Lord of the Rings Online – Outfits redux

Took the chance to take a few more screenshots and show you why outfits are good.  They’re good, because without them, your characters in LOTRO might end up looking like this.  First up, my Hobbit Warden wearing his actual equipment (click any of these images for larger versions),

Warden in real Equipment

The hat is terrible, the pants are bright red for heaven’s sake!  Here’s how he looks in his regular fighting garb, complete with a Warden’s Javelin Pack (cosmetic only item, which replaces the cloak),


His third outfit isn’t much different, except he has no pack and it’s a more relaxing green, for maybe hanging out in taverns, which clearly he never does, being a Warden.

Warden outfit 2 front

Then there’s the Dwarven Rune Keeper, who looks even worse in his actual gear.  Who in their right mind would leave the house dressed like this?

RK real equipment

That’s a clear and defined reason for the existence of the outfit system, in my view.  Anyway, here’s his regular hunting garb (robe and backpack, the pack is again a cosmetic replacement for cloaks),

rk outfit 1 frontrk outfit 1 back

And finally, the Rune Keeper’s last outfit, for when he needs a more distinguished look, maybe while smoking some pipe weed with friends in a library somewhere,

rk outfit 2

I guess he could do with losing the gloves on that outfit.

Lord of the Rings Online – Outfits

Personalising your avatar in an on-line world is big business.  This is obvious to anyone who’s wandered around Second Life for more than 10 minutes and seen the millions of purchasable ‘looks’, or spent a few hours creating their own rock legend in Guitar Hero 5 (a huge collection of menu options for changing everything from how pointy your chin is to which way your nose curves).  In those games however, the look is purely cosmetic.  Those of us who play Massive Multi-player Online Roleplaying games (MMO’s, MMORPG’s, MMOG’s, whatever you want to call them) have different needs from our character’s equipment.

Traditionally your equipment both defines how you look and how you perform.  Armour provides protection from enemy damage and improves your innate abilities, weapons affect how much damage you deal, and accessories (jewellery, shields, and other esoteric items) provide magical benefits beyond your wildest dreams.  Sometimes, they also make you look good.

Wearing a newly acquired and hard won breastplate with pride because those around you can tell what it is and where you got it is fine, until the colour clashes with your hair or your choice of boots.  And should Hobbits be penalised for not wearing any shoes while other races benefit from run-speed enhancements or other funky abilities?

Lord of the Rings online offers a system which allows characters to both personalise their look, but also benefit from the best equipment they can acquire using the outfit system.  In my inaccurately named ‘short review of Lord of the Rings Online‘ I commented that I’d not had room to talk about the outfit system, and so this post is filling that gap.

When the system was first introduced it was only open to characters who had made level 20, until then, your appearance was decided by the equipment you were immediately wearing.  Now however, as long as you’ve had any one character reach level 20 or beyond, all of your characters can use outfits.  It’s a nice touch.  The outfit system basically gives you 2 extra inventory layouts (outfit 1, outfit 2) covering the visible items – head, shoulders, gloves, legs, feet, chest and back (cloak).  Weapons and shields are currently excluded, and since you can’t see jewellery that’s not included either.

The system lets you cosmetically equip items in the various slots, the item actually moves back into your general bag inventory, but the slot now retains the appearance of that item.  You can destroy / sell the item itself and still retain the look.  You then choose which of the three outfits you want to show to the world, your regular appearance based on equipped items, or outfit 1 / 2 from the cosmetically equipped items.

So you’re free to wear the most effective equipment even if it makes you look like a jester who’s done too much acid, while still maintaining some sense of style with one or other of the outfits.  Maybe you have a casual look for lounging around the Prancing Pony or your Kin House, or two different armour sets for looking mean and really mean.  You might like to look like a Pirate on Thursdays but have your regular hunting garb on the rest of the time.   Lord of the Rings online allows  you to hide / show various slots too (so you can turn off your hat indoors), and this works just as well for outfits.

If you kept the original item that you have cosmetically equipped, you can replace an outfit and get it back at a later stage, however if you sold / destroyed the item and replace it in the outfit system as well, you have to find another one before you can cosmetically equip it again in future.  To go with this system, Turbine have added a lot of purely cosmetic items to the game.  Hats, cloaks, and various pieces of clothing which offer no character benefits but which look pretty or high quality or unique.  Sometimes these are player crafted or reputation related purchases, and sometimes they are creature drops or quest items or special event rewards.  There are various NPC vendors around the world who also sell items such as backpacks (instead of cloaks), quivers, and other purely cosmetic items.

