After Six Years D&D Online Gets An Expansion

By Craig Pearson on February 27th, 2012 at 5:28 pm.

He's been holding this pose for six years
Something felt wrong when I glanced over the announcement of Dungeons & Dragons Online: Menace of the Underdark. I dismissed it as just another expansion pack for a free-to-play MMO, but that felt wrong. Digging around uncovered what was troubling me: DDO has never had an expansion pack. It was released in 2006 and went free-to-play three years later, but even then it’s been a low priority thanks to server sizes and Turbine’s Lord Of The Rings Online Tolkien all the people. Because of that, the list of additional content is rather chunky. It’ll be out on June 25th, but you can pre-order now.

While the main game is the steampunk-inspired Eberron, Turbine are taking players to the leafier, more traditional fantasy setting of the Forgotten Realms for the new content. That means places like the King’s Forest, the Underdark and the Demonweb for your new Druid character to run around in.

There’s actually another reason for the bringing the new realm now: Turbine have been hoping to do so for a while, but creating a reason in the game’s fiction needed work between the game’s company and D&D lore keepers Wizards of The Coast. That’s since been spun with the prequel content, The Web of Chaos, launching the connection between the two worlds. Something Gamespot have probed.

You know, there’s a really interesting middle ground of games, especially in MMOGs, that I really should take a look at: games that don’t make a lot of noise, but here we are, six years on talking about a new expansion. The numbers must play out for it to maintain enough revenue to continue for so long. Is it quietly big, or just quiet enough?

Via Massively.

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41 Comments »

  1. Alexander Norris says:

    Sadly, DDO is more “generic meltingpot D&D with Eberron names plastered on” than actual-Eberron (which isn’t steampunk, more pulp/noir with a dash of magitek). I really wish they’d take the opportunity to make DDO more Eberron-ish rather than taking it to the even-more-generic Forgotten Realms. :(

    • DrGonzo says:

      “which isn’t steampunk, more pulp/noir with a dash of magitek” However correct that statement may be, it is also sadly the exact kind of talk that keeps me well away from D&D.

    • Lemming says:

      Thing is though, it’s Forgotten Realms that would have brought more of the punters in from day 1. It’s what the layman thinks of when they think of D&D, and it’s certainly the world that’s had the most exposure in D&D video gaming to date.

      You may think it’s more cynical to take the less brave route for profit, but I considered it rather cynical they went for Ebberon in the first place. All I thought about when that was originally announced was how WOTC must have tied their hands on it to push their new gaming world.

      I bet all those programmers and artists at Turbine who were told they were going to be working on a D&D MMO all thought of FR first.

      alot of WoW’s early adoption and staying power can be attributed to the fact it built on an established world that gamers were already familiar with. Their first customers were already Warcraft players.

      WOTC’s decision (again, i doubt it was Turbines) to push for the Eberron campaign setting made the game a harder sell, and speaking personally I would have loved to have been traversing the Forgotten Realms and retreading those locations I”d already seen in Baldur’s Gate’s Sword Coast, Icewind Dale and Neverwinter.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Forgotten Realms is a massive shit sandwich. Worst campaign setting ever.

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    • Lemming says:

      @FunkyBadger3: “Forgotten Realms is a massive shit sandwich. Worst campaign setting ever.”

      I find comments like this (and I realise it’s a common one from ‘elite’ D&D players) puzzling to say the least. we are talking about an entire planet, with a number of unknown and unexplored continents, in addition to the Underdark which is composed of 3 levels itself AND all the plane spheres.

      How can it possibly be uninteresting with that much room and scope?

    • speedwaystar says:

      we are talking about an entire planet, with a number of unknown and unexplored continents, in addition to the Underdark which is composed of 3 levels itself AND all the plane spheres

      because it’s generic McFantasy of the most wretched kind?

