Archive for April, 2008|Monthly archive page

LotRO and CoX

It was around 10 o’clock last night when I started wondering how long I had left on my subscription for LotRO.  I opened up my account page and found out that it was set for today, which sortof surprised me.  I had taken most of the last week off from playing it though since I was working on Flash and Dreamweaver along with some other things to keep me busy so that sort of sped things up a bit.  I have greatly enjoyed my most recent stint in LotRO, much moreso than I did in beta and last year when I bought it.  That said, I wondered whether I had enjoyed myself enough to pay for another month.  I had tried several guilds but was unable to find one that seemed like a good fit (though the people were nice enough.) I was also feeling a bit stuck at level 36 since most of the quests were above my level and many of those were fellowship quests to boot, so I was a bit frustrated on that front (even though I know it would open up after sticking the next level or two out.)  It’s a beautiful game with an excellent feel to it, but I wasn’t sure that I was ready to pay for another month just yet. I cleared out my mailbox, cleaned up my inventory, and logged out to unsubscribe.  There is a good chance that I was re-subscribe in the near future, but I wanted to go back and take a look at another game that I haven’t played in a while.

City of Heroes/Villains

I saw that they were offering a free 14-day trial (not as long as it should be! hehe) on MMORPG.com, so I signed in and created an account.  I actually have a copy of City of Villains with an account created, but I didn’t have it installed on this computer, the discs are in another town, and I’d completely forgotten my account information.  It was kind of a nice feeling hopping back into this game (even with a new character.)  They definitely have created a very nice feel to the world (either on the heroes or villains side) that fits perfectly with the theme of the game.  I also like that I don’t constantly have to upgrade my gear or deal with a massive inventory that I then have to sift through to either sell to the vendor or put up on the auction house.  One thing I really want to focus on this time around is the questing (which is usually a big focus of mine anyways.)  Before I really dig into that, though, I want to hit level 10 so I have at least a decent idea of what I think works and doesn’t work.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now.  I might be back later with something, but I’ve been a blogging maniac the last couple days (getting back into the swing of things!) and I’m gonna take some time to actually play some games.

~Kanthalos

More On Mythos

Ok, so I really do feel pretty bad about how harsh I was in my review of Mythos that I posted earlier. In that frame of mind, I’m going to offer up a few suggestions that I think would help improve the situation in several ways. Whether they are the perfect solution to their issues or not, it’s more of an excercise in problem-solving and MMO design for myself than anything else, so I’m going to get started. This post might rival the length of Van Hemlock’s posts so be prepared!

Combat: I realize that this is how combat in action-rpg’s is always going to be based primarily around 1-3 skills and never really get much more in-depth than that simply because it is so fast-paced. You are either kiting enemies around spamming a skill or one or two shotting them, so there really aren’t the long, face-to-face fights that last 30-45 seconds like a typical MMO. That said, there are a lot of skills within the game that simply aren’t effective enough to be considered in the vast majority of builds. For instance, there are three skill sets for each class, and in the gadgeteers case those three are marksman, grenadier, and tinker. I’ll look at each of the three individually so it’s easier to distinguish.

Marksman:
The marksman panel almost without question is going to be where the majority of your skill points are going to go because it has the two most popular skills (piercing barrage/napalm) and almost all of your passive skills (increase crit, weapon range/speed, etc..) This is by far the best-executed tree of the three, even though there are still skills such as rapid refire and seeking shot that, while decent, can’t come close to the power of piercing barrage and napalm, and therefore won’t be used much if at all.

Tinker:
Tinker is where you can get skills for widgets that you summon to stun/damage/slow your enemies. Typically one or two of these are used with a build, though there are also skills that allow you to drop turrets. In my opinion turrets really don’t have a place in this game, and a new skill should be considered to replace them because this isn’t the type of game where you sit around and let a turret destroy your enemies. Players are powerful enough without them that they are unnecessary and would rather put those skill points into a skill that is more useful or a passive skill that they can use with their primary skill rather than balancing another skill to use. How about a widget that reduces enemy attack speed or reduces elemental resistances instead? These would be far more useful than an immobile turret.

