What with all this talk of new games from Lord British, I decided to go back and play a couple games I haven’t played in awhile, namely Ultima Online and Lord of the Rings Online. Last time I played UO seriously was around the time they broke the world in two (the Trammel thing.) Last time I played LOTRO, according to posts on My LOTRO was back in December 2011. And yes, the lotto is still apparently broken LOL.
Anyway, UO first. I logged in and yes my house on Ocllo is still there (although I’ve heard they’ve re-instated house decay, but apparently it doesn’t start for 90 days of account inactivity. I guess it’s a good thing I’ve been logging in every now and then “just in case” all these years.) For those who don’t know, I still have a comped UO account thanks to my days in the trenches of being a Counselor in UO way back when. I think it’s comped to 2025 or something like that. That’s a very good thing, because that means I don’t have to pay a subscription fee if I want to play again. True, I didn’t get a big payout (snork) from joining that class action lawsuit years ago, but I think I probably ended up better in the long run, because I have a feeling had I joined that suit, my free account would have gone bye bye long ago.
OK, back to UO. After figuring out how to do stuff again (apparently things have changed a bit, I couldn’t, for instance, figure out how to repair my armor and weapons LOL.) I got back into hunting and playing around in UO again and boy oh boy it brought back memories. I’d forgotten how beautifully elegant and immersive UO is compared to modern MMORPG games. Yes, it’s horribly dated (and the “Enhanced Client” makes my avatar look ugly, but at least not quite as mutated as the old 3D client from years ago.) And it was quiet. At first I thought it was just in Felucca (the old PK-able half of the shard) but even in Trammel, I saw very few people. Sad, really, but at what they charge for a subscription fee, I can see why. If any game should go Free to Play it should be UO. (Yes, I know there are numerous “free” servers, but I still consider them illegal so I won’t go there.) UO isn’t quite as “cool” as in the old PK days, and the days when you could kill someone, chop up their body, and turn in their head for bounty, but it’s still pretty cool. No instanced housing, wide open world (for the most part, I think there are a few areas you need to buy an expansion pack to get into) and even the background music brought back a swell of nostalgia. Walking around my old hunting grounds in Yew made me want to move my grandfathered Ocllo house there. Lots of room now!
UO really is a role-players dream game though, there are no character levels, you can spec and re-spec as often as you want and there is no fee to do so (although there is time involved, but skill gains seemed to be quite a bit faster than in the old days.) I’m tempted to see how hard it is to get a Grandmaster beggar these days. I have one from the old days that took me literally YEARS of almost constant macroing, erm begging to get there. Unfortunately he’s not on the shard where I have a house. But he lives! Apparently there are also a lot more weapons and armor I don’t have right now, I’m still using my old apparently gimped crafted gear. But that’s OK.
Now, for LOTRO. This game has been completely dumbed down, probably due to the whole Free to Play thing (I haven’t really “played” since FTP went in, the last time I played was during the Winter festival in 2011, and I pretty much did only festival quests.) But after about a week of putzing around (it was admittedly a lot easier to get back into the game after an absence than UO was) I can see well, it’s still kind of “meh.” Easier, yes, by far; I gained almost a level just FARMING for a couple hours for cripes sake. And even though I am locked out of my house and owe almost 1000 silver just to unlock the door, money is far easier to come by these days. I made almost 700 silver in a couple hours just killing slayer mobs and turning in the parts for cash rather than rep. I haven’t unlocked my house yet, I’ll only do so if I decide to stay (apparently, the max amount you can owe is 90% of purchase price, no matter how overdue you are on the “rent” and I’m already at that point.)
I do have to say playing LOTRO on a better computer makes the game look better than it used to though (either that, or they’ve revised the world a bit.) The character models are still butt-ugly though, I don’t know if they just used generic models or if they really went to the trouble of building custom models that are rigged wrong and ugly, but anyway, at least the buggy roly-poly eyeballs are gone. Fortunately, I can adjust the camera so I don’t have to look at myself if I don’t want to.
