Category Archives: The Lord of the Rings Online

EQ2 verses LotRO Free to Play

As the days go by, more and more games seem to be jumping on the (what I will term) “Freemium” band wagon. They’re not exactly Free to Play because you can barely play them without spending *something* but certain aspects of the game are free, and you can get by paying a lot less then the regular monthly subscription fee if you want (especially if you’re a casual gamer, and wait for deals).

Surprisingly enough I have NOT been playing the Lord of the Rings Online as a free to play member. I’ve got VIP access until February because I purchased a bunch of 60 day time cards for cheap before the game went F2P. I have been reading up on everything though, and I’ve got a few friends who are playing as cheaply as they can as a test. We’ll call it our online roulette games experiment for the time being, my money is on LotRO being the ‘cheaper’ way of playing compared to EverQuest 2.

I am far more likely to play LotRO as a ‘free’ game then lets say, EQ2, and I’m going to explain why with a few points that really stand out to me as being winners.

  • Turbine points can be obtained in game for completing deeds. This is a great selling point to me. If you enjoy completing every single deed and title you can get your hands on then you’re going to earn yourself turbine points that you can spend in their store. You may even be more willing to spend a few dollars here and there to round out the points you have earned when you make purchases. After all, if they can entice you to spend a little when you would have spent nothing, that’s good. You don’t feel like you’re spending that much because after all, you’ve EARNED points, you just want a few extra to pick up that <whatever> from the store. I am far more likely to spend a smaller amount numerous times, then one large amount.
  • Items in the store are pretty cheap. A piece of cosmetic gear could be as low as 100 turbine points, or as much as 295. Each 100 turbine points is $1 which means you’re not even paying $3 for a nice piece of cosmetic gear. I’ve seen some stores that sell appearance gear for as much as $25 – the smaller your prices SEEM (even if you’re selling each piece individually) the better. I don’t want to buy an entire set, some times I just want a chest piece, or a back piece. I’m far more likely to spend $2 then $25. The most expensive items are the shared vault, and mounts and even those are a far more reasonable price then a lot of games I’ve peeked in at.
  • Sales. If you’re patient, you can purchase what you “need” over the course of time at a very reduced price. For example the riding skill was 75% off a few weeks ago. I picked it up for my characters for less then $1. Three adventure packs were also on sale for 75% off, less then $1 per adventure pack (three were for sale) which is fantastic. Wait long enough and I have no doubt that even more items will go on sale, enticing players to spend just a little bit here and there. If you get a large number of people purchasing a little bit here and there you more then make up for the few who would have paid the $15 subscription fee.
  • VIP perks. As a VIP I have access to everything in game AND I earn myself 500 “free” points a month. Why is this great? Because when my account finally lapses from VIP I’ll have stored up enough points to continue playing on as a free to play customer – an idea that I absolutely love. I also get accustomed to their store as I purchase a few items (mostly appearance so far) here and there with my points.

That doesn’t mean I love everything about this new model, there are a lot of restrictions that I don’t enjoy. Skirmishes, channels, etc. that are locked without making purchases or being VIP etc. I’ve never been against F2P, or Freemium, or any other idea that follows, call it what you will. What I do have issues with is how some games have implemented these ideas, namely EQ2 (as of late). I was a fan of Wizard 101 for a good while, loving the idea of unlocking content as I came to it rather then purchasing $15/m for something I may only play twice.

My issue with EQ2X is as follows:

  • Separate servers from the main player base. I think this was an incredibly poor idea, no matter how many times the red names on forums say that they had the best interest of the players at heart. It turned into an us (regular live servers) vs. them (freemium players) model instead of trying to merge all of your players into one happy family.
  • The cost of items. Things are expensive. Cosmetic gear especially. I am not going to be buying a handful of things in EQ2X for the same price that I would in LotRO, which makes me less likely to spend anything at all as I have to hum and haw over what I’m going to spend my money on.
  • The confusing tiers of subscription plans and what they all unlock. It is not needed. In order to get the “full” subscription to EQ2X you’re paying $18/m on an EQ2X server vs. $15/m on a ‘live’ server. Wha? That also STILL does not unlock everything, as races require further payment.
  • The cost to copy a character from a live server to the EQ2X server. It’s $25 to MOVE a character between live servers. It’s $35 to copy your character to an EQ2X server. I don’t understand the need for that cost, either make it the same amount or simply don’t allow it at all and have everyone start from scratch. Is this an attempt to discourage the current player base from moving over to EQ2X? If so it’s a poor attempt.

