Tonight, our guild group has been to Wrothgar, again. I have to say, i love how we can simply set off out of the city and go exploring. We tried to follow quests, but were soon distracted by stuff we saw in the landscape- and also, because Edu is one difficult boss to kill.
On our travels we saw a museum, fought and were killed by Edu, maybe a Goblin boss, i don’t know, because we didn’t see him for all the ogres he sent our way, an arena where Orc clans settled their war, a giant statue of Malacath and Coldperch Cavern, a delve in Wrothgar. And also, a lot of beautiful sights.
Lord of the Rings Online has almost never been my main game, but since it was released, it has always been my “comfort game”- the game i’d return to, if other games weren’t as good as i thought or something else came up. I really like Lord of the Rings for many different reasons- the atmosphere, the landscape-design, middle-earth (of course) and the very relaxing gameplay. Unfortunately, the last one can make it tedious to play in long stretches, as well. Lord of the Rings Online- at least in the way i play it- is mostly about the questing and i do get tired of the questgrind quite quickly.
When i started to play the game in 2007 or early 2008, i created an Elf-Loremaster and wasn’t very patient when it came to seeing the Shire and Bree for the first time. I made the trip as early as possible- by foot. The world of Lotro is a great one- at least in the early levels- there’ll be villages, roads, all kinds of things to explore and see. And it is large! When Lotro released, large game worlds were the standard- if you’d compare it to the size of newer worlds and what we are used to by now, Lotro’s Middle Earth becomes huge.
Nowadays, we can ride on our own mounts. So i did, to recapture that old experience i’ve only made once and see how long it would take me- the answer? 18 Minutes, on a horse, with some ore-gathering strewn in between. This is, by the way, the road from the first questing area (for dwarves and elves) to the second. I can’t remember how it used to be- if we had to walk this distance, which, by foot, would take more than 30 minutes. But i think we had to.
As an elf, you’ll start in Ered Luin. It’s a small starting area, by comparison, because it is divided in two starting experiences for levels 1 to 15, unlike the Shire, where only Hobbits begin and the Bree-Lands, where the 1-15 experience for humans takes place in only a fraction of the whole map.
I’ve never played a Dwarf in Lotro, so i can’t comment on their starting experience- for the elves, the story revolves mostly around the threat of war between dwarves and elves. There’s an “elf prince” that got kidnapped and the elves suspect the “good dwarves” of commiting the crime. In the course of the storyline, we’ll find out (i really don’t think a spoiler warning is needed here) that they didn’t do it, but another family of dwarves. We’ll then work together in defeating the threat of peace in Ered Luin.
The rest of the elf storyline (read: the normal quests) is mostly about ruins, some missing persons, two brothers who can’t decide and/or persuade each other whether to stay or leave Middle Earth and things like that. It all gives the sense of a race that had its best days in the past- they’re practically living in it and almost every quest- at least those that i remember- has a connection to the past. Only the true filler quests (too many wolves, please kill 10 of them) don’t.
As notable locations, there are the towns of Celondim, where you begin your journey, Duillond, a refuge whose design i never really understood (many bridges- its layout is simple, really, but the steps/bridges always annoy me), a few ruins, Kheledul, a dwarf-port that’s been taken by the evil dwarves, a Vineyard, overrun by goblins, Thrasi’s lodge- a cabin with a few quests the dwarf-town of Gondamon, where the Prologue ends and Rath Teraig.
There’s more, of course, but that were the places i visited before turning to level 15 and riding for Bree.
Unfortunately, you can’t reach Bree from the Ered Luin without a portal. Most of Lotro’s world is open, not zoned, but at some points, there are only portals to get you from one area to the next. For the release version of Lotro this is the only portal i can think of (besides housing zones).
You’ll then continue through the Shire. The Shire is one of the places where you can really see how much passion Turbine put into it- the realization of the Shire is all it needs to be. From the Hobbits, the landscape to the general atmosphere and the music/sound everything fits. The quests, as well, but that’s not the topic for today.
