“A heroic effort has been made to use just about every in-game system to share the load – mail, achievements, dynamic events, incidental dialog, personal instances, cut-scenes – you name it, they’ve tried it. In the end the main thing all that hard work has served to do is emphasize how useful a framework the MMO quest is and why game developers created it in the first place.”
I guess it’s what all the popular kids are doing these days and it makes the money, so LOTRO has succumbed to peer pressure and begun selling instant level 50s in the store. This is something I’ve been hearing about for well over a year now, and with something similar in DDO I assumed it was just a matter of time. Turbine’s projected an impatience for people not being at the level cap with all of the XP pocket items and double XP months and the like — they want to sell expansions and get people up there with their friends.
Now I’ve made my feelings clear on this trend of giving/selling fast passes to higher levels, so I’m not interested in rehashing that today. I just feel it cheapens and weakens the game overall. What I am interested in discussing is how this will work within LOTRO itself.
First things first, Goldenstar has her own analysis of this that I’d like you to check out. Read it? Cool.
So what you’re getting here is a fast pass to the doors of Moria, skipping pretty much the entirety of the Shadows of Angmar content. You get the riding skill, a mount, some level 50 gear, 4 ranks of each virtue, and some other consumable boosts. For this, you’re going to be paying about $50 — more than the cost of the current expansion or more than the cost of the first four expansions combined. The price is the one point of solace here — it’s a hefty fee to pay for a fast pass, and I don’t see a ton of people using it because of this.
I also don’t see a great appeal to this even if you’re in an all-fire hurry to get to the level cap. You can get to level 50 in a month even if you play somewhat casually — as with most MMOs, the fastest levels are in the beginning. Skipping these levels means that you’re going to be missing some really terrific zones that are often stated as the ones that got players invested in the world of the game. And you’re going to be starting right out by diving into Moria, a gauntlet that has swallowed many an underground adventurer’s enthusiasm. I mean, Moria’s better now than it once was, but do you really want that to be the first thing you do?
The virtues thing concerns me a little, too. Four ranks of each is a lot overall, but usually I’m at rank 6 or 7 with my chosen five virtues by the time I get to Moria. There will probably need to be some backtracking done here.
I’m curious how the game’s going to handle the story. Maybe you’ll start with the first quest of volume II and go from there — that’s what makes the most sense to me.
It just doesn’t seem like a prudent purchase for a newbie, especially one who is still learning the ropes of the game and his or her class. For veterans, I guess it’s more appealing, but they’re also more likely to have a high-level character and will probably just see this as a way to get a jump-start on an alt.
For me, LOTRO is a journey that is assuredly long, but because it’s about the journey itself I’ve never been in an all-consuming rush to get to this fabled glorious land of the endgame. $50 to have part of that journey taken away is lose-lose in my view.
(This is part of my journey playing through King’s Quest. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lanes page.)
It actually took me a while to find out how to access my inventory screen in King’s Quest, since the manual was long on flowery descriptions of the backstory and short on practical keyboard commands. It’s CTRL-I if anyone else needs to know. That right up there is what I’ve gotten so far, and it’s ironic, because those are the same items that the police confiscated from their last raid of my lair.
So let’s start out today’s adventures with a heaping of DEATH! Apparently even with those tights, I cannot swim. A shame, a shame. I am tickled by the death music, which is this somber dirge that transitions into a “that’s all folks!” happy cartoon ditty.
This is a tree. It has walnuts. It is a walnut tree. Just to bring you up to speed. I take one and open it up to find (why not) a pure gold walnut. Dang, I’ve been out on my own for like seven screens now and I’ve amassed about $25,000 in gold and assorted goods. Plus pebbles.
This is an example of the game being helpful in a very unhelpful way. I mean, I probably don’t need a text popup to tell me that this wolf blitzing at me at 75mph won’t be good for my health. I definitely don’t need the game to tell me he can run fast because I have eyes. And I don’t know what I’m supposed to do about it, since I walk like my feet are dipped in quick-dry cement. I guess quickly go to a new screen where the wolf will instantly lose interest in me. Yes, that’s the trick. Or I could see what happens if I stand still…
In the next area is a log and a stump, and inside the stump is (why not) a pouch filled with diamonds. My net worth has shot up to $90,000 now and I think I could probably retire to a small lakeside hut if the game would allow it. Alas, it does not.
So here’s the woodcutter’s house, and if you couldn’t tell by these cutting-edge graphics, they’re poor and their house has two big holes in the floor that could only be repaired by, I dunno, wood. That someone could cut. Perhaps with the axe in the front yard. But that’s OK, guys, you just keep sitting there at the table being poor and hungry. That’ll get stuff done.
