Monday, July 4, 2011

The Free to Play Experience (Part 3)

Part 3: Spending TP

The list
As said initially, if you are going to play F2P you should have an idea of what you are going to buy. Let’s face it: there is a ton of cool stuff in the store, the problem is that winning TP takes time, which is why you will have to prioritize what you are going to buy. What follows now is a list of what I think is good to buy first as an F2P. The order I’ll give is also the recommended order, but you can move the items up or down according to needs and to the special offers given each week. Again, this list is not definitive, it is meant just to be a guideline. If you don’t agree with something, just change it.

1)      Mines of Moria expansion: I already explained why exactly the expansion and not the questpack, but now I’ll have to reiterate why this one is the first on the list even though the content is for 50-60. The explanation is simple: stuff. Tons of stuff. You’ll get the chance to play the Runekeeper and the Warden, a better skirmsh soldier and, most important of all, you’ll have four character slots. More character slots means more variation while grinding the needed TPs. Besides, if you plan to play to the maximum level cap, you will cross Moria someday.
2)      Evendim questpack: The big question once you reach level 32 is where to continue? What I like about the middle levels of LotRO is the variety of ways you can go to reach level 50. From 30-40 you pretty much have three options: Trollshaws, North Downs and the one mentioned above. Why Evendim? It turns out that this is a very well-rounded area, even after the revamp. Sometimes you may feel a bit tired of the long swims you will have to do (there’s a reason they call it “Everswim”), but all in all it is a beautiful area with tons of quests and the Annuminas instance at level 40. I would say it is one of the better deals, for it takes you easily to level 40, while the other two may require you some extra stuff to do to get to the aforementioned level.
3)      Angmar: Angmar has in this case a much stronger reason. It may be a dreaded place to go, but it has many instances you can play with. Not only do you get the regular TP, but also the ones with Urugarth and Carn Dum, in other words, more points to collect for the store. Also, many players still run those instances a lot and the epic trait quest items are to be found there. Why not have access to it to get them without repeating the same skirmish once and again? Remember you may buy these items with skirmish marks, although at a very high price.
4)      Currency cap removal: Currency seems to be a useless feature to get rid of. You may buy a horse or two and some vault space, but there seems to be not much more to be won. Many would rather buy extra bags or other more shiny things. The reason I include this one in my list is that for the almost 600 TPs it costs, you get even more space than getting a bag. Let’s face it: once you reach your gold cap, you will be able to buy only up to 60 vault slots. With the cap removed, you can buy up to 120 slots. In total you get 60 more slots, not 15/30 if you would buy the bags. Some clever inventory management would be necessary so you wouldn’t walk with your inventory full around, but it is worth if you can save the mats for the next weapons with this.
5)      Mirkwood questpack: By this moment you should be already near the level cap. The last five levels can be covered with Mirkwood easily, and it is a beautiful zone to play in.
6)      Inventory bags: Finally, I would recommend to get those last bags you might need to carry around stuff in Middle Earth.

From here on what?
The list here shows just the basics of what you should get first. Once you get all those things, you should be able to have enough for a good play experience in LotRO. Now the points you will get will amass and you will have the freedom to spend them however you want. What would I recommend?
   First off, you should acquire two more questpacks, accompanied with two more character slots. In the order you want. The questbacks may be your main focus, since you’ll want to enjoy more of the content. I would recommend above all two areas ranging from 30-50, so the play experience won’t get monotonous: Trollshaws and Misty Mountains. Later on, as a good end-level content area, I would recommend Enedwaith.
   Finally, the rest depends on your own play style: if you like skirmishes, I do recommend to buy more skirmish areas; if you want all questpacks, start collecting them bit by bit. If you like crafting, then there are the accesses to the Guilds. This is up to you.
   The list may seem like quick to get, but believe me, it will take you a few months to get everything you might want from the game. Remember: as long as you are patient, all is obtainable.
All Hail!]

