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Archive for the ‘Lord of the Rings Online’ Category

“Oh, well I felt like playing LOTRO tonight, but I noticed you were doing something else, so I’ll just roll an alt since we agreed not to level our mains without one another.”

“Oh, I noticed you’ve been having fun on your alt – what is that? A [healer]? Well, I just rolled up a [tank] while you were doing something else so that your [healer] has someone to run around with later.”

“Oh, I noticed you were playing your alt and I logged on to join you, but my inventory’s full of crafting goodies and the superior [implement]‘s leagues away from you; I’ll catch up with you when I’m done.”

“Oh, I noticed you were online crafting and I’m leagues away from the superior [implement], so I logged off and killed some time doing something else; let me know when you’re done.”

And this is how given a game we have fun playing together, set in a world we adore, with a price tag we can’t refuse, we have two level 35s, two level 28s, and two level 26s between us, we forgot to log in to pay our housing upkeep last month, I’m playing Champions Online, and Mr. Randomessa is playing Skyrim.

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Shockingly, Mr. Randomessa and I are still playing Lord of the Rings Online, which I think makes it the longest straight stint over which we have played one MMO since we pre-ordered Warhammer Online. We are, in fact, playing LOTRO so much that I am not sure our playstyle can be considered “casual” any longer; at least, not by my previous definition. I feel badly that we haven’t taken the time to check out the F2P launches of City of Heroes or Fallen Earth, but LOTRO is taking up all of our gaming time these days.

While it is true that we have not been racing to endgame (we only dinged level 33 this weekend), we have been amassing several hours of playtime across multiple alts and crafting professions. We have each purchased deluxe houses in the Falathorn homesteads – that’s how we know we’re serious! – and have begun decorating in earnest. Two of our alts, a Hunter for him and Rune Keeper for me, even duo together on odd days. And all this without PvP! Although I suspect that some of the more vicious bidding wars Mr. Randomessa has gotten into on the Auction House for crafting materials are serving as a form of PvP “high” for him….

In a refrain I have heard elsewhere by Minstrels, the class changes in Rise of Isengard have breathed new life into a class I had struggled with since around level 25. My Minstrel is now level 39, having gained three levels last week, and I have been enjoying tackling the Epic Story quests solo, in addition to skirmishing. I feel more sturdy and powerful than ever, and am seeking out new challenges to test the limits of my damage-dealing capabilities. Having unlocked more than the initial two free skirmishes, I was surprised to find that several of the later skirmishes were much easier than the early ones. I had much more fun and success running Attack at Dawn, Thievery and Mischief, or Stand at Amon Sul than I ever managed solo with Siege of Gondoman or Trouble in Tuckburough, which has made skirmishing a more fun and rewarding experience across all my characters.

Of course, with the tiny army that is our Captain and Loremaster combination, we’re still doing well with Tier 3 skirmish challenges, which I lay at the feet of Mr. Randomessa’s newly-acquired Lynx pet; enemies simply melt away before his stealthy kitty swipe. We’re also doing well with the Hunter/Rune Keeper pair; I was interested in trying the Rune Keeper for some time already, but upon learning more about its skills and realizing that in the healing attunement it’s essentially a Prot Monk, I was sold. With LOTRO’s slower-paced combat, this actually feels like something I might be able to do (and enjoy doing), and so far I’m liking healing with my RK more than I ever did on my Minstrel.

Sadly banished to the bench is my adorable Hobbit Warden, who, although invincible and mighty, just wasn’t a playstyle I really enjoyed at level 17. She’s resting comfortably at Michel Delving, cooking up a storm for the rest of the team with occasional overnight stays in Esteldin to craft jeweled goods and runestones as well. In the meantime, we will need to make some decisions as to what quest pack(s) Mr. Randomessa should buy to add variety to our alts’ leveling paths. Hopefully, one or two will round out the content he already has through the Isengard expansion; thanks to my VIP status, I have already earned enough TP to purchase the rest of the content should we still be playing at level 50, 60 or beyond.

To close, one more complaint from the premium member: no permanent swift travel unlocks in the LOTRO Store, Turbine? Really?