In the Shire, there are a few villages- and i think every one of them has its own Inn. I’d like to visit them another time. The Lotro Shire not only fits my imagination of the Shire from the books, but also my ideal for an MMORPG zone in general- villages, fields, woods, many, many signs of civilization.
The Bree-Lands are equally good, by the way, with the namesake town as the highlight. Bree is, in my opinion, one of (if not the) best designed cities in MMORPGs. It isn’t “economic”, many times you’ll have to travel annoying distances between, for instance, the auction house, the bank and the crafting house, but it is a great town- and again, it is very atmospheric- it seems like a town, that one.
And then, of course, you’ll reach the Prancing Pony and the trip is over.
So much more
All this, you get to see with level 15. And writing this, i could think of so many things to see, explore and write about- the Inns of the Shire, the Villages of the Shire and the Bree-Lands, other interesting places, the quests in the Shire and why it fits into this region. Bree alone could fill a posting like this one, the exploration deeds in these zones and so on.
For explorers and lore fanatics, Lotro has a lot to offer. I’m taking it slow on this one, because i don’t want to fall into the trap of not-reading the quest text again, but i had a lot of fun in these first 15 levels.
World of Warcraft has a few qualities, which shouldn’t be surprising since it’s still the most played MMORPG out there. For me, two are very noticeable- the fluid gameplay/combat/movement and the second one, the world/zone building. It’s not only the graphics and Blizzards ability to get the most out of their decade-old-engine that WoW still looks good- it’s because of the zone design. So i decided to start a “backpacker” series for that. It’s easy to do, too, since you can play World of Warcraft for free up to level 20. After some research, i came to the conclusion that a Druid would work best, what with the travel form and such. It might be possible to explore zones much further into the level bracket when playing this class.
I don’t know where this plan is going to lead me- maybe even into a subscription, but if i’m honest, the last times i started playing WoW, the questing got to me. It’s always the questing- with Rift, Lord of the Rings and WoW. While Rift has decent alternatives to level a character, i don’t think one could say the same for WoW. Sure, there are dungeons and they’re great experiences- but i wouldn’t know why i should play the instanced part of the game to experience the open world. And questing is slow. Exploration doesn’t seem to be rewarded with xp, so leveling through exploration and crafting/gathering is not a good alternative. So you’ve got questing, pvp, pet battles, gathering and dungeons as ways to level.
Gathering could work. But it would take a lot of time, too much for me, even when i could combine it with grinding mobs.
Anyway, the possibility to level a character to 20 without paying gives me the option to travel through quite a few zones. I’ve always been an Alliance player, so i’ll use a Nightelf Druid for this, even if that means i’ll be starting on the wrong continent. I think i can leave for Stormwind come level 10 (already there, but haven’t looked if i can take the ship over there).
So let’s take a look. I don’t really know how long this lasts, but WoW’s zones are believable to me, and that’s the great advantage. In Lotro, for instance, the third zone you’ll play in will consist of one village/inn and some ruins as homesteads for people. I don’t know why these people don’t build and seem to be content in their ruins, but it strikes me as odd. In WoW, which i didn’t experience a whole lot (until Un’Goro in TBC’s time), the zones leading up to Un’Goro seem…well, despite it being a fantastic, sometimes odd world, it seems more “civilized”. I mean, villages look like villages.
Look at that- that’s where your life as a nightelf begins- it might not be exactly as big, but the whole layout is similar to the faction capital of the Guardians in Rift, Sanctum. I’d like to highlight that i don’t want to devalue Rift by stating this, but simply to state how much i like these sort of things. And it’s an exaggeration, of course. Sanctum is still bigger than Shadowglen’s center.
