Sorry Frodo

lotro [The Lord of the Rings Online™: Shadows of Angmar™] Barring unexpected change, I will not be pre-ordering, which in this case means that I am never subscribing.

Discussion about LOTRO seems to revolve around three points.

  1. How much is LOTRO like WoW? To me, similar enough that if I want to play YAFMMORPG, I can play the better polished one.
  2. How true is LOTRO to Tolkien? I care more about the quality of the game, since I have never dreamt of playing a side quest while Frodo goes to Mordor.
  3. Wow, lifetime subscription rate! This is perhaps the biggest topic of chatter I have seen, and that is a bad sign. You want people to be talking about fun or revolutionary gameplay or breathtaking visuals, not pricing plans.

Another extended discussion follows the break, without major revision to my previous post. If you like EQ or WoW but want a new one, pre-order at take the $10/month until you go to the next new thing.

Good Things

I already said some nice things about LOTRO, so let me focus on what is new and interesting, rather than YAFMMORPG. It is something new. Any novel version of an MMO can hold your attention for a while, so there are new things to see and new systems to learn. If novelty excites you, here is a batch. It has adopted some good ideas from other games.

The Shire is a great zone. It captures the spirit of hobbits and has a different sort of gameplay with a more interesting variation on courier quests. You can level off delivering mail and pies for quite a while. It is pastoral splendor.

I love the deed log. It gives you a list of things to do and places to visit in each zone, with small incentives to do so. As a lover of City of Heroes badges, this is a great way to do something similar. Organizing it by zone is a good thing, rather than CoX’s unmanageably huge lists.

Conjunctions are a fun combat mechanic. It adds another reason to group, it gives the debuffer another tool, and it encourages group coordination. It is an entirely positive surprise in combat, like getting a pull on a slot machine that pays out from “nice bonus” to “wtfpwn.”

You can really use instruments, meaning that you pick what notes to play. Compose your own in-game music!

Monster play is an interesting idea. Balance will be delicate here, along with the differing populations that have access from the creep and freep sides, but the experiment is worth doing. PvP is perfectly consensual, contained in its own zone. At level 10 you can be a full participant, at least on the monster side. Monsters have their own quests, resources, and treadmills. Monster play can benefit your normal characters. Because of the open beta cap, the PvP zone will be solidly claimed by villainous forces by the time the heroes arrive, with a massive horde of monsters that will dim as the heroes increase their own numbers. That is really harsh for early battles, but it feels right.

It is Tolkien IP, and it is nice to see various things from the books like the Prancing Pony.

There is a huge map for future development. Some people think the lifetime subscription means that Turbine thinks the game will die within a few years, but the space for ongoing updates is large enough to carry us through an entire generation of MMOs.

Lifetime subscription! Woo!

Bad Things

I feel weak. I rarely fight significant foes, but I fight a lot of bears, boars, and bugs. I fight them one at a time, at risk of my life. I am too used to fighting gangs and hordes in CoX and EVE, so it is hard to go back to fighting one spider. Also, I am stuck in the mindset that a few level-minus-four enemies should not be a threat while solo, and elites like that annoy me. I said this in my original comments, but re-balancing weakened the characters after that.

I feel slow. I run slowly and I cannot get a horse until level 35, despite being able to afford it at level 17 (pre-economy rebalancing). I can borrow a horse from a stable for defined routes, but even that does not feel terribly fast, and I don’t know which ones are bugged and go cliffdiving. Again, spoiled by CoH.

I feel plain. To complete the “spoiled by CoH” trio, I look like every other dwarf. I look a little different from someone of some other classes, but equipment does not do a lot to make me look unique. Adjusting my hair color and nose shape is not enough anymore. Even the different races do not look that much different, especially since I am going to be staring at the backside of a cloaked humanoid for my entire time in-game.

Crafting is a cash sink, not a serious part of the game. The products are useful in too few instances and the materials are too expensive. Crafted goods are inconvenient, expensive, and level-restricted. Quest rewards are a constant stream of manna for doing what you were going to do anyway. It might be worth buying a crafted weapon if there is no good quest weapon in your level range, but most of your damage is coming from your abilities anyway. For farmers and cooks, seeds cost more than fruit and ingredients cost more than prepared food.

