Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Buying Virtues and Stat Tomes in Lotro

This whole issue has been annoying me for a while, so I'm going to have a rant about it but in a fair and considered way I hope. I don't mind paying for content, but the virtue system is more a barrier to play than meaningful character progression, and here's the kicker a free/premium without benefits is effectively paying twice for such a useless system. First they pay to open the trait slots and then they have to buy the content to earn those traits, double-dipping into the players pocket so to speak. All well and good from a business perspective, but it does take away choice from players if they want to for example tank at high level and the trait Innocence is essential, and most other melee characters would do well to have this one too. To get full ranks of Innocence then a player must do 75 quests in the Shire and buy the Trollshaws and Misty Mountains questpacks to ever have a chance of reaching rank 10. Acceptable for one character but for alts it becomes a chore, I'm starting to see this game as more and more alt-unfriendly for example every alt requires to be kindred with iron garrison guards and complete vol2 books 1-6 too, still no easy feats nowadays.

Despite these misgivings especially now the Store is in effect, I still like the idea of virtues just not the way they are implemented currently. When Turbine released skirmishes and allowed deeds to be completed during them, that was a step in the right direction, the player is doing relevant, rewarding and challenging content and choosing to so over going out in the landscape to kill grey difficulty mobs. I'm a fan of skirmishes and as a premium player own all of them but not all the quest packs, so you can tell which I favour. With content split up now, the design should change to provide multiple ways to earn the same virtues.

I'm all for simplifying the virtues too so that each one just affects a single stat or resistance, so Innocence would be melee defence, Empathy would be armour rating, Loyalty would be vitality etc. At present a tank would take all 3 melee defence virtues and 2 of the armour ratings and maybe some variability depending on encounters. To simplify virtues to affect just one stat, only 2 slots are filled by tanking virtues and then the rest are up to the player to choose depending on the mobs or boss the player is going to be facing, whether wound, poison, tactical, ranged, shadow...

Looking at these now simplified virtues there is 5 that affect the primary stats: Discipline, Determination, Loyalty, Idealism and Wisdom. Each of these increase the particular stat for 30 points, but including the now defunct lesser bonuses on other virtues, it's 50 points more or less for rank 10. That's the same as the adding all 5 stat tomes of one type to your character. But the distinction here is crucial, I see the stat tomes as a no-brainer, you buy them and add them to your character forever more, whereas if the proposed virtue system was implemented there is greater restrictions, it's unlikely that all of them will be slotted and maybe only one or two to shore up weaknesses or as a stopgap until primary stats are maxed. If being able to make those decisions when maximising your character is at the heart of many MMORPGs gear progression, then the stat tomes are nothing more than a money-grab without adding anything to play around with.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Settling in

Ok so the Lonelands quest pack is going to be free with next update, which I found out just after I bought it for 50 points. I won't rail against the bad timing, because for most people paying 50 points now is better than waiting about a fortnight. Although, I don't see the point of giving it away for free, except to assume it is a calculated gambit to get more people invested in their characters and the game, levelling to 20 is too quick and trivial, conversely having to pay (getting in the habit) 50 points sooner is more honest I feel. I absolve Codemasters of any blame, they were only playing catch-up on this price-point which US players had available for much longer, and I'd assume they don't have a 'pricing' department involved in the monitoring of prices and player uptake of items in the store.

In other news Codemasters just gave (all?) former subscribers a free month of VIP because they couldn't find another solution to errors in allotting the appropriate benefits. This probably explains the 2 days extra after launch I'd gotten previously, well if it was intentional, and then when I finally was bumped down to premium I got all the right bonuses, unlike others who just went straight to premium (free) without any benefits. Putting on my cynics hat, this may point to the next update being 2 maybe 3 weeks away, because the benefit of swift travel will be included and to solve the problems once and for all, they need to give this free time til then.

Ah well, always nice to get something free, just goes to show that the settling in period can have ups and downs, now to just avoid the trap of rolling some more alts.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

No, no, no... stop with the free points already.

