Posts tagged mounted combat

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.

 

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?

 

Ringing in 2013 With All Sorts of Changes

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This has been a pretty eventful holiday break for me with both a newborn and lots of family in town.  I won’t bore folks with the details, but needless to say I haven’t had too much time for normal gaming, but I did want to catch up on a few things and let folks know that I’m still around and what I plan to do this year.

My gaming time has pretty much revolved around three titles, so I’ll start with the highlights from them as they’ll all be top items going forward.

In LOTRO, I pretty much have been logging in to do my Hytbold dailies and very little else.  I’m almost done rebuilding as I’m down to the regional horses and after that I’ll probably do some instances if I can work them into my schedule somehow.  I didn’t do the festival this year partly do to timing and scheduling but also I really wasn’t happy with the changes and the way the war-steed cosmetics were handled.  Yes, I’ve heard it really wasn’t that bad but with all the other grinds out there it just really didn’t seem worth it to me.  I’m really hoping Rowan’s second comment about Mounted Combat is more correct then his first as it is much easier to find data to support a money grab then a serious long term system, and I want to be proven wrong here.  I won’t dwell on it, but that’s certainly in the back of my mind as this game goes forward and will become more evident when (if) we get an expansion this year.

I’ve also been doing a fair amount of work in The Secret World.  Certainly the End of Days ARG event really sparked my interest and I’m really excited for this game going forward.  I’m still pretty early in the game and am just working my way through the Scorched Desert, but every time I log on I keep thinking I need to make more time for this game!  There seems to be lots of positives coming from the community and twitter about checking this game out with the subscription changes and I really think Funcom has done this change very well.  Would it have been better to go this route from the start, possibly, but I don’t think anyone expected their CEO to be accused of insider trading when the game launched.  The game was profitable while they had the subscription model, and I think making this transition will push them even further into the black.  Remember, they had already scaled back their staff prior to putting out 3 months of content updates in a row.  I’m expecting big things from Funcom and this game and while I don’t expect huge numbers I do think it will be quite a successful game.

For me the big distinction between LOTRO and TSW really comes down to how they’ve handled communications with their player base.  I won’t hammer LOTRO too much, but even the mounted combat issue we’ve heard two completely different answers from Rowan about it.  As for TSW, sure they’ve made mistakes, but they’ve also been VERY upfront about what’s going on and how they’re trying to fix things.  Some might argue that they dropped the sub change on us without notice, but what would you have done with that notice?  I mean they didn’t change the game it self one bit, they just changed how future DLC will be monetized in the game.  The store and what’s in it were always there and they’ve had a good track record for providing new content.  The other aspect I really commend them on is how they’ve handled the Lifetime members.  Personally I never had an issue as I looked at it as getting the content included (like I should) and some extra points to buy cosmetics with.  However, many people were not happy about it and voiced their opinions and actually provided some good ideas and suggestions.  Based on requests, they’ve added the following (link for the source):

  • Veteran reward system
  • DLC Price guarantee for Subscribers and Lifetime members.  The monthly DLC will never cost more then your monthly allotment of points, period.  If they do release something that’s more, they will knock down the price for people.
  • There will be a DLC auto-buy feature for those who want to use it.

All in all, great changes and an incredibly active and constructive thread from both the players and the Funcom team.  I just don’t see that kind of interaction and transparency coming from Turbine, and while I’m sure there are other companies out there doing it, I haven’t been personally involved or impacted by them.

As for my third vice, it is Football Manager 2013 and those following me on Raptr have probably noticed that’s quite a constant game I’m playing.  Not only do I really enjoy that game, but since it has a pause button I can easily let it run and not worrying about where my character was standing or anything like that.  I’m currently in my third season with Everton and finding things going pretty smoothly so far.  I did cheat a bit with the editor and moved Jack Rodwell back to Everton as I’d like to see what he can do as opposed to rotting on the Man City bench.  I have very much over-achieved my first two years, more do to other teams failing then me doing well as United crumbled down the stretch to gift me the Premiere title my first year, and somehow all the strong teams lost to someone else in my run to the Champions League title in my second year.  This third year has had its ups and downs, but I’m halfway through and looking pretty strong.

As we move into 2013 I will most likely be playing these 3 quite a bit as well as Mechwarrior Online.  The only reason I’m not playing Mechwarrior is due to it still being in beta and just not wanting to burn out or waste too much time building up in there only to see it wiped.  However, it is quite a fun game that I know I’ll be playing when it launches.  Outside of that, I don’t see too many upcoming titles that are “must plays” for me, but hopefully that will change.

