LoTRO tries too hard

While I’ve been nuttily busy, a friend passed me a 10-day trial code for LoTRO. I had mentioned previously that this is pretty much the only major MMORPG I hadn’t played, and so I felt I had to give it a try. Summary: It’s a decent game, but it tries too hard to please too many people, and thus ends up leaving some wanting.

I realize LoTRO has been out for a while, so I’m not breaking any new ground here, but for those who are sitting on the fence, unhappy at WoW’s direction, perhaps I can help you decide.

LoTRO’s graphics are back to normal, compared to WoW’s, which are, let’s face it, cartoony and often somewhat silly. Yes, I like them too. I’ve enjoyed the irreverent style they have with gear, and the pop culture references. LoTRO is about, well, LoTR. The swords look like swords, the staves look like a staff, and the armor looks like something someone might have actually worn on a day other than Halloween. I can see a Fan Fair for them looking like a RenFair gathering.

Performance-wise, on my year old, top-of-the-line at the time machine, it occasionally gets choppy. I hear, well read, lag complaints constantly. About once a day I’ve ended up having to run down a particular street twice, since it’s looped me back. That said, for the most part, this only happens in very busy areas, like around the map (for you WoW people, that’s their Hearthstone) save spots. All buildings are instanced, which struck me as odd, but I guess it’s a cheap way to improve performance. The 50 or so people in their AH will not lag out the people directly outside at a travel point, which is good.

Trade skills are different – kind of like a combination of what I remember DAoC’s to be (at release, I’ve not been back since then) and EQ1’s, and use a WoW menu style. Most of their UI is almost a direct copy of WoW’s UI in fact, so people coming from WoW will have no issue with it. Trade skills have levels, and thus far I’ve enjoyed them, but I’ve found them to be fairly expensive to level with very little profitability thus far. From what I’ve read, profitability has been coded out a few times already. The expectation is that the player economy will generate the cash. At lower levels, it doesn’t.

Where LoTRO falls down is its quest system. Again, it’s a direct copy of WoW’s quest methodology, with rings instead of exclamation points. There are a lot of gathering quests, so if you hated those in every other game, you’ll hate them here. There are, however, tons and tons of group quests. Far too many.

Let’s face it, WoW brought in players who never played MMORPG’s before, and a lot of them solo. I solo usually, because I tend to log in for an hour when I have time, and my mind’s picture of “a group” is still fixed in EQ1’s idea of get a bunch of people and go grind something for a few hours. What LoTRO has is tons of group quests, and not enough people to do them. People will join for a single quest and not want to help you with another. Not always, but it’s the norm. The looking for fellowship (group) channel is constant spam of someone looking for help on a quest. Non-stop. To me, that’s an indication of failure. If I cannot possibly progress without help, and there is no help available, then that’s a critical failure.

On the subject of critical failures, they had an almost “EQ1 Alchemy” moment over the past two weeks with their major storyline quests being broken by their patch. The quest end boss would continually repop and not die, thus not allowing progress. Allegedly a GM could push you forward, but this did not happen for me, despite waiting three hours for a GM. EQ1 level customer service too.

The quest system should not have so many group quests, plain and simple. Some, certainly, and the Epic ones, ones that are basically telling the tale of the books in your eyes, definitely. Every chain they have seems to end in a group quest, which is just silly. It seems like they were trying to cater to the casual and the group player at the same time, and failing. The casual player does not want to have to group for any progress.

Requiring grouping was EQ1’s albatross, and should be shed. Having a series that require a group is fine, and having some quests that require a group is a good idea. I’m not opposed to that. Ideally, some grouping happens before you set foot in an end-game instance. These days, it seems like most people are “casual”, in that they look to solo at least part of the time. A successful catering to this will allow your game to really take off. History has proven that.

On a very positive note, their classes are mostly fun. They do not fit the strict healer/tank/CC that longtime players are used to. Each class can do a primary role well, and often can function adequately as a backup other. The pet classes are handled differently than I’ve ever seen, which surprised me. The trait and deed system would take pages to explain, but it’s an extremely interesting way to handle class balance and creation. Kudos to them for trying some new stuff. You’ll still get min/maxers, but there’s plenty of room to try stuff, without losing class functionality. Think WoW’s talent trees taken to another level.

In closing, I played it for a few days and found it to be a nice game. There was a coupon on their website for an extra 30 days of free play that I added to my account, should I want to give it a bit more of a chance, which I likely will. Hopefully once the ol’ RL calms down I can get back to raiding with my WoW guild as well, but for those 3am one hour gaming fixes, I might wander around Middle Earth a bit.

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Jaded old gamer, and father of gamers, who's been around long enough. Still, he's always up for giving the Next Big Thing a whirl.

44 thoughts on “LoTRO tries too hard”

  1. “The quest system should not have so many group quests, plain and simple.”

    Careful with that one, Oz. Lest you’re told to go play Oblivion or something.

    I kid, I keeeeed!

  2. Well, that’s a valid point. If I want to solo, why not play a single player RPG? I’ve tried. I have many. I have them for my DS, PS2, GameCube, and even my cell phone. It’s that contact, however fleeting with others that I crave – it makes the world “alive” for me. I’m not alone on this, crazy as it may be.

