Tag Archives: Standing Stone Games

Is it Minas Morgul Yet?

It is kind of a busy Tuesday.  On to my third post of the day.

Back in September when Standing Stone Games announced the Minas Morgul expansion the target date for launch was October 29th.  That was last Tuesday, and it clearly did not come to pass.  Unfortunately I put the target date in the title of the post I linked there.  Oh well.

Perhaps I should have been more cautious.  SSG certainly left themselves something of an out in the fine print, declaring October 29 as the target, but allowing that given any delay you’d certainly have your expansion and goodies by no later than November 30.  A month wide launch window there gave them five target Tuesday in which to go live.

Anyway, while they missed their initial planned date, the word from SSG is that the Minas Morgul expansion will go live today.

As always, the expansion promises more things, more levels, more quests, more dungeons, more raids, and even a new race and an additional character slot per server.  That is the base package, but as I covered in that previous post, there extra special versions of the expansion, with extra special prices, available with even more goodies.

SSG has a page dedicated to the options for the expansion as well as a FAQ.

Tipped off by a comment on the October in Review post, I see that the FAQ has a brand new restriction at the top in regards to purchasing the expansion with LOTRO Points, the in game currency.

CAN I PURCHASE THE EXPANSION WITH LOTRO POINTS?
The Minas Morgul expansion will be available for Store Points in March 2020 and will be priced as follows:

-Base Edition (includes the Minas Morgul Region & Instances only): 2495 Points
-Stout-axe Dwarf: 1000 Points

That is a bit of a “screw you” to those sitting on a pile of said points.  Money talks and virtual currency walks, or something like that.  I am reminded, once again, of one of my early concerns around virtual currencies, which is best summed up by a scene from The Simpsons episode Itchy & Scratchy Land:

Homer: One adult and four children.
Woman: Would you like to buy some Itchy and Scratchy Money?
Homer: What’s that?
Woman: Well it’s money that’s made just for the park.  It works just like regular money, but it’s, er…”fun”.
Bart: Do it, Dad.
Homer: Well, OK, if it’s fun…let’s see, uh…I’ll take $1100 worth.

This exchange is followed immediately by this visual.

Where can I spend my LOTRO Points?

So here we are again.  If you were holding on to your LOTRO Points in hopes of buying the expansion, you get to wait until March.  Also, due to the rather opaque nature involved in selling LOTRO Points, where different price points get you varying amounts of currency in return in an attempt to get you to buy more.

Current LOTRO Point pricing

Given that chart, a LOTRO point varies in range from 1.3 cents per to .86 cents per point, making the cost of the equivalent to the base expansion (content plus new race) somewhere between $28 and $45, compared to the $40 price if you pay in real world money.

Of course, if you’re like me and you’re getting a month 500 LOTRO Point stipend due to being a subscriber (lifetime, in my case), you may feel that you accumulated currency has very little value.  And since SSG won’t let you spend it on what you want, it probably feels like it has even less value at the moment.

This isn’t a big deal to me.  I plan to sink some of my LOTRO Points into the expansion when it becomes available in the cash shop, but the likelihood of my ever actually getting into the content is pretty small.  I bought the Mordor expansion the same way and barely got anywhere with that.

But if you are a long term player and subscriber who had earmarked their saved up LOTRO Points for the expansion, I feel you pain.  SSG would like cash please.  It is at moments like this where I wonder how involved with SSG’s operations their “publisher,” Daybreak Games, are.

Return of the Ring – LOTRO Up Again

Hello! Thank you for your patience during our extended downtime. All indications are that things are on schedule. Thank you for being here!

LOTRO Twitter, March 6, 8:35am

Famous last words?

Standing Stone Games had been reminding everybody via various sources, including Twitter, that both Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online would be down pretty much all of Wednesday, March 6th, for what was described as “data center work.”  Time to muck with the servers I guess.  And, as the quote above indicates, hours into the work things looked good.

And then things began to unravel and the time to complete started to creep forward.  Midnight of the first day moved to 5am of the next.  That became 11am, and then 5pm, and soon the time had moved into Friday and began to threaten weekend play time.

These things happen.  If you have a server farm and bring all the machines down… machines that have been up and running sometimes for years at a stretch… some small percentage are going to fail when you go to bring them back up.  And that leaves out any changes you might intend to make to them or the infrastructure while things are down.

A computer looks almost like an appliance, nicely packed away in a box.  But it is not.  It isn’t even close.  An appliance is a serious of parts… and even software… designed specifically to work together and do a very specific set of tasks.

Your computer is disguised chaos, a thousand points of failure flying in tight formation, hacked together from a bunch of components that mostly work together.  I’ve worked on the hardware end of things and I’ve had various suppliers show up to tell us that the part we use is being discontinued, but they have a replacement that is pin compatible and functionally the same… and then had that part stop production because it turned out that the old part was actually out of spec or our design only worked due to some unintended behavior of the part of some such and now we have to hire somebody to sit at the end of the line and hand solder a surface mount resistor on one of the pins on every single unit with the new part while we work on a redesign.  True story.

