Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Instant Levelling: A Different Way to Play an MMORPG

Codemasters are running a preview event for the long awaited European launch of f2P Lotro. I don't normally go in for beta's but they were giving free Turbine points for the final release so I downloaded the client and logged in. The preview is proving enormously popular by the way with three hour queues to get into the one server but that is another story.

The thing that really caught my attention is the instant levelling mechanism that Turbine uses on beta servers. I guess Betas need an instant levelling mechanic so that players can test the full game. Turbine implements this via an inn that spawns at various locations bearing the somewhat humorous title of "The Eyes and Guard Tavern".

The "Eyes and Guard" is one of the most wonderful locations I have ever been in an mmorpg. It is a gloriously chaotic place. Like Dr. Who's Tardis it is much bigger inside than it looks and its various chambers contain npcs who can instantly bestow you with powers and rewards that would take months of dedicated play to earn under normal circumstances. A low level character can enter the Eyes and Guard and leave a short while later boosted to the level cap carrying a full set of epic gear.

This sounds simple enough but it is clear that Turbine implementation of the feature has grown organically over time with bits added on that conflict with earlier bits and developers availing of the opportunity to have a bit of a laugh in a non standard part of the game. The level 20 booster is in one place, the level 40 in another, the level 60 somewhere else and so on. In addition various npcs (and animals) scattered in the various chambers offer boost in reputations or mounts or epic book quests or traits and deeds. Doors lead off to numerous exotic regions scattered around Middle Earth. Indeed there appears to be a certain randomness to the whole place and every time I enter the Eyes and Guard  I seem to exit somewhere else.

Getting to the level you want is a complicated. Here is one step from a helpful forum post explaining how to get to level 65:

Now go down in the same building until you found the "Moria Training Chambers". There is a snowman standing in front of the door. Enter it and you'll find a NPC called Liu-Tsieng in the middle of the next room. Talk to him, and he'll give you a quest to get 60. Empty your bags before! Now you should be 60.

This is only one step of a process which is fraught with pitfalls. Accept the wrong quest from the wrong NPC and you break your character losing your chance to reach your desired level. Add to this the fact that the tavern itself only opens its doors (of which there are several spread around middle Earth) randomly for short periods and you will perhaps begin to understand how the Eyes and Guard has developed an almost mythical reputation.


Anton said...

Oh wow, I didn't realize Europe still didn't have f2p lotro yet.

mbp said...

Yup Anton, apparently contractual issues between Codemasters and Turbine were responsible for the long delay. Its not just free to play that we are waiting for but also the new content that comes with the patch.At least it looks like things are finally coming to a conclusion. Contractual issues are apparently all resolved and Codemasters just completed their preview of the item shop so I am expecting European F2P within a week or so.