Another thing that i didn’t remember – and that might change later on – is that World of Warcraft really is generous with space/landscape. In other, more modern games, mob density is quite high- it’s for the sake of accessibility, of course, so that you don’t have to search for the mob you need for a quest or compete with other players for the same mobs, but if you look at zone design from that perspective only, what remains is a functional map. When you leave room for all kinds of things- villages, wildlife, trees, the odd cavern, rivers, lakes and whathaveyou- the zone looks and feels a whole lot more believable.
WoW’s zone design always impressed me. Sure, i like my fantasy worlds even more “open”, even less “zoney” and not as “themepark-styled” (thinking about the “haunted house zone” for levels 20 to 30), but there are few games providing that- the last one i know was Vanguard, which had a great world albeit with its own flaws. Other games are good, as well- Rift and Lotro’s worlds are open, and especially Lotro offers great landscapes that still hold themselves very good in terms of graphics, Final Fantasy 14’s zones are of a very good design, as well, but they feel quite small.
Sometimes you’ll read about the crafting in Final Fantasy XIV, and how it is implemented in a good way- to be honest, i don’t think there’s a much better way to have crafting in your themepark- but maybe it doesn’t click with you. Maybe you write a comment that you’d like to read more about that on a blog and maybe the blogger responds on the spot. So, before i might dive deeper into the crafting in FF14, let’s take a look at the reasons why i think it is special- and also, why i think you should craft if you’re playing Final Fantasy XIV.
It’s integrated into the game
It all starts with loot. When you kill a mob, you’ll get items, like in any other game out there. The difference is- i don’t think there’s something like “trash” in Final Fantasy XIV. At least i didn’t encounter it yet. Everything i saw is either craftable, consumable or wearable. The only thing to sell to vendors i saw is a selectable quest reward you choose when you already have the other items.
As you might know, you can do and be everything with one character in FF14. I read somewhere that this isn’t the optimal solution, that it’s better to have 2 or 3 characters sharing all the available classes and jobs, but i can’t remember why. The gathering and crafting jobs in Final Fantasy 14 have their own level progression- and it’s a progress, alright. Now, i am pretty low-level still, but i can only guess how, for example, the gathering progress evolves in later levels- more dangerous mobs around the nodes, more hidden, rare materials and so on.
Yes, i know there are crafting quests in many MMOs. Rift has them, for instance. But what they grant is, mostly, adventuring experience. In FF14 you’ll level your crafting class while completing them. As all other classes, the crafting classes also have their “class story” quests- you’ll get one every five levels. When you reached level 10, you’ll be able to do leves, as well. And, of course, the grand company you join will have some tasks for you. Generally, the leves are considered the best way to level your crafting class.
Crafters do have their own equipment with corresponding stats- they’ll help you in finding more or better materials while gathering and help with rising quality when crafting items. Raising quality is worth the effort, every time, because even if you don’t get a high quality item, you’ll get more experience the higher your chance for doing so is.
An involved progress
Crafting in FF14 is very involved. It begins with searching for the ingredients- in FF14, it’s not as simple as “in zones from level 1-10 you’ll get bronze, in zones from level 11-20 you’ll get silver” and so on. Sure, if you are, say, a weaver, there’ll be one spot to get your cotton bolls from, but the Botanist (the corresponding gathering class) can gather so much more- stuff for provisioning, alchemy and others, i think. So you’ll have to travel to get the materials for something you want to craft.
While crafting, you’ll use skills, just as you’d do while fighting. There are skills to increase the quality of an item, to raise your chance to find a high quality version of an ingredient and others. While this is relatively simple and something a macro could simplify even more, it still is something that makes you think. At least sometimes, for now, i’m using the same pattern everytime i craft something, but my guess is that this will change later on.
There’ll also be ingredients you’ll really have to look for- yesterday, i needed beast sinews- i knew the guild supplier sells them, but i wanted to look for them, myself. I found out which animals drop them and went out, hunting. Here’s another thing- the crafting feeds the adventuring classes, too, because when i think about it, this hunting would have gone a lot better if i had a dps class ready for the task.
