A look at DDO’s Update History focusing on Content

Note: I consider “content” to overall include character classes and races, as well as quests, raids, and wilderness adventure areas. I don’t include any changes in enhancements to be “new content” because it’s essentially the same content simply changed around or rebalanced.

I’m also not including event content on this list because it sort of comes and goes as Turbine pleases. Nor am I including simple “epicifying” of old quests as “new content,” because it’s not new content. An old quest with higher difficulty simply = an old quest with higher difficulty. Anyway, let’s begin, shall we?

Stormreach Era: The Early Years. February 2006-September 2009.

Module 1 (including 1.1 and 1.2)
April 2006-July 2006 (3 months span)
9 starting classes
5 starting races
14 new quests (including VoN 5)
1 new raid

Module 2 (including 1.1 and 1.2)
July 2006-Late October 2006 (3.5 months span)
1 new race
13 new quests
2 new raids

Module 3 (including 3.1-3.3)
Late October 2006-April 2007 (6 months span)
21 new quests
1 new raid

Module 4 (including 4.1-4.4)
April 2007-September 2007 (5 months span)
13 new quests
1 new raid
8 new wilderness adventure areas

Module 5
September 2007-January 2008 (4 months span)
10 new quests
1 new raid
1 new wilderness adventure area

Module 6 (including 6.1-6.2)
February 2008 (technically January 30)-June 2008 (4 months span)
6 new quests
1 new raid (the best one on the game to date)
1 new wilderness adventure area

Module 7
June 2008-November 2008 (technically October 29; 5 months span)
1 new class
3 new quests
2 new raids
3 new wilderness adventure areas

Module 8
November 2008 (technically October 29)-September 2009 (10 months span)
5 new quests (I’m not including revamped korthos as new content)
5 new wilderness adventure areas

31 months
6 races
10 classes
85 quests, in addition to those preexisting at the game’s launch
9 raids
18 wilderness adventure areas

Eberron Unlimited Era: The Golden Age. September 2009-June 2012.

Module 9/Official Launch as F2P
September 2009-November 2009 (technically October 28; 2 months span)
1 new class
14 new quests
1 new raid
2 new wilderness adventure areas

Update 1
November 2009 (technically October 28)-December 2009 (1 month span)
5 new quests

Update 2
December 2009-February 2010 (2 months span)
5 new quests

Update 3
February 2010-April 2010 (2 months span)
4 new quests

Update 4
April 2010-July 2010 (technically June 28; 3 months span)
5 new quests

Update 5
July 2010 (technically June 28)-August 2010 (1 months span)
4 new quests

Update 6
August 2010-October 2010 (2 months span)
4 new quests
1 wilderness adventure area

Update 7
October 2010-December 2010 (2 months span)
2 new races
3 new quests
1 new raid

Update 8 (including 8.1)
December 2010-April 2011 (4 months span)
4 new quests

Update 9
April 2011-June 2011 (2 months span)
4 new quests

Update 10
June 2011-September 2011 (3 months span)
4 new quests

Update 11
September 2011-November 2011 (2 months span)
1 new class
3 new quests
2 new raids
3 new wilderness adventure areas (debatable whether or not Artificer Workshops and Research Facility are truly separate entities from House Cannith Manufactury, however)

Update 12
November 2011-March 2012 (technically February 27; 4 months span)
4 new challenge maps

Update 13
March 2012 (technically February 27)-June 2012 (3 months span)

32 months
2 new races
2 new classes
59 new quests
4 new raids
6 new wilderness adventure areas
4 new challenge maps

Dungeons and Dragons Online: The Dark Age. June 2012-Present.

Update 14
June 2012-August 2012 (2 months span)
1 new class
16 new quests
1 new raid
5 new challenge maps
4 new wilderness adventure areas

Update 15
August 2012-November 2012 (3 months span)
4 new quests
1 new challenge map

Update 16
November 2012-February 2013 (3 months span)
5 new quests
1 new wilderness adventure area

Update 17
February 2013-May 2013 (3 months span)
1 new raid

Update 18
May 2013-August 2013 (3 months span)
1 “new” race
3 new quests

Update 19
August 2013-November 2013 (3 months span)
3 “new” races
10 new quests
2 new wilderness adventure areas

Update 20
November 2013-March 2014 (4 months span)
2 new quests

Update 21
March 2014-June 2014 (3 months span)
1 new quest
2 new raids
1 new wilderness adventure area

Update 22
June 2014-October 2014 (technically September 29; 4 months span)
1 new quest

Update 23
October 2014 (technically September 29)-December 2014 (2 months span)
1 new raid

Update 24
December 2014-April 2015 (4 months span)
4 new quests

Update 25
April 2015-June 2015 (2 months span)
2 new quests

Update 26
June 2015-July 2015 (1 month span)
1 new class

Update 27
July 2015-September 2015 (2 months span)
3 new quests
1 new raid

Update 28
September 2015-Present (2 months and counting)
4 new quest

29 months and counting
4 “new” races
2 new classes
55 new quests
6 new raids
8 new wilderness adventure areas
6 new challenge maps

Okay, if we’re talking sheer numbers of content that has been released since the Dark Ages started in 2012, DDO might not seem like it’s in such a bad position right now. They’ve definitely slowed down since 2009, but personally, I’d excuse that from 2009-2012 because the actual content was fun and enjoyable. And here’s where the age-old “quality vs. quantity” argument comes into play.

