With SOE still down… I was a bit at a loss for gaming interest this weekend. My WoW sub is still current, but running down and regardless I have little interest in poking my head back in.
World of Tanks is a welcome respite but can’t quite scratch that true MMO itch. In my free time I gave Minecraft a spin (albeit the outdated “free” version). I can definitely see the appeal and the sandbox aspect definitely kept me occupado for a while, but still it wasn’t quite what I was looking for.
So I was looking at my desktop for lonely forelorn icons and I found the neglected LotRO icon. I definitely LIKE LotRO having played it and watched it since beta. But sometimes its hard to LOVE LotRO. However, there is much more right with the game than wrong, and one of my past-misgivings about it was simply the fact that although I like it quite a bit, it was not necessarily subscription-worthy for me. Its not that the subscription was such a burden that it was an economic hardship, but rather that I simply wasn’t compelled to play it enough in subscription form.
With the transition to free to play, however, LotRO remains always accessible. The somewhat reduce instance group had been exploring LotRO until Cataclysm released. Despite the transition to F2P, I think we all were still on a subscription of a kind (Wilhelm being a lifer). We enjoyed it while we were there, but when we reconvened as a full group in WoW for Cataclysm, we put LotRO on the back burner. I for one canceled my sub.
So with the downtime of SOE and the interruption of EQ2 (specifically EQ2 Extended), I was feeling the old itch of needing to spend some time in a virtual world. With the transition to F2P, LotRO was quickly patched and up to the task.
It was a bit jarring to go from VIP(aka subscription) to pure free to play however. One of my non-group alts had been exploring Evendim (an area added after launch that I had never been to). I had a number of quests in my log, but found quickly that after turning them in, I was confronted with what I’ll call the Turbine Lemon of Free to Play Dissatisfaction.
Having been a full paying subscriber, I was quite used to playing wherever and whenever I wanted, so I was a bit surprised (though not totally so) of running into the paywall since I was questing in various areas outside of the basic “starter areas” (e.g., Evendim, North Downs, Nan Amlug, etc.).
Even so, I can’t begrudge the F2P model too much. At least it let me keep and complete the quests in those zones which I had already acquired. I was able to turn them in when complete, I just couldn’t pick up the continuation without an upgrade. Not a significant hurdle since I was just dropping in for a bit.
More frustrating was the denial of taxi transport. I had assumed, incorrectly apparently, that the game currency requirement would be a sufficient gating mechanism to travel. Wrong I was. Apparently fast and not-so-fast travel is restricted on pure F2P accounts. The only way to go from nearby point A to nearby point B was to pay for a temporary unlock (and still have to pay for the actual travel). Likewise, the “fast travel” option between major towns was also restricted. I’m not sure that this is a good model. IMHO, it seems that if you charge for the access to quest content in new areas, then charging for travel is a bit trivial. In theory, if I have no access to current content in the North Downs, for example, I’m certainly less likely to be traveling there, so whats the point of the restriction?
Of course, as I finished up some quests in Evendim, I inevitably was forced to travel back to Esteldin and without a better travel option, I had to resort to my Return to Bree skill and then hoof it to the North Downs. A minor inconvenience, but once there I was able to complete a number of previously undertaken quests and managed to get an entire level. As a result, I am now Known to the Rangers of Esteldin.
All in all not a bad Sunday spent in LotRO. I still have a vague goal of someday getting to Moria and points beyond, but for now, I’m quite content with the idea that I can drop back into a game that I have a great deal of respect for and continue to get enjoyment out of whenever time permits. I think that’s the essence of a F2P model done right.