DDO Europe to be merged with DDO “Global” : A Shocking Burst of News!

Update: This post is obviously rather out of date now. I’ve written an up to date guide for European players who move to the US servers here.

European subscribers to DDO received this in our email today:

Today we announce the next steps for Dungeons & Dragons Online®: Stormreach™ (DDO) for Europe. After operating the European service for over four years, our operating licence has now expired and it is with much sadness we announce our intention to transfer the European game service back to Turbine.

We have been working closely with Turbine on transition plans for European DDO players, and will be helping players integrate into the existing global DDO service operated by Turbine, where they will receive access to the latest version of Dungeons & Dragons Online®: Eberron Unlimited™ (DDO Unlimited).

What does this mean to you as a current European player? It means that Codemasters Online will continue to operate the current European DDO service until August 20, 2010. Beginning August 20th, European players will be able to play the global DDO Unlimited service operated by Turbine. To transfer your character to the global service, you will need to opt in with Turbine. Specific instructions on how to opt in to transfer your character will be provided in a later email.

The last full day of service will be 19th August, 2010. All European DDO game servers will be permanently inactive on the morning of Friday 20th August, UK time. The ability to purchase subscriptions will be disabled and all recurring payments will be turned off as of today. Likewise, the creation of new DDO game accounts/subscriptions is now disabled. For further information, please see our DDO Service Transition FAQ in the forums.

You can start playing on the global DDO Unlimited service beginning 20th August. Just create a free account at www.ddo.com and adventure again in the land of Eberron with no monthly subscription required. With the in-game store, you the player can choose how you pay and play. There are many great changes in the game, including guild airships, new hirelings, and many new adventures. When character transfer becomes available, you will be able to move your current DDO Stormreach characters to the newly created DDO Unlimited account on the new global DDO service. The service is currently available only in English, with additional languages expected by end of year.

As a loyalty and welcome reward, Turbine is offering all current and former DDO Europe players 5,000 Turbine Points (nearly a €50 value) when they transfer their characters to the new global service. The points can be spent in the DDO Store to add adventure packs, character slots to your account, and much more.

It has been a great pleasure for all here at Codemasters Online to work on a game that has brought the wonderful world of Dungeons & Dragons Online®, to the online gaming arena. Over the last four years we’ve had the privilege of working with one of the most passionate and considerate gaming communities we’ve ever seen and we hope that everyone who has enjoyed the DDO European service continues to manifest such attributes when the service transfers over to Turbine.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who supported DDO. In particular, a special mention goes out to those that went the extra mile, bringing the community the wonderful Stormreach Chronicle, player events and dedicated fan sites.

The Codemasters Online Team

Crikey. I expected DDO Europe to go F2P eventually, but I certainly did not see this coming. It’s not so long ago that Mythic also took control of European operations from GOA, but Codemasters have not really been guilty of any GOA-like mismanagement.

As a Premium player in the US, and an ex-subscriber in Europe, what this means for me is that I’ll be getting 5000 free points, and my old characters back, which is pretty awesome. The 5000 point deal is somewhat more generous than US players received when they went F2P, though there is more content that needs buying now, and the transfer system will be a little more fiddly.

Hopefully two new servers will be opened up with the same names as our original European servers, “Keeper” and “Devourer”, making it easy to keep existing communities together. It would be a horrible mistake to just try to roll the migrating players into the already existing servers, not least because all the good names will already have been taken, which would annoy the already inconvenienced newcomers. Nobody likes having to rename an already existing character, and migrating characters should have first dibs on their character names provided they head to the corresponding server. As I wrote in my last post, DDO could do with some new servers anyway.

I do have some questions though:

1. Will European players keep their Founder flagging, and any pre-order item unlocks for any character created? It might sound silly, but I was very fond of my founder’s hat. It made me look like Batman.

2. How soon will the non-English speaking players have access to the same level of support that they got from Codemasters? The Transition FAQ says “later this year”. That this important part of the necessary support is not ready from the get-go suggests to me that this has been quite a rushed decision to not renew Codemaster’s contract.

3. Will the European servers, if they are recreated, stay in Europe, or will they be consolidated in the US? I do seem to lag worse than my US friends when I currently play, so I would personally prefer it if the new ones were hosted in Europe.

4. What does this mean for Lord of the Rings Online in Europe, which is also currently run by Codemasters? It seems unlikely that they would keep one but not the other, especially with LotRO going Free to play. Will there be a similar announcement from the Codemasters LotRO team in the coming weeks?