So I feel for those members of the team trying to get things back up and running.

And come Saturday morning there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel.  At about 5am Eastern or 2am Pacific time, the announcement went out that the servers were up again.

The game worlds have reopened. Thank you for your patience as we worked through these various data center issues in recent days.

LOTRO Twitter, March 9, 2:06am

But we were not done yet.

UPDATE: We are bringing back down the game worlds while we troubleshoot an issue with characters not receiving their proper account unlocks.

LOTRO Twitter, March 9, 2:36am

That persisted for a while, but about four hours later the servers were opened up again.

The game worlds have reopened. We appreciate your patience during this downtime, and thank you for being here.

LOTRO Twitter, March 9, 6:56am

That last one seemed to do it… but I held onto this post for another day because I wouldn’t be surprised if they found yet another glitch they needed to take things down to fix.

And, having gone more than two days past their planned outage, SSG has some offers for people to make them feel better about having been kept offline.  It is in the form of a FAQ.

Sales will be extended, everybody will get a bonus pack of various boosters, and VIP accounts that have logged in over the last 30 days will get 250 LOTRO Points.

DDO players will get something similar and have their own FAQ.

And so it goes.  They fared better that SOE did back in May 2011 when they were down almost 13 days, though that was due to a hacking incident.  And, of course, there is Alganon, which has been down since November 2017.

Now hopefully things will settle down a bit and SSG will get around to telling us when Moria is going to unlock on the LOTRO Legendary server.

Daybreak Offering a Lifetime All Access Deal for $299

Daybreak is getting into the Lifetime Subscription arena this holiday season as part of their Daybreak Winter Extravaganza.

The Daybreak All Access plan lets you play DC Universe Online, EverQuest, EverQuest 2, and PlanetSide 2 with subscriber benefits. (Sorry, this does nothing for H1Z1 or PlanetSide Arena players.)

The deal is good through December 31, 2018, but is limited to 4,000 subscribers.

If you’re not down with that level of commitment, there is also a yearlong All Access deal for a somewhat underwhelming $199.  There are bonus items involved, but Daybreak has previously offered a year for $99, and the normal deal gets you 12 months for $119, so it doesn’t feel like they’re really selling it here.  What bonus items are worth $80? [Edit: They offered a full year for $71.99 back in August 2016.]

Of course, those with a suspicious mind might wonder why Daybreak is offering such a deal right now.  It seems late in the game, so to speak, to be offering up such a deal on titles that are, to put it bluntly, getting on in age.  With the seemingly right so far rumors post from back in May predicting that we might be seeing the last expansions for the Norrath franchise next year to send off EverQuest and EverQuest II for their 20th and 15th anniversaries respectively, you might be buying into some games with limited additional content prospects.

And, since Daybreak is excluding their newest games from the plan, that might give one pause as well.

Still, I doubt Daybreak is going to close down any of the games on the list any time soon, so you will likely get years of play out of a lifetime subscription if you are committed to any of the titles.

Also, as a side note, I see that Daybreak has also included links to the Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online holiday bundles (not the subscription one, which already expired) at the bottom of that announcement as well.  I do still wonder what the real relationship is between the Daybreak and SSG.  Rumors are that Jason Epstein owns them both somehow, but I can’t quite credit that.

Anyway, a bit of odd and unexpected holiday news out of Daybreak.  I am not sure what to think about it.  Would you buy in on this?  Go take a look yourself.

Addendum:  Each of the four games on the All Access plan has their own version of the Winter Extravaganza banner.  I went with the EverQuest II version at the top as they were the first group I heard from.  But I thought I would include the others as well here at the end of the post.

DC Universe Online

DCUO went with Mister Freeze, which I guess is on point weather wise… more so that a couple of dragons anyway.  It is a “winter” extravaganza after all.

PlanetSide 2

A Santa hat and a bit of holiday color and some decorations get the PlanetSide 2 offer in the spirit.

EverQuest

And then there is EverQuest playing up the scantily clad Firiona Vie, who is also holding a sizable candy cane.  I realize that she is the iconic emblem of the franchise for many, but I feel cold just looking at her.  Also, I’m not sure how that Santa hat is staying on given the pony tail in the back.

The $200 LOTRO Legacy Edition

The team at SSG are looking for a Christmas bonus I guess.  Yesterday I posted about the Dungeons & Dragons Online 2 Year Season Pass limited offer and before that post could even go live SSG was out with a LOTRO version of the plan.

Available for a limited time

The LOTRO version, called the LOTRO Legacy Bundle, is different at least.  To start with, it costs $100 less and it isn’t limited to 1,000 units.

The deal is sort of the same as the DDO version, being wrapped up in a stretch of VIP game time.  However, the LOTRO deal is only for a year, and the price baseline for a year of LOTRO VIP is $99.99.