Another skill that seems to be rather worthless is the servant widget which turns an enemy in your favor for 15 seconds. This can’t be used on champion mobs (elites if you will) which means that the benefit of this skill would be truly minimal. As stated before, with the ability to one or two shot enemies in a matter of one or two seconds, what benefit could an average mob possibly have? The only time this could potentially be worthwhile is if the mobs had a silencing/poisoning/stunning skill, but what are the odds that the widget will actually work on that mob instead of an average one? If this skill were to be kept, it would have to work on say up to 5 enemies. You can create multiple widgets, but if you are using a build that already utilizes one or two widgets (which you summon multiple versions of) you aren’t going to have time to summon 15 widgets and then start firing at them, it just isn’t efficient.

Grenadier:

This is by far the most underused skill panel of the three. Basically the way it works is dropping grenades or bombs. The problem with many of these skills is that they are geared towards constant kiting. For example latchbomb explodes when enemies get near it. The noxious grenade does poison damage (that takes far longer to kill than a simple shot from a rifle.) Bauble trap absorbs some of the damage of enemies (that, again, you could kill with a shot from a rifle.) Another skill that doesn’t really seem to have much use is fire sentry (drops a wall of fire that the enemies run through.) Elemental walls are something that have baffled me constantly in these games. Unless you run the mobs back and forth through it, they are only going to run through it once. This skill is set for damage over time, not a burst of damage, furthering my confusion. The thing that gets me the most about this panel is that there aren’t any plain-and simple grenades. You can find them and use them, but why let this be a skill used by a class that has a “grenadier” skill set? The only skill that I find to have potential use is the mute bomb, which can silence enemies for up to 15 seconds. The problem with this, though, is that to maximize it takes 14 skill points just to silence an enemy (even though it can still use basic attacks on you in the process.) Make this 5-6 points instead, or else it won’t get used.

Ok, there’s the combat section. Perhaps I’ll go through the Bloodletter and Pyromancer in the future, but I have a lot more to talk about besides just combat so I’ll leave it at that.

Crafting:
Crafting is something that should be a part of any MMO today, just as it is in Mythos. The problem is that it is very confusing and uses far too many ingredients. You get a lot of space for ingredient space, but the many ingredients that you can buy can also be dropped by mobs, and your space fills up quickly, leaving you unsure which ingredients to keep and which to drop to make room for others. Not only are a good deal of the drops purchasable at NPC’s, they are spread out throughout the three zones, so it can be a pain figuring out what all materials (which happen to be extremely cheap) are buyable and which are not. As I mentioned in the previous post, crafting items that aren’t from the top tier is a waste of time. Not only do you have to find the ingredients, but by the time you hit level 20-25, you can already use the best gear in the game, so why bother crafting something for less than that? I see two options here: either make it so ingredients that you can purchase don’t drop off mobs, or cut out 25-50% of the crafting ingredients and make the remaining ingredients usable in more of the crafting recipes.

Gear:
Like I said in my review, gear is most frequently obtained from random quests once you get up there in levels. I’m not sure exactly how it would determine what quality of items it should generate (perhaps it could check what your top attribute was and base it off that,) but this ability to keep generating new items needs to stop. For one thing it’s a waste of time to the player, and it’s an exploit that shouldn’t be allowed. It should generate gear that is appropriate for your level (and possibly class) and even if you abandon it, it would still keep those 3 options. This way you have a pretty good chance of finding gear that you will use (or be able to trade) but not have complete control over the situation. Also, once the gear set to your level, the quests need to take more than the 5-10 minutes they currently take to complete or have a daily limit of one or two.

Not only do the randomly generated quests need to be fixed, but the drops need to be fixed as well. For one thing, your luck skill doesn’t provide the option for normal items to become magical, but only affects those that already have magical properties, and it only kicks it up by one level. This means that you end up with an unbelievable amount of normal items, a good deal of green, blue, and yellow items, but still with very few purple and orange items (the best.) They need to cut out about 25% of all gear drops (at least those with no magical properties) and find a way to make it so your luck can increase the modifier by more than one setting. I understand that not every piece of gear should be uber, but as I stated, the 4 pieces that I haven’t upgraded through random quests haven’t been replaced in over 12 levels. This isn’t right.