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Despite the fact that premium member Mr. Randomessa shelled out for the Legendary pre-order of the Rise of Isengard package, as far as our characters are concerned, Isengard is that place far-off where some wizard sits and does … stuff. We are only level 26 and so still working our way through Volume 1, Book II, and so we’re hanging out with a different wizard these days.

Gotta catch 'em all

At our level we’re also trying to delve into skirmishes, a feature towards which I have had deeply hostile feelings given past experience with my Minstrel (subject to change post RoI class revision). It turns out that not only is skirmishing in a duo more fun than doing it solo (which I suspected), but being a Lore Master and Captain we are virtually invincible (which I didn’t count on). I taunt, he stuns, I heal, he cures disease, I Last Stand, he feeds me power. Moreso than in any other MMO we’ve tried, the classes of our choosing are complementary in a really exceptional way. We’re practically a small fellowship of our own.

We’re taking our time leveling, in part because we’re trying to keep our crafting levels current wherever we are. This is where LOTRO chafes a bit, because in contrast to Rift, where for mere minutes of work we were making items that were valuable or even higher level than we could use or wear, we can’t break down our work for materials in LOTRO and I’ve complained elsewhere about the amount of materials it takes to master each tier. Still, we’re muddling through somehow; it helps to have a partner to grind with, especially one who doesn’t seem to mind combing through ruins filled with half-Orcs in order to break open Antique Vases and see what’s inside. Especially when said partner then makes you delicious, power-granting potions and extra crafting crit-chance scrolls.

The fact that premium players are still locked off from playing any other Monster Play characters but the Reaver means that Mr. Randomessa still can’t access his Defiler, and is cause for much sadness. The 795 Turbine Points to unlock the class would near clean out his 1000TP from the RoI pre-order, which he’d wanted to hang on to for skirmishes and perhaps a quest area on sale; personally I think that MP character price is quite high. It may be that my husband will have to satisfy his PvP jollies in another game on the side, which is a real shame.

Still, we’re enjoying ourselves otherwise, which just goes to show that sometimes you have to let the wine age a bit before you can appreciate it. Or something like that, anyway.

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I feel like I’ve become a pod person.

I’m grinding for deeds and enjoying it. I’m mining ore I don’t even need, in order to craft hundreds of ingots I then send to my husband so he can make me weapons. I’m leading him to abandoned ruins and running interference while he examines broken urns in order to craft up battle scrolls for us to decimate virtually everyone in combat… which we do, handily.

Today, I took Mr. Randomessa to Bag End, and then off to meet Tom Bombadil. I think he was pleased. Oh, and the following wasn’t a new experience for me, but it was a nice cap to the evening.

Too bad there's no "bunny ears" emote (or is there...?)

 

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I’ve not had much to say since returning from PAX, in part because my real-life social activities took a heavy upswing, in part because a health panic over one of our cats had us running for the emergency care clinic on more than one evening (he’s on the mend, many medications later), and lastly because I’ve been digesting the latest change to my gaming schedule.

I’ve been playing LOTRO.

I’ve gone back and forth on LOTRO for years now, from beta testing to purchasing a lifetime subscription, through many un- and re-installations. It was, in fact, the first MMO that Mr. Randomessa and I played together when we were dating. As a huge fan of the series brought in by the movies (blasphemy, I know, but I assure you I’ve read the book since, and The Hobbit, too), LOTRO has always seemed like precisely the kind of MMO I ought to enjoy. In reality, I’ve struggled to progress and find my niche among the classes and races on offer, no matter how many I tried; I’ve butted heads with the MMO-trinity design and slower-paced large world travel; I’ve sensed that the game has immense charm, but failed to be hooked long enough to delve deeply and explore it.

In fact, in my impressions of LOTRO in the past, coming to it as a Guild Wars player, I can’t help but see parallels between my impressions and those from some players of other MMOs who come to Guild Wars. Namely, there has been an issue of playing the new game as if it were the old game. I have played too many classes as though they were my Elementalist, and found them wanting…. as Elementalists.

