Comfort MMORPGs

Here’s another post based on a MassivelyOP’s Daily Grind:

What’s Your Comfort MMO?

I find this to be a somewhat odd question, because I generally like to have a constantly-changing game experience, as opposed to an experience that is always the same. I am the kind of person who likes to learn and try new things all the time (within the boundaries of crippling anxieties, of course). This is why I try out most new MMORPGs if I can.

Still, there are a number of long-running MMORPGs that I keep coming back to after long absences, around once a year. One of them is WoW. I usually drop back in and subscribe for a month, then leave again. It takes me about that long to run into the edges of the game–that point where I find myself mindlessly repeating the same mechanics over and over and over again.

I used to return to Rift a lot but I’ve soured on it lately. I just feel like I’ve done everything that matters and now the only way to advance is to join a guild and I just don’t want to make that kind of commitment. Rift still has a somewhat complex set of abilities you need to use to be effective, which makes it increasingly harder to return. I think they over-extended themselves a bit after Storm Legion.

LotRO is one that I’ve started returning to more frequently. Particularly in the past year, of course, when there was some concern that the game might disappear. I liked that they simplified the classes, because it made the game a lot easier to return to. Previous to that, it was a massive chore to get back into the game each time.

SWTOR is another that I return to often. It’s a very easy game to get back into because combat is easy. I find myself mesmorized from watching the cool lightsaber animations and listening to the cool lightsaber sounds more than anything else. I don’t play it as much though because they make it really difficult to enjoy playing for free, and I don’t want to subscribe to more than one game at a time.

Other runners up might be GW2 or TERA. Possibly even Mortal Online. I’ve always wished I had more time and/or ambition to play Mortal Online actually.

I can’t list ESO or WildStar or some others because I haven’t yet been able to return to them repeatedly.

I don’t go back to any of those MMORPGs for “comfort” though. I go back when I haven’t played them in a sufficiently long enough time that the game feels “fresh” again.

I should also mention FFXIV, because in terms of what I would call a “comfort” game it would probably be whatever I happen to be playing at the moment, which is FFXIV. Though I am drifting away from it as I wait for the next content patch. I’m at a point where most of what I do in the game is wait in a queue, and I don’t have much patience for that.

Getting Lost In MMOs

A recent MassivelyOP Daily Grind asked the question: “Do you like being lost in MMOs?”

My answer is generally no, I never want to my progress to be impeded by not knowing where to go. But it depends on the situation and/or the game. Here are two recent examples:

When I think about my experience playing through the remainder of the GW2 Heart of Thorns story, I was lost a lot in the Maguuma Jungle, and it was aggravating. The flat 2D map helped little because the world was extremely 3D and while the map might show you standing on top of your destination, in reality it might be way above you or below you with no discernable path to reach it.

On the other hand, I also spent a great deal of time lost in LotRO’s Mines of Moria, but I don’t remember feeling any frustration over it. The problem was identical: The map was flat and 2D, while the environment was 3D with ramps and stairs leading up and down all over the place, and you could never really tell whether your destination was above your head or below your feet. Yet I don’t remember ever grumbling about it in LotRO.

In these two cases one difference might have been the combat difficulty. In GW2, it was such an effort to reach anywhere on the map that if I didn’t get to the right place on the first try, I thought, “Ugh, now I have to fight my way someplace else! What a pain!”

Whereas with LotRO, the combat was ridiculously easy, so it was more of a sightseeing stroll to walk around the environment if I got lost. Also in Moria there were plenty of interesting things to look at while I tried to work out the right path. The color palette varied dramatically from place to place: There were blue areas, brown areas, gray areas, red fiery areas. Whereas most of Heart of Thorns looks roughly the same (like a big jungle).

(Updated with link and I actually read what I wrote to fix the mistakes.)

Dimrill Dale and Eclipse Jealosy

One thing that happens when you make a conscious effort to post every day is that half of your blog posts turn into diary entries. “Dear diary: Here’s what I did today. Well, yesterday.”

