Thursday, June 17, 2010

Quick hits: middle of June edition

A lot of tantalizing news is coming out of E3. The one trailer I've seen that got me the most jazzed was not for an MMO at all, it was for the new Deus Ex game. I loved the first Deus Ex, one of my all time favorite games. I even liked the second one enough to play through it. I'm hoping the game will hew closer to the first than the second, which does seem to be the case.

Interplay's Fallout MMO is apparently not dead yet, which is a pleasant surprise. Star Wars: The Old Republic only sounds better and better the more find out about it. And a small tidbit about the Warhammer 40K MMO really piqued my interest. Apparently there are going to be at least four factions. I really really hope this means that all four factions will be able to duke it out, because the lack of a third faction is one of the major areas where Mythic screwed the pooch with Warhammer Online imo.

Finally, nerfs are incoming in Dungeons and Dragons online. In addition to adding guild Airships, which I have to say sound pretty damn cool, in update 5 Turbine has decided to nerf two-handed fighting and two-weapon fighting (i.e., what almost all melee players use). The change to two handed fighting (using a giant two handed weapon like a greatsword) is that you will now have to stand in place to get glancing blows (extra damage to any mobs near the main one you are hitting). Not a complete disaster, but seriously annoying given how much you generally have to move around while fighting in DDO.

Two-weapon fighting (dual wielding) on the other hand, is being hit very hard at low levels. Without getting into the details of it, for low level characters the change coming down the pipe represents roughly a 50% hit to their offhand weapon damage even if they have the two weapon fighting feat. It gets better at higher levels if you continue to specialize, but it's still a substantial nerf to any two-weapon fighter that isn't a Ranger or Monk with specific enhancements.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Played Lately: DDO (with visual tour)

Spent most of the weekend in Dungeons and Dragons online. Still having fun there, though I'm finding the higher I get the harder it is to figure out what quests I should be working on and where to pick them up. Where I used to be able to wander aimlessly and find quests, I'm relying very much on the in game compendium these days. It lists every quest near your level range in the game, as well as the name of the quest givers and the zones you can find them in. I'm a bit surprised that more MMOs don't have something similar.

One thing I find striking about DDO is how good it looks for an old game with such low system requirements. I can run DDO quite well on my back-up PC (it only has a gig of ram and a 256 MB video card). Apart from WoW there aren't many modernish MMOs I can say that about.

DDO has pretty good lighting effects, particularly shadows:

Another that makes good use of shadows:

DDO also has pretty good art direction imo. DDO is definitely a "high magic" setting with a lot of interesting sights, such as this random dungeon screen shot:

And this airship in the marketplace:

Finally, the atmospheric effects are generally quite good. A rainbow on an overcast day in three barrel cove:

Same area at night:

For a game that's a year older than LoTRO and runs well on toasters/ pocket calculators, DDO looks pretty good. You'd have to go to something that really requires modern hardware like Age of Conan to find a game that looks a ton better in my experience. The landscapes also aren't as well done as in LoTRO, but I think the character models and animations are actually a shade better.

Friday, June 4, 2010

LoTRO going FtP: a lifer's perspective

I got a serious shock when I did my normal lunch time blog browsing today. Mordor or Bust completely nailed it, Lord of the Rings Online is going Free to Play ala DDO. There are a lot of places you can get info on the website if you dig around. You can read the announcement here and get some additional answers to player questions here. Forum reactions so far are mixed, but overall tending towards positive.

As a life-time subscriber, my primary concern was "what does this mean for me?" I'm selfish that way. As it turns out, very little save perhaps more players in the starting areas and faster content releases. Lifetime accounts get free access to all the content that a monthly subscriber (or VIP account in the Turbine parlance) would without ever having to pay.

As a lifetime subscriber, between now and the launch launch of FtP if you log in to LotRO at least once a month you will get 500 free Turbine points per month (so 1500 or so free points when it launches). After that, lifetime subscribers get 500 free points a month whether they log or not. If the prices in the item store are at all comparable to DDO, that means taking a break for a few months would give you enough points to buy pretty much any single item you'd want from the store and still have a lot of points left over. I wonder if will work out for Turbine long term, or if they will add a requirement that you log every so often to get your points.

