Point-to-Point Questing

When LotRO went free-to-play it also included the sweetener of a new region and quest hubs for long-terms players. Obviously, WoW has also just released some new content (though in a much larger expansion scenario). And because I play both games, I thought it might be interesting to compare a few things about them. Of course, the WoW content is vastly larger, it’s a full on expansion of Blizzard proportions, and in that way there’s no comparison. But interestingly enough, a lot of the LotRO content experience is reflected in the new high-end zones in WoW.

LotRO is very story-driven. From Eregion/Moria onwards the design aesthetic has been to lead characters from quest-hub to quest-hub, directing them from one to the other, but allowing for some going off-path. I can go to the last hub in Moria and pick up quests there, but I will miss the story-flow quests that direct from one to the next so I still have a choice of the order I go in, but the experience will be more fluid if I go as the designers intended. It works in LotRO because the story is one of the appealing things about the IP and one of the strong points to the MMO.

Enedwaith follows the same pattern. Characters are helping small quest hubs, while also aiding in the main storyline. You start at Fordirith and work your way down to Thror’s Coomb. There’s various landscapes from marshes to snow-capped mountains, the quests are neat and tidy and often make way to repeatable faction quests for the two factions (The Grey Company and The Algraig). The music is stand-out, my favourite to date in LotRO. Ok, so there’s not THAT much content to get through, but this isn’t a proper expansion – we didn’t pay for it and it’s been diverting.

What’s really interesting is that the new high-end areas of WoW follow a similar pattern, while offering the traditional Blizzard bling and polish. And players, not as accustomed to linear questing, are finding it a bit.. odd. You have a choice of two zones, first of all – Mount Hyjal and helping the Ancients get themselves ready for war, or the underwater and therefore ‘cooler’ Vash’jir. They both start at level 80 and you’re directed to both from capital cities when your level 80 logs into Cataclysm. Both share linear questing from small hub to small hub. But because of clever phasing (which enables the mountain to break into flower at one point) you can’t really mess up the order all that much. Sure you can go ahead and scout the area (or mine/herb/whatever) but you won’t get the same questing experience at all.

I went to Mount Hyjal first, based purely on the fact I found the portal to there first! After grabbing the first flight master at Nordrassil I got diverted by everyone talking about seahorses and underwater questing and went to Vash’jir instead. After a couple of quest hubs, I decided to go back to Mount Hyjal and finish a long chain. I like both zones. As someone quite used to linear questing, I didn’t find it off-putting at all – in fact, it made me pay more attention to the storyline I was following. I think that’s why I went back to Hyjal to see it through to the end. I’m really really loving the storyline, something I’ve not personally felt in WoW before (mind you, as I only recently returned, I had to level from 1-80 in ‘catch-up’ mode, so this is also the first time I’ve had a chance to sit back and smell the roses). I’ve not skipped any quest so far, either. The nature of the story has meant even when I found the quest annoying or difficult (I will fully admit I didn’t like bird jousting that much), I plugged away at it because I wanted to help the Ancient in question.

I guess I don’t have a point to make, except that I’m really enjoying Mount Hyjal and can’t wait to go back and play through every quest in Vash’jir to read that storyline too. It may seem bland questing to some, but I’m finding it a really pleasant experience storywise. And the fact I’m used to it from LotRO obviously isn’t hurting at all!

The Fluff post

It’s a given that World of Warcraft is great for fluff content; pop culture references, silly holiday costumes and devices to throw at other players, things to do in down-time, etc.

I can dress my new dwarf shaman up as a pilgrim and turn other players into turkeys – now that’s what I call fluff!

But, if they’re so great with fluff, where’s the housing, the cosmetic clothing, the trophies? Why is it so easy to give us vanity pets (which are great and strangely addictive) and not the rest. Every time I get some new cool bit of clothing or mask at a holiday, I crave cosmetic armour. I want trophies like in Warhammer Online, medals I can pin to my armour. I want a better selection of titles and for achievement points to mean something. And I’d like housing so I could have housing items. I love all these things about the MMOs I’ve played in the past and that I currently play.

And WoW is so great at so much fun content, that I feel the lack there all the more. If I couldn’t see the full pilgrim armour, or the Day of the Dead gear.. I wouldn’t care about the cosmetics. Also, the moment you see it done well in one game, you kind of realise all games could probably do it.

