Monday, March 26, 2007

Preconceived Notions and Expectations

I was browsing the LOTRO forums and came across a heated and ultimately closed post initiated by one of the forum's long-time members.

Basically, the gist of the post had to do with the game not sticking to the lore of the books and many of those who had supported the game for years will not be playing. Being nosy, I followed a link over to the Arda Post where many of the disgrunted veterans have settled in. It seems several have moved on to Vanguard and report it to be so much more "intellectually stimulating."

Oh my goodness.

I was one of those who followed the development of Vanguard for years. I read the official forums regularly and had built up so much anticipation as had others. I was aware of LOTRO and glanced at the forums but otherwise didn't pay much attention to it, since my focus was Vanguard. Performance issues aside, it turned out to be not the game for me. While I thought I really did want to re-experience EQ1 all over again, the reality of it was that other games had spoiled me. I read so much hatred on forums regarding Vanguard, and I can't help but wonder how much of that comes from those who had been long-time followers and had built up so much expectation over the years.

I entered LOTRO with few expectations. I read the books over 20 years ago but had no intention of comparing the two. The movies took some liberties to make them appealing to the masses and I enjoyed them tremendously, so had no issues with the game doing the same as long as I had fun. And I did.

So now reading the posts from the long-time followers of LOTRO I again wonder if those built-up expectations have clouded thinking somewhat. Do you play and look for fun? Or play and look for inconsistencies and what's wrong? If you look for what's wrong, you will always find something no matter what you play.

Or maybe one man's boredom really is another's intellectual stimulation.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

There and back again.....and gone again

I had started EQ2 when it was released. It was a game I greatly anticipated much as I had Vanguard. But I only lasted three months when I knew I had enough. I had an older system back then but would have put up with the lag had I enjoyed the game.

Fast forward a couple years later. Last summer, having burned through most other games and hearing many good changes were made to EQ2, I decided to give it another go. Many of the things I didn't like in the original version such as generic classes until level 10, having to succeed in a profession quest in order to continue past level 20, and access quests, were now eliminated. Oh and how poor my provisioner was relative to other crafting classes.....ah well some things didn't change.

This time around I lasted about seven months. While EQ2 has some really neat things going for it, there's just always something that's been missing for me. Or maybe several things. For one, I've never been happy with the the tiny hamlets that you call home. I suppose Qeynos and Freeport were meant to represent your home, but until recently my computer wouldn't allow me to visit those places unless absolutely necessary. But still, I miss the big hometown that you come back to and see lots of players running around.

And I've always disliked the graphics. I realize most think EQ2 had some of the best graphics but it just didn't do it for me. I absolutely hated the characters and never could connect with whoever I created. The hairstyles were horrible and the faces resembled infant dolls.

The zones as well were uninspiring. Coming originally from the east coast, most zones on the Qeynos side reminded me of Pennsylvania rather than a fantasy recreation. I do have to say, however, that the recent EOF expansion was beautiful and more up my alley so I think they're starting to head in the right direction.

But all of the above would have been really minor if I enjoyed a class....any class. I had gotten my mystic to 70 and a few others to the 30's, but they all felt like very gimpy versions of the classes I had grown to love in EQ1. My shaman's slow got no higher than 26%, my dog died in two hits so that I had stopped calling him up completely somewhere in my 60's and my heals were so so. And the AA's in EQ2 vs. EQ1....bleh. There were none that made much difference.

The nail in the coffin though was the new Station Access pricing. Like many others, I had it merely for the extra character slots.

A few more weeks before LOTRO open beta begins. I don't think it will be a place to settle into for the long term, but we'll see.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Vanguard quotes

Per Brad McQuaid of Sigil, "WoW is a fantastic game, but Vanguard is designed with additional polish but also additional depth and freedom to experience more from a virtual world." taken from

Vanguard has more polish than WoW???!!! Come on now, lack of polish has been the topic of so many Vanguard posts.