Overall the system is flexible enough to give you options, but restrictive enough that people don’t end up with 200 outfits and you’re never sure who is who.  It allows you to customise your appearance, wearing a matching set of armour which looks good but might not present the best stats, and allows roleplayers to engage in more realistic activity (you tend not to sit in the bar in full plate with a face visor unless you’re expecting it to be invaded by 200 orcs).

My previous experience of appearance was EverQuest where you were tied to how your gear looked, although you could tint the items (and you can dye items in Lord of the Rings Online), and people spent a lot of time and effort carrying around sets of gear so they could change how they looked.  It consumed bank / bag space and was a pain in the neck.  Lord of the Rings Online’s solution is much more preferable, allowing you to look how you like but not forcing you to waste bank space.  It’s easy to use, quick and fun.  I’m sure people would like further outfit slots, and I know I would be interested in allowing weapons and shields to be outfitted cosmetically, but despite those missing features, it does work.

Here’s three screenshots of one of my characters in his three different outfits.  The first screenshot is how the character looks wearing his actual gear (he has a full set of matching armour, so doesn’t look too bad at the moment),

actual equipment

The next shot is wearing the Heavy Armour set from Forochel (thanks to Grete, who worked to earn the reputation to make this armour in-game),

forochel set

And lastly, his previous look, using a faceplate helm (which his beard ruins) and a set of armour he crafted,

faceplate set

He doesn’t have a casual outfit at the moment – but then when you spend all your time killing orcs in Moria, who needs to wear a shirt.

A tale of two movies

I’m going to describe two movies to you.  I think you’ll guess one of them, see if you can guess the other.

Movie 1 Movie 2
Based on a comic book character Based on a comic book character
Our hero watches as his family is killed by members of a crime gang Our hero watches as his family is killed by members of a crime gang
This turns our hero in to a dark vigilante This turns our hero in to a dark vigilante
He’s male He’s male
He wears black, a lot He wears black, a lot
A young eager crime gang member is elevated to crime lord boss when the boss is killed A young eager crime gang member is elevated to crime lord boss when the boss is killed
Our hero badly disfigures the face of the gang member that is to become the crime boss while trying to catch him Our hero badly disfigures the face of the gang member that is to become the crime boss while trying to catch him
The police while publicly denouncing the vigilante, have at least some members who actually help him out The police while publicly denouncing the vigilante, have at least some members who actually help him out
The facially disfigured crime boss seeks revenge The facially disfigured crime boss seeks revenge
There’s a woman – there always is There’s a woman – there always is
This one, I watched all the way through many, many times, and was critically acclaimed when it was released This one I just switched off half way (maybe less?) through today, because not only was the acting woefully embarrassing, but the story was such a cliche that it made me sad inside.
Cinema Release: 1989 Cinema Release: 2008

Missing food labels

As you know, food these days is covered in labels.  They tell you what’s in it, what it’s not got in it, how much of stuff it’s got in it, how bad for you that stuff is, how much of your daily allowance the stuff uses up.

But, despite all this, there are some food labels that are missing.  I would like to propose the following additions.


All food should come with a guilt rating using the HIGH, MED, LOW traffic light system.  This allows you to decide how guilty you should really feel about eating the product, without having to put in too much effort.  For example, an entire tub of ice cream might have a HIGH guilt rating, and a salad would come with a LOW guilt rating.


It should be clearly indicated on food how much fun it is to eat.  Some food is boring and some food is fun.  How fun are spaghetti letters!  Or macaroni cheese!  Alphabet soup that you spend ages spelling out rude words.  We clearly need some indication on the container about how much fun we’re likely to have eating this item of food.  Clearly in this instance, the regular traffic light system breaks, because HIGH fun should be good.  So, we have to revert to Doublespeak and go for Unfun (which is bad in high amounts).  So low levels of unfun are good (keep up at the back).