It has happened not once but twice more, but hopefully that's the last of it because it's inflicting a sense of guilt, no guilt is not the right word it's annoyance if all these extra points are taken back. At this stage, I reckon I'll just have to try not to think 'what I'd really like is another skirmish... oh look another 500 points, damn'.

I did actually buy something from the store with my own points, the Evendim questpack for 149 points, even though my alts will only get a few levels out of it, but the 3 scalable instances should be worth it. Except that amount of points is coincidentally very close to those I got by rolling a dwarf on every server and doing the store introduction quest 14 times. Oh well I plan to buy the Lonelands questpack for 50 TP this week, which I can honestly say hand on heart I earned through deeds since the changeover, but is it really worth it? Don't have plans to level up any new characters but I'm hoping the GA instances will be scalable soon and actually permanently owning more of the game is certainly enticing. Still haven't spent any cash that I feel I should really be spending.

Giving away plenty of stuff and guilting players into paying some money in lieu of the time they've spent in game is a great strategy, it works on me anyways, just not in Lotro F2P yet. I've justified plenty of purchases in the past by that train of thought, and about to do the same with cosmetic changes for characters in Guild Wars in a figurative sense of dusting them off and starting to play them again, but funnily enough can't use that same line to justify buying the wedding costumes or any of the other costumes for that matter.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lotro: F2P and me

Yeah finally was the first thing to say but now having spent a few days as a VIP then premium, still trying to make up my mind on the change. For a start in a case of perfect prescience my sub ended the day F2P went live, except it didn't. For two days I was wondering why I was still a VIP, until finally the weekly maintenance bumped me back down while others who had been erroneously labelled Free went in the other direction.

And there is still the mystery of why I ended up with 2000 points. I know now that I was entitled to 1000 points because I'd managed to get in 2 birthdays (was it really that long; well only been subscribed for 3 months over that period so wouldn't exactly call myself a veteran), 500 pts maybe from being almost VIP when the change happened and after that I'm at a loss. What did I do with these points that I may or may not be entitled, spend them as quickly as possible before they could be taken back. Bought the Siege of Mirkwood expansion, regret it slightly now that there is the possibility that I was entitled to at least some of those points.

Was SoM a good impulse purchase? Well my warden just hit 60 and just headed there for the first time this weekend. I get fed up with questing especially after the drudgery the dwarfs subjected me to for the last month or so, and I see the extra 6 skirmishes as more desirable than the 'quest pack', and well the epic story is going free, and not a big fan of instances myself, so it should be good value for money just taking the skirmishes. On the other hand my list of things I need now that I'm premium would have been covered easily by those 2000 pts: an extra 5 slots in AH, Thievery and Mischief, Ford of Bruinen skirmishes and that's about it, could play happily without anything else right now. Although, I'd probably not be so happy if I'd not been a previous subscriber, but yeah getting free travel back soon.

And finally, I may have found a solution for altitis, having settled on 3 characters now, I deleted all lowbies less than level 20, and with the thought of rolling a new character and to buy them bags, traits, removal of gold cap, content etc being deterrent enough.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Back to Lotro - not enough vuvuzelas!

So Turbine released a kinda cool ad for F2P, but it was missing something very important, they could have included a coda referencing a certain trailer, which could have gone something like this:

Gandalf stands looking pleased with himself having floored the crowd with the shockwave created by his staff (surely that's lore-breaking, right?), only for an annoying droning sound to start up in the stunned silence he'd just created. He scans the crowd and glowers at the offending article, jabbing his finger at it and causing the instrument to crumple and abruptly stop with a last shrill squeak. *cue titles and the playing of a rather jaunty tune.


That was enough to keep me amused oh for about 5 secs while the bad news of a delay to F2P in Europe was sinking in, (there’s probably a joke about the existing community and unwashed masses there too) which was kinda short-lived when Codemasters did the unthinkable and reactivated 'welcome back week'. Sure they are people still thirsting after the drought of content since earlier this year, but for returning/trial players this is a real boon, it's even freer than F2P changes incoming. It's a generous move and impels them to get it sorted or lose out on all the revenue. Oh and complaints in the US keep piling in.

