Have we ever posted about Dungeons & Dragons Online before? It's not an MMO that ever seems to make the headlines and, let's be honest, most of us either thought it was already closed or was living on borrowed time. In a fairly audacious move, it's instead gone free to play - rebranded as DDO Unlimited, and pitching itself as "the world’s first free-to-play MMO to offer the quality graphics and robust features previously only available in premium subscription based games." Hmm. Is that strictly true? Grrrrubish as they were, didn't the likes of RF Online and Archlord have that? Of course, it's precisely because DDO is not rubbish that makes this surprise move so tantalising...
The game got somewhat lost amidst WoW's initial world-eating and the successful emergence of Lord of the Rings Online, which perversely came from Turbine, the same studio behind DDO. While I've not played it myself, I remember reviews at the time admiring its combat and dungeoneering, even though the lack of exploration and visual personality was lamented. Were it anything else, I'd bet on going free being merely a prelude to being shut down, but when you're talking a license as famous as this that seems a lot less likely. This could actually work, y'know?
Unsurprisingly, the free to play client will be funded by micropayment extras - "hundreds of convenience items as well as premium dungeon packs, additional character slots, hirelings (hired muscle), potions, character customization and more", apparently. We'll find out this summer whether these are strictly optional thrills, or are essential to truly enjoying the game - always a risk with this business model.
Existing subscribers will be (hopefully) mollified by having their accounts upgraded to DDO Unlimited VIPs - wherein they receive "every premium adventure pack, receive priority server access, 10 character slots, a shared bank slot, and a monthly allotment of 500 Turbine Points to spend in the new DDO Store." Turbine Points? Oh, for goodness' sakes. Whether this is enough to compensate for the months of money already spent on a game that's about to change massively remains to be seen. Any existing DDO players reading who'd care to comment?
So, I think this might just work. Free is a powerful word, and unlike a lot of MMOs that failed to set the world alight - Tabula Rasa, Conan... - DDO doesn't seem to have picked up a negative word of mouth. Curious to see how this all plays out come the Summer release.
You can register for the beta of DDO Unlimited here.