Posts tagged Lore

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.

 

The Secret World Announces Store Changes and Veteran Rewards

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Joel Bylos, the Secret World Game Director, has been out of pocket for a bit since he was head down with the team over in Montreal.  His first post clears up a couple of items that had been kicking around, and so far from the initial glance I like them.

First up, he talks about the changes to the store and this relates to new pets and the ability to make those pets account bound as opposed to character bound.  This doesn’t apply to me (I’m only playing one character now) but this is a nice and welcome change.  Essentially if you pay 100 points (I’m making up that number) for a character bound pet, you would pay 125 points (25% premium) to make that same pet account bound.  You’ll also see in the store an option to unlock a previously purchased pet for the 25% difference.  I really wish other games would take this approach and hopefully they’ll expand this idea to cosmetic items as well

In addition, they had announced the whole concept of a veterans reward system when they made the business model change and are now starting to flesh out the details.  It is still a work in progress but essentially there will be a new set of currency that will be available for GM pack owners (lifers) and subscribers as well.  Each month you’d get an allotment of these points in addition to your allotment of TSW points for DLC and the like.  I don’t expect there to be any way to convert from one currency to the other, but that would nice too Smile  This is another nice perk and the items they’re talking about are things that I would love to use and aren’t anything game-breaking (IMO).  Some examples are:

  • repair consumables – these would be awesome for cases where you don’t want to pop back to town, a bit more painful on some missions then others now with the increased death penalty
  • Bank/AH/Mail cosumables to bring these items to you
  • Faction flavored Combat dummies
  • Veteran outfits, titles, and pets
  • secondary conduit or region teleport
  • mission cooldown reduction consumable

Certainly this system will all hinge on how many points we get on a monthly basis and how much the items cost but I can think of cases when all of those items would certainly be helpful but not overly powerful that they hinder gameplay for those that don’t have them.

I’m also excited to see what all Joel has up his sleeve for his next “State of the Game” post slated for later this week.

I’d be curious to hear what others think of his post, especially those who aren’t subscribers or lifers.

 

Furthering my Secret World Addiction

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Lately my main MMO of choice has been The Secret World and I wanted to highlight 2 quest chains that I think really show off the reason why I’m so addicted to TSW.  I will try to keep this post spoiler free as much as possible as although I’m still quite early on in the game I’m sure there are some who haven’t done those specific missions.

The first mission arc I wanted to talk about is the Tyler Freeborn sequence, which is new with the Issue 5 update and actually the focus of that issue.  You’re essentially following the journey of a blogger during the start of the events leading up to all the craziness going on.  You get pulled into all the other factions in the game trying to prevent Tyler from publicizing what’s going on while also trying to uncover what he figured out.  This quest has all the best Funcom has to offer with great storylines that hook into everything else in the game as well as enthralling voice acting that just seems to be getting better!  The climax of the quest is the last portion which is a dream sequence of sorts and once again not only had me on the edge of my seat but actually had me jumping in my chair a couple of times.  This sequence brought me back to various horror movies and got me wondering what else might happen or what will jump out at me.  While there are lots of horror elements in this game, I think missions like this really highlight the suspense part of the genre that they’ve done VERY well.  This mission is the first content of the new business model, and might be a little tough for people questing in the zone for the first time, but I would certainly recommend buying this DLC as it is probably the best quest arc I’ve done so far.  One thing I’ll point out that threw me a bit off-guard was that it showed that I didn’t have access to the quest (I’m a Lifer) but clicking on the quest brought me right to the store where it was shown to be available at zero cost (just like it was promised).  Not a huge deal, but a little added step that I wasn’t expecting.