In the case of LOTRO, it gets you all of the quest packs, raids, and skirmishes that come with the expansions to the game… essentially all of the content of each expansion.

With that, $200 isn’t a horrible price point.  Knock off the price for a year of VIP and you only have to make up $100 in order to break even.

To go and buy the base package for all of the expansions today it would cost you $149.96.  The prices listed on the LOTRO site are:

Mordor            $39.99
Helm's Deep       $39.99
Riders of Rohan   $19.99
Rise of Isengard  $19.99
Siege of Mirkwood $9.99
Mines of Moria    $19.99

Siege of Mirkwood is expensive even at that price, but I might be a bit biased there.

In addition, you get all of the quest packs from the base game, something that comes with VIP status in any case, if I recall right.  That might be handy if you don’t want to keep paying for the VIP level access after the year runs down.

Unfortunately I cannot check the in-game store to see if the pricing is different because I own all of those, so they do not show up as options for me.

You don’t get any of the bonus items that came with any of the expansions, save for the Crystal of Remembrance that came with legendary version of Riders of Rohan.

In addition to that you get a pile of extras thrown in:

  • Premium Wallet (Account wide)
  • 250 Mithril Coins
  • Riding Skill
  • 5 vitality stat tome pickers
  • 10 skill and slayer deed boosts
  • 10 Reputation supply
  • A Fleet-Footed Goat
  • A Mount Picker (gets you 1 of 4 mounts)
  • Housing Pack

The wallet has changed enough over the years, and I got the premium one as part of some pre-order deal way back when, that I can’t tell you what that really means to an average player, even after reading the wiki.

Mithril coins are useful though, as is the riding skill.  Stat tomes boost your character, the boosters ease up a bit of grind, and a mount is always good.  The only thing I would discount would be the housing stuff, housing in LOTRO being such a waste in my opinion.

So one could argue that for your $199.99 LOTRO Legacy Bundle you end up with more than $250 worth of stuff.  Actual, tangible stuff, a VIP subscription and content.  That seems to make it a more substantial deal that the DDO Season Pass.

If, of course, you have not purchased any of these items already.  And therein lies the rub.

I actually own all of the expansions… and the base game… so of that estimate $149.96 in value, none of it applies to me.  And the fluff is not worth anywhere close to the extra $100… and I already have a lifetime subscription so even VIP access doesn’t get me anything.

But somewhere I am sure there is somebody who can commit to the game for a year… another problem for me… and who hasn’t purchased all the expansions.  If you stopped after Siege of Mirkwood you still come out a bit ahead on pricing using this to pick up all the content after that.

Anyway, as with the DDO Season Pass, this is a limited time offer, though the time limited is less constrained.  You have until the 16th to pick this up, while DDO side of the house is trying to rush you into buying by the 10th.  That, and the lack of an artificial 1,000 unit limit, makes me believe that SSG has a little more confidence in the LOTRO Legacy Bundle.

Also on about this:

Reviewing my 2018 Predictions

Here we are in December, the new year is looming, and it is time to get to those inevitable end of year housekeeping and review posts that I plague you with every holiday season.

Being a regular event there are past versions of this sort of thing available if you care to see how this sort of thing tends to go.

As is usually the case, the start of the year comes around and I take the opportunity every January 1st to write out a post seemingly designed to make me look foolish.  Seriously, if anybody accuses me of not being able to admit I am wrong I just have to direct them to this series of review posts.

Anyway, as usual, back at the start of the year I posted 27 predictions, plus a bonus prediction, and then went on with my usual nonsense.  Now it is time to grade my folly.

As usual, each question is worth 10 points.  Multi-part questions are split up by segment.  Partial credit is available if I am close but not quite on the nose.  So here we go.

1 – Blizzard will ship the Battle for Azeroth expansion for World of Warcraft on August 28th of this year.  10 points if I am right, minus 2 points for each week I am off for a partial credit calculation.

A nice, cleanly defined and measurable prediction.  I am bad at making those, so let’s just enjoy this one for a moment.  Ahhh.  I was two weeks off the mark, so it is 6 out of 10 points.

2 – WoW Classic – We will have a lot of details by the end of the year and you’ll be able to sign up for closed beta, but there won’t be a lot of emphasis on it to the disappointment of many.  But Blizzard is canny and won’t want to distract from the Battle for Azeroth launch.  Expect a major WoW Classic panel at BlizzCon with lots of details of things we can expect to try in 2019.

A little more subjective, but BlizzCon told the tale.  We got a detailed look at how serious Blizzard was about this whole project, including a chance to play two of the early zones.  The latter is going to pass for closed beta in my prediction.  And we got a launch… season.  Summer 2019 will see WoW Classic launch.  Going to give myself 10 out of 10 for this one.