It shouldn’t need saying folks.  But some food, well, it’s hot when it goes in, and it’s hot when it comes out, you know what I’m saying.  There should be clear indication on food labels about whether you’re going to need to pack some loo roll in the fridge.

stinkMouth Stink

Food should clearly come with a stink rating, what are your chances of getting a snog after you’ve eaten 6 portions of those kippers?  Does your mouth smell like the bottom of a bird cage, or like a garden of roses?  High ratings are bad – make sure you mint, floss, brush, swirl, and scrub before moving in for some tongue action.  Clearly, garlic roasted kippers in an anchovy sauce are not your friend when you’re going clubbing.


It’s obvious to anyone who’s ever eaten a kebab on their own at 2 o’clock in the morning, walking back to their one person flat, alone, to spend the night, alone, that food isn’t just something you consume for the protein content.  It’s for comfort.  And some foods are more comforting than other foods.  Ever heard of someone who’s sad going on a celery eating binge?  Me either.  To save us wasting a lifetime of eating the wrong food when we need that comfort, we need a label.  Again, due to the traffic light system, you need something which is good when it’s LOW and Green, so we’ll go for erm, Pain.  Low PAIN food is comforting.


There’s nothing more annoying than someone next to you eating something which makes them smug.  Maybe it’s a salad while you’re stuffing down a burger, or they had organic hand made vegetarian bacon while you’re eating the head off the nearest cute pig.  Maybe they don’t even know it’s making them smug.  Perhaps, if there was a clear indication when picking up a packet of organic free-range fair trade couscous that it would make you smug and your friends sad, people would be able to avoid it and would instead reach for that pre-packaged (in non-bio degradable plastic) microwave hotdog.  Made from real dog.  Anyway, avoid HIGH SMUG foods people.


Finally, and related to SMUG, there’s posh food.  You will look like a prat standing next to your friend with a tin of Caviar in your basket, while they’re buying BBQ pickled egg sandwiches.  To avoid this, avoid HIGH Posh foods.

XP from Kills or Quests – follow-up

A couple of folk were kind enough to read and comment on this post, and I’d been thinking about it some more as well.  There are some mitigating factors which I wanted to talk about.  Some of these are negatives about how EQ does it and some positives or ‘not as bad as it sounds’ stuff about LotRO.

Firstly, with EverQuest, helping your friends level is the same process as levelling yourself, any time, all the time.  While this makes it simple, it also makes it pretty tedious, in fact, much of EverQuest is pretty tedious (I can say this now, after not playing for a long time, although clearly at the time it was more engaging).  You go out, you kill stuff, you continue doing that until you level and then you do it some more.  So while it makes it easy to keep your friends at the same level, it doesn’t exactly provide much variability.

In line with that, although LotRO quest based XP means you might have to repeat the same quests a few times to keep your friends at the same levels, it’s essentially no different from EverQuest.  You get to run around killing stuff, while in the background your friends are completing quests and getting XP.  So the end result isn’t any different.  You might find you don’t get much XP, but the aim is to let your friends catch up, not keep the gap at the same distance so this isn’t an issue either.  Because the quests in LotRO cover a lot of locations, you’re more mobile than you would be in EverQuest and killing stuff is, after all, the same as killing stuff no matter where you are.  So it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Secondly, there is value in killing a lot of creatures in Lord of the Rings Online.  Each area has a number of deeds, those deeds give titles, XP and traits as rewards.  There are mob kill based deeds which tend to have two stages, the first gives a title, the second gives a trait.  If you only go to an area, complete the quests and move on it’s unlikely you’ll kill enough creatures to get both levels and you might not even achieve the first.  This is especially true of elite mobs (such as Trolls) or non-aggro mobs like crawlers.  However, if you keep going back to help out your friends, you will complete those deeds and end up with a more rounded character.  So there is absolutely some benefit to being in a place for longer periods killing the creatures, and helping your friends is just a bonus.

Thirdly, related to the above, there are quests from level 39 and up which require you to kill a lot of creatures to get rare pages (especially in Angmar and the Misty Mountains).  If you’re helping friends in those areas (which I am), then you’ll see your pages drop without having to go back later and just farm them.  Another bonus to being somewhere beyond completing the quests yourself.

