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.

[LOTRO] When I’m 65 (and eyeing up the endgame)


Fortress of Dol Guldur
I have been playing LOTRO in a very casual way, on and off, for the past few months. I have the great advantage of being able to call on Arbitrary for help when I get lost, need some in game advice, or want help with some quest or other, but otherwise I’ve been playing mostly solo.

I played the game for a few months when it came out, which was long enough to reach max level at the time and then get very ticked off at the (then) endgame zones of Angmar and the associated raids and instances. I picked up the Moria expansion a few months after it came out (and was discounted) and spent another month or two delving into Moria and trying out the new legendary weapons. Again, I enjoyed my time with the game, but drifted away when my attention was caught by something else.

And then the new skirmishes that came in with Mirkwood caught my eye, and I knew that I wanted to buy in again for a casual trip to Middle Earth. And so, for the first time in about 2 years, my burglar has actually hit max level again.

You can see from this that the way for a game to encourage me to resubscribe is to bring in some new and shiny functionality in a way that is easy to try as soon as I log in on my old character. New zones alone won’t do it, because I might not be the right level. So even Moria might not have grabbed me if my character at the time hadn’t been high enough level to go play there.

So … how’s Mirkwood?

dgpics I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with the elves in Lothlorien and Mirkwood. Moria’s epic but thoroughly confusing 3D architecture gives way to the more pastoral wooded vistas of the glowing golden wood and the murkier .. err.. murky one.

Mirkwood also benefits from being smaller in scope than both Shadows of Angmar and Moria – it has an easily comprehensible overarching plotline and stays mostly focussed on that. You are assisting the elves of Lothlorien in their push into Mirkwood and assault on the necromancer’s fortress of Dol Guldur. It will surprise no one (who is familiar with the source material) that this later turns out to be a feint intended to draw the Dark Lord’s gaze and armies away from a small NPC fellowship that is making its way towards Mordor.

So in many ways, Mirkwood is like Icecrown. You are part of an advancing army. You don’t know whether you will be able to overcome your foe. There is a grand fortification at the end of your journey. As you get closer to Dol Guldur, the quest hubs are fortified army camps and the quests will encourage you to capture more of the zone in piecemeal fashion.

The epic book questline that runs alongside the expansion is also a winner. Again the LOTRO team keep the questline focussed and interwoven with both the lore and the expansion storyline. You are working with a small team of elves on a very important prisoner exchange. In the course of the questline you get to know the individual elves quite well, and you will also get to strongly dislike the prisoner who you have to escort to the exchange point. I’m not used to feeling this kind of connection to NPCs in MMOs, so it’s a tribute to the LOTRO writing team that they can evoke this kind of emotional reaction.

The individual quests of the epic book are also astoundingly well executed. There’s a good mix of exploration, solo scripted questlines, killing, gathering, and the team also take the opportunity to showcase the highlight of Mirkwood, the skirmishes. Some of the epic book quests are implemented as skirmishes, so not only do you have the option to bring some friends along if you have any (or you can do them solo, since they scale), but you can also replay them afterwards.

Aside from giving the player a variety of activities, the quests are also very immersive. That means that if your character is lost and frustrated, the quest will make sure that you are too. If your character is nervously scouting ahead through a spider filled tunnel, expect to be nervously scouting through a spider filled tunnel (they will drop on your head unexpectedly, oh yes.)

One of the highlights for me was a quest where you are hunting for a lost dwarf in the swamps. You are warned to be careful of the boglights, but the quest is also set up so that the boglights will fake being images of the dwarf. You run up to them, the image disappears and reappears mockingly just around the next corner. The quest map and quest pointers play into the illusion and will direct you wrongly to the next illusion. It is only when you abandon those things and start searching on your own that you have any chance to actually find the missing dwarf.

You can decide for yourself if that sounds awesomely immersive or just annoying. (It’s actually both, but I can appreciate what they were doing with the storytelling.)