  3. I solo most of the time, but I generally get bored of single player RPGs. Why? Because the other people playing MMOs are a constant source of entertainment. Plus, it is nice to be able to group up when I can or want to. For me, as a mostly solo player, LotRO has been great. Sure I’m only level 18 now, but I’m in no hurry. I also have not touched the “book” quest lines. I’m still in the prologue. Have I missed something? Most certainly. But I really have not noticed.

    The setting, for me, is a HUGE draw to this game. With my 8800GTS video card, the game runs like a dream on “Very High”. The game looks incredible.

  4. “Well, that’s a valid point. If I want to solo, why not play a single player RPG? I’ve tried. I have many. I have them for my DS, PS2, GameCube, and even my cell phone. It’s that contact, however fleeting with others that I crave – it makes the world “alive” for me. I’m not alone on this, crazy as it may be.”

    See that’s the thing. I don’t think it’s a valid point.

    As the years passed I’ve become more and more of a defender of solo play (or at the very least the clear and solid ability to solo play) in MMOs, and the two most common responses I got were that I was either antisocial, or that I should go play a single player game if I craved playing solo so much.

    That’s a mistake.

    I think solo play has nothing to do with being antisocial. Ever since I can remember that I started playing these games I’ve been guilded. I had friends and in-game acquaintances outside of my respective guilds. I talked to people, I participated in community events, etc. However, when the time came and I decided that I wanted to ‘play the game’ (in a huge manner of speaking), that is, go out, take care of quests, grind, look for items, etc, I simply preferred to do it by myself. My play time is often limited (and it’s getting worse with time), and I’m most comfortable playing at my own speed. Which is faster than some people’s, and slower than some others’. I dislike it when other people waste my time just as much as I dislike it when I end up wasting other people’s time.

    That’s just the kind of player I am. I think there’s a time to be social and do all kinds of things if the game permits, which are necessary and part of the game, and there’s also a time to ‘take care of things’ game-wise. For that latter time, I prefer to be by myself. Without the burden of others, and not being a burden to anyone else. When I’m done? Yeah, we’ll get to the tavern and swap war stories all night long if I have the time. That’s great.

    If I had to sum it up, I’d say that it’s not that I mind the social part or the grouping part. I simply don’t like it when it’s in the way of player/character progress. Simple as that. That’s why forced grouping to me is a killer. And mind you, I say that after raiding regularly for almost a year, but then again that’s a different scenario. Very similar in concept, perhaps, but different in execution.

    I’m not anti-social, I’m anti-idiot and anti-time waste. The solution is not for me, or anyone else for that matter, to go play Oblivion. I want that shared space with other players. I want that social part to be there. Without it, it would be horrible. I just don’t want it in the way of my progress, that’s all.

    That’s why I think it’s not a valid point. At least for my mindset and my way of playing. ;)

  5. WoW has great art direction that hits on all cylinders. LotRO has a pretty hit or miss graphical style. Most of the character models are crap. The only thing that looks decent is the world, but put one of the bland character models against it and it breaks out rather quickly. That is something in WoW that doesn’t happen, everything works amazingly well together.

    Oh and WoW runs on my five year old gaming rig in the living room.

  6. I agree with Heartless_ on the character models. The elf race sucks. The hobbits mostly suck. The dwarf and human models are pretty good. My human loremaster and dwarf guardian look almost real. You’ll see them in the banner above on occasion. Because they look so close to perfect in the world, they are my favorite characters to play. So I’m going to say they have a 40/60 good/bad ratio. There are also races in WoW that look silly to me so I won’t say LotRO is alone in this. Of all the MMOs I have played, LotRO comes closest to feeling like a “real” virtual world to me. When I saw Weathertop for the first time I was awestruck. I am always finding places that cause me to stop and enjoy the setting.

  7. Hmm, what if we had a single-player offline RPG with fake people, like NPCs in random armor who were zipping around town ignoring you. Maybe have a script or something to run over a chat box in the corner. It would not even need to be a long script to seem real, since you could repeat “How do I…” and a whole “…sucks/is overpowered” debate every 45 minutes without hurting the verisimilitude.

  8. Zubon, would it randomly insert Chuck Norris jokes? If so, we’re set.

    Julian, want a trial key? I know I have one they mailed me somewhere…

  9. No, thanks Oz. I played it in beta, and then from launch until June/July.

    Nice game, but way too many quirks for me. Thanks for the offer though.

  10. You know, I’m mostly a solo gamer too. I like my surroundings quiet, to be personally challenged to defeat mobs myself – rather than zerg rush something with overwhelming DPS plus healing, and to be able to take my time to explore and pause and sidetrek off at whim.

    Waiting for random strangers who are unpredictable and rarely trustable annoys me. (Unless the game design makes it ‘entertaining’ and ‘low risk’ to quickly team up a la City of Heroes.)

    But I don’t really perceive LOTRO’s quest system to be ‘forced grouping.’

    Sure, there are quite a number of storyline quests where you would do best going through it as a group, but these are clearly marked as fellowship quests.

    A soloist has the option of choosing not to do them at all, or outleveling it until it turns light blue or grey, at which point, most are quite conceivable to defeat alone.