3 – With plans for a real WoW Classic unambiguously in motion, expect Blizzard to serve notice on any emulator hosting enough players to run the Deadmines that legal action will commence if they do not shut down and promise to stay that way.  That was cute and all when Blizz said it couldn’t be done, but with actual money on the line Blizz will be more like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.

And now we’re into the subjective.  Yes, in 2018 Blizzard spent time going after WoW emulators.  But did it stoop to the level of Blizz kicking over every Vanilla WoW sandcastle on the beach?  I don’t know, because small servers don’t make the news, only big ones do.  Meanwhile emulators like Kronos and Demon Souls are still up and running and declaring that the presence of WoW Classic won’t stop them.  So much for the theory that these servers are only around because there is no official alternative.   Anyway, I think I get 0 points for this one.

4 – Heroes of the Storm will continue to follow the Diablo III toward the dormant part of the Blizzard franchise locker room. More changes won’t revitalize it, but it will make enough money for Blizz to keep making new heroes through 2018.

We didn’t hear much about Heroes of the Storm, aside from some new heroes.  High Inquisitor Whitemane was a good addition, along with another at BlizzCon.  BlizzCon showed that Blizzard was still working on a plan to “fix” the game, but it still remains far behind League of Legends and DOTA 2 in popularity.  Still, Blizzard is persisting, so call it 5 points for the heroes, but zero points for the dormant part.

[Dec 13 Addendum: If only I had waited I could have gotten full credit.  Blizz is killing the esports league and sending most of the devs elsewhere. But my cut off is Dec. 1.  Oh well.]

6 – Won’t ship list – The following titles won’t ship, go live, leave early access, progress beyond alpha, or otherwise leave the criticism deflection zone and actually face the live market, 2 points each:

  • Star Citizen
  • Crowfall
  • Camelot Unchained
  • Pantheon
  • CCP Project Nova

Well, there were clearly a few gimmes on that list.  I have to get some points somewhere.  We did get some news on some of those, but not all of it was great.  Still, none shipped, so 10 points.

7 – Shroud of the Avatar will make the leap to live status, will leave early access and such, and be fully available for sale without caveat or restriction… and sales won’t take off because most everybody who was interested has already bought in.  Instead it will need an active, constantly updated, and heavily promoted cash shop to keep going.  Govern yourself accordingly.

Wow, even I am surprised at how on the nose this one was.  I mean, it happened.  Shroud of the Avatar had its live launch on Steam.  And then not much happened, except for laying off some of the development staff, backing away from their Euro publisher, and declining numbers on Steam.  But there were a updates and, as expected, focus on the cash shop specials.  Seems about dead on.  10 points.

8 – No legal changes to lootboxes, pay to win, or pseudo gambling.  This is a Gevlon inspired prediction, where he said:

“Mark my word: one year from now, it’ll be illegal to sell anything random or powerful and it’ll be also illegal to not disclose major gaming concepts like how the matchmaker works.”

I’m taking the opposite position.  I’ll leave out the matchmaker part, mostly because that seems nonsensical to predict… not to mention he was wrong about it with League of Legends… and stick with just the “random or powerful” part of that.  If I can buy a random lootbox come December 1st of 2018 with the promise of a useful, non-cosmetic item, that will be 10 points for me.

By my stated criteria I get the full 10 points.  That a person in Belgium cannot is outside the parameters of the prediction.  Betting against Gevlon is generally a wise move.

9 – Nintendo and GameFreak will announce a remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl for the 3DS.  Come on, you know how badly we want this!  Dooooo eeeeet!

Nope.  In fact, even as I wrote that prediction GameFreak had already washed its hands of the 3DS platform, so there will be no more Pokemon on Nintendo handhelds.  This makes me sad.  (No, the Switch is not a handheld.)  0 points.

10 – In a retro focused year, Nintendo will also announce Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire for the 3DS Virtual Console.

Again, the 3DS is dead as far as Pokemon goes, and pretty much as far as any new titles go.  Nintendo wants everybody on the Switch and has abandoned the DS/3DS installed base.  0 points.

11 – The Nintendo Switch will get its own Virtual Console store in 2018, and one of the early test items will be versions of the above mentioned Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire in order to test the waters. We will get that announcement before we hear anything about a new, current generation core Pokemon RPG on the Switch.

There will be no Virtual Console for the Switch, and the lingering Virtual Console for the WiiU and 3DS platforms is slated to be turned off soon.  Nintendo has really turned against me.  0 points.

12 – Pokemon Go will finally get a head to head battle mode along with a friends list, though it will be segregated by platform, so iOS and Android shall not mix.  No trading of Pokemon however and the incentives to battle, aside from pride of winning, will be kept minuscule out of fears of abuse.

Well, we got a friends list.  That is worth 2 points I think.  I was pretty much wrong on everything else, even though we got a hint that head-to-head might be coming.

