Category Archives: Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO Announces the Before the Shadows Mini-Expansion

The lesson from EverQuest and EverQuest II is that having some new content to sell every year is a money making deal.  Even now EQII is warming up for its annual fall cycle of events leading to this years expansion.  I’ll get to all of that later for both titles.

Since Turbine sold off Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online to Daybreak under the guise of the Standing Stone Games deal, both titles have been trying to get on the regular expansion content train.

And so we have the Before the Shadows mini-expansion coming this fall.

Before the Shadow and after the summer

And which shadow exactly are we speaking off… or where is it in any case?  Well, the blurb for the expansion says:

Reveal the mysteries of the One Ring as you venture through the reedy fens of Swanfleet and the moors of Cardolan.  Journey alongside Boromir to Rivendell, and run afoul of the Witch-King and Nazul in their pursuit of “Baggins” and the peaceful land of the “Shire” as shadow begins to pour forth from the land of Mordor.

So it sounds like we’re getting a bit of a prequel adventure, which is to be expected I suppose.  There is only so far you can go once you’ve thrown down the dark tower… though I don’t think we’ve scourged the Shire yet.  But they’ve added some areas to the Shire, so maybe we’ll get to that at some point.

The actual meat of the expansion is fairly thin:

  • New Regions & New Early Leveling Experience
  • New Skirmish and 6-player Instance
  • New Delving System
  • New Themed Missions Wrapper
  • Go Further with Expedition Supplies
  • Upgrade Your Experience with the Ultimate Fan Bundle
  • 10% VIP Discount

However, the base price for the content alone is just $20, which is a bargain these days.  We’ve finally hit the point where the base price for a big studio title is going to be $70, and that is before you get to the deluxe edition and the season pass and the cash shop.

Of course, if you WANT to spend more on Before the Shadow, if you have money to burn and a desire to support your favorite MMORPG set in Middle-earth, you can throw as much as $100 at your screen with the “recommended” ultimate fan bundle.

Before the Shadow pricing options

That, of course, is another thing Daybreak has been good at.  But I cannot begrudge them their pricing scheme.  Some players want all the possible goodies and if it keeps the game alive and the studio afloat… and it isn’t mandatory or game breaking… then good for them I suppose.

Anyway, you can find more details over at the LOTRO expansion page, which is a reminder that unlike EverQuest, they don’t just roll up that last expansion into the current one’s content.  They still have older stuff for sale.  It doesn’t go all the way back to Mines of Moria.  I think that is all free now.  But If you want to get into Mordor, there is still an expansion for that and a few more after.

Addendum: Also, there is a coupon pack that will get you additional content. It expires Oct. 31, 2022.

Friday Bullet Points about Enad Global 7 and Q2 2022

Nobody said I couldn’t do a Friday bullet points post about just one topic, so here I am.  Future me will no doubt like this post.  And the topic of the day is going to be Enad Global 7, their Q2 2022 financials, and a few related tidibits.

Enad Global 7

There are a few sources of information about their earnings and I will list out all the links at the bottom of the post for those looking for more.

  • Hey We Made More Money

Enad Global 7 reported some serious year over year returns, though that number is helped along by the fact that Q2 2021 wasn’t lighting anybody on fire.  Still, the numbers look good and have been on the rise since that low point.

EG7 – Q2 2022 Net Revenue

Games seem to be taking on a bigger role in the revenue mix, which was about split with services a year ago.  Also, it is about 10 SEK to the USD right now, so you can just divide by ten to get the approximate value in dollars.  I guess that works for Euros now that there is parity between the Euro and the dollar.  For GB Pounds, though, you’re on your own there.

When we look at the game revenue it looks like Daybreak rules the roost, bringing in 75% of that particular pie.

EG7 – Q2 2022 Game Revenue Segments

  • LOTRO hits a Recent High

The EG7 future game plan still rides a lot on Lord of the Rings Online, referencing Amazon’s Middle-earth saga and the coming revamp in the middle term plans.

EG7 – Q2 2022 Looking Forward

They also mentioned that the 15th anniversary of the game raised number of players logging into the game to its highest level since 2016.  It is hard for me to judge exactly what that means.  Sure, more is always better, but was 2016 a benchmark year?  A high water mark of some sort?  Or just a point on the graph downward from the initial free to play conversion numbers?

Left unmentioned was whether the recent acquisition of the Tolkien IP rights by the Embracer Group would have any impact on the future plans for the game.

  • Norrath Expansions

Not that I doubted there would be expansions for EverQuest and EverQuest II.  They are there in the game roadmaps for the year.  But it is nice to get that in writing from the company.  Daybreak… I mean EG7… has changed their minds on things suddenly in the past.

In addition, in the Q&A transcript, the following was said about the expansions:

And the upcoming annual expansion packs for EverQuest and EverQuest II, large updates that perform well every year.

They perform well every year, eh?  That financial insight we got from EG7 before the acquisition, that was cut off in 2020 before the expansions for either title shipped.  I wonder how much that would have boosted their numbers.

  • Done with Acquisitions for Now

The word “organic” comes up a lot in their presentation and the investors call.  Organic growth refers to growing the revenue for their current titles and services, as opposed to driving it up by acquiring other companies.

During the investor call they didn’t say that more acquisitions were out of the question, but they did declare it was a very different market than it was over the last couple of years, so it sounds like they’re not going to be pursing other companies the way they did in 2020 and 2021.

Instead, they will be focused on growing the current titles… and becoming some sort of consulting business or something.

  • Reverse Merger Complete

Finally, one of the big announcements on the agenda was the ascension of Jason Epstein, the second largest shareholder in the company, the the position of chairman of the board, where he will take a more active roll in the overall running of the company.  Meanwhile, Ji Ham continues to hone his dramatic talents as Acting CEO of Enad Global 7.

I speculated last month that Daybreak was in the process of completing a reverse merger, that the company that was acquired was going to end up owning the company that did the buying.

This is what the end game of such a move looks like, with the players in the former taking over key positions in the latter.

All I can says is, “Epstein, you magnificent bastard!”  I did not, however, read his book.

Related:

Friday Bullet Points about Lord of the Rings Online

Here we are at  Friday and once more it is bullet points on my mind.  But I am going to do future me a favor this time and keep it all focused on a single title.  This time around it is some tidbits about Lord of the Rings Online, ostensibly, according to my post on Monday, one of the five titles that I post about most around here.

  • Remastering Efforts

It has been more than a year and a half since Enad Global 7 acquired Daybreak, which included Standing Stone, and the announcement that the company was looking into doing a console version of Lord of the Rings Online.

That idea seemed like a huge lift back then… and it still does today.  I decided at one point that they would really have to build a new version from the ground up for consoles, and made that one of my predictions for 2022.

But we got word this past week that SSG is working on something of a remaster of the game’s graphics and user interface.  And I applaud that.  The fifteen year old game very much feels its age.  The UI was clunky and icons indistinct back when it launched, and in the age of wide screen monitors, it really looks bad when you try to scale up individual UI components.

