Posts tagged ‘lotro’

Expectations and Resolutions for 2013

Writing

In January 2012, I’d resolved to post directly to the blog more and edit less. I had an especially bad habit of leaving posts to languish in my drafts folder for months and then deleting them because they weren’t topical anymore. While I did get better about editing, I didn’t post straight to the blog much at all. So I’m renewing the same resolution to be more brave about my posting in the coming year. At least that’s going to be my excuse for any typos people point out.

Upcoming Games

There are a few MMOs that I’m anticipating:

  • City of Steam
  • Defiance
  • Elder Scrolls Online
  • Neverwinter

City of Steam is my novelty game. It’s a steampunk setting with a F2P model using a browser client. I missed a few chances to play in the closed beta, so I can’t say anything about how it plays. I’m a little concerned that they’re relying on just the setting to differentiate the game from other MMOs instead of trying to refine and improve the genre standard mechanics, but that’s based on superficial research on my part.

I’m pulling for Defiance partly because it’s by Trion. I’ve continued to be a fan of how Trion’s developed Rift even after I wasn’t actively subscribing to it (although I did resubscribe when the Storm Legion expansion was announced), and I’d like to see them continue to succeed. The other reason I’m hoping it does well is there’s a real dearth of science-fiction MMOs and I’m hoping this one doesn’t suffer the same fate as Tabula Rasa. I really don’t think that’s likely, considering how invested both Trion and SyFy are in the game and tie-in television series.

Elder Scrolls Online is my dark horse game. I was originally pretty pessimistic about the game’s chances, but my opinion has since become more optimistic based on developer interviews. Of course talk is cheap so who knows if ESO will fly or fall, but I’m hoping that it does well just so I can explore Tamriel more widely than I’ve been able to do in Skyrim.

Of all of the upcoming MMOs, Neverwinter is the only one that I’m genuinely excited for. Prior to going to GenCon this summer, this game was in the I’ll-play-it-when-it-comes-out category but I was really impressed with out beautiful the demo was. The environments were detailed and interesting, and the animations were fluid. The gameplay itself was very action oriented, and reminded me slightly of Torchlight and Gauntlet. Add all that to a supercharged version of the Foundry software that’s currently in Star Trek Online, and I’m not only excited to play the game Cryptic is making but also see what kinds of modules players build. There’ve been some really excellent missions done in STO and I hope that Neverwinter will inspire the same amount of creativity in it’s players.

Backlog

Outside of those few new games, this year is going to be all about the backlog. Anyone want to take bets on how long that lasts?

MMOs

Champions Online has been making a lot of changes and I really want to roll up a brand new hero to see what’s changed with the game since 2011. I know there’s lots of new powers and custom pieces, plus they recently added vehicles, and have just started hinting a some big new content releases.

Lord of the Rings Online has the whole Riders of Rohan expansion that I’ve not touched yet, plus I still have about a third of the Rise of Isengard expansion to finish.

Rift has had a huge amount of new content added, I just need to sit down and force myself to rebuild all of the roles that’ve been reset on my Mage.

Single-player

Even though I completed Dishonored, I was working on replaying a few missions with full stealth/zero kills. I’d also still like to do a second playthrough as more of an assassin than a ghost, but I’m going to bump that down to the bottom of my list for the year.

I’d only gotten through about a third of A Game of Dwarves before I was distracted by some other game.

I haven’t played that last three DLCs for Mass Effect 3.

I never got back to Skyrim last year like I intended, not to mention there’s been one major DLC released for the PC with another one announced.

I’ve barely gotten into Torchlight 2.

I loved the demo for XCOM enough to preorder the game, but I haven’t launched it since it released. I played Dishonored first since I wanted to make sure I finished that, and got distracted before I could even start XCOM.

Plus from my Steam there’s Orcs Must Die 1 & 2, Legend of Grimrock, Anno 2070, SPAZ, and the Back to the Future series all of which barely makes a dent. I also have a few Kickstarter backed games that are in or nearing the beta stages that I want to contribute playtime to like Castle Story, Timber and Stone, and the Banner Saga multiplayer.