You cannot expect the crafters to sell everything to players. Balancing your crafter economy around that is like expecting the PCs to level entirely from PvP. Oh, they can get xp from NPCs? Great, we need crafting xp from NPCs too, which means having something we can grind and at least break even. Won’t that lead to crafters who are cut off from the world and not part of the social sphere? Every game has been striving to be more solo-friendly, and you are worried about the blacksmiths soloing? You can build that game, but this is not it. Ask EVE how to set up a dynamic player economy.

We have Tolkien’s IP, and half my quests are to kill ten rats or whatever? Wait, sorry, one quarter are to kill ten rats and another quarter are to bring back ten rat tails. That only feels cheaper when you are using the fundamental literature that spawned D&D and its diku descendents. You are already sending me into the rat lair to find the golden rat head, where I will inevitably kill ten rats, so how about we increase that reward and not clutter the game?

The game does not score highly on the wife-o-meter. My wife played for a few hours, thought her elf was ugly, and moved on to more important things she has to do. If she were interested, I would pre-order two copies today, slam down $500, and have a game we can play together for life. Heck, she might be interested if she were not so busy, but she would need to put in some work. The game did not immediately bring her in and sell itself.

For my part, it is a bad sign when I have free access to LOTRO but am instead playing Eternal Lands and flash-based tower defense. I played for a week or two and tried out all the early content, filed quite a few bug reports, and lost the urge to log in again.

: Zubon

8 thoughts on “Sorry Frodo”

  1. Fair enough. Your faults are valid. I won’t dispute that. I will dispute however that people are talking about the subscription plan the most… I think that’s been replaced by music lately. Besides the Deed Log, I think it may be the best thing they added to the game.

    It certainly is YAFMMORPG. But I don’t see many more polished than this one, and I’m sick of WoW and EQ2’s too old to jump into and feel worthwhile. LotRO will do for me for a good while.

    Curious though, what think you on AoC, WAR, Gods and Heroes, and Tabula Rasa, even Spellborn? All of them seem to have some genuine ingenuity with the game systems. Any you’re particularly looking forward to?

  2. Well, pretty much my thoughts too. My wife just has no interest in it and therefore it is not likely to get purchased. I tried, she tried. I really wanted to like this game. I had some fun, but most of it was “different game” fun and not “different gameplay” fun. I’ll still keep my eye on it up until release, but I don’t expect anything to change. Lifetime subscription is tempting but it would be for any new game – it’s like gambling. Take a chance, you just might come out ahead and be smart. Take a chance, you just might be the sucker that is born every minute.

    I thought you wrote “Dead Log” and I was confused.

  3. Well put. I find this much more accurate to the feeling of the game than your first p/review. I hope you notice that most of things you dislike are things that make LotRO a non-clone of WoW. I have always stated that LotRO stole some ideas from WoW, but failed to even steal them properly. They took good ideas and heaped garbage on them. In the end, the game feels like WoW for the first two hours of gameplay at the most and then you suddenly realize that LotRO is missing that “fun factor”. Then you start noticing how boring the game gets.

    If you are a fan of the books it really only takes a day to get disgusted with LotRO. To see dozens of hobbits smacking down wolves… To see Loremasters casting fireballs… /spit

  4. JoBildo:
    We may be looking for The Lord of the Rings Online™: Shadows of Angmar™ chatter in different places. Do you mean in-game? I was thinking of our assorted friends in the blogroll, although I saw hour-long discussions of “I am so pre-ordering. Lifetime subscription! Woo! WoW sucks!” “no hobits suck” “no u suk” “Guys, can you take it to PMs?” “shut up u suck” *Ahem.*

    I don’t know what I am looking forward to. I suppose that means I am not looking forward to anything, but mostly it represents ignorance. I do not know what is on the horizon. The game of my dreams may be on deck, but I don’t know enough about the upcoming crop to see it. There is nothing that all my friends are gung-ho about and waiting to start. Age of Conan looks interesting for city building, but it and Warhammer are both PvP-heavy systems, and I have never been a big PvPer. Maybe I could try it, just jump radically in a new direction. It is healthy to try new things.