The other mission I really enjoyed was out in the Scorched Desert (where I’m currently questing) called The Last Legion.  There’s a ton of back-story on this one and a really cool “Oh &*%#” moment that I went through but I won’t spoil it for folks.  I progressed my way through to the end stage of this mission and get my butt absolutely handed to me.  I ended up trying the last fight a couple times just to see if there’s something I’m doing wrong or if a different rotation would suit me better.  At this point, I’m traited mainly AoE with swords relying on Impairing mobs with a couple Elementalism damage skills tossed in there.  I then decided that I should look at what skills I have available and look at a different tactic.  I basically switched over to a “turtle” build pushing my defensive skills in the sword line and self healing via Blood Magic, which after a couple attempts I was able to tweak it enough to breeze through the mission.  I love this kind of mission for a few reasons:

  • there is no “I Win” build, there are lots of successful ways to play the game
  • there are challenging missions in TSW that require you to actually think things through
  • you have full ability to flip your build completely on the fly whenever you want to
  • your build can become so much more powerful when you like abilities together to leverage and stack bonuses

For me, this combination of amazing storytelling and depth coupled with the gameplay mechanics continues to keep me addicted to this game and I am really enjoying my journey through this world.

 

2013 LOTRO and TSW Predictions

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I do find in interesting and enjoyable to not only look forward, but also take a look back at what we’ve done in the past.  I’m going to limit my predictions to the two main MMOs I’m playing these days (LOTRO and TSW).  Before I look ahead, lets see how well (or poorly) I did predicting 2012.

I ended up not doing too badly with many of my predictions but did miss on a couple:

  • The Warden class did get some love, and post Update 9 I think they’re in a pretty darn good place
  • I thought we’d get more content in 2012, but I think we were more or less on par with 1 expansion and 3 other updates.
    • I was VERY close on the Rohan release date as I said October but it launched in September.
  • I was also really close with the Mounted Combat idea and really only missed on the mass battles part
  • We didn’t get any more classes like I said, but we also didn’t get any new session play options like the uber champ dwarves in Moria.
  • I was flat out wrong about not increasing the level cap, although the Mount system did give some semblance of more horizontal progression.
  • Overall I think I split on the store aspect as I did say no raid armor and more ways to help with alts (universal crafting tool for example) but I also thought they’d include some sort of gating mechanism to allow you to more quickly level alts.

Overall I’d put myself somewhere in the high C range or low B range if I had to grade my predictions for 2012.

Continuing forward with LOTRO, here’s what I’m predicting for 2013:

  • The current content pace will continue, no increase and no decrease
  • Only one other story (epic line) update in addition to the Expansion
    • there might be other story quests (similar to the In Your Absence line) but not tied to the Epic
  • Based on Rowan’s Producers letter we know the In Your Absence instances are getting a scaled treatment and I also expect to see a similar treatment for the Moria instances.
  • There will be another new festival (like the Farmer’s Faire) and all future festivals will share the mechanics put in place with the Yule Festival
  • As for the expansion, here’s what I’m expecting
    • September/October timeframe
    • Finishes off the Rohan landscape
    • Helm’s Deep will NOT be included
    • 10 level cap increase with some upgraded skills, just like Rohan and Isengard
      • I’m even thinking this will be the class updates Rowan talks about in the Producers letter
    • No new classes nor a PvMP zone
    • Again, the instance cluster will be separate from the expansion for release either in late 2013 or early 2014
    • There will be Hytbold 2.0 which will be bigger and more expansive then Hytbold
    • Mounts will get another 10 levels and maybe some new skills but not much else, especially not instances.

As for TSW, here’s what I’m thinking for 2013:

  • the new modified Buy to Play model will be a significant boost for the player base and Funcom’s financials
    • TSW will still be a niche game because of the difficulty and setting, but it will have significantly more players
  • The monthly update schedule will continue and I expect at least 10 issues in 2013.
  • These issues will have a mix of quest content and system wide changes
  • We’ll see another ARG event as it was such a huge success and PR boost for them
    • They’ll probably even push further on real world interactions.  The whole “call you on your cell phone thing” was very cool and I expect them to expand on that.
  • They’ll release a mobile app of some sort
    • either tied to the ARG or something like WoW and Rift have
  • We’ll see either Housing or Mounts introduced, and Joel has talked about both of these recently.  Although I did think this even before I heard him talk since they’ve done such a good job of cherry picking from other MMOs all along.
    • Check out the Beyond the Veil Podcast for more info
    • The mount discussion is around the 1 hour 8 minute mark
    • The Housing discussion is around the 1 hour 35 minute mark

In looking at my predictions, I’m probably a little down on LOTRO and a little high on TSW so the reality will probably be in the middle somewhere.  I also am specifically choosing not to talk about either game’s store as I don’t want to get too negative and there’s always the potential one of them could do something stupid.

