A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Posts tagged “LOTRO

A Little Overwhelming

Lately I’ve been playing a lot of Borderlands 2. This past weekend I added a fair amount of Mass Effect 3 multiplayer. Last night I played some Diablo III and now I’m itching for it. Tomorrow the expansion to XCOM Enemy Unknown will arrive (XCOM Enemy Within). Around the 18th, Lord of the Rings Online is going to reformat gameplay to make combat flow better and to reduce the number of skills my poor Captain has.

It feels like a lot. Typically around summertime I start wondering what there is to look forward to in gaming and I always forget that the big things happen right before the holiday season in the October-November range.

So, on the games I’ve mentioned…

In Borderlands 2, I finished the DLCs “Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep” and “Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty”. I started in on “Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt” before I got sidetracked.

In Mass Effect 3 multiplayer, I started playing with a group of people that I met online and who are looking to have a good time. Fortunately for them, I’m pretty good at ME3 multiplayer these days, so I was coaching some of them here and there and we netted a bunch of awesome victories. It’s so much fun playing with people who really want to do well. I really lucked out here.

In Diablo III, my friend was playing a level 40 Barbarian and I happened to have a level 39 Barbarian, so I popped into his game and found myself woefully underpowered for playing Nightmare difficulty at Monster Power 10. I had to redo my build and pick up some new equipment, so we’ll see how things go there. Also, is it just me or is the auction hall more overpriced than usual these days? I hope people realize that if they price things to sell, they’ll actually sell them.

I’m planning on starting a new XCOM game tomorrow that will probably detract from all other gaming (except social gaming because I’m not about to say, “No, I can’t play with you because I’m playing with myself” because that’s totally uncool). Also, as I was writing this, a friend insisted that we hadn’t fought each other in multiplayer yet, so I guess that’s what I’m doing tonight!

Depending on the level of the change and how it feels to play LOTRO, I may stick that out longer than a day of gameplay when the changes come. I don’t know yet, but I’m hoping I’ll play it a bit more often in the future.

Anyway, that’s what’s going on with my gaming habits right now.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Good plan? Great plan!” – Tiny Tina


Stepping Back Into MMOs

Until this past weekend I’ve been mostly playing single player games. That ended as I jumped back into Star Trek Online.

My current project is to make my Chimera-class Heavy Destroyer a fully functioning ship that I have fun breaking out every now and again. The first job is building the three parts to the Nukara Appropriated Munitions set, followed by building the Nukara Strikeforce Technologies set. I recognize that they’re not the best sets in the game, but I’m here to enjoy myself and I’m turning the Chimera into a beam-boat, so nyah. Also, it’s going to take a while to build up enough dilithium for all the parts I’d like to put on her. I’m currently uninterested in working on fleet projects, so that works in my favor. Once this is done, I think I’ll be able to focus on the fleet again. Side note: I’m going to be naming her after my dearly departed dog, Terra, once she’s done and ready for deployment. Durable, fast, and powerful… that’s Terra.

I’ve also had a bit of an itch to hop back into Neverwinter. I haven’t had a chance yet to see just how amazing it looks on this machine, but I did hop in briefly to max out all the settings when I installed it. Shouldn’t be anything short of spectacular looking.

I’m craving some DC Universe Online as well. I made a Power Girl facsimile (Power Girl is my favorite) and I’m hoping to get back to her soon. She’s so satisfying to play!

Other MMOs on my machine right now are Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Lord of the Rings Online, Champions Online, and Uncharted Waters Online. Multiplayer only games are Mechwarrior Online, ME3 Multiplayer, Star Conflict, oh, and Warframe (which I have very little opinion on right now since I’ve barely played it and I’m just not willing to spend time there yet).

If anyone has a recommendation for a fun free-to-play MMO that I could step into and check out, I’d appreciate it.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. Instead of a quote, here’s a helpful article for Star Trek Online players who might be new or at least not entirely aware of all the things you can do in the game.


