Category Archives: LotRO

Player Housing? Yes. No. Maybe.

I love player housing. Almost all of my favorite games include it in some form or fashion: Animal Crossing. Wurm Online. World of Warcraft. LotRO. Of course the World of Warcraft version right now is the garrison, but it just isn’t the same. When I think of player housing in a theme park MMO, I think of an actual “house” somewhere in the world, instanced if necessary. It should be customizable, with lots of decorations, exterior and interior options, and music. It’s a place to show off items from the gameplay that you’ve done, plus get a little creative. It’s NOT a place to send followers out on missions, do major crafting, farm profession materials, do defense missions, or sit around all day.

I’m going to say something here that might get me cast out of the MMO blogger community altogether, but here goes: I really don’t care for the EQ2/Rift/Wildstar format of player housing. I know, it’s incredibly customizable! You can build your own crazy thing! But something about that in a highly story-driven and thematic MMO just seems slightly off to me. You may be in a medieval world, but you can build the Starship Enterprise in your personal instance. Or you might be in a futuristic sci-fi game, but you can build a giant medieval castle. That doesn’t seem so crazy to me in a purely sandbox game such as Minecraft, which is for all intents and purposes a blank slate that can be medieval, sci-fi, futuristic, wild west, or any combination of the above, and tells no specific story line. But in a game like EQ2, or Rift, or Wildstar, or even WoW if they were to attempt it, it just seems out of place.

“I’m going to go over to Samurai Jack’s medieval castle and we’re going to play his asteroid platformer jumping puzzle”.

No. Please no.

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All The Things!

LotRO’s housing gets a lot of guff from the big boys because it’s not as customizable and comparatively there’s really not a lot going on there, but honestly, I like their housing model the best. It’s a house, themed by race, that you can decorate as you like and show off trophies and items that you’ve crafted, won in seasonal events, or gotten during raids, and it has a modest storage area. That’s about it. There’s no stables, no crafting facilities, no auction house… it’s basically just an extra milestone/hearth. I’m okay with that, because people in LotRO generally don’t hang out at their house all day long. They may stop by once a day to grab something from storage or update a decoration slot, but other than that they’re out in the world. The only thing I would add is the ability to see where your guildmate’s and friend’s housing is, and the ability to quick-port there to check it out.

If they were to implement this in WoW, I would be ecstatic. Instead of Garrisons, this is my concept:

  • Instanced housing zones for all the different races, plus a few neutral options.
  • House locations that you “buy” with weekly or monthly upkeep (gold).
  • The ability to change the color of the exterior walls, doors, and roofs, as well as interior walls, ceilings, and flooring by room.
  • The ability to place any trophy anywhere, interior or exterior. To reduce lag, a limit on how many items you can have in your instance… maybe 100? 200?
  • A jukebox so that you can change your housing theme music.
  • If you kill Onyxia, you get her head to place in your home or yard as you see fit. You could take a shard of Frostmourne from the Lich King, or Garrosh Hellscream’s tusk, or… well, the possibilities are endless.
  • Crafted decorations from each profession. Tailors make carpets, pillows, and drapes. Leatherworkers make nice chairs, rugs, and upholstered items. Smiths get to make candelabras and rod iron furniture. Scribes could make paintings for the walls. Alchemists can make paints and dyes for the interior/exterior. And so on.
  • The ability to have a little for-looks-only stable with some of your favorite mounts and pets.
  • Plaques that can be made from any achievement that you currently have. Did you get Insane in the Membrane in 2010 when it was super-hard? Make a plaque, hang it on your wall, and show it off.
  • The ability to set up “home tours”, basically a set of linked housing instances either between guildmates or friends. People could then go from house to house easily on a tour of sorts.

It honestly isn’t the biggest or most ambitious housing system, but I think it would scratch the player housing itch that so many players have, it wouldn’t be so high-maintenance and indispensable as garrisons are, and players would still be out in the world rather than rotting inside a private instance 24-7.

That Dorothy Moment

I’m generally a pretty positive person. Maybe sometimes a realist, but more often than not I’m a sparkly unicorn of rainbow optimism. Which makes the recent game depression – for lack of a better term – that I’ve been going through so strange.

I think it’s a combination of several things. It kicked off when Sony announced that they were selling SOE, which then became the dubiously-named Gamebreak Daybreak Games, with the promise that it would be “business as usual”. Then came the layoffs, the changes, breaking away from Storybricks and the subsequent closure of Storybricks. Even Storybricks themselves communicated that if they had been successful in their purchase of SOE, they would have made deep cuts. While I’ve never been overly attached to SOE or the EverQuest franchise, it’s still a cornerstone of the industry and seeing it go through this is like watching Michael Jordan crash and burn on a basketball court.

Then came the revelations of a former Turbine dev regarding the development of LotRO. LotRO has been in a slow downward spiral for several years now, although in the past Turbine has tried to spin PR otherwise with little success. Still, hearing the stories of the behind-the-scenes of a game that I’ve been playing for years – the lost money, the dead projects, the poor decisions of executive management – it feels like it’s a miracle that it has made it this long. It’s still alive due to the sheer tenacity of certain developers, the best IP and lore you could ask for, and a dedicated, passionate, award-winning community, which was nearly decimated by the ineptitude of a former community manager.

