An honest look at LotRO’s “mini-expansion”

ThreePeaksEditions

Lord of the Rings Online’s latest update went live yesterday, and all of the players were super excited for it and pleased with the new content. That’s what the headline should have been today… but it’s not. There are a lot of players upset about the way War of Three Peaks, LotRO’s new so-called “mini-expansion,” was handled. Personally, I have a lot of mixed emotions about it, so let’s parse some of my feelings toward this update.

So what is all this fuss about? First off, there isn’t that much story/zone content here. Hence the “mini” label. Second, while true expansions have always had a cost associated with them for everyone, LotRO’s model has always been that subscribers get all of these smaller zones included in the subscriptions, whereas non-subbed could buy them piecemeal. This was the case as recently as last year’s Vales of Anduin release. These smaller, post-expansion updates were previously just called… updates, so this obvious marketing label feels tacky. Three Peaks broke this long-standing pattern, however, and requires everyone who wants to play it to pay at least $20 to unlock it. To make matters worse, players can’t use cash shop currency (aka “money we already gave you”) to unlock the zone as with previous releases; it’s a direct buy on the website only. To add insult to injury, there are two premium packages, labeled “Collector’s Edition” and “Ultimate Fan Bundle” (the latter with a big gold RECOMMENDED banner over it) for $60 and $100, respectively, that add a range of cosmetics (all of which, as far as I’ve seen, are ugly) and a few convenience items you could have bought from the cash shop.

Of course, LotRO got way out ahead of this and made the community aware ahead of time and communicated the reasons for this sudden change, right? Nope. As fellow bloggers Roger over at Contains Moderate Peril and Syp of Bio Break have chronicled, LotRO’s communication to its players has been bad for a long time, and seems to be getting worse. For some unknown reason, the pricing and details of these bundle tiers were kept secret until release day. I say “unknown reason,” but I would speculate that it’s largely because they knew this was going to tick off a lot of fans, and hoped this would get people to convince themselves to buy it ahead of time. Of course, instead this has caused the launch day to be more about angry fans griping about the change in sales tactics than about the actual release.

I do want to say, though, that, in Standing Stone’s defense, the update is a little more than just a single zone quest pack. It also includes the new mission system, which looks like it’s basically skirmishes by another name. Skirmishes have always been one of my favorite things about LotRO, because I can scale them in difficulty with my level and group size. Not enough games have that kind of content, and I’ve always wished they would start making new ones again. To be honest, I’m not really sure how much content is in these missions, because they haven’t been talked up much (again, communication problems). If, to play devil’s advocate, you did think missions justified the mini-expansion label, this isn’t the worst thing, given that the last couple of expansions were also a cash buy-in at first, and it is half the price of those expansions. But even if they’re extensive, is such a feature enough to justify treating this like an expansion? In my opinion, not really.

A lot of players are really upset about this, shouting about corporate greed and such. They feel that SSG has altered the deal they’ve had for years now, with no warning, and they want an explanation. People are threatening to quit because of this. To be fair, none of these kinds of shenanigans happened before the transition to Standing Stone Games and Daybreak’s involvement as publisher/owner/corporate overlord/whatever (everyone has been weirdly cagey about the nature of that relationship). Personally, I’m less upset about it and more worried about SSG’s financials. I don’t know anything about how they’re doing money-wise, but how desperate must they be to do something like this that they know will tick off so many of their fans? And they had to know this would tick off their fans. Nobody can be that incompetent… right?

It’s really sad to me, because I feel like a lot of this could have been avoided. SSG could have communicated better. If it’s a financial issue, they could have just said “Look, we’re not making money like we used to. We need to charge for some of the smaller updates we previously gave to you for free,” and this community would have started throwing money at their screens. The players who bounce out of an MMO because its future looks stormy have left this game a long time ago. The players who are here are here because they’re loyal to this game in particular. If SSG really truly believes this content is meatier than a regular patch, they should have marketed it better. And if it really is gross incompetence, then, well, I hope this is a wakeup call that they need to do better.

