Tag Archives: mmorg

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.

An Everquest sized hole (or, Goodbye to the Orc Pawns)

… on my hard disk.

I deleted EverQuest today, from my hard disk.  I’d say ‘uninstalled’ but I haven’t installed EQ since the very first time, it was decent enough that you could just copy it anywhere and it would run (just about), so after the first time I installed it and through all my machine upgrades  I just copied it around as needed.

Today I deleted it.  Before that I logged my two main characters on one last time, and ran them to their home cities.  I even ran my dwarf along the route he used to run all the time when I first started playing, from Kelethin to Kaladim, when he was making banded armour.

I killed an orc pawn as I went by (as I always used to), and I was pleased to see my faction was still okay.

faction
Orc pawns, one of the first things I ever killed in EverQuest, and also the last.

Good times.

I shall spend the rest of my life checking my tail for the sign of the Crushbone orcs, but I fear they’re out classed and out numbered.

O Captain! My Captain!

Not done any painting this week, still going through a ‘why do I do this when the results are so bad’ phase, it’ll pass.   Instead, been playing Lord of the Rings Online and levelling my captain (46 now).  Captain and Champion makes an oddly good combo (Grete’s playing her Chamption), we’ve been thrashing everything before us and not really struggling to deal with even red Elites.  We don’t seem to be having anywhere near as much trouble as we did with Guardian and Loremaster which in theory is a good combo (I think), maybe we know the content better, but we’re certainly doing nearly all orange quests, and just chewing through them.  We got tired of Angmar (I find the quests really depressing), and headed to Forochel to do the entrance area quests.  Rather than move onto the next Forochel set I suggested Eregion but we weren’t sure we’d be able to cope (at 44) and so we went to do the quests in the Trollshaws.  They were light blue / blue and while riding around to complete one we ended up in Eregion anyway.  The quests were orange, we tried a couple and found them challenging but doable, so there we stayed.

We’ve completed the Gwingris stuff and Echad Eregion and are hanging out in Echad Dunann now.  We’ve got the starter quest for Moria access but are waiting for a friend to be online before we start those.

It’s the third / fourth time I’ve done the Eregion quests and they’re still really fun, and as I said, with the Champion DPS they’re pretty easy to finish (challenging but not deadly).

Lord of the Rings Online – a review – part four

Welcome to the fourth and last part of my short (yeh yeh) review of the Lord of the Rings Online (you can find parts one, two and three behind those links).  As Grete said while she proof read the third part for me, it’s not really a review, more of an introduction to the game.  Generally I agree, although I could argue it is a review, but not a critique.  Either way, it was a little longer than I expected when I decided to answer Ottaro’s original question.  Hope you found it useful.

4. Other Stuff

There’s the stuff that makes up a game (the content, the system, the graphics) but there’s also the non-stuff or maybe the quantum-stuff which is much harder to pin down which makes a game worthwhile and gives it longevity.  I’ll talk about those things here, I’ll give you a list of all the stuff I remembered I hadn’t spoken about, and I’ll finally (thank the Greek gods finally) wrap up.

4.1 Immersion

A game can’t be totally responsible for your eventual immersion.  People with hectic lives will find themselves being dragged out of the game, or distracted and not able to ‘lose themselves’ as easily as people in quiet households.  Some people find it easier to focus on a single thing and immerse themselves for many reasons than other people.  But a game must certainly take some responsibility for enabling that immersion.  If the game constantly drags you out of the action because of the control system, or if the information on screen is so anachronistic that it constantly reminds you you’re playing a game then it’s always going to be harder to feel fully involved. If the graphics on the other hand are impressive, representative and make you feel like the world could be real, then it’s going to be easier.

Add to this the other players and to a lesser extent the other non-player characters and how they behave.  If the players around you are constantly discussing their mortgage or car purchase in an easy to read channel, or the NPC’s act dumb all the time, then suspension of disbelief becomes harder and harder.

How then does LoTRO rate?  Well firstly you need to remember I’ve played exclusively on a roleplaying designated server, and that means people are pretty keen on keeping out-of-character chat to a complete minimum and limited to the /ooc channel only.  In that respect, it’s very good, people try hard to talk in-character in fellowships or in /say and there’s very little non-IC chat to remind you about the bills you should be paying.

Alongside the well behaved players, we have NPC’s in LoTRO that sometimes call to friends for help, sometimes run away to shoot at you from range and sometimes call you names during the fight, it’s not going to win AI awards but it certainly helps.

Finally, the beautifully rendered world sucks you in, and before you know it you’re staring into fires in Goblin Town feeling the warmth and wondering if that smell is roast pork or maybe, just maybe, somewhere, a Hobbit is being turned into dinner.
Continue reading Lord of the Rings Online – a review – part four

Lord of the Rings Online – a review – part three

Welcome to the third part of a short review of Lord of the Rings Online that I hope I can keep to four parts.  Parts one and two have come before this one (I like a traditional numbering scheme) and part four is on the way.

3. Technology

With any luck, this part will be short!  The content and system behind an on-line roleplaying game combine to make up much of the overall experience.  Certainly for many players those two things are enough to decide the fate of a game.  However, how the game is actually presented on the screen and how the different technology elements work can also make or break a game for quite a large section of the player base.  That’s what this part is going to talk about.