Update: There has been the following statement on the Codemasters LotRO forum. Thanks to Gizbyt for the headsup.:

There aren’t any plans to merge the EU game servers with the US ones currently. When we go F2P later this year we’ll still have all the European servers and probably with some new additions to that list!

Update: The transfers have happened now. I’ve written an up to date guide for European players who move to the US servers here.

Lord of the Rings Online goes Free to Play

On May the 10th, Codemasters, who run the European LOTRO servers, ran a special £75 lifetime subscription promotion. At the time, this seemed an awesome deal.

Codemasters Lotro Lifetime Subscription Offer 499x179

Codemasters' Lifetime Subscription Offer

Three weeks later, however, Turbine have announced that Lotro is going free to play for both US and European servers.

Announcing The Lord of the Rings Online’s Move to Free-to-Play!

Today is an important day for LOTRO: we’ve announced that this fall, LOTRO will begin offering a Free-to-Play option! Players will be able to download the game and adventure in Middle-earth for free. With Free-to-Play comes the addition of the LOTRO Store, where players will have immediate in-game access to a wide variety of special items, account services, and convenience items.

The best part is – as existing subscribers you’re automatically enrolled in our VIP program! As a VIP you’ll continue to get unlimited access to the game and all of the content you already enjoy, in addition to some extra perks!

Still have questions? Here’s a quick FAQ about the key points of LOTRO Free-to-Play:

Is this the same model you used with DDO?

It’s very similar in a large number of ways. The basic structure is the same with some changes made to support LOTRO’s different game world and wide-open environment. Customer levels, the LOTRO Store, and other aspects of LOTRO Free-to-Play are all very similar to those of Dungeons and Dragons Online®: Eberron Unlimited™.

I already subscribe to LOTRO. Is there any benefit to staying a subscriber?

Of course! Once the game goes live you’ll keep all your current privileges, and also accrue 500 free Turbine Points per month to spend as you wish. We also have a set of Loyalty Reward Special Offers just for our veteran players – as long as you maintain your subscription in good standing you may be eligible for up to 3,000 points. If you stay active over the summer you will also earn an additional bonus of 500 Turbine Points per month until launch! For more details see the Loyalty Reward Special Offer Terms & Conditions for full details.

I have a lifetime subscription to LOTRO. What will Free-to-Play mean for me?

As a lifetime subscriber to LOTRO, you will keep all of your membership privileges and are automatically upgraded to VIP status. You will receive 500 Free Turbine Points every month like the other VIPs, but you do not have to pay a monthly fee since you are a lifetime member. All you have to do is keep playing the game and visit the LOTRO Store to spend your free Turbine Points. Lifetime members may also qualify for a special one-time Loyalty Reward of 1,000 Turbine Points. See the Loyalty Reward Special Offer Terms & Conditions for full details.

I am a LOTRO Founder. What will Free-to-Play mean for me?

As a LOTRO Founder, you automatically become a VIP and will keep all of your membership privileges as long as you pay your monthly fee. You will automatically receive 500 Free Turbine Points every month and you can spend them at your leisure in the LOTRO Store. Founding members may also qualify for a special one-time Loyalty Reward of 500 Turbine Points. See the Loyalty Reward Special Offer Terms & Conditions for full details.

When does LOTRO F2P go live?

Free-to-Play will go live when Volume 3, Book 2 releases this fall.

Is Free-to-Play the only thing to look forward to for Volume 3, Book2?

No! Volume 3, Book 2 will continue the Volume 3 Epic Story as the Rangers head south. An all new area, Enedwaith, will be available as well as some exciting new features and many updates to the game including DX11 support! We’ll have more information about Volume 3, Book 2 as we approach launch. Keep an eye out for Developer Diaries and other information throughout the summer!

I still have questions. Where can I ask them?

If you still have questions after reading the full FAQ, please use the LOTRO Free-to-Play discussion forum for questions and comments!

We’re very excited about LOTRO’s move to Free-to-Play and we can’t wait for you to see all the incredible changes the team has already made to the game. Make sure you read Executive Producer Kate Paiz’s letter to the community for some great information on where LOTRO is going!

