D&D Online: Interview
Wouter "Hyrrix" Ryckbosch, 2003-12-04
With Middle-Earth and D&D Online, mmorpg developer Turbine has two of the most popular role-playing franchises in its posession to make mmorpg's of. Surprisingly though, little is known yet about Turbine's D&D mmorpg; which encouraged us to contact the folks from the dev team and shoot a couple of questions at them.
MMORPGDot: How did the Dungeons & Dragons license end up with Turbine and what is the current influence of Wizards on the design of the game?
MMORPGDot: What do you consider to be the most important advantages of using the D&D system over other systems more commonly used in mmorpg's? Why do you think people will prefer a game using the D&D system over another one?
Turbine Dev Team: I can't tell you how many different games we pitched to how many different companies - and with the odds of any particular idea or deal coming to fruition, we tried to keep perspective. Still, D&D Online is the game that many of us have always wanted to make, so coming to an agreement with Atari, Hasbro, and Wizards of the Coast was a great thing indeed. Jubliation. Dancing in the streets.
MMORPGDot: Why did you choose to call the game "D&D Online", knowing that a title like that can often lead to anger and disappointment with the current Dungeons & Dragons fans? Doesn't the name bind you too much to the original D&D ruleset, limiting your freedom in applying the rules to the mmorpg-genre? To give an example: don't you think quite some people will be disappointed about the real-time combat; whereas D&D is usually totally turn-based?
Turbine Dev Team: The characters. D&D is the game that started it all - it was the game that made many of us here at Turbine gamers in the first place. And to work with the rules, characters, classes and monsters that so many people grew up with, well, it's just plain cool.
MMORPGDot: Is there anything you can tell us yet about the setting of the game yet? In what kind of world will D&D Online take place and what will be special about that world (if anything)?
Turbine Dev Team: We get this question a lot, and it's kind of suprising. Who WOULDN'T want to be Dungeons and Dragons Online? We don't see the ruleset as limiting. To us, D&D is all about action and adventure. Battles and wars, savage beasts, earthshaking spells. The D&D ruleset does a good job of approximating real-time combats, so it naturally follows that if D&D characters are using D&D skills and abilities with D&D rules, except with actual realtime combat instead of fake realtime combat, it will still feel like D&D, and be great fun.
MMORPGDot: While most mmorpg developers are promising the largest virtual worlds ever seen and creating technology for allowing ten thousands of players to be online in one world together, you do exactly the opposite. Why do you think it would improve the player community when playing on smaller servers?
Turbine Dev Team: D&D Online will take place in Eberron, a new setting under development at WotC. It's a high-magic setting with a focus on "pulp" adventure, complete with secret societies, ancient ruins, and treachery at every turn. The game itself is set in one of the darkest, most dangerous frontiers of this world, where adventurers' mettle will be severely tested. Look to the official WotC site for more information about Eberron, coming soon.
MMORPGDot: What kind of mmorpg will D&D Online be? Are you more focusing on the storyline, on quests, on creating a strong player economy, or maybe on PvP options?
Turbine Dev Team: Communities form over a common sense of "home". In MMPs, players traditionally are wanderers, ranging far over huge landscapes. In some big worlds, it's rare that you see the same person more than once. By deliberately crafting smaller physical spaces that encourage recirculation, you see the same faces every day - they become not just fellow players, but neighbors and friends. And when we started thinking about D&D, we realized that playing with a group of friends was, for us, the quintessential part of the D&D experience. This is really what made us sit back and think about the whole point of having many players in a world, and the meaning of the world size. We felt we had to create the environment in which the D&D experience of playing with and among friends could happen.
MMORPGDot: A lot of people nowadays are complaining about the lack of end-game in most mmorpg's. What's your view on that and what end-game will D&D Online provide?
Turbine Dev Team: D&DO is a story-driven adventure MMORPG, with the RP pointedly left in the acronym, while other games tend to leave it out. We really want to recapture the feel of progressing through a D&D campaign with your friends.
MMORPGDot: Are you aiming for a more role-playing community, or rather for those who love hack 'n slash games?
Turbine Dev Team: MMPs have traditionally been a race to the top of an arbitrary mountain, for the pioneers to exclaim upon reaching the summit, "there's nothing up here!" Let's challenge that assumption. MMPs don't have to be a level grind. This isn't to say that we won't have some awesome high-level content. We will. But we're equally concerned that every quest and mission along the way is also great fun. Great games are fun to play, not just fun to "win".
Turbine Dev Team: This is going to be an action-packed, fast-paced MMP, in which we want to give players the best combat and dungeon crawl experiences they'll find in any MMP. We're focused on bringing rich, choice-filled D&D campaigns to life through quests. If someone wants to focus on one aspect of the game—say, hack and slash challenges- to the exclusion of the other, they'll still have fun, but they'll be missing out!