    • Roshin says:

      As generic as the Realms is, it is also very popular. Dismissing it and going for Eberron was a stupid choice.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      @DrGonzo: yes, talking about genres that are in no way specific to D&D is what keeps you away from D&D. This makes sense because,

    • Lemming says:

      @speedwaystar : But it seems generic because everything today is derivative of Forgotten Realms rather than vice versa. And yes, it all began with Tolkien and germanic/nordic mythology but D&D made the things we all take for granted in RPGs today.

      This is like calling Doom a ‘generic FPS’ to me.

      Actually, anyone who says D&D and FR is ‘generic fantasy’ I’m going to assume has only been alive for the last ten years. It’ll stop me getting annoyed.

      It reminds me of a movie review program once where they got four members of the public to review that week’s movies in a round table discussion. They praised Harry Potter and didn’t like Lord of the Rings because ‘it doesn’t do anything new, you expect Elves and Orcs and stuff to be in forests and mountains. It’s been done’.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Lemming: what speedwaystar said, basically.

      I suspect FR is a fine setting for a plonk it down, just get playing type game, but as a background for storytelling or adventure its woeful (and includes the worst example ever of author insertion power-fantasy god-character).

      There are no real redeeming features of FR, its not even the original TSR Tolkein-fantasy setting (Greyhawke)

      And it’s not as if TSR (et. al) couldn’t come up with interesting settings: Planescape, Ravenloft, Al-Qadim, Dark Sun, Dragonlance, Eberron etc. all far more interesting.

      (And thanks for calling me elite – I’ll take it as a compliment!)

    • wererogue says:

      DDO: Planescape Unlimited would blow my mind. I’ve run enough games in the Planescape setting to know that it has plenty of value above and beyond the gameplay fidelity that Torment offered.

      It would suit DDO’s structure so perfectly, too – you have the various areas of the cage as your hub city (with a nice skybox showing the rest of the city above you, and the spire on one side) and you could take doors leading to missions, with quest rewards to unlock new mission doors.

      It’ll never happen though, since Planescape has been retired since 3.0

  2. Ross Mills says:

    I’m disappointed they didn’t investigate other areas of Eberron before changing planes of existence entirely.

    There’s a gigantic city called Sharn, full of intrigue, gangs, and “dungeons” in sewers, basements, and similar which they could’ve explored.

    But no, they’re going to Forgotten Realms, the most generic of generic fantasy settings, and a million different kinds of boring Drizz’t-style namedroppings will ensue.

    Excuse my nerdrage.

    • Kaira- says:

      I’m hoping they won’t abandond new content on Eberron completely. I’d love to explore it some more, Forgotten Realms is just… so “seen before”.

    • JohnH says:

      Don’t worry, the Drizzt clones have been around since Drow was added as a playable race years ago.

    • Shadram says:

      There’s already PLENTY of dungeons set in basements and sewers in DDO, we really don’t need any more. They’ve also brought a lot of the Sharn stuff into the game already, with the Sharn Syndicate quest lines.

    • InternetBatman says:

      No more sewer dungeons please. The game has more than enough already. You have to get to level 5 or higher before the DM stops complaining about the smell.

    • Roshin says:

      Ah, sewers. We certainly haven’t seen those before. :D

  3. Zogan says:

    I’m actually sort of surprised about DDO having an actual “expansion” because even though it hasn’t had one before, it has had a pattern of adding things one traditionally associates with an expansion — level cap increases, new classes, new playable races, revamped crafting a couple of times, lots of added content, etc. — as part of normal content updates over time. I like that a lot more than I like the big-content-bomb-every-two-years model, but I suppose I can see why opening up a whole new campaign setting justifies calling this an expansion pack.

    Still… epic levels and druids: awesome; Forgotten Realms, meh.

    • MadMatty says:

      Yeah true, its been getting pretty hefty free content updates, but theyre called Updates and not Expansions, so the difference is mainly grammatical in this case.

  4. MadMatty says:

    Well the combat is slightly more arcade-ish than WoW´s “stand still and press icons”- for example the mage has to aim his spells with the mouse- no auto-lock.