    From a purely solo perspective, I would love it too for selfish reasons if everything is completely soloable. But in that case, there would probably be little incentive to group up, and everyone would be off by their lonesomes…

    I think an MMO of necessity should ‘encourage’ but not force (as in railroad down one option or you can’t do anything worthwhile online – eg. original DDO, where you were pretty much limited to camping out in the lobby room of a town hoping to find a group) people to band together. Simply because it adds another layer of complexity when you have to start communicating with strangers to achieve a goal.

    I’ve had some memorable times (some good, some bad) with PUGs in LOTRO. The Great Barrows is an instance that’s really something – though it does suck up 2 hours of time easily – and quite easily accessible to newbies (their first exposure to an LOTRO non-storyline instance, really.)

    Then there was a quest in Evendim that had mob ambushes going to three places at once (and only 6 members allowed in your group.) That was also memorable. One PUG wiped once and immediately fractured. Another PUG kept at it gamely, and only first try resulted in a death. The other tries just ended up as objective failure. Eventually, through practice, we grew familiar with the spawns and won through. Again, a memorable experience.

    Just not necessarily repeated ad nauseam like Guild War’s storyline quests. There was no actual NEED to do that quest in LOTRO. I could have ignored it and gone to do a hundred other things. I was just in the area, and had the quest on my ‘to-do someday’ list, and someone broadcast for a team, and everything fell into place.

    Personally, I like LOTRO’s ‘something for everyone’ attitude. It’s too bad if it turns off the extremes (extreme hardcore raider, hardcore pvp’er, hardcore soloist, etc.)… True, you can never please everyone, but you can at least try and make parts of the game appeal to different personalities, or not step over their concerns and crush them totally like the rat race monstrosity that is end-game raiding WoW.

    Imo, for people who take things at a casual pace, don’t mind branching out to different flavors of gaming styles now and then, and want to be immersed in LOTR lore and are along for the ride to discover various places in Middle-Earth, it works.

  11. The Barrows has really turned me off to PuGs, although I’ve learned to dread them from WoW. I don’t get why so many groups explode after a wipe. It happens, and unless you’re being dragged through by a high level, it’s semi likely. You get up, rez, and move on.

  12. I won’t really address a lot of the stuff here although quite a bit of it is fair assessments, and some I disagree with immensily. I’ve been working on a very extensive review of the Game for a few months, but I am holding off until I reach the level cap to formulate the final review.

    I will say I am having a tech issue right now that is losing them a 1/2 a star on their review score every week they can’t get it fixed…

  13. Morrowind and Oblivion each bored me after a few months of play. Without the online aspect advancement becomes meaningless after the main storyline. After a few dozen runs through dungeons and quests, the rest of them simply become more of the same.

    Now, I always play solo in MMO’s. Even in the original EQ, which was not by any means solo friendly, I played almost entirely solo. I wasn’t the least bit anti-social. I spent most of my time soloing and chatting to guildmates during down time. I spend a great deal of time mastering every tradeskill, or just sitting around in EC (auction zone) making a profit buying and selling. The player community of an MMO gives the rest of the game meaning.

    As an aside, if anyone has a trial key collecting dust for LoTRO, I’ve been looking to try it out and would appreciate the favor.

    As another, was I the only one who looked at Morrowind and Oblivion and thought “why wouldn’t they put this online?”? I know you couldn’t make an MMO out of it, but even just the capability for me to host a persistant world I could play in with a couple of friends would have increased the games replayability immeasurably.

  14. “I will say I am having a tech issue right now that is losing them a 1/2 a star on their review score every week they can’t get it fixed…”

    Are you getting the lockups/automatic hard reboots every time you play, Cyndre?

  15. Basically since they launched Book 10 I am getting Visual freezes about every 5 minutes that force me to quit game to fix, but am still able to chat, change camera angle use the UI, just not move or manipulate any objects. My wife is right next to me playing with no problems on a **slightly** better system.

    The geniuses at the tech department so far have come up with:

    1) Your drivers are outdated… (Thanks assholes, I’m sure thats the problem…)

    2) You have a corrupted file, re-install and repatch… (ok…)

    3) Turn off your sound while you play… (um… why? WTF is wrong with my sound card?)

    I pre-emptivly tried all of that on my own of course, because well, thats all quite obvious, and then I posted my DXdiag file and the only responce has been to try running with my sound off… So ya, apparently they have hired temps from Idiots4Hire.com, to run their tech support forums…

    No request for card heat tests, or crash reports or anything… I am a complete computer moron, and if I know more than they do, that is probably a bad sign.

    My most recent post was FIX THIS OR WE QUIT. Sad too because we are both having a lot of fun and are closing in on the level cap.

  16. “Basically since they launched Book 10 I am getting Visual freezes about every 5 minutes that force me to quit game to fix, but am still able to chat, change camera angle use the UI, just not move or manipulate any objects. My wife is right next to me playing with no problems on a **slightly** better system.”

    Hold up, let me see if I can visualize it, because we were having a similar problem here a while back.

    Are you talking about a complete graphical freeze? As in, no graphical updates whatsoever (basically staring at a screenshot), but you can hear the world still going on? Or is it more like your avatar getting physically “stuck” on any spot, and when you try to move it only takes 2-3 steps on any direction, and rubber-bands back to the stuck position? Unsolvable by mapping away?