Other Hobbies and My 2013 Resolution

Outside of games, I also have some more Star Trek ship models to assemble and paint, plus my long suffering Nanowrimo novel from 2010 that I still want to finish.

Having so little free time with so many demands is the core of what I want to work on this year. I’ve been in the habit of surfing along with my moods and interests and just spending time on games and projects as my id dictated. While there’s not really anything bad about going with the flow like that, it hasn’t been good for finishing projects. So this year I’m actually making lists of games and other projects I want to finish and sorting them in the order I want to tackle them with the intention of focusing on one at a time. I’ve already had some success at that, since that’s basically how I’ve finished all three Mass Effect games, Red Dead Redemption, and Dishonored. My problems nearly always stem from trying to multi-task between games and other hobbies.

Wish me luck.

Middle-Earth travel plans delayed slightly.

The Riders of Rohan expansion snuck up on me.

Despite reading dozens of articles and seeing lots of mentions on Twitter, I didn’t actually realize how close the launch was until Sunday night. I was catching up on my news and saw the goodie bag reminder from Goldenstar, so I logged in to reopen my home and do some preparation on my main and a couple of alts.

I had planned to log in last night to behind my adventures among the Horse-lords, but it was taking so long to patch the expansion (wish there had been a pre-patch available) that I decided to play some Dishonored while I waited. The next thing I know it’s 1 am.

When Rise of Isengard launched, I ended up making only a brief trip to Dunland where I did a little sightseeing and then headed back to Mirkwood and Dunland to finish the Epic Story quests that I’d skipped. It was nice being in Mirkwood and Enedwaith which were fairly quiet while the launch crowds were in Dunland.

My current plan is to do pretty much the same thing with Rohan. During my last period of LotRO focus, I’d gotten to the border between Dunland and Isengard before being distracted by Skyrim, and I’d like to avoid opening gaps in my Epic Story quests on my main character (who’s the only one above level 30). There’s a decent chance though, that I’ll have so much fun with mounted combat that I won’t want to head back.

Besides the mounted combat, I’m really looking forward to seeing Turbine’s open tapping implementation and how well it works compare to what I’ve gotten used to in Guild Wars 2. I hope that it is so well received that Turbine applies it to old zones as well, even though I realize that’s a massive amount of work. ArenaNet’s design has led to a very cooperative and mostly friendly community, at least in my experience, and I would love to see that same spirit brought to Tolkien’s world as well.

Random things.

Couple of things I wanted to mention.

Thing One

Had you told me last year that I would still be putting hours into Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer game, I would have said you were crazy. Yet that’s exactly what I’ve been doing, even though I’m not typically a fan of shooters.

Why? Two reasons that I’ve come up with. First, I really love the ME universe and the multiplayer is a way to stay engaged with it. Second, I’ve come to realize it isn’t actually the shooters that I dislike, it’s their competitiveness. ME3’s is cooperative against bots. After hundreds of matches, I’ve yet to run across any of the type A-hole personalities that I associate (rightly or not) with games like Call of Duty, Modern Warfare, or Counter Strike.

Thing Two

Guild Wars 2 has its head start this weekend. I’m excited to play but it’s a low-key kind of excitement. I’m looking forward to playing but if ArenaNet came out tomorrow and said they were delaying headstart for a week or a month, I wouldn’t mind in the slightest.

I haven’t been thinking about the game much, or keeping the patcher updated, or coming up with the character names I want to use. Yet I am excited enough that I’m planning to stay up late and to try to get into the headstart as early as possible.

Possibly my excitement has been blunted by getting to play in a few beta weekends (the stress tests always happen when I’m working). I’ve already had the chance to explore the starting areas and try out different races and classes. I’ve already settled on an Asura Elementalist as my main (at least initially) and the guild I’m planning to join has already chosen a server.

Thing Three

LotRO delayed its expansion until October. I’ve seen a lot of surprised comments about that. I’ve also seen a few comments believing that it was done to fix bugs and improve the game a bit more before release. I’m sure Turbine will use the extra time to improve the game, but I don’t think that was the reason for the delay. September is already super crowded and since Blizzard has already set their expansion date in an effort to compete with ArenaNet, it would be stupid of Turbine not to push the release a bit and give themselves more space.