It seems like players would have much more easily accepted it if the zone update had been delivered the way previous zones had been (i.e. free for subbers and in the cash shop for non-subbers), and the mission system, which seems to be the tentpole feature SSG is saying makes this mini-expansion bigger than a regular patch, had been sold separately. Sure, you wouldn’t have milked extra money out of people sitting a big pile of premium currency from paying their monthly game tax, but again, that’s money they have already paid you.

At some undetermined date in the future (again, communication from this studio is wonderful), this pack will be going up on the cash shop for purchase with premium currency, and at that point, I may pick it up for the mission system. Or maybe I’ll wait for a sale. At any rate, I’m not too broken up at the idea of not getting to play this (fully skippable, as it has no level cap increase) content on day one. I’m perpetually behind in LotRO. It’s just what I do at this point. I don’t think this is worth breaking out the pitchforks and storming SSG HQ over, but it certainly is a move that is disappointing at best and worrisome at worst.

LotRO: Walking back into Mordor

Do you ever have regrets about decisions you’ve made in MMOs? A few years ago in Lord of the Rings Online, I needed a crafting alt for a profession I didn’t have on any other characters. I decided to do a class I had never done, Rune-Keeper, with a race I hadn’t done much of, Elf, just to be different. I had to level him a bit to get him to a superior workbench (I’m so glad they got rid of those; they were dumb), but I quickly fell in love with the way the class played. I always regretted not making him a Dwarf, however. I tried to remind myself that Elves had racial passives that were more useful for Rune-Keeper than Dwarves, but it didn’t help. I just like Dwarves a lot more than Elves. Leveling is so slow in LotRO (I know many LotRO fans find it too fast, hence the slowed progression on the legendary server, but I guess I’m just spoiled by other games) that I didn’t want to start over just for the sake of my character’s looks.

Then Minas Morgul came along, bringing with it the new Stout-Axe Dwarf race and a special edition that nets me cosmetics and a character boost. I know a lot of MMO players sneer at level boosts, and I can certainly understand why, especially in this game where the story and the world is the standout feature. But this seemed like a perfect opportunity to create a new dwarf rune-keeper without having to start over at level 1. Plus, it’s a class I already know, so it’s not like I’m going straight to 120 with no idea how to play my character. And if I hate it, I can just go back to my old Rune-Keeper.

It’s also a way for me to resolve another regret: Mordor. I was really interested in the story of Mordor — where will the story go now that we’ve entered more-or-less uncharted territory, with the big-bad dead? — so I bought a similar package for Mordor on sale a while back and level boosted my Captain, and immediately regretted it. The mobs in Mordor have so much health that my Captain in DPS spec has a lot of trouble surviving, and in tank spec it takes her so long to kill mobs that, if I have to pull two mobs at once, the first mob has respawned by the time I’ve killed the second. As far as I can tell, it’s not like they start you off with garbage gear or anything, that’s just the way it is for some classes. I didn’t expect a cake walk into Mordor, but it was just too much to do alone, at least with a Cappy.

So I have decided to take my new Stout-Axe Rune-Keeper through the main quest for Mordor and the associated content before starting Minas Morgul. He’s overleveled, so it has been going pretty quickly. And, once things do get tough, I have more confidence in the Rune-Keeper’s DPS and self-healing than the Cappy’s; I think if I had boosted my Rune-Keeper instead of my Captain for Mordor I wouldn’t need another token today, but there’s nothing I can do about that now.

Long-term, once I’m caught up with current content, I would like to turn him into a healer and run some dungeons with the guild I’ve been a part of for a long time, but have never done anything more than chat with. As much as I love newer, faster paced games like Guild Wars 2 and The Elder Scrolls Online, I miss the experience of healing in more traditional, tab-target MMOs, and from what little grouping I’ve done in the past, the Rune-Keeper is a lot of fun to play as a healer.

LotRO is my WoW Classic


Hey, not sure if you’ve noticed, but a lot of people are playing World of Warcraft Classic. Shocking, I know. As I recently wrote for Massively OP, I never played WoW, but I was interested in giving Classic a try with some friends. I haven’t been converted to Warcraftism, but, weirdly enough, my time in WoW did make me long for The Lord of the Rings Online.

