Tag Archives: achievements

Can There Be Good Grind?

Another festival come and gone in LotRO, another new mount for my stable and a few new items in my wardrobe (this year’s Festival cloaks were particularly nice!). I always enjoy Turbine’s events, and even though this Spring Festival hadn’t undergone the overhaul that the previous Harvest and Winter Festivals saw, it was still a good time. Stomping shrews, for all of its barbarity, has always been one of my favorite mini-games in LotRO.

Thanks to the extra quest at the Hedge Maze, this particular festival saw me accomplish a goal I’ve held in-game for a very long time – achieving Kindred with both the Inn League and the Ale Association. Getting to Kindred with the Ale Association was fairly straightforward; the number of quests available during each festival made it a fast climb up to the top, but for every quest completed there is a loss to Inn League reputation. You gain more than you lose, so if one is diligent enough and does all of the courier quests for both groups, the net effect is a gain for both. But I’m stubborn, and once I reached Kindred with the Ale Association, I went for the long route so I wouldn’t lose my status. This means there’s normally only one quest available – The Inn League trial run.

Let’s just say I’ve done a lot of drinking in-game over the last three years. It’s a good thing the Inn League makes you check your liver during the initiation quests, because at this point I’d be on my death bed from a catastrophic failure of any number of organs. (I wonder how many Badges of Taste it will cost me to get it back?)

Of course, the hard part now is getting the Badges to buy the Inn League mount. That’s going to entail a loss of reputation no matter what, so I guess it’s time for some math.

I was really happy to have completed this particular achievement; not only because, towards the end, the Trial Run was getting a little stale, but also because it represents the completion of a goal I set for myself a few years ago. So often in MMO’s we measure time in hours or days – at most months – and while I’m not maligning a standard in-game achievement, I think it speaks volumes to our attitudes about commitment and the rather shallow value of “achievement” in our gaming. If it can’t be completed in a gaming session or two, it’s generally labeled as a “grind” (valid or not).

On the other end of the “satisfaction spectrum”, I also managed to finish up the last of my slayer deeds in the Misty Mountains (on to Evendim!). While the Inn League reputation brought me a real sense of accomplishment (and even a touch of pride), completing these only brought a feeling of having finished a chore and a sense of relief that I’d never, ever go back and do that again. Which makes me kind of sad. Having all desire to go back to an area as beautiful as the Misty Mountains absolutely obliterated, it’s just not nice.

Which leads me to my point; not all grind has to be bad.

Grinding out 240 Signature mobs for a tick on one of my virtues and a ten cent tip is not fun; especially when it’s only purpose is to “extend the gameplay”.  Which it does, I suppose, but not for fun. Running the same quest nearly a hundred times, while somewhat tedious, led to real satisfaction. The former took a few hours, the later a few years, and yet I would do the Inn League reputation again. So what’s the difference?

It comes down to intent. And context. Killing Giants in the Misty Mountains only took a few hours, thanks to a Deed Accelerator (which may be the real issue here – I don’t like feeling like my hand has been forced) and has a real impact on character development, albeit a fairly small one. But it’s tacked onto the game, artificially adding hours to my “gameplay”, and has absolutely no context within the stories or character progression. I’m not killing them for a reason, I’m just wandering around Giant Halls until I fill a progress bar. Running a series of drinking games, while not of direct benefit to the world or even my character, makes sense within the context of the world and the factions with which I’m trying to curry favor. They only take 20 minutes or so, spread out over years, so the time investment is minor at any given time. And it’s fun, or funny. Both.

To be sure, it’s a fine line and a very difficult balance to attain. And it’s an issue of personal preference. For some people grinding out hundreds of mobs constitutes fun, or at least fun enough to stomach. Maybe it’s meditative. Or cathartic. The point is that, done right, long-term achievements can be extremely rewarding without being downright tedious. Even those that require repetitive tasks.

Turbine ♥ Penny Arcade

We’re ALL fans of Penny Arcade, to be sure, so why should the devs at Turbine be any different?

You may now be known as Drannos, Fruit...Hucker...

Now, maybe I’m reading too much into this, but could this be a nod to the infamous Penny Arcade character and perhaps one of my favorite running jokes? (NSFW, in case you aren’t familiar.)

Either way, that’s a damn fine Title, and funny no matter what. Merry Christmas to me!

Nothing Brings ‘Em Runnin…

...like a good party!

I have to say that I am extremely impressed with the Fall Festival in LotRO this year. Not only has Turbine released what I consider to be the best festival content to date, but the crop of new players coming in with Free To Play has really increased the energy, and activity, around the festival areas. It’s really nice to see (sure, I’ve seen stupid MMO-leet-speak in Regional chat for maybe the first time, but that’s minor compared to the shot of adrenaline the Vilya community seems to have received).