A more realistic quote is "If I had been in a coma for the last 5 years and gone straight from Everquest to Vanguard, I would totally have loved Vanguard." You can read the rest of that blog here

This was a game I so much wanted to like. I'm still hopeful in six months or so, it might be more fun and playable.

The Fun Factor

I've been getting a bit disheartened with games lately. Whatever happened to putting the focus into making a fun game? Can't make too much money from quests and mobs, it ruins the economy and offends players that you have more than they do. Let's add high repair costs so everyone can be broke together. Can't solo that mob with this class, it offends the other classes. Nerf, nerf, nerf. Gotta have the latest graphic technology because......well just because. It may look no better than other games and 75% of players don't have computers to play it, but we came out with it first!

Society's obsession with being offended has carried over into games so now developer's create their own version of political correctness within their games. Classes have become such robotic clones that they have this sterileness about them.

Oh and we must have struggle; make it hard! Occasional challenge is one thing but continuous roadblocks every step of the way? I gotta wonder if the folks who want this kind of gameplay have had things handed to them all their lives and only get to experience struggle in a game. I have enough of it in real life, I game to have fun. Does fun even get factored in the development plans anymore?

I guess everyone's opinion of fun factor is different. But given that aside from WoW none of the mmo's are doing phenominally in the US, I don't think anyone has nailed it yet. WoW I think headed in the right direction with a lot of things, but just was missing certain other things that keep me playing.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


Inevitably, while romping through whatever current game I'm in, those fond memories will come flooding back and I'll find myself missing certain games. There have been only two games that have created that nostalgic feeling and although I can make some guesses, I'm never 100% sure why those games have me almost wanting to go back.

As with a lot of veterans, the biggest nostalgia generator for me has been Everquest. I spent four years here and grouped with the same people for three of those years. I'm guessing that this was a big part of what kept me there for so long and why I miss it. While there were exceptions, the early EQ community was pretty outstanding. I spent time in two great guilds, and in both cases more than 80% of the guilds were over 30 years of age. Could this really be such a big factor in my enjoyment of a game? I don't know, but it sure seems the MMO has gotten younger and meaner (no offense to you nice young folks out there!). The other aspect that was hard to find in other games was that feeling of hometown. My first character started in Kelethin and I would look for reasons to head back even at later levels. It just felt like home. The NPC interaction, the music, and saving the city from orcs just all clicked together for me.

The only other game that triggers occasional moments of missing it, is DAOC. Heck, I didn't even play on a RVR server so all my fond moments are pure PVE. Again, I have a feeling it was that hometowny feel that contributed. I had a Midgard hunter and absolutely loved the look of those zones. The buildings and structures in all realms were beautiful in my opinion, but I especially loved exploring the Midgard forests with that subtle music playing in the background. The epic storylines, the beautiful armor sets (probably the best looking armor I've ever seen in any game), the housing, and some darn nice people. This game offered so many wonderful things.

Another big issue for me is feeling connected to my class. Nowadays, in the name of "balance" classes have become ho hum and boring. No one is set apart in any way. My most favorite class in any game has always been the beastlord in EQ. Rather than getting just more powerful versions of the same spell and abilities as you leveled, you gained key spells only at certain levels and in fact became more powerful as you leveled, as did all the other classes in EQ. So in other words, killing a blue con at level 10 was much harder than killing a blue con at level 65. And what's wrong with that? Shouldn't there be advantages to leveling other than killing just higher level versions of the same stuff? Ah well but that's a rant for another day. Back on track here....

All this is not to say I haven't enjoyed other games. I had six-month stays in WoW and SWG which I enjoyed tremendously. And also spent some time in AO, COH, GW, and currently EQ2 which were ok as far as fun goes. But in all of those, I've never had that desire to go back or feel that I was missing a part of it.

Maybe the MMO market is too big now and those types of communities that I miss will never be found again. And maybe we're not supposed to level to be heroes anymore but just average joes who level so we can get be high enough for that fancy mount so we can run faster while we're killing more of the same stuff in the same way.