Exploring Eberron: Our interview with DDO community members

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In this week's Exploring Eberron, we resume our player interviews at the other end of the vet scale: those newer players. I had the pleasure of talking to a few people who joined up when they heard about the Dungeons and Dragons Online free-to-play switch and loved it enough to jump in with both feet. This is another long read, and these three have some great tales and thoughts, so without further ado, let me introduce our community members!

Dulcimerist is a 36-year-old musician who plays an electric mountain dulcimer and who is a three-time cancer survivor.

Bryanmeerkat is a new player since October 2010 and a self-proclaimed "occasional troll," often spotted "pretending I know what I am talking about on the forums."

Cam Neely lives in the greater Boston area and works at one of the colleges in Boston. Cam is an officer in the Forgotten League on Orien with two main characters: a TRing Barb and a capped Bard Warchanter. Cam is a casual but committed player, typically playing a few hours in the evening when there's time.

Follow along after the break to see what they had to say!

Massively: What attracted you to DDO in the first place?

Dulcimerist: I was attracted to DDO in July of 2010 after joining a pen-and-paper D&D (Pathfinder) game. One of the players in the group was an old collectable card gaming friend I hadn't seen since 1997, and he told me about DDO. I had enjoyed the Star Wars Galaxies MMO a lot in 2004, but I couldn't afford its monthly fees. Additionally, paying monthly fees for a game always put me into the unhealthy mindset of being logged in and playing as much as humanly possible in order to get my money's worth. The free option of DDO and the social aspect of an MMO were what attracted me most to the game, but having a real-life friend already in it was the clincher for me.

Bryanmeerkat: I played AD&D for a lot of my youth, and I've also played quite a lot of MMORPGs (including that big other one we don't mention). It was an obvious cross-over for me to give it a go and see if it was for me.

Cam Neely: I was playing a different F2P MMO based on microtransactions, one I really enjoyed for a while but decided to drop cold turkey because the base was becoming more and more e-peen-focused (driven by whoever was willing to drop the most RL cash) and all "new" content was very cookie-cutter and formed to drive microtransactions. I had read some good reviews about DDO and Lord of the Rings Online. It was a bit of a toss up between the two at the start, but quickly I found myself playing more and more DDO. I think the first thing about the game that drew me in was the customizations of characters that the game offers.

Were you a pen-and-paper D&D fan?

Dulcimerist: I've only been a casual pen and paper D&D fan, and I haven't really played it much at all. My pen-and-paper experience can be summed up by a few weeks of Second Edition about 15 years ago, and I've been playing an ongoing Pathfinder (3.5) campaign for about as long as I've been playing DDO. I really enjoy the freedom and the wide-open creativity of pen-and-paper, though.

Bryanmeerkat: Yes! Many a Wednesday night were lost in the past to delving in a dungeon in a tiny box room with up to eight people squeezed in eating Chinese food and talking rubbish. Occasionaly we got some gaming done too.

Cam Neely: Hugely. Were and currently am. I first played AD&D a while back and recently picked it up with a few friends via a Fourth Edition campaign.

What were your first impressions of DDO?

Dulcimerist: My first impression of DDO was that it seemed complicated. When I created my characters, I still knew very little about pen-and-paper D&D. For an easy-button, I chose the preset paths for my characters, which allowed me to bypass doing a lot of research so that I could just dive in right away to see if I liked DDO. Now that I love the game and have learned a lot, I'm in dire need of Hearts of Wood in order to respec the poor decisions that those automatic paths made for me. Other first impressions included the excellent graphics and interesting background music and that the tutorial and in-game learning resources made the game easy and enjoyable to learn. DDO definitely isn't as complicated as I first thought it was.

Bryanmeerkat: I liked the choices that were available as soon as I got the game installed. All the usual suspects were there, but it seemed it had made a good translation from PnP with a vast array of the skills and feats I would expect. Of course, with my first character, I went for a build idea that had been very good in PnP, but after a few levels I realized it would be terrible for this game. Getting into the game, I liked how there were puzzles available along with the classic hack and slash.

Cam Neely: My first impression was that the community is entirely different than that in the last MMO I played. For the first few days of playing, I did not group and rarely used the general chat, as my experience is that there is very little to gain. Soon I started to realize that the /advice channel actually had worthwhile advice in it. I checked out the forums and got some great responses and older players dropping me PMs and answering questions. Another first impression was how large Korthos Island felt. Running around it had a different feel then what I was used to -- different landscapes, quests within this quest (explorer area) and different mobs by area. Then I got to the Harbor and realized there was a lot more to see. I also loved that you could not use numbers in the naming system.

