Lots of mission running over the weekend, exploring Kelethin and Greater Faydark and clearing most of the quest lines on offer. Grender’s Lair was pretty well constructed, and I did enjoy the idea of searching outwards only to fight the climax right under the heart of the city itself, nice pacing overall and it didn’t outstay its welcome. Although I have to question the notion of the black market dude setting up shop just outside his lair. Plus, the Grender himself could have done with a little bit more of a dramatic payoff rather than just rushing into a fight and dieing without so much as a by your leave. A few mocking conversation paths first or something – the typical Bond-Main Villain verbal sparring before the rabid badgers with machine guns are let loose and everything a’splodes.

In fact, that could be something that EQII could do with overall, something that my all-too brief venture into D&D Online started to hint at (as to whether it explored it thoroughly I have no idea as my trial sub didn’t take me very far). Atmospheric descriptions accompanying the major encounters. You walk into the final room of an instanced zone and a little pop-up window fills in a few eerie background details before you plunge into the fight – something like the blue scroll type boxes that pop up when you read certain books or examine scrolls. Or maybe a voiceover? Something just to add a little more flavour to everything. I dunno, maybe it would be hideously impractical in actuality, but there has to be some way of injecting a little more dramatic pacing and atmosphere into the game. It didn’t seem to interfere with the DDO gameplay that much.

One of the reasons I couldn’t see myself sticking with DDO was that in my view it missed a golden opportunity to try something radical with the genre by excluding any real notion of the Dungeon Master in the game mechanics. What seemed obvious to me would to have included the DM as an actual playable class. Sounds ridiculous? Let me explain.

Lvl20 DM starting group. LFM. No monks plz.

The DM class isn’t an actual in-world class per se, instead it’s a kind of meta-game attached to the overall setup. Remember the classic Dungeon Keeper by Bullfrog on the Amiga? Or, for those without memories that stretch back to the war, Morrowind or Oblivion’s Elder Scrolls Construction Set? Very much like that.
The DM class is basically a conduit for player-built content, a toolkit that lets you build (at first) basic level dungeons scenarios, add a few monsters and treasure chests, include some storytelling elements and sign your name across the bottom. These are then made available in the town gathering spots for hardy adventurers to partake in, the more popular (i.e. well-designed) dungeons providing the DM character with XP. As he levels up, bigger and better design elements are made available – more locations, scarier monsters, better treasure rewards, etc.

Ah hah! You’ve detected a potential loophole. What’s to stop a player having a DM and ‘hero’ character, making a dungeon, farming it himself and just showering himself with XP? Easy, characters on the same account as the DM can’t access that DM’s dungeons. (What about multiple accounts? Erm… look! A flying monkey, just there, look! <Runs away>).

The final aspect of this (go on, admit it) brilliant idea – dungeons have two states once built: auto and ‘live’. What’s live? Simply put, if he so desires, the DM can jump into one of his creations as it’s being played out, and take manual control of any aspect (again, depending on level), from attack actions, playing it as a sort-of real-time RTS game, to throwing out dramatic dialogue and atmospheric descriptions.

No, no, that’s okay. I’ll wait until you’ve finished applauding. No please, sit down, really that’s too much. Hmm? What? What do you mean, “go on then program it?” Hey look, I’m just the ideas man. Of course it would be hideously complicated to pull off, but then so was Bacon In A Can and look how popular that was. I’m sure some clever mathematician out there can run with this. Go. Go do that voodoo that you do so well! And remember I’m on ten percent…