Those are my main issues. As you can see it’s nothing to do with what is in the shops, but how the basic designs are set up. With LotRO I don’t feel as though I am being pressured to spending a lot of cash. In EQ2X I feel as though they’re trying to milk players for all they’re worth and then some. Perhaps this is unfair of me, after all you CAN play EQ2X completely free IF you are satisfied with what you will get. That means incredibly limited everything. Gear, spells, classes, and races. Now for some, this is not an issue, but I hardly go to a free to play game expecting it to actually be free, I’m always going to spend *something* – I just think that turbine did a far better job setting their games up.

General Musings

EQ2:  Just had a double XP weekend.  Every xp type was doubled, so using the AA slider to convert combat xp to AA xp made for some interesting gains — quests in a level range to normally give 5-6% were giving 22-35%.  I am not complaining in any way…. I set my sliders pretty high since AA seems to come so much slower than leveling xp.  If anything, I am complaining I only got to play maybe 3 or 4 hours over the weekend 😦  Still… I got almost 40 AA’s on my warlock — enough to get her the Shadows endlines.  I only wish I’d had more time to play on my inquisitor — I only got about 15 AA’s for that character, but would have loved to get a lot more.  Such is life.

EVE:  I took a break for the weekend to focus on EQ2 instead.  Fortunately we’re at the beginning of the month, so I’ll be able to make up the difference on my PI quota well before the end of the month.  The downside of having the PI quota though, is that I don’t really log in for fleet/gang ops, since I know I’ll be spending 45+ minutes each day doing PI, so I just don’t bother otherwise.  Add in that in my region of space an new alliance is taking over, so the jump bridges aren’t back in place yet, so getting to where the action is is a little tough right now and. . . well, there ya go.

LOTRO:  I got a 1 week beta key a few weeks ago, and it was fun enough and didn’t feel overly restrictive in the F2P area.  I got an email the other day saying I could log in for the head start today, but when I click the link in the email it errors out.  Not really confidence inspiring, especially given the buggy state of their points store while I was in the beta.

DDO:  I keep forgetting to log in for my Tuesday night guild run, and I’m focused enough on EQ2 right now that I’m not really playing at any other time either.  I have been working a little bit on my monk, and also I started a Rogue/Ranger with the plan to use the “Exploiter” build, but as an Elf using scimitars, rather than a Human using Khopeshes.  I’ve got it to level 6 now (1 rogue, 5 ranger) so in 1 more level I get to take my Tempest prestige class.  Perhaps I’ll even start dual-wielding then.  Up until now I’ve been enjoying the high armor class I’ve got from having a good shield.  I’m told that the “sword ‘n board” style is actually fairly comparable to dual wielding up until about level 12 anymore, so. . . .we’ll see.  Now if only they could steal EQ2’s broker system and the Profit UI’s market functions for it.

Free Realms:  My kids love this game, so I bought them a 3-month sub back at the beginning of the summer.  They went home about a month ago and it hasn’t been touched since.  Which is kinda odd, becuz I actually do find it a relaxing escape every once in a while, but…. too many other games to play and things to do, I suppose.

SWTOR’s Hype: Hopefully the game lives up to it, but from what I’ve seen from their press releases and from people blogging about it, there are going to be a ton of unmet hopes/dreams/expectations.  I don’t really think it will be fair since it seems that so many people are building it up in their own minds as the “WoW Killer” and when they find it’s going to be “just another MMO” I think there will be a lot of backlash… and for no reason other than people worked themselves up, not becuz the game won’t be fun.  It just won’t be exactly as they dreamed.  I know I’m looking forward to it, and as a result I’ve tried to avoid the hype lately.  I’m trying to go into it without any preconceived notions about it being the next best thing.

