One Ring To Bring Them All

June 5, 2010 at 3:34 am | Posted in Lord of the Rings Online, mmorpg | 4 Comments
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Is The Eye at work?

Every MMO blogger I read, excepting a few, is posting about Lord of the Rings Online going free to play. I was pretty surprised to hear this, because other than the repeated sales of the game along with it’s expansions for only $10, there was no sign that things weren’t going well with the business model they already had. At one point they had something in the area of 300k subscribers. That’s not too damn shabby. What’s going on?

My first thought was, is LOTRO doing that badly, or is DDO doing that well?

Dungeons and Dragons Online has seen a tenfold revenue jump, and subscriptions have tripled.

300k subscriptions at $15 a month is 4.5 million dollars. At triple the subscriptions LOTRO would be making 13.5 million dollars. A tenfold increase in revenue would mean 14.5 million dollars. I highly doubt the numbers would translate dollar for dollar, but it’s an interesting thought.

As for me, I bought that $10 pack a month ago, and I made it to level 17 or 18. The traveling unfortunately, was killing me. I was dying out there.

I’d log in, get as close to my quest as possible from a stable. It was a champion quest to kill 3 bosses. I spent 5 minutes traveling out over some marsh. Well done scenery but way too much of it. Getting to the marsh, I look around for my target, and after 5 minutes locate and dispatch him. Repeat that too more times. 5 minutes of traveling followed by 30 seconds of fighting. By the time I get back to Bree, I’m trying to force myself to stay logged in. Usually failing. I canceled the sub and haven’t blogged about it since.

A lot of interesting things have been said about the change. They range from the reasoned.

Scott Jennings

As for my take, it seems fairly simple. LOTRO is a game which, while fairly new (about 3 years old), is not likely to generate new subscribers. In addition, a not-insignificant amount of players are lifetime subscribers, whom Turbine will not see any more money from pending a boxed expansion. (Lifetime subscriptions in general are not a good idea for game companies – it’s the classic appeal for short term cash in place of long term income, appealing precisely to the hard core players who are likely to keep a subscription in play over years). Going free-to-play not only brings a new wave of players in who would not have considered a pay-to-play model (see: Dungeons and Dragons Online, Funcom’s experience with Anarchy Online) but also opens the way for cash shop gear that will appeal to all players – including the already-paid-for lifetime subscribers.

To the positive.

Mordor Or Bust

The best part of LOTRO going F2P is that we should see a substantial influx of new players to the game. New players = healthy game = game keeps going. The bottom line for all of us as players is that we want to see LOTRO keep going. I personally can’t wait to get to Mordor and stand in the belly of Mt. Doom, can you?

To the bitter.


LotRO is now destroyed by an illogical act and remarkable ignorance. To take a game that has lasted this long, with numerous expansions, no server merges, top notch story and content, and essentially throw it into the fires of mount doom is unfathomable.

Overall I guess this doesn’t really effect me much. I’d already given up on the game. However, this does mean that come this fall, I’ll probably be playing it again, and that’s not something I could say before.

It’s Not The Size, But The Motion In The Ocean

May 24, 2010 at 11:25 pm | Posted in Lord of the Rings Online, mmorpg | 9 Comments
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Rotoscope FTW?

Lord of the Rings Online is beautiful and expansive. There are huge amounts of territory to cover much of which, at least early in the game, doesn’t seem to get much use at all. The landscapes are picturesque and one could easily explore for the sake of simply looking around.

The question is do I want to waste minutes at a time traveling several times a play session?

I realize that LOTR as literature is entirely about a long journey. There is constant movement from the Shire all the way to Mordor. As a theme it was reflected in the movies and I guess it’s being reflected in LOTRO as well.

I’m sure players over the years have repeatedly stated their preferences for large, even enormous, settings in their games. Developers can point to GTA, Elder Scrolls, countless MMOs, and other games to say that players want gigantic areas to make their worlds feel more alive.

Perhaps it’s even a cheat in some cases. Designed to lengthen out your leveling curve so you spend more time and more subscription money.

Thus I have to sit on a horse for upwards of 3 or 4 minutes before and after I’ve done a few quests in an area. Or worse, run towards a stable for a few minutes, then ride to where I want to go for another few minutes. Fun.

I’ve actually alt tabbed out at times to go web surf while my automated pony gets me to town. I find it kind of agonizing to sit there for minutes at a time watching the grass hills roll by.

There are short cuts of course, but there’s only so much you can do. Even though I love Bree, it’s a waste to use my map there, or go to a stable. And it’s a pain to just run across town.

I want my worlds to feel large, not be large.

Bree Town

May 15, 2010 at 12:25 am | Posted in Lord of the Rings Online, mmorpg | 8 Comments
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Bree is probably the best mmorpg town I’ve ever really been in. I’ve played Anarchy Online, Silkroad Online, Face of Mankind (top games I know), Guild Wars, Warhammer, Runes of Magic, Aika, and probably some other free to play I haven’t thought of. That’s not counting the giant amount of ancient bbs games or subspace of course. Not the greatest selection of towns, but a selection at least.

