Off the Chest: Midlevel and Endgame Grinds no thanks, I rather have a Castle!

My time is currently divided between different games, namely LOTRO, GW2 and Minecraft, which warrants this mixed topic today. While my MC enthusiasm went through a big time revival this past weekend, my LOTRO journey is somewhat stagnant as I fight (and struggle) my way through the early 40ies with the Loremaster – an interesting class I am still enjoying a great deal. As for Guild Wars 2…well, let’s say that relationship has somewhat cooled down of late.

Of midlevel grinds and music in LOTRO

I currently find myself stuck in the dilemma of preferring a musical performance in Bree over returning to my quest hub in the Misty Mountains. While progress was smooth on the Loremaster for the first 30 levels or so, things started getting sluggish in Trollshaws which is a beautiful map with wonderful music, but also features highly annoying ravines to navigate and badly paced quests. To add salt to the wound, you don’t get any swift travel to Rivendell before level 40 which pretty much cured me of caring about any of House Elrond’s or Bilbo’s riddle quests. There’s only so many times I can bear riding through the Bruinen and up those hills.

I’ve been told by LOTRO veterans that it’s the mid-levels that really get to you, so I guess that’s what’s happening at the moment. I really want to experience the Moria that Spinks is talking about though and reach the improved gameplay of Rohan which is supposedly a much better compromise between oldschool fedex grind and what we call adventuring in 2013. Still, the next 10 levels will be a drag and require numerous visits to the Prancing Pony (I have established quite a nice track list by now!) in an attempt to restore my sanity.

What needs to be pointed out again at this point: the music feature in LOTRO is the best thing ever! As the Ancient Gaming Noob justly asks, why do not all MMORPGs copy this already? Hellou? There are three great LOTRO features I expect all future games to have at release: player instruments, immersive sound effects and player housing!

My home, my castle

Coming down with the GW2 blues

I’ve mentioned being cranky about the pace at which ArenaNet are fixing some long overdue technicalities. While there is finally armor preview for the market place (and such a revolution it is), you still cannot search your own armor class there – and before you ask, NO you still can’t take screenshots in first person view! I get asked about this a lot when tweeting screenshots; what I do is make my character lie down and pick camera angles accordingly.

However, the small details aren’t really my biggest concern, annoying as they may be. Well-elaborated on by Bhagpuss, there’s a gradual change happening in GW2 that has announced itself some time ago and that’s slowly redirecting the game towards the textbook, endgame gear-grind we know by heart. For someone who was inspired by an open world, non-grind premise, someone who isn’t into farming dungeons, the crafting grind or alting, for someone like me basically, it gets increasingly difficult to find a purpose in Tyria. There is only so much exploration you can do and as I continuously fail to join lasting guilds, running dungeons or fractals with strangers isn’t something I choose to spend time on (as I would not be running them for gear primarily).

What this really shows us is that more open world games also need sandbox elements and tools in the long term – which are sadly missing completely. If ANet added only a few features that LOTRO has for example, that would make a world of difference to me personally. Alas, all I can do at this point is wait for the Living Story to continue, hoping it will evolve into the significant content Wooden Potatoes is referring to. Maybe I should consider guesting?

A Castle in Minecraft

Over a year ago, I burned myself out on Minecraft spending enormous amounts of time on learning everything there was to learn and building a huge fantasy castle up in the sky. Mostly, building that huge castle, really. And how could you not create your dream place in a game that offers that much freedom?

A ton of time and care for details went into that little project; ever since, I wanted to make a documentary of the finished thing but never got around to it. Well, now that all public voice-angst is off the table after Monday’s post, I finally put the full castle tour on youtube and here it is, including a big GEEK ALERT -

I love how much you can do with texture packs in Minecraft. As can probably be told from the video, I am a sucker for interior design; decorating and making places cosy has always been a bit of a thing for me. Back in school as a teen I wrote a paper on why I wanted to become an interior designer. I even went to interview an interior architect for it. Of course I didn’t become a designer after all but it’s still something I revel in when given the opportunity in real life or virtual. I also noticed from many other MC fanvids on youtube that the focus often lies more on the exterior – building whole towns and planning complex, large scale structures which are often somewhat empty inside. I’m exactly the other way around.

I’m happy to finally have this place immortalized for myself and those who helped me build it (mostly chopping away at the big mountain it once was). And maybe someone out there can get some creative ideas out of it after all. Minecraft really is a goldmine when it comes to tapping a player base’s creativity and the wish to spread and share ideas. If only more MMO designers adopted some of its virtues.

P.S. If you got all WoW and other game references in this video, you are just as geeky as I am!

10 comments

  1. shardsofimagination

    Itchy to play Minecraft rising…. But must be ignored for now. Still have a lot to do in the games I am playing right now and outside them to sink my teeth into another game.

    Anyway, I loved the castle. Looks like a fun place to relax for a bit. Just a noobie, dumb question… Are there actual books in those bookshelves? Or are they just decorations? I am asking since I never played Minecraft so I am not entirely sure of what is possible and what is not with it.

