LOTRO and the trap of altaholism

For its 15th anniversary, Lord of the Rings Online backed up a dump truck to players’ inventories and gave them a ton of new stuff, even more if you were subbed during the anniversary festival. Including this beautiful star cloak. I will gladly pay $15 for that alone, thank you. It was already exciting that free players were getting all of the expansions up to and including Helms’ Deep for free, but then they went and gave out the collector’s edition to Mordor, Minas Morgul, and War of the Three Peaks for free as well. Seriously, if you think there’s any chance you’ll ever play this game in the future, go log in now, or you will be kicking yourself. 

That’s wonderful! I’m really grateful to SSG for being so generous! I even tweeted a dumb meme about it and it took off! (I don’t know about you, but for me, nearly 100 likes and more than 10 RTs is probably some kind of record) There’s just one downside. I had already bought the collector’s editions to Mordor and Minas Morgul. No biggie, it’s super old content at this point, I’ve probably gotten my money’s worth.

…except that I’ve never actually been to those zones. My highest level character is like half way through Mirkwood. I bought those expansions thinking that I’ll get there one day, and at least this way I get cosmetics and other goodies to enjoy along the way. I used the level boosts that came with each, but neither character stuck, partly because of that “I didn’t earn this” effect that much better writers than I have spilled plenty of digital ink over, and partly because LOTRO is really bad at level boosts and I couldn’t really progress with what I was given without a lot of backtracking (I’m told the 120 version is better about this at least). 

How could I possibly have played LOTRO for years, putting in dozens if not hundreds of hours, and never gotten past the second expansion? If you’re mystified, you’re not alone; I’m not really sure how it happened either. The only answer I can come up with is alts. When I say my highest level character is halfway through Mirkwood, I actually can’t tell you for sure without looking if that’s my Rune-Keeper or my Beorning, because they’re so close in level and progress. It’s also about where my Captain was before I used the first of those level boosts on her (which was a huge mistake; at least the second time I used a boost I was smart enough to do it on a fresh character so I wasn’t missing anything by not playing him). I’ve also got a variety of other alts abandoned around the 30s and 40s. 

And that’s just on my main, normal server. There’s also that time I got excited to play on the Arnor progression server until I got distracted long enough that I fell hopelessly behind, the Shadowfax speed leveling progression server (in Deadly difficulty for some reason) until I realized that the server was super dead, and the Treebeard slow leveling server until I realized that I don’t really want to play on a slow leveling server. All of those characters got to the 30-60 range and fizzled. 

I love the early zones of this game — The Shire, all of Bree-Land, Evendim, The Trollshaws — so much, I don’t mind redoing them periodically. Also, am I the only one who finds all of the classes in this game a lot more interesting than they ought to be? Normally, I go into a game like Star Wars: The Old Republic or The Elder Scrolls Online and I find at least one or two classes I like and one or more that I really don’t care for. But in LOTRO, even the classes I can’t play to save my life, like Lore-Master or Warden, I want to be good at because they’re interesting somehow.

I have played far too much on too many alts, and not focused enough on one character, and it has finally come back to bite me. I sometimes fear that the game is going to suddenly shut down one day, and I will really have wasted my money on all those expansions that I’ve never seen, and, worse still, regret that I never got to see all of the cool places I’ve only heard stories of and seen in screenshots. 

All of that said, I don’t consider any of it time wasted. This is a game, and if I’m having fun and relaxing and getting a few moments of respite from the stresses and struggles of life, it’s time well spent. I long ago decided that I wouldn’t let any game, or any group within that game, dictate how I spent my free time or plan my life around it. I will play in whatever way is the most fun, or not at all. But there’s also something to be said for seeing something new and different rather than repeating things I’m already familiar with. 

Like any good Hobbit, I prefer the comfort of the well known, but, like Bilbo, there are a lot of adventures waiting for me outside of my comfort zone. Maybe this anniversary will be the wizard that pushes me out the front door. 