Locked Boxes

So yesterday Massively did what they should have done instead of their pseudo-news post regarding STO developer Borticus’  comments on lock boxes, and published an editorial in their regular Perfect Ten column and that focused on lock boxes. While I’m not a fan of lock boxes myself, I can see where market realities make them a necessary evil, but it’s most definitely a slippery slope.

Anyway, as Justin says in his article, lock boxes are gambling. You are paying real and/or in-game (varying by MMO) money for a chance to win a prize. That’s no different from a slot machine in Vegas, buying a state lottery ticket, or buying a raffle ticket at a school fundraiser. But like many other activities, gambling itself isn’t wrong, it’s that it can be abused.

I take issue with Justin’s second point though, where he mentions that the house always wins. This is the point where I think lock boxes diverge from other examples of gambling, since it’s not costing the developer anything to “pay out” like it is a casino. I also don’t see any sinister intentions behind not publishing odds. Truthfully, I don’t think developers know with any certainty what the odds are on winning a particular item from a lock box. Random number generators can be a little goofy at times, and I guarantee if they did post odds that there would be lot’s of players double checking those odds and raising a ruckus if their results were at all different.

I also disagree with his comment about feeling like deleting a lock box was a waste. I have the opposite reaction. I enjoy deleting lock boxes in Star Trek Online because I know I won’t be opening them, the Exchange is saturated with them so they don’t sell, and they take up valuable inventory space.

I do agree that the legality issue is in its early days, and hopefully the practice doesn’t get any games banned from some countries. Like F2P itself, I think lock boxes are a trend that’s going to be around for a while and if you can’t ignore or tolerate them, then you’ll need to take a break and wait for the direction of the industry to shift again.

Lock boxes are tacky, but in my opinion they are more jarring to see in Lord of the Rings Online than STO. Fair or not, Middle-earth is a more serious setting in my mind and I have less tolerance for commercialism in it than I do with STO or any other MMO. But even as tacky as they are, I don’t see lock boxes as tarnishing the F2P model. Personally, I find Turbine’s habit of putting items in their store to fix not-fun gameplay mechanics rather than actually fixing them much more tarnishing than lock box keys. I can ignore and delete boxes after all, but it’s much harder to ignore the progressively ridiculous number X of monsters I have to slay for deed Y.

As far as public sentiment and private actions, I think it’s really a wash. It’s the same reason why no one can really gauge the overall reaction to the end of Mass Effect 3. Unhappy people are motivated to be vocal, and happy people have moved on. Lot’s of MMO players claim to hate lock boxes and post daily on forums about how much they hate them. But forum goers are a small percentage of players in any game, and I would bet money that a size-able number of those haters still buy keys and open boxes. In the end, all a developer has to go on is their metrics. They know how many accounts they have, how many players that have on a nightly basis, how many boxes are dropping, how many keys are being purchased, and how many boxes are being opened. Apparently those numbers point to lock boxes being worthwhile, otherwise they’d be gone.

Honestly, I’ve gotten bored with the entire topic and its surrounding drama. It’s been beaten to death and nothing new’s been added to the conversation recently except for one thing. Lock boxes are only one step removed from RMT. So far MMO developers have been pretty careful to make sure that money only flows into the system, and I assume that’s to avoid government regulation and taxation (not/never been/don’t want to be a lawyer so I could be wrong). Blizzard though has started to experiment with that in Diablo 3, and I’m sure if that goes well then we’ll see the practice tried out in MMOs as well.

Looking Forward to 2012

Family

Before I get into what games I’m looking forward to, I wanted to mention some personal and blog related things. My wife and I are expecting our second little Kae to show up sometime in June. I’m sure that’s going to kill any time I have to play MMOs for a few months. I really dislike logging into an MMO, when I don’t know if I’m going to get pulled away at a second’s notice. When my son was born, I focused mostly on single player games, since I could pause it and go do father things without worrying about ruining anyone else’s game.

Not playing MMOs will either mean that this blog goes silent for a few months, or you’ll see tons of posts as I’ll have lots of time to read, think, and write.

