Category Archives: Runes of Magic

Runes of Magic Turns Ten Today

It doesn’t seem like that long ago when I first started cursing the patcher for Runes of Magic, and now here we are at its tenth birthday.

Runes a Decade On

As the genre continues to age I guess we will continue to have these sorts of anniversary milestones for those games that continue to hang on.  All the more so, I suppose, with a company like Gamigo vacuuming up strays and keeping them online to milk revenue out of them while putting in as little effort as possible to keep them viable.

I don’t think I will be covering them all.

But Runes of Magic is a bit special, both because I actually played it for a while and because it was kind of a big deal back when it launched.

Back in 2009 there was still something of a divide between MMORPGs of the western, subscription sort and the free to play Asian imports.  Runes of Magic was going to bridge that gap, being more western in design… “western” really meant “like World of Warcraft” by then… and the Asian cash shop business model.  This was during a time when “free to play” was usually a post-launch salvage plan rather than a day one feature.

And even when Runes of Magic launched, that mostly applied to what one might call lesser tier games, like Asian imports and struggling titles such as Anarchy Online.  The rush to free to play wouldn’t begin in earnest until Turbine brought Dungeons & Dragons Online to that model, a plan only announced in June of that year, to becoming the poster child for the new found riches to be found there.

So, while there were some half-hearted cash shops popping up, Runes of Magic broke some new ground and/or became controversial by straight up selling things that just were not sold in reputable MMORPGs, like a horse.  You want a permanent horse, that will be $10 please.  That got bloggers typing away furiously. (You’re going to have to use the Wayback Machine if you follow the links on either of those posts.  So much link rot.)

More egregious, to me at least, was the whole bank space rental program.  You need more space to store your stuff?  Then you need to rent… not buy… more slots at the bank.  You could do that with the in-game currency, but you could always use the RMT currency as well.

People were also peeved that the game felt too WoW-like, as though people were not actively throwing tantrums about any deviation from the WoW model around then.  You needed to follow all of the Blizzard conventions and yet not be like WoW I guess.

Anyway, the game launched and has carried on ever since.  It got a reasonable following, though that is hard to judge from the outside.  And in a world where WoW is the benchmark, most MMORPG populations seem microscopic.

The game itself, after consolidating down to two servers, one for North America and one for Europe, made its way to Steam towards the end of last summer, where it has received mixed reviews.

Half were good I guess

Also, the release date listed there is wrong according to all the sources I’ve seen, including my own blog post marking the launch day.  It should be March 19, 2009.

A decade in, the game is what it is.  It looks and feels a bit out of date.  If you feel it copied WoW, then the version of WoW it copied was from 2007 or so.  But the negative reviews mostly take it to task for its business model and how things changed when the original publisher, Frogster, sold out to Gameforge.  Gameforge seems to work on more of the Gamigo model, keeping multiple games (they run TERA, Wizard 101 and a batch more) up and going while not being particularly focused on any given one.

The free to play business model always has that problem.  There is always the temptation to make buying from the cash shop a bit coercive or to reward buyers with power in order to boost sales.

As for the move from Frogster to Gameforge, that seemed to herald the end up serious content updates to the game.  Instead Runes of Magic settled into the semi-stasis of holiday events, cash shop specials, and other minor changes.

Still, the overall situation, being free to play in a stable of games like that, is probably the best hope for long term survival when it comes to lesser titles.  And they haven’t completely ignored Runes of Magic.  The shop gets new items and they have a series of anniversary events running now, including a free cosmetic gift set.

Assuming this is your look

I am not sure I’ll be able to find the time to go and visit the game, even with that outfit as an inducement.  As I will no doubt repeat at least a few more times, this month has been pulling me in too many directions already with nostalgia related events.  In that mix, Runes of Magic hitting ten years is somewhat down the list.

But I was back to visit in 2017, around the eighth anniversary, and somehow I doubt much has changed.  So if you want my impressions of the game from then, you can find them in the series of posts listed below.

Other than that, congrats to a game that has lasted a decade.

Runes of Magic Arrives on Steam at Last

The summer’s here! As well as basking in the beautiful weather in Taborea, we’re celebrating the dawn of a new era: Runes of Magic is now available on the world’s most popular gaming platform Steam!

-Runes of Magic news page

When I say “at last” it isn’t as though I was anxious for it to be there, it is just that they have been talking about this for some time and the target was June and then July.  Now, in the final week of August it has arrived on Steam.  Summer is indeed here, but we’re on the far side of it and autumn is on its way.

I’ve written a bit now and then about the game.  It was kind of a big deal back in 2009 when it launched, when it was both a built-from-scratch free to play MMORPG and an attempt for an attempt by an Asian studio to build a western style, quest drive game.

But, as it turns out, this move to Steam is also a moment of opportunity if you have ever wanted to try the game.  As part of the Steam launch they are also putting up a couple of new servers, one in the US and one in the EU, so you can start on a fresh new server rather than joining one where the years have clumped most of the user base at max level and the economy has been distorted by past problems.

Your favorite game is now available on Steam!
In addition, we’re also launching new servers for the USA and Europe to coincide with the game’s Steam debut – the perfect opportunity for newcomers and returning players to discover Taborea afresh.

Runes of Magic, news page

This is probably as close to a retro or progression server as you are going to get for Runes of Magic.  The devs haven’t changed much of the content over the years, so it is mostly still the 2009 experience.  And you can still use your same old account.  In fact, you have to create an account for the game in the same old way, with Steam basically acting like a launcher for the launcher in that way that makes Steam feel a pointless part of the process.

I do wonder what this move to Steam will really do, if anything. The “at last” in the title is also a question about why it has taken so long to get to Steam, why it is happening now, and what they hope to get out of this jump onto the Steam platform.  I hope they aren’t planning on this saving the game.

Steam has gone from a service with a fairly select range of games to a garbage heap over the years.  It is the last refuge for the greedy or incompetent who seem to think they getting on a distribution platform is the main point of the exercise.  And Steam’s premature policy change (we’ll let even more crap in now and give you filtering tools at some point in the distant future) doesn’t promise to make anything better.  It is a mess, with the company still pretty much running by the old guidelines while people debate over what “trolling” really means.

(I’ll tell you what “trolling” means in that context.  It means whatever the person making the decision at the moment wants it to mean, so the games that got rejected before the new policy will probably all still be rejected after the new policy.)

Anyway, there is Runes of Magic hidden in that mess, one of dozens of “new releases” on the Steam store this week (so it is already on page four, in 98th place, on the Windows new releases list in less than two days), with a 2009 launch date in its description, and already being pummeled by a series of negative reviews declaring it old (it is), unstable (it does leak memory), and pay to win (it does sell power), leading it to an overall “mixed” rating, which is as good as a “do not buy” label in big red letters across the page.

And only 31 reviews so far

If the developers were hoping for a bonanza of new players I suspect they may be disappointed.  But it is hard to tell what the real plan is from the outside.  Is this a last gasp effort to keep the ball rolling?

Certainly the new server thing was contrary to my prediction about the game at the start of the year, when I suspected that it would lose at least one of its two remaining servers, with the very quiet US server either disappearing or being merged into the EU.  Instead they have doubled the number of servers they are running.

We shall see if this keeps Runes of Magic alive or if it was just a last, unfortunate roll of the dice.

May in Review

The Site

Not much changed here and didn’t add anything that particularly annoyed me this month, so pretty much the status quo.

As it is May I guess I can talk about my other blog, EVE Online Pictures, the one-time experiment that became an official EVE Online fan site.  It turned nine years old this month.  Next year I will devote a whole post to its anniversary.  This year I will just post the usual page views per month chart.

EVE Online Pictures – Page Views per Month through May 2017

You may need to click on that to see if full size in order to make it legible.

Anyway, that is the page view tale.  You can see the sudden drop off when Google changed how image search worked in February of 2013.  Traffic to the site can be very much peaks and valleys.  There is a fairly regular group that hits the site on the three days a week that I post a picture.  At that rate after nine years the total post count is just past 1,300.  There were times when I was just posting twice a week, and a month stretch during the Fountain War where I posted every day.

