Monday, May 31, 2010

Routines and commitments

Finally made it to goblin-town, only a fortnight later. It was a nice place to explore and the music is the best I've heard in game. What brought the exploration to a close was the usual: mobstacles, full bags, annoying to-and-fro-ing with quests and the repetition in scenery (this staircase looks awfully familiar, and no it wasn't a case of going about in circles). Didn't get to see Gollum's cave, that was probably the overall goal, but getting fed up and running through tunnels with twenty goblins in tow meant I'd lost the patience. Time to get out and finish the rest of the book, and see the inside of Delossad. That instance was an interesting way to tell the story, touching objects to see ghosts of the past acting (Nameleth could do with some acting lessons, her depiction of possession wasn't all that) out stories and everything coming to together. It was kinda ruined though by the need to have mobs (cave-claws, worms) spawn after every vignette, it seems turbine thinks the player can't go 10 minutes without fighting.

Have a routine where Monday to Friday is maintenance mode (do a daily quest or two, auction house, etc). Then full play sessions on weekends. For the most part can stick to it, except sometimes early on in the week, it that whole 'need to do it right now, can't wait til next weekend' feeling, but surprisingly that passes pretty quick. The strange thing is, come the weekend I'm looking for other (non-MMO) things to do than that task that seemed so urgent where I left off last weekend. Sitting outside in the sunshine reading is the anti-thesis of getting angry over something idiotic. Nah, it more like I'm bored with Lotro and need another MMO fix, except nothing's appealing besides Guild Wars 2. Arenanet is really on to something with their event system being able to intersect and divert from the personal story, longing to lose the blinkers and the unexpected breaking the routine of knowing exactly what I'm going to be doing before logging on.

Wouldn't mind playing Age of Conan for a bit, bring my lowbie bear shaman through the early Khitai zone. But more and more it seems a month of play at a single game is too long these days, only reason I spent 3 months at Lotro was because of a special offer during the last welcome back weekend and thought I'd get to level 60 and into Lothlorien, only managed level 50 and have enough. Think a monthly sub doesn't suit me anymore, but still got DDO and the original Guild Wars (liking the War in Kryta content) to dabble in every now and again. The list of things I'm disillusioned with in current MMORPGs is growing: levelling, gear-grind, mobstacles, time-sinks, subscriptions. At least there is Guild Wars 2 to look forward too.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Time-Wasting Elves

Have been trying recently to confine mmo playing to weekends, because no matter how I attempt to limit the effects it has on getting a good night sleep I still get caught out and it's a major distraction from writing. So this weekend was interesting in that I ended up playing Portal as well as my current MMO of choice, Lotro. Spent several hours at Portal on Saturday, yeah several, probably slower than most, but did take a few breaks to puzzle out a few of the solutions. All in all it was one of the most satisfying experiences in gaming for a long time, funny, engaging and oh satisfying to finish it.

Contrast that with playing some Lotro last night, was working through Book 11 and it was incredibly infuriating! The book starts quite dramatically but the middle section had so many time drains and annoying tasks. It was probably a little about me not being in the mood to get so worked up about it, have to admit getting a little impatient with the game. Here's what annoyed me about those chapters:

Candelleth sends you to scout two locations where the ring Narchuil might be found, fair enough task. It's what the elves at those locations ask of you that's annoying. The first one sends you in to Delossad to investigate, that's not the annoying part, he also sends you to kill 8 Angmarims, the same mobs you just killed in the previous step, on the plus side he's not too fussy about which ones unlike Candelleth who wanted 6 of one type and 3 of the other. To be honest, it was just a 'huh' from me at that point. The other elf you get sent to, asks you to kill trolls and find the entrance to their cave, done! No wait you must now go back through the trolls (both stuns and knockbacks, fun times when climbing up ledges, yeah it did happen) and bog lurkers (btw what are these things anyway) to the cave and search it and kill their leaders, why didn't you say that the first time. Mounted up and just raced to the cave, 10 mobs chasing after me at all times, wading through mobs is getting really tiresome in this game (the stark contrast with Portal was not lost on me).

Okay, back to Candelleth, it wasn't in either place, oh I'm sorry, hmm where could it be. To the crumbled cottage and find a diary. This is probably what annoyed me the most, it assumes the players are stupid that they can't spend time to read the diary, figure out who L and N are and follow the directions in the diary. At this point I'm trying to imagine the thought process that the writer had, we need to have players march back up the hill to get exposition from Candelleth, so let’s use initials and also call Delossad by another name Sithad to confuse the players, can't have them taking the initiative, it must be Candelleth who figures it out after all. It doesn't make a whole load of sense. In my head I was imagining shouting up to Candelleth that I was going to investigate Delossad again. But no Candelleth has to tell you Sithad sounds like Delossad, was just about ready to kick her in the gorge and fling the diary after her. (Confession time: wasn't so quick to figure out the clues about the location of the keys, it was a nice little puzzle).

The next elf you get sent is probably the icing on the cake, she agrees to mend the key but first you must do a job for her (now where have I heard that before). Wanted to grab her and shake her violently and shout do you not realise the importance of mending those keys (where's the hobbit tinkers when you need them, fine by me if they use a scrap of iron from an old kettle, rather than needing mithril and a special hammer) Okay right about time to log off, and leave goblin-town until next weekend, have loads of quests to do there anyways and hopefully be a little more patient with the elves next time, they can't be blamed for living such long lives and their concept of time being so much more languid than humans (at least I’ve not been sent to Elrond in this book yet). Damn time-wasting elves!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lotro and the inventory mini-game

Maybe it's unfair to pick out Lotro for inventory management, but it's the game I'm playing at the moment. Every session of play is either ended or started or interrupted by the need to vendor or port to my house or a trip back to town for banking and the auction house, but usually it's all of them to empty out the bags of every kind of junk:

1) Recipes: probably making the most demand on space, with metalsmith and tailoring patterns being particularly annoying. Yeah I complain when they also make the most money per slot in the inventory. But the whole mechanic of dropped recipes needs to go. Two solutions: make the normal dropped recipes a reward for unlocking mastery in a profession (there's no reward at all associated with it except unlocking more grind, and it would line up nicely with levelling), and all single use dropped recipes should be obtained from the crafting guilds and non-crit versions requring the small rep item or none, and the crit version requiring medium rep item.

A more radical solution for metalsmith/tailoring to cut down on the amount of scrolling in the recipe book and add some individuality is to restrict racial designs to that race, i.e. an elf makes elf clothes.

2) Potion/Salves: being able to use salves on yourself and others is a nice idea, but having the standard type as well, means I usually end up with a dozen different types only to vendor them. Keep only salves, simple as that! Conditions on a whole in Lotro are chaotic, unlike something like Guild Wars (previous game, sorry).

3) Reputation items: sooner or later they are going to have to introduce a special tab for those.

4) Yellow items: in a game where crafted items are more powerful, they are just vendor trash, maybe not at early levels but in the 40s they just don't seem to sell at all, and have gotten fed up with listing them.

5) Vendor trash: why the hell do they only stack to 10! But the whole concept of picking up bits of monsters and junk to make money in an rpg really needs to go. In a game with a decent crafting system why not create an economy where all money is obtained from gathering and crafting rather than picking up broken wings and insect legs. It's funny but when you think of how much money you make on your first visit to the barrow downs and I know I'm not the first to notice that, picking up bits of undead and rats and maggots and baraghest. Ughh!

That's enough for now, there's probably more to add to that list, but need to go organise some space on my alts.