Last night, I kind of "attended" the first edition of "Syp's" Massively DDO night. The air quotes are because I accidentally blundered off to do something else and because the event did not include the advertised quantity of Syp due to arrival of new baby. (Grats Sypster!)
What does "static group" mean again?
In the absence of everyone's favorite Bio Breaker, one poor Massively editor was left to wrangle a 32 member guild on his own. Rubi did as well as he could under the circumstances, but it seemed like an occasion to take a little initiative. I said oh hai to Ethic from Kill Ten Rats, and then I saw one of the Massively guild ("OnedAwesome") say they were looking for more, so I joined in.
It turned out that the group in question was a group of normal players who happen to have picked up a couple of us just by virtue of being in the right/wrong place at the time. This was fine, even great, because it was a good team that was fun to play with.
Unfortunately, being a noob to the DDO chat interface, I clicked the chat panel over to "party" because I couldn't figure out how to make my chat go to party by default on the general tab. What I didn't realize until an hour later was that this would effectively mute my guild chat. As a result, I never saw the chat messages indicating that the plan was to deal with the first few quests in town, pose for a picture, and call it a night.
In the absence of instructions to the contrary, I figured it was "move at your group's pace" night. Thus, Massively called their night at level 2 and just outside of town, while my group powered through the entirety of Korthos Island on both hard and elite, ending up at level 3 and reaching Stormreach harbor. Ooops?
WTB New Starting Area
I've actually played through the early town quests about 8 times by now. This is relatively typical of my early days in a new MMO, since I like to try a variety of character types to see what I like before committing to a main. As long as I was auditioning characters, I figured I might as well switch servers to claim more server first Turbine Point awards - I've claimed the 5 favor award on all seven servers, and, with the Massively festivities, have reached 50 favor on two servers for a grand total of 450 "earned" Turbine Points to date.
On a personal level, I could really stand to see an extra starting area at this point. DDO literally only offers the one set of questlines (with the upshot being that I've now got enough practice to re-roll and catch up to the Massively group in under an hour if I wanted to). For an event like this one, I can see the merits of this approach, as it theoretically ensures that everyone will be in the same location for grouping. (There was some way to screw up and wind up in "snowy" Korthos instead of "Sunny" Korthos, but that didn't seem to bug me any.)
On the other hand, if Turbine added a new level 1-2 zone to the Turbine Point store - specifically so that free to play players could stay in the current experience to find groups, while veterans seeking variety would have an alternate path, I'd pay the Turbine points without question.
Trial of the Wizard
As long as I was going through the starting areas yet again, I figured that I might as well try a Wizard, a class that was very low on my priority list due to poor solo capacity. This seemed like less of a handicap for a character I was making specifically for grouping.
Unfortunately, the low level DDO wizard is probably the most useless I've ever felt in a MMORPG group. At level 2, my main damage spell hit for 4-10 damage, and I could use it about 20 times before running out of mana. Level 1 mobs seem to have about 20 HP, and it seems like the game provides a rest shrine for recovering your spell points approximately once every 15 mobs. I was literally doing better DPS by swinging a rapier with barely any strength, and the rapier never runs out of spell points. (I picked the Drow race, cause we all know how much Syp loves Elves, and all Drow are proficient in rapiers.)
In fairness, this aspect of playing a caster comes out of the 3.5e DND ruleset (which is actually even more restrictive on casters). If things are implemented correctly, the class will eventually be able to absolutely cripple foes with debuffs and unleash devastating alpha strike nuke spells on bosses to make up for having to hang back on trash mobs. I might even give the Wizard another chance whenever I pay to unlock the Warforged (a race of bio-golems unique to the Eberron campaign setting - they get 50% healing from normal heals because of their golem side, but can also be healed by arcane magic, which means that a Warforged wizard can heal themselves between nukes). For now, though, this character is almost certainly going on the shelf.
DDO Grouping Experience
All miscommunication aside, my first time in a DDO group was actually a lot of fun. I was moderately familiar with the content, having seen all of it at least once, but it was still at least somewhat challenging to a full group with some newbies in tow when set to elite difficulty. (We did have three relatively more serious veterans, who probably could have carried the whole group if need be, but that may also be in part because these were newbie quests.)
I had not pictured myself actively working to spend more time in groups, since that's generally not my playstyle in other games, but I could see myself potentially spending the extra effort in DDO, if I find myself in the right type of community. Coming from a solo player like me, that means that DDO must be doing something right with its group game.