  17. Actually, its me stuck completely, and the world going on around me. I can change camera angles, sound continues as normal, and I can chat, manipulate the UI etc…

    I even submitted a Help Ticket while frozen and the GM told me it was a tech problem and to content them via the tech support chanels.

    So its neither of the scenatiors you mentioned, but similar.

  18. One word to Heartless’ comment: “WOW runs on my five year gaming rig”: LOTRO does as well. I have a similar old machine (Athlon XP3200, Radeon 9800Pro, 1,5GB RAM, Win XP) and LOTRO ran fine with quite high settings – at least while I tried the open beta. Ofcourse, if I max out the graphics features, it won’t run smoothly anymore.

    This is no real showstopper, but yes, I will miss some niceties of this finely crafted landscape. But it is still well playable, contrary to Vanguard which wasn’t in any way fun on my crappy old machine.

  19. @Cyndre: We were getting the same issue on one of our computers and it was network related on my side. I moved the offending computer to a different port on the router and the problem went away. Not saying it is your problem, but figured I’d mention it.

    Try connecting directly without a router to check.

    Also, does it only happen when both of you are playing?

  20. Yup, I was gonna say the same as Ethic. Also check for packet loss whenever the incident happens.

  21. I can one-up ya, Dyardawen — my new gamer rig is dead while I await a new PSU, so I’m playing LOTRO with my old rig using an Athlon XP 1800 :D Runs perfectly fine on medium-ish settings, though it’s markedly ho-hum compared to everything maxed that I’ve been accustomed to on my new rig.

    As for the quests, I wouldn’t consider them “forced” grouping since you have an icon showing you if that quest is a group (fine, fellowship… Tolkien nerds begone!) quest or not so you can choose to skip it or not. I do think Turbine could go one step further and add an additional icon to let you know if the quest you is part of a quest chain or a standalone quest. At launch, most players hit a brick wall around level 35-ish where solo quests almost vanished and everything became fellowship quests. I think Book 9 raised this to 43-45 from what I’ve heard, and it stands to reason they’ll continue adding quests of all varieties for nearly all level ranges from here on out.

    I mostly solo in MMORPGs typically because of my whacky work days so I’m typically playing during the week in the morning and early afternoons when my friends are at work. But I’m not afraid to PUG either. Just depends on my mood. Some people are antisocial by nature and just want to play the game alone. Most soloers are social but just prefer to not have to deal with the headaches that people (especially gamer people, especially needy/demanding gamer kids) cause. The expression “these multiplayer games would be great it if weren’t for all the other players” would apply here. Other people are very social and group for everything. Then there are those of us, like myself, who fall somewhere in between. In life, I value my “me” time — my time to myself to relax, to contemplate, whatever. I also value the time spent being social, both virtually and in person. The same applies in-game, sometimes I’m just not in the mood to group but I still might be social in chat. Other times I desperately want the extra dynamic that groups bring to the gameplay. I suspect I’m not alone in that.

    As for LOTRO trying to please too many… personally, I think that’s a good thing. Don’t pretty much all of the successful MMOs do this? WoW, EQ2, etc. all have soloability, all have leveling, all have crafting, all have venues for the RP crowd to do their thing, all have uber gear, dungeons and raids for that crowd to do their thing. Life, the Ultimate MMORPG, has something for everyone. If we truly want our MMORPGs to be virtual worlds then shouldn’t those virtual worlds also have something for everyone?

    Now if only we could move beyond the “violence solves all problems” mentality prevalent in nearly all MMOs… SWG was onto something with their Entertainers back in the day, my SWG guild had housewives who would sit in cantinas all day leveling their Entertainer skills and chatting to friends and strangers, buffing the combat-oriented players who visited, and never once going into combat themselves. There’s an entire non-combative demographic the genre has lost, not to mention the additional potential for roleplaying.

  22. Quick comment to Atar:
    There’s actually a free trial for LOTRO going on right now. Can probably google for it or just visit their website.

  23. The problem with LotRO’s Group Quests is that as you level, the even balance of Solo:Group starts to tip in favor of Group. In the early levels, there are far more solo quests than group, in the mid levels from the mid-20s on, there’s about an even keel of solo to group quests, but you never feel like you can’t progress questing solo. It’s in the mid to late 30s, even after the past 2 books, where I felt like the game was really trying to lead me to become a group player most of the time, and a solo player only seldom.

    That might be fine and dandy for some folks, but I’m the opposite. I like to solo most of the time, and group occasionally. I do not think I’m alone here.

  24. Talyn: Yours is a good point. I think these games should have something for everyone.

    One of the problems I had with the game was ultimately how soft and inconsequential everything in it was. Maybe trying to please everyone is possible to a degree as long as your design goes strongly into the different areas you want it to go. I never felt this design going strongly into anything (other than visual quality, which is excellent in itself, but that’s hardly gameplay).

    I’m not saying everything you avatar does, gets or creates should be important and have far-reaching consequences because there’s no possible design that can hold that. However, the other extreme of that is that nothing your avatar does, gets or creates ultimately matters, small-scale or big-scale, which is pretty terrible.

    Maybe trying to please everyone is fine, but I never felt the game even tried hard at this.

  25. Julian: I don’t think I’ve felt that way in any game, ever. Perhaps in old SWG days but I doubt it even then. I read (or hear, in the case of podcasts) some of you praising MMORPGs because they’re a dynamic world, blah blah, yadda yadda. No, they aren’t yet. Everything is static, everything respawns. The only thing dynamic is the gear people wear day to day.

