Archive for the ‘Lord of the Rings Online’ Category

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 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

Uncanny Valley and MMO’s — Part 1 of 2

A few months ago I came upon the hypothesis of Uncanny Valley (in relation to MMO’s). In a basic summary, it means that as robotics become more realistic, humans will begin to think of them more in terms of a human than a machine and will develop sy(e)mpathy for them. I’m looking at this in relation to MOGers and their avatars. I suppose the title of this post is a bit misleading, because I’m twisting it (or perhaps pushing it further.) While I can see players thinking their characters are realistic, and seeing them as more of a real entity, will the average player (barring psychological issues) ever relate to their avatar enough that they feel a part of their character? MMO’s can be incredibly enjoyable and you can have a lot of fun with your characters, but rarely (at least for me) do I ever feel as though I have just experienced it rather than my character. I’m going to break this up into two elements which are technical and emotional. I’m going to focus on some of the technical aspects here that I can currently think of, focusing on how realistic your character looks and their movements and such. The emotional will focus on character freedom and social interaction and such which I’ll look at in another post.

There are definitely several elements to this, but I think currently the main element has to be graphics. As of now, there aren’t really any games out there that are realistic enough to be considered lifelike to sympathize with your character or actually feel connected to them. While Vanguard and Lord of the Rings Online have upped the bar on graphical expectations of MMO’s, they are still not realistic enough to feel as though you are looking at a living, breathing being. Perhaps with the wave of MMO’s hitting the shelves in Q4 2007 through Q2 of 2008 this distinction will become less noticeable, but it isn’t likely to see extremely lifelike characters until probably 2012 or later. Is that enough, though?

As an extension of the graphics issue, character creation is not nearly customizable enough to make a character that really looks like you currently. Also, there are a lot of people that won’t want to make a character that looks exactly like them anyway. Most people want to make characters that are aesthetically pleasing, regardless of the fact that it won’t look anything like them. This isn’t that unusual as it is a game hence it’s a break from reality, so making a character unlike yourself isn’t strange whether we could do it or not. So if we choose to make characters that don’t look like ourselves, does this break the possibility of truly relating to our character? This is also taking into account only human characters, not elves, dwarves, gnomes, ogres, etc. To me this doesn’t seem possible to truly relate to your character as a different race, but maybe that’s just me putting a limit on my imagination.

Another element that I think breaks the illusion in MMO’s (and many other games) is the third person view. This is sort of bordering on emotional, but it is also technical in the way you actually see your character. While you can use a first-person view in most MMO’s to do so would greatly reduce your field of vision and hamper your game play, so it’s not really feasible to do this. That said, if you are looking for more a role-playing version of the game, then you can do this, but you would always be facing the fact that you are limiting yourself, so could you do this?

The last aspect that I want to focus on right now is actually controlling the way your character moves. While this might not be possible with the current mouse-and-keyboard setup, this will be a very big barrier in terms of believing in our characters and believing they are an extension of ourselves that needs to be solved for this possibility.

I guess the bigger question that needs to be answered is whether we even desire to relate more to our characters or not. I’m sure there are a lot of elements that I haven’t covered, but I’m in a slight hurry right now but I really wanted to get this out, so let me know what you think and I’ll be back later with the second part of this topic.

-Kanthalos

Immersion in MMOs

I’ve recently been looking at reviews about Vanguard and most people’s severe disappointment in it, and was wondering what the term “immersion” actually means to an MMO. While it means different things to everyone, some of the things I find to be important are exploration, history/lore, and a sense of importance.

Back during my 4 years of Asheron’s Call, I would simply spend hours exploring the continent of Dereth, discovering landmarks that I have never seen before. Dilapidated bridges, old sanctuaries that are no longer being used, shrines, or the hundreds of dungeons that had virtually no use, except that they were fun to explore. I loved seeing just random little landmarks that made the world seem like it had some real history and depth. I have played a half dozen MMO’s now, most for at least two weeks, and I have yet to find one that rivals AC’s sense of immersion. Sure WoW has tons of stuff to keep me busy and lots of eye candy, but I still don’t really get a sense of history or a sense of exploration. I am simply going somewhere to complete a quest or to get to an instance. I like the idea behind Caverns of Time, but it still isn’t really what I’m looking for.

Another aspect of immersion that I think is important it having an impact of the world. Again, CoT is scratching the surface with this, but Chronicles of Spellborn sounds like this is going to be a much heavier element in their game with the ancestral quests. These really give you the since that history is important and that you have made a difference, whether you have or not. They also have the shard exploration aspect to consider. Players will be able to discover new “shards” which are landmasses within the Deadspell Storm. This adds an element of adventure, and also gives players the opportunity to truly discover something that no one else has seen yet.

Another aspect Spellborn wants to implement is control over these shards. There are five “houses” in Spellborn each with different doctrines, which will be able to control certain things in the game, like parts of shards, mines, etc. This is huge in immersion as you and your fellow house/guildmates will actually be able to help keep/gain control of certain things in the world.

Anyways, there are a few things that I find to be important when thinking about immersion in an MMO. It sounds like the Vanguard dev’s promised a lot of these elements, but due to a rushed release or for other reasons, have left most of their players wanting, which has caused many to leave. Perhaps they will be able to turn it around after a few months, and regain these players, but for now, it sounds like a bug-ridden, most unoriginal, MMO. One thing that I am looking forward to is LotRO. While I haven’t seen much, I have seen most of the Shire, which I think is amazing, with the landscapes looking similar to Asheron’s Call 2, only slightly improved. This is one game that I have hope for in terms of a sense of immersion, but I’ll post more when I have seen more of the zones.

~Kanthalos~