I originally saw the headline “Premium Subscription Campaign” and thought maybe they were following Turbine’s model and looking at a Free 2 Play system. I was pretty excited about that as I do like AoC (see my previous post on it) and their extended trial but I just couldn’t get past the high price point if I want to move past the starter zone.
However, AoC isn’t going F2P at all, what they’re doing is incentivizing people to buy longer subscriptions up front. Usually most do this by simply offering a cost discount, but AoC’s adding in-game perks to these as well. Now many of these perks are consumable but they do seem pretty darn powerful including teleportation, healing potions, and xp boosters.
At first glance, I don’t have a problem with this but the more I think about it I”m wondering if this is Funcom dabbling in the Cash shop arena? But, in doing so they’re asking people to shell out quite a bit of up front cash which seems a little strange. Or is this an indication that they’re having funding issues and they’re trying to get more money now to stop the bleeding?
I’m not real sure on the motivation, but I thought it was a very interesting subscription announcement that I can honestly say I won’t be taking part of at all. I have a lifetime sub for LOTRO and have gotten my money’s worth from it but I’m not sure I’ll do long-term subscriptions in another game as they seem way too risky these days.
For the past couple of weeks I have been branching out for a bit from LOTRO mainly from a lack of dedicated time. Not that I don’t have time available but that time is frequently and without warning interrupted which makes it very hard to do some of the things I enjoy in LOTRO, like raiding and group content. Because of this I’ve been shifting a bit from my normal play style in LOTRO to some other avenues. This has also been part of the reason for a lack of activity here as I just haven’t had all that much to write about. But for now this just feels like a little bump in the road.
Inside of LOTRO this has included a lot of the spring festival and the Ale Association quests. I’ve also been running a fair number of skirmishes but those can require attention depending on what skirmish and tier I’m attempting. And I’ve also been running around with my baby RK who just dinged 22. I’ve been enjoying the new Lone Lands area quite a bit as it is a MUCH better flow from Bree, although for an RK it is a little dis-jointed. The transition along the book epic lines was great as it takes you straight from Bree to Candaith and for me I was around 20ish before finishing off book 1 as I had done a number of other things in Bree. The issue I ran to on my RK was the level 15 class quest for RKs is there in the Lone Lands and I ended up picking up some other quests that did throw me off a tad. Nothing terrible, but I’m really trying to walk through this zone in order and I ended up with some scattered quests as I normally grab all quests I can see 🙂
Outside of LOTRO I have been checking out a few other games as well. I’ve pretty much stopped playing Dragon Age as Awakenings seems to have lost its luster for me. I did enjoy it, but it doesn’t have nearly the same re-playability as Origins did. It certainly is replayable, but after the second time I just wasn’t that motivated, unlike the 5 times I went through Origins 🙂 Maybe that’s just because there are enough similarities that I don’t distinguish between the two. But certainly if you haven’t checked Awakenings out I do recommend it as the new skills and abilities are LOTS of fun.
Another single player game that I’ve been playing off and on has been Mount and Blade. I’ve talked about Mount and Blade before and it is getting more press now that they’ve released Warband. I’ve downloaded Warband and have checked it out a little bit but I’m still on the trial version so I haven’t made it all that far. The graphics updates are great and they’ve redone the map completely such that it seems much more conflict centric. There are a number of other tweaks with romances and NPC relationships and the like that sound really intriguing but I have yet to see them. I still haven’t gotten quite used to the new swinging animations so my horseback attacks are pretty bad at the moment. I’m still on the fence about if there are enough differences between Warband and the original to warrant me buying the new version as I think the biggest new feature is a multiplayer aspect which while intriguing, doesn’t interest me at all.
The final game I’ve been playing lately has been Age of Conan. I tried it out a little bit when they first launched and just couldn’t get into it. I will admit that I didn’t play all that much as I just couldn’t get the hang of the combat system. But when they announced the revamp of their trial system to allow full access to the starter zone for as long as you want I figured it would be a good time to check it out again. Plus the upcoming patches and expansions are interesting enough that I wanted to check things out. So far I’ve rolled 4 different toons, 2 of the heavy armor classes (Dark Templar and Conqueror), a ranger, and a mage type (Herald of Xotli). I haven’t done much with the Conqueror yet (the rest are at least level 13), but aside from the ranger the other 2 are quite different from the typical classes from other games I’ve played. The Dark Templar is a sword and board tank type that also can use dark magic to de-buff and leach life off of enemies. So in some ways it does mimic the play of the Warden, although with a drastically different back-story 😉 The Herald of Xolti (HoX) is a fire-based mage that also uses two handed weapons – which to me sounded like an interesting concept. The HoX does have some good absorption buffs which mitigates their cloth armor restriction so in that way they’re also somewhat analogous to Wardens in LOTRO. For all of these, I’ve mainly been focusing on following the individual epic class lines which are solo based. I’ve had to do a little grinding to get to the level requirements, but for the most part it hasn’t been bad at all.
