LOTRO update, Final Fantasy screws the pacing, and can SWTOR really get 2 million subs?


Mirkwood by Night (not sure how well this will come out)

The first time Arbitrary showed me around the daily quests in Mirkwood, I was scrambling along behind her hoping not to get lost. Although there are paths and roads through the zone, it’s also a big dark scary forest without obvious road signs all over the place. Strange as this sounds, obvious road signs (for no obvious reason) do feature in a few of the latter WoW zones. I never understood why Horde/ Alliance didn’t go mess with the signs in order to throw off the opposing armies.

A couple of the quests are scouting missions, in which you have to check out four different locations in order, and then report back to base. There are maps which help navigation, but still, when I started doing these dailies on my own I used to have to keep stopping (in stealth, naturally) to check my map like some kind of lost tourist.

No longer. I was able to save up enough daily tokens to buy a new horse for my character – a nice study black creature which seems fitting for a burglar. And I noticed that I was smoothly completing my scouting missions without having to stop and check maps any more. I feel like a veteran of the Mirkwood front!


I took a screenshot of the new smoky black horse in Bree, since a screenie of a black-clad burglar on a black horse in a black forest might fail to impress. Whereas in WoW, your basic horse will do the job but the more expensive epic mount is faster, in LOTRO the advanced horse runs at the same speed as the basic one but it is a bit sturdier. Or in other words, you don’t fall off it every time a monster looks at you funny. Acquiring one was one of my in-game goals, and I’m pleased that the black one was the more accessible to me from the Mirkwood elves.

The other picture is a demonstration of why glowy daggers and stealthy burglars don’t really mix. Gosh, I wonder where the stealther is in this picture? Fortunately orcs are very very short sighted … or something.

In which I want to slap final fantasy 13

A couple of people commented on my affection for the extremely on-rails presentation of FF13. What can I say? I wouldn’t want every game I play to be linear like this but it’s refreshing to see it done well, like a palate cleanser. In general, the games I have most enjoyed on the PS3 so far have had strongly directed, well designed gameplay. It seems to be a general strength of console games.

Or in other words, I like smoked salmon and could probably eat it for every meal, but I also like other foods and some of them don’t go well with salmon. Ultra-linear, highly directed gameplay is not really what I look for in a MMO, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun in its own right.

Having said that, the pacing of FF13 became glacial during chapter 6. I don’t expect to actually feel bored during a Final Fantasy setting. Interestingly, it was the gameplay pacing that was off, the narrative pacing was fine. It’s perfectly OK to have a long sequence in which two characters who didn’t get along have to travel together, and along the course they learn to trust each other.

Just usually in films you’d go to a travelogue or montage sequence to show the passage of time without boring the pants off people via a sequence of forgettable fights.


But I am a mercurial gamer and the game picked up massively in chapter 7. So now I love it again, I genuinely enjoy all of the characters and their development arcs, and can’t wait for our next session. It’s quite a feat of storytelling to show such marked character development for all of the main characters. They don’t quite pull off the marriage of gameplay with narrative, but I still love what they are trying to do.

Also, Lightning is awesome.

Can SWTOR really get 2 million subs?

A few bloggers have picked up on a report that EA chiefs have high hopes for Star Wars: The Old Republic, and are shooting for 2 million+ subs. I’m not linking to them all because what everyone says is, “Is that realistic?”

Yes. Star Wars is a big and very well known franchise. But if that was all it took, then why isn’t LOTRO larger than World of Warcraft? Still, it certainly helps to get word out of the door, and Bioware’s stonking recent record of story based games (Dragon Age, Mass Effect et al) surely doesn’t hurt either.