The problem here is that it sounds like a superficial make over that will fall far short of what it would need to get the game onto consoles.  But maybe they have other plans for that as they are in a period of staffing up to tackle the challenges of a fifteen year old game that has suffered from no small amount of neglect.

Related:

I hope this ends up with an improved experience.

  • Anor Transfers as the First Legendary Server Shuts Down

The LOTRO Legendary server Anor is reaching the end of its time and will be sailing west at the end of the month.  Launched back in late 2018, it was SSG’s first try at a fresh start, nostalgia focused special server.  Readers of the blog may recall that I dove right in and played through the initial content and into Moria before the experience fell by the wayside.

Oversell much?

While I didn’t keep up with it after Moria, I found the initial content experience quite fun and will probably give it a try again some day… once they get that remaster thing above in gear because I have a wide screen monitor now and the UI looks like garbage on it… distractingly so.

But that is another tale.  For now, Anor is going away and if you want to keep your characters from that server you will be able to transfer them off between now and the end of the year.

A FAQ has been posted, which opens with:

The Legendary World of Anor will be closing to public log-in on August 31st, 2022, with the world formally becoming unavailable for log in after our regular weekly restart on the 31st. Through the end of the year free character and shared item transfers will remain available from Anor to any other non-Legendary game world. After December 31st, 2022, the Anor game world will be closed permanently, and any remaining characters will not be able to be transferred or accessed.

I do wonder at SSG’s in ability to do a server merge, the way that EverQuest does when its special servers reach the end of their lives and everybody ends up on the Vox server.  No doubt another example of the clunky nature of LOTRO‘s development.

I have one character I want to save from Anor, I just have to figure out where I ought to put him.

  • Echoes of a Cease and Desist

Also in the news over the last month or so was the private/pirate LOTRO server Echoes of Angmar, which was attempting to piece together the game as it existed in its early days. (Web site archived here in case it goes missing soon.)

A distant echo of a lost time

Having played the game from beta and through its launch, I am not sure I see the appeal.  Maybe my glasses are lacking in sufficient rose tinting, or maybe I like my nostalgia in a light form with some things, like that map of the Old Forest, available to hand.

But who am I to judge?  I have often said that there is no feature so bad that it isn’t somebody’s favorite thing in a game.

Because it was in the news it attracted the attention of Middle-earth Enterprises, which looks after the works of the late Dr. Tolkien and the related copyrights and licensing agreements.  They sent out a cease and desist letter to the team:

Dear Echoes of Angmar team,

We have noted the Echoes of Angmar game that you have posted and we appreciate and share your enthusiasm for the Tolkien works, and specifically for the developers and creators of the epic MMO, The Lord of the Rings Online. Judging from your website and Discord, you are individuals who possess a boundless enthusiasm for LOTRO, J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings. We’re here to acknowledge your enthusiasm, and thank you for your fandom. Unfortunately, we, as trademark holders and stewards of the Tolkien works, more often than we’d like, must deliver some potentially difficult news. As your business is using the Tolkien works and trademarks in an unauthorized manner without benefit of a license, we must ask you to cease.

As stewards of the Tolkien works, we take our role very seriously in order to protect the works for all time, on behalf of fans everywhere. As owners of the intellectual property rights, we are charged with protecting those rights both morally and legally. Unfortunately, Echoes of Angmar uses specific content from the books and from our Licensee for The Lord of the Rings Online without the benefit of a license. Honestly, it breaks our hearts to post letters like this one. It is not uncommon for fans to create things reflecting an affection for the Tolkien works. It is thus with a heavy heart that we must ask that you immediately cease all of your unauthorized use of Echoes of Angmar, and all other Tolkien-related IP on all platforms, including Discord, Youtube and on https://www.echoesofangmar.com/.

We welcome the opportunity to answer any questions you may have on the subject, and wish you all the best in your future duly authorized endeavors.

Kind regards,

Middle-earth Enterprises

I have seen a number of comments about the gentle and even conciliatory tone of this letter, relative to what one sees coming from the likes of Nintendo or Square Enix or Blizzard or Disney when somebody is running loose with their copyrighted material.

And it is true, this is a kinder and gentler approach.  And perhaps that will mollify some fans, as no doubt the company has to issue this sort of thing on a reasonably regular basis.  But the results are the same in the end.  Their heart may be heavy, but not heavy enough to balance out the weight of the pocketbook that keeps them all paid.

So it goes.

Related:

Friday Bullet Points about Daybreak, Plans, and Producer’s Letters

Another Friday in July and time for another bullet points post.  I am going to have to go back and check, but July seems to be the most popular month for bullet point posts here.  My guess is based on my having done the “one year ago” section for the month in review post and seeing that I did four of them last July and the fact that this is my fourth one this month.

At least I have been trying to go easy on future me who will have to write that month in review post in a year by keeping them mostly on related topics in a single post.  And this week it is Daybreak.

  • EverQuest Producer’s Letter

There was a producer’s letter for EverQuest and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the team is still sticking to the roadmap format they introduced at the start of the year.

Classic EverQuest

I fully expect companies to do something like that then forget about it in two months and never reference it again.  But here they not only have it front and center, they took the time to put links in the line items so you could go read about the output of a given item.

There honestly wasn’t much in the current producer’s letter that was of interest to me.  Another special rules server is being retired and merged into the Vox server, the designated home for retro refugees.

But coming up in September we’re supposed to get an update to heroic characters… the insta-level option in EverQuest and EverQuest II… so that they will no longer start off at level 85, where they have been for almost a decade at this point.  The update will raise them to start at level 100… which isn’t exactly stellar when the level cap is already 120, but it is something I guess.

Also, there are some hints about the upcoming expansions… which to me mostly confirms that we will be getting the usual annual expansion.  This year will be the 29th in the series.  How many is too many?  I guess we don’t know yet.

  • EverQuest II Producer’s Letter

As with its older sibling, EverQuest II got its own producer’s letter which also stuck to the roadmap from back in January.  There the update was focused on game update 120, called Myths and Monoliths, which is their big mid-year content drop for the current expansion.

The aging second entry, no longer so young compared to the original

There were also some hints about the next expansion, number 19, which we can expect to see by the end of the year if they are sticking to the usual plan… and I don’t see anything to suggest that they are not.

  • LOTRO and Support’s Packs

Lord of the Rings Online also had a producer’s letter, which drew attention to the update 33.1.1 and the adventures of the sons of Elrond, Elladan & Elrohir.

However, their 15th anniversary plans do not include and expansion.  They haven’t been on a solid annual schedule over the life of the game, so I suppose that isn’t a huge surprise.  But they would still like some money from you, so they have introduced Supporter Packs, where you can spend some money on unique cosmetic items along with some LOTRO points.

The packs are $35, $60, and $100, so it is like buying an expansion, just without the content.

I am not the best person to judge the community reaction, but I got the impression “underwhelmed” might be in the ballpark.