There are numerous other things you can do, while helping friends level, which add value and which you would otherwise have to ‘farm’ or ‘grind’ out on your own.  As long as the mobs give some XP, you’ll earn skill-based deed increases (where you’re required to use the same skill over and over until you earn the trait).  Often in tough fights, you don’t get the chance to use less-useful skills but in trivial fights while helping friends you can use the same low-damage skill over and over until you complete the deed, without exposing your friends to a grisly death.  There’s always a need to collect crafting ingredients and recipes, even below your currently attained skill tier, which is why you’ll often find people helping out their friends leaving them to ‘handle’ some creatures for ‘just a moment’ while they mine an ore node or collecting some wood (before returning to revive their companions).

Turbine have added some specific rewards for repeating certain quests lines (mainly the Book based quests), since they’re fellowship quests and you always need people to repeat them unless you’re very lucky.  The rewards vary from the okay to the lacklustre but it’s still an option.

If you’ve done a lot of stuff solo, or in small groups, there’s a good chance you’ve missed a few fellowship or tougher-then-normal quests.  Going back and helping your friends while you’re slightly higher lets everyone complete these quests.  I had a perfect example of this a couple of nights ago in Angmar, there’s a bunch of elite quests inside a fort which I hadn’t done (neither had Grete or one of our other friends).  We were helping two friends level, and we went and did those quests.  With 5 of us they were fun, challenging and more interesting than the regular quests and we all got some XP.  Although the rewards weren’t really upgrades for 3 of us, it was still a good chance to do some of the harder content that we wouldn’t otherwise normally see.

Lastly of course, the real benefit, is that you get to spend time in a group with friends, having a laugh, some decent banter, and quoting nearly all of Aliens in the process.  Sure we chat in the Kin channel when we’re soloing or just mooching, but there’s something more social about being in the same fellowship, standing in the middle of Angmar cursing at the enemy and laughing when someone gets knocked off a horse on the run back to camp.

NB: All of this discussion excludes any element of swimming across Evendim.  There is never any good reason for repeating any action which involves swimming anywhere in Evendim.  Turbine need to add some swimming deeds.  Then and only then will I gleefully help out in Evendim.  Yes, adding the boat was a fantastic move, but by then I’d already spent half a lifetime swimming across that damn lake.  The boat doesn’t go to the Blue Lady’s cave does it?  Oh no.  And you still have to swim to Salamander Island don’t you?  Yes.  Too. Much. Swimming.

New spam comment tactic

I’m always intrigued by how the spammers try and get comments onto threads, the latest approach is to copy someone elses comment verbatim, but hoping that it gets posted so that their name-url link is published.

On huge blogs with a lot of comments it might actually succeed.  On a tiny blog like this with about 40 comments, it’s pretty easy to spot the dupes instantly.

MMORPG / MMOG – xp from kills or quests?

This turned into a bit of a rambling piece – so I thought I’d add this paragraph at the top.  I wanted to write something to compare the difference between helping friends catch up in levels within EverQuest and Lord of the Rings Online.  This is it.  Oh, additionally I’m helping one or two friends level in LotRO at the moment (one new player, one player with a high level toon already).  This post is not a complaint, I’m happy helping them, this is just a comparison.

One of the major differences between the old guard of EverQuest and the new guard (if they can be called that now) in online gaming, WoW, Lord of the Rings Online etc. is the source of experience points, used to increase levels.  In EverQuest the primary source was and still is killing enemy creatures.  If you wanted to gain levels you went out and killed stuff.  There were quests in EQ (the name kind of implies it), but they had nothing like the structure or managed-activity that quests in more modern games possess.  And they didn’t give anything like the same amount of experience points.

If you had to collect some orc bracers for a quest, you got most of the experience from the killing, and a tiny amount from the quest itself.  Note: there were some variations to this, in some cases handing in rewards from quests gave you a nice little boost of XP, but as you levelled past the early teens that kind of thing vanished.

EverQuest finally evolved a task and quest system, which tried (but ultimately failed) to mirror that present in games like WoW and LotRO.  However even with that addition the primary source of XP was killing stuff; the quest might get you somewhere, might give you a reason to kill them, but grinding out levels and AA (alternate abilities) meant killing hundreds and thousands of creatures.  There was also a strong mantra of not rewarding risk-free actions.  If you could do something without risk, EverQuest either quickly added risk or removed the reward.