Also, there are a number of unique items in the game, which are obviously items with set stats that aren’t randomly generated. The problem with these items is that almost none of them have excellent stats. They generally have two or three stats that don’t fit the class that would be using them, or they are just stats that people don’t want. If you are going to take the time to make unique items, at least make them desirable to the players.

Quests:
As I said, the quests are basically written well and are usually entertaining, but the objectives are completely dull and uninspired. I understand that it can be difficult when you are dealing with mostly random maps, but there are still ways that you can have fun with these quests. For instance, one quest could be that you need to trap a warg and bring it to someone to study. You need to lay a trap and lure one into it/throw a net over it/shoot it with a tranquilizing dart. Even something simple like an NPC left an heirloom on a broken-down cart in a zone after being attacked by hollows, but he was flustered and doesn’t know where exactly it is. This at least gives you a bit more purpose than “foozles infested the forest, kill 10 of them and bring me proof.”

PvP:
It’s clear that the PvP system didn’t work out they way it was intended. Very few people are participating, and those who are are using junky gear so they don’t lose their good equipment. I have one solution that I think would work much better than dropping actual gear from a corpse. It also prevents punishing those who unknowingly killing a lower level toon. Instead of dropping actual gear when a player is killed, they drop some sort of trophy or token.

Killing a player 10+ levels above you: 15 tokens
Killing a player 7-9 levels above you: 12 tokens
Killing a player 4-6 levels above you: 9 tokens
Killing a player +/- 3 levels: 6 tokens
Killing a player 4-10 levels below you: 3 tokens
Killing a player 11-14 levels below you: 0 tokens
Killing a player 15+levels below you: -3 total tokens per kill for the next 3 kills
After killing a person three times for tokens each day they no longer yield tokens.

You could then turn in the tokens you received for things like idols that would improve your stats while in your pack with higher token rewards being more powerful. Of course the actual levels could be altered depending on balance issues, but I think this would be a great way to increase participation in the Shadowlands. You would no longer have to fear losing your gear, and you would also have the potential to obtain very nice items. All is better.

Wow, so there you have some of my suggestions and more in-depth description of several aspects of this game. Again, this is a game that I truly enjoy, I just wanted to formulate some of my thoughts on what I think can be improved and ways I think this could be achieved (though I’m no expert.)

~Kanthalos

How to Get More People to Buy Your MMO

After reading this brief article over at Massively, it got me thinking about whether players just have to bite the bullet and buy an MMO to determine whether they were going to like it or not. I think this is completely ridiculous to be perfectly honest. Why should we be forced to pay for a game that we know very little about? Most MMO’s do offer trials of either one or two weeks to give the player a brief glimpse into their game to decide whether they want to keep playing or not, however they are usually for brief periods of time, rather than ongoing. I think one or two weeks (if you find the trial while it’s available) is simply not enough time to determine whether they like the game or not. For the majority of players using these trials, they already have an MMO that they are playing and just want to try a new one on the side, which means that the developers should be doing everything they can to try to take the customer away. A couple weeks might only mean 8-10 hours of time that they spend with your game. How can anyone say that you get a fair assessment of an MMO, a game that can potentially be played for months (in-game,) after only 8-10 hours of play? One month is a much better time-frame. Everyone gets busy from time-to-time, some moreso than others. Several times I have signed up for a week-long trial and only ended up getting to sit down and play for one or two of those nights due to unforseen circumstances, and of course didn’t purchase the game. If I had been able to play for an entire month, my chances of finding something worthwhile in the game would have been much higher, and even if I didn’t, it wouldn’t have mattered anyways since I didn’t purchase the game to begin with.