Got in a good bit of playing this weekend. Had in mind that I should level my captain up fast to get him a mount so I don't have to pay for one, and while I'm at it unlock as many deeds as possible. This lasted two levels before it got boring and deciding it wasn't worth it, and yeah I'll probably more than likely need to buy porting abilities to Rivendell as well so yeah yeah on the list those go. Tried to fathom this conundrum out, there's time I'm happy to spend in game, until it becomes a grind or maybe I tell myself to suck it up until it's over and done with, but then to put a value on how much time I'm willing to sacrifice to grind, on the one hand it's certainly not a few cents and on the other side wanting to remove travel time for a few euros. I've tied myself in knots, but the upshot is that the choice is good but isn't there something a bit evil of spending money to get rid of grind. That's the genius of the system I suppose.

Once I decided that I'd be willing to buy the damn horse and instant travel, went and did something a little more fun. Took my warden past the front entrance hall in Moria and had a blast. This complex 3D maze is so appealing to me at least, like to figure out all the passageways and see every nook and cranny. Had already made brief excursions into it using the Moria keg, that’s how I got in this time funnily enough, ended up in chamber of the crossroads and rode back to the start, well the first time I jumped down the well and had to go back to my house and hope to get sent to the same place twice. It was nice to ride through an unknown map and then work back through it corridor by corridor, and putting the various sights together. Arrived at the palace of nĂ¡in, and had a feeling I'd been here before, oh right up there in the colonnades (another drunken excursion then). Enjoyed the questing up until I'd almost completed Dolven-view before getting sent back to kill more insects for the epic book, though it was a good time to call it quits. Anyways here's a picture of one section near the start, there's 2 levels visible below, to get to the bottom room just a short trek to the left, to get to the middle section with the ledges a long trek to the right, through a goblin camp, a confusing dark cavern with cave-claws to arrive there, this is my idea of a spatial puzzle and yes I did have to figure it out.

Friday, August 20, 2010

GW2 - Ok I'm Satisfied

My reactions to the details emerging from gamescom and the playable demo of GW2 have mostly consisted of oohs and aahs, a few hmmms and an oh! The game looks great and can't wait to actually play it.

Before the convention, an article (in german) emerged that had a few interesting tidbits about levels. Confirmation that a player's level would be boosted as well as lowered depending on the zone they are in. With higher level player lowered to above optimum and low level player boosted to below optimum. It's a nice way to do it, it does diminish worries about keeping levels in the game, it now just a number to keep track of what a player has done and not an arbitrary measure to lock a player out of content. Some consternation about this was expected, but the only negative I can think of is spoilers and that is completely in the control of the player themselves. Besides it was already in GW1 when characters less than level 20 went to EotN.

Something else mentioned that could be really fun for a dedicated group is that if players follow the same story then one player can make a choice that will count for the entire group. The RP potential in that is huge, whether players take it by turn, randomly or vote on the choices, it should create a group story rather than a personal story.

Then a leaked video caused a whole load of concern, an asura asking for harpy glands appearing as one of the events. There were two issues: the player is clearly seen talking to the asura and agreeing to collect them, also it's a traditional collecting quest something that a lot of people were not expecting. However the player does not have to talk to the asura to take part in the event, he can just start killing harpies and collecting. Talking to the asura seems to do two things create an obvious notification about the event and say how many players are already taking part. There are also "scouts" that will direct people to where events are happening by highlighting areas on the world map. The thing is, both are entirely optional and a player can choose to ignore them, and hopefully there is a way to turn off all such notifications for people like me who'd like some sense of discovery.