A Little Here, A Little There – MMO Free-to-Play Cash Shops

There’s quite a few games I enjoy that are now Free-to-Play and have the a la carte system we commonly call a “cash shop”. On the whole, this mechanic is optional, yet most choose to throw in some cash in order to take advantage of the shiny things they like to hide behind the pay wall. Some games do it right, some games need some help.

A game that does it right is Lord of the Rings Online. Their LOTRO Store accepts Turbine Points and makes them readily available in small amounts as you normally play the game. Kill 30 goblins in the Shire, gain 5 TP. Kill another 80 wolves and gain 10 TP. Do some stuff over here that takes a bit of time and get a few more. It’s pretty nice. Since TP go to your account, you can do that same stuff over and over and over again until you have all the TP you want. Of course, it’s your time to spend.

Further, the things available in the LOTRO Store make a lot of sense: extra character slots, account bank space, removing the money cap, costume slots, extra inventory space, even the expansions and adventuring zones are available with an investment in the store. Play enough of the game (and if you’re lucky there’s a sale going on) and you can actually get entire zones of quests added to your experience. Not too shabby. Everything’s pretty reasonably priced too.

Star Trek Online is where I fear things start to get a little hokey. They converted from their Cryptic Coins to the Zen of their parent company, Perfect World Entertainment. As a result, things feel more expensive, but the conversion rate is a bit kinder to those of us who want to know what things cost at a glance. Oh, 500 Zen for that? That’s $5.00. Pretty straightforward. That said, a new ship in STO that you get through the Cryptic Store can go for 1500 Zen and ship packs of three have been known to go for 3000. It’s understandable (I guess) since these ships are the primary mechanism for playing the game. They’re your home away from home. I know that as soon as the Regent-class Assault Cruiser Refit dropped, I paid money to get it ASAP. Also, the Andorian Escort pack. Thus far though, those are the only ships I’ve really dropped money on because I was looking forward to playing with them and I feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth. It’s a mixed bag depending on what you’re looking for in the Cryptic Store.

Neverwinter’s cash shop is a different kind of beast though. There’s things in there that are really worth it like 500 Zen for two character slots (not bad at all) and you can easily drop 500 Zen on a decent mount that can be redeemed account wide for any character high enough to use it. Those are really nice. The things in the cash shop that really get my ire going are the companions. They’re single character purchases, but they’re all in the 1000-3500 Zen range. The 3500 Zen one? A Honey Badger companion. While I get that it’s probably pretty cool and all, that’s THIRTY-FIVE DOLLARS for a SINGLE companion. It doesn’t apply to your account, just ONE character. That just doesn’t feel right in any sense of the term. While I’d love to have a Galeb Dhur (spelling off the top of my head) companion, I’m not willing to drop 30 bucks on it. It’s just not worth it to me.

Further, something these games all have in common are the availability of lockboxes. Lockboxes are these loot items that drop and have random things available in them if you have a special key to open them. In STO and Neverwinter, you must purchase the key for 125 Zen (individually) or 1125 Zen (for a pack of 10… buy 9 get one free?) or buy them from other players on the in-game Auction Hall. In LOTRO? Lockboxes drop, sure, but so too do the keys. Just not as frequently as the lockboxes. I think that’s really clever. It’s like… here’s a lockbox and if you want to wait to open it, it’s going to take up valuable inventory space until you find a randomly dropping key OR you could throw a few Turbine Points at it to make it open NOW. Your choice.

STO and Neverwinter could take a page from LOTRO’s book. That random drop key is CLEVER.

As an aside, Star Wars: The Old Republic also has a cash shop, but there’s a different issue than just the price of things there. Some of the stuff they put in there is perfectly fine (thank you for the character slots!), but the problem is with the permissions that you have to pay to unlock if you’re not a subscriber. I mean, I’m a 6-month subscriber, collector’s edition pre-order player, but I think that the things my friends who are Free-to-Play can’t do without purchasing some kind of permission is pretty darn harsh. Some make sense like limiting the number of space and PvP and other special types of missions. I get that. There’s other permissions that feel like unfortunate decisions. One friend told me that she can’t open lockboxes with credits in them, even if they’re quest rewards because she doesn’t have permission. That’s just insane. You can’t apparently buy that permission a la carte either, you MUST subscribe (I think, don’t quote me on that). I’m tempted to log in, open her lockboxes for her, and then hand her all the money inside. As is, I’m going to see if I can get her some cool stuff with my Cartel Store stipend since the game is being mean.