One of the other shining points of the storytelling is that after the main storyline is concluded, you can access several epilogues. That means as you travel back through the zone and hubs, some of the NPCs you had interacted with will have new epilogue quests for you. These give some closure and let you catch up with how events affected some of the individuals, whether it be taking news to faction leaders, helping some dwarves to honor their ancestors, or helping to bury dangerous artifacts deep in the tunnels of Moria where they can never be used again.

I would have loved this in Icecrown, where so many characters are left with dangling storylines. The epilogues make sure that no one’s story is skipped.

Another highlight of Mirkwood is the referrals back to LOTRO and The Hobbit.

combolotroquestI’m hoping this is going to be legible, but it shows how Mirkwood quests involve you making sure that Gollum isn’t caught by minions of The Enemy, and making use of the secret entrance by which Gandalf once sneaked into the necromancer’s lair to talk to Thorin’s father (which happened just before the beginning of The Hobbit.)

Pacing and Gearing and Reputations and Assumptions

I am always nervous about logging into an old game when I know my character is not well geared. What level of gear or preparation are they assuming for the new expansion? Will it be frustrating to play if you are a year (or more) out of practice and away from the cutting edge?

Turbine did a fantastic job with Mirkwood, at least for players like me. You can tell this because the only times I was frustrated with a quest, it turned out to be because I was doing it wrong. I was easily able to pick up new gear as I levelled by handing in reputation tokens or completing quests. Legendary weapons are also very accessible either via the auction house or reputation items – the key is that they mostly will not have optimal legacy abilities, but I found it easy to pick ones that were good enough for me.

The reputation in particular is very well done. You pick up reputation for the local elf faction for pretty much everything you do, and the reputation vendors are scattered through the zone in such a way that the vendors for your particular level of rep will turn up just as you achieved that rep level. That probably sounds confusing but in practice it’s very easy and natural to access reputation vendors and buy upgrades for your gear as you work through the questlines and quest hubs.

I capped out my reputation just about as I completed the book questline, which is a good example of how well the pacing is worked out. (I had done most of the normal quests too and a few of the dailies along the way, but never really pushed hard for reputation.)

Endgame or not Endgame

lonelands Lonelands, believe it or not!

Another place the LOTRO team score high is in introducing the player to the end game smoothly. As you run through the last of the book quests, you get stronger pointers towards the instances and raids. You even get a few tokens slung your way – not enough to really buy anything but enough to direct you to the token vendors to see what else you might be able to get in future.

The daily quests are introduced in the last few quest hubs, and worked into the overall theme of the zone (they involve patrols, killing orcs, and so on.)

But eventually you will have to make the choice: do you want to engage in endgame or not? Do you want to run the instances? Do you want to run the raids? Do you want to run the dailies? Or are you going to focus quietly on other things until the next expansion. It’s a decision all MMO players have to make at some point.

And the prospect of trying to learn new instances when everyone else is running them on hard mode and advertising for experienced players in chat channels is not really enticing to me. I don’t want to see them that badly. Plus  I have very little experience of grouping, and although I’m fairly clear on what my class is supposed to do, it’s quite likely that I’ve missed some key points. I think I could figure it out but I’m not sure if I really want to or not.

But I am not quite done with Mirkwood yet. Book 3 is coming out soon and with it duoing in skirmishes, which sounds intriguing to me since I do have a friend who plays. And also a new epic book quest, also intriguing to me given how much I enjoyed the current one. And meanwhile I can try to figure out how to make some gold in this game, catch up with all the Moria quests I skipped on my first run through, and maybe even buy a house to play with.

It’s amazing how free you feel once you decide that you don’t want to get tied into the endgame grind.

[LOTRO] The naming of pants, banners, and trash drops

Spare a thought for the devs who spend hundreds of man hours thinking up names for all of those quest rewards, reputation items, trash drops, and other widgets that players will take one look at, say ‘enh’ and immediately sell back to the vendor.

There was a time when a simple “sword +1” was enough to get any regular D&D player to bounce up and down on their seats with excitement. Even a dragon’s hoard might have no more than two or three magical items, and there was a good chance that one of those would be cursed. That simple “+1” held a wealth of meaning.