The second issue about the dullness of the task, what can I say except hope there aren't too many of them. I don't think there is too much wrong with collecting stuff, but would probably skip this one. On the other hand there are loads to make this kind of tasks interesting. The love potion may be required to start another event, and I'm hoping this forms the basis for increasingly complex chains, use an item, gain an item, swap it for another item and so on (loved those trading sequences in Zelda games). There's the possibility that the asura needs to be escorted to that point, that he needs protection from the harpies while he sets up, or while he prepares the potion. Anyways probably a lot of people will skip it especially when all the other events that I've seen so far in videos have looked a lot more fun. For example they've mentioned the broodmother event a few times, seeing it in action (about 2.30 in video) was a lot more entertaining than reading about it.

If the only upshot of that event is a vendor, that will sell the potions for more harpy bits, or for money, that is certainly a little on the staid side, but what if there was the option for brute personalities to threaten the asura for the potion? So a brute character can skip the collecting part and come back later to strong-arm the asura? Yeah don't even want to contemplate the outrage such a design would create, but it's an interesting dynamic.

In the community two of the big concerns with the demo shown: were the existence of potions and that the elite skills had such a long recharge time. For now potions don't really bother me, it's either that or create an 11th skill slot dedicated to energy management. But the long recharge times (12 mins) of some elites is probably the only bum note of all the info I've seen so far.

Anyways, I've my name already picked for my charr necromancer, problem is what to do while I wait for the actual game...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Guild Wars 2 - It's still a grind!

No matter how short or fun it claims to be, as long as XP is given for killing mobs and a certain amount is required to advance each level, it's going to be a predictable grind to some extent. If players are in the situation of 'needing' to get a few (reputation) levels, the choice between staying in the one place to kill say 100 mobs or finding 5 events to complete (or just as bad, killing mobs while waiting for an event to begin), I think a surprising amount would opt for the former, especially on an alt. It's failing to change the mentality of killing mobs for advancement rather than compelling players to search for activity.

Levels and levelling is such a tired mechanic at this stage, that I was expecting something more innovative from Arenanet. While they have not discussed mob power or levels, there's a lot already in place or in the original that could have been developed leaving levels at the door. Look at the type of content a player could choose between on logging in for the evening, a choice of doing achievements, collecting skills and traits, participating in events or venturing into dungeons and killing bosses. They could reward attribute points for those activities and task the player with acquiring a certain number in whatever manner they want. Not such a big departure from levels, but even with this there is player choice and adaptability in choosing where to spend points first and a higher level character has a broader spread of attributes rather than vastly increased attributes.

What's most important is that they need to move away from incentivizing boring repetitive tasks, i.e. killing a mob and receiving a set amount of XP. Looking again at the activities I think should be rewarded:

1) Doing the daily achievements - random, dependable but hopefully skippable.

2) Collecting skills and traits - reward skill, knowledge and research about your profession.

3) Killing open-world and dungeon bosses, rewarding co-operation and providing challenge.

4) The Karma from events could also be used to buy attribute points, offered alongside the more material rewards. Tying character progression to events might frustrate some people, but it's not as dependable as some activities, and the rewards for a challenging or rare event could be significant to reward exploration.

The only thing keeping levels in play is being able to simply communicate the difficulty of mobs to players, which I think is an opportunity ripe for innovating.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Panic in Lion's Arch

This weekend went from cussing A'net for putting in such as a difficult final quest to end the 'War in Kryta', to enthusing about the finale when I eventually got it done. On Friday, lag made it unplayable, Saturday tried to pug with another person, no good. Tried on my own with several builds and hero set-ups, even tried 'tanking' and bonding which is not really something I know how to do well on my warrior. In the end settled for a Barrage/SY! bar, because the mission is all about AOE, the alternative is build a wall of minions and spirits. There is certainly an epic feel to the encounter, standing on a hill behind barricades, firing upon hordes of enemies. In the end the toughness made the reward all the sweeter.

Special mention goes to 'Panic', this is the mesmer spell that got buffed the last big update, and it is amazing for this mission. The fun of turning the White Mantle and mursaat into a bunch of panicky idiots is immense, only moments after them walking into Lion's Arch confident of victory. Created a mesmer recently and fully intend to make it the elite when I get up to level cap. It could be considered overpowered but it only works best when mobs bunch up together. '!!' '!!'