I can only conclude that:

  1. Bioware have a lot on their plate at the moment. They’re known to be working on Mass Effect 3, and almost certainly on a Dragon Age 2 (sequel). On top of that, SWTOR is a vast undertaking and also the most expensive project in EA’s stable at the moment.
  2. SWTOR is an incredibly risky project. I’m still amazed that both EA and Bioware chose to go the AAA MMO route at this point in time.
  3. SWTOR rather failed to blow reporters away when they tried a demo at GDC. People liked it, but no one came away saying, “Oh my god this is the next big thing, give it to me now etc etc.” Having said that, the trooper sounds quite fun – a dps class which can switch from ranged to melee and has big guns.
  4. I think they will get their 2 million subscribers. They may end up redefining what a subscriber means, especially if they go with a hybrid pricing model but they’ll get the numbers.
  5. I’ll play it! So now they only have to find 1,999,999 other people and they’re golden.
  6. But I’ll still wish it was Mass Effect Online rather than Star Wars …

And the gratuitous female fighter in platemail picture


From Alice in Wonderland, of all things. But now I wish Tim Burton would take on The Faerie Queene as a project — I’d pay just to see the visualisations.

10 thoughts on “LOTRO update, Final Fantasy screws the pacing, and can SWTOR really get 2 million subs?

  1. But I’ll still wish it was Mass Effect Online rather than Star Wars…

    I’m with ya on that one! I still think after Mass Effect 3 is finished, BioWare will begin work on a Mass Effect MMOG. But I do hope they come up with a better name than just tacking “Online” onto the end. Always seemed a bit uncreative. And redundant, no? 🙂

  2. I wonder if they make a Mass Effect or Dragon Age MMO first, if at all. SW:TOR will keep them busy for sure, and there is not so much point in offering your potential customer base two Scifi MMOs. Or two MMOs, unless SW:TOR is running so freaking well that they can dare to think about a fantasy alternative with a DA:O based MMO.

    But this talk about Mass Effect made me wonder… I know it is comparing apples and oranges, so it comes down to taste. But BlueKae already told me he liked Mass Effect 2 a lot more than Dragon Age. Did you also like it as much?

    • The issue I have with Mass Effect is that I am really bad at shooters and don’t much enjoy them. I never finished the first ME, but I did love the background, characters, and everything else apart from the combat 🙂

      It’s on my to-do list sometime. I’ll turn everything onto ultra-easy and see if I can get through it.

  3. I never could get into Mass Effect for the same reasons spinks. I think I would have liked it more as a pure action game, with the first game’s attempt to blend shooter and rpg meh for me. Then again, I like JRPGs more too.

    2 million subs is a lot. Really, apart from WOW have we even seen consistent 500k plus subs? Like I said on Massively, they aren’t going to be able to count on a weak market, and I’d pick FF 14 over it myself evenw ith Bioware and Star Wars in general.

  4. 1,999,998 others Spinks. I’ll be playing with ya.

    But yeah, for them to announce they “need” 2 million subs is silly. The game looks fun, and I love Star Wars, but I loved LOTR and don’t play LOTRO. Take that for what you will.

  5. 1,999,996. I wanna play Mass Effect too. And Dragon Age. Unfortunately, my computer came down with a bad case of failed PSU (it started making crackling noises – not usually a good sign in an electronic component). Besides it couldn’t play those games anyway…I got it late 2005 and only upgraded them slightly. Oh well. I’ll be getting a new one later this year capable of actually doing these things. I’m currently only on chapter 4 of FFXIII though, but I’m really enjoying it. I got a little out of touch with it when it forced me to fight using 3 ravagers. That was painful, slow and annoying, and I was so glad when Lightning came back and I could actually hold chains again :P. Anyway, did I have a point here? Don’t think I did…..

  6. You said
    “Yes. Star Wars is a big and very well known franchise. But if that was all it took, then why isn’t LOTRO larger than World of Warcraft?”

    Because it is not a good game.

    It also took the alternate license of the books. Thus, it could not “associate” itself with the movie license models, which are shown to “sell” more copies of games, etc.

    Just watch how well “The Lord of the Rings: War in the North”, the new game from Snowblind sells…it will walk all over LOTRO.

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