Additional details that stuck out, in no particular order (I hope Anjin won't mind if I borrow some bullets):

  • Turbine claims that LoTRO was doing fine as a sub based MMO, but that DDO has been bringing in so much cash that they felt it would be stupid not to switch LoTRO over to the same model (I'm paraphrasing, obviously).
  • With the launch of FtP we are getting a new zone, Enedwaith, about which very little is known from the books.
  • The launch will also include a major revamp of starting zones, as well as improvements to monster play, legendary items, and radiance gear.
  • Radiance gear will not be available in the item shop. However, I'm guessing that scrolls and things for your LIs will be. In fact, I imagine that almost everything you can currently get from skirmish vendors will be in the shop.
  • Warden and Runekeeper are becoming premium classes (still usable by VIPs, lifers and those that have the Moria expansion).
  • Turbine points are not transferable between DDO and LoTRO (doh!)
  • Finally, if you have ever bought any expansions, you already "own" content in FtP LoTRO. For example, if you bought Moria you already have access to the premium classes.

All in all, it's a pretty exciting hunk of news. I'm really enjoying the FtP model in DDO. If this means we get content faster in LoTRO, I'm all for it.

Edit: The blogosphere is absolutely atwitter with this. Ravious did another post from a lifer's perspective over at KTR, while Sente, Syp, Blue Kae, MMO Gamer Chick, and Scott Jennings have all posted their takes. Finally, Syp just put up much more comprehensive list over at Bio Break. Good stuff :-)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

DDO: trials an trubulations of a wizard wannabee

I'm still slightly obsessing on DDO. My main (a paladin) is almost level 8, and I'm really happy with how her build is performing. The other character I've put the most time into lately is Warforged Wizard, and until last night I was growing increasingly dissatisfied with him.

Warforged are kind of an oddball race. They are magical constructs that can't wear armor. Instead they start with a small natural AC bonus and can purchase low level resistance to all attacks (for example, mine currently has -2 to almost all incoming damage). They are also immune outright to several forms of attack, and can stay underwater indefinitely because they don't breath. Healing spells don't work very well on them. However arcane casters can cast repair spells that work just as well as healing works on fleshies. That makes a Warforged Wizard or Sorceror a really powerful combo, at least in theory, because you get all the DPS of a full arcane caster and can heal yourself.

My first attempt involved a pure Wizard. Unfortunately, at level one your damage spells are so weak as to be fairly useless. That left him doing most of his damage by flailing away feebly with his staff. I got guy up to level two before I decided I needed a change.

My next attempt involved taking a level of Rogue and then going Wizard at level two. The result was a character that could do almost anything. On one character I could open locks, sneak, unlock traps, and back stab on top of casting spells. And honestly, it felt a bit cheap. I also didn't really like the rogue weapon selection. I was not willing to commit enough points to Dex to qualify for dual wielding, which meant my melee DPS was always going to be mediocre.

Finally, I settled on one level of fighter followed by wizard from level 2 on. By using the free fighter combat feat to specialize in slashing weapons, I ended up with a character that can very reliably hit things with an axe or sword at low levels. I'm sure all the min-maxers on the DDO forums would be aghast at my choice, but the fighter splash did exactly what I needed it to do: it made the low level game playable for me. Plus, I got to use a giant glowing two-handed sword :-)

At first it was a lot of fun. I was doing a decent damage in melee, and had a summoned pet and charm spells (spells that make foes your allies temporarily) to break up crowds. However by level three I was starting to feel like an almost pure melee character . . . . but with with charm person. My damage spells still weren't doing enough damage to waste mana on, and apart from hypnotism (an AoE mez that lasts until broken) my other crowd control spells were pretty mediocre. At level four (wizard level three), I got access to second level spells. That opened up a new pet, a more powerful heal, and bull's strength (+4 to strength, a big melee boost), as well as a spell for opening locks. All good stuff, but not really why I rolled a wizard in the first place.

Things started to look up by level five. My damage spells were finally starting to be worth casting. However, given how much damage I could do for free just by swinging a sword, they were still situational. Really, I still needed the mana for repair spells more than anything. Again, not really what I envisioned when I thought of playing a wizard. I knew I'd get level three spells at level six (wizard level 5), so I resolved that I'd stick it out until 6 and then ditch the 'toon if he didn't really take off.

Fortunately, he did. I hit level six Monday night. My level one damage spells are maxed out now, and I finally have sufficient mana to cast them frequently while still healing, buffing, and charming (though still not enough to waste mana on maximized or empowered spells). I also got a new pet, a Hell Hound. It breaths fire (woot!), and goes into stealth when not in combat. Finally, fireball kicks butt; particularly since I have several passive abilities that boost fire damage.

My guy is finally starting to play a lot closer to what I had in mind when I first rolled him. I suppose a pure Wizard would have gotten there a level sooner. But my experience soloing as a pure wizard was so painful that it's not very likely I would have made it to five, even if I had stuck to my original build. I'm finding over and over in DDO that (A) it takes trial and error to find a build that you enjoy, and (B) builds that theoretically aren't optimal long term are more fun at low levels.