But then something will happen and boost stats suddenly.  During January and March CCP Phantom used a picture for the EVE Online week in review post and linked back site.  That prompted a couple of spikes, including the highest page view count in a single day back on January 17th with 939.  That was quite a jump for a site that generally has 25-50 page views a day.

And sometimes a person will show up and scroll through the whole site.  The theme I use there lets you page down while it keeps loading content, so you can browse all the pictures without needing to click.  I will log on and see a spike of 50 page views, but only two unique users have hit the site.  So while the uniques to page views ratio for this site is about 1.5, for EVE Online Pictures it runs from 2.5-4 most days.

Anyway, my time capsule of pictures from New Eden carries on, there waiting to be browsed.  There are some 2006-ish classic graphics all the way through to whatever is current.  New stars was the latest thing and I have a few of those up already.

One Year Ago

Overwatch went live.  Still haven’t played it.

DUST 514 went offline.  Never did play it.

Landmark’s official launch date was announced.  Never did buy it.

There was word about Pokemon Sun & Moon, Civilization VI, EverQuest II prestige servers, the tribulations of WildStar, and the WoW Legion Beta, all in one bullet points post.

In EVE Online I saw my first citadel.  Now they’re freakin’ everywhere.  There was also a free weekend on Steam that got a lot of accounts created, but which still faced the wall of the new player experience.  There was a Blog Banter about Project Nova and that brief experiment with recurring opportunities that granted skill points. There were also details from the CSMXI election and that whole 85% thing, which did not add up for me.

In space the Casino War was still a thing.  We were huddled up in the back room of the Quafe Warehouse in Saranen plotting ways to strike back and keep the war going.  We threw industrials at sovereignty.  That got us a foothold back in Fade for a bit.

Mostly though it was battles in low sec.  Asher led us out to battle in his Phantasm, we squared off against capitals, blew up some fax machines.  There were battles over structures in Saranen and we managed to anchor an Astrahus to face the citadels arrayed against us.  Lots of shooting, but not much changed.

Oh, and SynCaine joined KarmaFleet.  I even saw him on an op.

Outside of New Eden Blizzard could only talk about MAUs after renouncing discussion of subscription numbers.  Given the whole Nostalrius situation I was wondering what Vanilla WoW really was.  And the Warcraft movie was approaching.

In Minecraft I was planning a rail line and finding a path for it to run.  Aaron’s project of the month was a facility in the nether to make the collection of Ghast tears easier.

I was also momentarily nostalgic for Starsiege: Tribes… or for what I could remember of it.

And in TorilMUD the elves were no longer restricted to the isle of Evermeet until level 20.

Five Years Ago

I played Portal finally.  Now Zoidberg makes the cake joke!

I wrote about camping rare mobs and how this all came from the fact that MUDs used to crash pretty often.

There was the start of the first Newbie Blogger Initiative thing.

On the Fippy Darkpaw server, The Gates of Discord unlock vote shut down that expansion.  This caused some hard feelings.  And then it failed the vote again.

38 Studios went tits up due to managerial incompetence.  Not how you run a start up.  But the myth of what greatness might have been lives on, fostered primarily by those whose reputations would benefit from such tales.

The instance group was clearing out King’s Breach in Rift.

Diablo III came out and… error 37.  Then error 75.  And installer problems.  High expectations, huge sales, its always online nature, and memories of past Diablo games probably doomed it the eyes of many.  Still, we played it a bit.  I compared it to the beta version of Torchlight II, its primary foe in the click to kill genre.  I moaned about atmosphere and the influence of WoW on it.

And then I complained about talent trees.  Most people seem to like them more than I do.

But mostly I was on about EVE Online.  There was a summary of the first Burn JitaHulkageddon V came and sort of went.  There were spoils from the war in the north to be handed out.  OTEC actually got out there, putting aside differences, to defend its financial interests.  We blew up an IRC CSAA in Cobalt Edge.  There was a question as to whether PLEX was cheating.  I mined in null sec for the first time and didn’t know where to put stuff.  There were stats about Escalation and Hulkageddon and just ships being blown up in general.  And I made a post around John Smeldley’s tweet about Drakes and new missile graphics.  He dropped me a note in reply.  Turns out he is not only a huge EVE Online fan, but was in the CFC as well.  As Mittens would say, one of us.

Ten Years Ago

The then common discussions were going around, what made WoW so successful and what games might contend with WoW?  Some of the so called “contenders” were pretty silly picks.

Speaking of Blizzard, they also announced they were going to back to the StarCraft franchise with StarCraft II.  About time indeed!

The instance group was focused on LOTRO for the first time.  I had things to complain about, especially the state of the economy.  And, only a month in we spotted a level 50 player.  That must have been some hard work, as the game sort of petered out at about level 35 back then.  Still, Middle-earth was a pretty place.  It even had rainbows.

Vanguard was heavily in the news.  Sigil fell and SOE stepped in to pick up the pieces, though I wondered how long before the many problems with the game became attached to SOE.  I was also wondering about the impact of the game’s system requirements.

I was wondering how many more expansions EverQuest would have, while pointing out that you could get the game and all the expansions for only $15.

The owners of Allakhazam, long a staple of EQ knowledge, sold off their gold selling RMT wing, thus removing that taint and a host of gold selling ads from the site.

SOE officially announced the Rise of Kunark expansion for EverQuest II, keeping the game firmly on the nostalgia train.  Meanwhile, I had a suggestion for the new Arasai race.

Finally, there were some podcasts I thought people should listen to again.  I am not sure you can get most of them any more.

Most Viewed Posts in May

  1. Day One of New PLEX
  2. Pokemon Lycanroc event at GameStop
  3. Who is Backing Ashes of Creation?
  4. The EVE Online YC119.5 Update Brings PLEX Changes and More
  5. The EverQuest Agnarr Progression Server to Remain Locked in Time
  6. Visiting the Blood Raiders Shipyard
  7. From Alola Pokedex to National Pokedex in Pokemon Sun
  8. EVE Online Turns 14
  9. Where the Hell is that EverQuest Successor Already?
  10. Fighting the Blood Raider Menace or How I Rat
  11. Return to the Land of the Ten Dollar Horse
  12. A Return to Form Reinforces the Blood Raiders Shipyard

Search Terms of the Month

cash and carry price list daybreak
[I think you and I are talking about different Daybreaks]

how fast travel eve
[Clone jump is about it, and you leave your ship behind]

show me the planets in the world
[I don’t think it works that way]

nes classic in 25 years
[That’s about the wait to get one]

[I don’t even know how this got you here]

EVE Online

I don’t feel like I have played all that much… but then I look at my list of participation credits and I guess I did go on some fleets.  Reavers have been out and about and blowing things up.  We killed four Astrahus citadels in one evening.  I just tend not to post about that until the deployment is done.

There was also the first Blood Raiders Shipyard event, which turned into a bit of comedy in the end.  At least I got to go out and see a bit of the battle.  And, having bookmarked the spot, I was able to guide Mark726 out to it so he could do a post about it on EVE Travel.


The Minecraft server remains pretty quiet.  Aaron has been back a bit and must be working on something.  I have been logging on some myself and wandering up and down the north mansion road and doing improvements to some of the villages and other rest stops along the way.

Pokemon Sun

I have been slowly but surely trading away at the GTS in order to expand my National Pokedex coverage.  I am close to finishing up the first two generations.  I also signed up and tried the May International online tournament.  I battled six people and lost to five of them.  Three of them beat me with the same pair of Pokemon using the same moves.  I’ll have to write about that.

Pokemon Go

There was an event this month that made rock Pokemon more common for a week, as well as reducing the distance required for your buddy Pokemon to earn a candy.  That actually got me a couple of new Pokemon this month as well as helping me level up to 28.  I also managed to finally evolve one of the first generation starter Pokemon to its final form, getting an Venusaur at last.