Supporter packs, the departure of some staff, and the emergence of a pirate retro server raised the question What is going on? over at Contains Moderate Peril.

  • DDO and Perma-death Again

Dungeons & Dragons Online… I don’t know if they do expansions or producer’s letters frankly.  I haven’t tried to play it in over a decade.  Put I do see news and headlines about it now and then, and it does come under the Daybreak banner, so I might as well add in something about it.

The latest update is the return of the Hardcore League for its sixth season.  This is a perma-death server experience where players compete to complete as much content as possible while staying alive.  Unlike special servers for other Daybreak classic titles, you do not need to be a VIP subscriber in order to join in on the experience.

As an added bonus, season six has some special dangers waiting for players who might have otherwise mastered the routine in the last five runs.

  • PlanetSide 2 goes Under Water

Now I am really out of my depth as what I know about PlanetSide 2 could be written into the margins of a standard trade paperback book without distracting the reader for more than half a page.

But I can read well enough myself to see that they made a big splash with the Surf and Storm update earlier this month which introduced the island continent of Oshur and features under water game play.

Sturm und Drand

Underwater content tends to be one of the few things to disorient me and give me a bit of motion sickness in 3D MMOs, so I am not all that excited about this, but it does indicate that they are carrying on trying new things with the title.  And hey, it might even be stable by the time this post goes live.

  • H1Z1 Has Absolutely Nothing New

I looked to see what was up with DC Universe Online and H1Z1 to see what they had to report and… well, DCUO is an even bigger mystery to me than PlanetSide 2, but I could at least go to the game’s site and see that there were recent news items and updates.

H1Z1 however… the most recent news item on the game’s web site is from October of 2020.

Remember when this was a thing?

So it goes, another bullet point post comes to an end.

Enad Global 7 Cancels Its Daybreak Marvel MMO Project

Say farewell to any dreams about a Marvel Universe Online landing with Enad Global 7, as they announced in a press release that they were giving up on the project and writing of the money invested in it so far.

Enad Global 7

The press release was short and to the point and surprisingly not released at 4pm on Friday afternoon.  But they had an earnings announcement to do, and you have to get the bad news out with that.  The actual text for posterity:

EG7 plans to reinvest Marvel development resources across multiple long-term projects

EG7 today announced it will be discontinuing the development of the Marvel project at Daybreak Games. Based on the re-evaluation of the development risk profile, size of investment, and the long-term product portfolio strategy for the group, the board has decided to change the development priorities and reallocate resources within the group to focus on alternative long-term projects. The company had planned to invest more than SEK 500 million in the Marvel project over the next three years. The company will now diversify this investment across multiple, smaller size projects within the group, including the previously announced major upgrades to The Lord of the Rings Online and DC Universe Online, and new game opportunities with our first party, original IPs. Along with this reallocation, the company expects a write down of approximately SEK 230 million in project related assets in Q2 2022. As one of the long-term investments, the change to the Marvel project plan will not impact near to medium term revenues and profits other than the balance sheet and P&L impact related to the write-down.

You will note the not very subtle spin about investing in other projects… projects they already said they were investing in previously.  Does that mean they are investing more in things like LOTRO and DCUO?  I don’t know.  Maybe?

The assumed reason for the cancellation of the project is the departure of Dimensional Ink studio head Jack Emmert, whose history with super hero MMOs is the stuff of legend.

EG7 even called him out

His leaving, along with whoever he took with him to go work at NetEase, was apparently enough to scuttle the project.  That is always a hazard if a project depends on specific individuals.

This is pretty much a calamity for Daybreak as it continues their lifetime streak of bringing no new projects to launch since the SOE era.  Seriously, H1Z1, EverQuest Next, and Landmark were all under way before Daybreak, so the sum total of Daybreak initiatives looks like the spectacular failure of PlanetSide Arena.

Not only that, but the Marvel project might have been the most widely covered thing that Daybreak has ever announced.  My Google alerts about the company were lit up for days following the tease that they were making a Marvel IP based MMO.

Of course, what I was already calling Marvel Universe Online should have been a slam dunk.  DC Universe Online is already the most popular title in their stable and generates the most gross revenue. (EverQuest, so very cheap to maintain, and such a pillar of the genre, matches it for net profits though.)  Daybreak would have had to go really, really wrong to mess this up.

And yet, here we are.

Then there was the Q1 2022 quarterly report, where they noted income was up year over year, largely through acquisitions, the stock price was down, Daybreak is still the largest single contributor towards revenue, Ji Ham is still acting CEO, and that Innova, a Russian company, is no longer an issue, double pinkie swear.

There wasn’t a lot of new in there, so I won’t spend a lot of time on it, save for this slide.

EQ7 Q1 2022 – Looking Forward

You can see they are still betting on a boost from Amazon’s second age Middle-earth show and that they still want to invest in the things they have said they wanted to invest in previously.  At least H1Z1 isn’t being promoted quite so vigorously… and I say that only because they appear to have no plan for it, so they shouldn’t be promoting it.

So it goes.  The high hopes of 18 months ago seem to have fallen, sapped by the reality of Daybreak at the gaming industry in general.

Related:

Josh Strife Hayes Plays Lord of the Rings Online

Josh Strife Hayes first came to my attention for his videos about New World, which was then going through the many problems… and poorly considered fixes… that seemed to plague its opening wave of popularity.  In particular, his What Went Wrong? video, which chronicled the timeline of the game and the problems and responses was a real eye opener.

It was enough to get me to click “subscribe” and keep an eye on his other videos.

Among his videos is a long running series called Worst MMO Ever, where he attempts to play a wide range of titles allegedly in search of the titular worst of the genre.  I have watched a few of the entries in that series, and they are generally pretty fair and charitable, as opposed to being a quest to tear down every title he plays.

Still, I was a bit nervous when I saw Lord of the Rings Online come up as the focus of a recent video in the series.  Something to spoil the 15th anniversary?

The fifteen year celebration

This was because my own relationship with the game is somewhat mixed.  There is a lot in LOTRO to like and even love.  There is a reason I still care about the game despite having spent 99% of my play time in the base game and Moria, and I feel keenly the failings of the game despite my investment… or because of it, take your pick.

So it was with a bit of trepidation that I went into watching the video.

Here’s the thing… I really liked it.

He has a very upbeat approach to titles and he took a lot of time to recognize, up front, how much charm the game has and how good some of its early player experiences are and how the story isn’t strictly in the mold of the genre.  There were aspects of the early game he mentioned that I had forgotten about.

I mean, sure, it does dig into some of the issues… things like the responsiveness of the UI… but people have been harping on that since 2007.

And I felt for him and how lost he was when he used the free level boost he got.  It is definitely not something for new players without high level friends around to help guide them.  My one level boost, back when it sent you into Rohan, was pretty much a disaster, a character dead ended and never to be played again.