As for my plans for the year, I will still be writing and looking to keep things moving here as well as possibly doing more videos and/or a podcast.  Both of those will heavily depend on what I end up doing, but certainly potentially in the cards.  My coverage will probably mimic my playing time and start to shift more towards TSW and away from LOTRO, but that too may change based on how things all play out.

As I wrap up this post, I’ll toss two questions out to folks:

  1. Any game titles I should be looking out for and following?
  2. Any suggestions, complaints, requests, etc. for me going forward?
 

Mounted Combat in LOTRO Purely a Gimmic?

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Don’t get me wrong, I actually really enjoy mounted combat and like the way it was implemented.  I was holding out hope that we would see the system grow and evolve over time as an integral system to the game, like Skirmishes and Legendary Items.  However, according to Aaron “Rowan” Campbell that might be quite a stretch for what they have planned for the system.

In an interview released by the folks over at LOTRO Reporter:

they get a preview of two of the three man instances.  If you don’t want spoilers on the instances themselves you can watch the first little bit and then the Q&A session starts at around the 48 minute mark.

The first question revolves around Mounted Combat instances and Aaron’s answer is:

“It is something we’re thinking about, but is not in our current plans”

So there you have it, mounted combat instances will happen around the same time we see a new PvMP map.  Now while you may suggest that this just means near-term, Aaron also states later on that they have very detailed and lengthy plans for the game’s future development.  I realize that this is fine for many of you, but it really puts a bit of a sour note on the whole Rohan expansion for me.  When looking at the expansion now, you really can’t consider MC (Mounted Combat) to be a new system, it is purely a side game to keep people occupied and have them learn something else.  These mounts really won’t grow with us, nor will they be integral to our character progression at all, unlike systems introduced in other expansions.

Not to mention the shear lunacy of the cosmetic pricing of the war-steeds, coupled with the high cost of the expansion, and one could argue that this was Turbine looking for another way to earn money without having to solve some of the more complicated problems.  They probably realize that cosmetics are a huge revenue stream for them, so why not put in a new kind of horse and charge people per character to do any customization on it.  And unlike their other cosmetics which can be stored in an account wardrobe, everything we do to our horses must be done for every character.  I think many people would have been quite content with mounts 3.0 that allowed you to obtain account bound (or store in a wardrobe) cosmetics that you could wear around on mounts that would behave like the existing horses.

One of the main reasons I’m frustrated by this is that I just don’t feel LOTRO is evolving as it ages.  Sure we get little things here and there, but there’s not much of an actual progression.  The only progression we have is the story (which I do enjoy) with everything else seemingly becoming more grind-tastic.  If you look at this expansion as we know it now, all it really brought was more story and landscape, with some underlying mechanical changes.  The way we actually play the game and what our characters can do hasn’t changed at all.  I was really hoping that Mounted Combat would be that new mechanic that allowed you to really customize how your character played and have that actually matter.  The reason why I tied this systems to Instances is that Instances are the only reason they’d need to make changes to the system to make it less of a DPS race.  If you don’t have instances, there’s no reason to worry about things like agro and healing.  Like I’ve said before, even the raid war-band can be solo’d and that along with this announcement show me that they have no intention of improving the system beyond what it is now.  I was looking for Mounted Combat to provide a broader gameplay experience like other systems that have been implemented since launch.  While you may argue about the utility of it, you can actually do a significant amount of tweaking using the Legendary Item and Skirmish systems to customize how your character plays.  And while it is technically true that you don’t need to skirmish to play the game, it is a pretty significant portion of the end-game content.

Sadly it looks like I’ll add one more horse to my ever growing stable of horses I’ll rarely ride.

 

LOTRO Update 8.1 Patch Notes

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Sapience posted them this morning for our reading pleasure while we wait for the servers to re-open. This update is primarily bug fixes, but a few things do stand out:

  • I’m not sure how big a change the open tapping on is, but apparently they’re reverting to all folks in the fellowship getting credit no matter what they do or do not do.  Apparently this whole contribution thing is more complicated then they originally thought and it is causing them fits.  I believe the system remains unchanged besides this, but I will update if that isn’t the case.
  • Various class tweaks and fixes.
  • You can now use quest items and crafting nodes while mounted on your War-Steed!!
  • Hythbold Armour can now be placed into shared storage for trading with your alts.

However, it does not appear that any of the “bugged” Hythbold dailies (I believe at least 2 are currently unstable) nor the client crashing issues (when logging off) have been addressed.  Also not addressed is the 6th bag which was one of the touted features of the expansion and I’m sure something that would bring them a few dollars.  And finally, the Gondamon skirmish remains closed Sad smile

Personally, I’m a little under-whelmed as this seems more in line with what they’d do for something like 8.03.

 
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