Category Archives: mmorpg

LoTRO: what have you done!

Back in November, a new expansion was released for Lord of the Rings Online; Helm’s Deep. Great. There’s nothing like a new expansion, full of new content with a raised maximum level, fresh material and everything.  You may not have played for a while, you might have exhausted the previous content, gone on to other things, taken a break, but now, tally ho, you’re ready to jump in resume afresh.

But…..but….but…..when you load up the game and once more take up your dagger/bow/spear or whatever, not only do you find you have to re-allocate the points to your legendary weapons; this happens everytime, but you half your skills have disappeared!

After a few moments panic as you try and work out what’s happened and what’s missing, you discover a Traits Tree. A Traits Tree with points to spend and it looks like some of your missing skills are embedded in there. You spend points, and build up your skills that way; very similar to building a character in Rift or masteries in League of Legends.

Well this is all fine. However it’s an immense change from how LoTRO originally managed skills, basically you just got them, and there is the thing. Such changes are fine if you’ve been constantly playing the game, reading developer notes and keeping track on the forums. This is not the way many people play MMOs these days when there are so many other games and other MMOs out there. They play, get to max level, finish the content and then go, as I’ve said. They only return when new material comes out and if the learning curve to access that new material is too high, well they may never end up returning at all.

It’s taken me a long time to manage to sit down and respec my Guardian, work out exactly what I want to do. Once started it was alright but I felt his build was not the same as it was and I don’t know how he will play any more, some of my favourite skills seem to have gone. I’m going to have to get used to that. I’m also not sure how his legendary weapons will fit since many of them have legacies tailored to specific skills that he may not have any more.

One of the reasons I’m keeping on is my kinship, I have plenty of incentive to continue there. But I can’t help thinking that when MMOs make changes like this which I don’t see as necessary or particularly benefiting a game, that they risk loosing a fair percentage of their players who either aren’t in kinships or who now have a more casual involvement in the game.

The Secret World: my favourite game I’m not playing

It’s always been that I’ve got far too many games than I can actually play. Most of the time, I’m happy just having them; one day I’ll play them, I will. However, some I really really want to get seriously into. The Secret World is one of these.

I’ve posted about it before. It’s a modern-day based horror investigative mmo from Funcom. It came out using a subscription model but now it’s gone buy2play, you buy it and then can play for free, paying for extra content and downloads with offers and free points for subscribers.

Anyhow, with my love of horror, Lovecraft and the slipstream, getting the game was a bit of a no-brainer.

But am I playing it as much as I’d. No. I’m still fighting zombies in the first zone and experimenting with my character build.  I like the way it’s done in TSM,  you can slot different skills and become healer, dps, tank or a mix according to taste or necessity on what’s called a skill wheel.

It’s frustrating. Not only is there the game content itself, but Funcom seem to be experimenting with different sorts of metagaming. In December there was an alternate reality game ( ARG) that was set in and around the Secret World called the End of Days, focussing on the predicted end of the World on December 21st. If you opted in you could visit strange websites, receive unsettling phones calls and be sent obscure e-mails. Players got together to decipher the meanings of all these on the official forum.

Now Funcom is experimenting with Twitter, the Twitterverse Experiment. Various NPCs have their own twitter feeds which interact with players, sparking new missions and mysteries within the game in partnership with gamers themselves.  It sounds closer to actual roleplaying than any other mmorpg has managed since the likes of Ultima Online and the original Star Wars Galaxies.

It reminds me of an obscure Lovecraftian roleplaying game: De Profundis that I have but haven’t run yet run (do you see a theme here). Here, two or more people communicate purely through letter-writing or other form of communication. You can be yourself, you can be anybody, you can choose your time period. Together, you build up an atmosphere and a story and shape a game world between you all. Interesting.

But anyhow, it doesn’t get me playing TSW. I’m reading the forums, I’m looking at character builds, I’m watching fanmade videos, I’ve thought about which cabals to join. It’s totally my favourite game. When I play it.

A Return to Lord of the Rings Online; cobwebs are swept

I’ve recently made more of a return to Lord of the Rings Online and have been slowly but surely making my way up through the levels with Lhach, my elven guardian. He is now level 73.

