I've been playing some DDO -- Dungeons & Dragons Online, that is. Stormreach (as it is subtitled) is an online, multi player version of the pen-and-paper (PnP) role playing classic. The game is a reasonable version of the 3.5 edition rules. But is it an MMORPG?
I'm familiar mostly with World of Warcraft. In WoW character progression is well done, there is a huge pile of content, some nicely balanced character classes (rough rule of thumb -- if all the class forums have complaints about their class being nerfed or no good, then they are balanced. Oh, and nerf shamans!), professions to gather resources and create things from those resources. A functioning trade system (Auction House), enhancement of items (enchants but also short-term enhancements such as poisons, sharpening stones). Guilds. Two sides (Horde and Alliance), which are also balanced. Quests lead to other quests. Grinding. Solo play and group. Items that get better and better and are worth fortunes.
DDO has.. err.. well.. its got characters. And adventures.
What doesn't it have? Well.. no professions. No gathering or manufacturing.
Even though group play is almost essential to progress (you have low level adventures that are soloable, but in the main the jobs need a group), there doesn't appear to be much to make people want to play with others.
Is it fun? Yeah, it is, but its more something where I can team up with my son and hit a few adventures. We're only level 2 (progression in this game is intensely slow, although the use of "enhancements" inside the levels was a brainwave) and hopefully by the time we hit level 3 we'll be able to get into some of the more challenging quests. The quests, adventures, scenario things is it, and if you don't mind that in the game I guess it would be enough.
What does DDO need?
Gathering and Manufacturing or customisation of things would be a huge boon for this game. Some MMORPGs can point to their crafts as a big play point -- Star Wars Galaxies, Everquest, E2, WoW, EVE Online -- they all allow the players to make things that then have a value elsewhere in the game. DDO has nothing. If there were alchemists (able to make Cure Light Wounds potions, for instance) EVERYONE would want to be one. DDO has players collect a few different artifacts (Mushrooms, Prayer Beads, pages from a research journal) and these can be traded to "collectors" for some nice(ish) loot. Why not instead allow the players to combine mushrooms into potions, or prayer beads into an enchant on some piece of gear?
Some content that isn't in a sewer, basement, abandoned warehouse -- how about out in the open? Mind you, we aren't that far into the game, perhaps that is coming.
PvP or duels. Or both. I don't play PvP much on WOW, although I used to -- lag time from Australia to the US WOW servers is bad for PvP (plus I suck) so for me it isn't much of a priority. But to enhance the game it would be great to be able to duel it out with another player, or even have a "Capture the flag" or "King of the Hill" type arena.
Bad guys. Everyone is either of Good or Neutral alignment. Where are all the bad guys?? Strangely, the coming patch will include Drow -- Dark Elves are evil, so I'm not sure how that will work.
Some way to stop the scenario frustration -- we did one quest three times over and just got pissed off: if you killed too many Kobold Prophets you failed the quest. Since the Prophets mixed in with other Kobolds, it made it hard to avoid them, and since when you swing a weapon it rolls to hit everyone in your range we killed too many over and over again. When I'm playing a game that takes an hour I don't want to get into yelling matches with my son over who killed the last prophet: a "stun" effect that doesn't do damage would be good. Maybe I should have leveled the sorceror instead of the warforged barbarian.
There's a content patch coming in July, and we're only a little bit into the game. Hopefully we'll find its worth the money we're paying for it.