Shamus Plays: LOTRO, Part 10

By Shamus
on Mar 24, 2010
Filed under:
Column

Never before has greed and misanthropy been so gosh-darn adorable.

This week we do some quests in the Shire, and even dabble in crafting a bit.

I will say that I like the farming in LOTRO, even though I can’t figure out why. (My main is a Master Supreme Farmer.) It’s not really a game. There’s no strategy or skill involved. It’s just busywork. This should be something I hate. If a developer had shown me the design document for the farming gameplay I would have rolled it up and swatted them on the nose with it. But in the end it’s probably the most interesting crafting system I’ve tried. I still think there’s lots of room for improvement, but whatever they’re doing here, it’s a step in the right direction.

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201737 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

From the Archives:

  1. Irridium says:

    Perhaps you like farming so much because its not a requirement?

    That and from what I read in the comic its not that expensive. Then again I don’t know since I never played the game…

    But still, just a theory.

  2. Henebry says:

    Love the “King of Town” reference. I’m in a state of Homestar withdrawal right now.

  3. Primogenitor says:

    *gasp* Shamus! Encouraging smoking by things that look like children! Tsk, how could you!

    ;-)

  4. neothoron says:

    That’s it. Lulzy has become a Reaper.

    (And by the way, I would have put “had shown” instead of “has showed”)

  5. Peter H. Coffin says:

    Shamus probably likes it for the same reason I often like the fishing subgames. They’re mindless and simple and are still entertaining enough as such things go.

    (Every game seems to have a fishing subgame. It’s not a mature product unless it has fishing. Like all other kinds of application grow until they eventually sends email of some kind. Even my printer sends emails.)

  6. Bill says:

    Do you seriously have that many shoes in your inventory or was that a little bit of photoshop magic?

    • RTBones says:

      I had the exact same question after going through this. I know that in my brief time playing the game, part of the way I made money was selling anything and everything I had that I wasnt using.

      • Klay F. says:

        I think Shamus is trying to continue the stereotype of girls owning tons of shoes. Its doubly funny because Lulzy loves clothing more than your average girl. My guess is that she has enough shoes to make even a foot fetishist jealous.

        • NotYetMeasured says:

          That would be awesome.

          I had just assumed Lulzy’s first foray into crafting was Tailoring (which produces shoes and boots of Light and Medium armor types).

        • Tesh says:

          Ironic, then, that Hobbits aren’t known for being shoe folk. Shire folk, perhaps, but that’s a different thing.

          • Klay F. says:

            Lulzy, then, must be of Bucklandish origin. The hobbits on the eastern side of the Brandywine were often known to wear shoes, especially when they lived or worked along the muddy riverbanks. I would say that if there is one thing a hobbit hates more than adventures, its getting mud all over their furry feet, which must be absolute hell to clean.

            EDIT: Also, this just occurred to me. If hobbits were around in modern times, would the girl hobbits shave their feet?

  7. rayen015 says:

    like farming eh? harvest moon anyone?

  8. Rosseloh says:

    Shamus…. that screenshot of your inventory full of shoes and boots just made my day.

    I think I can even face going to the dentist this afternoon!

  9. Eltanin says:

    Are there any wrinkles to the farming crafting beyond what you described in the Lets Play? Is it like the farming game on Facebook (which I haven’t played) or iFarm for the iphone (which I have)? Just curious what the mini-game is like and what the hook might be. I know that you said you can’t figure out why you like it, but can you try again? I’m intrigued!

    • Rosseloh says:

      In short: You buy the ingredients (5 seeds, 1 bucket of water, 1 thing of fertilizer), and then you click the “plant button”. 15 seconds later, your field is planted and can be harvested right away. They disappear after about a minute and a half.

      • Eltanin says:

        Thanks. Sounds…plain. But potentially engrossing I suppose. After all, I found the search for minerals in ME2 more engrossing than it had any right to be.

        Where does the crafting action come into play? You get more than just a marketable crop out of the bargain I guess?

        Yeah, I’ve never played an MMO. I’ll freely admit. So pardon my complete ignorance.

        • Shamus says:

          You can have 3 professions. So, you can grow crops in Farming and then use them in cooking. The food you cook can give stat bonuses when eaten. (Like, I have pies that give so much bonus health for ten minutes or whatever.) A forester might use the wood they collect in the woodworking profession, or the miner might gather metal for use in weapon smithing, etc.

        • Rosseloh says:

          Yeah, the farming itself is really boring (to me, at least). But it’s extremely useful in cooking.