As for the game itself, well, I still hate doing quests in LOTRO, I don’t know why, but they just seem so unbearably tedious. I totally gave up on the “book” quests last time I played, because most of them were too hard to solo. But even the normal ones, I’m just not all that inspired to do unless I just happen to complete them by accident. Right now, I’ve been just exploring, working on my crafting skills (I think my hunter may become my main character soon, hunters are fun and easy) and as much as I love roleplaying my little hobbit Brambleberry, she’s not all that much fun to play because she has NO gathering skills (well, farming, but who wants useless crops?) If she wasn’t maxed out on Farming and Cooking, I would re-spec her, but I spent a fortune getting her maxed (especially cooking, which, reportedly is pretty much worthless now oh well.) So, whenever I’m out putzing around, she doesn’t get to gather stuff for my other characters except maybe mob drops on occasion. All my other characters have a least one gathering skill my other characters need the resources from, so I help more than just one character when I play them. I also have to say I like playing my Loremaster, and that was before I remembered she could use pets. Can we say “easy mode?” Haha. Actually pretty much every character is easy mode now. I remember in the old days, I’d rarely attempt to kill a mob that was harder than green, but now I’m killing red mobs like they’re ants (well, except some of the hard ones, which, if you’re not paying attention to the fact they’re elite mobs, will kick your ass. They really need a different color for those.)
Anyway, I’m still not sold on LOTRO. And I STILL don’t have riding skill on any of my characters, because back when I had an account, horses were expensive (5 gold I think?) Now, they’re something like 995 silver, but now you have to buy the riding skill with Turbine Points, or you have to fire up a VIP subscription for at least a month to get it via the (reportedly hard to do) quest. So, I’ve been doing deeds to get enough TP to get riding skill on at least my two “main” characters. What a pain in the ass.
Oh, and for those wondering why I haven’t revisited my old beloved World of Warcraft, it’s because I CAN’T. Apparently “free to play” in WOW means you’re free to play on a gimped crap account, but if you want to play on your REAL, former subscribed account, you have to pay a subscription fee. This is one thing LOTRO gets right: I can play FREE on my regular account, I just won’t have access to all areas or quests unless I pay. WOW does it wrong, they don’t care that you subscribed for 4 years, nope, you gotta pay or go away or start completely over. So, I’m not going back to WOW unless/until they do another one of those “come back please” promos where they lure you back for a week hoping you’ll resubscribe. They usually do that when a new expansion pack comes out. Speaking of which, pandas? Really? That’s another reason not to play WOW. ::sigh::
All this nostalgia has been pointing out to me why I’m excited about Richard Garriott’s new game though. Even though he’s made some mistakes with his most recent games, his focus is on game play and immersive worlds, and being back in UO really pointed out the insane detail the design team went to in that game (and they had other stuff planned they had to take out too, like eco-chain spawn tables.) It also made me nostalgic for Asheron’s Call, another game that was immersive world and story driven, unfortunately there is no Free to Play there (yet) and I don’t want to go back enough to pay the whopping $14.95/mo subscription fee, even if it does include Asheron’s Call 2 (free to play, but you have to start all over.) But the monthly “events” AC had made the game pretty awesome at the time. Unfortunately, the low-rez graphics and interface got in the way, but it was a step in the right direction. Too bad Turbine didn’t learn and bring that kind of dynamism to LOTRO. But now Warner Brothers 0wnz0rz them so too late now.
I do hope RG and his team at Portalarium get it right with Shroud of the Avatar. If they do even half of what they have planned this will be the most awesome game ever. Not just the most awesome single-player RPG or the most awesome online multi-player RPG, but the most ground-breaking, amazing, immersive, freakin’ awesome game ever! Or it could be a huge flop that only hard-core former Ultima people will play. Either way, he’s taking a risk, and I admire that in this money-driven world. Sure, they could make a game with vampires and pandas and cater to the lowest denominator and maybe make lots of money, but thankfully, they’re not going that route. But they ARE listening to feedback from the players, so I can only hope they don’t give in and dumb it down like a lot of other games have done over the years when the money stopped rolling in and they got desperate. Time will tell, but this time I think RG is gonna have a hit.
There is still time (until April 7 afternoon) by the way, to pledge on Kickstarter for Shroud of the Avatar. I sucked it up and upped my pledge from the minimum $25 to a “I hope it’s worth it” $125. Spending my birthday money a couple months early. It’s a risk, but as long as they come through on the promise of 5 episodes, the money will be well spent, because the games themselves are worth at least $50 each, plus I get a lotta “loot” that I could sell on ebay, like a cloth map. Speaking of which, I think I still have an old cloth map from Ultima Online around here somewhere ….