My basic stats this month:

  • Level: 28 (+1)
  • Pokedex status: 166 (+11) caught, 187 (+9) seen
  • Pokemon I want: Gyrados
  • Current buddy: Magikarp… only 230km more to get enough candies for a Gyrados

Runes of Magic

Runes of Magic was sort of the guest host game for the month of May.  I jumped in at the start of the month and was pretty much done with it by the time we got to the last weekend.  It does still feel like 2009 in Taborea… though you’ll have to decide for yourself if that is a good thing… even if the screen has gotten a bit more cluttered since launch.  I think they have hit the limit for the number of icons around the mini map.  I won’t say I am done with it forever, but I am done with it for the moment.

Coming Up

Steam Summer Sale?  Summer is just twenty days away in the northern hemisphere, and said sale usually starts right about then.  A price break might get me across the threshold towards buying Rimworld.  Been on my wishlist for a while, but “early access” is a red flag to me these days.  SynCaine seems positive about it though.  And Zubon seems happy with Mini Metro, another game that has lingered on my wishlist for a while.  Maybe I will buy some stuff.

I also need a replacement for Runes of Magic to fill the fantasy MMORPG void.  Actually, I might have a replacement lined up, and those with a keen eye for detail might be able to tell what it is.

My daughter says that I must play Pokemon: Magikarp Jump on my phone.  We’ll see if that warrants a post.

In New Eden we remain deployed, which means more ops to go on and fights to be had.

The Ashes of Creation Kickstarter campaign winds up in a couple days.  That is closing in on the $3 million mark, so the question is just which stretch goals will be achieved… and what the post-campaign fund raising will look like.  Star Citizen has proven that you should never stop asking for money.

Otherwise, I am not sure what the next month will bring.

The Grind of Aslan

As I moved into the next zone at level 20 the game wrapped up its attempts to introduce me to things and settled down into some good, old fashioned quest based grinding.

Not necessarily a bad thing, but it is clearly THE thing for this point in the game.

I had finished up in the Silverspring zone, with its big city of Varanas… well, finished up to the extent I could, but more on that in a bit… I had at least started to out-level the quests… and moved on to the Aslan Valley.

No lions found so far

The first quest hub in the zone, Qilana Camp, set the tone for the zone by offering up two flavors of quest.  There are some story line quests that have you running about picking things up or interacting with various NPCs.  And then there are the daily quests which have you out grinding mobs for drops.

The story line quests add some variety, though they two generally include a step or two that involved slaying one flavor of MOB until you have acquired the specified number of drops.  The big problem for me with them is that they almost universally lead up to an end quest that requires a group to finish… a fact that the quest text doesn’t always clue you in on.

For example, after running a few errands for one NPC I hit a quest that was basically “cover me!” that, when accepted, dropped a group of aggro anteaters on me, including one elite.  I ran for it but there was no getting away.

Anteater swarm!

Death has a sting of sorts, in the form of xp and tp debt.  The game does give lower level players a daily item to clear out said debt in the form of an Atonement Voucher.

Debt be gone

Pretty much every story line quest has ended up with me needing to use a voucher.  Unfortunately, those quests are also the ones with the gear upgrades I could really use.

Unable to finish those up… grouping isn’t really an option as the zone has also been pretty empty for me as well… I have fallen back on the daily quests.  You can collect those from a couple of places, including the board in Silverfall.  There is a limit to the number of those you can run, but there is also a limit to the number of those I can tolerate in a single session as well, and the latter number seems to be smaller than the former, so the limit hasn’t really been an issue.

These are classic “grind for drops” quests.  Some of the drops are generic.  Killing boars drops tusks, killing anteaters drops scales, and so on, so that if you’ve been after that sort of mob for one quest you might have collected enough such items to immediately finish a quest from the board that wants those.

At other times you need to slay a specific variant of a given MOB in the zone.

Just Demon mane boars

The game does help you by putting red dots for those MOBs on the mini-map to help you find the right mob.  And with the Quest Tracker addon, you can look at the big map and get a sense of where you should be hunting.

Where the right anteaters live…

But one flavor of MOBs is generally mixed in with others of the same type… boars, bears, anteaters… so you may need to clear some of your target’s cousins out of the way.  And the variation in models is often subtle enough that you might not notice that you’re running after the wrong MOB.  The anteaters… what oddly aggressive and heavily armored variations of the species live in Taborea… are so close in model as to be indistinguishable to me, so I found myself running towards what looked to be the next one only to get into combat and find that it was not going to drop the item I needed.

So grind you likely will in pursuit of these quests.

Not that grinding is, as I noted above, necessarily a bad thing.  There can be a Zen-like peacefulness to it, just fighting one MOB after another, clearing a path around an area in search of drops, unworried about anything else.  Well, anything save your bags filling up.  Every MOB seems to drop something, and every quest drop goes into your bag, so inventory management will become an issue sooner or later.

I can do that for a while as I listen to a podcast or some such.  But it isn’t something that I can keep going at for hours on end.  And it isn’t something that entices me to log into the game.

So the time between my logging into Runes of Magic has been getting longer and longer as the prospect of hunting yet another flavor of boars or anteaters fails to spark any flame within me.

Is that Gevlon?

As such, I suspect that my time with the game might be drawing to a close.  I haven’t really found anything else in the game that holds my interest.  Crafting means a long harvesting grind, and why trade one grind for another?  The housing is mediocre at best.   And while I did give the dual class option a shot, I wasn’t too thrilled.  When you go into your secondary class, your character is effectively the level to which you have advanced it.  So while in my warrior guise I was level 20 or so, swapping out to the priest class… I thought having healing might be nice… put me back in gear and skills only suitable for the starter zone.

I went back to the started zone and did daily quests there, but my heart wasn’t in it really.  I tried finishing a few quests as a warrior, then swapping to the priest, and turning them in.  That helped move the priest along to level 10, but I decided I was better off just focusing on the warrior and buying potions to keep health up.

But the game is free to play, so coming and going as I feel the urge is part of the plan, right?  With no recurring subscription nagging at me I am free from worry!

Only Runes of Magic has found a way to simulate that all the same.

As I noted in my post about how they get money from players the RMT currency, Diamonds, figures prominently.  This issue gets forced because there are some things you cannot buy outright.  One of those items is bag space.  As it turned out, the extra bag space I rented ran out as I was playing over the weekend, prompting an immediate inventory management crisis.

So the question became whether or not to invest diamonds, which cost money, in another rental period or let things sit where they are.  I opted to let things sit until I felt the need to get back into the game.  And so it goes.

Still, I did have a decent time exploring a bit of an old MMO.  We’ll see if I get back to it again some day.

The Cash Shop, Diamonds, and that Ten Dollar Horse

One of the things about my return to Runes of Magic has been the complete lack of monetary expense to me so far.  I have not spent any money on the game.

However, no game survives without getting paid and, while Runes of Magic operates under the banner of “Free to Play,” and more so than some games, there are clearly ways to spend money on the game and incentives, both subtle and overt, to get you to do so.

There are two RMT currencies in the game, diamonds and rubies.

And while I have not spent any money during my current adventures, back when the game launched and it seemed like the instance group might take a serious go at it I took up one of their special offers… they have sales and bonus events for diamonds frequently… and bought some just in case I needed to get myself a ten dollar horse or something.

140% bonus diamond offer again this weekend

However, back when I did that the game was suffering from some sort of credit card fraud binge so diamonds you purchased had to sit in a special escrow account for a while and you couldn’t trade or sell them to other players for 30 days.  Since we ended up not giving the game a go, those diamonds just stayed where they were.  I had stopped playing by the time I had free access to them.

This is part of why I was happy to get my original account back.  There were about a thousand diamonds waiting for me.  My characters were gone… they probably got purged during the server merges… but my diamonds remained.

And, given the RMT history of the game and the reaction in our little circle of blogs, one of the first things I had to do was find out the price of a permanent horse.

Base models…

As it turns out, the standard single person mount in the game is still about ten dollars, depending on what diamond package you purchase.  207 diamonds for $9.99 makes the horse about $9.60.  If you bought the biggest diamond package during the current sale it would be about $2.60.