    Heartless:
    I am not sure how much of my “Bad Things” list is “WoW done badly.” The first half is “this is not CoH.” You still do mostly one-on-one fighting in WoW, I don’t recall running much faster, and your appearance options are still limited, although more diverse because of the more diverse racial appearances. I cannot speak intelligently on WoW crafting, but I thought it was a cash sink below the top levels as well; it is in most games. And WoW failed on the wife-o-meter, too, although the blood elf are passed it. She tried the dwarf area to start, which was barren and cold, almost exactly like the The Lord of the Rings Online™: Shadows of Angmar™ dwarf/elf starter area…which may have contributed to The Lord of the Rings Online™: Shadows of Angmar™’s failure on the wife-o-meter. She would find the horde’s undead unpleasant as well.

    I will say that WoW did better with its early quests, even its early “kill ten rats” quests; doesn’t WoW have the tech whereby the quest loot drops for everyone in the group? In The Lord of the Rings Online™: Shadows of Angmar™, if you have a quest to kill ten rats, grouping makes it go faster, but if the quest is to find ten rat tails, you need to kill at least forty rats for your group of four. Having the rat tail magically drop for everyone at once gets around that insane rat grind.

    I can understand your sentiment, but I do not share your vehemence. Then again, I don’t even play WoW, so I can only get so passionate about how they “failed to even steal them properly.”

  5. I have it preordered and will probably play it when it hits live. I’ll keep it under watch for a reasonable amount of time (how long, I don’t know). Zubon’s concerns pretty much echo my own, more or less, so we’re in agreement.

    I really would love to see Turbine working on those bad points, but I’m afraid what we see from this end as ‘bad points’, from the other side they are ‘design decisions’ most of them. So unfortunately I’m not holding my breath. The most common concerns raised – a bit bland, worthless crafting, etc… are not something that can simply be patched away. I doubt Turbine even has the intention to patch them away, if they could. That’s how they made their game, I guess.

    So I’ll play it once it goes live, but I can already see it not holding much of my attention if some time passes and I don’t see any concrete improvement in those ‘problem areas’.

    Or maybe I play it for a month and then suddenly stumble upon ‘the fun’ that Turbine kept hidden somewhere. Who knows.

  6. Good observations. Basically, it was a cool game idea, nice design, with some cool features, that I never actually enjoyed playing. And their take on LoTR was just frustrating for me.

    “So wait, where we headed Gandalf?” …oh, I’m not invited on the Big Adventure? …ok kill some rats… to help the Nine overthrown the forces of evil…? …ok, i’ll be killing rats over here, just holler if you need a hand with the Balrog… oh you got it covered? ok, cool… i guess…”

  7. “I will say that WoW did better with its early quests”

    WoW alliance quests are better, WoW horde quests suck until level 30, it’s all kill 10 , or 20, or 30 of this or that. Blood elves they did slightly better on I hear, but I couldn’t make it past lvl 5.

    I’ll start the beta friday, we’ll see how it goes. I don’t expect it to be a huge change. It does seem more RP friendly. And crafting is a concern but it’s so early, and with the level cap, it seems like something that there is plenty of opportunity to fix. They’ve already made several patches to crafting drops and materials.

    And I’m sure delivering pies will be quite charming the first time or so. :)

    So much of the complaints (not your post Zubon but people like Heartless and most everyone else) is about *preference* not about the game itself. Really i don’t care about other people’s preferences, nor should they care about mine. It’s not like wow/too much like wow/doesn’t have this part of the book/has too many famous characters too soon. really who cares? Just tell me what it does have, and I’ll decide for myself it it’s what I want. Don’t gripe and whine at me about your preferences or that you love the books more than me that means your opinion should mean something. I’m really tired of reading that crap. It’s all over the lotro boards. If you don’t like their vision don’t play. Pretty simple.

    As part of my job is organizing software beta tests and usability tests, if you have faults with the game play, like Zubon mentions, that indeed is worthy of discussion, and in fact the reason for the Beta itself. Not to give opinions, but to rate how successful they are at what they are trying to achieve.

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