But it was still a good look at the early game and a lot of the pluses that it has going for it overall.  It made me want to go back and roll up a new character and enjoy the early game.

In the end, clearly not the worst MMO ever.

April in Review

The Site

It has been a busy month.  I was away for 8 days and have been dealing with elderly parent issues even when I have been home.  Then I started a new job mid-month, which is always a huge change and brings its own fresh dose anxiety.

And yet, somehow I found time to write 33 blog posts this April.  Is my hobby really video games, or is it blogging?  Also I managed to keep up the daily post streak, which I said I was going to probably let go of at the 500, 600, 700, and two full years marks.  And yet here we are at day 761.  Go me.

As for the blog itself, it continues to chug along under the weight of my words.  Traffic has been down since the big Google Page Experience change back in February, when the altered their algorithm to favor sites that met their “good experience” criteria.  That led to a noticeable drop in traffic from Google.  Before that Google was sending me 300+ referrals a day, since then their referrals have broken the 200 mark only once.

You get used to the new normal pretty quickly though, and it can be interesting to see what still grabs Google’s attention and what does not.  For example, I apparently jumped on the Antiwordle bandwagon just in time.

Google Search Console Says

Also, if you get the blog updates via email you may have noticed a change.  WP.com started sending them out formatted for mobile devices.  But not for everybody  I get the daily update sent to two different email addresses just to keep an eye on it.  The more recent of the two gets the new format, while the older one… does not.

The older one dates back to the start of the blog and seems problematic overall.  For years it used to get an update of posts from the previous day at about 5am local time very reliably.  Now the update comes at all hours, or not at all some days.  It will go a week with nothing and then an email will arrive a 2pm with a week’s worth of posts in a single email.

The new one isn’t free from issues.  It seems sporadic on the delivery time and it misses a day now and then, and there is never a make up email.  So something isn’t perfect in the email delivery.

One Year Ago

April Fools was a quiet affair at Blizzard.

I put up a poll asking what part of the month in review posts people liked the most, and this section topped the results.  So I guess I’ll keep it up.

We got the word that Nielsen was shutting down SuperData Research, which it had acquired a couple of years earlier.  There would be no more monthly revenue charts to argue about.

Raph Koster was talking some more about his latest project, giving us an unreadable chart to illustrate a point about player economies.  He was also talking about cloud computing, which got me to write about the pros and cons of the thin client idea.  Raph came even came by and left a comment on that post.

The instance group was still hot on Valheim.  I was out scouting for base locations out in the plains biome.  Once we slew Moder, we started working on an island base on the coast of a plains area.  We were becoming good at dealing with deathsquitoes.

The plains has its own residents to take on. Meanwhile, we kept expanding our base, setting up a farm in it.  I was also out exploring even more.  I also got to battle Yagluth, the final plains boss, on another server.

Runes of Magic had their “biggest server ever” setup for the 12th anniversary of the game.

I was wondering if Lord of the Rings Online was in maintenance mode.  But EG7 has renewed their commitment to it since.  Over on the EverQuest front, the Mischief random loot server was coming online.

I also logged in and played a bit of WoW Classic.

In EVE Online World War Bee was still carrying on after 10 months.  However, CCP chose to introduce industry changes that made capital ships so expensive to produce that nobody was willing to go “all in” on another M2-XFE type battle.  PAPI would not commit its supers and titans to anything  besides structure grinds under a cyno jammer until the retreat from Delve a few months down the line.  The EVE Online posts from April 2021:

On the media front I wrote about Godzilla vs Kong and watching The Walking Dead.  I also wrote about out PS3, which turned 10 and had been used mostly for playing BluRay disks and streaming.

I was on about how throwing money at bogus MMO Kickstarter campaigns was no way to fight “big dev.”

And, finally, in a Friday bullet point post I mentioned the Diablo II Resurrected Alpha, EG7 completing its purchase of MMO publish Innova (which, a year later, they found themselves divesting themselves from), more about Runes of Magic, and CCP talking about the FPS shooter they said they weren’t talking about.

Five Years Ago

There was, of course, April Fools, but Blizzard didn’t seem up to its usual level of effort.

Blizzard did make the original StarCraft free to play, no April Fools there.

I was wondering if the plan to make mobs scale with your ilevel was going to make going back to World of Warcraft a chore.  It seemed like a bad idea, but in the end it didn’t seem to matter much.

I was going on about the 3K Blissey problem in Pokemon Go.

Meanwhile I was finishing up Pokemon Sun and still felt like playing Pokemon, so went back to Pokemon Alpha Sapphire.

There was the Lord of the Rings Online ten year launch anniversary.   We would finally get to Mordor later that year.

Daybreak announced the Agnarr server for EverQuest, a retro server designed to stay retro as it would not progress beyond the Lost Dungeons of Norrath expansion.

In EVE Online Reavers were out camping Circle of Two in Impass, shooting their ratters and such.  Asher later told us that this was to have us in place as they had a CO2 director ready defect.  This was before The Judge did his thing.  However that did not come to pass.

I was going on about corpses in New Eden, which have their own special place in the game.  I was also on about force auxiliaries and titan losses.

In Iceland EVE Fanfest was under way.  They had a presentation that gave some interesting data about what happened in New Eden over the last year.  CCP also announced the winners of the CSM12 election and when/where EVE Vegas would take place.  And there was a talk on the plan to convert Null Sec stations into citadels.  We’re still waiting on that last bit.

I also started looking at the New Eden Monthly Economic Report as a regular monthly item, something set off by how much ratting and mining was being done in null sec.

I sharpened up my scanning skills, all the better to hunt MTUs.  Also, according to CCP I lost 5 billion ISK in space wealth since the month before.

In Minecraft I finished up the long road to the northern forest mansion; it took an hour to ride it on a fast horse.

And then there was the crazy story of the Nintendo NES Classic, which they stopped producing even though it remained sold out everywhere.

Ten Years Ago

April 2012 set a daily page view record.  What is it about April?  I know you are going to say “April Fools,” but the record was actually set because of the Burn Jita event.

Yeah, the Burn Jita event.  It made for my most popular YouTube video ever.  And it lead right into Hulkageddon V and its OTEC connection.

Elsewhere in EVE Online, the LEGO Rifter got 10K votes, the War in the North seemed to be winding down with RAZOR back in Tenal and six fleets stalking Venal. Raiden managed to lose a bunch of sovereignty, by accident, which finished that up.  All that was left was to say we didn’t want that region anyways.  We also made conga lines, experience time dilation, and followed DBRB through high sec to kill some super caps.  And Seleene became the chairman of the Galactic Student Council.

I was also syndicated occasionally on EVE News 24.  I don’t think I got paid for all of that.

I made a list of small features I wanted other MMOs to copy.

Lord of the Rings Online hit the five year mark.

Potshot and I were wandering around EverQuest again, looking for lost dungeons.  We were not buying any $25 bags though.

In Rift, the instance group was driven out of King’s Breach.  But Trion added in fishing, so we could do that instead.