For starters, every single update or module from 2006 to June 2012 brought something new and unique to the table. You had extraplanar quests like Vault of Night, Amrath, and The Shroud (which is still by far the best raid in the game from both a fun point of view and from a utilitarian point of view); the abundant undead quests; warehouse quests; invasion quests in the way of Sentinels and Assault; a desert; the unique Gianthold; tropical paradises like Ataraxia and TBC; varied and decent-sized natural landscapes like Searing Heights, Cerulean Hills, and again TBC; time travelling by way of Chronoscope; frigid mountains like Aussircaex’s Valley; acid trips like Delirium and In the Flesh; and the list goes on and on. Simply put, from the time range of 2006-2012, there’s a plethora of exciting and varied environments to keep you interested. And while sure, there are certainly some bad eggs in the bunch of terms of fun (I’m looking at you, Necro 3), for the most part the sheer number of quests allowed you to skip these and still have fun. In contrast, ever since 2012, we’ve been presented with about three different environments: dark, gloomy bore-fests like Demonweb, Wheloon, and Temple of Elemental Fail, King’s Forest clones like the High Road and Druid’s Deep quests, and Stormhorns. (I actually really like Storm Horns, and it’s more-or-less the shining jewel and exception to the rule in the otherwise shithole that is the series of updates from U14 to present.)

Personally, I’d argue that one of the most important aspects of games in general is immersion. When you’re immersed in a game, you typically think, “Wow, this environment, or this scenario, or whatever, is really fun, engaging, and interesting. I want to be there.” And at its best, DDO made you think exactly that. Many of these quests that Turbine designed from the early age through the golden age are great, immersive, and are what hooked so many people on the game in the first place. I’ll reiterate that the Storm Horns were the last bit of content which really made me feel that way, and I fear they will be the last; every single other quest and wilderness area since update 14 seems derivative, unoriginal, or is simply too frustrating to be enjoyable.

Breaking it down update-by-update, here’s my personal take:

  1. King’s Forest is tolerable and overall decently enjoyable. Demonweb and that unpronounceable Drow city absolutely killed my enjoyment for this expansion though. Quests are way too dark, straightforward, and similar to one another. This update also has the dubious honor of being the worst update in DDO’s history, having the effect of cleaving DDO’s already small population in two and indirectly resulting in many people quitting the game. More on that in another post.
  2. Druid’s Deep quests are too similar and derivative of King’s Forest quests.
  3. High Road is yet another King’s Forest clone. I’m tired of it by now.
  4. Nothing new. Just Turbine trying to extend the game’s longevity by making Gianthold Epic. One “new” raid? Oh boy! I’m sure that took more than ten minutes to make.
  5. Three forgettable, low exp quests. Yawn.
  6. Love Stormhorns. Hate Wheloon. Friends in Low Places causes excruciating lag while Thrill of the Hunt has the worst monsters in the game. Through a Mirror Darkly is a pretty decent quest though—obvious Link to the Past inspiration, but it works well here. Only problem is that you have to do two godawful quests to flag for it.
  7. Two dark, forgettable quests only doable at very high levels. Yawn.
  8. Still haven’t bought Haunted Halls. I don’t think a single quest which can only be done at one level is worth 650 TP. I got Thunderholme, though, and found it all right. Reminds me a bit of Touhou 11: Subterranean Animism and is decently fun to explore, but still nowhere as big as it should be. Thunderholme, according to lore, is supposed to be this sprawling, massive underground kingdom. DDO’s Thunderholme is seven floors tall, has settlements on five of them, and can be traversed in its entirety in less than fifteen minutes. It’s more akin to a mansion—nowhere near the scope of the ancient kingdom it’s supposed to be. I think Shan-To-Kor is bigger.
  9. Three Barrel Cove is my favorite wilderness area and always has been. Too bad the epic versions of quests don’t really add anything new to the whole experience. Precious Cargo, however, was a pleasant surprise because it’s actually new content. Very fun quest which is reminiscent of Skies of Arcadia, though the reliance on ranged damage and inclusion of Shadar Kai really drag down what would’ve otherwise been a perfect quest.
  10. This update added nothing new to the whole Necropolis 4 experience. At least Epic Three Barrel Cove gave us an original, new quest. Update 23 gave us none.
  11. I forgot that these Xorian quests even existed.
  12. The worst quests conceived yet. Temple of Elemental Fail. Horrible mixture of awful difficulty, terribly grind-based loot system, very little exp, and overall just having a boring, bland design that went on for much longer than it needed to. Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong.
  13. No new content. All this update did was introduce to us the most unnecessary and most horrendously unbalanced class in the entire game’s nine-year history.
  14. Haven’t bought this yet, nor do I want to.
  15. Haven’t bought this yet, nor do I want to.