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Free to Play Experience (Part 2)

[Part 2: Winning TP

The situation
Free to play suffers of one detail that is easily overcome regarding TP availability: each character has only a certain amount of points; the initial F2P player will have 1610 points free per character. In other words, considering the two character slots open, this means you will have 3220 points available once you have grinded each deed on each character. It is not extremely much, since it barely will get you one or two things in game, but there are other ways to gain all that TP.
   There are different methods I have read about to obtain as many TP as you might want, but there is one I recommend a lot. I will start at the assumption that you will only have those two character slots and four basic questpacks and you won’t waste any points initially. The next article will then cover the issue of what I recommend to buy first and so on.
   I know I am repeating myself here, but I want to remind that this idea is not a set-in-stone idea. It is what I have deemed to be the best method for me and is only to be used as an idea on how to win TP points that could be “unlimited”. It all depends, as said before, of being patient and grinding a lot.

The open character method
First off I think it is important to realize the options you will have as a free to play. Usually, when one plays an MMO, a person unconsciously, or even on purpose, chooses one or two (or more) “main character(s)”. This means that you will always have a character you will prefer over the others and play more often. The two character slots you have open pretty much limit you to have only one main character, two if you play more than just casually. This main character is often not decided on the first try.
   In LotRO, the first twenty levels pretty much give you a general outlook on how a character is going to develop up to level cap. The main idea here is that when you don’t know what character type you want to be, you can use your exploration of the character types and their functions as a way to gain some extra TP before you settle for your main. If you did not like the Burglar, simply delete him and create your guardian or a minstrel to check those classes out. On the way you will be winning some extra points.
Tip: Don’t buy the riding skill if you didn’t decide to settle with the character you have at the moment. It may be only 95 TP, but initially a character that goes up to level 20 may win at a first normal run around 100-200 TP. In other words, if you were going to erase the character anyhow, you will have lost around the half of the TPs earned for nothing. Once you discover the class that suits you, the riding skill will be more than useful for your travels beyond the starting areas.
   Once you find your perfect class, you will be playing it up to level 32 (and a bit beyond) without reaching an area that will require you to go to the store. Enjoy this character. Play as long as you like and however you like, the TPs will be coming in by themselves. Once you reach that level, you will be aching to buy more questpacks to advance. The initial points will be enough for one or two of the next ones, but you will also have to be thinking of future purchases. Usually, an area has about 100-200 TPs extra available, which is not bad, but not enough to buy even more questpacks.
   You might at this point be tempted to use the second character slot, built a second character. I prefer to leave the second one free, since this one will be the real “grinding character”. What kind of character is this? Well, it is one that you will use only for certain time just to gather (or farm) easy obtainable TP, then delete it to create a new one.
   This character will not be a permanent one. When you later on get more character slots, having the last one free for this kind of characters is a great idea. This gives you an option to get more TPs when you run out of deeds to complete to get more for the next questpack or other stuff you might want to buy.