And it was April Fools at Blizzard.

Fifteen Years Ago

Back in April 2007 we were wondering what was going to happen with Sigil Games Online after their less than stellar Vanguard launch. (*snort*) I threw out a few paths that the game might follow going forward, one of which proved to be correct.  Soon we would be free from the rambling posts of Aradune.  There was a failure of vision to be corrected.  But I bought a copy all the same.  It was marked down.

Meanwhile, Microsoft Windows Vista, which launched the same day as Vanguard, was facing failures of its own, with Dell having to reintroduce Windows XP as an option for customers.  I know my own company was buying XP systems until Windows 7 came out… and became the new Windows XP.

In EverQuest II Gaff and I visited Emperor Fyst, I ran around in Nektropos Castle with the Everling clan, and complained about experience in Splitpaw.

While our WoW group was winding down for the summer, with Earl off to Broadway, the remaining four of us went off to Middle-earth with the launch of Lord of the Rings Online.  We had been playing in the beta, but eventually it came time to buy the game and sort out the founder’s options.  I had my first impressionsTitles were a thing!

I answered the musical meme question, “Five Reasons Why I Blog.”  Remember when those were “memes?”  Also, that seems awfully early in my career to be answering that sort of question.

I was also on about the pros and cons of player wipes, the requirement that one be able to solo in MMORPGs, and the problem of translating mechanics between games.

Van Hemlock was leet.

Nintendo launched Pokemon Diamond & Pearl in North America at last.  The EU would have to wait until July to get their copies.

Our Wii finally came out of the box.

And, finally, I had a problem with a video card that eventually had to be RMA’d, which sounds a lot like this April. I hope this won’t turn into a yearly thing.

Sixty Years Ago

One of the earliest computer video games, Spacewar! came into being, being initially playable on a DEC PDP-1 minicomputer at MIT.  This would evolve and move onto other platforms over the years, including an arcade version that I used to play in middle school in the late 70s.

As I wrote back in 2014, you can play the original Spacewar! in emulation over at the Internet Archive.  You can also play the Valve reproduction of the arcade game on Steam, if you know how to install it.

Most Viewed Posts in April

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  3. CCP Raising the EVE Online Subscription Price to $20 a Month Starting May 17th
  4. The Trainwreck of 21st Century Lord British
  5. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  6. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  7. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  8. April Fools at Blizzard 2022 in the Shadow of Many Things
  9. The One with the Lawyer from BASF
  10. Wordle and Things Like Wordle
  11. What Makes Housing Worthwhile in an MMO?
  12. The Coming of Wrath of the Lich King Classic

Search Terms of the Month

Another all Russian edition.  I guess the war hasn’t stopped search terms.

дайсон сфер программ
[I think they have those in Stellaris ]

моды на бамбук
[Things pandas like]

ферма призмарина
[Aaron made one of those in Minecraft for us]

космические корабли ив онлайн моделька
[Not really sure on that one]

фон майнкрафт особняк
[I have a few screenshots here that might serve]

Game Time from ManicTime

Well, you can see where I spent most of my game play time this month.  Granted, as I said above, I was away and busy for quite a bit of the month, so the sum total of hours is the lowest of any month so far this year… half of what it was in January… but it is still a non-trivial amount of time spent messing around.

  • Valheim – 91.76%
  • EVE Online – 6.41%
  • LOTRO – 1.15%
  • Lost Ark – 0.69%

I was actually a bit surprised to see that I had logged into Lost Ark in April.  It feels like a long time since I last touched it.

EVE Online

It has been a bit of a month for CCP.  I have more posts talking about the game than about actually playing the game.  But, then, I haven’t been playing too much of the game, so maybe it isn’t all on CCP.

The deployment to the southeast of null sec carried on.  There are fights now and then, but I wouldn’t call it a war.  I managed to go on a few ops, got on my kill mail for the month, and basically did the minimum participation thing due to being busy.

The campaign does not sit still because I am busy though, and the staging stations keep moving forward, so I am behind one staging system and have ships strewn across three old ones.  My hope is that I’ll be able to get two expensive ships back home some day and then YOLO or asset safety the rest.

Lord of the Rings Online

Hey, it turned 15 this month.  Imagine that.  I did log in for a bit, though I probably spent more time patching up, and collected my anniversary gifts on what was probably the wrong server in hindsight.  Whatever, my bags were nearly too full to collect the gifts in any case, laden with gifts from previous years as they were.  There were some nice and generous items for 15 year veterans.  Maybe some day I will use them.

Lost Ark

Well, that ended quickly.  The sure fire sign that I wasn’t really all that into a game is that I simply stop even thinking about logging in.  And it isn’t like Lost Ark is out of sight.  It is there on my favorites list in Steam and I am in there every day to play Valheim.  I just don’t click on Lost Ark anymore.

Valheim

Back to ValheimAs Potshot noted, its worldliness is a draw for our group.  So we’re back with a fresh start, and doing a slow roll forward, not in any hurry to get to the next boss or whatever.  Ideally we’ll get the update for the Mistlands before we’ve tapped out again.  We got another tease about that biome, but it is still in the distant future.

Pokemon Go

Some Pokemon was played, though not so much as past months.  The mega evolutions might be a bigger deal going forward as Niantic has finally figured out that an expensive, temporary evolve isn’t all that viable for any but the most dedicated players.  That sure isn’t me.

Level: 42 ( 43.5% of the way to 43 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 706 (+9) caught, 730 (+9) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 15 of 21
Pokemon I want: I need a Torkoal for my Hoenn Pokedex
Current buddy: Lycanroc

Zwift

I fell off the bike this month, though at least it wasn’t literally.  I was away and then the new job meant trying to craft a new daily routine where I still need to find a spot for exercise.  I did manage to peddle a little bit on the weekends, but I am definitely off my stride for the moment.

  • Level – 14 (+0)
  • Distanced cycled – 937.9 miles (+37.7 miles)
  • Time – 2d 1h 37m  (+2h 12m)
  • Elevation climbed – 39,216 (+5,316 feet)
  • Calories burned – 31,059 (+983)

Coming Up

As I understand it, on Tuesday Blizzard is supposed to officially announce its long hinted at Warcraft mobile game.   Will it get a PC version as well to stop people from playing it in phone emulation mode on their PCs the way Diablo: Immortal did?  I guess we’ll find out.

Then, by this time next Saturday we’ll know all the things that CCP has planned to announce at EVE Fanfest.

Otherwise a lot of things will just carry on as before.  I suspect that Valheim will continue to dominate what play time I have when it comes to May.

Lord of the Rings Online Fifteen Years Down the Road

It is ever so with the things that Men begin: there is a frost in Spring, or a blight in Summer, and they fail of their promise.

-Gimli, Return of the King

It has been fifteen years since the journey to Mordor began in Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online, and it has been a journey of both highs and lows.