In some ways this shouldn’t be surprising. After all, LotRO did shamelessly steal much of its gameplay mechanics from WoW. Playing a game so similar is bound to stir up old memories. But if I’m turned off by WoW, shouldn’t I be turned off by LotRO?

After thinking about it for a while, I realized why. LotRO has the same effect on me that WoW Classic on my friends. It’s a traditional, tab-target MMO, with mountains of content (no Erebor puns intended), that I played during some of the formative years of my MMO gaming career. Unlike modern WoW, LotRO hasn’t had the budget to do major, Cataclysm-style revamps of the game, so, while it has seen its fair share of controversial updates, the “retail” version of it feels much the same as it did back in its heyday. LotRO is my WoW Classic.

The problem is that I’m still subscribed to WoW Classic. More than once, I’ve logged into LotRO, felt guilty that I’m playing a free-to-play WoW clone while paying for WoW, logged out after an hour, played WoW for half an hour, felt bored, and logged out and played something completely different. This is exactly why I dislike the subscription model, and why it’s bad for the industry as a whole.

Why, you may ask, isn’t Old School RuneScape my WoW Classic? After all, RuneScape was my first MMO, and the thing that I was playing when World of Warcraft Classic and Old School RuneScape were just “World of Warcraft” and “RuneScape.” The answer is… I don’t know. Maybe it’s because RuneScape is from such a different branch of the MMORPG family tree that it doesn’t fire the same nostalgia triggers. Maybe it’s because LotRO has built in so many more quality of life features, whereas OSRS has preserved many of the little annoyances of oldschool MMOs (although, let’s be honest, by 2007, RuneScape had better QoL features than WoW, you just had to earn many of them through levels and/or quests).

Have you ever had a similar experience? Is there a classic MMO that things like the recent WoW nostalgia storm has you longing for?

Holiday Events: Diversions or Disruptions?

Holiday events in MMOs are fun little diversions. They give us an excuse to revisit older, usually low level zones, do something light and silly, and get some cool cosmetics. A lot of games use these as a way to get people back into their game, and it often works. For instance, every May the Fourth, I log back into SWTOR to pick up that year’s recolored astromech droid. If not for that event, I probably would have gone years at a time without logging in, and, of course, once I’ve gone to all of the trouble of patching, I usually poke around in the game to see what’s new.

But lately I’ve noticed a pattern of holiday events having the opposite effect on me. They disrupt the gameplay routine by taking me out of the zone I was working on, taking up a good chunk of my playtime, and making it urgent that I do my daily holiday quests, because if I don’t, they’ll be gone before I get all of the stuff I want. I think every time I’ve wandered away from LotRO has been right after a holiday event. I know I haven’t been back to SWTOR since I binged all of the content to get that XP boosting armor from the Dark vs Light event. And I’m sure I could think of many other examples.

I’m not alone, either. Just as I was thinking about this, Ben (aka Braxwolf) over at Massively OP wrote about ESO’s recent rash of events and its “more is better” attitudes toward festivals. Go read it now, because he describes the problem in that game really well. I especially like this part:

Many MMO players pride themselves on being completionists… They can’t pass up an opportunity to log in and try to accumulate whatever is available at the moment. This mentality is partially what attracts people to MMOs in the first place, but it’s not always compatible with ‘more is better.’ The accumulation has to be reasonably obtainable, else a feeling of hopelessness and burnout can soon follow. I’ve heard some of the biggest cheerleaders within the community complain about the sheer number of events we’ve seen recently. The ‘I can’t even’ is real.

It’s hard to complain about more things to do in your favorite MMO, but time limited events, combined with rewards dangled in front of players, make us feel not only forced into a certain activity, but also rushed through it. And, even if your main MMO isn’t overloading you with events as ESO is, if you bounce around to multiple MMOs like I do, it can be somewhat anxiety-inducing to try to get around to the festivities in all of the games you play, let alone grab all the cosmetics you want, before the season is over.

Games shouldn’t be an obligation. I have a job. They pay me. I shouldn’t feel like I’m paying a game company for the privilege of working a second job in the digital world. I am by no means advocating that games get rid of holiday events, but games like ESO need to be aware of the fact that, while they may bring some players back, they create an exit point for others.