Elder Scrolls Online, Archeage, & Wildstar all were less successful than anticipated. RIFT & The Secret World are still chugging along quietly – almost too quietly. World of Warcraft, the elephant in the room, had a gangbusters start to their latest expansion but has had questionable decisions since (selfie camera? really?). Guild Wars 2 is the one bright spot, with an expansion coming out in the near future. As far as AAA-level MMOs coming up – I don’t see any out there. There are indeed some smaller and indie-level MMOs in the works, but this is the first time in a very long time that there hasn’t been a “new hotness” coming out. This may not be a bad thing – the market is more than saturated already, with too many engorged albatrosses lumbering along with cash shops hanging around their necks.

Lest this be seen as unbridled criticism and despondency, let me clarify that it’s not. The developers, artists, production teams, community managers of our favorite MMOs are passionate people that pour their heart and soul into these games. Sometimes missteps are made, but it’s usually on the part of executive management – releasing games and patches too early or incomplete, making decisions based on what will give the fastest infusion of cash rather than on what is best for the game, putting in systems that are completely unnecessary or unwanted by the playerbase… all of which are sure recipes for disaster. The developers are trying their best to hit deadlines and trying to conjure magical experiences for us. But as Fredelas tweeted the other day:

As gamers, we all have Dorothy moments when studio curtains are pulled back and we find it run on wires and levers by mortals, not wizards.

I’m having that Dorothy moment. I’ve loved my time in LotRO, but now I wonder if it’s worth continuing to play – I see the age, the mistakes, the current state of the game and it smells like an injured gazelle on the Serengeti. The doubts cloud my mind but I’m contributing to the problem if I don’t play. Even if I try playing a newer, stronger contender, like Guild Wars 2, I feel guilty for not playing LotRO.

WTB a pair of ruby slippers, please.

The Red-Maid

One of the things that entertains me endlessly in LotRO is searching for all the little easter eggs and places that are accurate to the books. The stone trolls in the Trollshaws are a great example – one even has a birdsnest behind it’s ear, just like it should. Even better is when I find that Turbine has taken something that is alluded to in the books, and has ran with it to make it’s own story.

I’ve always liked the Agamaur area and the Garth Agarwen quests, but it wasn’t until my latest run through the place that something jumped out at me – a bit of quest text by a shade in Harloeg:

‘In ages past, we were cursed by Iarwain Ben-adar for our inaction as the Red-maid slipped further from the gentle creature she was to the corrupt thing she now is. Until she is redeemed or removed from the world, we are cursed to wander these swamps, with no hope of rest.

‘But we have no hope. She is too powerful, or so the men believe. I do not believe this is so. I must find a way to restore the men’s resolve. I must find a way to restore their resolve. One of the Eglain, Hartrím, has gone to the place where she dwells. He goes to secure items lost as my brethren and I battled the Angmarim and Hillmen of Rhudaur: our shields. I believe they are still held by the Hillmen who worship the Red-maid and the brigands who have allied themselves with them.

Wait. Iarwain Ben-adar? That is none other than Tom Bombadil, as Elrond tells us in the books during the Council of Elrond. It translates to “oldest and fatherless”, or “old-young”. Apparently he was pretty upset about the Red-Maid’s corruption, according to the quest text. Hmm.

The Red-Maid, the game tells us, is Naruhel, Goldberry’s sister, who became corrupted under the influence of Angmar. She, along with the other in-game river-maids – Gwindeth, the Blue Lady in Evendim, and Roamingstar in Gondor, is an invention of Turbine, and is not canon to the Middle-Earth universe. In the books, Goldberry is said to be the river-daughter, the daughter of the river-woman, so sisters are not out of the realm of possibility.

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Corrupted Naruhel, Uncorrupted Naruhel, and Goldberry

Then I remembered this bit of text from Fellowship of the Ring:

He chose for himself from the pile a brooch set with blue stones, many-shaded like flax-flowers or the wings of blue butterflies. He looked long at it, as if stirred by some memory, shaking his head, and saying at last:

‘Here is a pretty toy for Tom and his lady! Fair was she who long ago wore this on her shoulder. Goldberry shall wear it now, and we will not forget her!’

Who exactly Tom was referring to? It’s always been considered a mystery – Tolkien never went into more detail, and the popular theory if you only consider the books is that the lady was perhaps the wife of one of the kings buried in the Barrow-Downs. But I like to think that Turbine perhaps spun the Red-Maid story off of this – what if Goldberry had a sister, and what if this was her brooch? What if Tom Bombadil cursed the shades because of the corruption of Goldberry’s sister?

It’s an interesting story if indeed this was intended by Turbine.

It’s Dangerous To Go Alone!

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Paislea the hobbit minstrel is level 62 and rolling through Mirkwood these days. She just arrived at the Haunted Inn, which I am loving the vibe on – creepy/scary places in MMOs are nearly always my favorite, and this place looks like it came out of a teen horror movie, you know, the kind where the young beautiful people go to a cabin and die off one by one in horrible and violent ways. Anyways, there’s a whole crew of humans and elves hanging out there, wringing their hands over what to do, and my little hobbit lass walks in. Their reaction?

You can stay a while, but don’t get to comfortable. We’ve been sending out bands of scouts to check out the area, and none have returned. Our hundreds of years of experience and wisdom are of no use. Go out there and find them, little hobbit girl!

Uhm, guys? Really?