The fifteen year celebration

I want to say, up front, that the game is a charming and very special look into the world of Tolkien’s works and unlike any adaptation we have ever been able to experience or will likely see again in my lifetime.  Turbine brought Middle-earth to life in an open world environment that you could spend a lot of time simply exploring.  It is a wonder and has given me much joy.

I will add that as somebody who opted for the lifetime subscription launch back in April of 2007, I have gotten way more than my money’s worth out of that investment, even including the fact that I own every expansion as well.  It was the gaming deal of the century for me and nothing else comes close in value received for that price.

And the game also occupies a special place on the blog, being one of the first games to ship after I started writing here back in September of 2006.  I was writing about it along with Vanguard: Saga of Heroes and pre-Cryptic version of Star Trek Online back in the day, and at least one of those panned out for me I guess.  I had a post about the potential, and potential problems, of the game back in that first month of the blog.

I was posting about beta and the launch and the instance group, which took a couple of runs at Middle-earth when WoW wasn’t popping for us.  I have been back a number of times, the last time being for the LOTRO Legendary server experience, a fresh start/special rules server meant to let people work through the content again in a mass.

All fine stuff… but I didn’t choose that quote at the top because everything has been rainbows and lollipops with LOTRO.  The history of the game has been marred by hubris, bad decisions, poor design, half measures, and a game engine that was awkward, unresponsive, and looked like it was a few years behind the curve on launch day.

I guess the hubris I can understand.  Given the popularity of the source material, the proximity to the theatrical releases of the first three Peter Jackson movies,which finished up just a few years before the game launched and introduced many new people to Middle-earth, and the MMORPG market being at about its peak, LOTRO should have been ten times more successful than it was.

Where else were you going to be able to literally walk around in Middle-earth?

Yahoo Headline 2007

I realize you can’t have everything you want when you launch a new product, and especially a product as complex as an MMORPG.  You got to Middle-earth with the engine you have, not the engine you want.  And you could see how Turbine’s engine had improved from Asheron’s Call to Asheron’s Call 2 to Dungeons & Dragons Online to LOTRO.  But being better than its predecessors didn’t make it feel current and, while the character models have been updated, they still look awkward and wooden and all the more so since launch as most of us have upgraded our monitors.

Google tells me that 1024×768 was half the monitor market in 2007.  Now, unless you but a laptop, a 1080p monitor… which is 1920×1080 resolution… is the minimum standard, and many of us have much larger screens.  I currently have a 3440×1440 monitor, on which the game is barely playable because, while bits of the UI do scale up, most of the text doesn’t.  And even the UI that does scale up looks like garbage at useful sizes on my monitor.

So when Enad Global 7 talks about how their going to put LOTRO on consoles and I am briefly able to set aside the sheer complexity of moving the mess that it the game engine onto a PlayStation 5 or an XBox X, I still stumble over the fact that you really have to support 4K video… 3840×2160 resolution… to be seen as a modern, competitive game.  It makes me think of the speedometer on my Camry, which suggests I could go 140 MPH.  The expense of making that a reality would quickly exceed reason just as the expense of refactoring LOTRO into something that would even look good on a console… let’s leave aside the playability issues… would probably require a greater investment than the company could hope to recoup.

And then there is the UI, the iconography, the responsiveness on controls, and a host of other little things that wear on you as you play if you’ve, for example, played WoW where Rob Pardo once spoke about how much effort went into making sure button presses had not lag.  A problem since launch and one that has sometimes gotten worse rather than better.

The world though, that remains a bright spot in the game.  I can forgive a myriad of sins because the world is a critical feature of the game to me and, while avatars look rough and the UI is less than ideal, locations are often beautiful.

If, of course, you can get to them.

When it comes down to it, I have not been many places in LOTRO.  I may own all of the expansions, but I have dead ended in Mirkwood largely due to it being a barrier of dullness comparable with its reputation in the books.  I have been through the base game half a dozen times at least… and many more times up to 40 or so… and through Moria a couple of times, but Mirkwood is just so uninteresting that even the promise of what lies beyond it cannot sustain me.

I did boost a character into Rohan, only to find that the character boost leaves you nonviable against the mobs you’re sent to face immediately unless you visit the cash shop and invest in your legendary weapon.

The legendary weapon system is another roadblock in the game, a non-optional requirement to care for a needy baby of an item that you constantly have to take back to camp and deal with.

My hope was that the studio would create a special rules server that would let you just do the main book story line quests to advance through the game, letting players tour the world.  That seems to be the only way I’ll get past Mirkwood.

But the game is still there, fifteen years down the road and is owned by a company that says they have plans to improve it.  One of the side effects of the console plan, if that is even viable, should be to make the game better on PC as well.  Or so one would hope.

It has been a bumpy ride this last 15 years, but as I said at the top, I have enjoyed most of the time I have spent in the game.  I’ve logged in to collect my anniversary goodies, though my bags and bank are so full of stuff from anniversaries and expansions at this point I am not sure I should keep redeeming stuff. (I still have unopened gift boxes from the 12th and 13th anniversaries… I must have skipped logging in for the 14th.)

I’d go play the 1-50 game again if were practical on my current monitor.  We will see what the future brings and live in hope of a better tomorrow for Middle-earth.

Addendum: In an effort to prove some points above SSG has given me a corgi, jumping on the MMORPG corgi bandwagon, which is also perhaps the most awkward looking corgi model I have seen in a game.

Chestnut Corgi chonk

He isn’t horrible, but he isn’t good either, and it feels like another attempt to copy more successful titles.

Discord as a News Source

One of the ongoing issues of the blog over the last decade and a half has been consistent access to a reliable news feed when it comes to the games I follow.  I’d like to write about what they’re up to if only they would take a moment to let me know.

You can find a few rants early on in the life of the blog where I am frustrated that a given company… usually SOE… has a new page on their web site dedicated to a game and then won’t update it, or breaks the RSS feed, or insists on putting any useful information deep the forums, where no sane person dare go, or, perhaps most common of all, simply fails to update anything anywhere for long stretches of time.

That was in early days of social media, when Twitter and Facebook were something of a novelty and community teams mostly hung around on the forums or made podcasts, which were the hot new thing.  There was a long stretch of me dissecting each SOE podcast for news, back when that was a thing.

Social media has made things a bit better.  At some point various studios realized that they needed to raise their profiles on the various social media outlets, so we got official accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and where ever else one might find potential customers.  Some go so far as to post game news on LinkedIn, which has basically become “business Facebook” because the advice of every half-assed consultant demands that you build your brand by posting nonsense there.

The problem is that social media platforms are bad at timelines.  Twitter seems distressed that I follow so few accounts (I keep a hard cap of 500), so gleefully injects all sorts of suggested accounts into my feed, muddying up the waters.

And they are great compared to Facebook and Instagram, where time apparently has no meaning (I seem to get all the Instragram “Going into Friday like…” memes on Tuesday for example) and once you’ve seen something it gets stored somewhere you can never find it again.

