Thursday, May 21, 2009

Book 8

The book 8 patch notes are finally live. You can read them all here. Below are the things that stick out in my mind.

Class balance changes: Runekeepers, and Minstrels to a lesser extent, are getting a damage nerf. Blackarrow DoTs will now be curable. Champions will get healed for less when in their highest damage stance.

Thoughts: The first two changes were needed. No-one should be able to out DPS a hunter on single targets, that is their primary class role. And Blackarrows apparently have been insanely overpowered since the last patch.

The Champion change is puzzling. No sane champion would use their high damage stance when trying to tank. All of your active defenses go to zero, and high AC is not nearly enough to make up for that in my experience. Even as an offtank, if you are in a situation where you are expecting to need frequent heals...again you aren't going to use your highest damage stance. You'll go for the middling one or for full defenses. This change ultimately makes little difference to the class, and I am not sure why Turbine thought it was necessary.

Lothlorian gift box changes: low end rewards have been removed, you will be guaranteed at least a rune worth 250K weapon XP. The possibility of first age weapons has also been removed. Instead, the chances of getting a second age have been improved. However, second ages that you get will randomly be 58, 59, or 60. The cost for gift boxes has also been reduce by nearly 40%.

Thoughts: The odds of getting a first or second age weapon out the boxes is so low that there is little reason to even try it in the current game. The low end rewards that you can get are also so bad that they might as well be coal. This sounds like a good change. However, until this goes live it remains to be seen whether the entire Lothlorian gift box system is worth messing with. If the chances of getting a 2nd age legendary are still only 5% or so, I'd say it's still not worth it.

Crafting Revamp: all optional items will now tell you what crafts use them in the description. Optional items will only drop off of humanoids and crafting nodes. Teir VI crafted armor is getting stat boosts.

Thoughts: Being able to tell what a crit item is used for by reading the description is absolutely a needed change. Most of these items currently only say "this item can be used by crafters." I have high level crafters in most of the professions, and half of the time I haven't got the foggiest idea which character to send a given crit item to. I absolutely applaud this change.

The change in drop patterns of crit items honestly bothers me. One of the things I enjoy about the current game is that if you want certain crit items, you have to head out and farm specific mobs. I think it's great that crit items are now available from resource nodes. However, I don't think it's so great that humanoids are the only mobs that will drop crit items now, and that they will drop all of them. It seems like some of the depth of the game has been diminished.

Finally, the stat boost on crafted tier VI armor. As you might surmise if you have read any of my past posts, I feel that this is absolutely a needed change. The current tier VI armor is actually so bad that if you have the best crafted tier V armor there is no reason to upgrade. Even the best guild tier VI armor is barely better than the best tier V armor. As it stands currently, a maxed out tailor can make a few good cloaks and a maxed out metalsmith can mainly make tools. Other than that neither profession makes any gear at all that most characters would care about. I am very glad to see Turbine addressing this. If the new recipes are on par with the normal mode coin drop gear, I'll be happy as a clam.

Now if only Turbine would revisit the PvP gear, we might have an end game as good as what we had 6 months ago.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The many helmets of LoTRO

Got this link off from LoTRO chronicles, a very well written LoTRO blog. Be sure to check out the hats in part II, some really astounding designs. I'm honestly beginning to wonder if it's some sort of inside joke at Turbine to foist these things on us.

Housing in Wizard 101 versus LoTRO

I love having a house in any MMO. It's one of the things I really missed during the "year of WoW." When they added housing to LoTRO I was actually very excited. It's probably the most basic housing system I've seen, but that also means it's very easy to use. You get a yard and you get to pick where your house is in your neighborhood (meaning a wide variety of potential yards). There are four different architectural styles, one for each PC race, and four different neighborhoods. Any crafter can make at least a few housing items. My characters makes rugs, wall paintings, and wallpaper so far.

There are also a lot of "trophy" systems in game to let you get unique decorations for your house. All the major bosses in game drop trophies. I have one from a boss deep in Fornost that I'm especially proud of. Many regular mobs in game have a small chance to drop a trophy. And via the fishing system you can get some nice mounted fish trophies (I personally stopped once I got to the giant goldfish, that was the one I wanted). And finally, maxing out with any faction gets you access to unique housing decorations.

My one major gripe is hookpoints. Any given item can only be placed at specific "hookpoints" in your house. So, for example, a bed can only go in a "large furniture" hookpoint. Every other major MMO I have had a house in had a system where you can place items anywhere you like. This limitation seems a bit odd in a MMO that is otherwise so polished. However, overall I've been pretty happy with my house in LoTRO.

Then along comes Wizard 101. The full housing system was added in the most recent patch. And I have to say that for a micro transaction based MMO, I am impressed as hell. Unlike the system in LoTRO, you get a small dorm room for free (and so far that's all I have messed around with decorating). To upgrade to a real house is a one time fee (no upkeep). The housing system is just as easy to use as the LoTRO system, and considerably more flexible. No hookpoints! Extra housing items go into your "attic," they don't take up precious storage space in your bank (brilliant!). You are also tripping over trophies for your house as you complete quests. My dorm room currently has a very Egyptian feel to it because that's the theme of the area I've been questing in. The number of items you can buy to decorate your house with is pretty staggering, as well you might expect in a micro transaction based MMO. However, so far I haven't found anything so expensive that I couldn't buy it just with the gold I've gotten running around doing quests.