The Haunted Burrow is, quite plainly, approaching genius. One, it’s about time that the Shire got it’s own Festival content; Duillond has its shrew-infested garden and Bree has its Hedge Maze. Two, it’s refreshing to have something to do in the game that is pure fun. It’s an amazing contrast from the Mirkwood areas with their dark, foreboding, and war-torn atmosphere. Not that Mirkwood is bad, but the festival this year comes at a perfect time and has the perfect measure of irreverence and silliness about it.

There’s one downside, however. Well, not so much of a downside as a decision Turbine made that has got me (and a lot of players) into a frothing frenzy. The Skeleton Horse.


Must. HAVE.

First and foremost, the thing is amazingly cool-looking. Secondly, I have a thing about mounts; it has long been my goal to achieve every mount in the game (as well as fully complete several others types of “achievements”) with my main. Funny thing is, I’m not even sure I would make it my main mount. But seeing it, I immediately thought, “I must have that…” Trouble is, obtaining it doesn’t seem to be a matter of effort, but of sheer luck. And I’m not generally a “lucky” person. In order to obtain this mount, players must be fortunate enough to obtain an item that is a rare drop. From a chest that can only be opened once every 24 hours.

This means I only have 30-something chances to get my hands on this item. Two things that make me very nervous about Turbine’s decision. One, personal effort has little to no bearing. Players could log in like clockwork, every day during the festival to check the chest, and never receive the mount. That’s a lot of effort with no return, leading (potentially) to a lot of frustrated players. Two, if I am lucky enough to get one, seeing these available in the Store at some point in the future would be a huge slap in the face to everyone who worked hard and got lucky.

Hopefully Turbine has considered these points, and designed it appropriately. My hope is that, as much as the item is a rare drop, that player effort has some bearing on the chances of receiving the mount. Even an increase of a few percentage points in the chance, for those who log in every day and try, would be very much appreciated.


Victim of My Style

FYI: This is not me...(honestly, this guy is way ahead of me).

Having spent the week in Toronto for work-related training, I’m just now catching up on all of the inevitable crises that took place in my absence. While I enjoy traveling (when I can drive to my destination) and this particular trip was of great value to me in my current profession, the aftermath almost always makes it more of a hassle than it’s really worth. Even with a laptop and remote access to nearly everything I need to do my job, so much of what I do from day to day requires a physical presence. Ironic considering I work in a field notorious for disconnecting themselves from ‘meatspace’. Also, by the end of a full day of technical training, the last thing I want to do is more work. I just don’t have it in me.

So to take the edge off being away from my family, I take advantage of my solo status and generally devote as many off-hours as possible to gaming. I know, lame excuse for binging on LotRO, but it’s all I’ve got, and as I’m required to be away, I might as well make the most of it. As I lack a decent gaming laptop, I tend to stick to my alts; I’ve already experienced 99% of the content and have “seen the sights” in the highest quality I can, so it’s really about the mechanics of the class.

I was determined to really buckle down and make some progress on characters I’ve left lingering in the mid 20s and 30s. Just a few months ago, I was lamenting a complete and utter lack of motivation to level my alts because, knowing where I was headed, I just couldn’t bring myself to grind up to, and then through, the content. I figured this ennui was a symptom of Moria-overload and of the deed and reputation grinds; having done them once I really don’t want to do them again (come on Turbine, where are my account-based deeds?).

Trouble is, Turbine has done part of their job too well. Playing some of the classes can be a vastly different experience and makes good portions of the content “new” just by virtue of running through it again with a second (or third) class. And I truly enjoy some of the other classes. Hunter, Minstrel, and Warden are my top three second-string classes and I find them truly fun and refreshing to play. Burglars will always be my one, true love, but one cannot live on lembas alone. And I’d really like to see some of the endgame with a class other than my main.

So I figured I’d take one on the nose, dive right in, and get to leveling. I determined that I wanted to get two of my alts to 40 during my time away, and as two of them were already in their mid-30s, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem, right?

Wrong. But not for the reasons I thought.

All this time I thought it was something about LotRO that kept me away from my alts, when the truth is – <cue dramatic revelation music> – it’s me. Well, partly me. More me than I had originally thought. Honestly, no matter how you look at it, it comes down to my tastes and preferences, both in how I play LotRO and in the fact that I choose to play other games from time to time, that keep me from playing enough to level multiple characters to the cap. I liked Moria well enough, but I didn’t like it enough to want to revisit. There are plenty of players who still enjoy Moria (I think…). Sure, there are aspects of the game that I have trouble stomaching (slayer deeds and reputation grinding), but overall Turbine built their game and created their content and put it out there for customers to purchase and enjoy, or not. And I do enjoy it, and give them my money for it; but I enjoy other games as well.