Warhammer:  I have the “unlimited trial” installed, but I forget it’s there.  And frankly, I haven’t even gotten any character up to the “cap” for the trial yet.  I don’t know why, I don’t feel like anything’s “wrong” with it, and I LOVE the public quests.  I guess it just doesn’t feel like anything sets it apart from any other fantasy-themed MMO.

And there ya have it….. random musings on the MMO scene.

LOTRO F2P beta Thoughts

Mordor Or Bust recently gave away 100 beta codes for LOTRO’s F2P testing, and I was able to snag one.  I’ve not played LotRO before and never felt inclined to pick it up due to my love of EQ2, but hey. . . I’m a nomad anymore.  Still have EQ2 and EVE, but am more open to trying new things out, especially if they’re F2P 😉

So I’m logging in and finding I’ve only got 4 races to play with.  Not a big deal since I’m usually an elf anyway.  Still and all, I wanted to try out a Warden, but needed Turbine Points to unlock it.  Not a problem, though, because the beta key also came with a code for 5000 beta TP’s!  So I bought that class, an extra character slot, and also the other locked class of Rune Keeper while I was at it.  And I went with the race of Man for my Warden.  Character creation was pretty straight forward — no worries about gimping a character like one can do in DDO, and I was soon fighting  brigands and saving Rangers from Nazgul in the tutorial.  At level 1 I had 3 abilities plus auto-attack, and in the tutorial that was of  course plenty.  From the tutorial I found myself in the small town of Archet, running a few tasks to try to figure out if the place was safe or if we needed to be worried about an impending attack.

And of course there was an impending attack once I’d completed all the other available quests.  And thus the game “truly began” at level 8.

At this point, the Warden seems a pretty powerful class.  My only real annoyance with it is its reliance on “gambits.”  Each gambit tends to do a bit of additional damage as well as throwing up a short-duration buff.  As you gain more gambits, you start trying to rotate though them all in order to keep the buffs up.  Or if you are taking more damage than you want you can just keep running through the self-healing one.  Still and all….it’s rather spammy.  Attack-Attack-Gambit!  Attack-Shield Bash-Gambit!  Shield Bash-Attack-Gambit!  Shield Bash-Shield Bash-Gambit!  Taunt-Taunt-Gambit!  Attack-Taunt-Gambit!  Yeah…. at level 8 I already had 6 gambit combos.  Most mobs died after only 2 or maybe 3 combos, so for the most part I just went with “Attack-Attack-Gambit!” over and over again, with the occasional leading off with the self-healing one if I thought it would be a slightly harder fight with multiple mobs.  I can see how vs tougher mobs in dungeons later on getting a nice rotation through the various gambits would be helpful as well, but for soloing in the lower levels, it actually seemed a bit of a kludge.

With the 2nd character slot I’d “bought” I then created a Dwarf Rune Keeper.  The affinity attribute it has for casting attack, balanced, or healing spells was an interesting mechanic, but in the lower levels it also was kinda kludgy.  Nearly every new ability I got up through level 8 was an attack spell and thus increased attack affinity making healing a bit interesting to say the least.  Pre-casting a heal before a fight would give healing affinity and then I couldn’t cast an attack spell for a few seconds until the affinity faded.  The overall feeling was “this is a mage, but we gave it healing ability to help with the typical healer shortage all MMO’s have.”  It feels like in a group later on  that the class could take the role of either dps or healing, but not both, thanks to the affinity system.  I still don’t know if I think that’s genius or completely moronic.  Especially as the healing I was capable of at level 8 seemed decidedly sub-par.  Perhaps in later levels more healing runes are obtained?  Perhaps I’ll find out someday.

I still had a bunch of the TP, so decided to try another character out by buying another couple of slots.  But the store interface would only let my do 1 at a time.  How crappy.  I tried buying it more than once, and also tried to set a quantity on it, but neither thing worked.  I simply got told “you already have this in your cart” if I tried to buy a 2nd time, and the quantity dropdown only had a 1 in it.  And then I ran into another problem — one can only purchase items from the store 1x in a 24 hour period.