Writing

Last year, I tried an experiment with posting consistently on week days. I wasn’t perfect about it, but I did well enough to consider it a success. I stopped doing that mid-summer though once it started to take the fun out of writing. I don’t regret doing it though as I developed some good habits and even got to the point where I started to feel antsy if I hadn’t written anything by the end of the day. Kind of like those healthy people who talk about missing the gym. I guess anyway, I’ve never felt that.

Anyway, this year I’m trying a new experiment. I write a lot from my phone and from work, basically anytime that I get an urge to put pixels on a screen. Most of the time though, those posts go into the draft folder and never emerge. I always intend to edit and publish them that night, yet rarely ever do. So this year, I’m going to try skipping the editing stage as much as possible. After all, if there are any really stupid grammar or spelling mistakes, I’m going to be much more motivated to fix them if the article is public, and this way I’ll not have any regrets about not getting an opinion or idea out in a timely fashion.

So now you know, if the blog stays empty it’s just because I have no ideas and not because I’m a lazy self-editor. Finally, let’s talk about some games.

PC/Xbox

This is the first year in a while, that I’m not really looking forward to much. Mass Effect 3 is basically my whole list for the year.

I believe this is a good thing though, because my backlog of unfinished, never played, and never installed games is getting embarrassingly massive. I still haven’t gone back to Skyrim and finished my first play through. I have the last DLC for Mass Effect 2 to finish. I’ve barely touched Minecraft since the 1.0 release in November. Then there’s my Steam library, let’s just not even start on that.

So while there’s not much new I’m looking forward to, I’m still excited for single-player and offline gaming this year.

MMOs

Rift

While I do still have an active subscription, I’m not planning on renewing it in April. As I mentioned in my 2001 review, I had a ton of fun with the game, but between feeling so behind with all of the content updates and most of my friends playing other MMOs, I have no interest in going back.

Champions Online

I fully expect to keep playing in Millennium City off and on as Cryptic adds new story missions and new power sets. Honestly, I’ve already started eyeing the launcher as they’ve added some cool new costume options recently as well as the Earth and Wind power sets. The cool thing about this game is I have no expectations for the coming year, so I’ll enjoy whatever comes.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

I’m playing a ton of TOR right now. I have a Jedi Knight Guardian in the mid 40’s (level cap is 50) and am nearing the end of the story missions. This means I’ll hit the mythical end-game soon. Generally when I do that, I start an alt and lose interest in repeating content after a few days. This is followed by moving on to another game. With TOR, I’m hoping that having some fresh class missions will be enough to keep me interested and get a second character to 50. We’ll see if BioWare manages a first in my gaming history.

Interestingly, I’m already feeling like I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of TOR, so if I do end up cancelling my subscription, I’m not going to feel bad about it. I suppose that because the game really has felt like playing KotOR 3.

Looking at the rest of the year, I hope to still be playing in June but I kind of doubt it given my history at level cap. Obviously once the baby get’s here, all bets are off.

Lord of the Rings Online

After taking most of the year off and then getting in a solid month, LotRO has been on hold since November. First it was Skyrim and then it was TOR keeping me from playing. Eventually, I’ll return to Middle-Earth and resume my hunter Brynulf’s journey into the Gap of Rohan. It may well be the fall, but it seems like I always go back to LotRO eventually, and that makes me happy.

Star Trek Online

After an extremely rough year, I really hope that STO turns things around. The F2P launch is happening (today actually), and the long awaited Featured Episode Series Four is coming as part of the second anniversary of the game.

Past February, I want to see a permanent Executive Producer hired and I really want to see the monthly Engineering Reports and Ask Cryptics restarted. I know there have been a few new hires since the PWE acquisition, but I’d like to see the team continue to grow, and start seeing that investment payoff in more regular updates of new features and new story missions. If we get to December and have seen Featured Episode Series 4, 5, and 6, I’ll be very happy. If not three FE’s (which D’Angelo doesn’t think is likely), then I want to see more single mission story content added.

One thing I do want to clarify though, I’m not at all disappointed or upset with the Star Trek development team at Cryptic. I think they’ve done as much as possible given some pretty difficult situations over the last six months (if not longer).

