Posts tagged beta

LOTRO Helm’s Deep Pre-Order Debacle

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I don’t really like making my first post in a long while a rant, but I just couldn’t help it.  There are so many things I feel are wrong with this announcement that I needed to write about it.  I have been expecting this news pretty much any day since the middle of June, so I can’t be terribly surprised it came yesterday.  I’m also not surprised by what was actually in the announcement, but I was really hoping that Turbine would change its model from previous expansions.

Sure, Isengard was their best expansion ever, and one that I snatched up the legendary pack for immediately.  However, we’ve never heard a peep about how Rohan did and one can only guess that it didn’t do all that well.  I know from my own highly scientific polling, most people were either not getting the pack or using their Turbine points for it, like I did.  What Turbine failed to do with that pre-order was include items that people really cared about and wanted.  After 6 years, I think players are getting tired of titles (does anyone still care what title they show?) and have more cosmetic items then they know what to do with.  Combine that with the fact that we can only show off one horse at any given time, it makes it hard to really need all these extra things.

With Helm’s Deep, I was really hoping they’d include some other sort of item in the pre-order packs.  To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what that would be – but I feel they should have tried something to switch things up from a model that clearly isn’t working.  One highly controversial item that would’ve tempted me is the rumored XP item that has been leaked.  I personally would love a way to bring a couple of my alts up to level cap but the prospect of leveling them is more then daunting and not something I have any intention of doing.  That to me would be the perfect “convenience” item, paying real world money to shorten my time in game.  And while they may not have learned anything about previous pre-orders bonus items, there’s more later about a trick they did pick up on

Next up would be the pricing, I again was hoping for something more along the lines of the Mirkwood model.  Not necessarily as confusing, but the base pack around $20 with a fluff option for another $20.  Instead what we got was a base of $40, a few more cosmetics for $60, and a horrifically overpriced Hobbit themed add-on for $40.  That hobbit pack includes:

  • 3 Star Lit Crystals which is 1195 TPs in the store
  • Scroll of Delving which is 195 TP
  • Relic Removal scroll which is 195 TP
  • and a Premium Relic pack which is 2000 TP (updated for all characters this is 3495)

So that totals 3585 TP, which is roughly $35 and if you’re in the US toss in an extra $13 for the movie ticket and it’s a pack valued at around $48.  It does appear that these items will still apply for your level 95 LIs, but no answer from a dev to the forum questions on this explicitly.  Even though the community has answered that store versions currently are not level bound, I would like a blue-name clarification that it will be that way with Helm’s Deep as well.  Clearly, if you’re not in the US this pack is not a good deal, and even in the US if you get a sale and/or a double point weekend (or stipend) it is probably better for you to pass on this.  After a twitter comment, if you play multiple characters, the relic pack is actually 3495 TP for all characters, so this does become a $63 value which is a better deal.

We still don’t know all that much about the expansion, even with the flurry of press articles.  If you actually think about those articles – what additional information came out that you didn’t know prior to the article?  At least with this expansion we don’t have to worry about the price and/or inclusion of an Instance Cluster since there is none.  However, at this time we still have zero information about the availability of using Turbine points to pay for the expansion, something we learned very quickly with the Rohan launch, later that day even.  This part doesn’t make sense to me since Sapience said they held off on the announcement to figure out a way to make the Hobbit pack international – so they had all this ready a good time ago and had to know this question would come immediately.  And after thinking about it a bit more, the fact that they’re floating the story that they didn’t announce the pre-order based purely on a freebie tie-in for a portion of the community is also a tad insulting.  If they really wanted to announce it, they would have (like they’ve done before) and make changes or inclusions along the lines.  But based on these prices and the fact that I’m sure there are many lifers like me with a healthy stash of TP, I highly expect the TP price for this expansion to be very high.