Thwarted, I logged out for the night.

Next day I logged in again and went to buy the items I’d tried to get the prior day.  Except now I couldn’t because even though it hadn’t let me buy the items, it had still deducted the TP amount from my account, so now my balance was too low.

Tried to report it as a bug, but the bug report command simply takes you to the generic beta forum.  I logged in, and hit “submit a bug” link at the top of the forum, and got in a wonderful endless loop of “click link, get told to log in again, find yourself at the forum.”

I deleted the 2 characters and started over.  This time with an Elf Minstrel and a Man Lore Master.  Yeah, no Hobbits for me.  I’ve never liked “short races” and just don’t play them.  No idea why, just. . .don’t.

Anyway, the Lore Master was kinda fun, especially after about level 4 when I got a few more abilities and wasn’t auto-attacking mobs beating on me while my nuke was on cooldown.  I didn’t take it very far though, since I was repeating the Man starter area and wanted to see how the elf one was.

So… off to try the Elf healer.  Holy spammy combat again!  And like the Warden’s Gambits, it’s set so you go “starter, next ability, finisher” except they call them Tier 1, 2, and 3 ballads.  And oddly enough, while they do damage to mobs and add some healing effects to yourself (and I would hope your group later on), your actual healing songs are completely outside of this mechanic.  This leads to the same feeling I had with the Rune Keeper — I can heal, or I can fight, but I can’t do both.  I don’t know if that’s how it shakes out in higher levels, but that’s the feel of the lower levels, and that makes me go “yawn” and wish for my EQ2 Fury or Inquisitor, or even my DDO “Lord of the Blades” Favored Soul instead.

So my overall conclusion is:  It’s F2P and I’ve got disk space, so I’ll probably leave it installed and play it from time to time as “something different” but I highly doubt that I’ll ever make this into a “main game.”  I will probably buy enough TP to unlock a few character slots, the 2 extra bags, and the 2 classes, but then I’d be done with paying anything more for it at that point.

Tradeskill musings

Spent some time earlier this week finishing the Tradeskill Epic quest on my carpenter in EQ2. Working through the quest this time as a low level adventurer made me think about how tradeskills seem to be ubiquitous in MMOs today, but take on very different shapes and purposes.

I think the reason tradeskills are so different from game to game is that everyone expects something different from them (developers included.) In some games the tradeskill is a personal affair, and allows you to make items to use yourself and enhance your own experience. In others, the tradeskill is an integral part of the larger economy and in extreme examples player crafters supply most of the goods that keep the game moving. In order to keep items rare some games choose to make high barriers to crafting, while other games encourage it to the point that crafted items become worthless in normal gameplay. I thought I would touch on a few examples from games I’ve played.

EQ was where I started, and many of my experiences in other games are colored by that time. In EQ there were many different crafting skills that players were unrestricted to learn (with the exception of poison and potion making that were class restricted.) The barrier to making items was very high, in cost and attention to detail. Most items required some enemy drop to create, which tied crafting to adventuring. Making items was an exercise in patience, with many control-clicks required to pick one item off a stack and move it into a crafting container. I had pages of recipes I printed from EQtraders and Zam to assist in my crafting. Quests for crafters were few, but they did have a few that required many skills that gave major rewards. It was grindy and ultimately not as rewarding as it could have been, but I enjoyed it all the same.

In Vanguard, things were very different for tradeskills. Here there are quests and advancement paths that allow you to craft and not need to adventure to progress. I’ve written before about the three spheres of advancement in Vanguard and the great thing about it is that each sphere has its own quests, advancement path and equipment. The barrier to entry is low too in Vanguard because advancing skill through repeatable quests doesn’t require harvested materials, only fuel and solvents. Vanguard goes a step beyond and allows you to make homes and ships using your skills as well, allowing you to make real impact on the game world in a small way. It is still grindy, and the customization possible in making items is poorly documented in game which can be frustrating, but there’s alot to like about Vanguard for tradeskills.