    And I think I got most of the references in the crypt! Outside it I must admit to not be observant enough to see if there were more references… Too busy with my jaw dropped to process much else, you know? @_@

    ~ Rakuno

    • Syl

      Cheers! about the bookshelves: you can actually now write your own books in MC (and then trade them or hide them in chests etc.)! it’s an awesome awesome feature for creating quests and riddles etc. :)
      the bookshelves are decorative for now – but it can only be a matter of time until the self-written books can be inserted, I am sure. with all the player created plugins the sky really has become the limit in MC.

  2. shardsofimagination

    *blinks* I could swear your post was just about your Minecraft castle. And seems I somehow confused this post with yesterday’s post which was the one I wanted to see the video of and comment on… Obviously my brain is not working today.

    Anyway! To complement my post above and to comment on the rest of your post (which I read just now)… Agreed about having player music and player housing as a must have feature for any MMO *launching*. Not years later after launch, not months later, not even days later. It is a feature that must be at launch as it adds other activities that don’t involve making new holes into other creatures or application of magical energies to make them stop moving.

    I just hope nobody uses LotRO as a base for housing. Their houses are beautiful, sure. But their system for decoration is far too limited right now. Hopefully the housing revamp will fix that issue. A better decoration system would be Everquest 2. Or even better, Rift where their housing already has building blocks and a system to move/rotate objects in all axes from the start. Plus some other nifty features.

    This subtle shift towards gear grind in Guild Wars 2 worries me too. Since I haven’t noticed any need for those new shiny gear types though I am not worried… yet. If I start to feel like it is necessary though because new content is so absurdly hard to do unless you have those type of gears then I will be bitter. Really bitter.

    As for building and decorating in games… It was never something that I really dreamed about. Until I played Morrowind and saw how housing mods added immersion to the game. Back then though I was never able to make a good house mod for myself though and I felt really frustrated for the lack of a decoration system in-game or ability to even mod it without it feeling clunky.

    It was only when I started to play Evequest 2 (and housing was one of the things that made me decide to give it a try!) that I really got into housing and started to get into decoration. :)

    I admit my houses tend to be rather empty, lacking in details. It is one of my weaknesses as a decorator, one that I was striving to get better at before leaving the game. My tendency is more to think as an architect, thinking in terms of function and room shapes.

    This also made me interested in decoration in real life too. But it is not something I’d be really comfortable trying. At least in game we have undo options in case things go wrong. In real life a terrible mistake is costly!

    • Syl

      Hehe don’t worry, it happens to the best! ;)
      I fully agree that LOTRO’s current design options are way too limited. I’ve been thinking a lot on the improvements I’d like to see in the upcoming housing patch. what I do like about LOTRO’s housing is that while it’s instanced (which is never as great as open world), it features neighbourhoods. there is social potential there, the game is just not making use of it so far.

      And you shouldn’t approach decoration in reallife with too much respect/hesitation – go wild and experiment (doesn’t always need to be expensive)! :)

  3. tishtoshtesh

    Endgame=sandbox with Minecraft elements? Sounds good to me. I fully admit my Explorer/Minecraft bias, though. Sweet castle, by the way. :)

    …and yes, more Housing, music and sound work. They help sell these MMO otherworlds as *places*, not just wallpapers. That’s important to me.

    • tishtoshtesh

      Oh, and I’m OK with GW2 being something I finish exploring someday. It’s not like I have to keep paying to play it. I don’t mind *finishing* a game… in fact, often it’s the ultimate Achievement.

    • Syl

      Hmm, I guess. it’s just that I look forward to an MMO again where I can build a bit of a ‘homebase’ and GW2 isn’t giving me enough reasons right now. I’m not sure I want to play MMOs through. that’s why LOTRO is so appealing – I feel I can always go and play some music in the PP, visit my guild house etc. fair point though that there’s no sub in GW2 after all.

      And it’s always been BEYOND me how players can turn off their music in MMOs and not care about stuff like ambience, sound etc. they are such a vital part of the entire immersion for me. ah well. :)

  4. Dàchéng

    Wouldn’t it be great if you could build a castle like that in Azeroth, and invite your friends to it? Ah, but if Blizzard ever did housing, it would be instanced, and other people couldn’t see your house, just like they can’t see what you’re farming on the Sunsong Ranch. I think there’s a way they can: portals.

    • Syl

      I actually commented on this exact topic over at Tesh’s earlier (seems you’ve been there too!). I agree that one reason Blizzard never tackled the challenges of player housing is that they couldn’t think of was around single instances and instanced housing IS very inferior to open world. but who knows, they may keep it as a last big move for later.

    • tishtoshtesh

      As I just noted over at my place, I think SWTOR, Allods and Puzzle Pirates gain greatly from letting players have ships to serve as a sort of mobile “home”. Real “housing” carries design baggage of location, location, location. Blizzard does have oceans, though. Maybe they could introduce houseboats/cutters/pirate ships. That can fly if you level them up or something. Sort of a cross between a mount and a house.

      …yeah, this is going in some odd design directions, but I’m having fun with it. :)

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