All the developers risk losing by offering a month is two weeks of play, but they have so much to gain. Here are three very likely scenarios that could occur:

Scenario 1. The player decides that they don’t enjoy the game enough to purchase it. In this case, you’ve only allowed them to play an extra two weeks, but effectively works the same as a one or two week trial.

Scenario 2. The player decides that they enjoy the game enough to purchase it. After their free month of play, they lost their desire to play and cancelled. In this case, you’ve got the purchase price of the game out of them, and they can resubscribe whenever they feel like it now.

Scenario 3. The player decides they absolutely love the game, purchase it, and play it for the next 2-3 years.

Obviously, these situations can still occur with shorter trials, but the chances of success are greater with a longer trial, while costing the company almost nothing extra to let them try it for longer. Once you give the trial a go, you have to wait six months to try it again. This gives the game enough time to make some improvements and add content, but it’s spread out enough for the player that they can’t just keep getting a free month of play whenever they want. It just doesn’t make sense that MMO’s wouldn’t have a longer trial (that is always available) when the content is typically 5-10x greater than a typical video game with profits potentially at 200-300%.

~Kanthalos

Moving Characters Freely Between Servers; Possible or Not?

I found it hard to make the title of this post precise without using a full sentence, so hopefully this works. Basically what I’m wondering is how would it work if players weren’t tied to one particular server, moving freely between servers. Is it possible, or are there too many barriers to make it worthwhile? I’ll look at both sides of the issue.

Benefits/Feasibility:

  • First and foremost, you would be able to play with any character on any server! I can’t count the number of friends who play World of Warcraft that I was unable to play with because they were on one of the 200+ servers that I wasn’t on. As far as I know, EVE is the only game that can avoid this issue — kudos.
  • You would no longer have to pay for server transfers.
  • This would allow guilds from different servers to work together for things like raiding. This would greatly benefit smaller guilds who haven’t found a good guild to merge with that fits their playstyle.
  • Obviously, it would allow you to meet more people and (hopefully) make more friends that you can play with.

With those things said, the downsides I fear would outweigh the benefits.

Drawbacks/Barriers:

  • A smaller issue, but one that would affect A LOT of players is the fact that you would undoubtedly run into naming issues. What happens if you want to hop onto a different server, but another player already has your name? Players aren’t going to want to change their names every time they switch a server. Not only this, but how would other players be able to track you if you were using a different name? They might start talking to a completely different character without knowing it. Along with character names, guild names would also conflict, which would be an even bigger problem to deal with than character names, as it would affect characters who could potentially be on a great deal of servers. How do you rename a guild for part of the group while retaining it as a whole for everyone else?
  • Say you decide to play on a different server with a few of your guildmates because you wanted to group up with a few real-world friends to help them out. How are your other guildmates going to get a hold of you if they need something? This means that not only would the game have to track potentially changing names of characters, but also which server they have gone to. This would also mean that chat would have to work between all servers, something that could potentially be a total mess. Things like Ventrilo could help with this, but not everyone uses these programs.
  • If a number of servers go down for whatever reason, players would have the ability to hop onto another server. I understand that everyone should have the right to play, but server outages are something that can’t be avoided. Ideally, the player base would spread out among the remaining servers so that it wouldn’t really matter, but they might cause issues on another server by overloading it, which noone wants. On the other hand, this could potentially be a way to relieve server overpopulation, but I don’t think it would end up working out that way.
  • I’m not sure exactly how this would work, but I know that it would have a big impact on gold farmers. Instead of having to obtain gold on every server, they would be able to find whichever server worked best for their farming methods and move to whichever server the character buying was on. It would only make their “jobs” easier.
  • How would a player’s mailbox and auction house use be handled? Would they be limited to only using one server’s auction house or recieve mail from players on the same server? If not, then mail would have to be usable on every server, and the ability to shop around for the best buy/sell on any server would create some interesting issues.