Based on my initial experiences, I am actually tempted to pick up AoC to scratch my PvP itch as it certainly is much more prevalent and rewarding then PvMP in LOTRO. The graphics in AoC are really impressive and I enjoy the feel of the area only slightly less then I like things in LOTRO. It has taken me a bit to get used to the combat system but now I really do enjoy it. The biggest thing that got me was the targeting system – you don’t have to target a mob to hit it (such that you can get inadvertent AoEs) but there is an auto-face standard that I haven’t figured out how to turn off such that if I forget to target the mob in front of me I’ll keep spinning around to some other mob that I might have tabbed to. AoC also has a combo system that reminds me of the Warden gambits but AoC has a visual prompt of what the next builder is supposed to be such that there’s not the same memorization requirement Wardens have. AoC also has a nifty way of handling your class epic line in that you’re taken to a Night-time instance that is single player. So all of your epics are done in that fashion at night, and if you want to join other folks you need to travel back to the day-time. So far I enjoy that system, but I’m not sure how it works going forward. Another enjoyable aspect of the story line is how the different stories play off each-other in that you’ll hear about other people in one class story and then actually get to play that part in another story. I didn’t realize they did this at all until I was reading the quest and realized “hey, that was my ranger doing that” which does make me want to roll other classes to see where they fit in.
Now the only “issue” I’ve run into is partly my own fault but it also shows off a strength in my mind. When I started, I decided on the PvP server as my home as I wanted that environment and wasn’t real sure how the PvP-RP servers would differ. What this then allows for is common quest areas in the day-time environment are open combat. As I’ve found already, these can be camped by higher level characters who enjoy killing newbs like me, repeatedly. However, a couple things that I appreciate about how AoC handles this is they do have an instigator flag that will prompt guards to attack said “criminal” to discourage that act somewhat. I will admit that I’m sure that times out after some interval and there are probably ways around it such that it doesn’t really do my – but it seems like this does create some level of punishment that stops some from just randomly killing people. This flag also is pretty obvious such that you can see it from a good distance and have a chance to run if need be. The other aspect is when you die there’s an immunity buff that makes it such that you can’t be harmed while close to the res circle. I realize this isn’t perfect but it at least gives you time to map or log. I’m sure others have a different take on this, but for me it hasn’t bothered me yet as they seem to have more rewards for PvP then penalties for dying.
The other game that might fit into this play style for me is Eve which I’ve played a couple of times but never quite got either. It certainly has a lot of the planning and spreadsheet aspects that I like and success isn’t solely driven by how much time you spend in game. Reading Tobold’s latest series of posts as he hops into Eve has brought this back into my thought process and I may have to give that game another go.
I’m hoping that I can get a chance to get back to a more dedicated schedule for my gaming, but for now it is what it is and I’m just trying to enjoy it as much as possible.
So just a day after posts (and good conversations as well) on both the Epic Slant and Casual Stroll to Mordor blogs, I saw this announcement on MMORPG.com on the upcoming expansion for Age of Conan. Now I did try AoC but I just really couldn’t get into it – however, this new concept is VERY intriguing to me and I will be paying close attention to this as it is rolled on out.
To recap, the discussions on CStM and ES talked about both vertical (raising the level cap) and horizontal progressions and the advantages (and pitfalls) of both. As they talk about the different ideas, I think one of the main points is that there needs to be a diversity in the methods of progression and that just raising the level cap isn’t enough.
What AoC is looking to do is create additional flavors of experience points that are gained in both PvP and PvE as well as an additional pool that’s a combination of the 2. So each character would have normal XP for leveling and then 3 other pools they could progress. As the characters gain these experience pools they can be used to buy Feats and Perks. Feats are passive abilities that provide a constant buff while perks are useable skills that come in two flavors, major and minor. Feats sound like you can have as many as you want, but you are capped at how many perks you can have. Major perks will take up a larger portion of the “perk pool” which makes sense, but the exact definitions weren’t explained. This system starts at level 20 (their current level cap is 80) with certain options open early while others being capped by level.
Another interesting part of this is that these points can be advanced while either online or offline in a similar fashion to how EVE works. Granted, this out-of-game advancement is no where near as fast as in-game but still will provide a value and advancement paths for those who don’t play 24/7. This concept is further explained as a way for PvE players to pick up feats of perks in the PvP tree and vice versa.