This is not the case with Lord of the Rings Online (I’m more familiar with that game than WoW).  Most of the XP you obtain while you’re levelling is from quest and deed rewards.  Killing a few creatures might net you a thousand XP, completing a single quest might net  you 4,000 XP.  That quest might include collecting flowers or defending someone from a few creatures.  The non-XP rewards (items, etc.) are more likely to be restricted to higher risk higher effort quests, but actual XP is given out pretty freely.    It scales of course, you get more XP later on than you do early on, and there are some long-ass quests which give out the same XP as some very quick quests.  But the point is, the killing is a side activity.  You don’t see people going out and grinding by just killing stuff to get levels.  You can do, but it takes longer than it would to go to a new area, get 15 quests and burn through them.  Quests in LotRO are level restricted, you need to be within 5 levels of them to pick them up (i.e. if you’re 37, you can see quests up to level 42).  This helps ensure people don’t leapfrog rewards.

These two primary levelling mechanisms affect how you help friends catch up in levels, or what happens when people play with different schedules / game-time.  In EverQuest if a friend was a few levels behind, or didn’t play as often you’d help them catch up by doing what you always did, find the best mobs in the game for giving XP and kill them until your eyes bled.  Everyone won.  If your friend was really downlevel you might have to pull some tricks to ‘powerlevel’ them because you might not be able to group, and you might have to burn through some non-XP giving mobs to help them, but once they were at a certain level (where they got XP with you in the group) then the best way to get them more levels, was kill the enemy.  If a few of you played at different times or with less or more frequency it didn’t really matter.  Quests (outside of progression quests, which I’m not going to cover) were generally a smaller part of the non-raiding game.

In Lord of the Rings Online however, the quickest way to help someone level, is help them complete level appropriate quests.  Anyone gets XP in the group regardless of what levels you are (if the creatures would normally give you XP), so level 60 characters can group with level 10 characters and the level 10 character will get XP from the kills.  There’s a reduction, but since kill XP is already the minor part of levelling it’s not such an issue.  The key is there’s no reduction in quest XP, regardless of the size of the group or the level of the characters involved.  But here’s the rub.  If people play at different rates, they get to different stages in the quests, and those quests may have pre-requisites beyond just levels for their acquisition.  As a result, you end up re-doing the same quests over and over if people log on with different frequency.

For example, friend A is on, and you help them complete 15 quests and they get a couple of levels.  They move on to a new area.  The next day, friend B is on, and you go through a few quests with them until friend A logs on again.  Now however, friend B can’t get the quests in the new area because they’re a level too low and they haven’t finished the pre-requisite quests in the old area.  So, friend A now has to go through the same content they did yesterday along with the person helping, to catch friend B up.  The next few days things are even, then friend B pulls ahead doing some stuff solo, and the following day you repeat this all again.

Add in that there may be 5 or 6 people, playing at different times, and with different levels, and you can see how this gets complex very quickly.

I love the LoTRO levelling mechanism.  I think being rewarded for exploring, finding things, and for activity which doesn’t always involve killing the enemy is the right option.  I think level restricting quests is the right option.  But it certainly makes it less trivial to help friends catch up than with EverQuests approach of ‘kill until you can’t kill any more’.

While LotRO is far more casual friendly than EverQuest, it also imposes some issues if people play at different times.  Someone is always going to be a level behind, going through quests you’ve already done trying to catch up.  Unless you all agree to only play those characters at the same time that you’re all on, but with a bunch of adults who have lives to live, it’s not a realistic option.

Maybe, if more than half the people in a group have completed the pre-requisite quests, then other people in the group can get the follow-on quests as long as they remain grouped.  Maybe the quests available to a person should be based on the highest group member up to a maximum of 10 levels rather than 5?  Not sure.  Maybe it doesn’t need to change.  Soon we’ll all be 60 (or 65) and grinding out deeds, virtues, access quests and legendary items and all this will be a misty dream.  But I thought I’d blog about it anyway.

NB: Yes, I know that the vast majority of quests in Lord of the Rings Online can be completed solo.  In fact, it’s more efficient to do some of them solo.  Only the small fellowship and fellowship quests really need more than one person.  However, it’s a social game, about being social.  More-over, you can complete much harder quests if you have some help (completing them while they’re red or orange) and hence get more XP for them as a % of your current level.  None of that is the point really, the point is that the quests are great, but they make helping friends level, or keeping a bunch of friends at the same level, much harder.