An item that was actually named was the stuff of legend (not counting player-named items which usually went by something basic like ‘kobold slayer’ or ‘my favourite axe’). In fact, giving players a named item was a hint that possibly adventures might ensue if they wanted to investigate the item’s history and lore.


By the time MMOs took off, players wanted something more (or less, depending on your definition). Giving a fancy name to a quest reward made it feel more important, even if the item was stolidly non-magical, and there was never any chance for the player to find out how the item got its name.

LOTRO devs have an even trickier job because many of the items in that game are named in Tolkeinesque languages.

Many, but not all. This is Arbitrary’s Banner of Hope. Who knew Captains got the ‘cynical’ trait?

This naming of quest items and random drops has been on my mind while playing LOTRO because the trash drop naming in Mirkwood is decidedly odd. In fact, creatures and monsters in a murky marshes and dimly lit ancient forests seem to drop bizarrely gorgeous trash. (I think they share loot tables with the Lothlorien mobs, where it is still odd but slightly more comprehensible.)

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this as a player.

gorgeousloot So I’m busy killing some evil trees – I’ve always felt there was something very wrong with trees moving around, no good can ever come of it. And when I loot the corpse (copse?), what do I find?

Gorgeous twigs, gorgeous bark, and gorgeous heartwood. They didn’t look especially gorgeous to me, but maybe I’ve made a terrible mistake. Maybe that tree was gorgeous on the inside all along.

This pattern is mirrored for spiders (gorgeous webs), cats (gorgeous paws), and just about every other creature in the area. So maybe someone just likes the word gorgeous? Or elves just think that everything is gorgeous anyway …

Mirkwood vs Angmar

I’m really enjoying my travels through Mirkwood. The LOTRO team has learned a lot about quest layout since the game was launched and while it isn’t as fancy as WoW’s phasing and vehicles, the flow and the storylines are generally excellent. There’s a nice mix of kill quests, scouting quests (brilliant fun for a stealther like me), collection quests, and exploration, with the odd group quest that you can save up for later when a friend is around. The links into the lore and to the LOTRO story are well done and interesting.

I’m on a hunt to find Gollum in Mirkwood at the moment – even though as the player I know he’s probably off with Frodo et al, it’s still fun to find out first hand how the rangers get all their information and work together across Middle Earth.

Another place the game has improved from launch is in the zone design and artwork. I’m comparing a few shots below from Mirkwood, and from Angmar which was the original high end zone.


These are shots from Mirkwood. What I love about the zone is the quality of the light. It is all quite murky and even tends to be brownish, but it is also a very inviting area to explore.


And these are taken from shots in Angmar. Yes, it is supposed to be a barren zone, but riding around there was soul destroying (and not in a good, immersive way). It’s all very brown and yellow and tedious, even when they vary the pallette.

And in which my skirmish minion does me proud

I have struggled with skirmishes on my burglar. I love the concept and I like the skirmishes, but damn if they aren’t hard work for me. It’s a struggle when your character relies on crowd control to handle more than one mob and the CC either breaks or doesn’t apply to the mobs in the skirmish. Not to mention when the NPCs joyfully break any crowd control which you do successfully apply.

But recently, as I was able to sink more marks into improving my skirmish minion, it seems to have been paying off. He’s a dwarf guardian (ie. a tank), the idea being that he could tank mobs while I killed them. This took some practice for both of us, I was never sure he was all that keen to tank, and I certainly wasn’t.

But looking at us now, it’s like poetry in motion. And every time he taunts (the correct mob), I want to cheer.


This is me attacking skirmish mobs while Oddi the dwarf gets in their face with his shield. Go team!

LOTRO: Introduction to Skirmishing

dinkydino666 has written a fantastic introduction to skirmishes on the EU LOTRO forums, complete with extensive screenshots. I’m glad I found it before it got pushed so far down the boards that it was lost forever to posterity.

Brief Summary of my Day 1 of Mirkwood

Downloaded patch data previously using link given by codemasters on twitter (did I mention that I love twitter?), they also posted about it on the official forums. Patched game up smoothly, logged in, and as usual spent 2 mins thinking, “Where am I? Why did I log out here? And where are my pants?”