I wonder about it though, this is the kind of skill that hints a lot towards the sequel. Going on the roles they released last week, this skill is control, but with great potential to prevent a lot of damage taken by allies. Initial thoughts about those roles were that they were replacing one trinity with another but have reconsidered since then; preventing damage taken by allies and preventing foes dealing damage are two sides of the same coin, thus control and support tend to blend together, with damage falling by the side as something you just need enough or of a certain type. The system as outlined is all about giving all classes the tools to be able to work together and coordinate their efforts for greater effect. I don't see anything to be worried about in this, it is a good thing. The argument could be made that the classes would become indistinct, but so what, if they have a distinct style and feel. Artificial differences between classes is an out-dated notion, as an adventurer needs be a adaptable if they are to make it anywhere in the world.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Building a build, part 2

Which attribute? Not curses anyway, though it seems to have the most desired builds for competitive PvP, the important word being competitive. Lingering curses to reduce healing or corrupt enchantments for massive degen. Have tried corrupt enchantments in FA and it is fun enough, could dip into death magic for well of the profane, a single skill well worth the point investment. Having written that last sentence hesitating about crossing curses off the list now, it's a good build to take down Gunther, yeah I'm Luxon. What I settled for is more multi-purpose so I'll keep going for now...

Death magic seems much more fun, but I'm kinda anti-minion, something heroes are good at and I can't be arsed. I know they are not perfect, but they keep enchants on minions better, spirit spamming is the same, good for heroes and tedious for players, suspect both are going to be reconfigured in GW2. That leaves 3 builds: toxic chill, contagion bombers and tainted flesh. Tainted flesh is interesting, but would be a little hard to control in the chaotic CMs, good degen pressure though. Ok so I'm going to discount contagion bombing, even without trying it, but it is limited to JQ.

Played about with toxic chill for a while, a skill bar with an icy-poison theme; there's good synergy between toxic chill and vile miasma, but vile miasma has a long recharge time for only -4 degen. But the notion of skills that interact like that: first a hex (or enchantment) needs to be on the target, then toxic chill poisons the target, and finally vile miasma adding the degen because of the previously applied condition. It's initially engaging, but when you think about it is still 1, 2, 3 in order.

This is likely to make a return in GW2, we've already been told about warrior chains and the levels of adrenaline making additions to skills, but I expect to see the traits adding conditionals to skills as well. I think I prefer this new way, the basic skills need to be interesting and diverse and then conditionals can be added to tweak a build one or another, instead of having to examine, locate and swap skills in and out.

So that leaves blood and soul reaping, which are what I ended up with, but first I need to choose an elite to set the tone of the skill bar.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Building a build, part 1

As a new comer to Guild Wars, and having just been wowed by the details of the sequel, thought I'd give my perspective on the so called 'build wars', just 5 years on the late side. Was having a problem of putting together a PvP build for my necromancer in Guild Wars. The builds on PvXwiki didn't appeal to any great extent. Did PvE first as blood, but quickly changed to curses, didn't particularly like it though and curses is hard in execution. So I embarked on a week long quest of examining skills and builds to find something that works for me.

On my warrior who I have just got to JQ/FA in the Factions campaign, the decision was easier, flipping between axe and hammer and getting practised with the standard builds. Each of those builds is singular in purpose, pressure through knock-down, deep wound debuff and damage, and though variation in the builds is limited that gets rid of build anxiety and to just go out and play the game.

So to begin, I needed to find the purpose for my necro build, then choose the skills and the elite. Did I also mention that I need to have a good theme for the build and don't particularly like half-and-half builds, don't mind adding in a skill or two from a secondary profession but still would like to feel necro. The decision to remove secondary builds in GW2 is a great idea for the RP and PVE side of the game, it makes the classes seem whole and hopefully the balance will be there that each class ends up roughly equal.