Somehow, this time something seems to have flipped a switch. Since I picked up a voucher for a free mount at PAX, I re-downloaded the game just to redeem it and give my characters a little gift. Suddenly, running around in the world again and trying out a bit of combat, class roles “clicked” for me. I tanked with my Guardian instead of just flailing around hitting skills on cooldown. I figured out the optimal ballad tiering rotation for my Minstrel ballads. I tried out a Warden, became a tiny Hobbit hurricane packing a spear, and immediately understood why everyone loves that class. I rolled a new Captain (the class I always dreamed I’d love), named my Herald ‘Rosco’ and fell in love with on-defeat skills. I played for hours past my bedtime, and Mr. Randomessa, compelled by my enthusiasm, even dusted off his Lore-Master and we’re running around Northern Bree decimating everything in sight.

The change in my approach and reaction to the game is like night and day, and for the first time I can see myself sticking with it, wanting to progress past my perpetual roadblock somewhere on the eastern end of the Lone Lands. The now-old news that Monster Play will be opened up to non-subscribers with the arrival of Rise of Isengard has Mr. Randomessa’s interest piqued as well. We haven’t put down any money yet – and having yet to reach level 20 with our new characters, buying new content or perks hasn’t been an issue – but if this continues we won’t have a problem throwing Turbine some cash for content. My past mixed feelings aside, I’ve always felt that Turbine has been one of the most masterful handlers of the F2P MMO transition on the market, and we’d love to show them some love if we make it to the gates of Moria and beyond.

Of course, that will take some time… we’re in no rush to reach level cap with us just starting to settling in to our roles and the world around us. Again, but with more feeling!

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If you want the skinny in a few words, I can sum it up thus: I’ve certainly played worse WoW clones.

Early travels in the Human homeland

However, I’m not sure it’s that simple. I think Forsaken World is getting a bit of a bad rep — somewhat fairly-earned — in part due to the abundance of screenshots of well-endowed and scantily-clad Kindred Assassins that every reviewer seems to have rolled (truth be told, it’s only members of the Kindred race that can be Assassins [Edit: Whoops, I completely forgot that Humans can be Assassins, too], but the females of that race have the most alarming proportions and lack of modesty in the game).

The other reason for the poor reputation has to do with PWE’s discarding of the conventional F2P wisdom that “Closed Beta” means “anyone who has a key gets in” and actually seems to be restricting access by Beta phase, as well as their poor communication of that fact well in advance. This has led to a lot of confusion and hard feelings from fans who obtained beta keys but were not let into this Phase 1 of the Closed Beta.

Due to a generous giveaway by Massively, I am one of those in this phase of testing, and I have been playing multiple characters for hours. While I have been trying to submit bug reports like a good beta tester (see the overlooked Chinese characters and typo in the screenshot), I can’t say that my playtime has been through sheer determination – I’m actually having fun! Much like with Allods Online, I know I won’t be staying with this title due to the emphasis on PvP (after level 30, PvP or Player-Killing will be open-world and that’s just Not My Thing), it’s not stopped me from enjoying the content in the meantime.

Minor glitches aside, Forsaken World plays smoothly and the aesthetic is much more Western than previous PWE titles. Having explored a few different races’ starting areas, I have already experienced a couple of unique quests that I haven’t experienced many places elsewhere, if at all. The usual PWE conveniences are there, such as auto-pathing and pets, as well as other F2P staples such as level-gated gift packages. Character customization is less than PWI and more than JD, and felt much like it would if you could only use Aion’s default customizations with no feature sliders – that is to say, a fair amount of customization is possible, though no varying size options are available. No boob size customization, unfortunately.

I am still hovering around level 20 and the game is telling me I should start running dungeons (in-game chat is lively with LFG requests at this stage), but not having done this thing much in traditional MMOs (the closest I’ve come is the Barrow-Downs in LOTRO, and that was a crash-course in Healing With An Aggro System if ever there were one), I am leery of the abuse I would face from strangers if I failed in my Priestly duties. So far there is still plenty I can do on my own – the game is not hurting for quests, and not the sorry excuses for quests that PWI offered, with “kill 50″ requests rounding up post-level 20 content – so I shall continue on until, as usually happens when I play a traditional MMO, I get tired of never-ending questing and give Forsaken World a rest.