If there was one fluff content area you could add to WoW from another game, what would it be? I think for me it’d be housing, and all that entails.

When anecdotes attack…

I know it’s no big surprise that World of Warcraft and MMOs in general can really provide a bond between people where there really wasn’t anything much else in common.

I wrote a while ago about my boss’ young son and his little written note asking me how to get off Teldrassil. And my boss said her coolness factor with her son had gone up a couple of notches for knowing someone who could answer his questions.

Steampunk Phoenix tattooA couple of weeks ago, I went to get a tattoo I’d had planned for a while. It was a mammoth 8-hr session of tattooing (and I still need to get the background put in!). The tattooist had mentioned he was into computer games, but it was only when his girlfriend showed up towards the end of the session and he casually mentioned that both she and I played World of Warcraft that the big gaming discussion took place. She was in her early 20s, I’m 40. She’s a very hip goth chick, and I’m just an all-round geek. And yet we both play on EU roleplay servers (not the same ones, but still) and managed to have a very long and animated conversation about the game, Cataclysm, healing and roleplay in MMOs. Considering this was after around 6h of tattooing, it really helped get me through the final stages.

And then we come to last week. Just before a meal with workmates I went round to my co-workers’ house (she lives much closer to work than me, and yes, we work in a 2-person library, so it’s just us most of the time). Her 18-yr-old son came down to get some food and mentioned something about the Shattering and World of Warcraft and I discovered he’s also a healing nut (though he plays a druid to my shaman) and he ended up abandoning his sick girlfriend for 45m to have a chat with me about WoW.

It’s funny only because all these incidents all happened so close together. Normally I go through life with my gamer friends on one side and my non-gamer friends on the other. And while the non-gamers may be pretty tolerant to my explanations of these games, I don’t often have moments of connection via MMOs. (I mentioned on a very old blog once that my colleagues in the big library all knew that I went to fight a Balrog every friday night in LotRO and frequently asked how it had gone, even if they had no idea what any of the words meant ;p).

Anyway, thought I’d share because it made me feel warm and fuzzy!

Thoughts on LOTRO FTP

So, I’ve finally started to pay attention to LotRO again seriously since the European game went free-to-play and we actually have some new content to muck about with. Not only new content in terms of land-mass and quests, but also newly-scaled instances, new barter items to grind and a little class revamp for those of the Captain persuasion (which is me, naturally).

New specs – no problem. I can see the benefits of having some more viable speclines available to me, even if I still don’t like many of the individual traits it’s been interesting to toy around with them.

New quests – Enedwaith is pretty. I like the varied land, the quest hubs, the flow of the story. The epic book wasn’t too bad, shame it didn’t have any group content in – even if it had been done skirmish-style, like the Mirkwood book. I miss some grouping in epic books – often it helps make them feel more… epic. I am, however, taking the questing quite slowly and progressing at a much slower pace than I’m used to. I’m kind of enjoying that, despite feeling slow compared to my more ‘hardcore’ buddies. There’s a LOT of repeatable quests for barter items and reputation also. If you’ve not done the quests the first time, you don’t get to do the repeatables (fairly obvious), but I should, eventually, get some more of those done. I probably do a few more than many, but nothing like the hardcore playstyle I used to favour. Sometimes I feel bad about this, like I’ve fallen off some wagon. Other times, I remember I’m just doing other things instead.

Newly-scaling instances. Fun, distracting, a bit like skirmishes when they first came in, but with better reward structures. Have so far done Ost Elendil, two of the Barrows instances, and a couple of runs in Helegrod. I’d possibly have done more, but I’ve had a busy couple of weeks.

So I was reading about the November update, where Loremasters do very nicely (one day, Captains will receive some proper love from devs, honest!), and where class consumables get introduced (the summary linked to from mmorsel is the best out there). First thought – seriously, NOTHING for tailors again? Second thought – we can craft them or buy them from the store? Third thought – some of these look pretty essential for raiding performance, others not so much. Now, right now the better versions of all the consumables are crafted. That’s good. But the next tier down can be bought…