The easy TP
Where exactly is this “easy TP” I am talking about? They are at the starting areas. This means Ered Luin, the Shire and Bree Land. Each area offers you over 100 points you can obtain easily in a matter of hours.
   Normally, when I use a farming character, I make him a dwarven Champion; dwarf because it starts in one extreme of the starting areas (from there on I grind my way to Bree-Land) and champion because of the dps (damage per second) you have to kill faster (and get the slayer deeds quicker).
   For each run you do of these areas, you will have to find the exploration points (which are easy to find) do from 45-60 quests and slay the respective enemies (30 initially, 60 on the follow up). Also, I recommend NOT to do the crafting quests (what use is the crafting if you are going to delete him anyways?) and the epic questline (this one activates no deed you can immediately finish, since the epics are finished, for Volume I, at level 50; way beyond of what you want to reach for a character that dies at level 20). Using the character I proposed, I will do a quick rundown on what to do and what not on each area:
a)      Ered Luin: In this area I pretty much recommend to do every deed. Only 45 quests are needed, so this area should be left pretty quickly. Raith Therang may be the hardest part to explore, but from there on it is smooth sailing: you’ll leave the area at about level 15-16.
b)      The Shire: Here I do almost all quests except the pie runs and the mail runs. I do those partially since they count towards the questbound deeds and sometimes you will have to wander to another quest that has casually a mail destination on the way.. But once the questdeed is done, I abandon the chains. All the walking around is just a huge time loss for a few TP. This area will leave you more or less at level 17-18.
c)      Bree-land: this area is huge, since it carries characters form level 1-20. Here you will get the most TP if you do all quests. But it also is the area where the 150/300 slayer deeds start, which means that once you step out of the Combe and Archet area, the grinding (and thus the time spent to get the points) will be too high to be worth it. You may still gain about 120 TP in this area, which is not bad.
After running through these three areas, you may have gained about 400 TPs and something extra (since the class deeds and other might have activated too). It is not much maybe, but you can win those quickly. The deeds that take longer are not worth the grind unless your character is permanent. Also, I recommend to use the low virtues you get, since a little bonus always help to get things done quicker.
   Next week I’ll give my list of recommended buys at the LotRO. All this grinding is done for the objective of obtaining the shiny stuff from the store anyways.
All Hail!]

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Free to Play Experience (Part 1)

[Part 1: Basic rules

Free to Play (F2P) is maybe one of the greatest moves that Turbine has done for the LotRO game. It has not only brought greater revenue to the company, but also has brought interesting content and a ton of new players into the game.
   It does thus not surprise me that many will take advantage of the system to play this game casually and with no need to pay. But with all that is offered in-game and seemingly so few Turbine Points (TP) at disposition a new player might ask himself what to get to enjoy the experience even though he might be unable (or unwilling) to pay.
   I have played LotRO as a F2P for months (that is how I got introduced into the game in the first place) and after a few experiments and exploration, I decided to share what I learned about being F2P and to give some tips on how to enjoy LotRO with the limitations given in the unpaid accounts.
   Let me remind you that this, in no way, is a set in stone guide. You might experience the game differently. This guide portrays how I think the game is better played for an F2P account, but then again, we are all not the same.

For this first segment, I want to address some rules on the F2P experience. By this I mean that the rules given here will be good to remember, although not necessary. Consider them as guidelines, since most will seem obvious to you.

a)      Prepare for the grind: as an F2P you get TP the hard way only. This means you will have to gain the store currency by completing deeds. This takes… a long while. At the beginning the deeds seem to be quick and easy: kill 30, use 20 times and so on. But once you get on the higher levels, the kill ratio augments to 300, which even at level 65 will take you a while to complete. The upside: you’ll have your traits higher than most players that didn’t do the grinds but also didn’t buy them at the store (like me). In a later installment I’ll talk about a way to grind the points in the “quickest” way in my experience.
b)      Do not spend unless absolutely necessary: the TP you get is not much and it takes a while to get ahold of. In other words there is no need to spend on a slayer accelerator unless you plan to pay for the TP. Also, you’ll have to plan out what you will exactly buy. Check the store and try to assert how much TPs you will need for each thing and how much you’ll need to grind. There, a plan on what to buy first and last will help you a lot, but also be prepared to be flexible, since the next rule will be important too. In a later installment I’ll cover my recommended list of stuff to buy.
c)      Always have an eye on the Online-Store: That one is crucial. Every week there is a sale. The best times for sales are during festivals (there are five a year, one for each season and the anniversary). Try to get the stuff you need on sale. It’s maybe only 20-30%, but the more you can save on big things like a small expansion, the more you’ll have to spend later on on other stuff. The best idea would be to buy everything in sale, but that depends on patience. Also, always have a blog or something in the eye to see the new sales. Casual Stroll to Mordor (CSTM) and Liquid LotRO usually talk about the sales on their podcasts.
d)     Be patient: You will have to wait long to get anything. As said before, you don’t have to wait for a sale always, but maybe it will be good for you to wait one or two weeks on purchasing the next item on your list to see if a sale doesn’t come up. Or just grind up the TP until a festival arrives. There is no set-in-stone way to save up TP, since the sales are quite random, but still it won’t do you wrong to see if you can get the things cheaper or not. I usually bought when the item was absolutely necessary. When my character reached 50, I bought the expansion after a huge grind. In the while I saved my TP and got neat deals on two questpacks that carried me over from level 32 to 50. It was worth the wait at the end of things.

