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The Patcher of Sauron November 25, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Lord of the Rings Online.
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Is there any in this rout with authority to patch with me? Or indeed with wit to understand me?

Surety you crave! Turbine gives none. If you sue for its updates, then you must do its bidding.

-LOTRO Patcher, Lieutenant of Turbad-dûr

I might be a little down on Turbine’s patcher this week, which no doubt colors the tone of this post.

I haven’t been doing much in Middle-earth since my summer vacation there saw me through to the far side of Moria at last.  I had finally made it through the first LOTRO expansion, which I purchased just five years previously.  But since I owned the next two expansions already, and a third lay out there waiting for me already, you might be able to forgive my lack of excitement surrounding yet another LOTRO expansion.  I am not at all likely to see any of the Helm’s Deep expansion in the foreseeable future.

LOTROHelmsDeep

However, with Helm’s Deep, Turbine was looking to revamp the classes in a way to… if I understand this correctly… make the various roles a given class can perform more distinct.  Previously Turbine just heaped a bunch of skills onto a class, some for one role, some for another, and let the player sort them out, along with the various traits, to do whatever they wanted.  For some classes… especially the Warden and Runekeeper…  the various skills seemed somewhat comprehensible.  For others, such as the Captain, skills were not always clearly role specific.

Still, with understanding and a correct application of buffs or stances or auras or whatever, the old system let you mold your character to fill a specific role.  I am not sure that the Guardian was ever going to be optimal for DPS or the Captain turned into the healer of choice, but your Champion could certainly play either tank or DPS.  Zubon’s recent post on Adaptation probably has some applicability here.

So while I might not see the siege of Helm’s Deep any time soon, there was clearly change afoot that would affect me.  This drove my desire to log into the game and see what was up.  Would this make things better or worse for me?  One of my problems with the game is that, upon returning after a long absence, I often find it difficult to pick up where I left off with a class.  Things often change.  The spread of skills are not always clear in their use.  And the skill icons, tiny and over-wrought, frequently bear only a passing resemblance to what  the skill actually does.  I did a post a couple years back about the icons of the Champion class, which I found more distracting than useful.

champicons
Yeah, tell me what those do based just upon the picture.  I have my own guesses.  So it is often easier to just start a new character and relearn the class than to pick up where I was.

I actually think that redoing the skill icons… making them larger, clearer, simpler… might have been a bigger win than revamping classes.  In fact, I had half a hope that icons might be part of the revamp, making me all the more keen to see what had changed.  But first I had to patch.

Oh, the LOTRO patcher.

We were going out for a bit on Thursday night and I figured I could let the patcher run while we were away.  The Helm’s Deep expansion had dropped earlier Thursday, after a 2-day day delay, and should have been ready to go.  I let it update the launcher itself, then started it off on its patching process before we left the house.

We got back a little over 90 minutes later and I found that the patcher wasn’t even half done yet.

Back before we upgraded to a 25Mbit connection, I expected such updates to run all night.  The old ADSL connection was good for about a gigabyte an hour if nobody else was doing anything online.  I used to start big patches before going to bed in hopes of finding them done in the morning.

Now, with the high speed connection, EVE Online did its 1.21 gigabyte Rubicon patch, along with the update, in about 8 minutes.  So either the Helm’s Deep patch was absolutely huge, or their patcher is crap.

I’m voting for crap.

First, it does things inefficiently.  It seems to go file by file, judging how many individual items it had to download.  And, LOTRO has historically been unhappy about older installs.  After it passes a certain threshold of updates, everything slows down, including game play.  Given that my install is now over three years old, I am probably due for a “delete and install fresh” the next time I want to play seriously.  Finally, sometimes the installer just gets stuck.

When the patching was done on Thursday, I went to bed.  When I tried to launch again on Friday, it appeared to need to repatch all over again.  And then it hung up and stopped.  I started it over again and it carried on, but got stuck again.  I went off and did something else.

Saturday morning I patched again and it got through this time, but then wouldn’t connect to the game.  I waited a bit and tried again, at which point the patcher got stuck yet again.  But at least it got stuck at something I have faced before.

The image gave me the post title

The image gave me the post title

I knew which files to delete and, after it downloaded them again, the patcher finally finished, the glaring eye of Sauron was finally dismissed, and I was able to get into the game.  There, as expected, I was warned that I needed to choose a class specialization for my captain.

Along with other notices

Along with other notices

On my way at last.  And I was glad to find that the specializations bordered on the obvious when it came to which role was which.  For my captain, there was healing, DPS, and tanking.  And it looked like I could pick two out of the three right away and have access to the third by spending some Mithril Coins.