Sure, lifetime subscribers will get free points every month, but even so, it is a very different situation to the one they signed up for. Given that Turbine and Codemasters certainly knew three weeks ago that they would be going free to play, this seems to me to be somewhat duplicitious. It might certainly have affected player’s decisions on whether or not they would buy a lifetime sub or not. It feels a little like insider trading on Codemasters’ part. Codemasters should immediately offer refunds to anyone who signed up for their lifetime subscription offer.

It’s going to be interesting to see how they retrofit the game to work as a profitmaking F2P. DDO’s modular structure lent itself to this far better than Lotro would seem to. Here are the features of LOTRO that will be monetised. Along with the predictable bag, character slot, and gold limitations are some more surprising ones like a limit on traits. Monster play will be VIP only.:

VIP Premium Player Free Player
POINTS 500/month Free
Can purchase more
Or earn through gameplay
Purchasable
Or earn through gameplay
Purchasable
Or earn through gameplay
World Access * Free Free Free
Epic Story * Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Races 4 4 4
Classes 7 7 7
Premium Classes * Purchasable Purchasable Purchasable
Level Cap * 50 50 50
Character slots */** 5/server
Can purchase more
3/server
Can purchase more
1/server
Can purchase more
Quest Packs * Eriador Ered Luin, Shire, Bree-land
Can purchase more
Ered Luin, Shire, Bree-land
Can purchase more
Inventory 5 bags 3 bags
Can purchase 2 more
3 bags
Can purchase 2 more
Gold Limit Unlimited 5 Gold
Can purchase cap removal
2 Gold
Can purchase cap removal
Priority login Priority High Standard
Chat Unlimited Limited Limited
Auction Unlimited Limited Limited
Mail Unlimited Limited Limited
Rest XP Automatic Not available Not available
Shared bank ** Purchasable Purchasable Purchasable
Skirmishes * 9
More in Mirkwood Expansion
4
Can purchase more
4
Can purchase more
Legendary items * Requires Mines of Moria Expansion Requires Mines of Moria Expansion Requires Mines of Moria Expansion
Traits All 1 or 2 slots per trait type
Can purchase more
1 or 2 slots per trait type
Can purchase more
Crafting * Tier 1-5 available
Tier 6 available with Mines of Moria™ Expansion
Tier 1-5 available
Tier 6 available with Mines of Moria™ Expansion
Tier 1-5 available
Tier 6 available with Mines of Moria™ Expansion
Crafting Guilds Unlimited Limited
Can purchase more
Limited
Can purchase more
Housing Available Available Available
Music Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Hobbies Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Cosmetic system Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Wardrobe Included with 20 slots
Can purchase more
Purchasable Purchasable
Destiny points Can earn and spend Can earn but cannot spend Can earn but cannot spend
Monster play Unlimited Not available Not available
Community features Unlimited Unlimited Limited
Customer service Full access Full access for 30 days following the purchase of points Self-service online

* Purchasers of the Mines of Moria™ expansion get access to the Mines of Moria region and content, premium classes (Rune-Keeper and Warden), legendary items feature, Tier 6 crafting feature, 2 extra character slots and a level cap of 60. Purchasers of the Siege of Mirkwood™ expansion get access to the Siege of Mirkwood region and content, a level cap of 65 and the Siege of Mirkwood skirmishes.

** Purchasers of the LOTRO Adventurer’s Pack get 2 extra character slots and 20 slots of shared bank storage across all characters on the same servers.

Lord of the Rings Online: Expansion Speculation

A Casual Stroll to Mordor has some interesting news regarding Lord of the Rings Online’s next expansion.

Adam Mersky is shown, in an until now overlooked video, to have said “… our next big region will be Enedwaith later this year.”.

There is speculation around the web that this is the next paid expansion, but I have my doubts.

For a paid expansion you’d want somewhere that people have heard of. I’d never heard of Enedwaith, for the excellent reason that very little happens there in the books. So I think that what Enedwaith will be is an area added by one of LotRO’s free updates. Interestingly though, Enedwaith would lead us right up to the Gap of Rohan.

The Mirkwood expansion has already brought us near to the Northern border of Rohan , but how much better to enter through the Gap of Rohan!

LotRO Enedwaith And Rohan

Enedwaith: The Road to Rohan?

My best guess, then, would be that the next full expansion will cover Rohan, Isengard, Fangorn Forest, the lands along Anduin the Great River (where Boromir will have his unfortunate accident), and perhaps beyond, whereas Enedwaith will be a free update this year.