Updates! LOTRO, CoH, Glitch, SWTOR, and stuff

meand saruman

Most of my gaming time this week (sadly, not enough) has been spent in LOTRO. My impression of Isengard so far is that Turbine have done a good job of providing ‘more of the same.’ That’s not a bad thing per se, it means that the zones feel well designed, the storylines are engaging, the PvE flow is good, and I haven’t seen the servers this busy for a long time. I’m enjoying how the burglar plays, as long as I don’t compare it to any other class. There are a few minor tweaks that improve dps, and the new Isengard skills involve updates to existing skills which make stealth more appealing (can riddle from stealth, get automatic crits from stealth, etc). As a QK burglar, I’m happy enough.

Although there are definitely other classes which are tougher in PvE, what I love about my burglar is that when I die in PvE, I can usually stop and think and try another approach and then succeed. The class has a large toolset. And that’s one of the things I enjoy.

One of the things that works well for Turbine’s storytelling in these zones  is that Middle Earth legitimately has poor communications across the regions (unless you cheat and use a palantir or MMO mail/ chat channels). Also the ring quest is secret and no one is supposed to know much about the rangers. So this means that when you rock up to a village and no one knows who you are, but they see that you look like a seasoned fighter who has come in their time of need, it’s plausible. It also means that you end up feeling like the man/woman with no name, which is actually pretty cool.

I’ve encountered Saruman in an epic storyline (yes, I was expecting someone taller too), and I’m enjoying the swashbuckling look of the Dunland clothing, as modelled on my burglar above. And through the wonders of cosmetic clothing, she can keep looking like a female version of Errol Flynn for as long as I want. Wish I could get those boots iRL.

Turbine have a very cool dev blog about how they develop their epic storylines, recognising that players will want to visit key locations from the books and encounter key characters.

As we design the Epic Story for LOTRO, the biggest consideration is something we call T-Factor. The more Tolkien something feels, the more T-Factor it’s said to have. All the most iconic characters and places in The Lord of the Rings are considered to be the “Biggest T.” In all things, but especially in the Epic Story, we’re aiming for lots and lots of Big T.

I’m a great fan of tea.

City of Heroes

CoH is in full F2P mode now, and my beloved is encouraging me to jump back in and have a go. Because I used to subscribe, my account still has some of the veteran rewards, mostly costume pieces or minor (but quality of life enhancing) abilities. I hear a lot of good things about the F2P revamp and it’s definitely on my list of things to do when I have more time.

Anyone have any feedback on how the game is feeling at the moment?

Glitch

Other people have written about their experiences with Glitch, which is a side scrolling flash-based browser game with zones and crafting and things to collect. I’m struggling to really call it a MMO but I think it probably has to qualify. Lots of players can play simultaneously and communicate with each other, it has zones and quests, and customisable characters.

I hung out in the game for about an hour and found it fun but I’m not sure I feel very compelled to go back. I can understand why people compare Glitch with Facebook games (there is something of Farmville in the point-and-click and you-can-only-collect-cherries-once-per-day), but for me it has more in common with Kingdom of Loathing. And a fairly complex skill tree system that probably has more in common with EVE than anything else I’ve seen.

I will definitely aim to spend more time with Glitch, if only to understand better why some of my friends like it so much. I don’t really find much of interest yet in the virtual world, which probably says more about what I like in MMOs than anything else.

It is free to play and you can spend money to buy credits to customise your character etc etc. I have 3 spare invites so feel free to leave a message if you want one.

SWTOR

Anyone else excited about SWTOR? Among the blogs I read, I sometimes feel as though I’m the only one. I haven’t seen the beta so I’m just basing this on what I’ve read, but really, if you like Bioware’s RPGs and are expecting more of the same with full voice acting, Old Republic setting, sub model and extra MMO-like stuff borrowed heavily from WoW which you may or may not like, and find that appealing I don’t see a reason to pass on it. I’ve said this before but I do expect a LOT of the storytelling in this game, and since that’s one of my great interests I can’t wait.

I know there is a large probability that I will be bored after 3 months, but I now know that this is because I’m /usually/ bored of a new MMO after 3 months. The test for me is whether I want to dip in again after having played at the start and taken a long break.

In my case, given the current workload, I think it may take me longer than 3 months to get to max level anyway.

WoW

In my view, the main issue with WoW is (and maybe has always been) that the devs can’t quite settle on which type of customer/ player they are aiming at. This means that if you find one expansion or patch is absolutely perfect for your playstyle, it’s practically guaranteed that this will change on the next content update. Blizzard really struggle on the idea of providing more of the same.

Over Wrath and Cataclysm, they seem to have been changing tack more and more often, so it’s not surprising if the player base (which usually reacts to changes approximately a year or so after they happen) is feeling restless and uncertain. When I say that the player base has a delayed reaction, I mean that social structures designed for one type of play tend to endure even after the game changes.

This is why raid guilds continue to fall apart. WoW hasn’t really been that holy grail of hardcore raid games for awhile, probably not since TBC. This is because part of the hardcore raid appeal was being able to see content and lore which others didn’t, and hard versions of existing raid instances don’t really fill the same niche.

I actually think that they’re now settling into a new model, and hopefully they’ll stick with it long enough that people can at least decide where they’re at for more than one patch at a time. The new model is: new or returning players can jump in at any patch and easily gear for raiding, raid and instance content available via PUGs to all players, and hard modes for hardcore players. There is a squeezed middle here but as Tobold says, maybe they aren’t the player base you’re looking for. With WoW, you always have to ask: who is this content aimed at?

The new Looking for Raid finder is going to be great for anyone who wants to see the last raid of the expansion (and kill Deathwing) and isn’t in a hardcore raid guild. The LFR version of the raid is going to be easier than normal mode (which is likely to still be pretty hard, if Firelands was anything to go by) and should fill the purpose of getting everyone to see the content.

I don’t know how this will affect raid guilds but I suspect casual raids in particular will be hit hard. If you have the choice of raiding regularly with a casual guild that struggles through the normal modes or hitting up the LFR (which has no raid lock so can be done multiple times per week if you’re desperate to grind it and gear up that way) I think people will tend to drift to LFR unless the social aspect of the regular raids is stellar.

As to why they put in a special legendary weapon and questline just for rogues, I have no clue. I imagine part of the questline will require hardmode raiding, so that narrows the possible user base even more. Having legendaries be rare is fine, but a whole epic questline just for one class still feels like an odd way to go about things to me.

Another thing to note is that the new instances will be dropping gear of equivalent level to normal firelands drops. That probably signals the death of firelands raids once the new patch drops.

EVE

Syncaine thinks it is awesome that the CCP CEO has apologised to EVE players and decided to actually focus on creating content that they want.

I think that if I was playing a sub game where the only new content I’d had for a year was something lame that NO ONE wanted, I’d expect an apology too. And if they’re so bad at listening to the player base (less large than you’d think given the number of players with two or more accounts) that they need grandstanding tactics by players on an egoboo to draw their attention to basic things like this, then why are they running an MMO in the first place?

The nearest equivalent I can think of is that LOTRO had a fallow patch when the devs were working on the unannounced F2P conversion. That was shocking too, but at least people could see that the F2P conversion was actually done in the best interests of keeping the game viable. Unlike a new CPU-eating character generator used only in a single room for each player.

One of the side effects of the rise of the F2P model is that it does make players think about what they expect from a subscription model in a game.