As I mentioned previously, the companion system in Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) is one of its best features.  Some of the functionality of companions should be familiar to people who have played a pet class in WoW or LotRO: the “pet” is a separate toon that follows the player around and attacks the target the player is attacking.  Pets add damage, healing or crowd-control / tanking to combat situations the player gets into and makes fights more survivable.

The primary role of a companion in SWTOR isn’t that much different.  They fight alongside your toon and act as tanking,healing or damage to help you take down baddies.  But they do a lot more than just fight beside you.

While I could wax poetic about the coolness of Bioware’s companions, they have already waxed poetically in pixel form for you.

I won’t go into too much detail about companions here then, I’ll just mention some of the highlights I like.



Ysharros at Stylish Corpse has an interesting discussion going about travel in MMOs.  She differentiates between meaningful travel (as in “I am exploring the area so travel is part of the fun”) and meaningless travel (as in “I just need to get to the next bloody town, already”).

Travel options are important in any MMO.  Run speed, fast travel, mapping / hearthstones, etc., all effect how big the world feels and can contribute to either the fun or the tedium players experience in games.  If travel is a pain, players may be less likely to want to go out of their way to explore.  If travel is too easy or too immersion-breaking, the world feels tiny or trivial.

Of any MMO I’ve played, I like LotRO’s travel options the best, that is: I like the range of possibilities the best.  I still have issues with some of the offerings.  Player mounts are too weak and take too little damage before players get knocked off of them.  In some places, stealthed mobs on the roads make mounting up a waste of time.  Durable reputation mounts are an improvement, but not by much.  I like the swift travel and regular travel horses.  They function like eagles and wyvrns in WoW but you can hop off them whenever you choose.  There are also hunter ports and various types of summons available.  Overall, the list is impressive.  The one thing I’d really like is a player sprint ability available at level one so we could get our lowbies around faster.


EQ2 – the Last Hurrah
I have stopped playing in the EQ2 Living Legacies campaign. It was cool to take a look around again and try the different options. EQ2 has a great crafting system and I really liked the housing. Other than those things, it’s pretty much a standard MMO and I’m already playing one of those (LotRO). If you’re tired of WoW and didn’t like LotRO or AoC, I would recommend taking a look at EQ2. Free trials should be available so other than download and update times, it’s cost-free just to try it out.

LotRO – Book Fourteen Released
The Lord of the Rings Online has released it’s latest free content update: Book Fourteen! I ran through some of the new Book stuff last night with my Hobbit Burglar. I LOVED the Book Fourteen Prologue: you help the Fellowship pack up and leave on their perilous journey. In the last stage, you’re there on the steps of the Last Homely House as the fellowship enacts some of the events from the Fellowship of the Ring and walks down the path towards the Misty Mountains. As a total Tolkien nerd, I enjoyed it a lot (and will probably use the reflecting pools to redo it a couple times just ‘cause that’s how I roll). 🙂

In contrast to the Prologue, I also ran part of Book Fourteen proper. One part has me going to Michel Delving to get honey for some rations for a guy leaving from Rivendell. I’m no expert on the Lore, but it seems the elves were pretty self-sufficient when it comes to food and could make lembas without having to go grocery-shopping in the Shire to do it. I have a real love-hate relationship with the book quests. Book Nine was mostly solo and told a great story along the way. Book Ten was a traveling nightmare as you had to cross the Lake in Evendim again and again and again. Dragging the books out with huge travel times doesn’t make them feel epic, it makes them feel tedious. I’m only part way through the Book Fourteen epic so maybe it gets better along the way. Last night’s romp through part of it though kept giving me Book Ten flashbacks. (Bringing a hunter friend along to help with ports helps a lot for the first couple in this chain.) Overall, I really like the Book quests – it’s basically a special story arc for players that makes us part of the goings-on in Middle-earth without messing with the main story too much. Sometimes though … grr.

In other Book 14 news, Turbine added tokens you can get by helping other players out with their Book quests if you’ve already run them. I really like this idea! It’s a reward for those that stop to help other folks out. I ran a kinshipmate through Book 8.5 (the final instance) and got a token which I spent on healing potions. I’ve been taking those things like candy in the Rift lately. They’ve also added coins to collect in Urugath and Carn Dum … two large instances that most players will have to go through for their final class quest items. Both the Book tokens and the coins help move the player-base back through the instances to help people in the process of leveling up. I think it’s a great addition and nice to see that Turbine is forward-thinking enough to realize that even a year or two from now, someone will start the game and have to make it through those areas just like those of us that started a long time ago.

I’ve been looking at a game that Tipa over at West Karana has been playing in beta: Wizard 101 (https://www.wizard101.com/). Sounds like a new take on a couple of things in the MMO genre. It also sounds a tad close the Harry Potter IP to me, but an interesting game nonetheless. Though I’m not in their target demographic, I just may sign up for the beta to poke around for a bit.

I’ve been creating different alts in EQ2 since the opening of their Legacy campaign to get returning players. I’ve tried all three variants of the rogue class. Each has different but similar skills to use in combat (stuns, poisons, strikes from stealth, etc). While I have liked things about each of them, they all strike me as being a tad too much like the rogue in WoW and I lost interest. I tried an illusionist and a wizard and while the skills and play style of those classes seemed neat, I lost interest in those as well.