13 – Microsoft/Mojang will announce end of updates/new features for Minecraft –  Java Edition in favor of ongoing support for the unified edition that works across mobile, console, and Windows 10 which, coincidentally, is also the edition where they make money selling skins and such.  Basically, maintenance mode and a push to get people to go where the money is.

Nope.  Much to my surprise, Microsoft has kept Minecraft – Java Edition live and up to date.  0 points.

14 – Daybreak will finally announce a new product, a small-ish group/co-op RPG thing that will feel like something of a new coat of paint on Just Survive, but will be fantasy and based in Norrath because that is the only IP they have that has some draw and lacks a licensing fee.

*crickets*

I guess predicting anything new from Daybreak was optimistic at best.  0 points.

15 – PlanetSide 2 and Just Survive will clearly be in maintenance mode by the end of the year, with staff being pulled off to work on the above new title.  The problem will be distinguishing maintenance mode from whatever mode they are in now.  Daybreak will just have to tell us.

I am going to claim half credit on this one because Just Survive was clearly in maintenance mode for some time frame in 2018… before Daybreak shut it down.  The problem is that, with Daybreak, you can only recognize maintenance mode retroactively, after the axe comes down.  So PlanetSide 2 exists as sort of Schroedinger’s MMO, where we cannot tell if it is supported or drifting untended because silence is Daybreak’s default mode.  It did get a new map, but there hasn’t been a lot else.  So I could possibly claim PS2 was in maintenance mode, which is why I am being greedy and claiming half credit for Just Survive5 points.

16 – EverQuest and EverQuest II will get their annual autumnal expansions.  The EverQuest team will follow the lead of their younger sibling and return to a Planes of Power theme.

17 – On the EverQuest II side of the house the focus will be a surprising return to a desert theme along the lines of Desert of Flames, flying freaking carpets and all.

I am lumping these two together because they are examples of bad prediction writing.  There are four measurable elements here, each worth five points.  The first two are whether or not EverQuest and EverQuest II will get their annual expansions, while the second two are the themes of those expansions.

For the first two, I get full credit, 10 points, as both got an expansion.

As for themes, I was only half right there.  EverQuest II did not return to the Desert of Flames, however EverQuest did move back to the elemental planes again, so 5 points on that.

All together, 15 points total.

18 – The deal with Tencent to bring H1Z1 to China will fall apart when PlayerUnknown’s Battleground makes it there first and sews up the battle royale market.  Best case, H1Z1 will launch and fold in a few months, worst case it won’t even get the chance.

I haven’t heard a thing about H1Z1 in China.  Jace Hall had a lot to say in August, but China was not on the list.  It isn’t clear why H1Z1 didn’t go to China, just that it did not.  Going to claim 8 points for that.

19 – EVE Fanfest 2018 in Iceland will be a smash, celebrating as it will the 15th birthday of the launch of EVE Online.  However, one of the announcements will be that there will be no EVE Vegas going forward and that their plans for Four Fan Fests around the world in 2019 will be scrapped as will Fan Fest 2019, though the latter will be because they’re remodeling the Harpa.  I am not adopting the Massively OP outlook that EVE Online itself is mordibund because most of the community team got the axe, but without them who else is going to do these events?

I was kind of down on CCP after the big layoffs and retrenchment.  The four fanfests plan still seems to be in motion and EVE Vegas is still a thing.  It just looks like CCP Guard and CCP Falcon are going to be very, very busy. 0 Points.

20 – EVE Online itself will continue to move forward more slowly than planned.  The end of player owned starbases and null sec stations won’t come to pass until after the traditional CCP July/August vacation season.  Focus before then will be tuning Alphas some more, The Agency, and special events.

This would seem like a really spot-on prediction if CCP hadn’t done the Alpha clone thing before I wrote it.  I expected more.  Also, the null sec stations thing happened in June.  But there was continued focus on The Agency.  I get 1 point for that!

21 – After going up in 2017, the PCU will begin to trend down again, with the average over the next 12 months dipping down to 30K.  Not drastic, but it will keep the “EVE is dying” fan club active and have CCP looking around for short term changes to boost the player base.

Seems close enough.  The average line through 2018 over at EVE Offline, as of this writing, shows the number at 31K.

The average online user count for 2018

That looks like I am dipping a little into December 2017, but even if I push it all the way to March the number doesn’t change.

Going to give myself 7 points and reaffirm that EVE is dying just like the rest of us.

22 – EVE Fanfest 2018 will see a revised vision statement about future plans for EVE Online.  Gone will be talk of player built gates and new space.  There is already too much space in New Eden for the current player base.  Instead the new vision will seek to revitalize NPC null sec regions like Venal and the Great Wildlands with a much more aggressive NPC population defending those systems rather than just letting players pass.  Details will be high level, but CCP will hint that this is a test run for plans they are considering for Jove space as some sort of high end, raid-like experiment.