Worked out that I was in Moria. Being surrounded by dwarves and in stone caves helped with this. Moria is stunningly beautiful when I’m not getting lost there or eaten by the monster-du-jour. It also contains relatively few spiders compared to the rest of Middle Earth, a deficiency that I imagine Mirkwood will more than make up for. If I was a dwarf, I would totally give respect to my ancestors to building all of that, and would also wonder how much it cost and whether they could have spent it on something more productive like curing cancer.

Hoofed it via goat to the 21st Hall, centre nexus of Moria. Located the skirmish camp off to the side and picked up the introductory quest which required me to go kill some orcs. Trauma, I am in Moria, wherever will I find an orc? Oh wait … that would be everywhere.

I head off in a random direction to locate orcs and kill a couple, enough to realise that the drop rate for the quest item is less than 50%. I then get annoyed by a loremaster stealing my kills — any stealther will be familiar with the frustration of having some ranged nuker throw a fireball at the mob you were just about to backstab — and explore further afield to find some orcs of my own.

Hm, not been here before. I see a questgiver! Shiny! Apparently I have located a crafting instance and I had actually been there before but had forgotten and hadn’t actually been into the instance anyway. I think .. well, maybe I can kill two birds with one stone here and pick up the instance quests. I have an hour to clear the place. I zone in and … it’s full of orcs. Bliss. Just me and them, all on our own, and not a loremaster in sight.

I complete the crafting instance neatly, with much stealthing, waiting for patrols, careful pulling and crowd control. And I complete my skirmish quest as well as picking up a load of wood to sell later. Result. A couple of my legendary items also level up, so I head back to the 21st hall to hand everything in and reforge my tools. I notice that all my weapon damage has increased. I still think I kill things slowly but that’s because anything is slower than the way I two shot same level mobs in WoW.

Off to the skirmishes and I’m now able to port into the tutorial — it’s snowing in Bree. Everyone on chat channels seems way more excited about the snow than the skirmish. I have a minion as well. We liberate Bree but I suspect I was doing most of the work — the quest NPC agrees and gives some pointers on how I can improve my minion’s usefulness.

I debate on what class I’d like him (or her) to be and decide on a tank so that I can focus on crowd control, debuffs, and generally killing stuff while he gets his face beaten in. I notice that my tank minion is now a dwarf, this is a good thing. I feel safer with a dwarf tanking for me, and have no idea why that might be.

I try a skirmish and do not die instantly. We’ll call that a success. The skirmishes all seem to involve waves of mobs which you have to kill. The next wave does not generally arrive until the last one has fallen — this may not be true for the Barrow Downs skirmish which is timed. Some mobs are accompanied by lieutenants, mini-bosses with different abilities. There are also random events that may occur in each skirmish which you can get more marks for dealing with.

After every few waves, you get a short break to catch your breath. It is continual action other than that, and even on the easiest mode it will feel as though you are constantly fighting. They last about 30 minutes, depending on how quickly you kill mobs and whether or not you die. My quickest time through was 21 minutes, but it does depend on the specific skirmish.

The skirmishes do involve other NPCs who fight with you. They break crowd control like pros. My minion on the other hand was well behaved and did not. On the other hand, the minion does do his or her own thing. The only control you have is directing which mob they should attack, and via which skills you decide to buy for them.

I was also able to try a group skirmish which was similar, but involved more mobs, tougher mini bosses and additional objectives other than just defending the NPCs. It was terrifically fun in a vaguely chaotic way. Everyone was able to summon their skirmish minions so there were a lot of bodies on screen.

I bought archer traits for my guy to use in the group skirmish (figuring that since we had an actual player tank, my minion was only going to get in the way). I suspect that people will tend to respec their minions as needed, but for now it’s easier to focus on improving one set of skills for them.