The Captain's Specs

The Captain’s Specs

Unfortunately, tiny undecipherable icons appeared to remain in force, so that wish fell by the wayside.  And then there was the question as to what to pick.  Basically, I liked my captain he way he was pre-patch, so I had to decide which spec fit that.  For solo play, the red DPS spec was probably the right one, but the yellow tanking spec sounded more like what I was used to.  The captain is the guy with the halberd in my book, and I always equip my captain thus, so I went for that spec.

And then I was sent to the talent tree to spend my points in something that felt like it was right out of World of Warcraft in about 2006.  Here are some points to spend, here are some skills and such, good luck making an informed choice.

Spending Points

Spending Points

Now, I realize that some people love talent trees, and I am not necessarily dead set against them, but when you get options where you cannot really answer questions like, “Do I need this?” “Will that change how I play the class?” or “Does even a full 5% boost make any real difference?” then I start getting pissy.  Yes, theory crafters dig this.  I do not.  And, given the many random specs I have seen in days gone by, theory crafters are in the minority.  I want to play the game, not decipher whether or not a 1% change in something has any meaning, so the potential positives of going this route are a bit lost on me.

More % questions

More % questions

It doesn’t have to be this way.  And it does not have to go the route that World of Warcraft chose either, which is admittedly much simplified. (And where there is still an occasional “right/wrong” choice in some brackets according to theory crafters at places like Elitist Jerks.)  EverQuest II, which has a mind boggling array of options for Alternate Advancement points, has some of the best class specific choices that let you focus on what you want your character to be that can make a distinct difference in how you play your character and what skills and buff you get.  And, most of all, I feel like I am given enough information in a majority of situations to make an informed choices as opposed to having to us Google to find out what the trade-offs really are.

Anyway, I won’t be playing LOTRO much in the near future.  And by the time I get back to playing the game, somebody will have deciphered which choices actually impact your play and which are a waste of points.  Then I will be able to use Google to make an informed choice.

Comments»

1. HarbingerZero - November 25, 2013

This is appropriate. The LotRO patcher makes me want to claw my eyes out. I had so much trouble with it this past summer when my group was playing there, even on weeks and months when there was nothing to patch, it would sometimes rise from the hard drive and find some way to not let me log on.

2. sleepysam - November 25, 2013

I downloaded the client to our Mac just to kick the tires. It took 3 days (nights only). I guess your mileage may vary.

3. Pasduil - November 26, 2013

If you find the icons small on your toolbars, you can make the toolbars bigger. I used to do that because at small sizes so many of them look pretty alike and with not much clear connection to what it is they do.

4. El_Milo - November 26, 2013

Patcher aside (and I agree with your opinion – it’s pretty rubbish), as a champion, I have found that the new specialisation has made the game much more fun and fast paced that it used to be – killing mobs is much faster and there is a lot less downtime – I also have a lot more survivability when I get over eager and pull too many (4+) mobs… It’s definitely made the game more fun (for me – I’ve been playing since pretty much day one, but LOTRO is a “casual” game for me).

A slight point, is that once you’ve chosen your specialisation, it will cost 2 points to pick a skill in the other tree – you’re not really meant to stray outside the chosen spec… I’ve basically picked all the skill in my chosen spec and then moved to the other trees to pick more “flavour” types skills and that seems to work really well!

5. Helistar - November 26, 2013

The patcher ran fine for me. I had it in background for several hours while afk or playing WoT.

But I had the same feeling when logging in. “Why did they copy the WoW talent trees which we already know to have been a failure”?
Considering that many skills were redone, having the faintest idea on where to put the points is vey hard. I ended up using “the DK approach” (= what I did with my DK farm alt), which is to choose the skills with the most impressive names and the biggest numbers.

Anyway as you say in a couple of months we’ll be able to google an optimized tree for a given role and just place the points and forget that talent trees exists altogether…. exactly as it was in WoW.
(in case you wonder, I actually like the new WoW talents… I mean, at least I change them across encounters!)

6. Jonny 5iVe - November 26, 2013

I can see why people don’t like the skill tree’s. People don’t like to make choices for fear of not making the right one, and instead prefer to just be given a solution that will “just work”. That’s fair enough.

However, I really feel WoW over-simplified their character development, and that was what made me finally stop playing… Helistar above explained exactly what I DIDN’T like about it. The fact that you can change your moves on an encounter by encounter basis just devalues any decisions you make, and it also takes away any solid sense of “who your character is”, as it isn’t really any one thing, they’re constantly changing, back-and-forth, normally having it demanded of you by other members of your group.

I can only speak from my own experience, but of the four people I’ve played WoW with over the years, they all used to fiddle with the talent tree calculators to think about builds that might work well for them. It’s not even like it takes a huge amount of time. Just 10 minutes to think about it, do some quick, rough sums, and you can put something together that should work just fine. When cata dropped, one of them stopped playing. Then MoP arrived, and the three of us that remained playing stuck it out for a couple more months, then, eventually, we all departed Azeroth.

