Blast from the Past: Tome of Knowledge and Sets

I am still waiting for games to pick up this idea from 2009. Achievement systems have proliferated, tracking all kinds of things, but most games want to give you cosmetic items instead of unlocks. One specific item in that last post has been addressed by many games: a mount tab instead of making you carry mounts around. City of Heroes has always rewarded players by unlocking costume pieces, and Borderlands 2 lets you find/win/buy customization options.

With the upswing in F2P, however, life moves in the opposite direction. Storage space and cosmetic customization are ways they make money, so of course they charge you per item per change in appearance.

: Zubon

Estimating Difficulty

When A Tale in the Desert introduced barley as a growable crop, they also added a technology that could be unlocked by donating 100,000 barley to a university. How did they get the number 100,000? Nekhmet (one of the developers) grew a bunch of barley, they figured that the players would learn more efficient techniques (ATitD uses player skill-based crafting), and then they multiplied to get a large but not ridiculous number of hours of work. It turned out that Nekhmet was a prodigy at growing barley, at that technology was unavailable for months until ad hoc additions to the game allowed barley output to double and triple.

When Guild Wars 2 introduced pumpkin carving, a few hundred pumpkins were hidden around the world. It was an exploration achievement: find 150 to unlock the title. A technological problem let the same pumpkins respawn after carving, and they spawned on a per-character basis for a per-account achievement, so you could get the title without leaving Lion’s Arch.

When The Lord of the Rings Online introduced Mines of Moria, the dungeon fights that were its endgame were a mass of bugs and exploits, some of which were obviously unintended (stand in a doorway while a door closes: your weapons are on one side, your body is on the other, and the boss cannot hit you) while others surprised the players when they were declared “unintended” (kite the boss around his throne so that it is between the two of you when he uses his devastating area effect attack).

When City of Heroes introduced the Hamidon raid, players found a variety of ways to beat it, ranging from sniping it from beyond its range to capitalizing on teleportation and invulnerability to avoid damage. For months, every technique used was patched away as an unintended exploit. Some developers claimed that there was an intended way to beat Hamidon, but the players never seemed to find the “intended” one, and it is not clear whether it would have actually worked. Hamidon was later reconfigured into a fight with a more obvious “intended” approach.

Guild Wars 2 has a pop-up warning when you start the cooking crafting skill, telling you that it is more expensive in terms of time, silver, and karma than the other trade skills. Cooking is the fastest, cheapest, easiest craft to take to 400 skill, notably having the last points available for a few hundred karma worth of peaches where other skills require dozens of drops or even globs of ectoplasm.

Can you cite a dozen examples from your gaming history where “hard” content was trivial while “easy” content was literally impossible at release? Can you see why I am suspicious of any player claims about how hard something is supposed to be, what the developers’ intent was, or who this is for?

: Zubon

[LOTRO] Horse Vectors

I am at least halfway through The Wold in Lord of the Rings Online (“LOTRO”). The Wold is one of the subzones for Eastern Rohan, and it is intended for characters between levels 75-77. So it is still early in the expansion for me. I do however have my warhorse.

Mounts are a pretty key feature in LOTRO. Before the Riders of Rohan expansions there were two types. A personal mount, horse or goat, could be called nearly anywhere. Its movement controls were basically the same to a dismounted character. The only differences were a significant speed boost and a small health pool for the mount before characters would get knocked off by attackers. The other type was a fast travel mount which followed a set path between towns like a railway car. The only control available was dismounting along the way. Continue reading [LOTRO] Horse Vectors

Reflecting on the Personal Story

A personal story, apart from the mundane hub happenings, seems fairly commonplace in MMOs. RIFT has zone-wide stories. Guild Wars 2 has the personal story. Lord of the Rings Online (“LOTRO”) has the epic line. I like the term personal story because it is a stronger narration of the events affected by player character, and for this post I will use that term in a broader sense.

I reflected on my journey through Dunland, the Gap of Rohan, and the Great River as I broke bread with some Thane. I had blasted through a few Books in LOTRO’s personal story. I realized that so much of the finesse of the storyteller was not in the actual story, but in the explanation of the ripples, the effects of the player’s doing. This went forward and backwards in time. Continue reading Reflecting on the Personal Story

Quests and Events: The Return

Quests and Events: The Return

Coming back to a quest-based MMO, in this case Lord of the Rings Online (“LOTRO”), after spending so much time in Guild Wars 2 was eye opening. I never once believed that the renown/event system of Guild Wars 2 (“the Guild Wars 2 system”) would kill quest-based design in any sense of the word. Guild Wars 2 had something very similar in their personal story. I did however think that perhaps the renown/event system was better, at least for me.

I realize now after spending a couple hours in LOTRO, that “better” is not the right word. “Different” is more accurate.

I Am Free! Continue reading Quests and Events: The Return

[LOTRO] Staging North Dunland

As I deathmarch to Rohan, most of my time in Lord of the Rings Online (“LOTRO”) has been in the Dunland zone so far. I hit level 70 last night, and I seem to be able to pull about a level per night. I do admit that the leveling speed to “catch up” is tiring compared to the leveling speed I had gotten used to in Guild Wars 2. I am enjoying the content, but I want to be at Rohan.

So far I have enjoyed three distinct hubs in North Dunland. The first hub, surrounds the plight of the Stag Clan defending itself against the Dragon Clan, which appears to be backed by the White Hand. Overall, it is the best hub of the three with its use of phasing and geographical content. Continue reading [LOTRO] Staging North Dunland

[LOTRO] Return to Ride

A long time ago, I had two MMOs. I played the long game in Lord of the Rings Online (“LOTRO”), especially in the age of Moria and Mirkwood, and I played quick bites in Guild Wars. That was then; this is now. Last night I signed back in to LOTRO, which I haven’t done in months. I bought a bunch of content since I was sitting on 12,000 Turbine points from my lifetime subscription’s income, and I started my journey towards Rohan. Continue reading [LOTRO] Return to Ride

Work in Progress

More than other games, MMO experiences have a time stamp because the game itself changes and our experiences with the “same” piece of content might be radically different.

This is especially true in the early days. Yesterday’s dungeon discussion had some sharply divided experiences, and those could be caused by class, gear, strategy, or the dungeon’s having been updated a half-dozen times in a month. I finally tried WoW so I could see how the zones looked before the Cataclysm revamp only to find that the veterans’ experiences were radically different due to other changes that had accumulated over the years. My trip through Guild Wars: Prophecies included heroes, lots of elite skills, and PvE skills, which changed everything even if none of the Prophecies content had changed.

As a LotRO player, I recall approaches to Moria boss fights that went from “standard practice” to “exploits we patched away.” Sometimes you need the good bugs to get past the bad bugs. Some grognards talk about how hard X was during their day, and some of them did Y while it was easier, broken, bugged, etc.

The population shift is also a big change over time. The original wave of Warhammer Online players experienced public events 1.0 as intended, but as early as a month later many zones were ghost towns and you never saw the last event phases. In September 2012, players bemoaned that the Guild Wars 2 economy was broken because scraps of jute were very expensive. Come September 2014, players may bemoan that the Guild Wars 2 economy is broken because craps of jute were almost worthless. It seems to be a rare event for a game to maintain a steady population spread rather than having huge clumps at the top and bottom levels.

“Trammel” and “NGE” are extreme cases you need not mention. Everyone knows to distinguish between before and after those chasms.

: Zubon