Sunday Drivers

Following Wilhelm’s lead, I’ve been dabbling in Need for Speed World a bit.  Like moth to flame, I suspect all middle aged American men are drawn to relive their misspent suburban auto-youth.  Most times the world seems to have a decent population (and quite international by the chat).  It never takes too long to fill up a multiplayer race and the free roaming world part seems to be reasonably well populated so I’ve assumed that the free to play world version of the game is doing ok.

I guess its doing a bit more OK than I thought…

Metering lights are on...

(Of course, I’m assuming its actual load rather than a craven marketing trick but then again, it is EA…)

Back from the Tour

Author’s note: Not entirely a gaming related post, so feel free to check out here.  PS

Keeping the gaming pace up during the summer has always been a bit of a challenge in recent years.  Having the instance group around has provided a weekly anchor to gaming activities that tended to keep me tethered to something during the week in the summer months.  Still, the call of long days and warm nights makes it hard to hunker down in the game cave.

This summer has been typical in that regard with one notable exception:  No main game.  Our little group fell out of WoW post-Cataclysm and decided to try EQ2X for a bit.  Wilhelm and I knew that might be a bit of a tough sell to some in the group and if EQ2’s indiosyncracies weren’t enough, Sony’s downtime right after we started really took the wind out of some folks’ sails.  We more or less decided to take a hiatus for summer.

Not coincidentally, I’m typically distracted in July.  Mrs. P and I are cycling fans and the Tour de France occupies fully three weeks of July.  The magic of DVR permits us to feast at the trough to our hearts content.  Of course, watching 3+ hours of cycling certainly takes a bite out of gaming time.  Especially this year’s Tour with the final winner coming down to the final individual time trial yesterday.  An amazing job by Cadel Evans and reminiscent of Lemond/Fignon in 1989.

Smoke 'em if ya got 'em

Still while virtually on Tour, I have been poking around with a few gaming diversions, mostly provoked by the explorations of others.

Age of Conan

I ducked into the new FTP version of Age of Conan briefly.  Having done the beta, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the game looked and performed on my system, although it did/does seem to have a memory leak perhaps as performance seems to degrade over long sessions (on Win 7 64-bit at least).  The Tortage experience is still, in my view, quite a clever and logically consistent way to integrate and individual story line with a persistent multiplayer world.  Coming off of EQ2, the combat felt much more visceral and “connected” though I could probably live with out the fatalities.  With free to play, I could imagine checking back in from time to time.

Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising

I did the open beta for Gods and Heroes.  Sadly, I think this is a case where one company (Perpetual) managed to sink two games (STO and GNH) with their demise.  Had Gods and Heroes been given the love it needed (and needs) and released two years ago, it could have been something enjoyable.  By all accounts, it seems to be woefully lacking in content and completely unworthy of a subscription model.
That said, I hope they quickly pivot to a free to play model and bulk up the content.  The estate system is inspired and the game seems to perform reasonably well and look good on modest systems, even if a bit dated looking now.  Such lost potential.

Empires and Allies

As a rule, I rarely use my Facebook account.  With Twitter and WordPress integration, I seldom need to and that suits me fine.  I do however get sucked in to try a few games from time to time.  The latest being Empires and Allies.

I’ve always been a sucker for the sim city type empire building games and Empires and Allies has a bit of that as well as the pseudo RTS.  Its cute and generally fun, but I tend to quickly grow weary of constantly hitting the resource constraint wall– in this case the empire points if I’m recalling the name correctly.  They are earned too slowly to sustain a longer session unless you choose to pay for them (which I don’t at the moment) which is my problem with most of the FB games.  The are geared toward frequent revisits rather than infrequent longer sessions, but I had the same problem with WoW dailies too.

Need for Speed World

After Wilhelm’s post about NFSW, I got sucked in and tried it.  It is quite fun and scratches an itch I haven’t had for a racing game for some time.  Shades of lost youth and the reminiscent scent of burning rubber (and oil and antifreeze and transmission fluid and wiring insulation… English cars ftw).  Very much like World of Tanks, its a solo experience even if set in a multiplayer world.  No persistence other than progression, no meaningful “group” experience that I’ve seen yet.

Somebody make an Interstate 76 MMO please.

The Road Goes Ever On

I’ve patched up and am set to begin the chase again to catch up to Wilhelm and Gaff in Middle Earth.  Moria being the goal and a mid thirties character the vehicle.  And now with the Tour complete, I think I’ll have some time to devote to the pursuit.  Onward!

Middle Earth Bound

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.

I know, this is Nan Amlug, but work with me...

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.

Now one of the Usual Suspects...

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.