A lot of those points had multiple aspects because they were tied together and weren’t worth breaking apart. As you can see, though, the ramifications of attempting something of this nature would be potentially catastrophic (and I’m 100% sure I didn’t hit on all of the problems) and would take an unbelievable amount of testing to make sure everything worked. I’m sure they would much rather be spending on the game itself. I think this is one of those things where you either need to build your game around the idea of having one server for everyone, or you need to stick with multiple servers. There are simply too many issues for this to be a possibility, even though it would be an excellent feature.

~Kanthalos

New Mythos Review – 4/28/08

I see that my post about my Mythos review that’s around nine months old is still getting quite a few views. Taking that into account, I’m going to write up another little review and talk about how the game has changed since then.

Combat: Combat in the game is still as fast-paced as it ever has been, which is one of the things that many people enjoy it for and the main reason it is touted as a Diablo 2 clone. It’s always fun to be able to plow down 30-50 mobs at the same time, however it suffers from the fact that there is generally one skill used depending on the class you pick. Occasionally builds are created that utilize multiple skills (gadgets for gadgeteer for instance) but by and large it’s one skill you’re using the vast majority of the time (piercing barrage.) This is something that generally grows old after a while, even with the crazy amount of mobs you face. In fact, most classes are built around the idea that you gather up as many mobs as you can behind you, turn around, and blow them all away. It’s actually pretty inefficient if you kill mobs as you see them, which is a bit unusual I think, but that’s the way the system is built. Obviously it’s not something that’s going to break the game as I’m still playing it.

Crafting: Crafting is rather chaotic and unstructured right now. You can craft items that you will actually wear, but with the high chance of breaking (if you want them to be as good as possible) coupled with the fact that finding all of the materials to create it is a big hassle generally is putting people off crafting. I think this will be remedied a bit with the marketplace they are working on currently, but right now it’s not really something that is living up to its potential. Also, crafting anything but the top tier is an outright waste of time.

Gear: Gear is a major problem with the game right now, for several reasons. First and foremost, they didn’t create a scale of gear from levels 1-50. To illustrate my point the top requirement for gear is basically 140’ish (strength, dexterity, wisdom) and my dexterity at level 48 is 210. To me, this means that gear requirements should be capping out at about 200, or 215, but the foresight didn’t really seem to be there when they first created this system. This is understandable really, since they were just getting the game out the door when the gear system was set up and it hasn’t been changed really since. Obviously, it’s still in beta and they are going to perform at least one character wipe before now and release so this could change, but right now, a level 25 character can basically have as good of gear as a level 50.

Not only is the gear itself a problem, but the obtaining of gear is another problem entirely. The way the majority of higher level players obtain their gear is through random quests. These quests are generated with 3 potential rewards (which scale from basically from garbage to really good gear.) If you don’t like the choices you are presented with, you can simply abandon the quest and retake it with three new rewards. If you do this 20-30 times, you are generally going to find really good items one of those tries. This is the way that I have obtained 9 of my 13 pieces of gear that I use, and the other four pieces I have not found upgrades for in over 12 levels. I don’t have the max amount of luck on my character, which is 200 (luck increases the modifier on the item when it drops from uncommon to rare to unique, etc.,) however it is at 175. Even with my rather high luck, I still find tons and tons of items that I have absolutely no use that I leave on the ground. I understand that if they drastically increase the amount of really good gear that can drop, the player base would be flooded with items and their value would drop to almost nothing, but this isn’t really an issue anyways because there is virtually no trade economy to speak of. You basically have to give your gear away if you don’t need it because the currency has almost no value right now and the odds of finding another player with an equivalent piece of gear that you want is slim at best.

Quests: Quests are pretty much terrible right now to be perfectly honest. The writing for some of the quests is pretty entertaining and worth reading, but almost all of the quests are the typical “kill 10 foozles/find 10 foozle hides.” I understand that this is part of the problem when you are dealing with a game in which the vast majority of the maps are randomly generated, but there has to be some way of spicing things up a bit. There are only 2-3 uniques in each zone really, so the possibility for quests there are pretty minimal. It goes without saying that quests cap out at about 25 because the three zones are built to sustain 10 levels of play, so getting from 25-50 is done either through running epic maps which you buy or find, running random quests, or running two maps that scale from 20-50 (one for solo play, the other for a group.)