There are other mounts in the shop.  There are more expensive, more exclusive single mounts as well as multi-person mounts.  But that is the base price to get yourself a permanent mount.

Now, you don’t have to buy the horse.  Mounts are obtainable in the game with gold, the in-game currency.  They are just not permanent.  You have to rent them for a short duration.  And that is not riding time, or logged in time, but clock running duration.  The rate is 300 gold for 15 minutes or 3,000 gold for two hours.

Not exactly what I would call long term…

But if you want to keep the horse, it is time for diamonds.

a permanent horse

The horse might cost you five to ten dollars… an amount that seems quaint to fret over in the current state of the genre… but at least you can keep it.  Inventory space should be so fortunate.

You start out in Runes of Magic with two 30 slot bags and one tab in the bank.  If you want more space, you need diamonds.  The rub here for me is that you cannot buy them outright.  I couldn’t find a way to buy more bag space.  Instead, you must rent it.

For how long would you like this bag?

Bank slots and bags both rent at the same rate.  For 3 days it is seven diamonds, but the time/diamond ratio gets better the longer the duration of your rental.  Thirty days, for example, is 31 diamonds.  And the bags themselves are not physical items in the game, as with EverQuest or WoW, but permanent in size and association to you, as with LOTRO.  You will never have more than six bags, and each bag will be 30 slots.

Two bags, at 30 slots per bag, doesn’t seem too bad.  However, if you’re lazy like me and turn on auto-loot so you don’t have to click through each corpse to pick out the good stuff, you will find your bags filling up fast.  The game drops a decent amount of gear, lots of items that are part of the daily quests, occasional recipes or other crafting related items, and runes, lots and lots of runes.

After all, the game is called Runes of Magic.  Runes are items that go in equipment sockets in order to enhance them.  If that sounds a lot like gems from WoW we can go back to the came coming into being as very much something of an Asian WoW clone during The Burning Crusade era when gems and sockets first became a thing in Azeroth.  The cash shop has plenty of items that allow you to add sockets to current items, since runes seem to be a big deal, but gear seems to drop with zero or one socket.

Anyway, runes drop a lot.  Your bag will fill up with them.  And then there are quest items.  When you accept a quest that is more than “kill ten rats,” one that wants you to, say, kill ten rats and bring back their ears or tails or some such as proof or for a potion or whatever, those item need space in your bags.  And, as an added bonus, if you abandon a quest… say you were on a solo quest chain and it ended with a group requirement that you could no solo… whatever related quest items remain in your bag.  And you cannot delete them either.  As far as I can tell, they live in your bag forever.

I realize that the devs were trying to keep people from basically deleting their hearthstone when it came to quests, but dude, my bags!   Also, it is often possible to get more items for a quest than it requires, so when you turn it in you have leftovers that you cannot delete.

So unless you are extremely diligent… or more so than I am… you’re going to need a bigger bag… erm, more bags, which means diamonds.

Now, you can buy diamonds from other players with the in-game currency.  That was part of the game’s pitch, that those with more time than money could grind gold and buy diamonds from other players, while those with more money than time could buy diamonds for real world money and trade them to other players for gold.  Everybody is happy and nobody needs to go deal with illicit gold sellers, or such was the theory.

That my diamonds of six years ago got stuck in escrow and were restricted for a stretch of time seems to indicate that all was not working quite as planned.  And, as noted previously, gold sellers were thick on the ground in public spaces and on the world channel.

Back in the day

As part of this post I went to go check at the auction house to see how the gold/diamond market was going.  I saw people on the world channel asking to buy or offering to sell diamonds, but figured that main market would be in the auction house.

However, when I looked, I didn’t see a single auction for diamonds.  That section of the auction house was mostly taken up with experience orbs.  Runes of Magic has experience orbs that seem to work along the lines of the XP Vials in EverQuest II, where you can buy them and they siphon off XP from your efforts and, once they are full, you can sell them to other players.

I was a bit confused by that.  And then I found a vendor outside the auction house that offered to sell me gold for diamonds.

Gold for Diamonds exchange

I expect that there is another NPC around that will do the same only exchanging gold for diamonds.  I suspect that unfettered exchanges in an unbalanced economy led to rampant inflation and that the solution was to create a dev regulated currency exchange.  Anyway, if I need gold I know where to go now.

Meanwhile, in going through the cash shop, I found that the devs will also sell you experience orbs.  Full orbs, that is.

Experience orbs in the cash shop… full ones

Again, I expect that this was done in an effort to put some sort of cap on inflation, but it still seems odd.  This is akin to CCP simply selling you skill points in EVE Online.

I am also not sure how useful such an orb would really be.  You could boost up your secondary class easily (more on secondary classes in another post) but what about the training points you need to boost up your combat skills?  It wouldn’t be much use to have a high level character with skills still in the weeds.  Or do training points come with levels when you use an experience orb?

And that screen shot above brings me to the second currency I mentioned, rubies.  It took me a bit to figure out where rubies come from.  You get them as part of buying something from the cash shop with diamonds.  I noticed that I had 40 rubies, then ran back through what I did and came to where I bought a perm mount.

Wilhelm on his mount

Buying the mount ran 199 diamonds, but also earned me 40 rubies.  So they are sort of like S&H Green Stamps or Blue Chip Stamps, if you are old enough to remember such things, rewards for purchasing things that can be used as currency to buy other items.

And the cash shop has a selection of items that can only be bought with rubies, and they are a damn sight better than what you get for diamonds.  The screen shot above shows a rubies-only “High Quality” experience potion and its diamonds equivalent next to it.

I am not sure how I feel about that sort of thing.  I get loyalty programs, and things like trading stamps simply gave way to things like club cards and the like, but in a cash shop with no competitors it feels off, less in the realm of a reward for loyalty and more in the zone of “naked cash grab.”  Not all the way there, but in that area.

The cash shop otherwise has a lot of the things you might expect.  I mentioned writs to add sockets to gear.  There are also the usual boosters for experience and training points, speed increases you can buy for you mount if you want to go faster, an array of cosmetic gear, lock-box grab-bags for things like runes, and the Wheel of Destiny, a straight up gamble to get something special for 99 diamonds.

Do you feel lucky?

So that is the state of the cash shop, such as I have observed it.  The usual stuff is there.  The odd parts… experience orbs and direct diamonds to gold via a vendor… seem likely to have come about as a reaction to what happens to an MMORPG economy over time.

Meanwhile, the strong push to get players to buy diamond… especially when it comes to bag and bank space… is part of what comes from not having any sort of subscription option.  Runes of Magic is strictly cash shop supported.  You cannot sign up for a $15 a month plan to bypass the annoyances.

Silverspring and the Big City

Out of the starter zone and into the first big city in Taborea.  Or maybe the only big city in Taborea.  I don’t really know since I have been next to nowhere in the game.  Anyway, I continue on with Runes of Magic.

I didn’t so much run down all the quests in the Howling Mountains as started seriously out leveling the zone.  There are a lot of quests to choose from so some will no doubt end up getting left behind.  That might be a good thing, though I will get to why another time.  So I headed north to Silverspring, the next zone to explore.

Welcome to Silverspring

Silverspring also has a city, a real city and not some jerkwater town astride a goat path, a city that is done up in the grandiose style that seems to both feel out of place and be a regular part of the fantasy MMORPG genre.  So the first thing I did on entering Silverspring was head to the city of Varanas.

Welcome to Varanas

Varanas is a big enough place… both in scale and area… and has all of the necessities of a big city, including a series of quests that make you run all over the place.

Varanas layout

It isn’t as big as Stormwind and it doesn’t seem as well integrated into the local terrain as cities in other MMORPGs.  Qeynos and Freeport and Darnassas and Ironforge all like ogranic parts of their region, or at least it is obvious why a city might have sprung up in that location.  Varanas, on the other hand, is this giant walled-in city in the middle of a sketchy neighborhood, sticking out like a brand new McMansion in a neighborhood of old, run down tract homes.  It doesn’t even have a port to justify its existence.  It is just there because somebody decided to put a city there.