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.

LotRO: An Unexpected Party

For those who don’t know, January 3rd is J.R.R. Tolkien’s birthday. It’s something of a holiday among Tolkien fans (I’m a pretty casual fan; I’ve read the Hobbit and the Trilogy, but beyond that, most of what I know comes from LotRO and reading wikis), with various celebrations culminating in toasting “The Professor” at 9:00 pm your local time. I cut a piece of pie for myself (peanut butter pie isn’t very Hobbity, but it’s what I had on hand) and logged into LotRO to celebrate. I had no particular plan, so I did my Yule dailies on the Legendary server and then started puttering around Bree. That’s when I heard music coming from the stage across the street from the Prancing Pony. It was a little Tolkien Day party, with a three piece band in matching outfits and maybe a dozen humans, hobbits, dwarves, and elves gathered around enjoying it. I only caught the end, but they were doing a rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas with a “singer” /saying some fun Lord of the Rings-themed lyrics. At 9:00, they handed out free beer and toasted The Professor, and thanked him for creating an incredible world that lives on beyond him and which we now virtually inhabit.

There were bigger parties (I saw a video of a particularly big one on Landroval). I, and anyone else there, could have gone there and had a bigger community experience. The musicians could have gotten way more exposure for their guild there. But they didn’t. I like to think that it’s because they think of Arnor as their home community now, and they wanted to celebrate with them. It’s kind of how I view LotRO; there are plenty of bigger, flashier, newer MMOs out there, but I like LotRO because you don’t get experiences like that in just any game. And these weren’t “influencers” asking you to like and subscribe and follow and whatever else so they could get your ad revenue. They were just random players doing something cool for random players like me who happened to wander by.

In short, I love this game and its community, and I need to play more.

Gaming Resolutions For 2019

It’s that time of year again where everyone is making their New Year’s Resolutions! Here are a few of mine, in the realm of gaming at least.

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I just can’t justify the cost of 4K.
Sorry, I had to get that out of the way.

Play More Lord of the Rings Online
I love LotRO. Every time I log in I wish I was playing more often. Yet sometimes it’s hard to get myself to log in. I don’t know how to explain it. And it happened again with the Legendary server; I started off strong, logging in almost every day, and then I fizzled out in December. I want to find a way to motivate myself to log in every day again, and get to 50 before Moria hits. Maybe start work on an alt?
Also, there’s always that looming anxiety that LotRO might not be there much longer. While I feel more confident about LotRO’s future now than at the beginning of the year, with legendary servers bringing back a bunch of players, lately Daybreak has been killing everything it touches. It’s still unclear what exactly the relationship is between Standing Stone Games and Daybreak, but it’s enough to make me nervous.

Spend Some Time In Elder Scrolls Online’s Housing
I love housing systems, but I feel like I always put off actually doing anything in them. Logging into WildStar (may it rest in piece) to get screenshots before the shutdown reminded me of all the grand plans I had for my various houses, and how little I actually got done. I’m starting to get decently well established in ESO, and I have some ideas for a few houses that I’d like to start working on.

Play More Group Content
I’m pretty comfortable playing MMOs solo or duo with my wife. That’s great, and I don’t have a problem with it, but I’d like to start getting into dungeons more. After all, why play a massively multiplayer game, join a guild, etc. if you’re going to play alone? Ok, there are a lot of really good reasons, but the point is, I’d like to start doing dungeons (and possibly larger group content?) more often in ESO, LotRO, and whatever other MMOs the new year brings. I really enjoyed tanking some dungeons during ESO’s Undaunted event (despite the buggy/overloaded group finder), and I’ve had the itch to do some healing again as well.

Publish A Game
I tend to start a lot of game dev projects and not finish them, and lately I’ve been thinking about why. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’ve been hearing this advice for years now that you should “make the kind of game you’d like to play.” The problem is that the kind of game I like to play is large in scope, deep in complexity, and rich in story. That’s why I play so many MMOs and RPGs. But my first published game (created by, at most, me and two or three friends) just isn’t going to be any of those things. Maybe one of them at best. I think I need to lower my personal expectations to making a game that I wouldn’t pay more than five dollars for. That’s not settling, that’s walking before I run. I don’t need to be Pixel or Notch or ConcernedApe or any number of other developers whose first published game was a labor of love masterpiece.

