Closing the Warcraft Book, Opening Lord of the Rings Online

It’s been what, almost a year? Time sure flies.

Cataclysm has come, and my inability to give a damn about it has persisted. Oh, I still read some Azerothian bloggers from time to time, but in reality, I only care about the meta posts, the ones focusing on the social aspects of the game.

Closure is due, and in that spirit, I decided it is high time to do some pre-Spring cleaning, dust off the cobwebs, and see whether I still have any live audience at all, or whether the 142 feedburner subscribers are nothing but spambots waiting for a new post to open.

Cleanup also brought me to my blogroll, and it’s at that stage that I took stock of just how many warcraft bloggers have stopped writing. When I last updated it, in Summer 2008 (in other words a couple of decades in ‘Net time), every one on there was active.

Today, I pruned 71 Wow-related blogs from the roll. All of those had no post more recent than last Fall. And while the Blog Azeroth community still gets many new blogs introducing themselves every week, it seems only the most dedicated are still around from the founding days.

I also cleaned up my links page, and found out in the process that my item tooltip provider had ceased their service. So if for whatever reason you were reading old warcraft related posts of mine and get error messages while hovering over an item link, my apologies. I’ll probably need to find a suitable replacement for all wow posts. Eventually.

And this cleanup marks the final closure on the World of Warcraft as far as yours truly is concerned. Since I last posted, I spent many bucks on Steam games, catching up on some great titles both single and multiplayer that I had missed while focused on WoW. Well, catching up is an overstatement, at the time of this writing, I probably have another 20 games or so that I have yet to play from the previous sales. I take great comfort in the fact that others are afflicted by similar troubles, most notably another former WoW blogger who expanded his focus to other (and wider) horizons a long time ago, Andrew of Systemic Babble.

It has been much quieter on the MMO front: while I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying out other things, nothing really had any lasting impact. I have tried out several of those fancy new Free to play + microtransaction MMOs over the past year and a half, in no particular order:

  • Wizard 101, cute, interesting combat based on building card decks, but became quite repetitive and grinding before reaching level 10 to me
  • Free Realms, another entry on the cute factor, too much limitations on F2P even early after their launch, even more, I understand, nowadays
  • Dungeon & Dragons Online – a trip down memory lane for sure. Quite nice for casual players actually, since you can play most if not all instances in solo mode. I again eventually found it a bit grindy for my taste. DDO is also a world built on loosely connected instanced areas with relatively long loading times in-between, and for some reason that eventually turned me off, perhaps more than other elements of the game. I found that in MMOs, I apparently need to keep a certain sense of seamless connection between areas in order to feel immersed. Lacking that, I’d rather play Neverwinter Nights offline.
  • Final Fantasy XI, take 2: Wow, talk about radical changes. FFXI was my first MMO, long before WoW. In the 5 years since stopping it, the game has undergone several important changes making it more casual friendly. Most amazing was to find out that several of the people from my old linkshell still played the game, and catching up and saying hello was definitely a plus. On the other hand, at this time I found out that experience hits upon death are no longer suitable to my playing time, habits and expectations. Good to revisit an old and previously beloved place, but at the same time, it felt a bit like visiting your childhood bedroom 20 years later.
  • Battle Forge: I quite like playing RTSes, I quite like the notion of building and playing decks of cards, so an MMORTS that uses trading decks as a way to build your army sounds great. Played for a while, then had a total hard drive crash, and never reinstalled. The reality is, I probably don’t really like the Real Time in Real Time Strategy. I’m not that good at twitch and fast paced reactions, and it turns out that what I really like are PE-RTS – Pause-Enabled RTS.

Mind you, none of the above are bad games, and if you’re looking at a change of pace, I would recommend you give any of them a try if it sounds fancy to you.

And so I was eventually bound to end up in Middle Earth.

Lord of the Rings Online is made by Turbine, the same developers who worked on Asheron’s Call 1 & 2 and DDO before that. And while many companies who have published and operated more than one MMO out there seem unable to really capitalize on their previous experiences, Turbine, according to those who have tried out all of their games, definitely seem to be learning and producing games that are more polished and offer more robust gameplay every time. A game perfect for casual players: Free to play with microtransactions means I can unlock content at my own pace. Loose and informal grouping. Able to provide ok challenge without at the same time having punishing penalties for failure (like others before, you get a hit to your equipment durability rather than experience points, there’s no corpse walking). At the stage I’m at, it’s definitely not a game designed for the hardcore players, and I have to confess that I haven’t yet spent any time looking at the raiding scene at all. I doubt there’s any bosses that take over 18 hours to defeat though (and here’s my parting shot to the WoW hardcore crowd: compared to FFXI’s endgame, you’re just scrubs anyway, regardless of how dumbed down both games have become recently). A good social climate, at least on my server (playing on Imladris-US). And many, many features that make the game interesting so far.

Speaking of the social climate, the only really annoying discussions on public chat channels seem to involve WoW (as in “-WoW is so much better than this! -Oh really? Why are you here then?”). And while my current Kinship (that’s Guilds in LotRO) isn’t necessarily the most chatty one, I got invited to a friendly and helpful bunch.

The opening of the LOTRO chapter on this blog definitely deserves its own posts, but in the meantime, there are two resources needed for players who want to give it a go:

  • MMORSEL for Lords of the Rings Online is a well organized and comprehensive information resource on the game.  Not sure what account model is right for you? How core game mechanics work? Whether a quest pack is worth purchasing? Mmorsel has the answer.
  • A Casual Stroll to Mordor is a multi-author blog and podcast that has a ton of information, guides, updates, and other useful resources.

Last but not least, a word of caution. The main LotRO servers are run by Turbine in the US, but in Europe, the game is operated by Codemasters. Depending on the ping you have, it may not be a good idea to play overseas. I found out when I already had a toon in my 20ies, a house and enough cash to pay for a mount or three that I was playing on the “wrong” servers.

And that’s enough for now. Need some screenies to illustrate the next post. Soon. I swear.

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One Response to Closing the Warcraft Book, Opening Lord of the Rings Online

  1. Rav (6 comments) says:

    Great to see you back!