…so far, I think Turbine’s implementation of free-to-play has shown a great deal of thought. We can buy stuff and I’m sure they’re making a lot more money than they were, but nothing yet that I feel I have to buy. Although I was told this week by a fellow raider than anyone not buying stat tomes is an idiot. Colour me idiotic then, because I managed to raid with my ‘rubbish’ stats last week and truthfully since f2p came in and people bought stat tomes, we’ve done worse generally! I probably will spend my points on stat tomes eventually, and I do resent them more than anything in the store – but hey, there has to be some blatant money-making in there. Class consumables makes me want to watch the store more closely and I wonder how long before Turbine pushes the limits. Will we ever be expected to spend actual money to keep up enough to raid? Will that be a neat excuse for me to drop raiding? I only have a rubbish craft (ie. tailoring), and I find it difficult to get people to craft stuff for me. I make money and I end up spending it on tokens, scrolls, potions and I guess I’ll do the same for consumables in the future. But if I didn’t raid, I wouldn’t have to do any of that!

Tempting!

Dickishness? Or Fun?

Spinks’ post reminded me of something. Last week, during our Barad Guldur raid in LotRO I started laughing because of a conversation I was having with the other Captain in the raid. And when I decided to share my ‘evil’ thoughts with the rest of the raid, it exposed what might be called ‘dickish’ behaviour on my part. There’s a firey mob in the raid that, when it dies, does an AE burst of damage that can take people down fast. So, when it gets to 10k we all tend to run away and leave a sole tank in the vicinity.

Captains have a skill (Oathbreakers) that ups the damage on a mob by 35% for 15s that we can use every 5m.

Between Boss 1 and Boss(es) 2 (twins) in the raid there’s a fair amount of drudge-y trash mobs, so sometimes I chat tactics with whoever the other captain is (or general chitchat with anyone). Last week I simply commented that one of the things I sometimes do for fun is drop Oathbreakers on one of the firey mobs when it’s down to a third health and see if the raid notices the damage output is so much higher they need to run sooner. Most of the time they do. It’s never caused a wipe, I hasten to add… but I even felt bad while laughing about it.

I’m not a bad person, I just get bored and like my class skills to be noticed :-)

Dragon Age: Facebook

It was only a matter of time. In the run up to Dragon Age II, a new themed Facebook game called Dragon Age: Legends is being launched by Bioware. And you can sign up to the beta today. It’s going to introduce us to the region of the Free Marches, the primary setting for Dragon Age II. In the same vein as the web-based game that was released in the run up to Dragon Age: Origins, playing the game will give some unlocks for the main game when launched.

Dragon Age: Legends is only due to release one month before Dragon Age II, sometime in February 2011.

Screenshots, forums and a blog are linked to from the Dragon Age: Legends site, which is a little sparse so far, but one to watch.

[Funnily enough, Spinks and I were chatting about Dragon Age II the other day while both placing our pre-orders, and at the time we expressed how much we'd liked the web-based game (Dragon Age: Journeys I think was the name) and how we hoped they'd be another. Good timing, Bioware.]

Bad News, Good News, Cute Cat

Not too unhappy!

Last week I discovered my Dragon Age save files  have become somewhat corrupted, so I now can’t be bothered to finish my second playthrough, and I was relatively near the end (at the Arl Howe stuff).

I’m bummed, I preferred my second character, and got so far with it, but now I’ve shelved the game until Dragon Age 2 is out. I hope for less issues and I will be starting a new character anyway. Means I didn’t get to play quite a bit of the DLC (which I found not really to be worth the money) nor the expansion. I’ll live. One day I’ll go back to it. Perhaps.

It put me off gaming last week, since I sat down all ready to lose a day to finishing the game. Bad News.

On sunday, I dragged myself to the LotRO kin raid to Barad Guldur where we actually made progress in our fight against the Lieutenant of Dol Guldur. It’s been a while since I honestly thought we’d made any good progress, and more importantly I didn’t wipe the group once, so I have a little more faith in my ability to pay attention, even when I hate a fight. So that was my Good Luck in gaming. I know it sounds self-deprecating, but the fight is so annoying on a micro-management level, and includes (for me), healing, running around to try and hit a fell beast but moving out of range of its tail and mouth, watching for fear on others, watching for yellow and/or purple eyes on me and reacting accordingly – and all later in the evening than I would like, concentration-wise. So while I’m glad the group, as a whole, made progress, I’m more happy that I managed to hold my attention the entire however-many-attempts we had. I think, now, that we will be able to down him. But I still have no love lost to Barad Guldur and will be glad when we can go to Helegrod again!

(and in secondary good news, I get to play Deathspank for the PC roday after pre-ordering my first ever game on Steam!)