Well, I don’t think anybody is talking about new space.  We did, however, get player built star gates.  They were just replacements for jump bridges, not portals to new space.  And the rest was not anywhere close either.  0 points.

23 – In EVE Online the CSM 13 elections will see a bump in non-null sec representation, with four seats going to such candidates.  The return of Mike Azariah will help get out the non-null vote.  The six null-sec seats will be two Imperium (Aryth & Innominate), one Brave, one TEST, one PL/PH/NCDot, and one GotG.

HAHAHAHAHA… no.  If anything it went the other way, with only two non-null sec seats in the end and five Imperium members winning seats.  Also, nobody from Brave or TEST.  I cannot find a loophole here to even give myself a single point  0 points.

24 – Project Aurora, CCPs mobile game made in cooperation with… um… whoever that was at EVE Vegas… will ship in the second half of the year and… will do better than Dust 514.  It will do okay, people will download it and play it, it will get a core following and make some money, but it won’t be covering the bills or paying for an expanded community team.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.  And Project Aurora became EVE Echoes and is being made by NetEase, the same Chinese company that is making Diablo Immortal0 points here.

25 – We won’t hear much about the alleged new project that CCP recently posted job listings about, aside from the fact that they have partnered with somebody else to do the heavy lifting. A year from now EVE Online will still be all CCP really has, but people will still be yelling at CCP for a) spending money on anything besides EVE Online and b) gambling the whole company’s future on just EVE Online.

I guess we heard about new product and projects, so it is hard to claim any points here, but then again some of what we heard, like the plans for Project Nova, got turned back after Vegas.  I have to go with 0 points on this.

26 – No 64-bit client for EVE Online in 2018.  The captain’s quarters wasn’t all that was holding them back, it was just the easiest to dispose of.

Okay, at least this one was spot-on, even if it was pretty much a gimme.  10 points.

27 – Standing Stone is running out of content for Lord of the Rings Online.  Between Mordor and the Grey Havens there is really only a couple of weddings, the walk home, the scourging of the Shire, and trying to clean up the mess.  No expansions, no big changes to the landscape, just a few updates with some of the more militant mopping up tasks in areas of Middle-earth they have already mapped out.  We won’t be walking Frodo to the Grey Havens in 2018, but it will be on the horizon.

SSG actually surprised me on this, pulling some content and an increase in the level cap out of their hat.  It wasn’t sold as an expansion, so I suppose I and right on that front, but that isn’t much to hang my hat on.  I’m going to take 1 point for that.

Double Extra Credit Bonus Prediction: CCP will announce they are merging with, or being acquired by, another studio before the end of 2018.

For something of a random-ass guess… I mean we knew CCP was being shopped around, but actually finding a buyer was never going to be simple… I am surprised I got this bonus round prediction.  But it happened, Pearl Abyss bought CCP.  So I guess 20 points for me.

Score

All of that adds up to 120 points, including the bonus question, out of 270, giving me a 44% score.  As usual, it is a failing grade, but it was still better than the 25% score I managed last year.

Anyway, I do this every year less to be right and more to make myself think about the future and the possible paths it may take.

And now I have to consider what I will predict for 2019… besides more of the same.  That tends to be the most consistently correct prediction of all.

LOTRO Fresh Start Server Goes Live Today

I know I’m being somewhat high strung, but the whole “legendary server” thing sticks in my throat a bit.  I’ve seen enough other runs at this sort of thing and the effort here seems low.

And not low effort just compared to the amazing plans for WoW Classic or how Jagex handled RuneScape Classic or the work Daybreak has put into its progression servers for EverQuest and EverQuest II. I think even Trion did more with Rift Prime, and they were on the edge of going out of business.

But you get what you get.  Maybe success here will inspire further refinements later.

A Legend in our own PR

There are enough good things with the server that I’ll get over the hubris of the word “legendary” at some point.  A fresh start server has its own potential.  All the early zones full of people will be nice to see.  And there is something to be said about a subscriber only server.  As with the Daybreak runs, you end up with a crowd that really wants to be there.

And we do get at least one change to differentiate the server.  According to SSG, the experience gain will be adjusted in order to slow it down a bit.

Yes, you will gain XP on the Legendary server at a slightly different rate. The goal is to make sure you don’t outlevel quests in a given zone too easily, but that progress through the game also isn’t cumbersome.

This is another item of fine balance, because the standard live server XP slope leaves you outleveling zones long before you’re through.  This is understandable in an older game with so many levels where people are often running alts up.  But now we’re only going to level 50 and everybody will be on their main and there to see the old sights.

However, it would be easy to crank that meter over too far, ending up with advancement that feels like a slog or, worse, the quest chain leveling faster than the player.  We’ll have to see how that goes.

The server itself has been christened Anor, after a small town in northern France… wait, no… it is named after the sun… Anor is the Sindarin word for the sun.  No doubt SSG has bright hopes for the server, thus the name.