It’s been strange coming back. Since I last played properly there have been a couple of expansions, Rise of Isengard (yes it has been that long) and Riders of Rohan which introduced mounted combat (you get your war steed at level 75; 2 more levels to go for Lhach) and raised the level cap to 85.

They’ve also re-worked the legendary weapon system, changed some of the stat mechanics and names and tweaked a few skills and traits. All of which has left me a little bewildered. It’s not unusual for such changes to be made but normally they’re announced and explained in numerous patch notes, FAQs and developer interviews. Having been away from the game to a greater extent, has meant I’ve missed all of that. I play Lhach as a bit of a min/maxer; I like to make sure that all his equipment maximises his skills. I’ve spent ages trying out different combinations to get the best values. Now I’m very aware that he’s not optimised. A couple of hours in his vault with notes to hand will have to take place at some point.

Cobwebs on patch notes

State of game in Berath’s head

It all goes to show how much you need to know to play the average MMO, much of which MMO players take for granted. We had a thread about it on my kinship forum. There were comments about the complexity of the legendary item system and working out how stats build and fit together however there was an interesting post from someone who had just managed to get her husband to play, and he is a total non-gamer, it was this post that started the discussion off. So far, in her words (thanks Jesriel):

- he can only either walk/run or steer, he always runs into walls and doesn’t get out again.
– to move, steer and fight at the same time is totally impossible
– to move, steer and fight with skills in a sensible order is outright miraculous (her words). And he has only 4 of them so far
– his camera does the weirdest things. Like showing his char directly from above or below, or zooming into 1st person view.
– he doesn’t use skills. Only the one on shortcut 1 occasionally, and the concept of skill cooldowns, focus and other dependencies is absolutely alien to him.
– when he’s lost, he has no idea how to use the map and the minimap and that they essentially show the same thing. Not with all the symbols and colourful circles and arrows and stuff.
– when he has the choice between different quest rewards, he chooses the one with the nicer name.

And he is a very bright guy with a background in physics and mathematics and is a senior program developer

It’s funny how easy it is to forget, how hard gaming can be to someone completely new to the experience.

The Secret World: Iphigenia takes a bow

Well I’ve gone ahead and bought The Secret World; this weekend was early access. It’s due to launch officially tomorrow. I’ve decided to stay with the Templar faction, though I imagine I’ll have characters in all three (Templar, Dragon, Illuminati).

I’m on Arcadia. This is the official role-playing server, it’s nice to have one designated right at the start with no lobbying needed from players. Currently there are seven, including one German and one French. There are plans to open more if needed. Arcadia was originally going to be called Faerie. I suppose that Funcom decided Faerie didn’t have the right ‘ring’ to it. It would’ve been fine with me, it would’ve made the server less attractive to non-roleplayers bothered by a name like that as they randomly decided which to pick; putting off the numpty-brigade as one of my LoTRO kinmates put it.

 I don’t see TSW as becoming a big hitter in the world of mmos, not with there being so much choice in games these days, many of them f2p,  and with the forthcoming, far higher profile, launch of Guild Wars 2. I sort of hope that  TSW is aiming to make-do with a smaller, more niche, player base. That way it stands a better chance of surviving but it still needs cash coming in, may be more as a result. It’s had to lower it’s monthly subscription cost…£11.49  from £12.99, but this is still more than WoW at £8.99 ( I think) and it has a shop as well, normally a feature of f2p games, to bring in money. It’s not really a cheap game.

The launch seemed to go without a hitch, however those with older 32 bit operating systems found they had a lot of trouble running the game, experiencing numerous memory crashes (not an issue in beta). After originally suggesting only that people upgrade, Funcom are now saying that they’re working on the issue. As far as I know, they’ve been prompt at providing refunds to those affected.

So, Iphigenia Bell, hasn’t left the London starter zone yet. I’m exploring it much more than I did in beta, meeting npcs who reveal backstory as you speak to them. Previously, I’ve mentioned the various lore clues that you pick up as you play. There are Templar lore clues, here, which you find as you wander, an incentive to look around which I like.

I visited the local pub and found some nice role-playing going on; a couple of men, who had obviously just met, were wondering whether or not to chat up the npc barmaid, who happened to be a fairy; at a nearby table, some other people were complaining about the choice of beer,very authentic. Good stuff.