It also betrays some of the early design choices of the genre, with lots of partitions and curtain walls and such, so that you can only ever see a small section of the city at one time and thus limits the number of characters being rendered on your screen.  There are also a series of teleporter NPCs to move you about districts of the city so you don’t have to wade through any crowds.

Not that crowds seem to be a problem these days.  The last time I made it this far in Runes of Magic… and this is about as far as I ever made it previously… I was greeted by gold selling bots spamming the local channel.

My primary memory of the entry to Varanas

This time around things were quiet; very quiet.  My co-worker told me they had done a server merge a while back, but still the population at this end of the game seemed pretty sparse.  Perhaps I will run into more people as I progress.

Anyway, I ran around the city doing some of the fetch and carry quests as I explored the place.  While doing that was when I realized that back at character creation I had left the height slider set at the smallest setting.  Out in the countryside I didn’t notice.  How do you get scale when you’re dealing with wild animals?  On the other hand, once I was in a place like the bank, my child-like stature was a bit more noticeable.

I’m here, on the other side of the counter!

I found that I could re-do my character features by spending diamonds, but decided I would stick with my “cousin of lil’ sweet” look for the time being.  At least I won’t hit my head on anything, save the under side of a coffee table.

After exploring the city I headed back out into Silverspring to take on the quests it had for me.

Before I got to that though, I had noticed something with Curse client, which recently became the Twitch client.  It offers up addons still, in the way Curse did, and it noticed that I had installed Runes of Magic.  In a bit of a surprise, it turns out that there are still addons for the game.

Runes of Magic addons

I browsed through until I spotted an old school addon for an old school WoW-esque experience; Quest Helper.

Inspired by the WoW addon

I am glad I did too.  I did not really need more information crowding out an already busy screen.

Ah, Quest Helper gives me yet another quest listing…

However the upside was pretty good.  The quest descriptions are improved, locations are listed and shown on the map, and some details that I might have otherwise had to go look up were included as well.

It shows where to find things

Its space on the screen also gives you some additional options, like being able to use the built-in auto-move feature to get you to a location (not recommended in areas with aggro mobs) and the ability to postpone quests until certain criteria are met.

Some right-click options

And I was doubly glad to have the addon as Silverspring features a copy of one what might be one of the most famous/infamous quests from Vanilla WoW; The Green Hills of Stranglethorn.

You remember it, right?  The quest chain that took up five quests slots in your already crowded quest log as well as all your available bag space?  Runes of Magic has pretty much duplicated the whole thing as the Legends of Taborea quest chain.

There are only three, rather than four, quests that require you to pick up pages for the chapters, and then a quest to assemble the chapters into the book, and then a quest to deliver the book, but it is all about the same.  You still have to go out and kill mobs in the zone to get the pages to drop and you still end up with dupes of many pages while still missing a few.

My first idea was to go to the auction house and see if I could buy a couple of my missing pages.  However, not many pages were for sale.  I found one I needed… then listed some of my dupes… by I was still held up.  But looking at the quest details, as updated by Quest Helper, I got a line on where I might camp for kills to get the right drop.

Quest Helper to the rescue, must find page 10!

I still had to camp the location for a while and kill quite a few mobs… and collect many more duplicate pages… but eventually I got the final page I was missing and was able to finish the whole thing up in a single session.  I am not sure I ever managed that with the old vanilla WoW version of the quest.

So that is where I stand, running quests in Silverspring.  And there are a lot of quests too.

My progress has slowed down a bit.  In part, that is to be expected.  That was the model back in the day, that every level had to take a little longer than the last, all else being equal.

But I am also slowing down some as I am finding mobs harder to kill.  Even though they are lower level than I am, fights can get pretty tough and adds make things tricky at times.  I suspect that this is because my gear, which I have collected rather haphazardly, mostly from quest rewards, sucks.  I might have to make this a priority, and maybe look into crafting to see if that will offer any decent upgrades.  For now though, I plod along.

Taborea Stuck in Time

At least it felt stuck in time when I logged into Runes of Magic.  However, in carrying on from yesterday’s post, it had also been at least six years since I logged in and memory is a tricky thing.  I have been dead certain about specific memories only to run across some solid evidence that contradicts them.

Still, even if Runes of Magic has evolved some since 2009, it doesn’t feel like it went very far.  It “feels” very much like a mash up of East and West from the last decade.

When you finish creating your character and enter the game, the first thing that pops up is an offer to send you through the tutorial, for which you will receive a handsome reward.

Your only chance! Don’t blow it!

The tutorial is mercifully quick and covers the very basic of the game.  You learn how to move by clicking, move by using the WASD keys, interact with NPCs, accept a quest, kill some things for a quest, and finally how to turn in a quest.  It goes by so quickly that I had to go back with another character and do it again just to make sure I did not miss anything.

After you wrap up the initial question you get a few rewards including a bag that give you something new every level and a temporary horse.

The first ride is free…

You also get a buff that lasts for two days.

The tutorial’s blessing upon you!

And then you are dumped, on your mount, just outside of the first town, which is where I started to really soak in the UI and atmosphere.

The first of many quest hubs

The art style feels like an Asian attempt to imitate Western MMORPG of the time, but without shedding the game’s origin.  There is still the soft focus effect for things in the distance, which makes everything look so pretty, while the character and mob models have an anime feel to them.

The UI itself looks very familiar.  Aside from the odd setup of the WASD keys… odd for me at least, as I expect Q and E to be strafe left and right, not A and D, but that was easy enough to fix… the usual suspects appear.  You have, going clockwise, your avatar nameplate, the nameplate of the NPC or mob you have selected (which, in turn, will show who the NPC or mob is focused on if applicable), buffs, a mini-map encircled by tiny icons, buttons for inventory, settings, and maps, the usual hot bars over the experience bar, and chat windows.

All normal, yet sized and placed in such a way as to make my 1600×1200 monitor seem small.  Yes, that resolution isn’t huge by today’s standards, but it was a fair sized monitor back in the day.  But this 2009 era UI feels crowded in what should have been a relatively spacious chunk of real estate.  I went digging through the settings looking for a way to scale the UI down a bit… one of the first things I do with a fresh install of WoW… but couldn’t find anything on that front.

And then, as you ride into town and accept your first quest, the quest tracker area becomes apparent, filling in the gap between the mini-map and the hot bars. (And, I assume if I formed a group, their name plates would end up in the area below my own.)

Quests.  So many quests.  Runes of Magic is from a time where, if you were copying World of Warcraft, you would be looking hard at The Burning Crusade.  And one of the themes of that expansion seemed to be, “Players like quests? Then we will give them lots of quests!”

The quests start out with a series that send you around town to meet the vendors, each of which rewards you with an item.  Worth doing for sure.  Then it expands to the other NPCs around the village, who have their set of chores for you, as well as the daily quest board, which has its own set of quests.  As it turns out, Taborea suffers from the same bear/boar/wolf problem that seems to plague so many MMORPG lands, and the only solution is to send passing strangers out to slay them.

Working on the wolf problem at the source

Ideally I suppose you should just take all the quest in the classic quest hub vacuum approach, as you will find some overlap.  I took the quests piecemeal and ended up having to go out and kill some of the same mobs again.  One thing, which seemed more of a nod to LOTRO than to WoW, was that the drops for quests from the daily quest board seem to be normal drops from the mobs in question, so you may end up with a sack full of quest items and can grab, then turn in, one of those quests almost immediately.

Or, if you did the daily quest first, you may end up with a sack full of items you need to hold onto until tomorrow.  As with LOTRO, you can only run so many of these quests in a day and you lose access to them if you get too far ahead in levels.  Unlike LOTRO, you cannot vendor these items, so you either need to trash them or hold out for the next day.

All of which has a bit of nostalgic charm to it.  Again, this is how things used to be and WoW has, though the ongoing slow churn of expansions, moved beyond the raw quest hub and bear/boar/wolf formula to a more focused, story line approach that usually limited you to 3-5 quests at a time in a zone.  So there is a bit of freedom in just grabbing a whole stack of quests and stalking the countryside to slay things, then returning to the hub to let rewards and experience rain down on you as you turn everything in.  I was quickly level five.

