" were the catch-phrases for Update 3, opening doors for new and experienced players alike. The big news for Update 3 was the removal of leveling sigils. Remember those? Every four levels, you had to use a sigil before you could level again. You could acquire them as a random drop through gameplay or go the quick route and purchase one pretty cheaply through the DDO Store, but in either case they were a small hurdle to leveling.

It was a bit of an irritation for players, but Turbine kept it in place for a while as the team proceeded cautiously through this new business model. Once the team was confident that things were going well, we all waved an enthusiastic farewell to leveling sigils.

Casual mode was introduced with this update, replacing the much more limited solo mode. Solo mode was previously only available on a handful of low-level adventures, so casual mode opened the gameplay doors to many more players. The new content for Update 3 spanned a nice range for more experienced players -- from level 13 to 18 -- and it was all free. Overall this update was a big push forward for DDO's vision of free-to-play.

Update 4 -- April 7th

Update 4 delighted fans with the introduction of zombie pirates in the Sentinels adventure pack. Seriously, how can you not love content that gives you zombie pirates? Sentinels also gave us Spies in the House, an optional dungeon that turned out to be Rogue heaven -- full of traps to be disabled and platforming to conquer.

There were also some bug fixes with this update, a few additions to the DDO Store, and the introduction of the DDO Player Feed for Facebook. That last feature turned out to be a mediocre success at best -- there are currently 114 DDO players using it. It felt like a small update, even though the adventure pack was a big hit, but Turbine was busy preparing to make a big splash with...

Update 5 -- June 28th

Wow, this one was a doozy. Update 5 undoubtedly had more ups, downs, and controversy than all the other updates of 2010 put together. Update 5 brought some fantastic things to the game; guild airships and the guild renown system added an entirely new facet to an already intricate game, and players loved the idea of them.

Carnival of Shadows came with Update 5 as well; it was a new adventure pack in House Phiarlan which was very well-received. The adventure pack offered some sneaky challenges that made use of Rogue skills, some great named loot, and visually pleasing new environments.

However -- yes, if you were around for Update 5, you know there's a pretty big "however" -- Turbine was still recovering from the Offer Wall Disaster from mid-April, so it's possible that fans were feeling a little skeptical and ready to pounce on problems. There's no denying that this was an extremely rocky update launch, though.

The guild renown system broke, older content was affected, the auction hall bugged, and hotfixes were deployed more than once. In a way it was understandable -- an update this ambitious is bound to have proportionally larger problems, some of which simply won't always show up on the test server. We weathered the bumps as Turbine fixed and tweaked, and we came out of it with a bigger and better game. Overall, I'd say it was well worth it.

Update 6 -- August 17th

Update 6 was a bit quieter after the fireworks of Update 5, but we got a nice new adventure pack. Claw of Vulkoor brought us a new wilderness area with new enemies (ugh, giant spider) and reacquainted us with our old friends the Sahuagin. The adventure pack introduced us to underwater combat with an amusing twist: kill an enemy Sahuagin underwater and he'll float to the top belly-up, a la dead goldfish.

This update came with a temporary XP and guild renown bonus for all players, so everyone enjoyed a little bit of catch-up time to help make up for lost guild renown after Update 5.

Update 7 -- October 20th

This was another ambitious one. Update 7 brought a new adventure pack, the Halloween event, some fantastic UI updates, the introduction of trapmaking, and two brand-new races. The addition of half-orcs and half-elves gave even the most jaded DDO players something new to enjoy, particularly the half-elf with her Dilettante feat.

The new adventure pack, titled Droaam, brought us a few new zones to explore as well as some new enemies. Even better, it began a story arc that carried on into the following update. The Halloween event had a few issues here and there, but Turbine had taken some lessons away from the problems in Update 5. The event was run once on the live servers as a test, and while technical issues grew so severe that the team was forced to shut it down early, the fact that the issues cropped up during the test event prevented them from cropping up during the real thing later.

The UI updates were even more exciting to many of us than the adventure pack. We finally got a search string in the auction house, the inventory UI got some updates to automatically sort our mountains of stuff, and things were generally cleaner and more organized.

Update 8 -- December 13th

The final update of 2010, Update 8 continued the Droaam attack on Stormreach with an adventure pack that continued the story from Update 7. Stormreach Under Attack brought closure to the tale, but not before several adventures full of traps, explosions, and Kobolds.

Update 8 also introduced something that players have been begging for... well, for years. Cosmetic armor upgrades were added to the DDO Store in a variety of colors and styles, with costs to suit almost every virtual pocketbook.

There you have it: a brief overview of all the updates of 2010. There were ups and downs, but we came through it with a ton of new content and flying guild halls. I count that as a win and am incredibly excited to see what 2011 brings. I'll see you next year!

Exploring Eberron is a novice's guide to the world of Dungeons and Dragons Online, found here on Massively every Friday. It's also a series of short summaries of lower-level DDO content, cleverly disguised as a diary of the adventures of OnedAwesome, Massively's DDO guild.

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