PvP: PvP was just added to Mythos in the form of Shadowlands, and I must say that it didn’t really work out the way it was intended. The system is set up so that all of the towns are shared among players and every map has the chance that another player can enter it (and fight each other.) When a player is killed, they will drop a piece of gear. If you kill a player who is significantly lower in level than you, you get a karma rating which means that there is a chance that you will drop more than one piece of gear.

The problems with the system are many:

  • It can be extremely difficult to determine what level a player is with a quick glance. By the time you figure out whether you should kill them or not, they could have killed you already. That said, you don’t want to kill just anyone because it could cause you to drop even more gear the next time you die.
  • Players are generally running around with garbage for gear for fear of losing equipment that has taken an immense amount of time to acquire. What fun is PvP if you can’t truly put yourself to the test and see whether you were the better player? Constantly wondering whether you would have won a fight with better gear can be frustrating.
  • There are literally no safe areas in the Shadowlands (an exact replica of the normal world) so unless you head out to the gate where you enter/leave the Shadowlands when you need to take a break or go afk or whatever, you are constantly in jeopardy of being killed and looted.

*TAKES DEEP BREATH* I realize that sounded pretty harsh, but understand that I still do enjoy this game and am spending about 4-6 hours with it a week, there are just some issues that (at least past level 30) are really sticking out at me. Most of the problems stated here aren’t affecting the core of the game, they are just opportunities that aren’t being taken advantage of. Many of these issues will likely be either improved or fixed altogether before its release. Up until level 30, the game is very enjoyable. There is just enough variety between the classes that you can try them all and enjoy each one. A word to the wise, however: If you start in hardcore mode, make sure you read up on the build you want to try, as you won’t be able to respec at all. If you want to start on normal, you will level a bit slower (less mobs = less xp) but you will have a bit more money to throw around for potions and such and you will be able to try out as many builds as you want (though you can’t change your skill point allocations.) If you’re going for uber pwnage, you’ll probably want to go with a gadgeteer (piercing barrage) but there are powerful builds with all classes. If anyone has any questions they would like me to answer, feel free to ask away. Hopefully soon I’ll post some suggestions for these issues that I have, but this is enough for now.

~Kanthalos

In-Game Currency for Cash (legally)

Michael Zenke, being his usual self, wrote another excellent post describing his ten points that would make the perfect MMO. I agree with almost every point he posted, particularly about hopping between servers (but not for $25 *gasp*) and making sure your game is relatable.

One smaller problem I do see, however, is the bit about selling currency back to the game. In theory, I think this would be an excellent for the player to be able to potentially play the game for free or even for a bit of extra cash. The biggest problem with this would be finding the perfect balance between currency and cash. If the balance favors currency, players will feel as though the time they put in to obtain the currency isn’t worthwhile. If it swings the other way in favor of cash, it’s pretty obvious what might happen then *cough* gold farmers *cough*. This would potentially legitimize (even legalize) what they do. This would only create more problems. Not only would the finance department of these games have to deal with the charge backs that they face now, but they would also be losing even more money that they are actually giving to them. If it becomes too much of an issue they will either drop the balance back too far making it pointless, or they will do away with it all together. If the balance isn’t in their favor or they do scrap the idea, they will simply go back to the player.

This also ignores one major flaw with this system, which is that the developers don’t need our currency. They can make or destroy as much as they want. There are already methods of taking currency out of these games; they’re called money sinks. Why would they be willing to dish out cash for something that they can create on their own? I don’t think they would be, other than using it as a feature to possibly attract more players.

Again, I think this is an idea that if pulled off correctly could be great, but there are so many elements that need to be considered that even getting them to consider it would be difficult.