Being as how this is LOTRO, there are also traits for just about everything skirmish related. Traits for how many times you have completed a skirmish, traits for how many times you have killed a specific miniboss, and so on. The traits  reward more skirmish marks, which can be spent on customising your minion or on gear or consumables (a nice nod to the raiders, I think, I’d much rather do a skirmish or two to get my alchemy elixirs and potions than have to grind daily quests.) And of course you can also buy more cosmetic gear and items for your house. Whilst I like my current cosmetic appearance, I guess a psychedelic bathrobe doesn’t really scream ‘burglar’ and I might try for something more in character.

My first impressions are definitely positive, and I’ll write about this in more depth next week after I have had more time with the game.

It was fun running the solo crafting instance, then switching to skirmishes as a change of pace. Mixing in quests and monster play as desired means that LOTRO offers a very solid mix of single player gameplay these days. (I am mostly soloing because I’m behind the curve and I’m expecting that my friends will be keen to try out the Mirkwood content — I expect to catch up soon enough and it’s easy enough to sort out group skirmishes if people have 30 mins to spare.)  The skirmishes are fast and furious and not something to do for pure relaxation – they are also excellent xp for levellers.

A tale of two expansions

expansion-mapvia Norman B Leventhal Map Centre at the BPL

It is always an exciting time for MMO players when a new expansion is announced or released. Expansions unlock new lands and continents to explore and colonise, new monsters to slay, new stories to tell, and of course newer and better loot. But new zones alone will not grab players’ attention any more – we also expect to see new gameplay, new classes, new professions or a variety of other new things to do in the game.

The most successful expansions are accessible to a wide variety of players, with something new for low level characters as well as the hardcore endgame crowd. And because new expansions succeed by catching the attention of new and ex-players as well as existing ones, there needs to be a smooth path into the new content for returning players too.

What’s not to be excited about?

This week, LOTRO players are taking their first steps into Mirkwood, an expansion which sounds as though it will deliver handily on all fronts. Arriving with a timely (oh who am I kidding, it’s at least 3 years overdue) revamp of the unpopular Lone Lands zone, the lynchpin of Mirkwood is the new notion of skirmishes.

A skirmish is a PvE instance with some random elements, that can scale for different numbers of players (including solo versions) and can also scale with levels from 30 up to the level cap. I haven’t tried them yet myself, although Pete@Dragonchasers is a huge fan, and played some in beta as well as in the live version. Still, I’m excited at the notion that as I level up my character, I can hop into a skirmish if I get bored of questing. Naturally they also reward players with tokens that can be spent on … stuff. I assume it’s good stuff.

One of the other facets to skirmishes is that players will be able to gear and trait up a companion NPC to help out. Pete describes experiences with his healer in the link above, but if you play a healer and would rather have a pet tank, that option is also available.

LOTRO have been experimenting in Moria with PvE content for soloers and small groups. There are single player instances which play neatly, like puzzles where the player has to figure out how to manage the pulls, avoid the patrols and see what effect different mobs have on each other. There are short three man instances. I believe those have all been quite successful, and I know I enjoyed the ones we beat although there are issues with class composition for three mans.

Skirmishes take this concept and hit it out of the park. Let’s have solo instances! Let’s also have group-based instances! Let’s have scaling instances! Let’s give everyone a friendly NPC to help with class balance issues! It’s potentially such a game changer that all MMO players should be curious as to how this will work out. Because if it’s a winner, expect this idea to get comprehensively nicked.

Mirkwood also offers the usual plethora of new zones and quests, new raids and non-skirmish instances, retweaking of classes and gear, some kind of reworking of crafting to make it easier to level, and a revamp of the legendary weapon system. Here’s the feature list.

So summing up: for levelling players, skirmishes are available from level 30 and upwards. The Lone Lands revamp covers characters from around level 20. For endgame players, there are the new zones, instances, and raids.

Having tried the welcome back week, I resubbed to LOTRO myself in time to see what all the fuss was about (we don’t get our expansion until tomorrow though, so I’m busy getting lost^D^D^D^D^D catching up with Moria at the moment.) I did appreciate the extra 25% xp given during the welcome back week and the company of arbitrary’s uber captain who basically killed stuff while I batted at it ineffectually, it was very nice to have a flying start.