You can also just craft everything that’s in your crafting log- since you get a considerable amount of bonus experience when you craft something for the first time, you’ll get some progress along with the knowledge of how to make something and how/where to gather the materials.
Another thing that makes crafting in FF14 quite unique is the interdependency- you’ll need materials from other crafting classes. The best representation i found is this one. So, if you are a weaver, the Botanist will probably be the best fit gathering-wise. But you’ll also need materials from the leatherworker (who, in turn, need stuff from mobs and mining). Now, thankfully- as i find the “auction house” somewhat tiresome to navigate- you don’t need to buy everything from other players. Guild suppliers have what you need, at least up to my level. This also serves as a price check, i think, because you won’t find basic materials getting very expensive here, as you would in other older themepark MMORPGs.
You could, of course, try and do everything by yourself- if for nothing else, then for not wasting all the stuff you gathered or looted. That’s kind of what i’m doing right now- i put everything i looted on the bank to process it at a later point. But levelling all gathering and crafting classes in addition to the adventuring class? Yeah, talk about time-sink!
All in all, this leads to a working ingame economy. It’s not perfect, since i still found the dungeons to be the source of the best gear (for now, i didn’t produce anything in HQ, though), but it’s pretty close to what you can do without item decay, local auction houses and so on. I think pricing reflects that. I haven’t looked into the economy very much yet, because i have other things i’d rather do for now, but there are people who play the market in FF XIV.
Why you should do it, too
This is simple- to diversify your play sessions. As i said yesterday, there’s a lot to do and many different goals to accomplish in Final Fantasy XIV; you’ll get distracted a lot and maybe feel overwhelmed at some point. In my book, though, this is great! MMORPGs are not only about progression, they’re also about discovery and diversity- and it’s one of FFXIV’s strengths that there is a lot to do.
Finally, there’s housing in Final Fantasy XIV, and it isn’t cheap. I don’t think adventuring alone is going to net you enough gil to partake in these more expensive activities, so knowing about what sells and what doesn’t might be essential in this regard, as well.
Yes, switching weapons and not being able to fight might feel strange, and it is, since gathering and crafting become main activities instead of being something you do as a side activity, but also: you can do something that doesn’t involve fighting and get a sense of progression! If you’re bored of the quest grind the gathering/crafting grind might be a nice distraction- for instance, yesterday i gathered cotton bolls and took screenshots while listening to the first episode of the Massively Overpowered podcast.
So if you take on gathering and crafting, you’ll broaden your gameplay experience- in MMOs, that’s a good thing.
So this Lord of the Rings Online project i thought about? It’s kind of in motion. This week, our son isn’t an easy sleeper; i think it has something to do with his going to the kindergarten now. Although it’s just 2 hours a day right now, at night he’s busy digesting everything he took in there. So i couldn’t play pretty much at all this week. Yesterday he slept at 10 pm and i found myself wanting to relax a bit before going to bed. But what can you do with a session of 45-60 minutes? Final Fantasy XIV was out, as was Everquest 2 and The Elder Scrolls. Guild Wars 2 would have worked, maybe, but it’s been quite some time for me and i’d need a longer session to get reaquainted to the game. So i went, loaded Lotro up, logged in with my Beorning-Beorning and continued my travels in Middle Earth.
Middle Earth is beautiful. You can say what you like about those avatars and their animation, but the world is beautifully crafted. I didn’t do a lot- what really happened was that i gathered all the quests in Combe, went to get a crafting profession, worked with the materials i got and quested right up to Filbert’s uncle, who’s standing in the Chetwood, missing his handkerchief.