LotRO: Life On the Legendary Server

I’ve never gotten into the whole progression server thing. I guess you could count Old School RuneScape, which is an odd sort of progression server that progresses in a different direction than the original game did. But other than that, I don’t usually sit around thinking “Man, I miss the days before this game had so many quality of life improvements.” But one game that I’ve always regretted not getting into earlier is Lord of the Rings Online. I’ve always been way behind the pack in LotRO, and its player base isn’t quite big enough that it has a critical mass of people playing low-to-mid levels that I can group with. So I’m basically stuck playing solo until I reach cap, and I always get burned out before I do. That’s why I was excited by the idea of the LotRO Legendary Server. It’s kind of a cheap version of a progression server; all of the current updates, class mechanics, and newer classes/race are there, but expansion levels will be unlocked every four months. I’m pretty happy with that setup, though I do miss skirmishes and all of the easy cosmetics that come with them.

A lot of people are asking what the point of this server is and who this server is for. It’s true, there’s not a ton here you couldn’t just do by just rolling up a new character on a new server and not doing anything to help yourself out. Some people are already doing that. But for me, this is an excuse for a larger community to reroll and progress at the same time. It’s for people like me who didn’t play the game at launch and want to play level 50 or 60 dungeons as they were designed, and not by getting carried by people twice the level it was designed for.

Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, but I thought the announcement of the launch date was rather sudden. I was expecting it to pop up late this month or maybe next month, and so when the date was announced less than a week before the launch, I had already spent all of my gaming budget. The logical half of my brain told me that I had already spent my budget on the special edition of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and that I shouldn’t overspend, and, besides, next month I’ll be playing the crap out of the new Super Smash Bros. and probably won’t even make it to cap anyway. The fun half of my brain said that I’ve been wanting an excuse to get back into LotRO, this is probably the last opportunity I’ll have to be part of a community leveling experience in this game. The day may come when I listen to the logical half of my brain when it comes to LotRO, but it is not this day.

So a new hobbit warden named Isnan was born. I’ve always wanted to level a warden, as it seems like a really fun and rewarding class, but it’s so complex that I know I won’t know what I’m doing if I don’t devote myself to it for a while, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I’ve been having a blast so far. There are so many people in The Shire and Bree-Land! I love it! I spent pretty much the whole weekend in Middle-Earth, which is something that I very much needed. I thought the 40% slower pace of questing would be annoying, but at least a low levels, I haven’t really thought about it. I’ve still had plenty of XP to get through the whole Shire without having to farm. Well, I did some actual farming because I’m a cook, but not the “mindlessly killing mobs for XP” kind. I love the flow of the hobbit story, starting out wandering around the shire, delivering mail and pies and keeping bears away from honey. Best of all, the way the game transitions you back to the reality of the threats from Mordor is that a hobbit thinks she’s seen the ghost of Golfimbul (for whom, as everyone knows, the game of golf is named), and in the process of investigating you wind up stopping a legit goblin invasion force. The rangers, of course, are having none of that, and you end up running the message to Strider in Bree and getting mixed up in this whole quest to save the world. I’m amazed all over again with what a great job Turbine/Standing Stone has done adapting the world of The Lord of the Rings to game form and weaving the player into the story without making them Frodo Jr.

I’ll see you around the Arnor server! Feel free to PM Isnan and say hullo!

MMO Living Conditions, Ranked Worst To Best

A while back, my wife and I got into this anime called Log Horizon that involves thousands players getting trapped in an MMO world. Not in a virtual reality way, but actually physically there, having to work out how to navigate the intricacies and politics of a world where former players are apparently immortal. Since then, we’ve often joked about what it would be like to wake up one day in the various games that we play. Here are a few of the games that I play or have played over the years, ranked based on how much I would or would not want to live in them.

