Sunday, March 12, 2017

Pony Time : LotRO, WildStar

It's a damp, grey Sunday morning and I just failed to patch WildStar again. The only reason I was even bothering to try, of course, was that free Level 50 Carbine is giving away to promote the controversial new Primal Matrix update.

It's a long time since I played WildStar. It's a long time since I thought about playing WildStar. If it wasn't for my love of a bargain I might well never have played WildStar again and right now it looks as though I will never play WildStar again, free max level character or no.

I found my old installation of WildStar easily enough. I dug out the hard disk from my last PC and fitted into an enclosure and there it was, along with a bunch of other MMOs. I popped all their icons onto the desktop and renamed them so I'd know where to find them in future, then I started patching.

It all went swimmingly for a while. Carbine's patcher is solid and simple and fast. Then around two-thirds of the way in it hit a wall. A sound file repeatedly failed to install. The patcher claimed it was corrupt.

I googled a while, then I tried several of the suggested fixes with no success. In the old days I might have been able to skip that file or download a standalone copy, something I did more than a few times when EverQuest stuttered, but in these modern times everything comes in sealed packs.

Since I didn't want to get into the next level of suggested "fixes" that would involve terminating all my Start Up processes and since I have a multiplicity of machines capable of installing and running MMOs, I tried again, first on my Win10 tablet and finally on the laptop running 8.1. Same file corrupted every time.

At this point I suppose I could have tried a full, fresh install but honestly I'm just not that interested. Goodbye WildStar, probably forever.

"Game logic". There's a novel idea!

Carbine's loss is Turbine's gain, it seems, because almost out of spite I decided to patch LotRO, seeing I'd just found it and the icon was right there staring me in the face. I've had some harsh words for Turbine's patcher in the past and I can't say it's improved visibly since the transition to Daybreak Games, but I will say this for it: it works.

Granted it took hours - literally hours - to check, download and install less data than Carbine had been managing in minutes, but it got there in the end and everything worked. It also ran smoothly and quietly in the background while I played GW2 and EQ2, unlike the patcher for Revelation Online, which has so far crashed the router twice and reduces all other internet traffic to a crawl when it's running.

My history with LotRO is sketchy. Mrs Bhagpuss and I originally played on the EU-RP server, Laurelin but later I played alone for a while on a US server, for which I used a different account. Then there was some argy-bargy when the EU and US regions were amalgamated.

Anyway, the short version is I couldn't really remember which account was which so I just picked a password and crossed my fingers. It turned out to be the original one with my Level 40 Guardian and several other characters in the twenties.

Six elven maidens playing "MacArthur Park". Yep, that must be The Prancing Pony, right over there.

Everyone was present, correct, safe, sound and effectively unplayable as usual due to extreme inventory cramming. What generally happens when I log into LotRO after a few months (or years) is that I open my inventory on whichever character I picked to see five bags completely full of tiny indecipherable icons.

I then panic and run to the bank to see if I can offload some only to find my vaults are equally rammed. At this point I usually whistle up a slow pony, trot around a few of the sights, take some screenshots and log out for six months.

This time, for some reason I can't immediately explain, I buckled down to it. I spent the best part of a couple of hours musing over icons, checking things on the wiki, reading up about systems that had changed.

I found that you can right-click things like Rep items and Mathoms that you used to have to take to NPCs so I cleared those. Some other things I was hoarding turned out to have no modern function so I sold them to vendors. Or rather I tried to.

You'd think selling stuff to a vendor would be simple but not in LotRO. It took ten minutes of wiki reading and trial and error as I worked out why nothing was showing up on the vendor's "Sell" list (I'd "Locked" them all) and then another few minutes perfecting what to do about it (it involves an arcane and unguessable combination of mouse clicks and keyboard commands).

If I was going to write a post about how MMO developers could mitigate the inevitable difficulties for players returning to an MMO they haven't played for a while I would pick LotRO as the definitive example of how not to do it. It's a testament to the strength of the world-building Turbine have done, as well as the immense strength and attraction of the Tolkien IP, of course, that anyone even tries.