The purpose is the easy part, necros are support. And since I'm only ever going to be in Random Arena or Competitive Missions, it needs a good dose of self-reliance. So far so good, next the attributes and skills...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Instant travel and events in GW2

One of the best features in GW was the instant travel. Having just finished Volume 1 in Lotro, I wish a lot of other MMOs took this feature and ran with it. Since GW2 is more open world, I'm fearing this system is going to get curtailed. They have explained that roads between outposts should be relatively clear except for times of blockade type events; this doesn't confirm or deny instant travel, though it would affect the initial travel to discover an outpost. On the other hand, with the introduction of events, there’s the possibility of expansion to the instant travel system.

Map travel between outposts could be plotted out, like the way it happens in WOW at flightmasters, except the travel would be at most 30 secs duration. As progress is made along the route, any events that occur in the surrounding area pop up on the map as icons that could be clicked on by the player to interrupt travel and instantly travel near to the event in progress. This would be a nice system to combine both instant travel and event notification.

Another option is to allow players who are taking part in an event to broadcast the event to friends or people in their guild, and then giving them the option to instant travel to that person. The location could be close to the broadcaster but out of aggro range. To take that concept further why not allow a player the option to broadcast an event to other players in the surrounding area, it would be a nice way to allow sociability and getting people together to experience events.

Lastly what I think is the most likely, is NPCs in outpost allow for instant travel. A farmer's son is in an outpost waving arms about, shouting about an attack on the farm, the player talks to him to instantly travel near to the farm. There could be heralds in cities that have the same function, but indicating major battles that are occurring, maybe a town-crier in smaller posts. I just want to see a load of NPCs vying for attention, the so described 'hundreds of lions running all over every street of the city'. These are only the small touches, the nuts-and-bolts of events are the hard part but have the best confidence in Arenanet to pull it off.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Done, done and done!

Finished off the last 3 books in volume 1 this weekend, it was a mammoth undertaking, a little bit tortuous in places but such a relief to finally get it done. Yay, got a few nice titles and a horse. Don't think I'd ever do it again though. Once is more than enough for me. My feeling is that the later books are going to be paid content, book 1-8 may be free not 9-15 seeing as they are almost a separate storyline. Anyways only have one more weekend before unsubscribing for the summer and until Lotro goes free to play (need to spread gold across alts, empty some bags and abandon my house).

Having doubts about if I'm going to return to the game. I chose to level a warden, for the instant travel that was so very helpful for the epic books. To my mind the class is iconic, the spear/javelin, shield, ranger. It probably comes from levelling a tank, sure survivability is great, but combat is extremely slow. Have levelled a captain and burglar to 20/30, burglar seems to be alright and is suppose to get better at higher (crit) levels, captain is equally slow with so few abilities to actively use. Have a good idea of the classes and at this stage none are overly appealing. That's a bit of a hurdle, there's no class that's appealing enough to level up in place of the warden, but was considering champion for a faster killing experience.

If Turbine is going to strip out a lot of quests, slow combat is not going to entice many people, couldn't fathom the agony that would be grinding levels in Lotro. DDO had the whole active hack and slash thing that's different enough to tempt people. I would guess they would need to lower skirmishes (and/or PvM) to level 20, that way if the questing is unappealing, then there is something else to potentially interest new players. I could see myself returning if that happened, a champion tearing through skirmishes would be nice to do on occasion. To my mind, the success of this change to free to play depends on expanding skirmishes significantly. Adding a 'dungeon finder' like tool to form groups, and doing some freep v creep skirmishes, that's where I see the success lying. Same old questing just does not cut it anymore, though it was the lore and story that kept me doing the epic quests, the standard fetch and kill quests are going to turn off a lot of people.

A lot of current subscribers fear the influx of WOW kiddies but why would they when cataclysm will be released about the same time. Then again can't understand trolling along the lines, of logging in to say how boring the game is and how much better questing is in WOW, there's only one response to that.

