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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.