    I´d play this again for the gameplay, but excuse me, im about to barf right now over the sheer amount of general-fantasy esque (read: Lord of the Rings rip offs) games ive seen over the years.

    Fanatsy genre desperatly needs new input- like why dont you rip-off Ursula le Guinn instead of Tolkien just for once.

    Anyway, just my two bits- im sure “Elves, Castles n Dragons n shit 7″ is still selling like hotcakes.

    Edit:
    Forgotten Realms has one good thing going for it, and thats the very Intricate background work thats been done on geography and political climate, slightly raising it from Meh.

    • RakeShark says:

      To be fair, the west European high fantasy setting is the biggest name of the game because so many writers like Tolkien fleshed the setting out to a nauseating degree. Baltic/Slavic high fantasy was influenced by western high fantasy too, though they tend to be a lot more perverse and skulduggery.

      I think the last source of high fantasy that haven’t been tapped is the tribal African folklore, and I don’t mean the standard Brair Rabbit tales. However, the trouble with that is folklore between the tribes is so different that a unified African high fantasy would turn into a mess of broken references, even more so than southeast Asia folklore. The ability to have a sustainable high fantasy world would be an immense feat to pull off beyond one visit. Kinda like how, for example, the American western expansion folk/fakelore is certainly rich, but couldn’t survive scrutiny of return visits, especially since there’s real history surrounding it.

    • MadMatty says:

      I don´t mind the High Fantasy at all, its just the Tolkien base has been overdone (superficially), while they havent been able to anything interesting with it story or script wise.
      Its the Easy way for hack pulp-fantasy writers.
      I do understand the love for the dragons n elves, and i liked it a lot too when i was younger. Its just a question of too much.
      Something like Planescape seemed like a fairly original take on High Fantasy (Tho i haven´t played it).

      This is D&D ofcourse, so its gonna be Tolkien´esque, and the fans love that.

      As for me, i find myself wanting a bit of variation. The Realms dont seem that fantastic when you´ve seen the likes of it a hundred times before.
      I won Divinity 2: The Dragon Knight Saga (garnered fine reviews too) during the holidays, and i uninstalled it after about an hour and a half, because it was just so damn uninspired :/

    • NathanH says:

      In fairness to Generic Video Game Fantasy, you don’t have anywhere near as much scope for filling in background material as you do in novels or pen-and-paper games, so you’d end up feeling quite confused and disorientated if the setting was too unfamiliar. This is fine if that’s a feeling you’re trying to create (something like Morrowind specifically used its outsider-in-alien-surroundings theme), but if your goal isn’t to make something like that then there are obvious advantages to sticking with elements that are well-known, well-understood, and also popular.

    • Drinking with Skeletons says:

      There’s been a fairly considerable movement in fantasy for a long while now to add fantastical elements into mundane settings. My personal favorite–and all time favorite novel, period–is Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which combines Napoleonic-Wars-era England with magic and a more traditional interpretation of faeries (i.e. not Tinkerbell).

      Then, of course, there are the traditionally medieval fantasy works which put a greater emphasis on political realities and grim ‘n gritty settings than dragons and quests. A Song of Ice and Fire leads the charge there, but there are plenty of other quality titles that take related approaches.

      Sadly, videogames lag far behind anything other than tried-and-true Tolkienesque settings. Part of it, I think, is that the kinds of games we associate with fantasy fall into the RPG end of the spectrum, and what we think of as RPGs–endless RPS debates aside–involves many mechanical tropes that can be difficult to adapt into alternate settings.

    • marcusfell says:

      I want “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Video Game”

      Also, I can’t help but think if it would be any different if The Hobbit had been more popular than than the trilogy. I mean, there is simply a huge difference between them! We would probably have more games like Trine, and less grime.