Yesterday I completed the Moria Epic Story and officially returned to the world under the sky in Dimrill Dale, attaining level 60 in the process. I got to revisit the Watcher in the Water deep in the bowels of Moria. Volume 2, Chapter 5 ended with having to complete three different skirmishes where you defend various places in Moria from Orc invasions. They were ridiculously easy to the point of tedium. In the end, the dwarves got their precious mithril axe Zigilburk back so I guess they are happy now. (That’s a terrible name for a legendary axe by the way.)

Chapter 6 begins with seeking out Galadriel.

I’m not entirely sure where the Moria Expansion ends, but I still have quests available in Dimrill Dale so I guess I’m still in territory that I’ve paid for.

Meanwhile in GW2, while watching Netflix, I worked on map completion in the Brisban Wildlands, something I almost never do because it’s a bit dull. But after my experiences with the Heart of Thorns story, it was a relief to be able to walk around a map without getting killed every ten steps. (My main Necro has 66% World Completion, by the way.)

In other news, I am SO JEALOUS of everybody who will be in the path of totality for the eclipse tomorrow. When I first thought I would drive down to experience it, I thought it was just a two or three hour drive away, and it would be no big deal to get there, find a vacant parking lot somewhere, and watch it. Then I learned it was a good six hours distant, not counting traffic concerns. That’s too far to impulsively drive for a two minute totality experience. Still, I keep hearing the siren call: “It’s just six hours. There will literally–not figuratively, literally–never be a closer opportunity in your lifetime.”

It’s not that I particularly care to see the eclipse. There will be plenty of clinical but completely accurate images on the Internet to look at, not to mention all the images we could look at from past eclipses. And where I live, the maps suggest the sun will be about 90% eclipsed anyway, which is pretty impressive.

It’s just that you can’t physically look at it unless it’s totally eclipsed. That’s the siren call of it: To look upon something so rare with the naked eye. To experience what people in history have looked upon as “dragons, dogs, and demons,” is pretty compelling. It’s a way to viscerally connect with past generations and the history of humankind on Earth.

It reminds me of the Hale-Bopp Comet from 1997. I vividly remember looking up one night and seeing that comet hanging up there in the sky like a … like a I don’t even know what, because I’d never seen anything like it before. It was stunning. In that moment it was easy to understand why people in history viewed comets as magical portents. That picture I linked is exactly what it looked like from my house. But it’s one thing to look at a picture of a comet online–it’s quite another thing to see that comet actually hanging up there in the normally changeless sky like a harbinger of doom.

Well, that was pretty dramatic.

Anyway. I’ve got my home-made eclipse viewer box ready. Have fun and stay safe!

LotRO – Level 59 and Khazad-dûm

My Hunter reached level 59 and the famous Bridge of Khazad-dûm yesterday–what’s left of the bridge, at least. I was following the side quest of a dwarf Svanr who was on some kind of pilgrimage to see all of the Mines of Moria, and we got to the Bridge. Then my character took his first steps back outside in seemingly forever. It’s surely been over a year of real time since before my Hunter entered Moria.

Spent most of my time searching for these.

Everywhere in Moria seems like a great archaeological discovery. “Oh! That’s where this happened! Oh! That’s where that happened!” I’m a bit of a history buff and even though it’s an entirely fictional history it still sort of presses those buttons.

I don’t know if anything happened here, but it sure looks neat.

Again I have to say they did a fantastic job of making Moria look super cool. LotRO is one of the best games for walking around exploring and looking at stuff. This is a game that you simply can’t play in a rush. At least I can’t. I find that I enjoy the game much more when I accept the fact that sprinting to the endgame isn’t going to happen, which gives me permission to wander around and enjoy the ride.

Using ManicTime, I calculated that it took 3 hours and 50 minutes of game time to level from 58 to 59. (A large percentage of that time was spent searching for piles of old weapons.) In an era when it usually doesn’t take more than an hour of game time to level in a modern MMORPG, it’s quite a throwback.