    After I retired from WoW, I swore off fantasy MMOs but by the time LOTRO came along I decided perhaps I’d be ok subscribing to a single traditional fantasy MMO, then anything I did would be non-traditional. In LOTRO I found a game with a (mostly) more mature community and a great virtual world where it was actually ok to just “be” for a change. I don’t feel pressured to level, level, level, grind, grind, grind like I have in most other games. I’ll get to level cap when I get there. Sure, I’ll be more than happy to raid again but I’m sure as hell not going to go back into the hardcore 24/7 raid, raid, raid mentality. As I said, I love the fact that it’s perfectly fine to just “be,” to just have my avatar exist in that world and I’m free to pretty much do whatever I’m in the mood for without worrying about leveling up.

    It’s also very cool getting into an MMO just prior to launch and sticking with it to watch it grow and evolve. It sounds like Turbine really listens to the community so I’d say the fellowship vs. solo quest numbers should balance out eventually. I’ve read articles from Turbine saying they really want to make more things for your avatars to make you more unique and deepen the character development experience. It also sounds like they’re looking at some of what WAR is doing and will be LOTRO-izing some of those concepts too, so all in all, I’m looking forward to what LOTRO will become as well as enjoying what it is now.

  26. “I love the fact that it’s perfectly fine to just “be,” to just have my avatar exist in that world and I’m free to pretty much do whatever I’m in the mood for without worrying about leveling up.”

    Ah, but that’s a quality of *you*, not of the game. If you are so inclined you can take that mindset and approach and apply it to whatever game you play.

    I’ll be the first to admit that such an approach ‘works’ better in some games and not so much in others. This is another way of saying that there are some games that reward progress more than others.

    Much of what we call ‘forced’ nowadays is nothing like forced. WoW doesn’t ‘force’ its players to level anymore than LOTRO ‘forces’ them to group at some point. What we’re erroneously describing as ‘forced’ is simply the path of less resistance towards the primary enjoyment of the game (and that’s such a relative thing Einstein is spinning right now). To me, a game that ‘forced’ you to level would be a game that gave you timeframes in which to gain a level or you either lose the chance of leveling for (n) time or your avatar is destroyed or some other stupid thing like that.

    I don’t doubt for a second that you’re enjoying the game, as I don’t doubt that others on the same boat are enjoying it as well. I don’t think you’re playing the game ‘wrong’ for not wanting to level, or not feeling pressured to level to ‘keep up’ and the usual litany of maladies. Not at all. What I kind of have some problems with (and this is my problem, and mine alone) is attributing this mindset to the game itself, or assuming the game somehow creates this feeling of not feeling the need to progress, or “it’s better the less you play it”. I think it’s the players that changed, not the game.

    In fact, I commend you all for enjoying the game, and making the most out of a failure of design ;)

  27. I think you’ve nailed one of the main appeals of LOTRO for me. Not sure if it’s the culture of a community that has gotten tired of rat-race WoW, or the game design or both, but LOTRO caters very well to immersion-seekers. It’s ok to just “be.” To exist in a world steeped in the lore of Tolkien, to stop and poke around at interesting scenery, and putter around taking one’s time.

    Hardcore grinders have just ground ground ground their way to endgame and realized after a bunch of spiffy new titles that there’s nothing much there besides PvP and a raid or two. Then they get bored and go somewhere else. Basically ground themselves out of existence in LOTRO.

    I like the implicit ‘lesson’ in the game. That it’s okay to stop and smell the roses. Whereas in WoW, the lesson there seems to be: you better keep up with the Joneses or keep aspiring to, anyhow.

    I’m puzzled by complaints of softness and inconsequentiality. I wonder if it’s because we’re just too used to a certain gradient of power scaling. A very sharp one? I tried out the free trial of WoW a week ago, and was quite amazed that even in the newbie zones, the next weapon I got practically doubled in DPS. In fact, I was pretty much railroaded towards the next best armor, the next best weapon (melee and ranged) for my level. There wasn’t much significant choice between weapons. I was a hunter, so I couldn’t use anything else but one-handed axes, only one of which was on sale in that town in that level range, and ditto for bows. Mail was better than leather better than cloth. Pick the best that you are allowed to wear.

    Very soon, I was no longer amazed by looking at the skill trainer and seeing rank 8 skills that did thousands of damage apiece, because I just extrapolated my DPS doubling exponentially every few levels or so.

    WoW can get away with this because its style is exagerrated and cartoony, so it’s perfectly reasonable to do thousands of damage at lvl 70 while doing 20 damage at lvls 1-5. But I’m not sure every game should do this.

    In City of Heroes, after ‘enhancement diversification,’ you’re basically limited to a maximum doubling in power rate (close to 100% improvement) of various types – damage, recharge, etc.

    In Guild Wars, the amount of damage and certain effects depend on how high you’ve got the required attributes, though I’m not sure how much they increase. I’m almost certain it’s not an exponential scaling but a linear one though.

