Tobold's Blog
Sunday, February 25, 2007
LotRO Journal - 25-February-2007

My approach to beta testing is broad instead of deep: I'm testing lots of different races and classes and tradeskills, but don't have the time to level them very far. That makes sense insofar as it helps me to decide what race, class, and tradeskill to choose in the retail version.

My yeoman made a lot of money with the farming tradeskill, growing pipe weed and selling it to NPC vendors. Then I turned to growing vegetables, and started experimenting with cooking. It turns out that cooking is more similar to alchemy in World of Warcraft, because food gives stat buffs. You can cook meals like mushroom pie which make a character "full" for 20 minutes, and during that time his out of combat regeneration of health and mana (which aren't called that in LotRO) goes up. So you don't need to eat and drink every time you want to regain, its a longer lasting effect. Other food increases your stats for some time. The only disadvantage of cooking is that food doesn't sell well to NPC vendors. I did a test making 50 mushroom pies: All the ingredients together, if I had sold them instead of cooking them, would have been worth 85 silver. After cooking I got pies worth only 10 silver. I would need to sell them to other players for 10 times their vendor value to make a profit. And I doubt somebody will pay that. Although there doesn't seem to be a NPC selling food, so player cooks might be the only source.

Then I wanted to start experimenting with the third sub-craft of yeoman: tailoring. But a tailor needs boiled leather, which only a forester can make, and in the yeoman set there is no forestry profession. Couldn't find any boiled leather in the auction house either, so no tailoring testing. I assume that in the real game there will be more auction house trade of crafting materials, because many profession sets either produce raw materials they can't use, or need raw materials they can't produce. Well, that's one way to encourage trade.

So I made a new character, a human burglar. Humans start in the same level 1-6 instanced newbie area as hobbits so, Archet. Elves and dwarves share another area. But after finishing the main quest line in the instance, humans and hobbits come out in different places, hobbits in the Shire, humans in Bree-land. And most interestingly humans come out in Archet, *after* the fire experienced in the instance main quest. This adds something to Lord of the Rings Online that other games don't have: A sense of time. You get to see the same village before and after some events, with some major changes from the fire, and a whole new lot of quests. There is even a quest where you are asked to bury people killed in the attack, and these are people you met as NPC in the instance.

So I leveled my burglar up to level 6, and decided to do some traveling, exploring the boundaries of the world. You might already know that Lord of the Rings Online : Shadows of Angmar is limited to the area of the first book, Eriador, up to Rivendell and the Misty Mountains. Surprisingly I actually got until Rivendell. There aren't too many mobs close to the roads, and their aggro range is small, especially when I turn on my burglar's stealth. I saw Gandalf talking to Elrond in his library, but there was no way to interact with him. If he has quests, they must be much higher in level. I moved on, into the Misty Mountains, towards the High Pass, but there was no road any more, and soon some level 42 monsters killed me. Future expansions will then add Moria and the other regions, up to Mordor, and presumably raise the level cap above the current 50.

Back in civilized Bree, after visiting the Prancing Pony, I learned the Armsman profession. So I went around in the countryside mining copper and tin, smelted that into bronze, and made some level 7 weapons with it. Now this promises to become interesting, because of the mastery option. You start any skill as apprentice. Every item you make gives you some skill points, until you count as "proficient" at the apprentice level. Then the journeyman level opens up to you. But you can also continue with apprentice level recipes, until you are a "master apprentice". At that point you can't gain any more points, but now you get the mastery option. In all crafts, you have a basic 5% chance to make a master item, producing something better (or just more) than you normally would. And in some cases at mastery level you can use an additional ingredient to increase this crit chance. In the case of farming you can add soil to have 100% crit chance, but a crit only gives you a higher yield. In weaponsmithing, in the sword recipe I checked, you can add some monster body part to increase the crit chance by 44%, and the result would be a magical sword instead of a normal one.
Actually, the sense of time thing can be seen at least in part in Guild Wars also. In the original story you get to see a pretty large area before and after a catastrophic event.
There are a couple of games that have had the ambition to change the environment as time and story line moves on. Pretty much everyone have not been able to fulfill that ambition. Not only do the devs have to make new content, but also rework the old content. Probably just too much work to be viable and profitable.
I really liked Earth&Beyond because of the changes of the whole environment when the big story arc advanced, but they were definitely lacking in quality content in the higher levels.

A more limited approach like the first Guild Wars and what it seems LoTRO has to some extent may be a workable one. Remains to see how much or the world will have this.
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