    • Drinking with Skeletons says:

      @Marcusfell:

      What’s easy to forget is that the trilogy isn’t all that gritty, either. It has far more in common with medieval romances than it does just about anything else, from the language to the themes to the morals. Much of the following fantasy apes LotR while often missing some of the more literary elements, while the better “mature” works often consciously reject those elements. To return to the example I used earlier, A Song of Ice and Fire is a response to, and frequently inversion of, high-fantasy (Tolkienesque fantasy). The most obvious example? Think about Tyrion’s favored melee weapon.

    • fooga44 says:

      “Something like Planescape seemed like a fairly original take on High Fantasy (Tho i haven´t played it).”

      And that is why we’ll see generic fantasy setting, whenever someone tries something new it doesn’t take. The fact that you haven’t played torment yet complain about boring fantasy settings mean you’re part of the very problem you decry. The audience of games often complains but they never know what they WOULD buy if game developers tried something different.

      The poor sales of torment is a case in point. The great masses of the people have simple tastes.

    • MadMatty says:

      @Drinking

      “Part of it, I think, is that the kinds of games we associate with fantasy fall into the RPG end of the spectrum, and what we think of as RPGs–endless RPS debates aside–involves many mechanical tropes that can be difficult to adapt into alternate settings.”

      This is nonsense, apart from that you´re right.
      Some pen and paper RPG´s like GURPS for instance (Generic Universal Roleplaying System) shows thats its just a matter of replacing the Bow stats with the Pew-Pew Laser gun stats, Smithing turns into Nanotech Forming or such.
      There is just nothing mechanically in these games that requires a standard Tolkien-esque setting.

      @Fooga 44

      “The fact that you haven’t played torment yet complain about boring fantasy settings mean you’re part of the very problem you decry. ”

      Thats a bit of a premature conclusion- you don´t know what games i HAVE been playing, and you haven´t.
      I certainly don´t see how picking up Planescape on GOG.com would suddenly shift the industry.

      Anyway, i do sometimes play games which are trite setting-wise, but are interesting mechanically and gameplay wise, like D&D Online which struck me as kindof fun- put 15 hours into it or so, and i might go back and check it out again.
      The best High-Fantasy is ofcourse from books, from people who are good enough to be able to live off pure writing without having to worry about gameplay.
      Afterall, most games stories are a bit like a Jackie Chan film, in that the plot elements are usually just setups to get you to the action bits.
      Great game designers/writers manage to do this at the same time writing adecent story, but this is unfortunately rare.

  5. Fartango says:

    When’s this game getting a steam release alongside all the other FTP MMOs on there.

  6. Neurotic says:

    Never seen more ill-informed, lazy commenters before in my life. Not only does Old Man Pearson not know his DDO from a hole in the ground, but you lot are a shower of ambiguous bastards too. Sheesh.

  7. aircool says:

    I like Eberron. It’s much better than the snoozeworthy Forgotten Realms in which every D&D game ever seems to be based. How about digging out some of the better leftfield stuff from yonks ago; Dark Sun, Spelljammer or Hollow World?

    • InternetBatman says:

      Really just anywhere but Neverwinter. Neverwinter is a boring city with boring crises. I love the games, but they’re best when they go to more distant places.

  8. nizzie says:

    Will new players be able to jump right into the FR, or do they have to grind through Eberron first?

    • Shadram says:

      I think the Forgotten Realms stuff is all higher level, from what I’ve read, so you’ll need to do the Eberron stuff first. It’s worthwhile, though: there’s some excellent dungeons along the way.

      EDIT: And if you preorder now, you can get Veteran status (start at character level 4 or 7) and increased XP tomes (Greater one is +25% XP and +50% XP for the first run through each dungeon, the lesser is +10/25% XP).

    • InternetBatman says:

      The FR stuff is Underdark, so late game only. The early dungeons are great though.

  9. Nallen says:

    “Tolkien all the people”

    Woah.

  10. pipman3000 says:

    oh great another game based on ed greenwood’s self insert fantasies i can’t wait to play in the one fantasy setting even more boring then the wheel of time

  11. Ralphomon says:

    As soon as they release a D&D game where I can play as a I dromite, I will be all over it

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