Hey, that was fast

Every so often, when you level up, the game prods you to do something.  The mayor in question was a ways down the road at the next hub, but I wasn’t done here yet.  I picked up the intro to crafting quests and got all the harvesting skills and ran around to level them up a bit as well.  I ran out all the quests I could find, including items from the daily board.  Soon level five turned into level ten and the game was a bit more direct with me.

Level ten now

I was now about ready to move on.  Logar is the main town in the Howling Mountains zone where I started out.

The Howling Mountains Zone

I had milked Pioneer’s Colony for all it was worth so it was time to move on.  Logar has a portal, which lets you travel to other portals you have discovered, which seem to be distributed about one per zone.  It also offered up a lot more quests… time to add Kobolds into the mix, along with more bears/boars/wolves… more expansive crafting options, and your introduction to housing.

Housing seems simple and instanced, but useful at least for storage.  The scantily clad house maid out front lets you access your home and the storage space therein, will sell you furniture, and, for some odd reason, is also the NPC that allows you to swap classes when you decide to pick up a secondary class.  I opted to leave secondary classes aside for the time being and went about in the ongoing quest vacuum manner.

I did start getting some quests that went beyond simply murdering the local fauna.  Actual minor story lines opened up, including a rather fun series of scavenger hunt quests that promised a big reward at the end.  But when I got to the last quest in the chain, it said, “Okay, go form a party of six and kill a major thing” and I felt a bit left out in the cold.  Another thing that was fine back in the day, starting off a quest chain that could only be finished with a group, but not telling you until you hit that stage.  Ah well.  I dropped that.

As my character leveled up he acquired new skills and upgrades which required attention.  Runes of Magic isn’t completely old school.  You do not have to go visit your guild or class master to obtain new skills or update old ones.  But every level you have to assign the task points, or TPs, you have collected by killing things and doing quests to boost up skills.

Working with my skills after leveling

I found that I did not always have enough TPs to upgrade everything at every level, so there was some picking and choosing to be done.  I eschewed defense in favor of simply killing things faster.  You don’t need defense if your enemy is already dead, right?

In addition to the above skills, which are things that go on your hotbar, the game also still has old school skills for weapons and such which you have to level up through usage.  I started off with a 1h axe, but swapped to a 1h sword when I got an upgrade, which meant I had to swing it for a while to work up that skill.  Then I got a 2h sword, which required the same, as did the 2h axe I picked up after that.  Fortunately the penalty for starting from scratch at my level was fairly low and the skills popped up soon enough.  But it does make me wonder if spending some time now getting the first bit of boost on those skills might save me time later.  I just have to find the variations.

The quests from Logar were vaguely familiar.  I remember doing some of the Kobold related ones back in the day.  I ran around there for a while, eventually rising up to about level 15, at which point I was getting pointed northward towards Silversping, home of the first actual city.  But that is a topic for a future post.

I have also added a link to Runes of Magic back to the side bar, since I will clearly be invested here for a bit.  Now officially a game I am playing I guess.

Return to the Land of the Ten Dollar Horse

In my fantasy MMORPG malaise I have been sifting through various options looking for something that might interest me.  The usual round of options all seem worn out for me for now and I have been reluctant to dive into anything new that requires some money up front as I have sought something to spark some interest.

And then the other day one of my co-workers was talking about how he and his wife had gone back to playing Runes of Magic and I started thinking about that.

Runes of Magic was kind of a big deal when it launched eight years back.

Happy Anniversary

The game was an Asian MMORPG title built in the style of the then current and popular Western model.  Up until then there had been a pretty solid divide between East and West when it came to MMORPG design.  Asian games were were pretty but very grindy while the West favored… well… the theme park aesthetic where quests led you through the game.

The basic plan was to make an Asian WoW.

But just to throw a twist into things, it was also going to be a free to play in a sea of subscription model MMORPGs.  At the time free to play wasn’t a big deal, and the selection of titles in that zone tended to be kids games like Toontown Online, Club Pengiun, or Habbo Hotel, browser games like Maple Story or RuneScape, or Asian titles that failed to crack the western market.  The big story for free to play was probably Anarchy Online, which converted to that model back in 2004, something that likely saved the game.

The Runes of Magic launch pre-dates a lot of what we now sort of assume as general knowledge about the who free to play business model.  The conversion and subsequent success of Dungeons & Dragons Online was still in the future.  Zynga hadn’t yet finished ripping off Happy Farm to launch FarmVille, a game that opened the discussion about things like cash shops, whales, exploitative design, and dubious business practices.

Anyway, Runes of Magic hove into view a little over eight years back and I was there to witness the launch.  It really felt an Asian fueled World of Warcraft knock-off back then, which I took to be a good thing.  As the Alganon development team would later claim after nicking the WoW UI almost pixel for pixel, if you’re going to copy WoW, you might as well not be shy about it.  That was a plus or a minus, depending on your point of view.

And then there was the cash shop, from which the ten dollar horse controversy arose.  That got our corner of the web buzzing for a bit about what should be store bought and what should be earned in something of the opening shot of the cash shop rage wars to come.  And then about a year later Blizzard put out the $25 greed steed and RoM didn’t look so bad.  Today just about everybody is selling mounts.

As for playing Runes of Magic, I tinkered a bit with it at launch, then got the instance group to come try it for a couple weeks, after which it sort of faded.  I remember seeing the publishers at at GDC in San Francisco one year, where they were talking about a web client version of the game, something that I don’t recall ever going anywhere, but otherwise my interest in the game didn’t stick and I removed it from the list of games I keep track of about five years back.

And there things stayed until my co-worker mentioned the game, which set off something of the reverie in my brain which I just disgorged above into the text editor.  So I asked him how the game was going these days and he said that not a lot had changed.  The developers, Frogstar, adds new content now and then, but for the most part have left the game itself coast as it was back in 2009.

This piqued my interest.  Ever the nostalgia buff… I still hold out hope against hope that some day Blizzard will see its way to rolling up a retro vanilla WoW experience… I decided to go give it a try.

Thanks to the fact that I still use pretty much the same set of email addresses I did back then, I was even able to recover my account.  I did that, reset the password, then reset the cash shop password, and set about getting things downloaded.  The main packages wants 15GB, which would have seemed like a lot back in the day, but which barely merits consideration now that I have multiple terabytes of hard drive space and a 75Mbit internet connection. (Remember back when having a T1 connection was a big deal?  Now I have the effective equivalent of 48 T1s piped into our home.  We live in the future.)

Select to download

The system requirements still list Windows XP.  After the install ran, the game had to patch.  My co-worker was starting to seem spot on about nothing changing, as the patcher for the game is still the remorseless always on top of every damn thing window it was back at launch.

Reading something? Let me just get in the way!

Fortunately, the current install package seemed to be reasonably up to date, so there was just a couple minutes of patcher intrusion before it wrapped up.

Once downloaded and installed I… had to figure out how to launch the game.  It didn’t bother installing a short cut on the start menu, preferring to put something on the desktop in the old school fashion.  It was a short cut to a launcher, which in turn let you launch another launcher, which finally let you launch the game.  After launching and logging in I hit the server select menu and was surprised to see the game still listed two characters for me.

Server selection

However, that number was just the ghost of same ancient data in a database table, because when I got to the character selection menu there were no characters there.  I would have to start from scratch… which was probably a good thing after at least seven years away from the game.  So on to new character creation and all of its sliders.

New character creation

Character creation lets you select from three races and a series of classes, some of which are race specific.  Only humans can be knights or priests, only elves can be druids or wardens, and only dwarves can be so damn ugly… erm… only dwarves can be warlocks and champions… oh, and they can be priests too, so forget what I said about humans only being priests.  Anyway, there is a matrix of race class combinations.

Customization is available through the many sliders which mostly control how thick a given body part looks.  Of note is the “breasts” slider, which does nothing for males but which controls cup size for females.  Probably the most distinctive thing you is choose a hair style and color.  That is about all that stands out so far as I can tell.  I considered going with a warrior modeled somewhat on that guy from the Diet Dr. Pepper commercial.