Sorry doesn’t unbreak my legs, pal. And what did I just fall down into? Did they build this house over a pit? I mean, seriously, I should’ve fallen six inches onto the dirt underneath the house. Sheez. You guys fail at being poor.
Fine. Have this bowl of endless stew that I picked up. Be less hungry. I’m going to take your fiddle for payment and get out of this flea trap.
Yes, that’s a fully edible gingerbread house just two screens away from the starving poor woodcutter family. Do people in this world ever get out or do they just hope that an adventurer might stumble by to feed them and change their diapers?
Sidebar: Why is this house not crawling with ants?
OK, wait, let’s back up here. So many thoughts about this. First of all, lady, you’re in an edible house and have paralyzing spells. Is cannibalism really the only option left to you for sustinence? Second, how will you fatten me up? With lots of food that you could be eating? Third, I’m in an EDIBLE HOUSE. I should be able to eat my way to freedom.
Well, lady, you know the rule: You try to kill me and it’s open season on witches.
I just love how supportive the game is of me murdering an old lady. “Yay! You did it! You’re awesome! You burned that witch alive! Now purge the rest of the infidels! BURN THEM ALL! …brought to you by Sierra.”
GOG.com has started another awesome sale, and to celebrate the site is giving away the first three Fallout games (Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout Tactics) for free! Just wanted to pass this along since it’s a limited time dealie.
In terms of releases, 2013 was pretty sedate, perhaps lulling us into a calm state while overlooking the looming launch war that is shaping up for next year. It’s pretty incredible that we now know two major launch dates this far out: Elder Scrolls Online in April and Destiny in September.
ESO’s launch date is of more interest, simply because it’s the first of the big titles that has committed to a launch date. Whether it’s going to be good or not, it’s certain to draw a lot of attention and at least initial sales, not to mention huge amounts of press. But Zenimax locking down that date offers its competitors an advantage of maneuvering to a more advantageous calendar position.
Granted that the expansion is coming along fast enough, I could totally see Blizzard dropping a Warlords of Draenor bomb just before ESO to rob that launch of some of its thunder. Blizzard is notorious for doing this, of course, but it’s entirely possible that WoD just won’t be ready and might angle more to a fall release when folks disillusioned with the new games will be ready to return to Mother Warcraft’s comforting embrace.
The bigger question, I think, is WildStar. Now, I wouldn’t want to pit WildStar against ESO at all. I think they’re a little too different, catering to different crowds, and WildStar doesn’t have the IP clout or multi-platform promise that ESO does. But if WildStar is to release this spring, what’s the smartest thing that Carbine could do considering ESO’s launch date?
Getting out first might get a jump on ESO, but I could see players conflicted between the two deciding to put WildStar on hold when April rolls around. I’d actually advise a late May release for WildStar, as much as that pains me to say. Give ESO time to get out, to let the new MMO smell wear off, and then swing into the scene as the newest kid on the block for the bulk of the typically release-light summer.
These three titles aren’t the only ones we’ll be seeing in 2014, for sure. EverQuest Next Landmark isn’t even in the same category as these others, but it will be making a splash for its unique nature and those who will play it because it’s the closest thing they can get to EverQuest Next. The rest of the pack probably won’t have the clout to be huge breakouts, but anything is possible.
Maybe everything will be spread out evenly and nothing will directly compete with anything else for launch attention. But I think the scene is shaping up for at least one head-to-head smackdown.
(This is part of my journey playing through King’s Quest. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lanes page.)
You voted and I accepted the challenge to tackle the Sierra adventure game classic King’s Quest for my next retro journey. Like with Wasteland, I did play King’s Quest way, way back when, although this was even further back around 1984. We got a lot of copied games with our original computer, so this was simply part of the pile of disks that I would explore. However, I was at a near loss as how to play, since there was no documentation and just about everything in this game got me killed. I’d load it up a few times, make a half-hearted attempt to wander around, and then do something else.
Not this time. This time I will rise to the occasion and get that dang crown back for the king. I shall!
King’s Quest is a 1983 adventure game by Roberta Williams that draws upon public domain fairy tales to create the magical kingdom of Daventry. It’s not, as I recall, as hugely narrative driven as later entries became, but there’s a lot of humor and trial-and-error with death-defying acts. While installing this, it amuses me that the first three games of this series are 19 megabytes combined. Here we go!
So here we have the start of the game, where Graham stands in front of the castle. One thing I forgot about the game is that when you start walking in a direction, you’ll keep on going until you tap the direction key a second time. So it’s pretty easy to accidentally walk into your doom — for instance, that moat right there. With the crocodiles.