Our general consensus was that the game had become too linear. Everyone was effectively the same as each other, and the choice of spending some time outside of the game to theory-craft was stripped away. WoW had evolved into a game that was only enjoyable if you were actually playing it. There was no reason to read/post on the forums about class mechanics, argue over which builds were best and why, because everything was being spoon fed to you.

I’m getting my theory-crafting kicks from PoE at the mo (excellent game [except the trading - but that's a rant for another time]). What I find enticing about it is the fact that once you put a skill into the huge skill web, it’s (for all intents and purposes) permanent. This leads you to feel that you’re actually developing along with your character, and the result of this development is your own unique creation… Something that simply isn’t possible in WoW anymore.

I’m pleased to see LOTRO employing this method. Plenty of other games (most actually) still use some form of skill tree. To be honest, WoW is one of the only games I can think of that doesn’t.

To be totally frank, I’m actually surprised that someone who plays EVE, where there are hundreds of skills, ships, and modules, that all have different combinations of those skills as requirements to fly/fit and use efficiently, is fine with all that complexity (and probably enjoys it)… But when it comes to choosing 14/16 talents in a talent tree, then that appears to be too much choice?

I’m not looking to troll at all, I’m just genuinely curious (as a budding wanna-be-indie developer), how that makes sense? Especially as in LOTRO it’s effectively a non-issue to change your talent tree points. Whereas in EVE you can’t unlearn/untrain skills, at all (which results in bitter vets paying huge sums for high grade clones), and in PoE it is extremely expensive or takes a huge amount of time to change (so much so that it’s probably quicker to just level a new character).

I understand that there’s likely to be a justifiable reason for this, and I would really appreciate knowing what you believe it to be… Is it the style of gameplay that’s offered? The lack of good, fleshed out, descriptive text for the talent tree nodes? Or is it simpler, and just that you’re not really that into LOTRO, and would be happier without the hassle? Or something else entirely?

Thanks. =)

7. Wilhelm Arcturus - November 26, 2013

@Jonny 5iVe – Two things.

First, saying 14/16 talents in a talent tree is “too much choice” is not at all what I said. That is straying into a troll by trying to trivialize the choices, or at least edges close to the fallacy of “I find it easy, so everybody else should.”

I said I do not like making uninformed choices. I particularly dislike the ones I showed as screen shots, where spending a point got me a 1% boost in something like block. Is that a good use of my points? Is block my primary defensive stat, or are parry and mitigation more important? Or is this just in there as a place to spend the points to get me to the next tier in the tree?

I strongly suspect that the latter comes into play at times, since LOTRO went with the “must spend X points in a tier to get to the next one” plan.

That is my complaint. I am out with a group, I make a level, the game starts to nag me about having a point to spend, and the choices need theory crafting and a long term plan in order to make an informed choice.

As an alternative, I gave EQ2 AA points as an example, which is a set of trees where you can spend up to 340 points at this time. A lot of the various trees I am indifferent to, but I love their class specialization tree. I always invest all of my initial AA points in that, as it lets you define how you want to play your character. And the tool tips are long, but informative. I feel like I know enough to balance where I put my points in the drive to get the skill/title at the end of one of the branches. I feel that my character has improved tangibly.

Or, there is Rift, which has a complex talent tree system, often with skills in the same class as what I highlighted in LOTRO. But Trion gave us some pre-built choices that were decent so we didn’t have to hold up a group while we sat there trying to decide where to spend our point. I’m good with that. I would love to see statistics on what % of players use their pre-builts versus rolling their own. That would be insight into the popularity of talent trees.

Second, on EVE, yes, it is in many ways a lot more complex. But you will note that I am in a null sec alliance that has specific fleet doctrines. I mention Baltec Fleet or Dominix Fleet or Drake Fleet all the time. Each ship in the mix has a specific fit. Ship fitting is the big theory crafting aspect of EVE. I am crap at it and avoid it at all costs.

But with fleet doctrines, I am given a fit (and often pre-fit ships on contract to buy) which tells me exactly what skills I need to fly. If I have the skills I can fly the ship and participate in fleet actions and get reimbursed if I lose my ship. And I don’t have to worry about becoming a master of ship fitting, which is good, because I do not enjoy that aspect of the game.

8. Pasduil - November 26, 2013

I see Wilhelm’s POV on this. To make good choices you have to have a lot of knowledge and experience. If you don’t play that character much, or even that game much, you have no idea what to choose.

I’m not sure trees have made that problem any worse though, it was just as baffling with the old trait system. Except one annoying thing about the tree system is that there is no way to make incremental changes. You can’t say “That trait turned out to be a waste of time, let me take it out and slot another one.” You have to reset the whole tree to zero and rebuild it all over again.