Getting back to Turbine learning their lessons, they did have an ace up their sleeve that they didn’t roll out until specifically called out on it, and this of course is that the Epic Story line which has been available for Free for a long time now (not quite since F2P launch) will only be available to those who purchase the expansion.  Here is Sapience’s initial response to the question as well as his follow up justification for the change.  <Update> Significantly after the fact, a slightly better explanation has come from MadeOfLions.  <Update> Initially I jumped to the greedy thought, but I’ve now come to realize what really bugs me isn’t that they’re being greedy (I still think they are) but that they’re not being honest or consistent in why they’re making the change.  If they had admitted it was a business decision to make the change, I would have been totally fine with it.  However, they are claiming that because Big Battles are such an integral part of the story, they need to charge for both of them.  Never mind that Helm’s Deep isn’t that big of a part of the books that LOTRO is based on (unlike the movies) as posted elsewhere but Turbine previously has included new technologies for free since they are so integral to the Epic Story line.  Legendary Items, many skirmishes, and Mounted Combat were all new technologies that significantly changed the game but since they were tightly integrated into the Epic Story line they were included for free.  No matter what real reason you think is driving this decision, the public answer clearly doesn’t make sense or justify what they’re doing.

The final piece of this announcement that truly boggles my mind is the date, November 18th.  If we look at past expansions, Rise of Isengard had almost 5 months of closed beta testing, without an instance cluster, before its launch, Riders of Rohan had 3 months but still pushed that launch a month and split up its instance cluster into 2 pieces to be launched significantly later.  This expansion will only have 2 months of closed beta testing, which is incredibly short considering that they’re introducing a “new” instance and rewards system as well as a complete and total revamp of EVERY class.  They haven’t updated every class at the same time since Moria, and not since Mirkwood have they actually succeeded in rolling out any kind of instance cluster at launch time, let along one that’s using “new” technology.  History shows us that both of these are both things that Turbine historically has trouble with so you’d like to think they’d want to make sure they did it properly.  I look at this in two ways, one cynical and the other incredibly pessimistically.  The truth is probably neither of them, but we’ll never know that.  From the cynical side, this is done to ride the wave of the Hobbit build-up to the second movie and get in before the holiday season kicks off in full gear, and was a date set by WB long ago.  Even if it launches at that time, I expect numerous patches and various things to be quickly closed off due to bugs and/or exploits.  As for the pessimistic view, this game is turning into an easy daily facebook style game, where difficulty has no place, so they don’t have to worry about class interactions or Big Battle difficulty at all.  They can just make sure classes work on their own and make the battles super easy and they’re done and ready for launch.

Riders of Rohan was the first expansion I didn’t pre-order on the day it was announced, and in fact I waited and bought it with Turbine Points.  Initially I wasn’t even planning on buying the Helm’s Deep expansion at all, even with Turbine Points, but now I’m not so sure since they made the epic chance.  Part of me thinks this is a clean time to part ways, but after almost 7 years in this world that is a hard thing to do.  Depending on how they handle things going forward I may cave and buy it with Turbine Points, but this announcement has really shown me how little Turbine understands the community.  The Player’s Council certainly has their work cut out for them.

 

Who’s Left on the LOTRO Team?

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News was made last week as Aaron “Rowan” Campbell announced he is taking over as the Senior Producer of DDO, leaving the LOTRO team without a Senior Producer.  It has neither been confirmed or denied on the LOTRO forums, and similarly, there’s been no mention of what’s going on with Kate Paiz, who last posted in January as the Executive Producer for LOTRO.  There’s a couple of things I wanted to touch on about this news, the obvious and then what I found after a little more digging into things.

I wonder if this is a promotion for Aaron, a lateral move, or a demotion based on what has happened (or rumored to have happened) with LOTRO.  Perhaps I’m wrong, but I always looked at LOTRO as being the bigger title for Turbine as compared to DDO.  Certainly you can read all sorts of things into this move and maybe they’re looking to Aaron to pump some life into DDO or something along those lines.  But the way it was announced – nothing on the LOTRO side and just a short introduction on the DDO forums, seems a little odd.  I would think if they wanted Aaron to carry on his “success,” they would want to pump him up a bit more and set him up a bit better.  Or the flip side, Turbine’s PR does have some issues so maybe they’re just doing their normal fantastic job.  Also, as has been raised elsewhere perhaps Turbine is seeing more competition in the D&D realm with Neverwinter Online and Elder Scrolls Online and they wanted to try and confront that.

