Category Archives: Dungeons And Dragons Online

Why I Prefer A Subscription Game

The LotRO forums have exploded into chaos over the past days thanks to more allegedly nefarious pricing from Turbine. (In related news, hyperbole is becoming the de facto standard for writing lively commentary about MMOs, per Justin Olivetti’s Massively article on this topic.)

As we’ve learned, Turbine will not release a dungeon cluster with the Riders of Rohan expansion. Despite the raised price of RoR compared to previous expansions (due to the expansion being larger and mounted combat likely expensive to develop), the dungeons for it will not be included in that price–instead they will be released later. A lot of players pre-purchased based on an error in the FAQ that said the dungeons were included in the pre-order price. The error was evidently corrected.

Are end-games normally sold separately from expansions? No. According to a thread in the LotRO forums, this is a world first, but technically it’s a second since Isengard dungeons were also sold separately. That’s the way I bought them months after Isengard released. I haven’t even played them yet–the first tier of the grind plus catching up with the virtue cap increase was enough work.

The Rohan pre-order table of perks and bonuses is another complicated beast that requires study to decipher. Am I going to do this for you? No. Just thinking about the Rohan pricing and when/how to pay gives me a headache. I like shoe-shopping. I know what the shoes will do. I don’t have to pay extra for the laces or straps. They have one price, and that price is on the tag.

When I tried to play DDO, Turbine’s other MMO recently, (and quit before I really got started), I spent days studying character builds, the Turbine store, and the DDO F2P pricing to decide what all to unlock and how much it was going to cost. I decided I had to unlock 32 point builds just to start playing because +1 to two of my attributes seemed important in the D&D system. It’s also important for me as a player to feel like my ladies are half-heroic and well-played, not ragamuffins that gimp a group.

For example, the cost in $ to buy higher stats at L1 (an objectionable idea to begin with) was $X, but that was a bad deal. I needed to spend $X+10 or better yet $X+20=Z, leaving me with (Z-X)*points + bonus points – (price of must-unlock item A) – (price of must-unlock item B) – (I hope you get the picture). I was boggling over the money. I wasn’t having fun, and I knew it was a tip-of-the-iceberg situation.

Based on what I’ve seen in the LotRO forums, a lot of players are starting to feel the same way.

What is the MMO industry coming to? Surely players are going to get fed up at some point with these repetitive sales pitches. Who likes dealing with a flood of deals, perks, bonuses, 10% offs, 20% offs, buy-now buttons, XBOX-exclusives, and on-DVD-pay-to-unlocks? It’s all driven by the money, but its getting out of control.

I was thinking a lot today about this, and I thought of my Netflix membership. I love Netflix. It delivers great entertainment to my home, and the payments show up on my credit card bill–“out of sight and out of mind”. I’m happy paying. I don’t even know quite how much I’m paying. I just know it seems cheap even though it’s more expensive than an MMO subscription.

If the gods erased the Turbine store forever from DDO, I’d subscribe right now. I’m confident that underneath the OMG! Buy Now! buttons, it’s a great MMO. As it stands, it’s too much of a headache to deal with. I hope future F2P MMOs will incorporate a “pure” no-store-presence-whatsoever subscription option. This has been requested in LotRO, but it’s an impossibility. The store is fully integrated into every panel and game system, and it grows like the Borg.

I’m playing Dragon Age 2 tonight. I won’t need a degree in Accounting or Marketing Psychology to play that game. If a merchant NPC in Ferelden tries to sell me a dungeon for $10 U.S., I’ve got a bottle of Smirnoff vodka ready in the kitchen–an old Russian remedy re-purposed against the increasing madness of capitalism.

Pay Not To Fail (Or How I Ragequit DDO At Level 1/1)

Ok, I didn’t really “ragequit” DDO. I was pleasantly surprised by my re-visit to Eberron. It’s been a while, maybe since Saint’s Row 2, since a game so charmed me right out of the box (aka cable modem) with no expectations.

I wanted to comment with some feedback for Turbine, but I figured the forums were pointless, and I was told furthermore that any bold comparisons of DDO to WoW in the forums would be met with merciless derision.

I originally played DDO at launch, but there were bugs, texture problems with my hair (bad hair is bad!), and stuttering, and I quit very quickly. I was inspired to look at DDO again because of the Underdark and Forgotten Realms expansion announcement. I really want to go there.

DDO has fun dungeon gameplay and decent voiceovers. It played fairly smoothly except for some minor server issues on Thelanis, and looked great for its age. The quests were totally unlike Wow, which was refreshing. The deep and respectable D&D character system was a daunting plus.

I also liked the cool things like climbing ladders and swimming that didn’t make it into LotRO. Why not? I’d love for LotRO dungeons to be more like DDO. Trap skills for my Burglar? Yes, please.

Did Not Load The interface isn’t terribly attractive, but it’s surprisingly functional once you get used to it, and the store buttons seemed less conspicuous than in LotRO. I appreciated this.

I wanted to play this game and get into it, and probably convert to a subscriber down the line. Yolari was playing with me, and she was more psyched about DDO than I’ve seen her recently.

There was only one problem–they gave us a default 28 points to distribute to our stats to start the game, unless we paid $20 for the 1500 TP needed to unlock the superior 32 point builds.

After I learned this, I simply couldn’t bring myself to start a default character missing 4 points. I also couldn’t make myself, on principle, pay $20 cash to Turbine just to make my first L1 character not a failure right out of the gate. I didn’t want to oblige Yolari to pay either, if I did.

I doubt if I’m coining a new MMO term here–I’m not that brilliant, but pay not to fail is the best description for how I felt in this specific case. It got me thinking in a different way about F2P in LotRO and other games.

I mean, are we really paying to win sometimes, or are we really, deep down, paying not to be a failure? It’s something to maybe evaluate and ponder when you’re considering plunking down money for something. Of course, this concept doesn’t apply to vanity items.

I honestly can’t think offhand of how Turbine could have done this thing differently. I don’t blame their design. They had to do their thing. I had to do my thing. It’s just too bad our things couldn’t mesh.

I also felt like things were maybe too expensive for F2P. I figured $60 just to unlock all of the classes and races in the character selection and $10 for an extra character slot based on the current prices in the store for TP. This didn’t make F2P seem like a viable way to play given the apparent difficulty of earning TP in this game.

Between the store issues and no dual-boxing in DDO (no follow command), this game is scratched off of my list of candidates for what to play. I’ll be paying the $20 to buy Dragon Age 2 next, which promises passion and romance in addition to the graphic bloodbath.

I also have an interested eye on the new LotRO expansion zone on the Anduin, which may offer a fresh and different way to reach the Isengard level cap. I really enjoyed Lothlorien, which is situated in a similar position to Moria as the Great River might be to Dunland, in terms of leveling.

Further Reading:

Some good news stories turned up today, including:

A clear description of how good and creative the Kingdoms of Amalur character advancement system is with destinies.

A reassurance from CCP that World of Darkness is well on track
, and that we might actually hear a release date this year (that’s how I interpreted it.) I assume they don’t mean the MMO could release this year.