I certainly appreciate the cash shops. It gives me something to browse through, like a SkyMall catalog for my game, and it definitely has some useful things every now and again, but it’s also full of things that make me question their usefulness. Kind of like the “slippers with headlights” of cash shops… not sure I need them, but I can envision a few times where they might be handy. I think the devs are on the right track most of the time, but sometimes they need to have a reality check.

How about a survey on the goods in your stores? I’d be more than happy to participate in a value studies survey on the contents of your cash shops. With Neverwinter it’ll be easy since they’ve got a lot less stuff in there right now compared to the more established games.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. I might have used this one before, but it’s wildly appropriate here: “Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it.” – Publilius Syrus’ Maxim 847

P.P.S. It occurs to me that I might not be allowed to open my friends lockboxes if they’re bound. That’s… unfortunate.

P.P.P.S. Apparently she can’t receive credit lockboxes at all since they’re subscriber only. VERY unfortunate.


Whacking Things With A Stick – Satisfaction In Gameplay

There are days where I just want to hit stuff with a stick. Seeing as that’s not entirely socially acceptable, I poke through my catalog of games to find the experience that fulfills that desire best. Sometimes I come up with a winner, sometimes I don’t. Here’s a short list of games that I find give me that great “hitting someone” satisfaction in order of most to least satisfaction.

Mass Effect 3 multiplayer – Seeing as I’ve finished the single player game, the multiplayer component provides replayability and a pile of stuff that I still need to improve upon. Oh, and my favorite weapon, the M-37 Falcon, is a micro-grenade launcher. Satisfaction guaranteed.

Lord of the Rings Online – My captain has a variety of abilities that just FEEL good. He screams and does damage, he swings his halberd and you hear the slicing, cracking, crunching of contact. Yeah, it gets tedious, but by then, my thirst for whacking things with a stick has been sated for at least a couple of hours.

Diablo III – On my Wizard, it’s just satisfying to voip people. Yes, that’s the sound things make when you just erase them from existence. That said, it’s more satisfying to do this during the earlier difficulties as Inferno has a habit of pissing me off repeatedly in a 30-minute period.

Awesomenauts – It’s starting to get up there, but there’s something eminently satisfying about playing Leon and popping out of stealth to land a killing blow on some unsuspecting ‘naut. I mostly enjoy playing Raelynn though. Sniping has never been this fun for me. It’s a bit of work and sometimes I cry out in frustration.

XCOM Enemy Unknown – The satisfaction of crushing an alien squad is quite palpable. Delicious even. That said, XCOM games are pretty cerebral and I always feel a little removed from the “satisfaction zone”, so these games (new and old) are fun, but less viscerally satisfying. Strategy games on the whole share that same removal sense, so that’s nothing new.

Star Trek Online – I don’t know what’s wrong with me these days, but I just have no drive to play this right now. I don’t know if it’s the high end grinding that’s in the game or anything, but I just haven’t been in the mood to command the Iowa lately. Thus, the satisfaction of playing has dropped. There is something to be said for lots of torpedoes, but that’s a bit of a gimmicky approach and isn’t practical in the long run (says the guy who has a character with a Caitian carrier that has nothing but torpedoes up front and turrets in the back; verdict: hilariously fun, but gimmicky as all hell).

Star Wars: The Old Republic – Right now it’s not super satisfying to play, but I’m building up a good craving and waiting until it turns into an out-and-out need to play the game. I’m thinking I’ll play a Knight soon because I love hitting things with Lightsabers, but also because the day I got the game I made a Knight and turned to my Mom and went, “Mom, I’m a Jedi Knight!” So, yeah. It’s not satisfying NOW, but it will be.

This list is forever in flux and I’ve left a few games off to help keep it short. Games will go up and down the list as my whims dictate. This is just a snapshot of my current thoughts.