This is a similar mechanic to how PvP worked in Dark Ages of Camelot in that as you gained points in PvP you could use those to spend on skills usable in both PvP and PvE. I always thought this was a great way to drive people to PvP but not necessarily penalize them for not. It worked for me as I raided in PvE and PvP and I believed I gained equal rewards through both and those rewards help in both aspects.
I think this is an idea full of win for everyone and I’d love for LOTRO to adopt a similar mechanic. Sure it is still slanted towards the hard-core gamers, but it provides enough options for everyone to benefit and utilize the system. If they’re serious about the long rumored Monster Play revamp, this would be an awesome system to implement as it would give freeps more incentive to play in the moors but wouldn’t exclude non-PvPers from gaining those same rewards. I believe this is the biggest issue currently in the moors as there’s really no carrot out there for PvMP, even the moors armor sets require you to PvE! I’m thinking something similar could even be done creep side, but I’m not sure how that might work – maybe another way to get creep gold?
Now when I initially started this article I was purely thinking of the PvE and PvMP divide within LOTRO, but I think a similar concept could already be in place with both skirmishes and legendary items. The problem is that there just aren’t enough viable options nor that same feeling of character advancement. If they could somehow figure out a way to tie these existing systems into skills and/or traits I think they could accomplish a similar thing to what AoC is doing and really allow us to personalize our characters and meaningfully progress them. Another thought would be to use something along these lines as another path to gain virtue ranks or even virtue/class slots!
Needless to say I’ll be curious to see how this plays out for AoC and if LOTRO gleams anything from these kinds of systems as we go forward in Volume 3.
As a follow on to my post from yesterday (Price announcements) there was some more info released on the Age Of Conan veteran rewards found over here – AoC weblink. This got me thinking, is this something I’d support in a game I currently play, i.e. LOTRO? Now for me, I’ve been here since day 1 so I have nothing to lose and everything to gain from it but in looking at the rewards there are some interesting “fluff” items that would be cool to have I think. I’m not a fan of the horse routes and that kind of stuff, but cosmetic items and pets could be fun. So, I’ve added a new poll – what’re your thoughts on veteran rewards?
So I was going through my normal morning news and stumbled upon a couple of tidbits today.
First up, Age of Conan has announced a new pricing plan for multi-month subscriptions. For 3 month plans they’re offering a 20% discount, 6-month yields a 30% discount, and 12 month results in a whopping 45% discount. In addition, these months will apply immediately towards the new “veteran points” system they’re releasing. They didn’t go into too much detail, but it seems like if you’ve subscribed for 6 months already and switch to a year plan, you’ll have 18 months worth of veteran points (more details on what those points can be used for was mentioned will be released later). Full article is here.
I’m not real sure what it means for Funcom and AoC but I don’t think it is a good thing – it would appear that people are leaving the game and they’re trying to do whatever they can to entice folks to stick around and pay up-front. If I were playing AoC (it didn’t grab me enough to dump LOTRO and I’m trying to limit myself to one MMO sub) I’ll admit it would be hard to pass up on the multi-month for the discount you get but I certainly would be on the look-out for something else down the line as this could be the white flag of surrender.
Now the non-sky is falling thought is that they’re just trying to bring their cash-flow a little more up-front in the same way that LOTRO is with their Siege of Mirkwood expansion pricing. I haven’t been following AoC too closely so maybe it is doing just as well as LOTRO and they just want to bring a little more cash up front to help out with some near term development tasks they want to ramp up or something.
Either way, if you’re a Conan player I would certainly check out the new options as a way to save some cash.
Now the other piece of news comes from Global Agenda, which is an up-coming Sci-fi MMO first person shooter. Again, this is another one that I’m not following too closely but I found it interesting as it seems like they’re offering an MMO-lite version for just the regular game box price, but then a subscription model on top of that if you want a more typical MMO experience. Here’s the article over on MMORPG.com.
I think this is a pretty smart move for an FPS as some folks will just want to play a regular shooter, but it opens the game up for more epic style battles if folks want that and are willing to pay for it. Plus the subscription does offer the growth options that one would expect from an MMO. Now, I think the tricky part is how an FPS twitch based game will work as an MMO considering lag – I mean I have enough issues sometimes with LOTRO when I’m on a bad connection, I can’t imagine something like an FPS! Especially when you consider most FPS players expect a pretty high level graphics engine and smooth gameplay.
Overall, I like the fact that gaming companies are trying to change things up a bit – it is not just the $15/month subscription offerings we’ve seen in the past. I can only hope that more will follow turbine’s lead and offer lifetime subscriptions (I’m talking to you Bioware for The Old Republic).