Or maybe I’ll try running a dungeon then.

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I have been putting many more hours into Guild Wars these days than I have since the release of Eye of the North so many moons ago. After a particularly embarrassing snafu in which I roped two acquaintances into helping me with the Riverside Assassination mission without realizing I needed to do the prerequisites before legitimately receiving the quest (this is why, boys and girls, if you are going to reference the Wiki for something, you better go all-in rather than hope to be surprised by the content later), I have taken a break from the War In Kryta festivities and turned my focus toward bettering myself as a player. For me, this has meant taking my main character through more of the Factions campaign and getting a couple more elite skills under my belt.

As noted in my byline, I am an easy mode gamer. I find anxiety in competition and stress in defeat, and I am not reward-driven; as a result, my main goal in most games is not to be the best, but simply to be good enough to get by. What drives me, then, to continue to improve in Guild Wars, even when I am beating myself against a seemingly impassable mission wall, is that I must know what happens next. For all the claims that MMOs aren’t meant to have storylines provided by external sources like the game developers, I have not found anything else that presses me on to become more efficient, faster, more aware of my surroundings, to acquire the right tools and the right NPC companions for the job, as that single factor. What is behind that wall? What happens to so-and-so? Will the lovers be re-united? And so on. Yes, I read the quests. Yes, every one. And I never skip a cinematic.

Realizing this about myself has helped me to see what I failed to see in previous MMO purchases, and explains why I quit Age of Conan after my level 30 destiny quest was completed, and LOTRO after I couldn’t get a group together to finish Book 2, and Warhammer Online after Tier 2. I hit the wall in Guild Wars after the Searing, and again in the Maguuma Jungle, and again in the Southern Shiverpeaks and later in the Eye of the North itself. I returned each time, determination renewed, vowing to get it right next time, because I can never leave a story unfinished.

So I find myself back in Cantha, plotting the downfall of Shiro Tagachi and making nice with the Luxons, not for the elite armor set, or the Allegiance title, but to acquire a few new skills and push myself a little past mediocrity so that I can return to Kryta, wipe that White Mantle scum from the face of Tyria, and find out just what the heck is going to happen next.

I’m suddenly faced with more content than I have time to consume, and not a title grind in sight!

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Regarding Turbine’s revelation that Lord of the Rings Online is going to go free to play this fall, I am late to the party as always – particularly so because I am not yet completely certain of my feelings on the matter. A summary of other bloggers’ thoughts can be found here, with most weighing in as optimistically apprehensive to positive in outlook. My thoughts on the change are that this is a good move for Turbine and MMOs in general; as a fan of free to play titles and a cheerleader for the Guild Wars franchise, this is a no-brainer for me. I do not buy the story that subscriptions are necessary for either server maintenance or continued content updates, so if Turbine (or the Warner hand that is guiding it) feels that a change in business model will bring more people to the title, I think it’s well worth the attempt.

LOTRO was supposedly already free to play for me because I bought a lifetime subscription over two years ago. However, due to that purchase, I have actually paid approximately $46/mo for my playtime, as I discovered too late that the game is not at all to my taste. I would have benefited from this model springing into play a little sooner, but I am determined to find a way to make use of the Turbine points I will be accumulating as a lifetime member, perhaps to buy a Warden and make one last attempt to pass through Middle Earth, if only just to say I’d been there.

Whether or not I am or ever was a fan of Turbine’s games, as champion of the growing free to play family, I must admit that it’s nice to see another game enter the fold. Come on in – the water’s fine!

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I have tried out a number of MMOs, both paid and free to play, and I can’t say I’ve noticed any stark differences between the two styles as far as the fun factor is concerned. I’ve even subscribed to a few games, and/or bought longterm or lifetime subscriptions to others. But I am beginning to feel more strongly as time goes on that no one game can appeal to all of my gaming desires, so it is not reasonable for me to buy into one game and play it to the exclusion of all others. I just don’t want to have to pay subscriptions for all of them, when I play them so sporadically!