Right now though, it’s the deciding which stick to whack on what target that’s the tough part.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Enough is as good as a feast.” – Joshua Sylvester


Deciding on a Game to Play

Now that I’ve finished my Bounty Hunter playthrough of Star Wars: The Old Republic, I’ve been a little lost as to what to do next. I’ve got a lot of great recommendations from my viewers, but I’m torn. Here’s a few of the ideas for what to play next…

Planescape: Torment – brilliant idea. I’m just not sure if I’ll be able to put up with it long enough to beat it. I remember it being kind of hard. I’d be willing to buy this again.

Baldur’s Gate – also a great idea, but I’d have to buy it again and I’m not sure I’m willing to do that. I beat this back in the day.

Star Wars: The Old Republic – this time as a Male Jedi Knight or a Male Sith Inquisitor. That’s a great idea and extremely tempting, but there’s a spoiler concern I ignored when I did the Bounty Hunter that I’m feeling a lot more these days.

Mass Effect – this is another brilliant idea, but I would probably trim out all the side quests. Stick to primary story and stuff. I’d have to pay even more attention to what I was doing though because, well, things aren’t as clearly defined as they are in SWTOR. Hey, it’s either that or have a full 40-80 hours of gameplay put up on YouTube… and that’s just the FIRST game.

Lord of the Rings Online – not a bad thought, but I’m not willing to make a new character. I did the first part of the game TOO MANY TIMES. That’s my fault, but hey, that’s how it goes. If I do show anything, it’d just be me doing random things at level 66. I highly doubt that would be interesting.

The Secret World – I see the allure here of wanting to see a bit of Let’s Play here, but again, it’d be a spoiler issue AND I don’t own the game.

Civilization – Uh… no. *laughs*

Blood Bowl: Chaos Edition – I don’t like football enough, sorry.

Those are all the game requests. There was one for a series of snapshots of different games until Neverwinter comes out (uh, that’s going to be a while) and there was one request for reviews on books, shows, movies, etc. and that’s also a perfectly valid desire.

I’m leaning toward a couple of these and I’m far from making up my mind.  Maybe SWTOR, Torment, or some other game. Mostly I’m just thrilled that I have viewers that give a damn about what I put up. In the meantime? I guess I’ll talk to my camera.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “The difficulty in life is the choice.” – George Moore


LOTRO and Streamlined Joy

Saturday night I played some Lord of the Rings Online with some friends. Recently they performed a couple of streamlining things that really impressed me the other night and that caused me to dive in for most of Sunday… and I’m itching to do more.

Two of these mechanics came courtesy of the recent Rohan expansion: auto loot and open tapping.

Auto loot is just on. There’s no toggle, you don’t have to click on a corpse any more, you just kill the enemy and you automatically get its stuff. I have “Always Loot All” on, so I pick up everything. If your inventory gets full, you have a 50 item overflow bag that allows you time to finish what you’re doing and then run and sell to a vendor. It’s the most streamlined mechanic I’ve seen in a while and I love it. I can just plow through hordes of orcs, stopping only to sell loot. Hands down one of the most enjoyable things ever to the point where a friend sounded pretty amused to hear that I was playing LOTRO mainly because it’s the only MMO on my machine that has auto loot (more than just that reason, but it’s funny nonetheless).

Open tapping is where… well… you can share kills with people (in or out of your group) and get full credit and your own loot drop. No splitting exp or the other guy getting full credit for a mission and not you. No shared loot. You get your own rolled loot drop. Brilliant. If you hit an enemy someone else is fighting, there’s no reason to get angry at all. There’s no kill stealing! SO COOL! It does require a psychological shift though since I’m used to NOT randomly helping people and just cutting through an area. I’m certain most people don’t care, but it’s nice that everyone is essentially in a giant pick-up group for regular enemies. Last night a burglar and I tag teamed a couple of named bad guys in the beginning part of Lothlorien. I’ve got nothing but respect for that fellow.

So, taking advantage of these new mechanics (they also streamlined the quests in the latter half of Moria), I set out and finished questing in Moria (at least what I could find starting from the Twenty-First Hall and going to the Foundations of Stone) and started in on Lothlorien. I stepped out of Moria and immediately went, “OMG WHAT IS THIS LACK OF A CEILING?!” Yeah, I’d been in Moria for a while.