~Kanthalos

More on Lotro and Hellgate: London

Again, I apologize for taking so long to post. I have been rather busy lately with things like helping my father-in-law put his pier in yesterday (woohoo!) and just helping around the house in general. I have also been working feverishly to learn Dreamweaver and Flash while I have the chance, as they are excellent skills to have. That said, I have had a little bit of time to do some gaming, particularly Lord of the Rings Online and Hellgate: London which I purchased on Sunday. I have been having a great deal of fun playing both, and I’ll give you a little run-down on both from my perspective.

I’ll start with Lotro since I’ve been playing that the most lately. I have lots to say about a wide variety of aspects in the game after playing through 35 levels, so I’m just going to make headers for each and write a sentence or two:

Zones:
So far I’ve liked every zone that I’ve played in. They are all beautiful and the quests have been laid out in an excellent fashion. I think my favorite zone in terms of the way it looks and feels so far are the Trollshaws. There’s just something about all those hills and the fall-like feeling to it that really suck me in. My second favorite zone is the Shire, which I don’t feel requires much explanantion (it’s the Shire!)

Quests:
In a great deal of cases, the quests have been excellent so far. They are very well written (well worth taking the time to read through) and do a good job of sending you out to different parts of the zone without making it seem like you’re being lead around. Occasionally there are some very frustrating quests (the most frustrating of which is the chain of quests to get your mount since you have to run back and forth so many times), but most of the time they are enjoyable. The books that you complete are quite enjoyable and really do give you a sense of importance. Up until 35, the solo/small party/fellowship quests have been balanced very well, but now I feel like they are mostly geared towards fellowships (Fornost, Garth Argawen, Dol Dinen.) I know this will likely change once I get through a few more levels, but I am feeling a bit stuck right now as I’ve had a tough time finding groups for these for some reason.

Economy:
While not necessarily a bad thing, coming from a game like WoW, it does take some getting used to. Every game has money sinks of some sort, it’s just that LOTRO’s tend to be in different areas than others. For instance, travelling and repair bills are incredibly stiff even from the very beginning. They can quite literally break the bank and make it difficult to even afford rations or upgrade equipment from time to time. I chose not to take up a crafting profession (other than harvesting) because not only would I not be able to sell many of the recipes that I came across (some being quite valuable), but I would also be forking out even more money to obtain materials that I needed to create these pieces of gear. That said, I had just over five gold when I hit level 35 and it was time to purchase my mount (4.2 gold, frequently more than players can afford.)

The other thing that really gets me about the economy is that that auction hall prices are EXTREMELY varied. It isn’t out of the ordinary at all to find a 100-200% variance on price for the exact same item. This makes selling extremely difficult for people who are relatively new to the game who don’t know which price is more similar to the norm. Either they have to stick it in the middle and hope that it sells after the lower-priced item, or stick it down at the bottom and wonder whether they’d potentially missed out on twice as much money as they made. Obviously playing the game and following the auction hall will help, but I’ve never seen a game market that was so unusual.

Travel:
Travel is one of those things in LOTRO that you really just have to bite your lip and deal with it. Quite frankly, it’s slow and tedious — even with your own mount. Running from one end of a zone to another (say North-Downs) on a mount takes something like 6-8 minutes, and there is nothing you can do about it. For one of the book quests you had to run back and forth three times. If you have your map (hearthstone) to use to get back once, that still leaves two trips that cut out 12-16 minutes of play time right there. While that might not seem like a lot, if you add up all the travel time that isn’t swift traveling ( a small amount of travelling options quickly port you from one location to another) that ends up being a lot of time spent doing nothing but running around from place to place (as well as a lot of money, because you are still going to be swift-travelling pretty frequently even with a mount of your own.)

Community:
I must say that the community in this game is excellent. There are still the “WoW-Kiddies” to be sure, but there are a great deal of very mature and well-behaved people that are excellent to group with or be in a kindship (guild) with. I’ve met some great people in just a few weeks, and I can’t wait to meet even more.

