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Producer letter/January 2005

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Brought to you by the letter “B”

Welcome to 2005! You could feel the change on January 3rd, when we all got back into the office. Only a couple days had passed since December, but now we are in Ship Year. Now we are in Beta Year. We’re in for one of the biggest years of our careers.


I can feel peoples’ ears pricking up at the mention of the “B-word.” Is this the article she tells us about Beta? In fact, it is. Well, sort of.

This is a pretty exciting time for us. The weekly team playtests are becoming playtests, with more and more of our world built out and playable every week. The tone has changed. We talk about the things that we need to improve more, and the things that we need to fix less. People may just now be hearing about Dungeons & Dragons Online for the first time, but for us, it’s been nearly two years in the works, and we’re approaching the time where we finally get to show it off.

So, Beta. First off, we’re going to be breaking it into several stages. For each stage, we’re going to have different goals, and we’re going to want to hear from different people about how to improve the game. The first stage of beta, Beta 0, will be small. Very small. You probably won’t be in it. And let’s be honest - you probably don’t want to be. Oh, I know, you think you want to be in Beta 0. Face it, Beta 0 is going to be exasperating. Chaotic. Messy. Beta 0 is about getting things “un-broken,” set up, configured, stable, and ready to expand to the larger beta stages – the ones you will be in. There will be lots of starts and stops and things breaking. This stage will be populated by people who have been in previous Turbine tests, and personal team referrals, who we feel we can abuse in a special way.

Once we feel ready to open up to a larger audience, we’ll enter Beta 1. This stage will really focus on the fundamentals of play, this is where we’ll hammer out the larger-scale issues surrounding our most important systems and gameplay dynamics. In many ways, this is the most critical phase of beta, as it’s where we are best able to make major changes in response to player feedback. It’s also the most challenging stage for testers in many ways – we need people who are willing to “play through pain,” experienced players who are able to look past cosmetic issues and annoying bugs in order to help us tune and improve the gameplay.

Beta 2 is the meat of our closed Beta – by this stage, the game will be playable, maybe even shippable. But this is also where “good” becomes “not good enough,” and we’ll be counting on our beta testers to help us polish our content and bring our play experience to the next level. We want to really stress our social features at this time as well, and gauge the success of our community-oriented tools and features.

Beta 3 will be our last phase – by this time our focus will be on showing off the game to the world, and testing out some of the exciting things we have planned for our Live Teams. I’d say more, but I’ve got to be able to keep some secrets! If you’re looking to get a taste what the game will be like, this will be the time.

So, how can you get involved? In the next month or two, we’ll be making a formal announcement on this webpage, with more specific details and a Beta signup link. We will also be launching a monthly DDO Newsletter in the coming weeks, which will keep you up-to-date on all the latest DDO news. And in case you’re not aware, we have a very nice community up and running on our official forums – stop by and visit when you get a chance.

For those of you who have been following our development, my thanks – for those of you just joining us, welcome aboard, and get prepared for a year of adventure!

Judith Hoffman Executive Producer Dungeons & Dragons Online Turbine Entertainment Software

Producer's letters