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LotRO: Never Mind, I’m Rerolling

You may recall that the last time I talked about LotRO and its Legendary Server, I had decided I was definitely going to see my warden through to 50. At this point, though, I haven’t played for a couple of weeks now because, for some reason, the last few weeks of December is super busy, and my enthusiasm for that character has waned, which has made it harder to want to log in. My warden muscle memory is getting a little rusty, and I’m so far behind the pack now (just finished up the Lone Lands) that starting over isn’t going to make much difference, though I still think I can catch up before Moria hits if I stick with it. Also, while playing warden is really fun, it’s also a little exhausting. There are so many things to keep track of! You’re constantly thinking about building gambits and gambit combos and trying to balance self healing with taunting and DoTing. I love that type of tactical, always-three-steps-ahead gameplay, and it’s very rewarding when you’re hitting everything just right, but I’m realizing that it’s not the kind of thing I want from LotRO right now. I’m more interested in a simpler, more relaxed gameplay experience. I figure, if I’m not happy with the class, I should reroll now and not feel bad about it.

So I rolled a lore-master. “But wait,” you say, “isn’t lore-master probably the next most complex class after warden?” Yes, it probably is. And I’m pretty sure they got a fairly sizable nerf not long ago too. But it has pets and DoTs and a little healing and crowd control! What’s not to love? Plus, it’s a different kind of complexity. It still has that always-three-steps-ahead feel I love about the warden, but with cast bars. You have to use all of your tricks to stay ahead of the game, but it’s more spread out and less frantic. Besides, I never said I made sense.

I’m making quick work of the lower levels. I just did most of these quests on my warden, so rather than reading and doing every possible quest, I’m trying to push myself by only doing on-level or above quests. Going from warden, a self-healing, self-buffing tanking machine, to a lore-master, a squishy caster, has been a bit of an adjustment. On a good day, though, I’m able to use my stuns to keep enemies at bay and burn them down one at a time. On a bad day… well, let’s just say I’ve been stocking up on food and health gear.

I still really want to level a minstrel healer some day, but I think lore-master is probably a better pick for me right now. My minnie is a farmer/cook, so he’s actually a decent level for never having left Ered Luin, just because of crafting XP. This has always been my problem with this game; all of the classes are so well designed that I want to try them all, but there’s so much content that I’ve never seen that I feel bad alting too much. I feel pulled in both directions and usually end up doing neither.

I Don’t Hate SWTOR’s Dark vs. Light Event

Dark vs Light

Why is the light side represented by a Chiss? They can’t even be Jedi/Sith without a legacy unlock.

There’s been quite the kerfuffle (kerfuffle is a great word, by the way) in the Star Wars The Old Republic community about the Dark vs. Light event. Announced last week, it basically gives rewards to players who roll new characters and do certain achievements, rewards, including XP boosting armor and some much sought-after lockbox rewards. Also, perhaps more interesting, based on the total number of players’ light/dark decisions, BioWare will be giving out either a Jedi or Sith companion to players who reach the Eternal tier. Many players claim that it is simply a ploy to get users to subscribe and buy character slots, playing on their fear of missing out on limited time rewards if they don’t. To that I say, of course it is. They have to make money, and if they’re going to give me a companion and a chance at getting Revan outfit pieces without spending millions of credits on the GTN, then I’m willing to subscribe for a month to get the latest chapters of the Knights of the Fallen Empire story.