    In LOTRO, the improvements are on a lower scale, but it’s the cumulative effect of it all that makes a Guardian’s hp higher than everyone else’s, and so on. It’s not as visible as some games, but it is there. But this softness also allows playstyle to have an effect. Gear is not so astoundingly important that it automatically overrides what kinds of skills you’re using, what sorts of cumulative stuff you’ve stacked by eating food, etc. In fact, comparative level seems to play a larger role. Light blue and green stuff seem to get hit more, and be unable to hit back as much, etc.

    Story-wise, sure, you’re ‘behind the scenes’ rather than the main players but they’re doing a pretty nice job of making you important between the chapters of Tolkien’s book. While Aragorn was busy dragging a bunch of hobbits to Weathertop and Rivendell, a whole bunch of rangers were helping to keep the forces of Shadow at bay, and you get to be the star of that side story. And when Aragorn needed his sword reforged, for the purposes of the game at least, you get to represent him and go get the jewel for Narsil.

    (In one light, you could look on it unfavorably as being his errand boy, but in another light you could say that Aragorn was being a wuss and needed someone to do it right – because he got seriously told off and rejected by a certain NPC when he was much younger and also looking for the jewel. :) )

  28. Jeromai: Yes, the Epic Book quests I also enjoy very much. You can’t truly be a hero in an MMORPG because you’re “just another” hero in an ocean of heroes. But with quests of this type and presentation, you and your group can be heroes and the “stars of the show” for a time. That’s also something I love about the Guild Wars (not an MMO) series.

    Julian: You’re right, it is me with that mindset not the game. But some games pull that off better than others. Some not at all. I’d often do the same thing in WoW but make no mistake, as Jeromai pointed out, whether I chose to actively level or grind rep or grind whatever else, that nagging “gotta keep up!” sensation was always there. In LOTRO it isn’t there at all. Even the level up swirl and sound effects are less pronounced than WoW’s solar flare glow or EQ2’s “You’ve gained a level!” marquee. It just doesn’t matter as much, and for me, it’s a nice change of pace. Powergamers suck, period, but I just could never grasp why anyone would powergame a brand new game. There’s only so much content, and very little “end-game” content in any brand new release, so all powergamers accomplish is powergaming themselves back to Best Buy to drop another $50 on the next flavor of the month MMO.

  29. Jeromai:

    “I like the implicit ‘lesson’ in the game. That it’s okay to stop and smell the roses. Whereas in WoW, the lesson there seems to be: you better keep up with the Joneses or keep aspiring to, anyhow.”

    I’ll say it once, and never again because I get sticks thrown at me every time: Both smelling the roses and getting to level cap after a week are bad. Not “bad” as in “oh, you’re playing the game wrong if you’re too slow or too fast”. People ultimately play the game however they want. But I do think every player has an internal clock of sorts and an intrinsic speed of going through content, regardless of the game. Without going to the extremes of smelling the roses or devouring content, every player has an internal speed that falls more or less in between those two.

    What I mean by ‘bad’ is that both the overclocking and underclocking of this natural speed (whichever speed it is for different players), is the player sort of artificially adjusting himself to the play the game in a way that wouldn’t be the natural way he’d play it. For whatever reason. Both powerlevelers and smellers have their reason, and they’re valid to them. I’m not disputing the validity of those reasons. It does however strike me as odd to see players playing games at unnatural speeds. Maybe there’s more psychology here than I’d like to deal with, but in the end both are losing propositions for most people.

    “I’m puzzled by complaints of softness and inconsequentiality. I wonder if it’s because we’re just too used to a certain gradient of power scaling. A very sharp one?”

    I don’t know if it’s very sharp one. I’d love to find the happy medium so we can take any game, match it to that and see where it falls, but that’s probably a bitch to figure out and I don’t know if it’d even have a point.

    My own complaints of softness and inconsequential stuff with LOTRO are really simple. I’m not a min/maxer. I don’t look much at the numbers on things, and I really don’t go very much out of my way to find all the paths of least resistance to stuff. With things like these, I suppose I do it much more organically.

    Example, suppose I find a new weapon, or learn a new skill. Sure, I’ll look at the numbers to have a relative idea of difference with the old stuff. But I mainly ask myself things like “Do I notice the difference?”, “Is this new thing making my job any easier?”, “Does this new thing let me do something different?”, “In addition to all that, is this new thing ultimately fun?”

    The problem I had from the get go with LOTRO is that itemization, stats, virtues and deeds are so held back and timid that very rarely I found an item that passed those questions, or gained a virtue that passed those questions, etc. I knew I was making progress but since it wasn’t at all evident, ironically enough, I *had* to see the difference in the numbers, because otherwise I could not appreciate it.

    Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m like the Vienese audiences that Salieri mentioned, that needed a big ‘boom’ at the end of the opera so they knew when to clap. But hey, if that’s the case, didn’t work for me. There was no boom.

    In spite of all that, I would’ve been willing to forgive some of those timid things if they ended up being fun, or at least nice to watch. But I hardly ever found something really fun, and the less we talk about the visual quality of wearables and models, the better I think. I guess I can live with ugly things if they matter. And I can live with pretty things even if they don’t matter. But ugly/soft *and* largely irrelevant, no, that’s one gulp of kool aid too many for me.


    “There’s only so much content, and very little “end-game” content in any brand new release, so all powergamers accomplish is powergaming themselves back to Best Buy to drop another $50 on the next flavor of the month MMO.”