9. Wilhelm Arcturus - November 26, 2013

@Pasduil – I will say that, if the goal was to bring it to the player’s attention, it is probably far superior to the old trait system, which I largely ignored. I just fitted whatever standard traits seemed to be most likely to work with my role, but never went pursuing them as they all seemed rather minor in impact… or unclear in impact… on my character. It all seemed rather catch as catch can and was easy enough to ignore because it did not demand my attention. I don’t think I ever complained about it since launch.

The new spec system demands my attention and, thus, gets a harder look.

10. reactions a week into Helms Deep | MMO Gumbo - November 28, 2013

[…] LOTRO’s Helms Deep expansion finally dropped on 11/20 after a brief delay.  The first step in any expansion is patching…and who nellie, did the patcher take it’s time.  I read about a similar experience at The Ancient Gaming Noob. […]

11. Jonny 5iVe - November 28, 2013

@Wilhelm

Thanks for the response!

I honestly didn’t have any intention of coming across as a troll. I think what I was trying to get at with the 14/16 thing, was that if you stick all your talent points into your chosen spec tree, finding out whether block is better or worse than parry or armor is fairly negligible really. If avoiding damage is what you’re looking for, you’ll probably want, and likely end up, getting both.

I’d suspect pretty similar issues exist with gear as well. Having not played LOTRO in a long, long time, I can’t say for sure, but I’d suspect that when looting or shopping you’re faced with exactly the same decisions to make. Do I want a weapon with parry on it? Or is dodge a better stat for your current setup? Maybe even a larger buffer, by way of a health (morale?) increase is more desirable? Again, this can take place during a dungeon run, and you can still sit there uhm-ing and ahr-ing about whether it’s better than what you’ve got at the moment or not.

I totally agree with you about RIFT, and they should definitely have “ready-made” “cookie-cutter” builds available to help give you the idea of what stats are important for a given play style, etc. I’m rather surprised they didn’t implement that as standard tbh.

I think developing an MMO is much like politics though, you’re constantly trying to please everyone, which, of course, as we all know, is impossible.

As a developer for such a large and diverse audience, you’ve got to be incredibly careful not to dumb things down to insane levels, where character development and individuality has all but been removed from the game. Whilst simultaneously not making your playerbase feel massively overwhelmed, with a gigantic, almost insurmountable, learning curve.

Obviously, these two goal posts are placed at different positions for each individual. As I said, I’ve had buddies quit WoW because it became too tame and un-involved. I’ve tried to get the same buddies into EVE, and they found it way too involved and complicated.

I really wasn’t trying to put across the idea that, “I find it easy, so everybody else should”. If anything, I was attempting to say that I believe a lot of people don’t like, or find it difficult to make such choices. Additionally, I was trying to express that I believe that there are those players out there that dislike the (usually) involved structure of RPG character development, and/or find it a bore. Instead, they’d rather just spend their time killing stuff, and not have to worry about any of the stat/talent stuff at all. I evidently failed to express these beliefs in my previous comment. For that I apologise.

In all honesty I’m a little confused about which aspects of an MMORPG interest you in particular. I’m in ~no~ way saying that, “you’re playing the wrong game/genre”, or whatever. Again, I’m just really curious about other peoples motivations for playing particular games/genres.

For me, it’s always been about character development, especially in the MMO variety of RPG. Having a nice combat system, dynamic world, involving story, etc., are always nice additions, but it’s always been the drive forward that’s kept me in the genre for 20 years. Sculpting your virtual self into a unique and powerful individual has always been a very rewarding process for me.

But again, not all people are born equal, and we all want different things.

12. Wilhelm Arcturus - November 28, 2013

@Jonny 5iVe – I just hope you did not read too much into my first paragraph. That was more of a “this is where these discussions often fall down” sort of statement, not trying to pick a fight or anything. You said you were not trolling and I believed you.

Playing with friends, playing with others, playing in a larger world of shared experiences is probably at the top of my list. I like EVE and the vast battles of null sec because it is so many people coming together and I end up running into people I know now and again. I blew up another blogger, Stabs, at the big battle at 6-VDT back during the summer. And while I was playing WoW some before our group got back into it, since they returned I have been on a WoW binge.

I am also a tourist. I like to consume the content and see the world. And despite liking achievements, I am something of the explorer as well. I like to find those places off the achievement trail. And, sometimes I will even absorb some of the lore. Our final WotLK run was meaningful to me in part because I did get tied up in the story of the expansion.

And, finally, I like character progression, but there is so much to that, that I tend to let things that don’t influence my character all that much fall by the wayside at times. A talent tree where I cannot tell what it is really doing for me doesn’t spark my attention. One that does… and I mentioned that class tab in EQ2, which really defines your character… I can spend time with that. Again, I can figure it out from the tree and the choices have real and immediate impact on my character.

But MMOs are huge beasts and they do, at times, try to have something for everybody. Those are my bits.


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