What kept you around and playing?

Meeting lots of fun and friendly people to game with has been a major influence on keeping me around and playing. Although the gameplay, graphics, sound, and depth of the game are extremely enjoyable, it's the community and interaction with real people that has appealed to me the most. I always look forward to meeting fun and interesting new people in DDO, and that happens each time I log in.

Bryanmeerkat: There are so many different things that I keep wanting to try. I tried a few different builds and settled on a Fighter Cleric that I took up to level 20; with that character, I tried some of the endgame content. I haven't done any epics yet as I am not a big fan of the ubergrind. The character wasn't perfect, so I've TR'd him and am heading up in FVS at the moment. I'm also trying a Warforged Archmage at the moment and running a Clonk up as well. I also want to try Bards and Paladins and then all sorts of other things as well. There are so many different builds to try, and I guess that's what keeps me coming back .

Cam Neely: 1) Guild. We are a smaller guild, but everyone in it is incredibly friendly. They make it fun and interesting to log on and rerun shroud for the 40th time. 2) Content. My first capped character only had a few packs, so despite being halfway through a TR on him, I would say I have only seen 50% of content, and only about 10% of content have I run enough to make it "old." 3) Build. I love builds! The planner is great and keeps me wanting to level up guys to TR to try a different build -- I only have four character slots.

What is your favorite aspect of the game?

: My favorite aspect of the game is definitely the community. I've especially enjoyed helping new players, and I often help them with the gift of a few items and answering questions that they might have. Additionally, I've really enjoyed the "game within a game" aspect of DDO's seasonal events, since they're a refreshing diversion from regular gameplay.

Bryanmeerkat: The freedom to build as you want and the different playstyles that brings out. There are also some great quests (and some not so great), but perhaps those I don't like, others will enjoy .

Cam Neely: The XP reward system. How it's for a quest completion, and not per kill. Close second would probably be community.

What is your least favorite aspect of the game?

Nothing really sticks out in my mind for an obvious least favorite aspect of the game. A minor annoyance of mine is that being just one level above a wilderness area gives a whopping 50% penalty to XP for its objectives, and there aren't any real incentives to completing wilderness area objectives in the first place. I also get disappointed at the difficulty of getting groups together for a few of the less-popular pay-to-play adventure packs I bought.

Bryanmeerkat: The Mario quests. It seems a staple of MMOs that you have to be good at boinking around from one tiny platform to another, and it can be very frustrating if you are lagging, not good at jumping, or have a low jump skill -- all problems that I have to suffer with from time to time. And when all three combine, it can be very annoying for me and those I am grouped with. One other issue that annoys me is that all the quests in the explorer areas seem to have been built in the least accessible place possible, one that requires you to loop around six times in a weird undulating spiral until eventually you realize the quest is just over the other side of the fence, which is about a 20-minute run from where you are.

Cam Neely: Epics -- one of the few things about the game that seems very lazily done. Instead of making Epics Epically difficult, Turbine just multiplied the HP by some factor, ditto saves, DMG and AC. There is some interesting endgame content, hard raids and quests, that is difficult in that you have to think about how to go about them, but Epic adds nothing to that besides time spent.

What do you hope to see in the future for DDO?

For DDO's future, I hope to be pleasantly surprised with each update. I would love to see new classes and races, new free and pay-to-play adventure packs added, older adventure packs being revamped, etc. But I'm most interested in seeing the developers surprise me by adding cool things to DDO that I couldn't have possibly imagined.

Bryanmeerkat: I'd like to see more quests, more classes (although I'd like all the PREs on existing class done first), and a bit more of an in-depth crafting system (or at least a lot more options for the stone of change). I'd also like for Turbine to go back and look at some of the XP on quests. Certain quests that would otherwise be fun have the edge taken off them as they are very long to complete, so you end with very little experience and poor loot for your efforts. Turbine could greatly decrease the need to farm certain quests by making other quests more viable. I understand why this is done on the F2P content, but there is premium content that often feels like you are wasting time.

Cam Neely: There has been some buzz about "An Epic Reboot," which I really hope to see. Turbine has put a lot of time and development money into low-end quests, and it would be nice if the team redid this section of endgame content.

Thanks for your time!

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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