With this announcement (or lack thereof) I started looking at other Turbine products checking to see who else was around.  Rumor has it the acclaimed dev Zombie Columbus has been working on Turbine’s MOBA Infinite Crisis for a while now, and he’s been joined by Frelorn and Celestrata per their dev tracker.  Jeffrey Steefel (former Executive Producer for LOTRO) has also been working on IC for a while now.  The only person making posts on the LOTRO side lately has been Sapience, so he’s really the only one confirmed to still be kicking around.  Also, I’ll point out that just because people are working on other titles, there’s nothing that says they’re not still working on LOTRO – they may be some re-use of technology or just a temporary assignment to help smooth out a rough patch.

Perhaps the reason why Turbine hasn’t been very active with regards to LOTRO news is that there’s some shuffling of personnel going on (similar to the recent restructuring of TSW Developer Funcom) and they’re still waiting for the dust to settle.  There’s been a number of interesting discussions on the official and unofficial forums, but in recent typical LOTRO fashion, nothing official from Turbine.

No matter what’s going on, I expect we’ll here something from Turbine this week about something ;)  It has been rumored that the new forums will launch this week, and on the optimistic side we could get something regarding the Helm’s Deep expansion.  I’ve been waiting for a while now for the pre-order announcement in conjunction with the closed beta start date announcement, so the end of the week would be the soonest I would expect something along those lines.  That Helm’s Deep announcement might be made by either the new producer, or Paiz, which either way would be a logical time to lay out and discuss the future of LOTRO.

What do folks make of these changes, and when do you expect to here something more about Helm’s Deep?

 

The Ups and Downs of LOTRO’s Update 11

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For me Update 11 has been a bit of a mixed bag.  There are a number of cool little things they’ve put into the game and of course the new epic story line, but I can’t help but be overly frustrated by the lack of quality and revision control that Turbine continues to show with its launches.  There’s also the slightly shadier aspect that I’m not sure I like or dislike, and that’s the continual push to have players log in every day.

Let’s start with the good parts, I’ve already talked about the zone and it really doesn’t disappoint from a visual perspective.  The whole footprints in the snow things is pretty darn cool!  I like the new housing tweaks, especially being able to pay for 20 weeks up front, in case you know you’re going to be gone (or forget) and that 5 weeks just isn’t long enough.  Foreclosure doesn’t impact me at all, but I think its a good middle ground way to get out of the corner they backed themselves into.  While the launcher has had issues, I do like the fact that it FINALLY respects your default browser when clicking links from within it.  I’m also quite happy with the way the epic line (not that I’ve done that much) mixes in your story with session plays to allow you to flesh out the rest of the story and allow us to check in on other areas.  The LOTRO story is quite geographically diverse, and this tech is a great way to show what’s going on without forcing us all other the map.  They also added in new craftable items for those who have maxed out not only their crafting skills, but their guild reputation.  I’m quite happy these don’t require any other reputation (like Wildermore) as it allows for folks with lower level crafting alts to still make usable items for people at the end game.  These items are a touch better then the Hytbold items, and offer quite a bit of flexibility with their multi-output options, so they’re definitely worth a look.  One other thing that I haven’t checked out, but was mentioned in the LOTRO Reporter interview was mounted fishing, and while you may or may not like the idea, the technology and concept behind it is quite intriguing and points to further growth and flexibility of the game engine, which is always a good thing.

Somewhere in the middle between the good and the bad is this whole new alerts panel thing, I’m actually ok with it, but that’s mainly because, thanks to the folks over on the LOTRO Google+ channel, I found out that you can individually scale the size of the alerts panel in your UI settings.  Without making it really small like I have, I think the cartoonish nature of the button would really bug me, but since it is now super tiny (yet still findable to click) it is one of those “out of sight, out of mind” updates.  They did add in some warbands and some other stuff for mounted combat, which while I agree is a good thing, but I still don’t think enough was done to make it anything more then a fringe side-game.  However, I have yet to see or read if any of the new warbands are challenging, or if they’re as much of a pushover as the others.