So all in all, I enjoy a grand total of seven quests (Precious Cargo, Mirror Darkly, and Stormhorns quests) out of the fifty-five new ones they’ve introduced since Update 14. That’s less than a 15% pass rate. In my eyes, DDO since 2012 hasn’t been anywhere near as immersive or enjoyable as it once was. And even if our ideas of “fun” diverge, you can’t deny the relative homogeneity which has plagued most of the new content since update 14. And to compound the matters further, Turbine’s fucking up old content by introducing stupid, unnecessary stuff that nobody asked for like Monster Champions. More on that in another post, though.

In addition to the immersion factor, quests from the 2006-2012 era were well-balanced in terms of exp and difficulty, and if they weren’t, then you could sure as hell bet that Turbine was doing all they could do fix this discrepancy. Just take a look at the patch notes from their “Eberron Unlimited” release and look at the sheer volume of tinkering they were doing. At this point in the game’s life, Turbine was striking a great balance between keeping old content balanced and relevant while introducing quality new content to the game. Today, let’s take a quick look at what you have.

  • New loot which completely renders old loot obsolete, thereby quelling any interest in old content. (Thunderforged compared to Alchemical for instance.) This has been an ongoing problem since Update 14, as you’ll find that 90% of the old epic items are useless compared to easier-to-craft, easier-to-access new epic items. It’s a classic study in power creep and Turbine has done nothing to stop it.
  • Complete lack of focus on the heroic game and what made it so special. Sure, their last two updates gave us new level 13 and level 14 quests, but if Turbine actually play-tested anything in this game and had any idea of what the heroic game could use right now, then the last thing they’d do is add in more level 13-14 quests—levels which are already saturated with quests yielding great exp, namely Gianthold, Assault on Stormreach, and Necropolis Part 4 (a triumvirate of packs which, on their own, can easily get a 3rd life player from 14 all the way to 17, or even 18 if pushing the envelope a little bit.)
  • Half-assed new content in terms of difficulty. Sure, make EH Gianthold as difficult as all of the old content on EE. Sure, make Temple of Elemental Evil overall a fucking mess when compared to anything else of any difficulty around its level. Sure, make Shadar-Kai assassins deal 4x the amount of damage that anything else does around their level. Incidentally, I found Stormhorns to be relatively free of this, so yay on Stormhorns.
  • Half-assed new content in terms of fun. Nobody likes Temple of Elemental Evil. Nobody likes Mark of Death (they just wanted the Epic Litany). Nobody likes Wheloon. Nobody likes Study in Sable or Brothers of the Forge. Nobody likes the Druid’s Deep chain (they just want comms). Nobody likes Eveningstar Challenges. Or pretty much anything else that’s been added since Update 14. (Again, though, I’d count Storm Horns as more the exception to the rule, since I actually enjoy those quests and a few others I’ve asked said they didn’t mind the Storm Horns either).

All in all, Turbine has been giving us the worst of both worlds since Update 14. We neither get rebalances or fixes to old quests or even core gameplay mechanics, nor do we get fun, new quests. Furthermore, Turbine seems to be pushing an agenda to force interest in these boring, uninspired new quests by making them provide power-creep loot.

So yeah, sure, the game isn’t exactly slowing down in terms of raw output of content. The way I see it, Temple of Elemental Evil is a perfect microcosm of the game’s new content: boring, long, uninspired, boasting difficulty completely out of touch with the rest of the game; a quest which is too long for its own good, being mostly filler with little actual substance. It’s stale, monotonous, unrewarding, with very little variance. And that just about summarizes everything Turbine’s been doing since June 2012.

We used to see all sorts of content to run, for one reason or another. Perhaps it had good loot which was decent even at the level cap. Perhaps it was simply fun and people enjoyed running it. In the end, what it came down to was the fact that there was no adventure pack that stuck out as being extremely unpopular (well, except for Necro 3…), and all content seemed to have its share of people who enjoyed it. That was one of the beauties of DDO, and now it’s long gone thanks to Turbine’s neglect and constant mismanagement over the past three years.


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