Looking Back at 2011

Xbox

Last January, I wan’t looking forward to much on the Xbox. In fact, there were just two games: Mass Effect 3 and Batman: Akham City. Unfortunately Mass Effect 3 was delayed, but Akham City more than made up for that. The game had everything I loved about the first Batman game but added improvements, and even though I’ve finished the game, I still pop it into my console occasionally to beat on some thugs.

Outside of Arkham City, my Xbox didn’t get much playtime, which I guess is why it decided to red-ring on me in December. I had hoped by waiting through the first few manufacturing runs and getting an Elite, that I had dogged all of the overheating problems with Microsoft’s console. I was wrong. The repair process was relatively painless: go online and submit a repair request, print out a label, box and ship it out. I just wish it hadn’t cost me $99.

PC

The PC had a few more titles I was excited about: Minecraft, Portal 2, Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War 2 – Retribution (could the title be any longer?), and Warhammer 40k: Space Marine. Well okay, Minecraft was a bit of a cheat since it was pretty much already released. Portal 2 was as good as I hoped it would be, and I got to have some extra fun by playing through the co-op version with MMOGamerChickDoW Retribution I’ve barely touched. I really really loved the original Dawn of War games, but the shift in focus from base building to boss battles has soured me a bit on the franchise. Space Marine made up for my disappointment in Retribution though, the game was over the top gory fun. Some people may try to tell you that using a chainsword on an Ork get’s old, but they’re lying to you.

Unlike with Xbox, this last year also had two big surprises for me on the PC platform. First there was the colossal disappointment of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. This was a game I was not anticipating in the slightest, but ended up buying because of the wave of good press and excitement from friends. Unfortunately, I only put five hours into it before running headlong into a boss battle geared for the exact opposite type of character that I was playing. I realize I’m in the minority opinion on this game, but I still strongly believe that you don’t build a game around choice and then take it away during the central moments of the game.

The second big surprise happened in exactly the same way, but with opposite results. Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim was another game that I wasn’t anticipating at all. Like DXHR, I hadn’t played any of the earlier games in the series, and even though the screenshots looked good and I thought I might like it, I was wary of letting myself get sucked along with the ground again. In the end, I did end up going ahead and getting it, and I’m so glad I did. Skyrim has been a Minecraft-like experience for me (which is ironic given the legal battle between the companies). Just like I got sucked completely into Minecraft last year and played nothing else for months, my gaming time was wholly subsumed by Skyrim. Today, I’ve put 117 hours into just one single-player game. One hundred and seventeen hours. That is incredible, considering a good single-player game usually lasts me no more than 40 (like Red Dead Redemption or Arkham City). But even more incredible is that after more than a hundred hours, I’m not even halfway through the main story line.

PC was much more exciting this year than I thought it would be. I’m not sure that 2012 will be though, but I’ll save that for later.

MMOs

Rift

Trion had the perfect situation this year. From January to November, they had the only new major MMO title. I think they capitalized in it very well too. They’ve been continually releasing new content and making tuning changes. Honestly if anything, I think Trion’s proved it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. They’ve been updating the game so much, that when I came back after a month away, it felt like I’d been gone for six months or more.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

BioWare ended up releasing much later in the year than I expected. This ended up being a good thing both because they had more time to get things right, but also because they managed to get through the hype backlash I was expecting before release (or even beta). There’s not too much more I can say about TOR as far as 2011 goes beyond I got in at launch, had no problems, have seen no queues, and am immensely enjoying the Jedi Knight story line.

Champions Online

Champions has been a fun game to hop into of f and on over the year, especially the few times I’ve gotten to play with Scott. The game had a successful F2P launch and has released some good story content with their first Comic Series and a third Adventure Pack. While I haven’t had that original love of the game rekindle, I’m sure I’ll continue to login anytime I get an urge to play superheroes.

Lord of the Rings Online

Last year, I was feeling pretty down on LotRO. The F2P conversion caused an explosion of gold store buttons in the interface that just got under my skin. My disinterest continued for most of the year, including well into the development cycle for Rise of Isengard. It wasn’t until I saw a developer diary with some video about the making of Orthanc for the game, that I had any interest in returning to Middle-Earth.