Ok, well that’s enough on LOTRO for now I’d say. Now I’ll take a brief look at Hellgate: London. So far I’ve been having an excellent time (my wife even moreso, but she’s alway been a fan of zombie/demon’esque games.) I’ve tried many of the classes so far with the exception of the guardian and the engineer. Having only taken them to level 5-6 it’s tough to say which is my favorite, but I’m enjoying the marksman and the blademaster quite a bit. I love that they game is fast-paced, but you can still potentially use more than one skill and your screen isn’t entirely covered with baddies that you mow down in one or two hits. Tactics can play a part in your fight with exploding barrels and such, which is always fun. I haven’t really gotten online too much because I wanted to learn the classes on my own before I jumped in with a horrible build and look like a complete noob. The inherent problem with single player is of course the fact that you can’t buy/sell/trade items between your own characters or with others. This means that a lot of potentially awesome items are just going to be vendored or broken down rather than being used, which stinks. Once I get one or two characters to level 12-15 or so, I’ll write up a bit more of what I think about both the classes and the game.

I’ll have more to come, but that’s more than enough for now. Be back later.

~Kanthalos

WoW-Free and Still Breathing!

I know it’s been a while since I last posted — sorry about that. It’s been a couple weeks since moving, and we’re still getting things taken care of for now, but it’s slowing down now, so I have time to write to you guys! As the title indicates, I am done with WoW yet again. After moving and taking a week-long break from it, I realized that I was no longer interested in playing anymore. A lot of guild drama was still present (even after switching servers) and I wasn’t prepared to dedicate three or four nights a week to raiding with a new guild. I had also leveled four characters to level 70 either entirely on my own or in part. There was nothing new about the game, nothing exciting anymore so I decided it was time to move on.

After waiting a week, I finally caved and resubscribed to LotRO for the second time (I also played in beta.) While I was a little worried that I would (or still will) lose my desire to play within the first month, I have something that will make my chances of sticking around infinitely better — I DON’T WANT TO PLAY WOW AT ALL RIGHT NOW. Before when I played it, I was either playing WoW currently or I was in a rough patch though there was still lots of content for me to come back and see later. Now that I’ve exhausted virtually everything there is to see in WoW (except all of the raiding instances) I can think clearly and devote myself fully to this game and it feels great.

So based on the fact that in just under a week of played (and being unemployed 🙂 ) I have managed to get my champion to level 23! I just can’t get enough of it. Having read most of the the trilogy recently the lore of the game is really making itself apparent to me and it’s truly exciting. The first time I went to Tom Bombadil’s house I did a happy chair dance. Seeing little neeker-breekers running around and talking to Barliman Butterbur were the same way. When I ran the instance “Retake Weathertop” I was truly amazed at how epic it felt when we were fighting the troll at the end. The fighting seems to be far more in-your-face than that of WoW’s. That along with the amazing atmosphere and graphical beauty of this game have put me over the top. Also the community so far has been excellent. Everyone is extremely friendly and finding groups (or a second to knock out the solo quests) is never very difficult. While I have joined a guild and everyone is helpful and friendly, I don’t think they are going to work out as most of them are are in their mid-30’s or higher and I don’t seem to be connecting with the players the way I’d hoped to. I’d like to get into a leveling guild where I can do a lot of the same quests with players my level instead of getting someone to walk me through them.

I’ll probably dive more into the game soon, but there’s a brief overview of my third experience with LotRO, which I really hope won’t lose its appeal any time soon.

I’ve also been playing a lot of Mythos lately. While I haven’t quite made it to 50 yet with my Gadgeteer (almost 48!) I’m still having fun hopping on for short bursts every now and again. I’m going to try to do some crafting today and see how I like the new system. The only real problem I have right now is that there are tiers of crafting items and once you level above the creatures that drop the tier that you need, it can be extremely difficult getting those items yourself without begging a guildmate for them or buying them (without a marketplace which they are working on.) Again though, I’m still having fun hopping on for brief sessions, and will continue to use this game as my action-rpg of the present.

So there you have it. I will likely be talking to you more in the near future about LotRO, which I hope you’ll enjoy. I’m also going to try to start writing some pieces on MMO gaming in general or game design which I’ve gotten away from a little bit as of late. Anyway, I’ll be back soon.

~Kanthalos