The thing that makes Bree great is it feels like a real town. The buildings are artistically sound, to scale, well designed, and provide a sense of people living there. There are NPCs floating around not doing much of anything except perpetuating the feeling that you’re in a town. There are buildings that serve a purpose, the town hall, the jail, the Prancing Pony, and others. There are squares where people congregate, multiple places to craft, dead end alleys in bad parts of town, and old ruins the town grew around. It feels like there’s history.

A lot of the time in games towns feel like a bunch of decorative objects surrounding the NPCs you need to go see. The only signs of life being the other people in them. AO’s towns were filled with afkers. Lion’s Arch in Guild Wars just doesn’t feel as grand as it should, in fact it feels more like a tiny village than a capital city. Runes of Magic either had vast cities too spread out to feel alive, filled with empty spaces, or small virtually dead outposts with no activity of any kind. Silkroad had large cities too, and I remember very small areas of them being so incredibly crowded you couldn’t see the NPCs let alone click on them.

I could do without Bree being quite so spread out. Unfortunately it does add to the realism even if it gets tedious. Especially since I don’t have a horse yet or even know how to get one.

Varanas in RoM is so vast they have magical transporters at the entrance to take you to various places in town. Shouldn’t that be a hint that your town is too big? I suppose it might have been a ploy to get you to buy transport runes. Bree has something similar, where you can take a horse to the other side of town. Another sign that frankly, it’s just too big.

Conversely in RPGs towns are often far too small in scale. A great capital like Denerim in Dragon Age, should be kind of huge. You see tiny parts of it, designed barely enough to let you do the specific quests Bioware has designed. There are millions of people on the Citadel in Mass Effect 2, I think I got to see about 3 dozen friendly NPCs. Bathesdas Imperial City is a lot better, I think it’s about as close as you can get to a video game city without it being too big to finish or too small to impress.

One thing that also makes Bree more alive, at least on Landroval, are the people standing around playing music. I was aware you can play notes and create slash recreate songs in game, thanks to Biobreak, but I wasn’t prepared for how many people and how often. Every time I’m in Bree, there’s multiple seperate groups playing songs. I just wish I could figure out what songs they’re playing. It’s hard to match the songs up in my brain to their real world counterpart.

Even other towns in Lord of the Rings Online aren’t nearly as well done, Thorin’s Hall was a pain. Bland walls, several NPCs serving the same purpose, large open empty chambers, convoluted paths. I didn’t like it.

My favourite towns serve function but have plenty of form, and while Bree serves form more than it does function, it does it with style.

This Boat Is Real

May 8, 2010 at 3:44 am | Posted in Lord of the Rings Online, mmorpg | 2 Comments
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Captain or Fish

Lord of the Rings Online does continue to impress, because despite whatever minor quibbles I can come up with, there’s stuff like quest instances. Normally instances are reserved for groups in most games I’ve played.

I had been fighting over mobs with people for the previous half hour, whether it be birds, bushes, or rabbit carcasses, there was a lot of competition. About 4 or 5 other people. It was refreshing then to come across the next quest instance at Keledul. It sounded like a simple stealth mission, and I love those so I did not hesitate.

I slip past the first guard who appears to be asleep anyway, and cut left because I have absolutely no idea where I’m headed. It turns out it’s pretty much just a big square with canals and docks and buildings throughout. Apparently I’m not very stealthy at all because I immediately aggro a mob, and out of nowhere, something else comes at me from behind while I’m fighting. I’m completely unaware of where he came from but press on.

Quickly after that I find a quest chest for that Gear quest chain from Thorin’s Halls, I’m going on 5 gears now, back and forth from Thorins. It’s getting stupid. I have no other business back there except this guy.

I come to a stretch where there’s a guard ahead of me, a solid wall on the left, a canal on the right, a guard behind me, and wouldn’t you know it, they’re both patrolling my way. I leave it until the last second and dive into the canal. Every game I’ve ever played, nothing follows you into the water. Safe bet.

Just then the guards actually utter some dialogue. “Who’s splashing in the water there! Identify yourself!” My eyes go wide. Tricksy Turbine Hobbits. I swim away as fast as I can, but soon realize there is no pursuit. Breathing a sigh of relief I continue onward.

I have to swim around a lot. I can’t find a way up, I skipped an early stairway out so I could scout out the fortress, but now I’m just swimming around. I actually find my quest objective this way, a prisoner who needs to be freed, but I can’t get to him. He’s on a boat. I’m Nemo.

I circle around and find an escape, then backtrack toward the boat. I find a bridge to get over there but a guard has a very short patrol route on the other side, the timing is important, because there’s also a guard on this side with a longer route. I keep worrying about aggro and yup, I aggro them both because I wait too long.

Suddenly, not only have I aggro’d two guards, but each has spawned another Dourhand. I’m not sure what the deal is, but I think there’s at least 4 maybe 5 of these guys and I doubt I can take them all, so I run. I run like the cowardly dwarf I am straight for the prisoner hoping upon hope that the quest completes when I talk to him.