    Agreed. I just don’t believe for second that forcing oneself to smell the roses (not saying it’s your case, but it’s the conscious adjustment of speed I mentioned above) is the solution to anything. We may avoid all the maladies of powergaming, but we introduce a slew of new ones.

    Tell you one thing about powergamers, though, and I say this without taking anything from anyone else: They’re honest. Powergaming is what they do, and they’ll tell you that, and they want to do that. That’s what they’re there for.

    I’ve talked with many-a-smeller, even in my now ex-guild in LOTRO, that would happily tell you to stop and smell the roses as they handed you a bunch of daises, or begonias.

    “Oh, just pretend they’re roses for pete’s sake!”

    And, amongst other things, that’s why I think smelling the roses can be just as bad as powergaming. Because in the garden of every game, big or small as that garden might be, not all the flowers are roses and, furthermore, not all roses are the same color to all people.

    I read too much into these things, it’s 3:30am and I need to go to bed! ;)

  30. You really see the “trying to be different things to different people” in the endgame. In trying to make sure you can do things besides raid, they made the raid gear barely better, in many cases worse, than crafted gear. I am fine with that, but before at least the crafted gear was hard to create since you had to kill rare spawns, but that just brings up the problem of camping, so they made it easier. Now anyone can get the best crafted gear with a little bit of farming. Now there’s no reason to raid.

    I don’t mind that since I tried raiding in WoW, it was fun but not really my deal. But there are a lot of players that like it, and in trying to give both small and large group pve players what they want, they’ve given neither what they want. Of course this is a bigger issue that even affects WoW and has been hashed out again and again: balancing raid rewards vs small group rewards.

    Probably a big part of it is it’s an item centric game. Even though, as Julian points out, it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes between different items.

    Plus they just added reputation grinds. WTF?

    I find the best way to enjoy the game is to just “be” as was described above. To just hang out and role play. Dye my clothes. Luckily I have a good kinship so I can do the interesting group quests. But if you don’t, well you can still level and get good items but you can’t see some of the content.

    It’s nice for me since it seems they are focused on a lot of the areas I like. But for other types of players that’s not so good. Actually I get frustrated if I try to advance very far, or even level my crafting on my main in time to equip my alts, etc.

  31. @ Ethic and Julian: I tried a bunch of different things, but never that. Honestly though, I was so disgusted with the whole tech support process that I just cancelled our subscriptions.

    Why doesn’t their tech people ask me these things? Why didn’t they think of it? Not everyone is computer litterate… for instance I don;t even know what ‘packet loss’ means, so if they are in the business of designing games for people with broad and diverse expereince and understanding, they need to accept responsibility for assisting their customer base with tech problems related to their product. If they can’t, I choose not to buy.

    Sure, I could have had a network admin friend come over and fix it, but it isn’t his job to fix their game. I’m running three MMOs on the CPU/ network right now and NONE of them is even having a hiccup in the service.

    I would have waded through hell and wresteled an alligator to fix Warcraft in my heyday there, and I just didn’t have the will to fight for LotRO beyond the due dilligence I conducted. Maybe thats a design issue, or maybe I’m just a bit more jaded than I was a few years ago.

  32. Basically since they launched Book 10 I am getting Visual freezes about every 5 minutes that force me to quit game to fix

    I had that too for about 3-4 days after book 10. My character froze up but everything else was working. Sometimes I could run but not use actions, i’d see the dotted line appear around the icon in my hotbar but he’d never hit the mob.

    I thought I was going to have to quit too but eventually it went away, I didn’t do anything. I am on Vista with an nvidia 8600 card. (Actually EVE has a problem with certain sound cards from what I’ve read. )

    I still have some problems logging in though, sometimes it won’t let me saying it can’t connect to some data server. And my Comcast connection is really bad so I thought it might be that (sometimes nothing goes out but the comcast guys can talk to my cablemodem, my neighbor has the same problem).

    Hmm how can I check for packet loss?

  33. “Hmm how can I check for packet loss?”

    If I recall correctly (it’s been a month or two since I touched it), you should have an option under the Options menu to display latency and connection statistics. Cant remember the exact name right.

    If my memory serves me right, as you hover over the little connection icon you get after enabling that option if there’s any packet loss it should say there.

    Another option that *might* work (I’m not an expert at this) would be to ping the servers from a cmd prompt. Ping or traceroute should report if there’s packet loss? Right? Am I remembering this right?

  34. Ping will report packet loss, assuming you know the actual server IP of course.

    In LOTRO under Options -> UI Settings scroll down to the Panels section and the final entry is Show Connection Status in Alerts Panel. The Alerts Panel is where your notifications for new mail and Deed and Title accomplishments are displayed. Mouseover the Connection Status icon for latency, packet loss and network sent/received bps information.