I played Lord of the Rings Online and attempted to be a crafter in Middle Earth as well. In the game you collect items from resource nodes and enemy drops much like in EQ2 and Vanguard, and instead of a mini game style system for the actual combines you click a button and then wait. The crafting there is much like in WoW, with flavor all its own like farming hobbits and master dwarvish blacksmiths. I found that it really didn’t hold my attention the way that Vanguard and EQ2 have because removing the fun of combining items leaves the tradeskill as an exercise in harvesting which I don’t really enjoy. The WoW style market system in LotRO is also unintuitive to me coming from EQ2, which didn’t help with resource planning.

Most recently I’ve been getting into manufacturing in EVE with a friend. EVE is a game where ships are 90% player crafted and the game’s economy relies on robust corporations supplying the demand of non crafters. The barrier to becoming more than a hobbyist is quite high in monetary cost and in skills needed, and the ultra-capitalist system the game is founded on means that someone will always be more efficient at manufacturing than you for advanced items. That said, with the economy so reliant on player made goods there are many opportunities for people to make good money by watching the market and supplying items. In EVE you can make crafting into a full job if you wish, making it less of a space exploration and combat game and into a market simulation. I’m not that hardcore of course, but I’ve enjoyed the complexity of the system all the same. When you build something in EVE, you feel like you are making a difference to your corp, yourself or the galaxy as a whole.

In EQ2 tradeskills have hit a good median point between being intolerable expensive grinds and fluff. Harvested items are plentiful and their sale on the broker is encouraged by them not having value to npc merchants. Each avatar is restricted to one specialization, which limits the total grind and allows character advancement to become collecting rare recipes and class specific enhancements. There are group tradeskill instances, tradeskill specific gear (though no separate inventory for these) and for recent expansions quests that allow a non adventurer to participate in the lore of the game. It includes lots of elements that I think other designers would do well to take note of.

How do you approach tradeskilling in the games you play? Are there unique system examples that I’ve missed here? Let us know what you think.

LotRo First Impressions

So, I’m trying my hand at a new game.  I couldn’t get Fallout2 (aka the greatest game ever made) to work on Windows7, so I loaded and am trying Lord of the Rings Online.  I thought I’d throw out my first impressions.

It’s a little older than I thought it’d be.  For some reaons I was thinking this game was released about six months prior to Aion.  Don’t ask me why: the last movie (and thus, the popularity that would have spawned an mmo) is already several years old.

But starting from the beginning – I’m on a ten day trial, no credit card required.  Can I just say that’s really really cool?  All of the other games I’ve trial’ed require a CC or some form of payment that you have to cancel if you decide the game’s not for you.

Downloading the game was straightforward and relatively quick.  Click this link, download for an hour, log in.

I have always watched the opening movies for games.  You know, when you first start a game for the first time, there’s a cinematic intro that you may not see ever again in some cases (I’m too lazy to look, but one of the most recognizable cinematics is the Fallout intro.  Say it out loud and try not to hear it in the proper, raspy voice-over, “War… War never changes…”  Classic I tell ya.)… back on topic:  LotR’s opener is well done, makes you want to jump in right away.  So I did.

If you’re familiar with the novels or the movies, from the descriptions of the classes you can play, you’ll have a good idea which class you want to be just by looking at the titles.  Except for minstrel.  Minstrel you’ll want to read before picking.  I picked a captain and started playing.

The combat system is chained (much like Aion) where in order to use a particular attack (or spell I’m assuming) you have to have used a different attack as a pre-requisite.  It’s not something I’m used to, but it looks like it’s got a small learning curve.  The only part that really bugged me is that you don’t auto-face.  You can’t attack unless you’re facing your target (obviously)… With my background almost entirely based in eq and eq2, I ended up giving mobs a nice clear shot at my back several times before I managed to get faced the right way.  Cumbersome, I tell ya!

Now that I have a better handle on what the icons mean on the map, I like the map system a lot.  It’s more like a real map and less like connect-the-dots.

The short version of all this is that I enjoyed the game, and I’m going to keep playing it.  In fact, the more I think about it, the better I like it.  Time to go work on that learning curve some more.