I say this because not only did I fail to level my two alts to 40, I failed to level one past 38. Instead of burning through quests with my Hunter, I found myself finishing out exploration deeds and taking the time, again, to read quest text and harvest resource nodes and, yes, finish slayer deeds. For shame!

What I learned is that it’s not entirely that Turbine has created a game that makes it impossible for me to have alts. Rather it’s my playstyle that prevents me from maintaining multiple characters at the level cap. Realistically, it barely allows me to keep one at the level cap. I’m a Completionist and a Sightseer; these are not habits conducive to quickly consuming content. Even using Syp’s technique for selecting virtues in advance and only completing the deeds that grant those bonuses didn’t keep me from trying to get everything done in Evendim, where I spent the bulk of my time.

Not that there isn’t room for Turbine to improve, especially in the grind-one-monster-into-extinction department, but with the move to Free To Try, what’s the chance of them eliminating any grind? Not much. So I’ve realized I owe Turbine an apology.

Sorry, Turbine. It’s not you (not really). It’s me.

Here’s Your Title

It’s funny what you’ll take for granted in games. For example, when running through a high-level area, such as Mirkwood, you’d expect other players you encounter to demonstrate a basic understanding of the game, and especially of their chosen class. Before I get into it, let me say this; tone is often difficult to convey, and I found this entire situation highly amusing! It also reminded me of another accomplishment of a kinmate, except this was one that I found extraordinary.

I was questing in the Mirk-eaves, up near Durburz-Stazg, when a few quests had me head inside the camp and thin the ranks of Orcs. I particularly like this quest chain because, while it has a lot of the standard kill quests, it does have some nice variety with a “go scout a few locations” tasks. These are particularly enjoyable for me, being a Burglar, as they seem intentionally designed for stealth. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

As I was dispatching the two gate guards and heading into the camp, another player rode up behind me and dismounted right inside the gate. I didn’t think too much of it – a level 65 Rune-keeper probably looking for some of the same quests I was out for – until said Rune-keeper proceeded to run right into the middle of the camp and get himself killed (I apologize if they were female). I was a little surprised to say the least; he managed to aggro just about every creature between the gate and where he died, killed none of them, and performed almost no healing on himself.

I’m not trying to be overly harsh, and I’m not suggesting anything (*wink* *wink* *nudge* *nudge*). For all I know, the particular player could have been paying half attention, messing around, or just trying to show the game off to an uninitiated friend. And I’m all for that!

But I do expect a certain level of expertise from a player who has achieved 65, from any class. There’s no guarantee that you will be the best, or even a “good” player of any given class, even if you reach the level cap. Especially if you have the help of a kinship. Besides, what qualifies as a “good” player? (That’s a whole other conversation.) But you can’t help but attain a certain level of competence with a class, simply by the process of familiarizing yourself with the mechanics on the road to 65.

This, and another minor kin event, got me thinking about Titles. I love and hate the title system in LotRO. It’s a testament to the power of achievements that World of Warcraft introduced a nearly-identical system soon after it was introduced in Lord of the Rings Online. When the market leader copies something you do, you know you hit the mark. Bullseye.

I love the system because it allows for small customization, and a subtle way to express achievements. And it encourages conversation (“How did you get that title?”), and it fits with the canon and “feel” of Lord of the Rings. Everyone and their brother had some title, nom de plume, alias, or surname addition; especially the Elves. Who knows how they ever got through introductions – good thing they live forever!

I dislike the system because there are just SO many of them, and the interface is clunky. At best. Ok, so it’s not the title system I dislike, as much as the interface, but you get my point. I don’t switch titles much for this exact reason.

However, my experiences over the last two nights made me wish that Turbine had a few more ways to achieve titles – such as player-nominated titles. I can think of a few choice descriptions I would have voted to tack onto that particular Rune-keeper’s name, “The Foolish” being somewhat tame (but also at the top of my list). And, yes, I’m aware that The Foolish (or “Fool”) is probably already a title.

Another method should be GM-endowed titles for exceptional achievement. Again, they could be player nominated, but should be “moderated” by an actual human. The inspiration for this is that one of my kinmates, Magentica (hope she doesn’t mind being mentioned by “name”!), reached level 55 on an alt – without having ever died. Let me stress that – Level 55. Never. Died. Not once. That goes way beyond “The Undying”, and deserves recognition. I’m sure others have done it, but…wow. She needs a title conferred. STAT.

The title system in LotRO is great; there are a multitude of ways to achieve them, and finding all of them is practically a game in itself. Eating questionable foods found in grave sites, being the target of envy, affection, or mocking by your friends and enemies, dressing particularly well – there are so many fun things that can be done and found. And there are so many little ways, easy ways, that I think Turbine could expand on this system to really make it shine.