    Julian: I don’t know that I’m a “smeller” in your sense of playing the game at a pace that is unnaturally slow for me otherwise. After canceling WoW I nearly gave up on MMO’s altogether for awhile but it’s a genre — or more to the point, it’s my ultimate hope for the genre — that I am very passionate about and believe in strongly. I simply no longer believe that I “need” to spend every waking moment in-game. Make no doubts about it, when I do decide to login to LOTRO I am focused on furthering my character somehow, be it actively getting xp for leveling, leveling a crafting vocation, or even going back to lower (grey) zones to grind out Deeds that I didn’t finish at the time. I’m also squarely in the Explorer category in Bartle’s Player Types so even though exploring *might* not accomplish something specific (sometimes it will by accident) for my character other than possibly some xp on the side from having to fight wandering mobs, finding new locations “just because I can” is fun and satiates that part of my appetite as a player, as an Explorer. Take the lake north of Bree-town, Nen Harn, for example. Very pretty area, large lake, waterfalls, etc. and some excellent harvesting nodes which are higher level/quality than found anywhere else in Bree-land. But I’ve only ever found two quests that would take anyone to that area and with so many quests to choose from, not many people wind up out there. The AC/AC2 crowd tells me that’s a very Turbine thing to do, making gorgeous areas to explore but very little prodding to actually go there. It takes an Explorer type to decide to take himself off the proven path and see what’s out there, and I enjoy those experiences as well.

    Aside from my refusal to get back into a hardcore-esque “must.game.now” the moment I wake up til the raid is finished that night, I also find it very true that having a Lifetime membership completely voids any feeling of “I need to get my money’s worth” for the month.

    Mind you, while I certainly don’t mind defending LOTRO, I can also see very plainly where other people wouldn’t like this or that aspect. Even I would prefer slightly faster combat turns to give the combat a more visceral feeling like you experience in WoW and to a lesser degree, EQ2. I can think of plenty of tweaks to make LOTRO feel more like some other game, but hey… if we can’t learn to appreciate the differences from game to game (and most cannot, quite frankly) then why do we ever leave that first game to begin with?

    I think the bottom line is that most MMO gamers (read: not WoW-only gamers) have been doing this for awhile over many, many games. We’ve seen the man behind the curtain, we know the routines by heart now. We’ve all been there, done that, got the tee-shirt. We’re all jaded, it’s a matter of admitting that to ourselves and deciding what to do about it, if anything. Because as long as the larger demographic votes with their wallets for the current World of MMO 1.5 version of the genre, these games are no longer being made to attract the veteran players who brought the genre to the forefront.

  35. Asheron’s Call 2 had one thing I missed most and Talyn brought it up.

    Huge … tracts of land. Places to go with no reason to go there other than to see what’s there.

    In LotRO it has returned. I saw a hill and wondered what was over it. Eventually I found myself staring at Starmere Lake. Beautiful lake with a few islands in it and not a mob to be seen. Resource nodes plenty, but no mobs. I’ve been hanging out there for a couple of days now, taking pictures. These are the things I remember for years.

  36. Talyn: Good points!

    One thing though, regarding the ‘being jaded’ that you illustrate well… I compare this to someone being dumped by a SO, or having a relationship end however.

    Everybody goes through that at some point, and everybody goes through the aftermath. “I’m not dating anymore!”, “Gah, I won’t even look at another man/woman for a good while, no sir”, “Yeah, I’ll go out with you guys, have a drink, whatever, but I’m not looking for anything to happen, really…”

    And so on. Then a new guy/girl drops by and he/she is “just right” and we’re in love all over again. Being jaded lasts until the right game comes along again. Then we’re back into the grind, putting the hours like any regular joe and like we used to do. ;)

    Like Al said, “I thought I was out, but they pulled me back in”

    Ethic: “Huge… tracts of land”

    Say that with a british accent and it’s a winner.

  37. Awwww. Seriously? Actual geography? But I just started the 25-man raids! I can’t switch games now! Guh….

    I didn’t end up playing AC2, but the dauntingly expansive landmass was what I loved (and missed) most about the original Asheron’s Call. Vanguard was somewhat refreshing in that area, but frequently parcels off chunks of land using impassable cliffs, valleys, craters, and mountains.

  38. Grinding xp and items. And trying to make best possible character is not ONLY thing that MMORPG stands for, and some of players dont understand that.

    I myself played 4 years of NWN online on same server, for start it was fun like hell, there was lot of places to explore just for the fun of exploring, then I started to understand the character stats, so I was able to make better and better characters. BUT the absolutely best thing was the ppl on the server.

    In some point ppl switched to rp server. After that in some point it got very boring, after trying almost all classes nad maximising of characters. It was the lack of good rp players (it wasnt even serious rp more like having fun rp with crazy like characters).

    Sure the grinding/farming was fun for while but after done it all it wasnt, even with small chance of PvP.

    Best memories I have from those 4 years isn’t like “Yeah I killed the server hardest enemy in 10 seconds soloing with my maximised character” its more like “We went adventuring to strange forest with low lvl characters in big group just because we wanted to, and got chased of by weak dragon”

    I think for me WoW would be like NWN its fun at start but lack of the having fun or serious rp would eventually make boring game with just grinding. Sure it could take 50 years more to get bored of the game because its like 1000x larger world than NWN and theres always expansions. But still after playing 50 years of WoW I doubt I would have such good memories than playing 15 years of LOTRO. And btw im Tolkien fan :D

  39. Ah no wonder, I didn’t realize you were on staff here at KTR Julian, my fault.

    Rum, eh? Hmph… *puts on his Jack Sparrow costume and raids the liquor cabinet at KTR*

  40. dont try lotr Its a ripoff the coustomer service number 781-407-4020 is a fake number. its says the hours of business. but when you call during business hours they dont take incoming calls

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