Once I got back in the game, I was motivated enough to finish Volume 2 of the Epic Quests, get caught up on Volume 3 in Enedwaith, and charge on towards Isengard. I didn’t make it to level cap before Skyrim started dominating my playtime, but I was really happy with the new work Turbine has done on the game and I’ve finally trained myself to not see the store buttons.

Star Trek Online

And lastly, we come to the MMO that I’ve had both the most and least fun with during 2011.

The game started out very well. We had an anniversary event, an excellent renovation of Earth Spacedock, and then a third Featured Episode Series, Cloaked Intentions. The Series 3 was the best one so far and featured great missions, fun voice work, and the music from Amok Time.

Unfortunately, that was the high point of the year. We did get the Foundry followed by a good revamp of ground combat in Season Four, but we also got Atari selling Cryptic, Dan Stahl leaving the Executive Producer role, Free-to-Pay announced, and no new story missions.

Whether it was Dan leaving, the change in ownership from Atari to Perfect World, or the announced F2P transition, the high level of communication and transparency that I loved in 2010 has vanished. The last Engineering Report was released in August, with no word about if or when it’s coming back. The last Ask Cryptic was in September. Granted, the temporary Executive Producer Stephen D’Angelo did write a lot of blogs during the F2P development, but I found them pretty thin on details.

Overall, it’s been a disappointing year for me in STO. I guess I have to have at least one MMO to be down on at the end of every year.

E3 2011: Day 3

LotRO – I caught an exciting bit of news yesterday: phasing is coming to LotRO. Why this wasn’t mentioned at all in the Isengard announcement I can’t imagine. Possibly it’s not marketable enough or a common enough term, but I kind of doubt that given WoW’s popularization of it. These are the kinds of details that I mentioned I was going to wait for yesterday, but I hadn’t expected them to come out so quickly.

E3 Sidenote: That’s it? Seems like the E3 news really faded quickly this year. I didn’t see anything else in the news feeds yesterday that caught my attention. That could be a good thing I guess, it’s not like I don’t have a stack of games I want to play already.

E3 2011: Day 2

Nintendo – I haven’t played a Nintendo game since the NES, so yesterday’s E3 held very little of interest for me as far as the big console announcements. I did keep an eye on Twitter though and caught a couple of articles. While I’m impressed that Nintendo is finally paying some attention to graphics, I’m not sold on their new controller. It looks too large to hold comfortably for any length of time.

LotRO – Turbine announced Rise of Isengard and released a cool trailer. Unfortunately there’s not much real information yet. The level cap is going up to 75 (which we already knew) and they’re adding one new raid and three new regions: Dunland, Gap of Rohan, and Isengard. The biggest news is that you can pre-order and get an in-game mount and some cosmetics now.

My first instinct was to get the Legendary version. Then I thought about it a bit. I haven’t played in months, aside from some quick logins to make sure my housing maintenance was paid up. So, since I have until September 26th, I am going to wait a bit and see what additional information comes out. As good as the cosmetics look, I’m curious how my points the expansion would cost. Is it possible I could get it for free using my accumulated lifetime stipend? Do I really want to pay $10 extra for three colors instead of $40 for just one? I may end up spending the money, but not yet.

Interested After All

It isn’t as if I’ve been ignoring LotRO-related news, I still read the same blogs and listen to the same podcasts, but somehow I had very little interest in the coming Update, Echoes of the Dead, until I read the patch notes. I think it’s because I kept hearing about talk of the new instances and raid cluster which I didn’t care about and nothing about the Book 3 update. Guess I missed that Dev diary.

I wonder if Brynulf is locked out of his house in Bree…

More Famous than I Realized

I logged into LotRO recently because I wanted to check out these mysterious obelisks that had popped up in Eriador. I found the last obelisk in Enedwaith, which reminded me that I had unfinished business with the Grey Company. This led me to notice that my reputation with several factions had changed.

When did I become kindred with the Iron Garrison Miners?

I don’t know of something changed or I’ve just not been paying attention, but either way I headed to the Twenty-first Hall to see if there was anything new that was available to me. I bought the Jolly Hunter tome which unlocked Improved Fleet Stance, which is pretty useless to me but I wanted to unlock all of my class traits.

Unfortunately that and a short crafting session wiped out the small three gold savings I’d accumulated recently. So I’m more famous than I was but much poorer.