That said, I can totally understand why these players are upset. I’m a very casual SWTOR player these days; I play only sporadically, and when I do it’s for the story, not for anything that will hold me long term. If this were, for instance, Guild Wars 2, where I already have characters of every class, who are all decently leveled if not capped, I’m sure I would join in the protest. It’s really unfortunate that there’s no reward for veteran players who have already done all of the objectives on the list, but I’m not sure what the alternative was. You can’t just give out all of the rewards on day one to anyone who plays SWTOR exclusively and has a million alts at the level cap. The point of the event is to give players something new to work toward. Plus, if you give a consolation prize (say, the companion and no lockboxes or cosmetics) to everyone who already has both Republic and Imperial characters at 65, there’s inevitably that one guy who will have his characters one level short who will make a big fuss because he wasn’t notified soon enough that he needed to get all of his ducks in a row to get the rewards. You can’t please everyone with this kind of thing, so, sadly, sometimes it’s best not to try. It’s unfortunate that veteran players are getting mostly ignored on this one, but I honestly don’t see a better way.

This isn’t Guild Wars 2, though, it’s SWTOR, the game that rewards altaholism with unique stories for each class and loads of player choice. If any game was going to run an event that encourages rolling new characters, SWTOR is the one to do it. This event is tailor made to get people like me, former players who have lapsed, back into the game to start fresh and hopefully try out the content that they’ve generated since we left. And, you know what? It worked. I’ve been toying with the idea of coming back, and this was the incentive I needed. And, by the looks of it, I’m not the only one. Last night I saw 150-300 people in each of the starting zones.

So, while the event is a little tone deaf toward veteran players, I personally think the Dark vs. Light event isn’t completely awful. Its only purpose is to give new and former players a reason to come back, and I think it has succeeded at that. It’s got me excited about the game again, and I can’t wait to get my armor set and free lockboxes!

SWTOR’s 12x XP: An Altaholic’s Dream

Ricoshay Relaxing
I think the last time I subscribed to a game was early 2012, and before that circa 2009. Now, I’ve suddenly been subscribed to two different MMOs in the span of three months. Fittingly, the last game I was subscribed to was SWTOR, and now BioWare is once again taking my money. This time, however, the Game Tax comes with the perk of a huge XP boost to the class story rewards that allows players to level to 50 exclusively through their story from now until the expansion hits on October 19th. As much as I love the charm of a lot of the sidequests in SWTOR, I have to begrudgingly admit that I agree with everyone who’s saying that the story-only leveling is actually a really nice experience. It feels more like playing a single-player RPG; one main story with only as many sidequests as you choose to do. It’s also great because I can play as many different classes as I want and don’t have to replay the same quests I’ve just done. So far I’ve almost finished my powertech’s class story, and my sorcerer is in her mid 30s. I’m planning on finishing off my operative next, who is around level 40.

A lot of the reason why SWTOR has never stuck for me is that I want to play every class, and I want to simultaneously be at endgame right now and experience as much of the story as I can. So basically this is exactly what I’ve always wanted. I’m not sure if I’d recommend it to someone who’s never played the game, as it kind of rushes you through the learning stages of the game, but as someone who’s played off and on since the beta and dabbled in all of the classes at one point or another, it’s great. I’ve seen some discussion among players of just scrapping the sidequests and keeping the class story XP boost on all the time, probably only for subscribers. I have a hard time being excited about this, because there are a lot of memorable quests and quest lines outside of the class story that I would miss–who can forget the Black Bisector series, or the first time you became a Revanite?–not to mention all of the light/dark decisions, companion affection, and gear drops we’d miss out on (I’ve been living on almost nothing but commendation gear since I subscribed). I know they’re reworking the leveling process for the expansion, but I don’t think they’ll be so lazy as to just leave the boost on all the time. The best solution I’ve heard is somewhere in the middle: boost the XP payout of all of the quests (both class story quests and traditional ones) by 3-5 times and leave them all in. This way you’re still progressing at a more normal rate, but you can pick and choose which quests you want to play. Either way, I’m sure the leveling experience will be better. And if it’s not, they’ll be giving you an insta-60 with the expansion (free with a subscription) so you can skip it entirely. I’m planning to use mine on a Sith Juggernaut, since my old main character was the mirror class on the Republic side, but my new guild is mostly Empire. I’ve never done the Warrior’s story, though, and I’m told it’s pretty good, so it would be a shame to skip it. We’ll see.