Currently I am playing Star Trek Online (year-long sub), Wizard 101 (free until I purchase more content), Aika (as further betas allow), and am trying to get back into Lord of the Rings Online (lifetime sub). Now, if I could continue to play any of the following without paying additional subscription fees, I would gladly pop back into:

  • Warhammer Online: the thought of a free T1 experience was appealing to me until I discovered that only Empire vs. Chaos lands could be accessed. I would be back in a heartbeat if Mythic enabled me to, say, pay by the tier – if I could purchase T1 access and have access to all three lands forever (or even one fee per pairing; I would pay that, too!), with all of my characters. If they would add fees for access to T2 through 4 in the same way, I’d be all over that. They could take from DDO’s model in this way, such that anyone could obviously bypass the Tier For Fee option and just pay a full subscription for access to the whole game.
  • Age of Conan: I loved the Tortage experience, but even so, I’m not that big a fan of repetition and after playing through the 1-20 game with all four archetypes, I feel I’ve exhausted that content. The addition of new content through the Rise of the Godslayer expansion has me really tempted to return and try running through with a member of the Khitai race, and really itching to try out the lands of Khitai for their contrast to the existing continents. But again, it would be really nice if I could buy this content. I would even be willing to pay extra on the price of the expansion if I could “own” access to the lands of Khitai. Heck, charge me $25 over the expansion box price and let me progress only through the lands of Khitai, stopping at level 40, but have access to that area forever.
  • City of Heroes/Villains and Champions Online: My partner and I had a lot of fun with CoX, though, as many others have said, most of our time was spent in character creation and we never really made it past level 12 or so (though I have a level 21 character that I soloed with). Again, it seemed just a bit too much to maintain a subscription for the amount of time we were spending with the game, and feeling compelled to “get our money’s worth” on the subscription tended to make us feel a bit sick of the content early on (I doubt I would have felt the mission structure was as repetitive as I did if I only attempted one mission in a week, instead of trying to get in 4-5 per night). Champions Online was my solo game, and I had enough fun with it that I felt sad when I canceled my subscription after one month, for the aforementioned reason.
  • Vanguard, Saga of Heroes: Now, here is a game that I feel would benefit from enabling permanent free access to the trial island. Between my better half and I, we couldn’t even make it to Adventuring level 10 in the two-week trial period, let alone in the other two spheres. I do have a concern that we game in too short of spurts to really make it far in a game of such sprawling landscapes and dungeons as Vanguard, but I would like to try, and would happily pay a one-time per-area fee for that opportunity.

Someone on the Massively forums said, in response to a player bemoaning the lack of American players’ ability to pay by the hour when playing games the way they do in Asia, that “if you play enough” the subscription fee is a bargain. Yes, it certainly is – if you play enough. Right now the only option with subscription games is to either play “enough,” overpay for sporadic gaming schedules, or not to play at all.

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I have given serious thought to returning to Lord of the Rings Online since the newest addition of Book III, which will enable solo players to take on epic quests that formerly required groups to complete. Since I have a level 30-something Minstrel parked somewhere in Book 2, and a level 22 Hunter parked at Book 1, I thought I would give it a try and see if I can get that sense of story progression back. The story is the reason I wanted to play LOTRO in the first place, and I’ve always found it discouraging that I cannot progress at the pace of my choosing.

LOTRO hasn’t made it easy on me so far: the first time I tried to log in, my driver blue-screened my system, spooking me for a couple of days (there has since been a warning posted about an issue with new Nvidia drivers).

The second time I logged in, I discovered that the level 20 mount I blew all my silver on when I last played is no longer in my possession. I no longer have a mount skill in my Mounts tab. Upon asking the Advice channel, several other returning players noted that the same thing had happened to them. Okay, bug report submitted, no real skin off my nose (just 200 silver).

Then I lost connection with the login server (while my better half plays Warcraft III, so our internet stability is just fine).

Okay then! Perhaps I’ll try this returning to the game thing next week.

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