Outdoors again!


Random Friday Tidbits

Another brief post just to post something today.

GW2. I did in fact retry Chapter 16, “Hearts and Minds,” and beat it after two more attempts Thursday night, which took another hour. If you leave the instance for any reason, by the way, you have to start all over. So take my advice: Don’t rage quit if you die to the last boss. :) I’ll probably start Living Story Season 3 this weekend although I’m kind of burned out on GW2 already.

LOTRO. I’m continuing to wander around in the Mines of Moria, slowly chipping my way up from level 58 to 59. I’ll probably be working on that today. I spend a lot of time lost, trying to find my way to the quest markers. I have completely forgotten that the Mordor expansion even exists. The “huge MMORPG cultural event” of entering Mordor that I thought would happen didn’t really materialize and everyone is just like, “Meh. It’s Morder. Whatever.”

FFXIV. Nothing much to report. I keep forgetting to login. I only got 360 of the 450 Tomestones last week. The times I do login, I queue up for an Expert Roulette, look at the wait time, then log back off. So yeah, I’m behind on Creation Tomestones. I don’t regret it. The Creation Tomestone Bard gear set looks awful anyway.

Eclipse. I’m not quite in the path of totality but it’s really tempting to jump in a car and drive a couple hundred miles southwest on Monday. Undoubtedly it would be a huge mistake to try. I don’t have any solar eclipse gear anyway. But it’s literally never going to be closer in my lifetime. I’m old enough now to appreciate what “once-in-a-lifetime” actually means. :)

Politics. *deep breath before writing a huge novel* Oh nevermind.

LotRO – Hunter Level 58!

I just wanted to announce that my Hunter made it to level 58 in Moria. Gaining another level in LotRO (when you’re not subscribed or anything) is a major accomplishment.

I am not really sure what is going on with the epic story here. I am on Volume II, Book 4, Chapter 3 as of this writing. The dwarves are just sort of rooting around looking for chambers and relics and books and stuff. I’m not paying that much attention because none of the characters have much personality. Dwarves are all the same–loud, bombastic, and either Scottish or Russian. :)

It’s really difficult to capture the scale of how massive the Mines of Moria is.

Incidentally, I was looking forward to dual-wielding legendary swords but apparently you can only wield one legendary sword at a time. Bummer.

LotRO – Mordor to Moria

I was having some fun in the Mordor expansion, bopping up to the Black Gate, talking to Gandalf … pardon me, Mithrandir … meeting those four “adventurers” with different personalities. It seemed like they were setting up those four folks as characters we might see again throughout Mordor, following their adventures so to speak, and it seemed like a good story idea. They all had their different reasons for going into Mordor, and it was the hook I needed to get interested in the zone. I wanted to see how they fared.

Then I got to that first town beyond the Black Gate (Udun?), and I noticed some new bar telling me about a Mordor Evilness debuff, and then I tried to fight some mobs, and I almost got killed by a couple of stupid birds. Everything around me was level 106 while my experience bar was still only about 75% of the way through 105. It entirely killed my enthusiasm for playing. I thought to myself, “You know, self, you could just go back to your 55 Hunter and pick up the story back in Moria, where you didn’t have trouble fighting mobs and there was no debuff bar.”

So I did. My Hunter is far more fun to play than any of the other classes I’ve played in LotRO anyway. (Hence the reason my Hunter reached level 55 while every other class never got out of the 20s.) So I’ve been bopping around Moria for a couple of days now,  and actually managed to gain a whole level in the process! Level 56! It always feels like a momentous milestone to gain even a single level in LotRO.

Moria is a somewhat tedious place to get through, considering that you get lost every 10 steps and there is so much running around, but I have to give them credit for making the place look amazing. I stop a lot to take screenshots.

LotRO – Mordor Expansion Thoughts

I did indeed buy the $40 edition of the Mordor Expansion, and boosted a Hobbit Minstrel from level 24 to level 105 so I could actually play said expansion. (Folks on Twitter seemed to think Minstrel was a good solo class to play.)