And have I said I love the modern day setting?  In a kitchen, I came across a Rastafarian npc, clearing the table with a fag hanging out of his mouth. Fantastic. I am so tired of the cod-medieval.

The Secret World: yay or nay

The other weekend I took a peak into The Secret World, during one of their last betas before launch. The game has interested me for a while with it’s modern day setting, hints at Lovecraftian mystery and puzzle-solving aspects that actually require real-world investigation. However, I haven’t been sure whether or not I wanted to invest in it.

I decided to start in the Templar faction. I liked the idea of starting in London, my home town, and the serious self-righteous idealism of them felt comfortable to me. I played through the Templar starter zone and spent a few hours in Kingsmouth, one of the quest areas.

So, conclusions; largely in comparison with LoTRO which is the mmo I know best, and bearing in mind TSW is still in Beta.

Graphics – alright, though not as beautiful as LoTRO can be. I was playing on Ultra-high settings. The World itself is rather static however with groups of NPCs just standing and little movement round about. There was a bus which annoyed me. It was a no. 36 bus and had the correct route on the destination board; it runs from Camberwell to Victoria, I catch it sometimes to get from work to my Monday tabletop gaming group. They’d used a Routemaster, withdrawn from the route in 2005, rather than the modern Volvo-built design but that was forgiveable; Routemasters are more symbolic of London. However, they’d got the bus, totally empty, lights off, parked at the side of the road, not even at a bus stop. I have never ever ever seen a bus like that, ever. Every time I saw it, it felt so wrong. It jarred totally. The tentacles and the gateway to an interdimensional world in the underground station were fine.

Modern no 36 Bus

no. 36 bus in The Secret World

             .

Real world no. 36 Routemaster..look lights, people, driver!

Character creation –  Choices for clothes and appearance are fairly limited. I didn’t like that you could only wear short skirts. You can’t change body size or height. Apparently there will  more more choice after launch.

Skills – it took me a while to work this out properly, but it seems flexible though all looked to be combat based. Each weapon has a particular focus e.g. the hammer is linked to survivability, so if you want a tanking build, you’ll select that and gradually find that the associated skills you build up, have a tanking aspect. You can equip any weapon, so as long as you have the action and skill points gained during play, you can have a number of builds. One thing I was less keen on, the skills are arranged in tiers, and you need to get all the skills in one tier before you can move to the next. This meant that I ended up spending points in skills I didn’t really want.

Levelling – there were no levels as such. You just gain points to put in skills. However, I noticed in chat that people, when forming groups, were asking for QL4 healers etc. This turned out to mean Quality Level of items. As you completed quests you were awarded higher QL, more powerful items.

Classes – in theory there are no pure classes, due to the flexibility of the skill system. However people were still asking for tanks, healers and dps. I couldn’t tell if it was just a case of old habits dying hard, or if classes were needed in this way. It might be, that in a premade group, there might be more flexibility and a greater ability to experiment with mixes of skills and roles.

Quests – I could only do a sample but they seemed fun and interesting, largely because of the setting I think. You select a main quest line and then a number of sub-quests which you can pick up as you move around. A fair number seemed to involve investigating and find things out; one involved finding out the number of a hymn and inputing it into a keypad to get a message. There are also scraps of lore which you find lying round which you can build up to provide more backstory. I’d say all this definately showed promise.

Crafting – there is a crafting system which allows you to create weapons and  items but I didn’t have chance to explore it.

All in all, I enjoyed it. It seemed different enough to keep my interest and has potential I think. I’m not sure if it will prove a ‘stayer’, it seems impossible to guess MMO shelflife these days, look at SWTOR, but I think it’ll be fun however long it lasts.

So, The Secret World: yay or nay

Conclusion: yay

Wandering back to Middle Earth

So Rise of Isengard has now been released, the latest expansion for Lord of the Rings Online. And I’ve wandered back to LoTRO.

I’d logged on a couple of times earlier in the week, pre-release for some late night roaming. I wonder if there’s a word for the feeling  you get, returning to a MMO after a long break and exploring familiar places that take you right back? It struck me once again what a beautiful place LoTRO is especially compared to the brashness of WoW.