The quest did not complete when I talked to him.

At first I think, oh that’s okay, 2 vs 4 or 5 isn’t so bad. Then another patrol guy gets aggro’d and he doesn’t spawn anything, but the quest dude does, a mini-boss.

I’m the fuck out, peace.

Rats leaving a sinking ship. I jump in the water, because they don’t follow you in the water, right? Wrong. All of these guys jump in after me except the mini-boss who moments later, kills the friendly npc. Moments pass and I think I’m going down too if these guys don’t stop chasing me.

The instance resets. Lucky break. Now knowing where I have to go and what I have to do, I jump back in again and finish it off within minutes. All in all one of the more fun moments I’ve had in LOTRO so far.

Compare that to my immediately following experience of having to quest in the same non-instanced area. I was trying to snag treasure boxes inside the fort. Tricky business because for the most part it’s very easy to aggro more than one mob. I’m in there killing away, I only have 2 more to get. Suddenly 2 guys run up behind me having followed my path of killed midgets. They head straight for the treasure box I’m after. I’m stuck killing stuff while they’re taking advantage. Fun times.

A Road Through The Dark

May 4, 2010 at 3:14 am | Posted in Lord of the Rings Online, mmorpg | 6 Comments
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The One Ring

Well when I’m not deluding myself about the oncoming revolution and socialist agenda of Guild Wars 2’s future loot system, I’ve been playing Lord of the Rings Online.  The games been out for 3 years, but I picked it up in a sale thanks to MMOGC for about 10 bucks.

It was a painful download. It may be P2P but holy crap was it slow.

Being that it has been out for about 3 years, my usual nickname was taken on both servers I tried. I tend to use the same alias over and over, but sometimes it’s too common or as with Guild Wars, they force you to have two names. Growl.

To start out I went with an Elf, figuring I’d change it up as soon as I knew the game better. I’ve played plenty of elves, so I figured I’d either play a Dwarf or a Hobbit, but if I’m just testing things out, I’d get the Elves out of the way.

The customization is well done I suppose. I like the range of faces, hair, colors, whatever. Plus you can dictate your past to a greater extent, with a wide range of possible areas you can be from. From the Iron Hills to the Blue Mountains. There’s a mini-intro for each race, fairly well done with a nice voice over. The tutorial has back-story and history, which is an improvement on most tutorials.

It does look pretty good too. I like the character graphics and the npcs, the creatures, the landscapes. I don’t think it necessarily has to be such a huge distance between towns, the landscape ends up being a little stretched out. I wrote up about a quarter of this post while traveling between towns.

I did most of the introductory stuff up until about level 7 on the Elf, and it was okay. I can’t say it was spectacular or challenging. In fact I’ve leveled a Dwarf up to level 10 now and nothing has even come close to killing me.

The quests were almost immediately into the kill ten rats territory where I didn’t even read the quest text. It would be nice to feel a little more involved than that, but where are there quests that don’t give you that feeling? I think it’s a trademark problem of just about every MMO.

Some of the quests could be a little more specific. They usually give you a good idea of where to go, but I’m told to look for an NPC just outside Thorin’s Hall, so I look around the proximity for a while only to figure out it’s a bit further than just outside. It’s down by the court, so why didn’t they say court? I don’t know. I’m told to fix the canal inside the hall, I go to the canal I swim in the canal, I walk around the canal, no cracks to fix in the canal. It’s underneath the canal where I have to go. So say that.

One problem I’ve been having is I virtually always feel disorientated. Maybe that’s because I’m new, or maybe there aren’t enough landmarks to go by. Up is down, left is right, I get turned around a lot even with constant use of the map. I don’t think the landscapes are intuitive.

I like how I have a lot of inventory from the very beginning. I think the npc merchants are well done, with fine menu’s. Most of the functional stuff is pretty good. Maybe there’s a few too many menu’s but I’ll get used to it.

Anyway these are just initial impressions. I haven’t even had any real contact with other human beings yet, other than to share my distress with another person who couldn’t find the cracks in the canal. I can’t say anything has particularly impressed me, but in most games I’d be disappointed with something by now. The different classes look impressive, the overall storyline I’m digging. There’s a lot of things going for LOTRO on my first couple days.

Lord of the Zings

May 1, 2010 at 2:28 am | Posted in Lord of the Rings Online, mmorpg | 5 Comments
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Hobbit Love

It took me so long to download the Lord of the Rings Online, by the time I finally got to play, Gandalf the Grey had turned white!


Gee I wonder if I can get the name Legolas?


It’ll be the 4th Age before I finish downloading this thing!


I hope I get to play an original and creative race!


I hope I don’t end up liking this game as much as Sam likes Frodo!


I bet Longbows are less wooden than Orlando Bloom’s acting!


At least it’s a lot cheaper than the doors to Minas Tirith!


Yeah I’m waiting around for the download to finish, and yes I was going for the 60’s Batman sound effects.

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