Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Gift Horse

As I type this, Lord of the Rings Online is patching in the background. Standing Stone Games magnanimously decided to switch off the meter for most paid content through until the end of April, give us all something to do while we're self-isolating or sheltering at home.

That's a very generous gesture but it puts me in something of a quandary. I find it very hard to resist free stuff but in this case the stuff that's going free is the exact same stuff I once claimed LotRO was considerably more fun without.

Almost exactly three years ago to the day, looking back even farther into the storied past, when I played LotRO the first time around, I was scathing as I remembered "the increasingly onerous, exhausting commitment to questing in Middle Earth... All that swimming and riding. All that stiff text. All those unpronounceable names."  There were several reasons I stopped playing LotRo, I said, and quest overload was one of them.

Without quests I felt "as though I am playing the game instead of, as so often in quest-driven MMOs, as though the game is playing me". I said much the same about the endless free trial version of Final Fantasy XIV at around the same time. Clearly questing and I were having some issues in 2017. We probably needed some time out.

My abiding memory of questing in Middle Earth - swimming across this damn lake.
I hung around in both games for a couple of months, roaming and exploring and keeping formal questing to a minimum. I can't recall exactly why I drifted away from FFXIV but I know what eventually dampened my interest in Middle Earth: bag space.

Or, rather, lack of it. I was doing the tasks that require lots of body parts and my bags were full of ears and skins and horns and claws. They all had tiny icons, many of them identical, and they all needed sorting all the time and you really needed a spreadsheet to remember where to hand them in and in the end it all felt like too much hassle so I stopped.

I've written about the dreadful issues LotRO has with its inventory and its UI before. So have quite a few people. It's a notorious game for eyestraining point sizes and illustrations that make postage stamps look like billboards by comparison.

I think I read something about some of that having changed. Maybe. I hope so. I'd log in and check but in the time it's taken me to type this, the patcher has only managed to make it to 75% overall. It's on something called "forward iterations" now and there are more than sixteen thousand of them. LotRO's patcher doesn't have any better a rep than its UI.

The road leads ever onward - to the next quest hub.
The bigger question is, do I really want to play LotRO again, anyway? If it wasn't for the pull of getting something for nothing and the push of being unexpectedly at home for several weeks (at least) I wouldn't even be considering it.

Lord of the Rings Online sits comfortably in the big box of MMORPGs that I used to play and probably will again. Any of them could come out for an airing any time and none of them is ever likely to hang around for long before being put tidily away and forgotten for a few more months or years.

If I was going to make a list of former MMORPGs I'd like to re-visit, ordered in preference, LotRO would be on it, sure, but it wouldn't be all that near the top. Hmm... thinking about it, that's a list I might make. Maybe for Blapril. I'll need some ideas. Better make a note...

Sorry, where were we? Ah yes, no, LotRO could stand to wait a while. I just kind of picked up EverQuest again - at least I've been logging in most days to do my Overseer quests and watch my magician very slowly level up while standing in the Guild Lobby - so my "old MMORPG" slot is currently taken.

But, y'know, free stuff! And I would like to get to the original level cap eventually, just so I could say I did. If nothing else, having quests should make that happen faster, shouldn't it?

I could have sworn the hand-in guy was around here somewhere...
I don't know, though. I seem to remember questing being pretty slow. And dull. Maybe I should do the main storyline. That would be good xp, right?

Just a couple of problems with that. First, I've been avoiding it for about ten years, I disliked it so much the first time. But once again I seem to remember reading that something had been done to improve things. I could at least check it out.

But then, second, it's the one questline free players are already allowed to do. I hardly need SSG to turn on the free quest tap before I trot along behind Frodo at a safe social distance. I could do that any time.

I was hoping that by about now, just as I ran out of waffle, I'd be able to pop in and take some screenshots. I've about used up all my old ones. Only, the launcher is still patching furiously. We're on .dat files now, 3833 of 15894 downloaded so far.

I'm off to play something else.

To be continued. Possibly.


  1. Ah, LOTRO. I do enjoy most of the 1-50 experience, and Moria has its moments, but everything after that has left be cold on every attempt. I've thought about patching it up, but haven't gotten around to it. I am still playing with the Overseer in EQ enough for that to maybe count as my third active title at the moment.

    1. I do like the EQ Overseer. When I get a new agent the portrait is usually so good it feels like a reward in itself. My magician is going to get to 95 using it, which I never thought would happen. Curious to see what changes are coming for the EQ2 version now.


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