Ok, so much for this first part. These are just general rules, next week I’ll get into more specifics. Until then…
All Hail!]

Monday, June 13, 2011

Looking at Isengard

A very warm welcome my friend!

Sit down and listen, I have some news of my old elven friend Nimreidhreth Taleth, who is currently far away from where he wrote last. He sent a letter with interesting news, and it seems that the world is stirring even more with heroic acts to be done:
   “I have set out to travel with some old friends towards the land Stilfred urges me to go, Rohan. With me the rangers that call themselves the Grey Company, men faithful to our elf-friend and future king of Gondor Aragron. They have felt the call to accompany the heir of Isildur to one of his greatest challenges. I have been chosen to travel with them to the south.
   We have travelled many days and found many dangers, but now we are at the borders of Dunland, ready to enter Saruman’s territory and to confront real evils before we reach Aragorn in Rohan.

Awaitng departure in a town in Enedwaith.

   These men are much better company to me than the dwarves. They are proud men, of an old lineage, ready to fight against anything that may stand in their way and of their leader.”

   He has been in far away lands now and awaits the voyage further south. I hope he will bring many materials worthy of praise on song when he comes back. What he did in Moria was already more than interesting!
   Want another cup of tea? No? Well then, if you have to move, then I will wish you luck in your endeavors and may the Valar protect you.

 Until then, fare well.

[Finally, the big announcement! The long promised Rise of Isengard expansion has finally a date set (27th of September) and now comes the big wait for the new stuff that is to come out. A new crafting tier, three whole new zones to explore and a new huge raid (glee!) await us players in now a more certain future.
   At the same time Turbine gives us the chance to pre-order the game and already enjoy some stuff. Three packages are now out, for each price range one. Now comes the big question: which one to buy?
   I am right now in the decision of which to buy. I haven’t bought it mostly because of money issue, but also because I am not quite sure which of the three packages I should get. It is interesting what the most costly package will get you: three sets of cosmetics, three horses, the Path of the Fellowship questpack bundle, a title and 1000 Turbine points.
   But then again, is the whole hype worth those 50$? I mean, it’s nice to see so much stuff bundled together in one order, but that doesn’t mean that we should just blindly follow. For example, the title: I have on my character so many titles that I am not even sure I’ll get to use it at some point. Nimreidhreth is still called Warg-Hunter, a title you get in Lone Lands. I had never the need to change it. So, why should I need this Defender of the Isen title?
   The cosmetics themselves are pretty. Only thing that really bugged me was that they are not possible to dye. But I must say that I would like to have those, although, again, if you are not using the cosmetic system much, these sets are almost useless. Not to talk about the horses. Sorry to behave like Sauron, but if I want a horse of the fine lands of Rohan, I would love to have a dark one! I am not a big fan of the blonde horses, so pretty much that leaves me with a “meh”, since the blankets on the horse ain’t so cool. I still prefer my Angmarim Free People’s steed.
   Lastly there is the Path of the Fellowship bundle. It is a good bundle, but I think it is more thought for F2P players that for VIP. Let’s face it: if you have a lifetime subscription you’ll pretty much have those regions at hand forever, while being a monthly payer you’ll pretty much have it for free unless you think to downgrade in the future (or have to, that’s a possibility too). Mirkwood is also a nice touch, but most of the players already have it.
   I’d say that the offer pretty much appeals to some audience, but not to all. The good thing is that Turbine has given different option, so you don’t have to buy a package that contains stuff you might not need. I think that the heroic edition is more than enough for a casual player like me, while those fanatics of cosmetics or even those who play F2P might consider the legendary one. But I still am not sure if I want that legendary offer…
   All Hail!]