I'd hate to be caught riding a racially inappropriate pony.
For the first time, though, I do feel I might manage to get my old characters into some kind of playable shape. In the past I've tended to feel that, should I want to play LotRO again, it would be less trouble to start over from scratch than to sort out my stuff.

This go round I have at least made a start. I have half a bag of empty slots to work with and there's potentially a whole vault of old task items I can clear out now I understand what they are. I would like at least to get my house back and try the improved hook system out for size.

There was one very nice surprise lurking in my packs when I finally took a good look at what was in there. It seems Turbine, like ArenaNet, send birthday presents on the anniversary of your account. I had several, including one with a horse. A proper, fast horse, not a mere plodding pony. (Okay, as a dwarf it actually is a pony, but let's not quibble).

Naturally, when I unwrapped my mount and tried to get on him a message appeared telling me I didn't have the riding skill. What's more, as a non-subscribing player, even a Premium one rather than a full-on F2P scrub, I'd have to buy that skill in the Cash Shop.

That does seem a bit like giving someone a toy and then telling them they'll have to buy the batteries. Actually, it's like giving someone a toy and then selling them the batteries. Try that with your nieces and nephews next Christmas and see how it goes down.

Just don't ask where I got the money, okay?
Fortunately the bitter pill was sweetened by the discovery that I had some 1100 Turbine Points on the account. I have no idea how I acquired those - I've certainly never bought any. Eleven hundred points doesn't get you much in the LotRO shop but the riding skill is a bargain-basement 95 points so I sprung for that and now I have a 62% speed mount.

At that point I felt I'd achieved as much as I was likely to in one evening. I logged out with more of a sense of satisfaction than I'm used to feeling from a visit to Middle Earth.

Whether I'm back there for any meaningful quantum of "back" remains to be seen. I appear to have drifted into one of those dabbling phases, where I'm playing a little bit of a lot of MMOs all at once. Currently I could claim to be "actively" playing GW2, EQ2, Revelation Online and Aion and I've at least logged in to EverQuest, LotRO, DCUO and Rift in the last couple of weeks. 

I still haven't activated my WoW account to play Legion or sorted out my Aeria account so I can try Twin Saga, and then there's all the others on the back burner - I'd like to re-visit Blade and Soul, Black Desert, Dragon Nest and Allods just to mention a few...

It's going to be a busy spring. Probably just as well I can cross WildStar off the list.


  1. I played Marvel Heroes for a little over a year. It played perfectly for a long time. Then the patcher started giving me connectivity issues. The game would randomly crash and lag was getting worse and worse. From the forums, this was not the norm but I certainly was not alone with these issues. I finally just dropped the game all together.

    I really never look for work arounds or manipulate files to get games working. I have an expectation that if I paid for a game then it should work. There are too many other games that I want to play to mess with games that constantly have issues running.

    1. Yes, I tend to agree. Of course, if it's an MMO I really want to play I will try pretty much anything, but in most cases my desire to log in is whim-based and fairly weak already so any obstacle tends to send me looking for something that's less of a hassle.

      I do think that MMOs that are extremely easy to access have a considerable advantage and it's always surprising that some developers seem content to live with such awkward, fiddly and off-putting front ends.

  2. Wildstar is on Steam now. It downloads most of it through Steam's system, and then there is a short update patch from the Wildstar launcher. If all else fails, that might be one last thing to try.

    - Simon

    1. I did actually think of that. I might even have played WS via Steam last time I did successfully log in, which was probably over a year ago. I didn't get around to trying though and now the Level 50 offer has ended so any motivation has passed. If they do another promotion that sounds interesting, though, maybe I'll try the Steam path.

  3. Your blog title is VERY appropriate for this post! Or the other way around...

    A while ago I wrote a post full with pipe dreams of things I'd love to be changed in LOTRO. I trimmed it down to just 3, and one of them was "barrier of entry". Your post is like the perfect illustration of that point. Even I need to figure out how it all works again, and I've been playing it actively for 9 years with the occasional break.

    1. Yes, well, there is a reason I chose the name...

      I "played" LotRo for another couple of hours today, all of which was spent working on my Guardian's inventory. He now has an entire bag and a half of empty spaces and about 25 free slots in his vault, which is absolutely unheard of. I feel like I could actually take him adventuring now. Maybe I even will!


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