Anyway, yeah, I’m excited over auto loot and the end of kill stealing. You know you’re a gamer when…

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. My reaction to the following quote: WTF? I suppose if you’re waiting for a friend…? “For those wishing to disable experience gain, a new pocket item is available in the LOTRO Store that will disable all XP gain while equipped. Other advancement, such as deeds and reputation, are unaffected.” – Official Notes for Update 9, Against the Shadow


F2P MMO Cash Shops

I’ve played several Free-to-Play games that have what I colloquially refer to as “cash shops”. These are in-game interfaces that take some kind of currency that can typically only be obtained by an expenditure of real world money.

Thus far, my favorites have been The Lord of the Rings Online, Star Trek Online, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Each of them has something I like.

For The Lord of the Rings Online, you can purchase piles of Turbine Points for use in the LOTRO Store, or you can acquire TP through finishing optional deeds in the course of playing the game. Kill 30 wolves here, get 5 points. Use a skill 150 times, get 10. Finish this much of the storyline, get 20. Also, you can do them again and again courtesy of having multiple characters which allows you to effectively grind these points. Grinding is right, as many of these deeds are tedious time wasters. You often get a bigger bang for you buck if you just buy the points outright or even subscribe for the monthly stipend. I love this alternative way of getting points though. Further, they consistently add wonderful items to the LOTRO Store like extra mounts, cosmetic equipment, and more. Some of the more straight-forward purchases are in fact things that I think should be available from every cash shop such as character slots, more inventory space, and convenience skills/items. This is pretty much the ultimate example of an in-game store (it could be better, but not by much).

In Star Trek Online, you can purchase Zen (used to be Cryptic Points) to spend in the Zen Store (used to be the Cryptic Store). You can acquire Zen in another way though… by selling refined dilithium to other players via the dilithium exchange. The rates change based on the demand, so keep an eye on it if you want to make a bundle. You can also sell Zen in exchange for refined dilithium, so it does go both ways. Refined dilithium can be made in a variety of ways in the game, but it’s a primary ingredient for a ridiculous number of game mechanics and I know I’m forever running out. The store offers my favorite staples like ship costumes, extra character slots, extra room for bridge officers, ships, bank, account storage, inventory, the list goes on. Further, you can buy whole new ships with special abilities and unique appearances and many of them are Zen Store specific. My favorite purchase to date has been the Regent-class Assault Cruiser Refit. The developers are regularly adding stuff to this store, so it’s often a joy to keep an eye on it.

Star Wars: The Old Republic has had its Cartel Store for a very short time, so it’s got plenty to grow into. I’m disappointed that it didn’t have spare character slots for sale since this would appeal to my friends. Further, I’d like to see a wallet increase (F2P has a 200k credit cap but if you throw some money at the game you get a 350k cap for being “Preferred Status”) and I think they could make a good business out of offering stacks of companion gifts through the store. Thus far, they have a few cool suits of gear (no set bonuses unfortunately) and some of the more standard purchases for the F2P crowd (extra inventory, weekly passes to flashpoints, etc). At this stage, there’s two really cool things that the Cartel Store allows. One is that you can preview the gear from the store on your character without leaving the store. Very nice. The other is that you can spend Cartel Coins on other parts of the game like expanding your bank or inventory normally but also on anything on your Legacy perks pages. This allows your lower level characters to get some of those fancier items without having to have a huge pile of credits on hand. That said, I’m holding onto my pile of Coins until I see some things I just can’t live without. So far the only thing that’s remotely appealed to me has been the Carbon Freezing Chamber animation and that’s more whimsy than anything else.

So, there you have it. Cash shops are here to stay, but they certainly add something fun to the game. Plus, when I have some down time I love to go shopping. It’s fun to see what’s available. All the developers need to do is frequently add more stuff to the store. If they ever stop and the store stagnates for too long, well, they’re in trouble.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “The use of money is all the advantage there is in having money.” – Benjamin Franklin