So according to the manual that I actually got to read this time, I am Sir Graham, a knight that the king is going to task with a mission to recover three priceless treasures that were swindled from the throne: a future-telling mirror, an endless chest of gold, and a shield that makes its user invincible.
There’s that darn king. Well, he certainly is giving me good incentive for this quest: If I can get all three treasures, apparently I then get to be king. Like he could stop me if I had unlimited wealth, invincibility, and the ability to tell the future. Heck, I could go found my own kingdom.
One good thing about this game off the bat? Multiple save files. You’re already better than Wasteland in that regard, King’s Quest. What I don’t like is the sloooo…ooooo….ooooow walking pace of Graham. Two days later, a new screen. Two days after that, another screen.
Next to the castle (four days later) is a lovely field with a lovely little rock that is just… lovely. Hey, I wonder what would happen if I gave this smallish rock a little nudge?
That. Smoosh. That would happen. And for the record, yes, I’m definitely going to be recording as many of the deaths of Sir Graham as possible, just because I’m running an experiment to see if there’s a sentient AI lurking in his code that will snap and turn on me if I keep throwing him into mortal peril.
Anyway, pushing it from the north reveals a hole with a curvy dagger inside. Why the king didn’t equip his best knight with armor and a full complement of weapons for this extremely important mission, I have no idea. But now I has dagger!
If you’re curious, the overland map of the game is 8 by 6 screens in size (48), with various interiors. It wraps around so you can think of Daventry as a very tiny planet. With a rock.
Moving on, I grab a carrot from a nearby field and then go to a lake. This peaceful lakeside vista is suddenly ruined by the appearance of…
Well, the game wouldn’t let me kill the elf with the dagger. If only I could’ve, then no more elves would have infested fantasy video games after 1983! I would have saved the entire genre by killing their sinister ancestor!
Anyway, when I talk to the elf he gives me an invisible ring that works just once. It probably gives me syphilis too, because that’s how elves like their pranks. No way I’m putting that diseased thing on my finger if I can help it.
I guess this is the land of litterers, because on the very next screen is a bowl lying around. I pick it up and see the word “FILL” on the bottom. Fill with what? Blood? Elf blood? Dude, I tried. You have no idea how hard I tried.
I saw someone kvetch on Twitter yesterday that just partway through the Helm’s Deep expansion they’ve already replaced all of their hard-earned Hytbold armor through questing. It’s that same old story, where countless hours of raiding or grinding to attain the best of the best gear is rendered obsolete within hours of a vertical expansion dropping.
It’s kind of why I’ve just never gotten into LOTRO’s dungeon scene at all. I’m down with quick dungeon runs in other MMOs, but LOTRO? It’s hardly happened for me. In my five or so years playing the game, I might have done 10 dungeon runs total. There’s just so little incentive to do it, since whatever gear I’m getting from quests is more than adequate to get me through subsequent zones and the personal story. Dungeon runs and raiding seems to me to be its own thing, a gear treadmill just to run more dungeons, but not with any greater purpose.
I just kind of don’t think about gear at all in that game any more. Since the quests do an adequate job gradually upgrading my stats, it feels a little like a nanny who dresses me without me being a part of the process. And since I’m not really choosing anything, I’m not going out of my way to get any specific gear, and the statistical bumps are pretty small, I just vanish it from my mind.
Pretty much the only thing that interests me, gear-wise, is a cool-looking armor model. I will check to see if a drop has a look that I haven’t collected yet, and if so that will be a good day for me. Some developers are starting to get a clue as to the power of cosmetic gear as rewards, although this attitude hasn’t completely swept through the MMO industry yet. Let’s put it this way: Almost always, I will expend more effort to get something that looks cool than adds more points to my points box. Almost always, I will be more pleased when a quest or a drop gives me something nifty-looking to wear.
There’s actually very little in the way of loot in LOTRO that is of interest to me at all. On a given day’s outing, I’ll probably pick up 50% pure vendor trash, 30% crafting mats, 10% useless legendary items, and 10% assorted potions and gear drops. That game’s always been kind of strange with loot, but now that it just automatically wings it into my bags, I don’t concern myself with it much at all. Just another few gold for the pot when I get back to a vendor.
I wouldn’t mind if Turbine would start to think a little about the gear and loot incentives in the game. I’d love it if pure cosmetic or housing items dropped (getting a taxidermy pelt is pretty much the only thing I’ve seen in that regard), or if there would be some new system that would utilize new loot drops.