I haven’t many impressions of the new expansion yet, I haven’t had time to play much. I didn’t even manage to connect to the server on Monday, the day of release. A lot of people in the kin had similar problems. On the Tuesday, I managed to connect and patch and began the first chapters of the new Book, having a brief look at the first new area. The first quest was interesting, giving you a choice leading to a potential moral dilemma. Possibly an attempt to continue to give a little more depth to quests given, though I did hear grumbling in kinchat, apparently at some point turnips need to be collected.

The level cap is now 75, an increase of 10 levels. And for the first time since my early days, I don’t feel a rush or pressure to reach it. Much of this is because, as I’ve written before, I am no longer focussed on Raiding and any accompanying end-game instances. The drive has gone; and I don’t really want it to return. As a result, I feel I can go properly at my own pace and truly enjoy the journey and the work that has gone in to the design of the game.

A rest, a poem, a song

I think it’s time for another poem, courtesy of Rhiannon (Berath’s Brain Burp’s official poet-in-residence). Today she has chosen a subject close to her heart, the LoTRO minstrel. In fact even more than that, she has chosen to write about herself! And her singing, which I’ve never had the pleasure of.

Now, I’m aware that this Blog may have picked up the odd (probably very odd) Team Fortress 2 player recently and they may be a little lost. So for their benefit, let me explain, the LoTRO minstrel heals so is basically the Medic.  Minstrels heal by playing instruments and singing, whereas the Medic heals by pointing a huge raygun at his patient and shooting them with what is more-or-less a giant laser beam. This is a not quite the same, but not as really makes any difference. So when Rhiannon writes ‘minstrel’ in her poem, you can replace it by ‘medic’.

You could also sing it with a german accent.

Rhiannon
(Originally entitled, Rhiannon…… by Fleetwood Mac)

Rhiannon sings like a cat in a fight
And wouldn’t you love to gag her?
Screams aloud like a pig in flight,
When will the fight be over?

All your life you’ve never heard a minstrel
Who couldn’t sing.
Would you stay if she promised you silence?
Is murder a sin?

She is like a bat in the dark
Shrieking through the darkness
She runs about like headless chick
And when the fight is hopeless

All your life you’ve never heard a minstrel
Who couldn’t sing.
Would you stay if she promised you silence?
Is murder a sin?
Is murder a sin?

Rhiannon
Rhiannon
Rhiannon
Rhiannon

She sings like a cat in a fight
But you wouldn’t want to be without her.
She may scream like a pig in flight,
But deep down, you love her.

All your life you’ve never heard a minstrel
Who couldn’t sing.
Would you stay if she promised you silence?
But will you ever win?  Will you ever win?

Rhiannon
Rhiannon
Rhiannon

The Same

Medic

Minstrel

 

Our move to the States

So the countdown starts.

On June 1st LoTRO moves over to Turbine and we all become American; no Green Cards needed. In my earlier post, I expressed the concern that roleplaying won’t be supported after the move, but we have been assured that Laurelin will remain intact, roleplaying and all.

That’s good.

But, at the present time, I have no idea what will happen on 1st. We’ve been told we need to migrate our accounts. How? What will happen if I don’t on June 1st? The odds are very very high that I won’t. Even while I’m writing this, I can only just keep the concept in my head. I’m sort of vaguely hoping that I’ll just log on sometime next week and see this:

Turbine. YES or No. Click

Rift and my faerie

Whilst LoTRO is going through it’s content-lite phase, in the rare moments when I’ve not been playing Team Fortress, I’ve been playing in the, relatively new, MMO, Rift.

A lot of people have already blogged about Rift and have said some useful stuff. As you all know, I am incapable of ever writing anything of any relevance so I won’t tell you anything that might help you play the game, I’ll tell you instead of about my chav faerie, Petal.

Because she’s ace.

My character in Rift is a Defiant cleric with justicar/shaman/druid souls. Petal comes with the druid. At first I thought she was just rather sweet but then I noticed something. I’d be crossing a field full of shambling undead, on my way to peaceably harvest some rat tails for a local NPC vendor. Petal would be flittering behind me. Note, behind me. Then, from in front, shambling undead, runs straight past me, to Petal.