While there’s a number of pretty cool things in this update, sadly there’s also a LOT wrong with this update.  I’m still quite puzzled how this whole patcher thing wasn’t caught, but it still isn’t completely fixed – perhaps relying on the ancient .net 1.1 for so long and making such a drastic jump was just too much to pull off successfully.  There’s also the potential that there’s some nastiness that they had to code in to make the dreaded Pando Media Booster work with 1.1 that’s not playing well with whatever version of .net they’re using now.  Whatever the issue is, the fact that is has taken this long (3 days to patch) and it still isn’t resolved isn’t a good thing for Turbine.  The next big issue with this update are the broken quests which block you from proceeding in the story, there are now 2 that I know of with one being fixed.  Please make sure you check out this post such that you don’t get stuck in a position where you can’t advance further.  While I really appreciate and enjoy all the tricks and things they can do with phasing now, it seems like they forgot to put the proper checks in place to make sure that you can’t accidentally phase out someone you need for quest turn-ins.  Also, the music system is now broken, and this is troubling for two reasons:

  • timing is close to WeatherStock which is one of LOTRO’s biggest events that is noticed and picked up by media outlets outside of the gaming world
  • this happened when there were no updates to the system, meaning they don’t have a good system of regression testing to make sure that what worked in previous builds still works in current builds.

Finally, this update has once again brought us back to the time (Isengard did this too) where we no longer get virtue rewards for deed advancement or completion.  I really wish Turbine would just pick to something and be consistent about it, but all of the flipping back and forth on this in conjunction with the increase in available ranks just doesn’t sit well with me.  It is starting to seem like they are purposefully leaving options out of the game in order to drive folks to the store.  And let me be clear, I don’t have a problem with them having traits available in the store (I have bought them) but when you don’t include them in entire regions when they are in others (they’re in Rohan and the Great River, but not Isengard or Wildermore), it appears shady to me as if they don’t want too many options for players in game.

The other aspect that rubs me the wrong way is this shift to not only reward players for logging in every day but in some ways penalizing them for not.  Penalizing may be a strong word, but there are certain very clear advantages to logging in every day now that just weren’t the case prior to Update 11.  And I’m not just referring to the Hobbit Presents, which are just another addition along the same lines as festivals in that there are just certain things that are on a daily timer.  The big shift that I’m refereeing to is the new “VIP Perk” that is the change to rested experience.  Prior to update 11 you could “store” up to 20% of a level per day up to a cap of an entire level’s worth as rested experience, but now with Update 11 that cap is at 33%, but it can be refreshed daily and applies to all experience not just monster kills.  So this is really only a perk if you’re able to actively QUEST on a daily basis on whatever character you want to work on.  I’d suggest if you really want to take full advantage of this “perk” make sure to try and get in some good quest time on your alts, perhaps run a skirmish or two on them to get not only monster kills but quest xp.

Overall, I still think this was a pretty decent update for LOTRO but the bugs and lack of regression testing could pose some huge problems when they do their class overhauls with all these instance options and technologies as something is bound to break, and who knows when Turbine will not only catch it but be able to fix it.

 

LOTRO Update 11 Goodies

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Of course this is all subject to change, but there are some pretty cool aspects to Update 11 that I wanted to share with folks.  I also will have a couple of suggestions for folks towards the end.  Don’t get me wrong, Update 11 isn’t perfect and it won’t keep end-game folks busy until the Helm’s Deep expansion, but this update is better then what I was expecting.  And I haven’t even done any of the Epic line, which always have good stories tied to them.

Visually, the area is quite stunning and unlike the other winter zones in the game – which is quite nice.  Turbine always impresses me with how they’re able to keep creating different and unique zones.  Adding to the beauty of the area, Turbine has stepped it up with their armor designs in this update.  The end-game sets with Rohan were honestly pretty disappointing as the Hytbold sets were incredibly un-inspired.  As some examples, check out some of the gear below:

Metalsmith CraftablesTailor Craftablesmore costmetics

Now as you can tell from these shots, we have all sorts of new tiers:

  • new guild obtainable craftables
    • requires mastery of the eastenment tier (double anvil)
  • More reputation to obtain
    • although this time tasks do boost reputation
  • More barter items to gather, including another set of dailies
    • some have likened the progression to Limlight Gorge

I also wanted to share a completely non-real item as I just thought it looked cool and I thought might be interesting to see if they actually use it anywhere.