Was a little unnerved at first about the things that I'd be losing (bags, rested xp, trait slots), but now it's more curiosity about how things will change and they must do so because the game needs an USP that's different enough from the competition. Lore and community are sufficient for the current subscribers, but what about the masses? DDO had that in the form of adventure packs (something innately appealing about that concept) and the combat. Where's Lotro's killer hook?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Routines and commitments

Finally made it to goblin-town, only a fortnight later. It was a nice place to explore and the music is the best I've heard in game. What brought the exploration to a close was the usual: mobstacles, full bags, annoying to-and-fro-ing with quests and the repetition in scenery (this staircase looks awfully familiar, and no it wasn't a case of going about in circles). Didn't get to see Gollum's cave, that was probably the overall goal, but getting fed up and running through tunnels with twenty goblins in tow meant I'd lost the patience. Time to get out and finish the rest of the book, and see the inside of Delossad. That instance was an interesting way to tell the story, touching objects to see ghosts of the past acting (Nameleth could do with some acting lessons, her depiction of possession wasn't all that) out stories and everything coming to together. It was kinda ruined though by the need to have mobs (cave-claws, worms) spawn after every vignette, it seems turbine thinks the player can't go 10 minutes without fighting.

Have a routine where Monday to Friday is maintenance mode (do a daily quest or two, auction house, etc). Then full play sessions on weekends. For the most part can stick to it, except sometimes early on in the week, it that whole 'need to do it right now, can't wait til next weekend' feeling, but surprisingly that passes pretty quick. The strange thing is, come the weekend I'm looking for other (non-MMO) things to do than that task that seemed so urgent where I left off last weekend. Sitting outside in the sunshine reading is the anti-thesis of getting angry over something idiotic. Nah, it more like I'm bored with Lotro and need another MMO fix, except nothing's appealing besides Guild Wars 2. Arenanet is really on to something with their event system being able to intersect and divert from the personal story, longing to lose the blinkers and the unexpected breaking the routine of knowing exactly what I'm going to be doing before logging on.

Wouldn't mind playing Age of Conan for a bit, bring my lowbie bear shaman through the early Khitai zone. But more and more it seems a month of play at a single game is too long these days, only reason I spent 3 months at Lotro was because of a special offer during the last welcome back weekend and thought I'd get to level 60 and into Lothlorien, only managed level 50 and have enough. Think a monthly sub doesn't suit me anymore, but still got DDO and the original Guild Wars (liking the War in Kryta content) to dabble in every now and again. The list of things I'm disillusioned with in current MMORPGs is growing: levelling, gear-grind, mobstacles, time-sinks, subscriptions. At least there is Guild Wars 2 to look forward too.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Time-Wasting Elves

Have been trying recently to confine mmo playing to weekends, because no matter how I attempt to limit the effects it has on getting a good night sleep I still get caught out and it's a major distraction from writing. So this weekend was interesting in that I ended up playing Portal as well as my current MMO of choice, Lotro. Spent several hours at Portal on Saturday, yeah several, probably slower than most, but did take a few breaks to puzzle out a few of the solutions. All in all it was one of the most satisfying experiences in gaming for a long time, funny, engaging and oh satisfying to finish it.

Contrast that with playing some Lotro last night, was working through Book 11 and it was incredibly infuriating! The book starts quite dramatically but the middle section had so many time drains and annoying tasks. It was probably a little about me not being in the mood to get so worked up about it, have to admit getting a little impatient with the game. Here's what annoyed me about those chapters:

Candelleth sends you to scout two locations where the ring Narchuil might be found, fair enough task. It's what the elves at those locations ask of you that's annoying. The first one sends you in to Delossad to investigate, that's not the annoying part, he also sends you to kill 8 Angmarims, the same mobs you just killed in the previous step, on the plus side he's not too fussy about which ones unlike Candelleth who wanted 6 of one type and 3 of the other. To be honest, it was just a 'huh' from me at that point. The other elf you get sent to, asks you to kill trolls and find the entrance to their cave, done! No wait you must now go back through the trolls (both stuns and knockbacks, fun times when climbing up ledges, yeah it did happen) and bog lurkers (btw what are these things anyway) to the cave and search it and kill their leaders, why didn't you say that the first time. Mounted up and just raced to the cave, 10 mobs chasing after me at all times, wading through mobs is getting really tiresome in this game (the stark contrast with Portal was not lost on me).

