Be sure to give the hedge maze a go while there; you can even use this handy-dandy downloadable map created by prominent blogger @BrandywineFred to find your way through and make the most of your Spring Festival time.
standing stone games
Standing Stone Games Executive Producer Rob Ciccolini posted a roadmap to the community today that laid out the rest of 2018 and beyond for the Middle-earth MMO. Ciccolini said that the team will be delaying the release of Minas Morgul in order to properly flesh up the rest of North Rhovanion over the next couple of updates. This includes a huge addition to the game with the Iron Hills and Grey Mountains regions, a level cap increase to 120, another part of the Black Book of Mordor epic storyline, an instance cluster, and a new raid.
On this week’s show, Bree and Justin do their darndest to shape the MMO industry by holding up Wild West Online as a cautionary tale and talking about how studios need to think before applying real-world labels to games.
It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.
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With the ever-developing, ever-growing nature of MMORPGs, the expansion truly has a life of its own. By now we are well acquainted with the cycle that runs from gestation to obsolescence and can usually point to where any particular expansion is on this chart.
The Lazy Goldmaker outlined the typical progression of MMO expansion packs with a six-step cycle that focuses heavily on the economy and raiding: “After the final raid of the expansion we will enter the last content drought. This is typically the longest period with nothing exciting added to the game. We are in the middle of this phase of Legion currently. Most of the markets from the live expansion will still be viable, but profit margins will be decreasing, as will prices on all goods.”
Right now I’d say my current activity is “dipping my toes back into the water,” but so far I am finding that water inviting and comfortable. Northern Mirkwood is absolutely gorgeous and a complete 180 from the dreary landscape of Mordor. I’m very much looking forward to questing more there while trying to resist the urge to roll up an alt that I’ll never be able to fully level at this point.
For me, the wide-open beauty of Middle-earth’s landscape in this game is its biggest draw. It’s what makes this MMO “feel” so different than any others that I’ve played, and I am applauding the efforts of Standing Stone Games to continually add to it. I spent a full night doing nothing but touring around the Halls of the Elven-king and geeking out about its mentions from The Hobbit. It’s such a beautiful location and a great example of how the team is not phoning it in during LOTRO’s 11th year.
“There is a lot of love that went into building the landscapes of Eriador, Rhovanion and beyond — but the cracks in the plaster of our earliest regions are showing,” Elliott wrote. “To ramp back into building worlds, I was asked to take a critical look at Breeland and other areas to see what updated design principles and assets could be incorporated into our oldest of homes.”
As part of this project, he has overseen work on Breeland and given it a high-level polish pass that includes better graphics and “a few small surprises” for players to discover. Work will progress to Ered Luin and other parts of the original landscape as time permits
The Ravenloft update, Neverwinter’s 14th module, will introduce that game’s playerbase to a gothic horror setting. It will include a new adventure zone, tarot card readings by Madame Eva, a day/night cycle, heroic encounters, and a challenging Castle Ravenloft dungeon.
“The mists of Barovia pull adventurers to the Domains of Dread and into the land of the mighty vampire — Strahd von Zarovich,” the press release said. “In the darkest corners of this foreign land, adventurers will find new stories from quests and instances; all-new repeatable adventures with newly designed monster hunts and heroic encounters, where the creatures of the mist must be destroyed; and expanded endgame progression with a new campaign culminating in a journey into Castle Ravenloft itself. Heroes of Neverwinter must work together to free this cursed land from Strahd’s control.”
You can check out the extremely brief teaser trailer after the break.
The class changes, which are extensive and address six of the current professions, have the community scrambling to figure out how current builds and rotations will change come 22.2. Many talent lines are being adjusted or outright revamped, and numerous skills have seen alternating buffs and nerfs depending on the developers’ vision for the class in question.
For those who wade past the class changes, there are a few festival improvements awaiting in the patch notes. The studio has created lowbie-friendly versions of the anniversary scavenger hunt (which was a major complaint last year), and there is a Summer Picnic activity that’s been created for the upcoming celebration.
Tabletop games and MMORPGs seem like they would go well together, but remarkably they often don’t. That’s true for several reasons, but one of the main reasons is that we have a lot more games adapting different source material separately. You can certainly run a Star Wars: The Old Republic-themed game with a Star Wars tabletop system, but neither one is based on the other. (Technically there was a supplement published for it, but that was covering the first two single-player games, which themselves were based on that tabletop system.)
But there have still been incursions from MMOs into the tabletop space, and MMOs which pluck that fertile ground for the seeds of inspiration. So let’s spend today looking at these games, when you can log off of your favorite MMO, gather around a table with your friends, and keep playing your favorite MMO. More or less.
MMOs and politics once again collide this week as last night CNN broke the news that Robert Mueller’s FBI team has zeroed in on Russian oligarch and Renova Group chairman Viktor Vekselberg as part of the Special Counsel investigation into Russian election interference, questioning Vekselberg about money Renova’s US “affiliate” transferred to US President Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen. (Tangentially, those allegations were brought to light by Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti.)
And the name of that US affiliate under investigation? Yeah, it’s Columbus Nova, the firm that claimed it acquired MMORPG studio Daybreak back in 2015. Here we go again.
“FBI agents asked Vekselberg about payments his company’s American affiliate, Columbus Nova, made to Cohen, according to one source,” CNN reports. “The Russian was questioned as well about $300,000 in political donations by Andrew Intrater, Vekselberg’s American cousin who is the head of Columbus Nova, sources said.” Columbus Nova claimed to CNN that it is “owned and controlled by Americans”; it further denies any use of “Columbus Nova as a conduit for payments” to Cohen.
A thinkpiece that we had back in April about the difficulty levels (or lack thereof) in MMORPGs sparked some interesting discussion among gaming bloggers as they grappled with the concept of challenge levels and how MMOs should improve in presenting them.
GamingSF thinks that there is much room for improvement in offering players varied challenges: “I also want to see more MMORPGs introducing non-combat challenges through puzzles and quests that require thinking to complete (e.g. following lore clues).”
And Inventory Full chimes in with this distinction: “I also strongly agree with whoever it was who said that gamers these days equate difficulty with time spent. Indeed, more often than not when someone complains that something is ‘too difficult’ what they really mean is it takes longer than they want to spend doing it.”
Never say the devs aren’t listening: Standing Stone Games apparently is.
Lord of the Rings Online forumgoers learned this lesson today when in a player-started thread from April about VIP subscription benefits, SSG RedPanda piped up to request even more feedback.
“I just wanted to pop in and say hi and let you know that we are definitely interested in hearing more ideas on these things,” RedPanda writes. “We’re not promising anything but we are here to listen.” In fact, the studio rep specifically asks what players want from gold and silver Hobbit presents (and what they don’t want) as well as what, beyond cosmetics, players want out of their VIP monthly gift.
So far, players are suggesting aids to reduce grinding, improve alting, and eliminate junk like low counts of potions; the community wish list also includes marks, mithril coins, experience-boosting skills, and special furniture. A few players have expressed boredom with cosmetics and minipets, too. If you play, make sure to hop over and take the mic.