LotRO, DDO, Turbine, Standing Stone Games

Did I get all the keywords in there?

Random LotRO image from my hard drive

I’m sure you’ve heard that LotRO and DDO will be leaving Turbine for a studio called Standing Stone Games. The fate of Asheron’s Call is uncertain, but I tend to agree with Wilhelm that we won’t be seeing it much longer, which is a major bummer to me personally since it was the first MMORPG to make a real impact on me, and I think its character development system (skill-based) has yet to be matched. And while I haven’t played it since the 1990s (except for like twice), it’s always been nice to know it’s there.

I have no idea what events led to this news, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Turbine had been planning to dump LotRO and DDO entirely. But instead, the group of folks who would have been fired approached Turbine to work out a deal to take over ownership of the games to keep them running. At least that’s how my fanciful imagination likes to think of how it went down. If it’s true, then kudos to Standing Stone for taking that chance.

With this news I think it’s much less likely that LotRO will shut down anytime soon (I believe somewhere in the FAQ it was confirmed that the Tolkien license had been renewed beyond 2017), but I imagine that updates will now come more slowly than ever, as I expect less developers will be working on it. I could also imagine them adding some extra incentives to get people to pay more money, in the form of cash shop gimmicks or whatnot. Turbine might have been able to operate LotRO at or near a loss, but this new studio certainly won’t be able to.

Personally I’m happy to hear this news, since the alternative probably would have been to simply shut down the two titles.

P.S. LotRO remains the only game for which I regret not buying a lifetime subscription.

P.P.S. I don’t care a whit about DDO. Not that it’s a bad game or anything, it’s just way far down on the list of games I would turn to if I was bored. D&D rules have never translated to computer games very well.

P.P.P.S. It’s confirmed. Asheron’s Call will end January 31st, 2017. Ah, well. I’m tempted to stream it every day from now until then.

Comparing Played Times

I found an old, old screenshot of my main Asheron’s Call character from near the end of my playing time:

What MMORPGs used to look like before they were fun.
What MMORPGs looked like when they were more work than fun.

There’s some interesting things to note there. First of all, my /played time was 17d 11h 26m 22s. I spent a ridiculous amount of time playing that game… it seemed like my entire life was spent in that game for about a year. (I was playing AC when everyone else was playing EverQuest.) Yet I only reached level 35. In AC, your character “level” wasn’t much except a measurement of how much you had played–your power level came from your skills. Level 35 seemed like an impossibly high number to me back then. I knew people in their 40s and I couldn’t imagine how anyone could get there without giving up sleep entirely.

I never thought I would ever wrack up 17 days of playing time on one character in any other MMO in my life, but then after my main WoW Hunter reached level 98, I noticed this:

WoWScrnShot_011015_135816_cropped

The total time played for my main WoW character is now over 19 days! Two more days than when I had an arguably unhealthy addiction to Asheron’s Call! Fortunately that 19 days spans over about eight years, so that’s not too bad. (Altoholic reports that the total playing time over all of my WoW characters is about 35 days.)

Then I started to think about games I’ve played more than WoW and I started to wonder.

I played a lot of Guild Wars 2 after it came out.

gw049_cropped

GW2 doesn’t make this easy, but that comes out to almost 12 days of playing time for my main Necromancer character, and almost 31 days for all of my characters together. Not as much as WoW, but most of my GW2 time was crammed into that first year.

But that pales in comparison to the game I’ve probably played more than any other MMO in my MMO-playing life: Rift.

2015-01-10_140609_cropped

Yes, that’s 35 days on one character in Rift since, what, 2011? The next three highest /played times on other characters are 13 days, 11 days, and 10 days on my other level 60s, and I have numerous characters 40 and under on various servers. So yeah, I’ve played a lot of Rift if you add it all up.

Shut up. It’s a good game.

Slumming in EQ and AC

I did something odd over one weekend. I installed and played both Everquest and Asheron’s Call for a little while.

Everquest is free-to-play now, if you didn’t know. You can download the client and log right on in there, and there are a surprising number of people who apparently do just that. The little newbie cave must have had a dozen people in it wandering around trying to figure out how to play.

Asheron’s Call, however, is not free-to-play, so I actually gave Turbine twelve bucks for a month of subscription just so I could see it again. I downloaded the client and rolled an Aluvian soldier. Not surprisingly given the lack of free-to-play, there was nobody else in the newbie tutorial area. However, the global chat was alive with smack talk, so there were definitely people playing somewhere.

The first thing that struck me about these old games was the user interface. They were god awfully bad back then. There’s a substantial learning curve. At least in EQ you can sort of control your guy with the mouse and keyboard like you’re used to. (Mouse sensitivity is totally out of wack though so sometimes you spin out of control and sometimes you hardly turn.) Even that meager technology hasn’t reached AC yet. You can enable mouselook behavior, but if you have to use the "invert mouse" option like I do, it inverts both axes. So it’s arrow keys all the way in AC.

Both games have an introductory tutorial. That’s something that has fallen out of fashion in video games. Nowadays they disguise the tutorial as part of the game. In the old days they actually said, "Go here to do the tutorial before you start the game." (They did that because the controls were not even remotely intuitive–the industry was still figuring out how to control 3D games.) AC’s is relatively short, but EQ’s seems to be hours long.

The other big thing that’s missing from the old games is the quest log. Here I’m speaking mainly of AC, because EQ does seem to have a lot of quest-related hints tacked onto it now (including a handy "find" feature that will put a lighted path on the ground showing you where to go). I don’t know how much of it is new, though. In AC you still get nothing. One NPC says, "go talk to so-and-so near the bar at 55,66." If you don’t write down so-and-so’s name or the coordinates, you’re never going to find that guy in a million years.

The bottom line is: You people who think MMOs were better back in the day need help. :) You’re definitely suffering from some sort of delusional nostalgia effect. It was certainly fun to play MMOs back in the day, and we all had some great memories, but what we remember as good are the people and the experiences and the sense of discovering something new. The actual game itself was quite bad.

I doubt I will be playing these old games very much, especially since my old characters are long gone, but I do want to test a few things out in AC which is the one I’m more familliar with. When I first played WoW, I was struck by how small the world seemed. You could actually see the next town or quest hub over the next hill. My memory of AC is that the towns were very far apart, and it took a really long time to run between them. I’m curious to see if my memory is accurate or not. (Nowadays, I feel like WoW is huge compared to other MMOs.)