I did all of that before, to be sure. And sometimes i would roll an alt with the intention of reading all quest text “this time”. But i have to confess that i’m so used to skipping quest text and seeing questing basically a grind that there always came a time when i fell into the old habit of just accepting all the quests, follow the marker and deliver. If you do it this way, you’re playing Lord of the Rings Online wrong, of course. But i also have to say that it doesn’t help if you go into a village and have 8 open quest rings floating around. The Secret World does a better job of giving story-related weight to its quests and i think it has a lot to do with the fact that you can’t just pick up a billion of them at once.
At least yesterday, it worked. I read every quest text i gathered up, knowing for the first time what i was doing there. Woodworkers need to get rid of wolves to go and lumber in safety, to get Archet rebuilt. A mother is looking for her son who wanted to find his fortune in Combe and found the Blackwolds instead. Then there’s a man whose father was a robber and got hanged, looking for treasure. An old man, his farm stolen by the Blackwolds, wants the chain of his seemingly dead dog. A lumberjack is missing his notebook- you’ll need that to find the tree the robber was hanged on- he lost it when fleeing the Chetwood to get away from some Blackwolds.
And then, of course, there is a hobbit who’s uncle went into the wood to give the Blackwolds a piece of his mind, only to have his handkerchief stolen. And probably others i forgot. All in all, you could say that Combe’s in a bad situation right now, with the Blackwolds so close, making the Chetwood unsave. Of course, this will all seem harmless the further you get into the game, but to be honest, i like these “small problems”- helping a village rebuild is so much more satisfying than saving the world. I really don’t know why that is, maybe because it seems so normal.
I happen to enjoy the first zones into the worlds we visit more than the later zones- you’ll have villages, small towns, townspeople with their “small problems”. You have a beautiful scenery, an inn to visit and all that. Later on, there’ll be Lava. Or in Lotro’s case, the next two zones will feature an Inn, a burning town and an old ruin as capitals of the zones. And don’t even get me started on the zones after that. Of course, they’ll have their own beauty, and their own storyline, but i always miss these green zones with signs of humanity sprinkled across in later zones- and funny enough, most games have this “problem”. I don’t know if it gets better when you leave Moria in Lotro, though. I heard Rohan has a nice scenery.
When i contacted an old gaming community’s leader about the Repopulation, something caught my eye: despite being hopelessly casual in nature and also with a few set-backs in the closer past, he wanted to join what they call a “hardcore ruleset” server in that game. I hadn’t made the research yet, so all i was thinking was “FFA pvp”- but it turns out it’s so much more in this game.
Yes, PvP is harsher on the hardcore servers, looting is also possible, from what i understand, as is degrading of items. They’re taking the EVE approach, though, with areas that are not really safe, but close enough, thanks to “police”. The security status lowers the farther away you get from the capitals of your faction and will eventually be zero, which would of course mean that everyone can kill you. It’s possible to lose inventory or at least it will be lowered by one quality tier or destroyed if it reaches the bottom of this line. And there’ll be crafted “Biolocks” that can be used to make looting your corpse more difficult for other players.
So why, after asking the leader about it and questioning this plan, am i now in full favour of this mode?
There will be no global auction house. No, that’s not entirely correct, since you can buy stuff from the auction house globally, but there’ll be only local delivery. Also, there will only be local banking.
You can put out delivery contracts and pay other players to deliver your goods from one place to the other. If you take this route, you’ll need to assign a value to your goods and need to pay the player who takes the contract at least 10% of this value. This player would need to make a security deposit that equals the given value and receive his or her payment upon as well as the deposit back upon delivery. There might be NPC delivery, as well, although it won’t be as fast and more expensive than paying other players- but this is still under discussion.
Of course, you’ll get better and more resources when harvesting in more dangerous areas. Also, skill gain will be increased there. There’ll be no skill loss upon death in any ruleset.
There are two options being discussed- remove all fast travel options from the servers under this ruleset or fast travelling without inventory- all items in the inventory would be lost if using fast travel.