Tamriel (Elder Scrolls Online)
This game has finally clicked with me and I’ve been enjoying playing it a lot lately, but there’s no way I’d want to live here. There’s a three-faction war on, yes, but that’s the least of our worries in this world. Crime is rampant, everyone is racist, and daedra are constantly causing terrible things to happen all over the place. At least two thirds of quest stories end depressingly, usually involving people ending up dead. And can you imagine living in Vulkhel Guard with dark anchors dropping from the sky every five minutes about a hundred yards from the city gate? Sure, adventurers love killing the daedra there for the experience, but what happens if they don’t show up one day?

The Star Wars Galaxy (Star Wars The Old Republic)
There are a lot of cool places to live in the Star Wars ‘verse, there’s a hyperdrive-equipped spaceship in every driveway, and the prospect of having force powers is tempting. But in the time of the old republic, you’ve got about a 50/50 shot of living in the not-so-bad Republic, or on a world dominated by the Sith, or, perhaps worse, some Hutt gang. And then there’s the whole thing with the Eternal Empire coming through and wiping everyone out with their superweapons. Given the choice, I’ll pass on this one.

Gielinor (RuneScape)
Life in RuneScape is pretty simple. For the most part, catastrophically bad things tend to only happen when you go looking for trouble, and there’s no shortage of ways to earn gold for those willing to do a little menial labor. Even basic housing is pretty cheap! The only reason it doesn’t rank higher is because, quite frankly, it’s one of the least exciting MMOs I’ve ever played. It’s about as safe as real life because it feels a lot like real life, just with the occasional fireball thrown in.

Tyria (Guild Wars (2))
All things considered, life isn’t too bad in Tyria. Sure, there’s the occasional threat of elder dragon attack, but cities (other than poor Lion’s Arch) seem relatively safe, and travel is fast and easy (and cheap!). Also, anything you need help with, from your livestock getting loose to a bandit raid to a mordrem invasion, you can pretty much just yell until adventurers will wander by and help you.

Nexus (WildStar)
Aside from the fact that this world is about to cease to exist, Nexus seems like a pretty cool place to live. Sure, there’s the constant threat of random faction violence, becoming a Strain mutant, and danger from all manor of weird alien life forms. I’m not saying it’s safer than any of the other worlds on this list. But there are hoverboards. And space ships. And giant plots of land in the sky that you can get for free! What more could you ask for?

Middle-Earth (Lord of the Rings Online)
Middle-Earth has its fair share of places that would be terrible to live (forget orcs, I can think of way too many places infested by giant spiders), but for every one of those, there’s a place like the Shire, or Bree-town, or Rivendell (which, while beautiful, is infested by elves, who are almost as bad as the spiders). Pretty much everywhere is beautiful, apart from Mordor and Angmar and maybe a few other places, and most of the free peoples are pretty friendly and helpful.

Why Are Games So Depressing Lately?

The other day I was feeling kind of down–nothing major, just normal stressful life stuff–so I thought I’d jump on a few MMOs to escape reality for a bit. First I got on LotRO. I’m in Mordor and, well, it’s not exactly a cheery place, so that didn’t last long. So I logged off of that and thought I’d try Guild Wars 2. The character I’ve been running through the story on is just starting Orr… land of zombies, ruins, and undead dragon corruption. Not much better. The Elder Scrolls Online offered me a quest that involved a daughter murdering her father because he betrayed and murdered his son. Diablo III… well, everything’s depressing in Diablo, isn’t it?

I’m not looking for Rainbow Puppy Fun Times Online, but why does everything have to be so dark? There are even some games, like Secret World or Path of Exile, that I avoid completely because, while the gameplay sounds fun, one look at a screenshot or video is enough to tell me that I won’t last long because of the setting. So why do games get so depressing? I know I’m not the only one who has gotten burnt out on a game because they went from a starting zone that was colorful and cheery to one that was Fifty Shades of Brown. I think the idea is for the location to create a sense of desperate struggle against evil, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire expansion has done a great job of telling a story of a desperate struggle in a place that is absolutely freaking beautiful. I used to log into Marvel Heroes at times like this. It was light and fun without involving much thought. But now that that’s gone I haven’t found anything else to fill that gap.

So what gives, game devs? Life is depressing enough as it is! Why do games have to bring me down too?