There was no way I could have aggro’d them, well if I had they would have gone for me. But yes, I’d turn around and there’d she be, seriously handing it to shambling undead, taking it down with a quick one, two. My only conclusion, Petal, from behind me, giving a bit of  the old ‘you’re going home in a St John’s ambulance’, ‘come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’, shambling undead falls for it, getting a bit riled, goes for the kill, gets taken down.

Petal, dyed blond hair piled high and pulled tightly back, ity bity skirt, rules.

Apart from that, what does Petal do? Well she heals. After the fight. I’ve just managed to scrape through alive. I’m standing there. Petal throws some leaves over me, they do a bit of healing. Thanks Petal, could have done with that during the fight. Petal ‘s not bovvered.

Petal 'wot you lookin at?'

Defending the Point in Team Fortress 2

So we have the classes and we have game objectives. But what’s it actually like playing TF2? For starters, for anyone used to playing PvP in MMOs, it’s pretty familiar. It’s fast; it needs quick reactions, and it needs knowledge of class movement, skills and weapons. When you first start, you need to be prepared to die many, many times. In one of my first games I died 22 times in 20 minutes.

It also needs teamwork.

The classes are designed to work together and to counter each other. What one lacks in one aspect, another makes up for. The team that plays best together and communicates, tends to be the team that wins even if individual members are less experienced or good. To look at a very basic scenario;

A point is to be defended. The Engineer puts up a Sentry gun. He has put up a teleporter to get the team from spawn to the point as quickly as possible. He has a dispenser nearby to keep the team topped up with health and ammo as they defend. Whilst the engineer builds, he is vulnerable to an enemy Spy; Spies can cloak themselves and become invisible, sneak up on Engineers, backstab them and sap their buildings. They can also disguise themselves as friendly team members and do the same thing. However, pyro flames light up spies. So while the defensive Engineer builds, the Pyro can spy check. In the meantime the friendly Spy is trying to do the same to any offensive Engineers. He may also be trying to take out key targets, the enemy Medic perhaps. The Demoman has his stickies…basically small round mines that the Demoman can detonate. He can perhaps place these on the point; he can detonate them if any of the enemy reach it. Or perhaps he can place them where he knows the enemy will pass through. He also has his explosive grenades…these give him a bit of range, he can shoot through upper windows or bounce them round corners. The Demoman can also use either his stickies or grenades to destroy Engineer buildings.

Meanwhile the Scout is out and about. The Scout is basically an irritant. He flanks the enemy, moving in and out fast, taking them down before they have a chance to react. He can also double-jump, a technique that allows him to access high and out-of-the way areas. The Soldier is on the front-line, largely being offensive. He can jump, propelled by his rockets, to give him height and allow him to fire from unexpected directions. His rockets carry over a fair distance allowing him to kill at range. The Heavy is slow but with his minigun can deliver much damage that very little can survive. The Medic is healing. Often the Medic will be healing the Heavy, both pushing the defensive line forwards in an offense with the Soldier and the Demoman, dropping back to the Dispenser for ammo. A Medic/Heavy pair is a strong combination to take down. This can be the job of the Sniper. One headshot can finish one or the other.

And at any stage, an enemy Pyro, deciding to have a rest from spychecking can flank the team and set them on fire, to be countered by the friendly Pyro extinguishing the flames. Oh and throughout, everyone needs to protect the Medic.

So, while all this is going on, communication should be constant. There is often a Caller who will let the team know the location of various enemy classes. There are automatic calls which alert everyone to spies and enemy pushes. A Pyro distracts an enemy Engineer while a spy attacks from the back, and a Demoman fires grenades into an upper floor window allowing a Medic and Heavy to advance, safe from the enemy Sniper upstairs. And the Medic? Well he doesn’t ‘just’ heal. He builds ubercharge by healing. When his charge bar reaches 100% he discharges it making him and his ‘patient’ invulnerable for 8 seconds if he is using his medigun or cause his patient to shoot 100% critical hits for 8 seconds if he is using his kritzrieg. So often an entire push is based upon a Medic’s ubercharge.

And it’s happening fast, fast, fast. I’ve been killed through a moment’s inattention scratching my nose; you really need to get someone to do it for you. Like I said, at the start, it all seems to be a confusing whirl, there is so much to get used to especially to someone new to the genre like me, but gradually it does start to make sense as you listen and observe. And then as you learn, it just gets better and better.

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