And even when they are not screwing with your timelines, you do need to be there and looking at their site when something gets posted in order to see it in a timely fashion… or at all… which, admittedly means being online and ready at some point after 4pm on a Friday looking for bad news.

That used to be a standard Daybreak move, though CCP ran with the same plan for the great price increase news this past week.

Things have gotten better in that various community and marketing teams seem to get that they have to, you know, keep the players informed in order to keep them engaged.  That is literally the base function of their positions.  If you can only do one thing, do that.  But consistency remains spotty and, as noted, the social media platforms seem to be working against any sort of useful information getting to people since that doesn’t drive engagement like inflammatory political rantings from niche players you would never have heard of except that the know how to play to the algorithms.

Getting timely updates remains harder than it should be.  And don’t even get me started on the Bizarro world that is Google Alerts, which will go out of its way to tell me about every sketchy analyst group that wants to sell me a report on battle royale games but doesn’t seem to know that Massively OP is a thing when I get results for “Daybreak.”  (And when Pokemon has a “Daybreak” update… fergetaboudit.)

Then I ran into a Discord feature that allows game companies who run their own server to setup a news channel that you can subscribe to and pipe into your own server in order to get updates as they get posted.

Unity through Discord

I took the TAGN Discord server, which I setup back when Fantasy Movie League was a thing, and created a new channel in it, and went around and subscribed that channel to the news feeds of various video games.

And it has worked pretty well.

It has its limitations, the largest of which is that a studio has to set up its own Discord server and actually maintain it.  But Discord is popular, even by my own meager measuring, and has become a go-to spot for a lot of companies since gamers are already there.

For example, Daybreak seems to have bought in fully on running a Discord server for at least a couple of their games.  I am subscribed to the news feed for the EverQuest and EverQuest II servers and, for maybe the first time in the life of the blog, I feel like I am getting timely and relevant updates for those games.

Granted, Daybreak as a studio has gotten much better at communication, but this puts updates in my field of vision faster than ever.  They seem committed to the platform for now.

Valheim also provides updates in a timely and consistent fashion.  The Forza Horizon team might be a bit too eager to share, though I will admit everything they post is relevant for players of their titles.

Amazon Games is a little iffy.  They do post updates reliably, but seem to forget that they have more than one game.  They seem to copy an update from either New World of Lost Ark and post it to Discord without actually mentioning which game the news is for.  Usually it is somewhat obvious, but if they announce server restarts and don’t mention a game, do I assume them both?

And then there is Playable Worlds, which has yet to discover the subscribe feature… but they also don’t have a lot of news yet that is worth digging into.

So, for game companies that commit, it works very well for me.  The problem is that not every studio is that into the idea, and those that are do not exactly advertise their servers very well.

I know that Daybreak, as a studio under Enad Global 7, is very much into the Discord thing, but you had to know the servers were even a possibility in order to find them.  LOTRO, in a classic, old school move, announced their server in the forums… more than five years ago.  Early adopter, but non-obvious if you’re looking for it today. (They have social media button for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch on the front page, but no Discord.)

Addendum May 10, 2022: That was actually a third party LOTRO server that was being promoted, and it has since decided it isn’t interested in LOTRO anymore, so forget about that.

CCP, which does like to get into the trenches with customers now and then, seems reluctant to go the Discord route with an official server, but then made a server for Fanfest which quickly became the official server by default because they ran it.

And some companies… well, they just aren’t that into us.  I was kind of surprised to find that Gamigo actually has a couple of servers for former Trion Worlds game, including Rift and Trove.  I am not sure how useful they are… Rift seems to mostly be about the weekly cash shop deals and server restarts, which is not news that interests me… but it is there if you’re still playing.

Anyway, a new option in the struggle to find news.  It is out there, though your mileage may vary.

What Makes Housing Worthwhile in an MMO?

Over at Massively OP they had a daily grind question about which MMO housing was the most “usefless.”  That elicited a lot of opinions, many of which with I agree, and even another blogger response, but I still felt like there was some cross purposes in some answers, because “useless” is something of a loaded description.  We all know at least one pedant who will argue that it is all useless by definition because video games have no practical use or some such.  But even among the more sensible, there is a wide range things that make housing something they will use in an MMO, so I thought I would explore some of the items that came to my mind on that front.

Personalization

Basically, can you make the housing your own, or will it always look like everybody else’s place?  This can mean a lot to some, but doesn’t necessarily influence the other items on the list.

I would put Rift and EverQuest II at the top of the list, as both allow free form decor and have crafting that can create house items.  EQII would be my top choice because it allows you to convert things from some special quests into trophies for your home, which is what I tend to display.  Also, there is a ton of wall art.  But Rift gets the nod for overall flexibility and being able to go nuts constructing things.

New World isn’t too far behind, mostly because it doesn’t feel like there as many general “things” in the world for basic decor.  The housing options also feel a bit more constrained.  But it is also new, so it may catch up.

Then there is EverQuest… my list is not exhaustive, I am just going through the titles I know personally… which has borrowed a lot of ideas from its younger sibling and has free form placement, including out in your yard.

Lord of the Rings Online is a bit behind that, largely due to limited items and the fixed hook system that puts a rather low cap on the things you can actually put in your house.

Then we get down to WoW and Warlords of Draenor garrisons, which I am declaring housing for the purposes of this discussion, and not simply to dunk on it because it ranks highly in some regards.  But for personalization it had a very limited range of pre-set options you could unlock, so every garrison felt very much like every other one.

Then, finally, I am going to bring in the captain’s quarters from the EVE Online Incarna expansion, specifically to dunk on it and provide a bottom end of the range for comparison.  The only thing that made the captain’s quarters unique was the presence of your avatar shambling about it awkwardly or sitting on the couch.

Captain’s Quarters

It was otherwise identical to every single other one until they introduced a couple of basic faction options, and then they were identical to everybody who chose the same faction as you.  Not that you could tell, because you were the only one who could enter.  We can argue over whether or now a POS or a station or a citadel counts as housing, but this actual attempt at player housing in the game was absolutely the suck.

Asthetics

Is it pretty?

I am going to be down on LOTRO housing in a number of these categories, but I will say that if you like the art style of the game, then their housing is very nice.  And the limited customization that I mentioned above means that in the neighborhood housing concept that the game uses, you can’t really end up living next to that horrible person who fills their yard with crap that spells out obscene words or political symbols.  The Valar giveth, and the Valar taketh away.

I am going to put New World up high on the list too.  Again, despite its limitations, the housing looks good and is well integrated into the settlements.

Since I brought WoW into the mix, I will say that garrisons look find, fit in to the game, and actually have some fun aspects in their look.  Once more, huge limitations on how much you can customize, but it doesn’t look like crap relative to the rest of the game.

I am a bit iffy on EQII on this front.  It isn’t that there are not some wonderful, pretty housing in the game.  But there are also a lot of dingy little spaces.  If you are a new player and get your first house anywhere save Halas, it probably sucks.  I remember my first one room cracke rbox apartment in Qeynos.