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Moria price debate

A very warm welcome my friend!

This time it’s a week of good news, so come and share a cup of tea with me. The kettle is already full of warm water. Here, let me pour you some.
   Two weeks ago a friend of mine started sending letters again. It has been long since I heard of him. He is a man from the far south, but north of where Lufere comes from. Rohan, he calls his lands, and he speaks of terrible times approaching his land. He is swift and good with horses, I had never seen such ability with that animal. It seems like in his lands they learn to ride from child on.
   He was one of the friends we met one fateful day in the Prancing Pony, and he was aghast and very wondered when he met us hobbits for the first time, for his lands seems to lack our fair folk. He is a good man, strong willed, and a natural born leader, since his servant and, above all, friend Ererl loves and follows him everywhere he goes.
   What I like about knowing other people is tradition, and it seems like Stilfred Strongaxe has much to tell. And his adventures seem to be very interesting, since he writes with passion.
   Well, I see you have to go. May the Valar protect you on your adventures and I’ll see you again next time you come around here.

 Until then, fare well.

New members of the Separate Fellowship: Stilfred Strongaxe and Ererl

[When it goes to buying in the store, you always will try to spend as few of the hard earned Turbine Points as possible on the specific item you want to get. Some like to buy at full price, but especially F2P players are somewhat limited on the points they get, since they have to grind for each TP to get everything in the game.
   At one point all players that didn’t buy the boxed edition on Mines of Moria will face the question what to buy: if the quest pack is a good idea or if it is worth the wait to get the expansion with the cool extra stuff. It is, after all 1495 vs. 2495 Turbine Points… a whole 1000 points. But Moria is necessary for the character leveling from level 50 to 60, not to count the still useful pieces of armor you can get from running instances like Grand Stairs, Forgotten Treasury and so on.
   Some say it depends on the need you have. I have already met some players who already had bought the warden class, for example, and now grinded for the quest pack. What I will do here is a quick rundown on what you get on the expansion pack, afterwards I will tell my (very personal) opinion about what I think is the best option.
   I bought the Moria expansion when I was F2P, so I pretty much remember the benefits I got from it. What surprised me one day while talking with one of my kinnies is how much value you got from the expansion pack (using the new wiki entry as a help to determine the price):

Moria quest pack: 1495
Lothlorien quest pack: 695
Warden class: 795
Rune Keeper class: 795
Two extra character slots: 595x2= 1190
Skirmish trait maximum rank to 15: 195
Total: 5165

I myself wondered at the total in the number I just calculated for this post (my initial calculations were somewhere above 4000 TP). I think the expansion pack in itself is well worth buying, no matter what needs you might have at the moment. Even if everything else gets a discount (which usually gravitates around the 30% mark), you would still spend 3616 TP over a long time, which means that you would spend too many points on all the stuff you get in the expansion.
   If you are not the altoholic type, then you might argue that you won’t need the character slots, but then again, you would miss out on two (!) quest packs and the skirmish trait. And, who knows, maybe one day you might want to make a third character…
   The free to play system shows that if you want to acquire anything in game, patience pays off. But just don’t have too much patience. It will take you too long and a huge grind to buy everything separate. Besides, if you already bought one or two of the things in the package, it is still better to buy the expansion.
   It may take you longer to enjoy the Moria content, but you will have much more to enjoy the whole game content. Plus, if you say now that you won’t need this and that, then you are probably wrong, since most of the times some players will gravitate to use the stuff in this package at some point. A little accidental foresight will never do wrong.
   So, go ahead, no matter what kind of account you have. The expansion is well worth getting, even if you might not find all useful at the moment. I think that pretty much should settle the discussion on what to buy of the two options. It’s more points for Mirkwood and, later on Isengard (or any other quest pack you might need as an F2P).
   All Hail!]