Okay, back to Candelleth, it wasn't in either place, oh I'm sorry, hmm where could it be. To the crumbled cottage and find a diary. This is probably what annoyed me the most, it assumes the players are stupid that they can't spend time to read the diary, figure out who L and N are and follow the directions in the diary. At this point I'm trying to imagine the thought process that the writer had, we need to have players march back up the hill to get exposition from Candelleth, so let’s use initials and also call Delossad by another name Sithad to confuse the players, can't have them taking the initiative, it must be Candelleth who figures it out after all. It doesn't make a whole load of sense. In my head I was imagining shouting up to Candelleth that I was going to investigate Delossad again. But no Candelleth has to tell you Sithad sounds like Delossad, was just about ready to kick her in the gorge and fling the diary after her. (Confession time: wasn't so quick to figure out the clues about the location of the keys, it was a nice little puzzle).

The next elf you get sent is probably the icing on the cake, she agrees to mend the key but first you must do a job for her (now where have I heard that before). Wanted to grab her and shake her violently and shout do you not realise the importance of mending those keys (where's the hobbit tinkers when you need them, fine by me if they use a scrap of iron from an old kettle, rather than needing mithril and a special hammer) Okay right about time to log off, and leave goblin-town until next weekend, have loads of quests to do there anyways and hopefully be a little more patient with the elves next time, they can't be blamed for living such long lives and their concept of time being so much more languid than humans (at least I’ve not been sent to Elrond in this book yet). Damn time-wasting elves!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lotro and the inventory mini-game

Maybe it's unfair to pick out Lotro for inventory management, but it's the game I'm playing at the moment. Every session of play is either ended or started or interrupted by the need to vendor or port to my house or a trip back to town for banking and the auction house, but usually it's all of them to empty out the bags of every kind of junk:

1) Recipes: probably making the most demand on space, with metalsmith and tailoring patterns being particularly annoying. Yeah I complain when they also make the most money per slot in the inventory. But the whole mechanic of dropped recipes needs to go. Two solutions: make the normal dropped recipes a reward for unlocking mastery in a profession (there's no reward at all associated with it except unlocking more grind, and it would line up nicely with levelling), and all single use dropped recipes should be obtained from the crafting guilds and non-crit versions requring the small rep item or none, and the crit version requiring medium rep item.

A more radical solution for metalsmith/tailoring to cut down on the amount of scrolling in the recipe book and add some individuality is to restrict racial designs to that race, i.e. an elf makes elf clothes.

2) Potion/Salves: being able to use salves on yourself and others is a nice idea, but having the standard type as well, means I usually end up with a dozen different types only to vendor them. Keep only salves, simple as that! Conditions on a whole in Lotro are chaotic, unlike something like Guild Wars (previous game, sorry).

3) Reputation items: sooner or later they are going to have to introduce a special tab for those.

4) Yellow items: in a game where crafted items are more powerful, they are just vendor trash, maybe not at early levels but in the 40s they just don't seem to sell at all, and have gotten fed up with listing them.

5) Vendor trash: why the hell do they only stack to 10! But the whole concept of picking up bits of monsters and junk to make money in an rpg really needs to go. In a game with a decent crafting system why not create an economy where all money is obtained from gathering and crafting rather than picking up broken wings and insect legs. It's funny but when you think of how much money you make on your first visit to the barrow downs and I know I'm not the first to notice that, picking up bits of undead and rats and maggots and baraghest. Ughh!

That's enough for now, there's probably more to add to that list, but need to go organise some space on my alts.