Overall the housing system in Wizard 101 kicks the butt of the housing system in LoTRO, which is not at all what I was expecting. There aren't quite as many ways to earn trophies, but the sheer volume of trophies you get doing quests more than makes up for it. In addition to free form furniture placement, W101 also has a much greater variety of furniture (though LoTRO does still edge it out in lawn ornaments). W101 has furniture that you can put on top of other furniture (e..g, books), which LoTRO lacks. There is also a greater variety of housing types, from dorm room to castle. Every character on an account can buy their own house if you are so inclined, and there is no upkeep. If you can just barely afford a given house type you can go right ahead and buy it. Finally, you get to keep any house that you buy. So, for example, if I decide to upgrade to a mansion from a house I still get to keep the house. I have to say I am very impressed, and I'm starting to wonder why LoTRO doesn't have a housing system as flexible as a MMO that's practically free to play.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

What the heck did I do during my LoTRO burnout?

I spent a lot of time in two other MMOs. If you are LoTRO geek, head to the next post down for my post burnout thoughts on LoTRO (Summary: I'm back into it, but the endgame is currently contracted from SoA LoTRO and that's a damn shame). In any case, these are the MMOs I filled my spare time with:

Wizard 101: A MMO that I was hesitant to try because it's micro transaction based and seemingly aimed at tweens. You really should not let that stop you from trying out this gem. The card based combat system is a huge breath of fresh air after years of typical turn based combat in various MMOs. The strategy of building decks and using your cards well in a fight has surprising depth.

The game is also a great value. The first few areas are free. After that you can buy lifetime access to zones for 1-2$ per zone. I've been playing for more than two months now. I've spent about ten bucks and I get to play in every single zone I've bought without ever having to pay again.

City of Heroes: this is one of those MMOs I like to visit from time to time, but never seem to enjoy for more than about a month at a stretch. A great game with exciting combat and a fantastically deep character generation system. About anything you can dream up you can come close to. Unfortunately, it's also extremely repetitive. Once the shiny wears off you get bored quickly.

Recently the Mission Architect got me interested again. It's certainly a bit of a pain to find the good missions that players have created. For every good one I find I end up quitting at least two duds. However, the best player written missions are actually better than anything I have experienced in the normal game. I have gone through some really nicely written stories. I plan eventually to start a "Hall of Fame" on this blog (at least if my normal one month burnout doesn't kick in).

The endgame of LoTRO

I recently went through a period of burnout with LoTRO. I backed off of it for a few weeks, logging mainly for kinship events. I am happy to report that the as of this weekend the burnout apparently has worn off, and I'm in a clam like state of contentment leveling alts again. The break also allowed me to gain a fresh perspective on LoTRO.

To my tastes, it's still the best PvE MMO by a pretty wide margin for any number of reasons. The tales you participate in are well thought out and evoke the tone of Tolkien's work very nicely. The graphics are amazing, especially considering the system I'm running it on (yes, it's a toaster). The crafting system is really well thought out, at least 1-50. It strikes a nice balance between utility and depth, and the addition of crafting guilds has only improved it. I also love the flexibility of many of the class designs. Nearly every class has at least two roles that they can perform well in. Even the Hunter (arguably the most myopic class, and the best single target DPS in the game) has unparalleled travel utility and can function as a crowd control specialist if traited properly.

Unfortunately, it is now also glaringly obvious to me that Turbine seemingly doesn't care about one of the core strengths of pre-MoM LoTRO: it supported many routes to gearing up in the endgame. You could get gear through crafting, PvP, or six man content that was almost as good as gear from the Rift. And in terms of performance, you could handle any content that someone decked out in raid gear could handle. Once you spent time gearing up doing whatever you enjoyed, how well you knew your class counted for far more that what gear you had on. That just isn't true any more.

Let's leave aside the issue that you have to have a full set of radiance gear to do the watcher raid (and thus have access to one of the primary sources of first age weapons). The gear that you can get doing six man instances utterly outclasses the gear you can get doing anything else. I have the full three piece sets from coin drops (I only currently have one piece of radiance gear), and even that makes the best gear I could craft look completely stupid. Even worse off is the fan of PvP. The PvP gear is arguably the hardest gear set in the game to get, and by a wide margin. Yet it's also the worst set of level 60 gear you can get in terms of stats. Only crafted "epics" give it a run for the money (i.e., in terms of sucking).

We have exactly one path to high end gear right now, six mans. Presumably, with book 8, we will have two paths: 6 man content and raiding. If the raid gear is worse than the radiance sets, nerdrage on the LoTRO forums would reach to the heavens. I doubt anyone at Turbine is that insane. However, that will still do nothing to address crafting and PvP. We have gone from a game that rewarded at least four different play styles roughly equally, to one that may eventually support two playstyles. That is a major contraction.

What irks me the most is that the only "fix" that's needed is for the stats on the crafted and PvP gear to be revisited. Replace all of the stat points on crafted gear that are wasted on funky resistances with power and morale buffs. In other words, make the 58 crafted gear analogous to the old 48 gear. And up the stats on the PvP gear by 10% or so across the board. Let someone that enjoys crafting or PvP at least earn gear that is as good as the coin drop gear. A simple (in terms of developer hours) change that would make so many players happy. Yet Turbine seemingly has no intention of doing so.