Tuesday, April 24, 2007

LotRO Journal - 25-April-2007

Yesterday was the official release of Lord of the Rings Online, and over here in Europe it went medium smoothly. The servers stayed up, there wasn't too much lag, and installation and downloading the latest patch went fast enough. But the website on which you had to create your account and enter your CD key was totally overloaded, and hard to impossible to access. Now fortunately me and the other pre-order customers are allowed to continue playing without a CD key until Friday. But if you didn't pre-order, trying to create a new account for LotRO yesterday must have been quite frustrating. I couldn't manage to enter my CD key all day, and only managed to get my lifetime subscription set up this morning. Apparently LotRO is selling well in Europe.

Now I received a mail acknowledging may payment and telling me "your next payment is due before 01/01/70". Well, I'll be 105 years old on that date, presumably dead. So that's their definition of "lifetime subscription". :) Realistically, LotRO will probably cease to exist long before that, not being compatible with the holodecks of 2070, or whatever other display technology they'll have by then. As Codemasters has no information about *my* lifetime, I could be dead and buried with my descendants having inherited the userid and password, a "lifetime" subscription can only be for the lifetime of the game, not the player. But surpringly, in a world full of legalese, terms of services and end-user license agreements, I couldn't find the legal terms of the lifetime subscription anywhere. In any case Codemasters needs to hire some better lawyers. They had announced a "golden ticket" type contest to be part of the special edition, and had to renege on that, because running a legally binding kind of lottery covering many European countries turned out to be an unsolveable legal nightmare. They couldn't even put a wax-sealed letter as promised in the box, due to some safety regulations. Then they had problems producing the cloth map, and had to put a "parchment" map into the box instead. So now the special edition and collector edition boxes contain a lot less stuff than promised, and players who bought them are understandably upset. Fortunately I read about that before, and while my local store had all three editions in stock, I just bought the cheapest one.

I was playing the game yesterday still with my beta client, without movies and high-res textures. Following some advice from the forums I then installed the full game client on another machine, my laptop, and then copied the movies and high-res textures over to my main PC. At first that seemed to work, but then I zoned into North Downs and was greeting with black textures, turning my whole screen totally black, except for the 2D user interface. So I ended up uninstalling the beta client, and installing the full game client from scratch. As I already mentioned, the necessary download for that went quite fast, and there was no problem. I already thought LotRO was pretty with the old textures, but with the high-res textures the game became extremely pretty. But to see the game in all splendor you really need one of this year's graphics cards and a decent computer. For the first time I also saw the quite well done intro movie. Now I wonder whether I could delete it, because I have to press escape three times more every time I start LotRO to get past the movies. :)

Back in the game I'm on a balanced gameplay between farming and adventuring, based on the in-game time of day. By increasing your gamma you *can* adventure at night, but it isn't as beautiful as during the in-game day. So now I adventure during the days, and farm during the nights. The hardest thing I did yesterday was trying to do a level 11 group quest solo with my level 14, killing a named elite warg. As minstrel I have a fear cry, which allows me to heal myself while the warg is running, but even with that I nearly didn't make it. I ran out of mana, my potions were on cooldown, and my life went down faster than the wargs. Just then a level 17 elf came along, apparently undecided whether he should intervene or not, not wanting to be accused of killstealing. So I quickly typed "help", and he helped me, and I won the fight with a sliver of life (sorry, morale) left. Nice quest reward too. But I guess you really need a group for the LotRO group quests.

Then I worked on my accomplishments and traits. I killed wolves for my first "racial" trait, a short range "throwing a stone" ranged attack. Then I did all the postmaster quests, transporting mail between the villages of the Shire. Finally I started doing the similar pie transporting quests. Lots of running in these two quest series, but the advantage is that you get to know the geography of the Shire really well. And I'm also getting close to the nice accomplishment reward you get for doing 75 quests in the Shire. All this is probably not the fastest way to level up, but I'm not in a hurry. The one thing I learned from WoW is that reaching the level cap is more a problem than something to aspire to.

I'm having a role-playing idea, of which I'm not quite sure whether LotRO will allow me to do that. LotRO has a system where one character can be the parent of another, but I'm not sure it works with alts. If it would, I would like to make a hobbit guardian, and make him the son of my elderly hobbit minstrel / farmer. That would have a lot of role-playing potential, commenting as "the father" on how hot-headed the son is, while complaining as "the son" on how stubborn and conservative the father behaves. And all that in guild chat, with father and son obviously never seeing each other. From a practical point of view, and quite fitting into the roleplay, the rich farmer could finance the son, with the guardian being the more gear-dependant class and always a thankful target for twinking. I'd probably make the guardian an armorer, so I can make armor for himself, and iron farming tools for "daddy".

Not that I think I'll get there anytime soon. I tried to level up tailoring, and found that I quickly got blocked. To become proficient at journeyman level (making level 10 to 16 armor) you need to do a quest which involves killing a level 21 signature boar. Now I'm all for creating a player economy. But making the crafting system so that you can only make armor for lower level characters and never usefully for yourself is rather stupid. But up to now, and like in so many other games, the crafting system is the only real disappointment for me in Lord of the Rings Online. I'll have to live with what LotRO offers there, and enjoy the adventuring part more, which is really well done.

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