Once again the gear you are given looks awful, like a suit of white underwear. I guess they really want people who use level boosts to look like total newbies compared to the people have been playing all along, which I suppose isn’t entirely inappropriate. At least this time they gave me a neat-looking pony, though it is literally only like 5% faster than the blond sorrel pony I had at level 24.

My level 105 experience began with Book 8, Chapter 1, “No Other Way.” This is one of those “scenarios” where you experience a piece of the story from a different character’s point of view. I had never seen these until late in the Volume 1 Angmar story, when my Hunter was over level 50, so I was glad to have that previous experience. I imagine someone brand new to LotRO or someone who had never leveled beyond the 20s (a popular place for people to fizzle out of LotRO–or at least that’s where most of my characters fizzle out) might be a bit confused about what was happening to them.

It was a neat little story section but it was also entirely expositional. No combat, just reading text and walking around as Golum. Possibly not the greatest way to begin the expansion.

Then it was on to the Black Gate, and a tense attempt at parlay. (I did not remember this from the story–seems like a silly idea to try to negotiate a treaty with Sauron, but I guess it was mainly just an attempt at a distraction.)

Then on to the Battle of the Black Gate aka. the Battle of the Morannon. This battle was just amazing. If my wiki research is correct, this was added in the previous Update 20. I can’t believe I didn’t hear more people raving about how amazing this battle was. (Perhaps this is why the game nearly died.) I was blown away by how much LotRO managed to deliver with its creaky old game engine.

It was really laggy and slow, but it was worth it. None of my screenshots do justice to all the activity going on around you. Archers firing, people getting shot by arrows right in front of you, cavalry riding into battle, big ogres knocking people high up in the air, fires burning, Nazgul flying around, bombastic music blaring in the background: I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Book 9, Chapter 1, which I think is the official beginning of the Mordor expansion, didn’t start until the middle of the battle. It was not long before the Ringbearer completed his quest and the battle ended. I hope that’s not a spoiler. :)

It was so quick that I thought it was actually a bit anti-climatic. One minute we’re wandering around Mount Doom to find Frodo and Sam, and the next minute the eagles arrive and everything’s over and we’ve won the day.

That’s about as far as I got as of this writing.

I really enjoyed the Black Gate battle but I honestly don’t feel much burning passion to continue beyond that. As a newbie outsider to LotRO, it feels like it’s “over” now. I know, I know. I remember hearing a number of people talking about how there would be more to Mordor than just Mount Doom, and that’s pretty clear, considering that three chapters into the expansion, we’re all celebrating our victory over Sauron, so there must be something else beyond that. But I personally have no idea where they can go from here, and the game itself has not yet introduced any compelling new storylines for me to follow. My knowledge of Lord of the Rings lore is not that great, but I think there is something about The Shire and sailing west to the New World to discover America. We’ll see.

P.S. Apparently there are tons of bugs in this expansion and it was rushed out the door too soon but I haven’t seen any of that. I’ve seen some strange quirks with people appearing and disappearing around quest givers but that’s about it. I would have just chalked that up to an old game engine and the fact that LotRO has always had strange quirks.

Personally I think this expansion controversy illustrates just how close LotRO was to shutting down forever. SSG is apparently so desperate to keep this game alive that they have no choice but to rush out a substandard expansion. I know a lot of people are upset about it but I personally don’t blame them for it. At least they’re trying.

I will also add that there aren’t many people playing this expansion. I’m on Brandywine, which I thought was one of the more populated servers, and these zones are dead as a doornail. There are none of the crowds you’d expect to see at the start of an expansion. (Granted, I’m five or six days behind, but still.) Not to be pessimistic, but this does not seem to bode well for the future of this game.

Update: Finally wandered beyond the Black Gate into the first Mordor zone. Lots and lots more people there. Not as deserted as I first thought. No need to panic. :)