Now let’s compare with Cataclysm. The really interesting thing about Cataclysm, aside from the fact that Blizzard is revamping the entire level 1-60 levelling game, is that we know very little about any new game play that is proposed.

It’s going to be a great expansion for returning players, or anyone who wants to start again from level 1. Loads of new stuff to do while levelling, and all the talent trees and gear stats are being reworked from the ground up to make them simpler and easier to understand.

Other than that… what endgame players are looking forwards to is more of the same. New zones, new quests, new raids, new instances. Blizzard will doubtless make great use of phasing to produce a stunning levelling experience, which has always been their strength. I cannot imagine that it won’t be a good expansion in that respect.

We’ve had rumours of a few cool ideas in the pipelines. Rated battlegrounds (so you can PvP with your raid group) and dance studios (design your own emotes) both sound fun, but they aren’t the meat and drink of an expansion.

So Tobold commented in his recent post on Cataclysm vs Mirkwood:

But if LotRO had a Cataclysm-like expansion which added lots of low-level content, and thus breathed life into the low-level zones, I’d be back.

Well frankly, I see new zones, skirmishes from level 30, and plenty of other revamps, if you have a lifetime subscription, what are you waiting for?

Links of the week

  1. We’ve seen a lot of discussion about Blizzard’s plans for the Icecrown patch (3.3). Fives writes the clearest and most heartfelt summary of them all. This isn’t just an analysis, it’s a love letter from a hardcore raid leader who sees his game on the verge of extinction. Six words that terrify Blizzard.
  2. The other big topic of discussion in gaming blogs has been some little shooter called Modern Warfare, perhaps you’ve heard of it? (It slays me that this outsold dragon age by about a zillion to one. Expect to see a slew of FPS based MMOs in about 5 years time.) Rock Paper Shotgun explains why the real problem with the ‘moral dilemma’ level wasn’t the moral dilemma, it’s that it was rubbish.
  3. As anyone who’s been keeping up with this blog knows, I’m totally enamoured of Dragon Age Origins. I finished my first play through earlier, but haven’t had time yet to marshall my thoughts. In the meantime, check out what the effervescent Tipa has to say in her DAO review. ElectricDeathRay also has a super review in the form of a love letter, explaining just why he loves the game so much.
  4. Overly Positive has another angle on DAO. In his view, Bioware have put their money where their mouth is and shown us now that they really are way ahead of the field in storytelling right now. So what does this mean for Star Wars: The Old Republic?
  5. The Final Fantasy XIV Core blog asks “What kind of gamer are you?” Apparently I’m a generic gamer, I’m not even sure if that’s good or not. (Or maybe a storyliner – they added that later after I’d read the post!)
  6. Dragonchaser takes a first look at skirmishes in LOTRO and loves what he sees. This is a really neat sounding feature that’s coming out in the next patch. It involves instances that scale from single player up to a full group. It involves randomised encounters. It involves customisable NPCs who can help out with healing, tanking, or dps. What’s not to love? (I think Tobold’s on crack when he says he’d rather play Cataclysm than Mirkwood – but more on that next week.)
  7. octalblack is upset because she thinks that people give Champions Online an unfairly hard time for the cash shop, where WoW gets a free pass. Why can’t people be consistent in how they criticise features? I fear the sad truth is that most people who criticise CO have no intention of playing it, whereas most people who talk about WoW are current players, so that affects how it’s seen.
  8. p@tsh@t echoes the feeling that a lot of oldtime MMO players have, which is that we’re slowly losing the worlds from our virtual worlds. Can the mass market support a virtual world or are we relegated to a shiny 3d chat room with a right click adventure menu?
  9. Anyone else noticed that lots of people are easing up on their MMO playing at the moment because of all the great single player games that have been coming out? Dusty asks (tongue in cheek?) whether single player games are ruining our MMOs.
  10. And in honour of Twilight, here’s an old Halloween link. The Escapist asks whether you can identify these 30 vampires in 30s.

By the way, check out the new banner, courtesy of Veneretio. I think it’s bluerifficly awesome, and not just because  this font makes me think of ice creams at the seaside.