Lil’ Sweet says Hello!

I decided that maybe pink wasn’t the right hair color.  But there is a whole CMYK color wheel there of choices if you want a specific shade.  I decided to go back to blonde, though I left him otherwise the same.

And then it was in to the game.  But that is the topic of the next post.

You Get to Decorate the House You Have, Not the House You Might Want

Housing is one of the great line-item features that a lot of people think every MMO should have.  There is a strong desire to have a place to call your own in what tends to be an unchanging and unalterable virtual world.  There is some need within us to leave our mark somewhere in the game.  I get that.

And companies have responded to that over the years, offering up various forms of housing.  Housing was a big part of Ultima Online back in the day.  Housing was part of the attraction of WildStar, which just launched a few weeks back.  And over the years I have explored various implementations.  If I play a game long enough, and it has housing, I am usually there to give it a try.

But how well it sticks for me… well, that is another story.

Rift offered up housing with the Storm Legion expansion, but it was so free form that I barely did anything with it.

Dimension by the Sea

Unfurnished Dimension by the Sea

People have done amazing things with dimensions in Rift… they were even doing so back during the Storm Legion beta… but, like most of Storm Legion, it just didn’t hook me.

Lord of the Rings Online, by comparison, offered some very pretty housing that was, in fact, a house.  A house on a lot even.

A house in Bree

A house in Bree

But the options for it were so limited that I ended up letting it lapse.  There wasn’t much advantage to having the house and the customizations were limited to just a few locations within the house.  You could hang up things from the world… taxidermied monsters or fishing trophies… but it still felt very generic.

And then clipping issues...

And then clipping issues…

And while I liked the idea of there being a yard, the instanced neighborhoods were somewhat awkward.

Elves and their damn monuments

Elves and their damn monuments

And it was tough to find a neighborhood where all of us could find a house we could afford.  In the end, the minor storage benefit of my house in LOTRO meant I let the lease lapse.

EverQuest actually threw down and added housing with the House of Thule expansion.  It borrowed a lot from its younger brother, EverQuest II, while using the instanced neighborhood model similar to LOTRO.  And I was reasonably impressed with SOE’s ability to overlay yet another complex interface onto the aging EverQuest client.  Plus the houses looked good.

A more complete development

A Norrathian housing development

The problem there was that I was pretty much done with EverQuest as a main game by that point.  I like to visit old Norrath, so I had to go try it out, but I had nothing really to put in the house and the upkeep, which was aimed at those who had kept up with inflation, was well beyond my means.

And there have been others.  Runes of Magic offered housing that gave you some form of storage, along with a woman in a skimpy French maid outfit.

Go Google the outfit

Go Google the outfit

Landmark seems to be all housing.  It is about as free form as you can get. no game at this point.

Behold Zuul's Sky Altar

Behold Zuul’s Sky Altar

The pity is that there is no actual game around it yet.

Meanwhile, in EVE Online, the Captain’s quarters… the start (and probably the end) of housing in New Eden… allowed you to see your full body at last, and then park that body on a couch to watch something boring on a screen.

What is on Space TV today?

What is on Space TV today?

That might be too meta for me.

And since I am on about different flavors of housing, I will mention Star Wars Galaxies before some fan comes in to remind us all that this was the greatest housing ever.  We will have to agree to disagree on that point.  Yes, it gave you your own little spot in the real world where you could open a store or whatever.  But it was a visual blight on the game,  with huge clumps of houses strewn across the open landscape, encroaching right up to the edge of any in-game landmark.  It made the game look like a Tatooine trailer park.

Looks like a Star Wars trailer park

Literally a Tatooine trailer park

But after having gone through so much in-game housing over the years, I have to say that there has only been one housing model that has really suited me.  And that is the EverQuest II model.

Yes, you do not get your own house in the midst of the world.  At best you share a door to a stately home or guild hall with everybody else who has rented the same facility, so you all live there in parallel in your own instances.  I do not think that is necessarily a bad thing.  It keeps away the blight problem, and while there is the problem of finding somebody’s house from a listing at a door, one of the bragging points I have heard about the SWG model was that finding people was difficult so that knowing where a given person lived and set up a store gave you power.  I’ll take the less blight version.

But the key for me was that EQII housing gave me exactly what I wanted, which was a simple house where I could hang trophies and other rewards from my travels.  I had the option to decorate, and at times Gaff, who had a carpenter, would send me some neat furniture to spiff up my home, but mostly I just decorated with things picked up as I played.  And the important part was that somebody at SOE foresaw that need and provided me with plenty of items to stick in my home.  In fact, whoever came up with the reward of a weapon you could mount on your wall for the Lore & Legend quests was a genius, followed by the person who decided to make heritage quest rewards displayable in your home.  I went through and looked at every character I had played past level 20 the other night, and every single one of them has a house and has at least some Lore & Legend quest rewards hung on the wall.

Weapons on the wall

Weapons on the wall

There are other aspects about it that make EQII housing good.  The interface is simple.  The house models themselves come in a variety of designs, from simple box flats to a whole island if you want a big guild hall.  And the base models are cheap.  You can have a house in any city for five silver a week, which was inexpensive back at launch when SOE was working very hard to keep a lid on inflation and no mob in the game dropped actual coin.

EverQuest II housing is really ideal for my desires. It is just a pity that it is in EQII.

It is a pity because I do not play EQII.  I don’t play it because, for all the little things it does right, I don’t enjoy the main game.  I don’t enjoy the main game, the character progression and zones and levels and what not for various reasons.  Some of the reasons are pretty concrete, such as the fact that none of my close friends play the game anymore.  It is on the official “never again” list for the instance group.  Some of the reasons are very subjective.  I really don’t like the 50-70 zones all that much.  Everything after Desert of Flames makes me yawn, and even that expansion still strikes me as “the new stuff.”

After all of the above, I am finally getting to my point.

Despite the fact that EverQuest II has pretty much the ideal housing setup for me, I do not play EverQuest II.  I don’t play EverQuest II because I don’t play MMOs for the side features, I play them because I enjoy the overall game.

So I love housing in EverQuest II and the music system in Lord of the Rings Online and the old world of EverQuest and the OCD inducing find all the points of interest apects of GuildWars 2 and… hrmm… I am sure sure there is something I could inject here about Rift if I thought about it… but I don’t play those game because the main game just doesn’t click with me.

I play World of Warcraft and EVE Online which, respectively, ten years in has no housing at all and possibly the most useless housing in the genre.  I play them because I enjoy the main game, or the part of the main game in which I indulge.

So if you are out there trolling for page views by raging about garrisons in one breath because they didn’t meet your unrealistic and unsubstantiated expectations, after making it clear you never cared about housing being brought to WoW in the previous breath, in an environment where housing was probably a slip of the tongue to describe the feature, because Blizzard has been pretty clear in the past about their views on housing in WoW… well… I guess I got the punch line at the start of this sentence, didn’t I?  Those who get paid by the page view…

Would I like garrisons to be EQII housing brought to Azeroth?  You bet!  That would be a dream come true.

But unless you have a compelling argument that garrisons are so bad that they are going to ruin the main game, there isn’t much drama to be had in my opinion.  We can talk about how better the developers might have spent their time I suppose.  But this is a pet battles sort of feature.

In the end, I am buying Warlords of Draenor for ten more levels of World of Warcraft and all the zones and stories and pop culture references and silly shenanigans that goes with it.  And I suspect that will be the story for most people.

If garrisons have any merit, people will play with them and maybe even stay subscribed a bit longer.  Or if they have any achievements… and of course they will have achievements… people will play with them for that.  And if garrisons are truly the waste of time and effort as described, then people will use them to the extent that they need to in order to get to level cap and grab the achievements, at which point they will be forgotten like many a feature in the past.

Is somebody going to try to convince me that this was a make or break feature for Warlords of Draenor?

Or, if you want, just tell me about your favorite MMO housing.  Somebody will anyway, so I might as well invite it!