First of all, i really like The Repopulation – on paper. I also know it plays like an indie game at the moment; it’s a bit clunky. But then again, i can live with that if the features are implemented in a solid way and there’s a player-driven economy making crafting and trading a viable pastime in the game. This is something i always wanted to see in an MMO.
I don’t really care for the PvP part, either, but as with the lower production quality, i’ll take that if the economy is as great as it sounds.
I have to get into this game soon and see what i can do to help my old and perhaps new guildmates to get a foothold into this game. To get there fast, i’ll first “check off” Guild Wars 2 from my to-do list and try to get the Elementalist to 80 as fast as possible- then i’m not under pressure there, anymore and can raise my Ranger slowly whenever i feel like playing the game.
While i am sold on the server ruleset, there’s another thing the leader wants to do: forming a rogue nation. As of right now, i don’t agree on that part, but i’ll have to do my research on that one, as well.
Whenever i get into EQ2 after a short or long break, the game grows on me. It’s quite the same with Final Fantasy XIV, for that matter, but it’s somewhat stranger and stronger with Everquest 2. I didn’t play it over the holidays, because my guild project was on a break and i ventured a bit in other worlds and games (7 Days to die, to name one) as well as spending some time in the family. I returned on sunday for the experience bonus, but played monday and yesterday, as well.
My main character, Triupia of Antonia Bayle, is an Inquisitor of level 28 right now, doing busywork for many dwarves in the Butcherblock Mountains. Also, she’s in a guild, as mentioned, and to my pleasure, the guild has been in its usual good mood that evening. While questing i decided to go on an adventure in the close future: get a merc and see the dungeons- or one dungeon at a time, to be precise. I guess it wouldn’t be entirely practical to try and see all dungeons with one character when it’s seemingly impossible to visit all the zones (effectively) with one. I also don’t want to ruin overland zones for me by delving through dungeons all the time, but still- the dungeons in Everquest 2 do have a strong appeal. For one, not all of them are instanced. It doesn’t make a difference, of course, because the beginner dungeons don’t get visited anyway, but still. Also, they span huge level brackets. Crushbone Keep, for instance, spans the levels 20 to 30- and that is only the beginning, because Crushbone Keep is also the entrance to another dungeon, which spans levels 30 to 35.
This is design that appeals to me and my curiosity, i want to explore places- the overland zones, the dungeons, the cities- it’s really great. So that’s probably what i’m going to do in the next few sessions with my main character: seeing some dungeons- or maybe only Crushbone Keep, before going back to overlands.
The other one
The other character, Eshaunia of Valor, a Fury, right now level 28, as well, and spent yesterdays evening slaying a dragon in Antonica and exploring Crushbone Keep with some members of the multigaming-guild i’m part of. So this character spent all her levelling up to this point in a group, and i can already see how Everquest 2 is way more effective when played in a group, as i’ve played her for just about 8 hours after getting the Frostfang mount with level 19. My main has more time /played, but solo, so even though i’ve been using experience bonus weekends with playing her, i still spent way more time with Triupia than with Eshaunia.
We didn’t “clear” Crushbone Keep, whatever that means, so in a week, we’ll be returning there to maybe finish it and at least get a glimpse of the entrance to The D’Vinnian Throne. I saw enough of this dungeon, though, to see that it will not be easy to finish alone with a Merc, although these Mercenaries are really powerful.
Meanwhile, Jeromai of Whyigame posed an interesting question- “What would you do, before the last day“- and answers it by taking a lot of screenshots in some kind of photography project- he even has a plan that looks promising and engaging. While i haven’t gone down the same road, yet, i really liked the idea and vowed to take more screenshots of the games i play and/or maybe even copy his plan and work something out for me, as well.
After all, while his post is in relation to Guild Wars 2 and a possible expansion/another “pre-searing”-event, our worlds- as in MMORPG worlds, are all bound to change or shut down forever. So really, this is a good idea that’s worth pursuing. The downside is, i kind of want to do that with Lotro’s middle earth.