The whole thing is set to open up at 17:00 UTC, which is noon on the east coast of the US and about fifteen minutes ago out here on the left coast, assuming it launched on time and this post went up when scheduled.  So if you’re hearing about this server for the first time now, you’re already late!

Also, if you haven’t patched yet… yeah, you’re not playing any time soon.  The LOTRO patcher is just awkwardly slow.  It isn’t Runes of Magic bad, but it isn’t anybody’s ideal world.  I installed and launched Destiny 2, which weighs in at 81GB, about 5x faster that the last LOTRO update patched.

Anyway, I’ll be trying to log in later in the evening Pacific time, so I won’t have anything to report today.  But that won’t stop me from pondering the likelihood of what might happen today.

  • Server Opens Late – Very Likely

If SSG has the server live at exactly 17:00 UTC I might concede them the legendary title.

  • DDoS Attack Keeps People from Logging In – Minuscule

Who hates Middle-earth that badly?

  • Login Queue over an Hour Long – Almost Assured

There will be the traditional rush for the server when it goes live, and the load will continue to rise as we get into US prime time.

  • Server Crash – Even Odds

I suspect that this might be the highest load on a LOTRO server since they went free to play.

  • Patching Slows to a Crawl – Quite Possible

There is going to be a lot of people patching, and SSG just pushed a big update last week.

  • Patching Fails Altogether – Probably Not

I’m going out on a limb on this, because the patcher and the whole LOTRO web site was down for over an hour last night.  I’m assuming they were just working on something to prepare for the launch.

  • Starter Zone Crashes – Unlikely

I think SSG is pretty solid here, though for the Shire I might go even odds.

  • Hobbit with Immersion Breaking, Semi-Obscene Name – You Think?

I’d honestly be disappointed if that didn’t happen.

  • Starter Zones Denuded of Quest Mobs – Mais Oui!

Yeah, this is just gonna happen.  Be ready and patient.

  • Somebody Gets to Level 50 by Tomorrow – Of Course

Only if they don’t get there by tonight.  Don’t pay them any mind.  They’re just going to have to roll another character anyway if they want to play with other people.

  • Calls in the forum for a second server due to crowds and queues – No Doubt

Pretty much standard item from the checklist for this sort of server event.

  • SSG actually rolling out a second server – Very Low

I don’t think SSG has that in their plans.

  • SSG Web Site Down – Possible

It is down as I am writing this the night before.

  • No Crowds At All – Slim

SSG has done a poor job at getting the word out, but those who pay attention to the game have mostly seem to have heard by now.

  • Drop in Population on Live Servers – Of Course

Most of the people interested in this server are probably already playing LOTRO.  Over at Daybreak their progression servers are their most popular.

  • Complaints about the server in world chat – A Sure Thing

The problem with calling it “legendary” is that is that it sets an expectation that it might be something more than what is on offer.  And people won’t read the announcement and FAQ.  Just mute world chat.  That is my plan.

  • Waiting for the Weekend and Being Happy Logging In – Seems Likely

Seems like the best plan for anybody not ready to run the gauntlet, though the following weekend will make it even easier to get on quickly I bet.

LOTRO and the Legendary Server Idea

We are excited to announce a new way to experience The Lord of the Rings Online: Legendary Worlds! Relive the tales of Middle-earth, chapter by chapter, visiting iconic locations and adventuring with new friends – or reconnecting with old ones – on the path of Frodo, Gandalf, and the Fellowship of the Ring.

Join us this fall on a Legendary World and make a fresh start with a brand new character; see Tolkien’s bustling realm anew, whether for your first or fiftieth time. Initially, the Legendary World will begin at the very start of the game and run through Angmar, then open new regions and levels over time. Relive the legend: where everyone is here and the story is now.

-Standing Stone Games, Legendary Server Announcement

I think the big question up front is whether or not WoW Classic is going to wreck the retro/progression/vanilla server idea for MMORPGs the way that WoW itself can be argued to have wrecked MMORPGs overall.

Yes, that is an odd way to start off a post ostensibly about Lord of the Rings Online, but World of Warcraft remains the dominate power in the genre and when they get into any given aspect of the genre everybody else has to take notice or get trampled.  So bear with me for a minute.

I wonder if WoW Classic will set the bar for quality and fidelity so high as to be unattainable for studios who don’t practically print money.  I mean, you can shit on Blizzard because you think they might not get the Vanilla WoW experience to line up exactly with your memories from 2005, but who else out there has the staffing and budget to pick a point in the past and go remake the game from that time so it will not only run, but will be a full on quality Blizzard experience?

All of which came to mind when I saw the Standing Stone Games announcement about their planned LOTRO Legendary Server… or World… they use both terms.

We’ll just stick with “Legendary” I think

The announcement itself is pretty brief, quoted almost entirely in full at the top of this post.  The bulk of the information is in the form of a FAQ, and the key to the whole thing, and in my question above, is in the final question.