The tl;dr version: If housing really is a must-have important feature for you, you probably aren’t playing WoW now and you probably won’t be playing it in the future.

Anyway, back to happy pictures.  I put a gallery of my housing collections in EQII, plus a bit of the Revelry & Honor guild hall (which is huge), after the cut, because it really is my ideal housing plan.

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The 2013 List – This Time it is Goals

At the beginning of every year I write a post about the upcoming 12 months.  Sometimes it is silly predictions.  Sometimes my predictions are even correct, but not very often.  I have made demands.  I have asked questions.  Here is the story so far:

Now it is time for the 2013 version of my yearly post.


This year I think I am going to set goals, which is just another way of drawing some marks in the sand to measure what happened when the year finally comes to a close.

1- Finish Rift

Well, finish Rift for a specific definition of “finish.”  MMOs are designed to never truly be finishable and Rift, with all its possible class builds, especially so.

In this case, it means hitting the level cap and running all of the five person instances with my main character, Hillmar, and the rest of the regular group.  And, just to put another parameter in the mix, I would like to see this happen before the inevitable Summer hiatus when we head out for vacations and other distractions.

2- Find a new goal in EVE

2012 was about learning to live in null sec and flying in large fleet operations.  There were large wars going on throughout most of the year and I flew all over null sec in fleet ops.  Now, however, things have quieted down.  There was no “Winter Break War” as there was last year and the prospect of any big conflict seems pretty remote right now.  We have been effectively ordered to not do anything that might result in the CFC having to deal with any more sovereignty.

Which puts me out of a job.

So I am in training mode with a little bit of ratting and selling now and again.  That can be lucrative, but it is also dull, as is mining.  (Though I hear from Gaff that with the new NPC AI, he has to actually tank all his mining ships as the rats now change targets.   And they pop drones without mercy, making drones pretty much useless for mission running and the like. So mining is dull AND annoying now!)

There are some things I could train up.  There are a few decent guides on planetary interaction out there, if I wanted to add that do my EVE resume.  There are some player skills I could work on, like scanning.  I am hopeless at scanning at the moment and, historically, every time I make an effort to figure it out, CCP changes how it works.

But as for what would essentially be a new vocation in EVE, I do not have a plan… or even a general direction.  It might be time to go back to that chart.

3- Get to Tier IX in World of Tanks

This is something of a vague goal, as I do not really have my eye on any specific Tier IX tank in WoT.  For now the Soviet heavy tanks seem to be my favorites, followed by the German tank destroyers.  But who knows, I might be mad for French self propelled guns or get the itch to nip about the field of battle in one of those Cromwells.  And then there is the Chinese tank line coming along soon.  Or so they say.

Anyway, barring any dramatic need to start up on another branch of the tree, Tier IX ought to be an obtainable goal even with my somewhat sporadic play schedule.  I just need some focus.

Good luck on that.

4- Finish that Second Instance Group Video

Almost a year back I put together a video about the first year of the regular instance group in World of Warcraft.  Fun stuff.  I like to go back and watch that video now and again.  Not quite as emotionally evocative as Sayonara Norrath, but a lot closer to home.

Originally I was going to make a video about our whole experience, but that was a huge project, so I cut it back to just the first year with the idea that I would do one for each of our six… headed into seven… years.

But while the first year was a good plan (for me at least) as it gets our origin, how do you distinguish it from year two, three, four, and so on?  So I decided I needed another specific subject.

I chose our time in Wrath of the Lich King for the next video.  I even started in on the long job of reviewing and editing pictures.  WotLK was the pinnacle of the instance group in WoW, where we finally got our act together.  It was also our downfall, the last happy time in WoW.  We got good at the game only to find that it isn’t that much fun when you are good.  When you are a random, badly equipped group running comedy specs in the wrong roles, every boss kill is a major victory.  When you are geared appropriately, using the right spec, and playing your role correctly, it starts to become a matter of just figuring out the gimmick for any given boss.

Archaedas was exaltation.  By the time we hit King Ymiron, he was just another boss on the long list.

Still, those were good times and set a standard of effort and fun that Cataclysm couldn’t match.  And it was a nice, discreet time frame.  We were there the day the expansion launched through to finishing off the last instance.

Piece of cake to put it together, right?

Except I cannot find the right music.  I need that to inspire me.  Earl’s rendition of Eleanor Rigby, with its twangy sounds and great mix of nostalgia and irony (all the lonely people indeed!) really moved me to finish the first video.  But I have not found the right music to get me excited to finish this video yet.  What will capture Northrend and the instance group, our travels, our defeats, and our victories?

So really my goal is really to find the right music.  We shall see if I can get there.

5- Retry an MMO That Didn’t Stick

There are a number of MMOs out there which I have tried and let drop after some effort.  For one reason or another the games just did not hold my attention or otherwise compel me to keep moving forward.

There are a number of options for this goal.  Possibilities include Vanguard, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Star Trek Online, Runes of Magic, Warhammer Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and probably a few more I have forgotten.  Pirates of the Burning Sea maybe!

The trick here of course is to find a game where whatever made me stop playing has either been changed/fixed or was something that I have since changed my mind about.  And that, in turn, is something of a function of the time that has passed since I last played the game.

SWTOR, for example, is just a year gone by, and I did not like blaster combat or having dialog forced on my character. The former probably hasn’t changed, while the latter is the vaunted “fourth pillar” that was going to distinguish the game, so it seems like unlikely that I am going to like the game any more than I did the first time around.

At the other end of the spectrum is Vanguard, which I haven’t really played since late beta, and which I only recall as being an ugly, lagging, broken, resource hog of a game that was clearly not ready for prime time.  Six years down the road it is possible they may have addressed some of those issues.

6- Scout for the Next Instance Group Game

With the downfall of WoW as our default game, it has become an ongoing task to scout for the next game we might try.  We are currently settled in Rift, but since the first goal on my list is to “finish” Rift before the Summer hiatus, it seems likely that we will need something new come the end of vacation.

As always, the usual parameters are in place.  It must have content that caters to groups of five or six people.  It has to work for a variety of play time budgets. (Some of us will play all week long, others will only play on group night.)  It has to have content that we can enjoy in our standard “three hours on a Saturday night” parameter.   And it has to be something that we can all buy into.

There are a lot of options out there, even discounting things some of us have already played.  I think that, as a group, we might find a month or two of fun in PlanetSide 2.  Four of us would probably find Need for Speed: World or World of Tanks good fun, but I am not sure about all five.  And there are candidates from both the previous and the next goal that are possibilities.  Picking one though and getting everybody to download and commit, that can be a challenge.

7- Book My Autumn Nostalgia Tour Early

Every autumn I get the urge to go back and play some game from my past.  Sometimes it is EverQuest or TorilMUD.  This past year is was EverQuest II.  And given my long time attachment to the games, you can probably put WoW and Lord of the Rings Online on the list of potential candidates.

The thing is, the urge tends to hit me rather suddenly and I run off, play for the requisite month or so solo, then the urge tapers off and I am pretty much done. (Pro Tip: Always subscribe month-to-month for nostalgia based events.)

But while this is often fun, it is usually a lot more fun if I can get Gaff or Potshot in on the tour.  Nostalgia is a meal best served family style or some such.  So if I can just peer into the future and maybe decide on my target, we can get together on the plan and have a great time.  The thing is, which game?  Do I book a room in old Qeynos for the rainy season, or is the Forsaken Inn a more likely holiday spot?

8- Blog Stuff

Often when I look at the future, I will tack on something about “playing more and writing less.”  Over time though, this has increasingly looked like nonsense.  Writing here on the blog is clearly part of the process of playing games… or at least online games… for me.  The writing, the remembering, the picking of screen shots, and the clicking of the “publish” button are all part of the package.

So my goal for the blog is pretty much “stay the course.”  And maybe find a new theme.  Though I have been saying that for about six years and I am still using the same WordPress theme that I had on day one.

So those are my goals for 2013.  Not very exciting.  We shall see how they play out.

How does 2013 look to you?  And any ideas for music for that video?