What do you guys think of these, or do you have others that I’m missing?

 

The Secret World did NOT go Free to Play

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I woke up this morning to all sorts of articles in my RSS reader and twitter pretty much blowing up with news of the new model Funcom has adopted for The Secret World.  However, I have a slightly different take on it.  And I personally think this is a great move by Funcom and one that I really didn’t see coming at all.  Not only did I not see it coming, but I don’t see it as invalidating their previous public comments on going F2P, which is always important.

There are still lots of questions out there, but here’s what we know so far about the model:

  • You still have to buy the box for ~$30
  • There still is a subscription option which includes the following:
    • Daily 10% experience booster
    • $10 monthly store credit
    • Cosmetic item of the month included with the current DLC
    • 10% store discount

In addition to these benefits, two others were announced for those who bought in to the game early on:

  • GrandMaster pack holders (ie Lifers) will get an additional 10% across the board store discount
  • Those who bought the Initiate pack will get a credit of 1800 points of store credit

The interesting part of this model, and why I’m not calling it F2P is that all future updates (TSW calls them Issues) will be purchasable DLC by everyone.  That’s an important statement there, the DLC will NOT be included in either the subscription or the GM Pack, however we are led to believe that the $10 monthly allotment will more then cover said DLC cost.  The CM (community management) posts have mentioned a $5 price point for the DLC, which would still leave half of your point allotment available for fluff.  Each of the previous Issues (1-4) have included not just quest content but also system changes, which will be included for free for those who have bought the game.

I personally LOVE this move for a couple of reasons:

  • it isn’t a F2P model
  • they benefit from all the haters claiming they’ve failed
  • assuming the DLC costs less then the monthly allotment, a subscription is MORE valuable
  • Lifers get tangible benefits
  • They know the pitfalls – aka power items and lootboxes which “won’t” be in the store
  • players still have the choice of what they want to play and pay for
  • what they’re including in that initial $30 is a HUGE amount of content including instances, raids, and role-play options

In addition to all of this, there are a couple other goodies out there:

  • If you purchased the Initiate pack you’ll be granted 1800 points
  • Issue 5 content will be included if you purchase in December
    • otherwise it will be the 1st DLC available starting in January

When comparing my lifetime subscriptions (I have 2 for MMOs), I will take TSWs anyday – assuming the DLC price will remain around that $5 price point.  I fully expect it to wiggle a bit based on what’s in the update but it should stay under that $10 allotment.  Compare this to LOTRO (my other lifer):

  • LOTRO requires me to buy expansions which TSW doesn’t have
  • both offer store point allotments
  • TSW offers a stackable store wide discount for both subscribers and lifetime members

The only potential downside I see to Funcom’s model is a hinted at 6-month lifetime for your accrued bonus points.  As long as the DLC is LESS then the monthly allotment, this really isn’t and issue and also prevents the problems LOTRO is running into right now with lifers sitting on more points then they can spend.

Why am I so excited for this change?  I now have the option to exercise one of the coolest part of TSW, the cosmetic system, to its fullest.  I will now have a monthly allotment of points to spend on not just those toys, but also things like the Albion Theatre.

If you’d like to rage or praise this change, there is an official thread posted but like all threads I’d suggest you think before posting as this isn’t a model we’ve seen before in an MMO.

All of this positivity is of course based on the fact that I honestly do trust the Funcom development team much more then the Turbine team, but I’m curious what pitfalls do ya’ll see?

 
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