Is the Legendary server a “Classic” or “Vanilla” server?

By most descriptions, a “Classic” server is an attempt to recreate LOTRO exactly as it was at launch, using only assets and content that was available in 2007.

A Legendary server runs alongside existing servers, and therefore contains many of the changes that have been made to the game over the years, such as UI improvements, bug fixes, changes to game systems, etc. In cases where we have updated or changed the layout of regions, the Legendary server uses the updated version of the regions. In cases where we have changed items or player abilities, the Legendary server uses those updated abilities.  Some content or gameplay that isn’t appropriate to the Legendary server’s current level cap may be restricted, until that portion of the story unlocks with level cap increases (one does not simply walk into Mordor on Legendary until the time comes).

This, along with some of the other questions, makes it clear that this is more of a fresh start progression server than anything else.  New classes, new races, and all other changes that have gone into the game over the last decade or so will be present on the Legendary server.  There will be, so far as I can tell from the FAQ, virtually no difference between starting a fresh character on one of the current servers and on this new server, save for the fact that cash shop items related to later features, like legendary weapons, will be absent and you will need to have a VIP subscription in order to play.

So what is the draw then?

This isn’t EverQuest, where the original 1999 content has been bypassed by a tutorial, fresh starting zones, and the Plane of Knowledge.  Going back to an EverQuest progression server means going into content you likely wouldn’t otherwise play.  And while some of the world has had its graphics updated, if you’re like me and long for original Qeynos, it is still there waiting for you. (Just don’t get me started about the fog.)

Also, EverQuest has 20 years and 24 (soon 25) expansions worth of content to work through.

All of the improvements from the Live servers come along for the ride, so hot bars work like you expect and WASD is a default control option, but things that came with later expansions, like new races and classes, are held off until that expansion unlocks.

And this isn’t World of Warcraft, where a lot of the original Vanilla content was hacked out of the game like a tumor, so there is no going back to play it unless you want to try a pirate server, at least until WoW Classic comes along.

As far as I can tell, Standing Stone isn’t even going to make you wear the hair shirt so popular with this sort of server by clipping experience gain or the like.  It is just going to be a live server for VIPs with all the new features and classes and currencies, just restricted to before Mines of Moria expansion… for four months, with new expansions every four months after that until they unlock Mordor two years down the road and it essentially becomes a VIP only server.

So I am not feeling the draw for this Legendary server idea.  I suppose if you had a group of friends and wanted to do a fresh start, this will be your opportunity.  And, of course, there will be the launch time euphoria when for a brief moment everybody on the server will be level 1 together and all the early zones will be full of players.  I might try it for that last aspect alone… I have a lifetime subscription, so why not… though I am not sure how long I would stay.

In addition I wonder both if there is enough to draw players and, if there is, can the live servers stand the hit?  That is a topic that has come up with both EQ and EQII, that the progression

Then there is the fact that, to my eye at least, LOTRO has not aged well.  It is still a balky UI with tiny, hard to distinguish icons graced with some of the least informative imagery to every land in an MMORPG.

EverQuest is old and it feels old as well, but the team has polished up the UI some.  The hitbox for your own character is still huge, so you end up selecting yourself annoyingly often, but a lot of other things are better than they were back in the day.  Those updates smooth out annoyances that you wouldn’t likely want to remember, things that would more likely get in the way of your nostalgia rather than enhance it.

I do want to be fair to Standing Stone Games.  Given their limited resources this is about the level of server they are up to providing.  This isn’t a cash grab, as some have already announced, but an effort to provide something akin to what a vocal segment of the community has been asking about for a while now.

All of which brings me back around to what effect WoW Classic will have on this sort of thing going forward.  When EverQuest or RuneScape classic servers were the benchmark, things like Rift Prime didn’t seem so far off base.

But when WoW Classic shows up with a remade version of late 2006 Azeroth, with paladins who can’t tank and only have a ranged attack good against undead and hunter pets for which you have to go out in the world and find updated skills and ammunition in your bag and the whole Sunken Temple or Uldaman dungeons available in all of their previous horrific glory, how is a special server that limits you to the initial content but is otherwise indistinguishable from the live servers going to stand up?

Oh well, we shall see.

And, in one last bit of irony, even at the four month between expansions drop rate for the new server, the journey from start to the opening of the Mordor expansion will still take longer than the War of the Ring, if measured from Gandalf telling Frodo to get the ring out of the Shire (April 12, 3018 TA) to the Battle of Bywater (November 19, 3019 TA), clocking in at 2 years compared to 1 year 7 months for the events in the book.

Still, that is much faster than the decade it too the game to get to the gates of Mordor the first time around.  And you might be able to start late, a month after the Mines of Moria unlocks, and try to keep pace with the books.  That would be an interesting project… maybe more interesting to read about than to try, but there it is.  Though you could do that on the live servers right now if you wanted.  Oh well.

Others writing about the server announcement: