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Lord of the Rings Online – Going Free to play

So, my other MMO is Lord of the Rings Online. I have 3 characters, all of which are way below the level cap (under level 40 out of 65 max). I dabble in it some, and keep it active mostly because I enjoy their housing system so much (and it’s nice to play in a game where I don’t already know every little detail of it). In all my time, I never hit end-game in it because, well, I just don’t have time. I may average about one hour a week of playtime, which ends up meaning that the game is a pretty big expense for how little I actually play it.

However, starting September 10th, the LotRO game goes to a “free to play” model, and I’m one of the people who could benefit from just paying for what I need, rather than maintaining a paid subscription.

As someone with a currently active subscription, it looks like I start out at a “VIP” tier, where it seems mostly like what my paid subscription is now. When I stop paying that subscription, however, I only drop down to a “premium” tier, which still has slightly more benefits than the normal free player tier (ie. more than people who never bought the game). I also get to keep the perks I bought through the expansions.

I’m looking forward to this, and have already pruned my characters down to the 3 I’m allowed to have on a premium account for when I stop paying for it (lets face it, I won’t play LotRO all that much this winter when Cataclysm is released).

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

Like a rat in the maze: LOTRO spring festival

I would post about WOW today, but I’ve spent most of the last week stuck in a maze in LOTRO-land. This is the time of the spring festival in LotRO.

It’s actually a literal maze:

You wind your way through the maze and do various activities, such as looking for lost people, posting confusing signs, catching chickens, and of course – trying to escape.

It’s not a simple task, but it feels an aweful lot like being a rat in some sort of experiment, since they blur the maze on your mini-map, so you can’t even use a map to help guide you. At this point, I’ve started to memorize the maze layout (since it’s the same every time), so I’m starting to be pretty good at it.

If you didn’t think that was enough, you can also stomp shrews in a giant pit with a bunch of other people, trying to scramble and get to the buggers before everyone else with the same goal. This only works in the game because the servers here are a lot less crowded than WOW. It’s actually a lot more fun than I thought it was going to be, and if you stomp a couple hundred shrews over the course of the event, then you get a fun title as a reward. You also earn tokens that let you buy things from participating in their “games.” I’ve spent them on fun stuff to put in my in-game house, but you can get clothing and food stuff, too. What I want to say is that – if you thought WoW’s holidays were a sick and twisted way to torture you, it’s nothing compared to the even more sick & twisted ways that LotRO gets us to do really silly things.

There is also one that requires you to get drunk and then walk across the top of a fence (that is windy and requires you to jump in several places), where if you fall off the fence, you lose & have to start over. After spending about an hour trying to drunk-walk across a fence, it made me miss WoW an aweful lot (and made me question what the heck I was doing, lol). I eventually gave up on the drunken fence-walk quest.

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

Upgrading houses in LOTRO

So, I finally got enough gold in LotRO to upgrade my house size from a standard to a deluxe. My original house was a cute (but really tiny) place in the hobbit area. So, I packed up most of my stuff (the rest of it was sent to Escrow, so it was pretty easy to retrieve from a vendor after abandoning the house). Then, I hit the “abandon” button and I was no longer the owner of the cute little hobbit house, but that was okay – because then I ran over to the Elven area and went house shopping. There wasn’t much selection in which house I could buy at the Deluxe level, so I settled on this neighborhood, where I found a house across from someone in my current guild on that server (howdy, neighbor!).

When upgrading houses, I decided that bigger hobbit holes were just not as attractive as the really graceful looking houses that were found in the Elven area. So, here’s what the outside of my house looks like now:

My new house has 4 rooms (instead of 2). However, 3 of the rooms are pretty tiny. It is a really great house, though. I spent some time getting it set up after last night’s WOW raid. So, most of the outside & inside is now furnished. This is what the main room looks like. It’s much more roomy than my tiny hobbit hole. However, I’m now back to being poor again, as the house basically cost all the money I had saved up.

Why I like player housing and wish that WOW had player housing:

  • You get to feel like you “own” a piece of the world. After all my hard work in WOW, I don’t have a place to call home at the end of a long day’s battle. Since gear is temporary, it’s not that meaningful of something that you can say “look what I’ve done!”, since everyone will just have better gear than that 6 months down the road. Achievements in WOW don’t really have the same meaning as a house would (since you can’t buy anything with the achievement points). Vanity pets & mounts function as a similar role for the WOW playerbase to collect things, but what if you could display Onyxia’s head over your fireplace? That would have so much more meaning. However, LOTRO makes the houses themselves pretty easy to attain (the standard house is only 1 gold to purchase).
  • Places for RP’ers to escape from the outside world. If RP could take place in people’s houses (you can set permissions to let other players in your house), or in guild halls, then the community environment for people who roleplay would be better. You can also have everyone buy up houses in the same neighborhood (if you want), so that the neighbors you see are your friends, guildmates, or whatever.
  • You can still pack up your things and move if you don’t like it in one of the neighborhoods. Since LotRO split housing into a bunch of mini instances (with 30 houses per neighborhood).
  • Big cities can still have their “big” feel. Since most of what I want to do, I don’t have access to in my neighborhood, I actually spend relatively little time in my house compared to the time that I spend in the major cities. My neighborhood gives me access to my personal bank and some vendors, but most of what I need isn’t there.
  • More tangible goals. One of WOW’s problems is with not giving people enough stuff to have long-term goals. All goals in WOW seem to be on a relatively short-term scale (or are really non-meaningful achievements). There is very little that differentiates one character from another (we all mostly have the same gear, same achievements, etc). When you have a good variety in types of houses & types of things you can display in your yard, you get a sense of feeling unique (while still not really being unique). In addition, all my characters can share the same house on a server, which is really nice. Housing in LOTRO gives me goals, because I always want bigger & more interesting things for my house (in addition to working a long time to get a bigger & more interesting house).
  • Drains money from the economy. In LOTRO, I pay rent. Since I don’t have high level characters, paying rent is something that drains money from me (in addition to the cost of the house & furnishings that I’ve payed for).
  • I play LOTRO on the side because I enjoy player housing so much, and it is something I can’t get in WOW. I really wish the WOW developers would change their minds and put in player housing.
Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

What’s a “main”? Specialists vs. Generalists

So, since I’ve been splitting my time between LOTRO and WOW, I’ve noticed that I have very different play-styles between the two games.

In WoW, I’m a specialist: I have my main, a druid, and I spend MOST of my time & resources on that one character. I did manage to get a shaman up to 80, but it’s an “alt” that I’m barely comfortable taking into ICC past the first wing. None of my other alts ever get very far, and I get bored leveling alts.

In LOTRO, I’m a generalist: I don’t have a main. I cycle between lots of different characters, and I can’t get any of my characters to the level cap because I never focus on one character long enough. Even when I have oodles of playtime, I keep making new alts over and over and over again because my favorite part of the game is solo leveling and learning new classes that I haven’t tried before (Ooh shiny new things!).

These aren’t really new concepts, as other people have talked about this distinction many times before. However, switching back and forth between these two games (where I have dramatically different play-styles) has made me wonder about why I play differently in the two games, and why I have sometimes been unhappy in WoW with my specialist attitude. There is also a lot of people who don’t fall strictly in either category, but may fall somewhere in the middle.

What is a Specialist?

Specialists focus on 1 character. I would consider a specialist to be someone who focuses on a “main” character, at the expense of not having enough time to really dedicate to alts. Inspite of playing WoW for 5 years, I really only have 2 characters that I’ve ever dedicated very much time to. Even if you play for hours every day, the main focus is on getting one character to level cap and dedicating the majority of your play time to that character. You can have alts, but there is a clear gear (or level!) disparity between your “main” and your “alts.” For example, I have over 200 days /played on my druid(about 50 at level 80) over the span of the more than 5 years I’ve been playing the game. My next highest character has 31 days /played total (with 2 days /played at level 80). You don’t have to be totally hard-core to be a specialist (you don’t even have to be 80!). It’s all about how much you focus on one character.

So, what is a generalist?

Instead of “putting all your eggs in 1 basket”, generalists spread their playtime out over a bunch of characters. They focus more on alts. Even if they have a “main,” the discrepancy in playtime between multiple characters is much more reduced compared to the example of my characters. Regardless of # of hours you play the game, generalists will usually have more than 2 characters that they cycle between. Raiding may even not be that fun when they have to choose one and stick with it. For example, my boyfriend gets tired of raiding faster because he hates having to just stick to one character. However, generalists may still enjoy raiding (especially in WOTLK), but will do it on multiple characters if they have the time, rather than raiding with just one. Some generalists at this point have 10 (or more!) level 80 characters, and spend time trying to gear up all (or most) of their alts. If you have one 80 of each class, you are likely a generalist. You may even have 2 or more of the same class. It doesn’t really matter how much you play (a little or a lot); what matters is that you feel like you have a split-personality disorder as you cycle through your many characters. Maybe you get bored at end-game and like starting over, or maybe you like being able to do end-game things with multiple classes because just having 1 is something you find boring.

Generalists vs. Specialists in WoW:

For end-game purposes when WoW first came out, being a specialist was heavily rewarded at end-game. There was even sometimes asocial stigma about trying to raid with your alt and get raid-level gear (ie. some guilds didn’t allow you to raid with other guilds if they knew about it, and you couldn’t win loot for an “alt” over other people’s mains). You also usually had to be in a guild to raid, and very few guilds even had enough people to do alt-runs on the side. If you raided a lot, you probably dedicated all your time to one character (4 to 5 raid days a week on 1 character was pretty common for specialists). People who were true generalists may have gotten frustrated about having to choose between their children that they loved equally (or, they may have just never hit 60 on all of them before BC even came out).

Burning Crusade still rewarded this specialist model, though more people started having alts, and you could do a lot of “alt runs” to Karazhan. At the expansion, a lot of people also leveled up new characters to 70 (with the new races), and either changed who their mains were, or had the ability to do end-game with 2 characters (even if 1 usually out-geared the other).

Wrath of the Lich King came with a huge paradigm shift on this axis, which a lot of people attributed (somewhat incorrectly) to a struggle between hard-core and casual players (because specialists & generalists can really be either hard-core or casual in terms of attitude & play-time). The people who won out in WotLK were the generalists, and the specialists spent a lot of time fussing and being angry over losing their footing (ie. if I dedicate 50 hours to one character, as a specialist, I feel that it should have better gear compared to the person who spent 5 hours on each of 10 characters – and my game play feels cheapened by my alt with 2 days /played at level 80 and almost as good of gear as my main). WotLK spent a lot of time focusing on being able to gear up more than one character at level 80; and 5 years after the game first came out, it’s not uncommon for people to have multiple level 80 characters to gear up (ie. I’ve it’s no longer uncommon for people to have between 6 and 12 level 80 characters). They make it super easy to get epic gear from 5-mans and badges. Heirloom items make leveling faster & easier.

End-game raiding in WotLK takes up less time if you only raid with one character, making the game seem boring for specialists who focus on raiding (ie. there have been periods of time when you could get one character through all the raid content in two nights a week, leaving specialist raiders scrambling to find things worthwhile to do up to 5 nights a week). Specialist PvP isn’t really that much better, with a relatively small # of arenas required to meet the weekly goals, the bigger battlegrounds not giving very good rewards, and Wintergrasp on a pretty long timer. One of the things I was the most unhappy about in WotLK was not having enough to do with my one main that I’ve been really focused on. Also, PUG raiding makes it really easy for you to raid with multiple characters; and many guilds will do ALT 10-man runs on off-days. Death Knights made it even easier to be a generalist

The future of WOW: More Fun for Generalists!

Cataclysm will really be a generalists’ playground. Generalists benefit more from the new races, new race/class combos, new/redesigned leveling areas, and other changes to the leveling system. Specialists, however, will still appreciate Cataclysm for being able to explore new areas with their mains; along with the fact that they are releasing more raid content early (so you will have more to do at end-game if you don’t focus on leveling up alts). Cata may also encourage specialists to branch out a little bit more and try new things, so that they can experience more of the leveling content on new characters (though I think I’ll mostly end up with a string of alts that I abandon between level 10 and 20).

What I learned from playing LOTRO:

Most of what I wrote above could make me sound like an elitist jerk. However, I learned to appreciate the viewpoint of a generalist when playing LOTRO. As I said before, when I play LOTRO, I’m a generalist and not really focused on any one character. I get bored with one relatively fast, so then I’ll just start a new one and play through the early leveling zones again. I’ll probably never do end-game on a character in that game, since I never focus on one character long enough to make a character my “main”. Also, I’ve been able to see (over the course of the game) how they have made more and more improvements to leveling. They made mounts available earlier, which I was able to benefit from with my newest character. They have progressively made the early levels more solo-friendly (which I’ve been able to benefit from, as well). I keep discovering new leveling areas that were newly added, and each time they make improvements to their leveling areas, the game is more fun for me.


I used to argue with my boyfriend over whether or not he needed to pick a main in WOW and stick with it. However, I’ve come to accept that being a generalist is a viable play-style in WoW as of WotLK being released, even for end-game purposes. I appreciate handing out new gear and heirlooms and all the fun toys that generalists get to play with. At this point, I’m almost envious of his ability to enjoy leveling new characters over and over again in WOW. I’m hoping that Cataclysm will make me more open to the idea of being less of a specialist, and I hope it will make leveling alts more enjoyable for people (like me) who have spent the last year or so trying to cling to our specialist mentality in a generalist’s World of Warcraft.

Posted in Cataclysm, Lord of the Rings Online

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