3.1 Interface

The interface is the window through which we look at the game and the system through which we control it.  Bad interface design has killed games in the past and will sadly kill games in the future.  I freely admit I struggled with the LoTRO interface at the outset.  I was very used to EverQuest after 7 years, and I wasn’t at all sure about changing.  Over time though I have gotten used to it and while there are features which annoy me there aren’t any show stoppers.  Discussing the interface in full detail would take hours and thousands of words, I’m not going to do that so I’ll just give you a general feel for it.

The interface is actually several elements,

  1. how do you control the game
  2. how does the game display information to you
  3. how does the game handle chat
  4. how can you configure those three things to suit you

3.1.1 Control

I’ll handle control first.  Basic movement in LoTRO is pretty standard, cursor keys or WASD for moving around, combinations of keys to look around rather than turn.  You can use left mouse button + mouse to turn and right mouse button + mouse to look.  Holding down both mouse buttons makes you move in the direction your character is facing.  You can mix and match all those combinations.  Anyone who’s played a FPS or a recent MMORPG will find using that control system easy, it’s pretty standard these days.  You can position the camera either floating behind the character (3rd person) or inside the character (so the game is 1st person).  I played EQ in 1st person but for some reason LoTRO works a lot better for me in 3rd person and I’m pretty used to it now.

Continue reading Lord of the Rings Online – a review – part three

Lord of the Rings Online – a review – part two

This is the second part of what started out as a small review of Lord of the Rings Online and has turned into an epic monster.  You can check out the first part back here, and parts three and four are coming up after this one.  This bit (part 2) deals with the system aspects of the game, i.e. how things work.

2. System

It doesn’t really matter how much awesome content there is in a game, if the system behind it sucks like an open chest wound.  People will only put up with so much pain to get to the content they enjoy.  Systems have come a long way since the early online roleplaying games which extolled the virtues of lots of hard work for small increments in power.  These days developers realise the casual gamer market is just as key to the success of a game, and people with families can’t commit to six straight hours in front of a keyboard every night.  Systems have developed that allow casual gamers to get the most from games but still offer opportunity for complex character development and fine tuning.
Continue reading Lord of the Rings Online – a review – part two

Lord of the Rings Online – a review – part one

splashscreenOttaro was asking how much I liked Lord of the Rings Online (you can read his comment here), and rather than write a 400 word comment I thought I’d write up a more general review. Only it got out of hand so I’m breaking it up into individual posts.  This is part one which has an introduction and covers the game content.  Part two looks at the system behind the game, part three covers the technology of the game such as the graphics engine, the user interface and so on, and part four provides my overall impressions, a look at the social elements in the game and how immersive I find it.  I reserve the right to completely change all that once I actually write the articles and find I’ve waffled endlessly about something else.

Background

So that you can get an idea of where I’m coming from with this review, here’s some information about me.

I played EverQuest for something like seven years.  I played as a new player who knew nothing, as a player in a big casual guild who sometimes got groups with guild members but often grouped with random people, as someone who ended up in a raid guild one expansion behind the curve, as a ‘hard core’ grouper doing the hardest group content (at one point), as a casual raid-force leader, and all levels in-between.  At one point I cared about the ratio of hit points to AC as a warrior, I cared about the amount of avoidance and shielding I had.  I spent time looking at upgrades and trying to work out how to gain tiny incremental benefits.  I had three maximum level characters (when 80 was the maximum level) and one of them had every useful AA (my warrior) before the last expansion came out.  Eventually I just got tired.

I love fantasy and sci-fi, and I deeply love the world that Tolkien built and the characters he wrote about.  I love the Lord of the Rings story, world, characters and mythos and I have done so since I was 11 or 12.  However, I’m no serious scholar of Tolkien and Middle Earth, so if I think things aren’t in the lore but they are, don’t have me shot.

Before I stopped playing EverQuest (EQ) I’d tried a few other MMORPG’s, EverQuest II (EQII), World of Warcraft (WoW), Star Wars Galaxies (SWG), Guild Wars (GW), Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO) and Lord of the Rings Online (LoTRO).  I had the LoTRO account for over a year, playing on and off before I finally stopped EQ and LoTRO was not the cause.  I fell back into LoTRO when I wanted a social on-line game and found that EQ was just too much.

I am very much a casual LoTRO player.  I spend some time solo,  most time with my wife and every now and then a little time with a few friends.  Sometimes we group, sometimes we just chat while we all do our own thing.  Before the release of Moria I had a maximum level character (50), but it had taken over 12 months to get there.  I’ve tried all the classes to some level or another and all the races.  I have never raided, and have spent very little time in the elite dungeons (top end content at various levels).  I don’t look hard for item upgrades, when I get gear as rewards I make a snap decision based on which seems best using a bit of guesswork.  I’ve read something like three articles on the web to give me a very basic insight into choosing weapons.  I have very little idea how my character stats compare to other peoples, in fact, I have very little idea what my character stats are at all.

I play on a roleplaying designated European server (the European instance of LoTRO is run by Codemasters, I guess it’s licensed to them by Turbine, this means that we don’t always get all the features, like my.lotro.com for example).  The roleplaying server keeps the number of trolls in the out of character chat down to a minimum.  Although I don’t roleplay in any real sense I do act in-character as much as possible in the /say channel (i.e. the channel which emulates characters talking to those nearby) and if you want lots of roleplaying it’s there for the taking.
Continue reading Lord of the Rings Online – a review – part one