Then I created a halfling ranger. I had fun the other night peppering baddies full of arrows or stabbing the bejesus out of them. Seems like a class with a lot of solo power and would be somewhat useful in groups (though I imagine there’s a lot of rangers floating around). And, of course, his summon pie ability is awesome. (I kid you not: his racial trait is to summon pie, lol).

Playing EQ2 again lends itself to the inevitable comparisons to the other games I have played. One thing I like is the graphics style of the game. Yes, it is cartoony, however the characters and landscapes and objects are all well-integrated. In that world, everything that’s there feels like it belongs there. The more realistic game makers try to make their graphics, the harder it is to create items in games which allow for the suspension of disbelief. In the cartoony graphics of EQ2 or WoW, it doesn’t take much to create an item which fits. In a more photo-realistic game like LotRO, the slightest imperfection in a face, clothing item, or weapon can break the immersion factor. In addition to the graphics integration, there are little things that help the immersion along. When my hobbit burglar (LotRO) is speaking to a quest-giver, he’s basically talking to the NPC’s knees. My halfling ranger, on the other hand, cranes his neck and looks the NPC right in the face and the NPC looks down at him. NPCs / PCs actually looking at each other adds a lot to the animations and makes it feel more like they are really conversing. I’m liking the voice-acted NPC dialog as well; it adds to the feel of the place when I’m actually hearing what I’m being told instead of just reading it off a screen.

The only thing I don’t care for in EQ2 at this point is the boats. I love their travel system overall with the character sprint ability and so forth – just not the boats. In fact, there aren’t really even boats – just bells on the docks that you click on and insta-port to the next dock. There’s something to be said about the game tempo in WoW when you have to wait for the boat (or Zeppelin or Tram). You stand and wait for it and then it finally comes into view. You hop on board and eventually it will take off again. You can watch the place where you were float off into the distance as your ship leaves shore. Sometimes then you’ll get a loading screen though other routes happen in real time. It actually feels like you’re embarking on a voyage. You’re off to a new place to have great adventures. Same thing with riding the wyvrns / hippogryphs in WoW. Most fantasy books and stories tend to have passages savoring the place where the heroes are heading to. The feeling of place is served in games via the travel options. In EQ2, there’s no savoring the experience of travel. It’s just *poof* you’re here *poof* you’re there. It’s kind of like the train in City of Heroes (which I also didn’t care for).

Getting there is neat but the journey is important too.

I decided to take advantage of the Living Legends campaign for players (both full subscriptions and trial accounts) who had been members but left EQ2. It turns out I had completely uninstalled the game so I needed to reinstall from my disks. Once that was taken care of, I signed in and got all the updates I had been missing (it took roughly two hours).

I have since been playing around with my different characters. Per Van Hemlock’s post, I promptly logged on to my Gnome Necromancer and proceeded to fly around in the new clockwork illusion form. Gotta love it! And a neat feature is that, when sitting, the little propeller stops spinning and you actually deploy landing gear. Too much fun. After zipping around on my Gnome for a bit, I went back to character creation and found I could roll a Fae. The Fae starting zone was a new one to me, so I got a Fae swashbuckler set up. After running around on him for a bit, I noticed that the Fae zone felt a lot less boxed in than the starting zones for my Gnome or other “good” races. They expanded the map area a bit more and successfully concealed some of its edges with terrain features. Rather than questing in a tunnel, I felt more like I was free to roam a bit more.

Another thing about the Fae is their free-fall ability. Falling safely from any height combined with my swashbuckler stealth had me leaping from every tree fort and outpost I could climb into without caring a whole lot about the level of the mobs below me. As long as I didn’t land directly on anything that could kill me, I’d be safe.

Note to developers: Anytime you can put in an ability to cater to the easily-amused crowd (turning into a clock-work helicopter, enabling characters to leap from heights without damage, etc.) you should do so. The abilities add almost nothing to the character or the game but provide countless hours of play as we, the easily amused, activate those abilities to the fullest extend of silliness possible.

One of my gripes the first go-around with EQ2 is that I couldn’t sample the housing areas with a trial account. Well, they modified that a bit and as a returning player, I can now get a cheap house. I got all set up with a one-room apartment on a couple of my alts and got the housing quest items (a chandelier, a table and a mirror) along with some other housing-related goodies (a couple of books and a /claim item of a bonsai tree). Compared to LotRO’s housing system of furniture placement hooks, I like EQ2’s system of furniture placement a lot better. I could place items anywhere they would reasonably go. I couldn’t stick my chandelier on a wall or the floor, but it would go anywhere I wanted it on the ceiling. Another neat feature is the ability to put items on other items. My halfling wizard has a little apartment and I put my table in a corner and put two books and a little vase on top of it.

I would love to see LotRO adopt such a system. I’d like to be able to put chairs next to my tables and actually place items on top of them (plates, mugs, etc.). I would also like to see books in the game. It would be awesome to have, say, a readable in-game book of all the riddles from the Hobbit or books of elvish lore to keep in my smial. Oblivion also had books you could pick up, read and keep in your residence. In Oblivion you could steal books too … not that I would ever do such a thing. *shifty eyes*

Anyway, that’s what’s going on in my Everquest two adventures thus far.