Likewise, Rift has so much potential, but a lot of the new player starting dimensions just look like work rather than a place you want to own.

I am also going to put EQ down here.  While it uses the neighborhood concept like LOTRO, its neighborhoods are kind of shabby and there is always the person who has their decorations for their favorite holiday out in the front yard all year around.  Plus vacancies are very obvious.

And the, finally, just to see if Bree at MOP reads this, I am going to drag the Tatooine trailer park that was SWG housing into the mix as an example of ugly housing in an MMO.

Looks like they had used YT-1300s on sale at QVC

I will grand practicality and integration into the game, however they looked like ass and in places stretched for as far as your draw distance would allow.

Practicality

Can I actually do something useful to the game in my home?

Or, perhaps more to the point, if I can do things in my home would I bother doing them there rather than in town or a guild hall or some other location in the game?

Warlords of Draenor garrisons could barely be personalized at all, and aesthetically it was basically part of the game, which could be good or bad, but you could do stuff there.  So much stuff.  Too much stuff in the end really, as it managed to deliver on the prophecy about housing that Blizz had used as an excuse previously, that it takes people out of the shared gaming world..  I still visit my base when I play retail WoW to craft some 30 slot bags for alts and that sort of thing.  It remains useful.

So, for all of the other knocks on garrisons, they are pretty much the gold standard when it comes to integration with the game.  I mean, you had a flight point, a special hearthstone for the place, and could have a bank and transmog vendor.  I kind of want to dig through Reddit to see if anybody wrote a post about playing the expansion without building their garrison.  Is it even possible?

And after that I guess I would put EQII which, while far behind in function, is integrated into the game in that you have to setup your store front for the broker in your home.  That was a day one item, and no doubt something influenced by SWG, so if you were looking for a compliment on that front after ripping it on aesthetics, there you go.  You can also set up crafting stations, mail boxes, and all sorts of other things in your home that may be of use.  Crafting stations in a home used to be a sure fire sign of somebody who botted their crafting back in the day, but it is still something you can do… craft, not bot.

Then maybe LOTRO, because at least the neighborhoods have a crafting hall.  I found them less than convenient to use, but they are there and you could commit yourself to them I guess.

After that… well, I think the bare minimum, the low bar, is to provide some additional storage space, or access to your bank storage in absence of that.  I think all the usual suspects and a few more that I have yet to mentions, like Rune of Magic, at least give you that.

Viability

I don’t think that is the right word, but it is the one I am running with.  Still, I will explain what I mean.

What I am driving at is whether or not any player, new or old, who wants to engage in housing as part of their play can do so without too much effort or cost.  I supposed “accessibility” might be a better word, but it is also a word weighted down with its own baggage, so I try to avoid it.

So, for example, EQII ranks highly in this regard in my estimation.  The game guides you to player housing in the first ten levels of the intro, gives you some instruction in it, and the rent for basic housing is very reasonable at 5 silver pieces a week.  That was a price that didn’t even bother me back in 2004 when SOE was trying to keep a very tight lid on the economy such that mobs did not drop coin and when I finally got my first platinum coin it felt like a huge achievement.

EQII even hands you some furniture as part of the intro.  Everybody gets that same table and mirror that they have been handing out since launch, back when having an in-game mirror that actually reflected was kind of impressive.

Rift as well, once they introduced dimensions, gave new players a shove in that direction and a basic location right off the bat, though it was not very inviting in my estimation.

Dimension by the Sea with my free items strewn about

Lost Ark, which I haven’t mentioned up to this point, also gets right in there and requires you to take on a stronghold as part of progressing in the story.   You may or may not like it, but you’re getting one… also, it is shared by all your characters on the same server, which I view somewhat favorably.

Runes of Magic also gets you into some housing pretty quickly as a new player, though it was pretty dull and pointless housing as I recall, so I set it up and never returned.

New World throws housing at you as well… but then  makes it too expensive for low level players.  Without grinding for coin specifically I could have bought a house, but upkeep would have been too expensive with all of the other day to day costs of the game.

LOTRO throws housing at you at some point… you get a quest about seeing somebody about a deed or a house or something.  But housing has so little practical purpose in the game and is so out of the way and… at least back in the day… used to be a bit pricey for any new player that it falls way behind.

Then there is EQ, which I am not even sure ever tells you directly that housing is a thing.  I think the only in-game notification I can recall is getting a reward that was marked as something to put in your house, which at least strongly implied there was housing.  I have a whole post from 2010 about the effort I went through to get a house.

Some EQ housing

Also, the EQ housing is very reasonably priced… so long as you’re a veteran playing in the current content.  If you’re a new player still selling rat whiskers to the vendor for 18 copper, housing is way out of your reach.

And then, way down at the non-viable end of the list for me sits any game where your home exists in the actual game world on real estate that only one person on the server can occupy.  So I am looking at you SWG and Ultima Online and FFXIV and a few other title that escape me at the moment.

And yes, I know what you’re going to say if you think that kind of housing is great.  I get that it is very cool that your house, and yours alone is there in that spot and everybody can see it.  But as soon as you make real estate scarcity a thing and put specific locations in demand, housing shakes out into winners and loser and most players will be on the losing end of things.  The argument that it makes the game more “real” doesn’t wash with me.  If I wanted a game with the same pain as real life I’d go play EVE Online…. wait….  Anyway that is my opinion and you are free to disagree, just know that you are unlikely to sway me.  I live in Silicon Valley where real estate PvP is a thing already.

Location, Location, Location

The tired old joke of real estate is that the top three considerations are “location, location, and location.”

In this case I am not referring to the whole “instanced vs in the world” housing which I was going on about in the previous section, though I will say that if new players can’t get a house some place useful, your game fails on this front… which means instanced housing rules for location generally.

For the purposes of this section I mean whether or not housing is some place useful, like in town or near services you might need as a player.  EQII is pretty good on this front, though some locations are better than others.  As a new player in Halas everything you might need is right outside your door, which is great… if you chose Halas.  If not, your mileage may vary.

New World is also pretty good on this front.  Housing is all in settlements.  There is some vagaries around what level facilities will be available, but you will be in town.  That makes it feel like you live somewhere worth living.

Other titles seem a bit more dicey.  EQ puts you kind of off of the Plane of Knowledge, through the guild staging area, if you know where that is.  LOTRO puts you out in the middle of nowhere, though there are fast travel options.  But I seem to recall there also being some mithril coin or other cash shop currency relation options is you need it on demand.

So What?

I’ve gotten this far kind of riffing on memories and old screen shots of housing, and have probably mislaid my point along the way.

Oh yeah, housing being worthwhile.

In this reflection, it sure seems like the genre can be all over the map on the various aspects I have picked out.  In general I am in favor of having housing in our MMOs, but I also feel like if the developers don’t have time to do it well, have it look good, be useful and integrated into the game, and have it available to users in general, then maybe they should spend their development time on other tasks.