Bullroarer snapshot

I would be curious to see if they decide to do something like the weapon glow already in game for armor or shields.

In addition to all the cool looks of these sets, there are actually some interesting things going on with stats in this update.  The guild crafted items all have 5 variants to choose from to give you lots of flexibility.  I’m not sure about everything, but at least the Tailor, Metalsmith, and Jeweler items all have 5 options, which is pretty impressive.  Granted, you won’t have set bonuses, but for many classes those bonuses aren’t that useful so here’s another series of pieces you can mix and match.  Here’s an example of one of these pieces compared with the Hytbold piece.

One example of stats

This kinda makes my head spin a bit from a min/maxing perspective as there are now ALL SORTS of options to play with.  As another example, here are the stats for the pretty eye-popped barterable bauble items available in the new zone.

New Barter ItemsNew Barter ItemsNew Barter ItemsNew Barter ItemsNew Barter ItemsNew Barter Items

So there’s some pretty cool stuff coming with Update 11, but it would really be nice if they find a way to squeeze in some sort of other update prior to the expansion.  If they could do something like last year and add a couple instances and/or skirmishes I think that would go a long way.  However, I have a feeling that the reputation grind is all we’re going to have to keep us busy until the expansion hits.

As for those looking for things to do, I’d suggest working on your crafting as the new goodies may require some work.  First off, they all require mastery of the Eastenment tier (double anvil) where as the previous build recipes just required access to the tier, not mastery.  Also, they do require the large guild items (the weekly cooldown ones) so it might be a good idea to stock up on those.  Another option for you is that you can now trade up symbols such that small symbols can be turned into medium ones, and those can further be upgraded to large ones.  I haven’t looked at the tasks yet, but it is possible there could be a re-use of item drops – but I’d honestly be surprised if they didn’t introduce new items.

While not a total cure-all for what’s going on with LOTRO, I really think Update 11 is a significantly good update that if more updates (and more often) were of this quality, LOTRO might be in a better state.

 

LOTRO’s Player Council Announcement

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It was delayed a couple of times, but I have to admit I’m pretty please overall with the folks chosen for the council.  I certainly don’t know everyone (I do know and respect  both Silverlode representatives) but in all the places I’ve read (including the unofficial forums) there are very few criticisms of the folks chosen.  Granted, it could be that people can’t make the connection between the character names and the forum names, but I still think the lack of push-back from the community is a good first step.

For those wanting to get more involved with the council, there are a couple of ways.  My only suggestion would be to be understanding of the fact that the council members are bound by an NDA and as such may not be able to tell you anything, however some have already come out in various ways and made themselves available.  They probably are also getting a few other requests coming into them, so it would probably be best to be patient and not take their lack of a response personally.

  • If you’re on the same server, you could always hit them up with a polite tell or in-game mail
  • there are some forum threads, one on raiders specifically, that you can either chime in on or DM individuals
  • some of them are on twitter and have been using the #lotrocouncil hashtag
  • I also expect there will be more official ways to get involved as they get spun up

Finally, this is a new thing Turbine is trying out and for me they’ve at least carried out the initial aspect very well.  Now comes the tough part, what the council is allowed to do, is able to do as a community, and what, plus how frequently, they’re allowed to tell the rest of us what’s going on.

As for me personally, yes I did apply but looking back at it I’m happy I wasn’t chosen as I do have a means to interact with the team and the community.  I have been part of betas and have impacted the development process, and will continue to attempt to do so.  This is an avenue for another batch of folks to get involved and see what they can do.  Of course, I probably will apply next time but I think we’ll all have a much better idea of what’s going on by that time.

I am skeptically optimistic about this whole thing, but today’s announcement does make me feel better about the potential of the Council.

 
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