          For me, farming is when I grab my laptop and read something else while sowing 5 fields at a time (any more and they start to disappear before you harvest them).

          As for the other crafts, they are all very viable, and if you sell your products on Auction, they will generally net you a profit. Crafted gear is actually better than anything else you find, until you get into the “end-game” with Legendary weapons and Radiance armour.

      • NotYetMeasured says:

        That’s correct.

        Calling farming a mini-game is giving it a bit too much credit. I love to do it, especially at night, but it’s grindy like any other crafting.

        Back in Alpha there was the promise that farming would contain “hobbit shenanigans” in addition to the more pronounced (relative to other LOTRO crafting actions, which only produce a single normal or crit result) random function of getting a combination of good crops, bad crops, and rare items. I always thought this meant you could steal other people’s crops, but I think they (quite rightly) decided that was not a mechanic they were going to explore.

  10. Kdansky says:

    “Gosh-darn” makes me cringe every time.

    Crafting should be made into interesting minigames. Let me throw out some ideas:

    MTG: You make a deck of cards out of your crafting skills (each point of skill gives you access to a new card), then you play a game with those cards against either the CPU or another player. Depending on how well you win, you get results, and if you lose badly, you burn through a lot of materials or even lose skill points/cards. The system needs to prevent people from playing against each other and losing on purpose. One could also use a anonymous matchmaking and not tell either player who their opponent is, or even match over server-boundaries. At that point, you get something interesting, need some luck (to draw the good cards), and leveling up and getting more skills / tools would be very rewarding. If all cards in the game would fit to a single set of rules, the different skills could even be matched against each other (like colours in magic).

    Damn, I want to play this game now.

    • Atarlost says:

      Sounds terrible.

      The most important part of a minigame is the mini part. You make the minigame If I wanted to play a card game I’ll go look for a card game. I don’t want to see one in an RPG. Now if crafting were entirely optional that would be different, but if crafting is entirely optional that means it’s also entirely useless.

      • Ener says:

        I don´t know, they had this card game, acromage, in “might and magic VII – of blood and honour” that you could play in the inns.
        I found that rather amusing, but then that was entirely optional

        But I agree as a crafting system I don´t see it as great idea. I don´t want to turn my smithing a new breastplate into a competition

        • Joe says:

          This almost feels like an application of (GASP!) Quick-time events. Or rather, pseudo-quick-time events. Make a more immersion-building experience by having to click the right (obviously shown) area to smith your armor, or that variety of thing. Of course, a time limit should be very generous, if present at all. The major focus should be on saying “You have to do something to make this,” compared to “you have to be good (in real life) at something to make this.” It removes the “click and make this,” which is kind of stupid, without changing the fundamental “You need x skills to make this,” which is almost necessary for a crafting system.

          • Kdansky says:

            Why would I want to add annoying QTEs to boring crafting to make it even less enjoyable? I was making a suggestion that would make crafting interesting. If one does not like that system, then they are not required to play it. But with such a system, one could reasonably play a character that never leaves the city, because the crafting game is interesting enough.

            The discussion here only convinces me more that people do not play MMOs for fun.

            • justaguy says:

              Kdansky… you seem to be laboring under the idea that “Fun” is a uniquely defined quantity, and that what is fun (or not fun) for you is equally fun for everyone. You write as if everything you say regarding what is and is not fun is gospel not for you, but for everyone. It’s odd. Just becasue you think something isn’t fun or enjoyable, doesn’t mean anyone else shares your opinion.
              Obviously some people enjoy QTEs, and thus might enjoy them being added to their crafting game. Others would not. The QTE scheme was probably suggested in the same vein as your MTG idea, they thought it would be interesting.

        • MrPyro says:

          Acromage was an excellent game: I spent some time just wandering the inns playing it for fun. That and dropping huge AOE spells on the massed groups of bad guys you tended to get were my favourite bits of that game.

          The loot you got for completing the related quest was pretty impressive as well, as I recall.

      • rayen015 says:

        well thats the things about RPGs just because it’s optional doesn’t mean its useless. something thats optional is going to an option. To wit; I could go level up slog through the mountians and kill forty balrogs until it drops the flaming sword of mordor. or i could up my crafting until i could make swords and become friends with mage and enchant it or whatever, or i could be a mage and buy a sword and enchant it for myself. optional =/= useless.

        • Atarlost says:

          If crafting doesn’t produce gear as good as you can get by other means. If it does it’s still useless because it’s the wrong game. Nobody buys an RPG for the minigames, they buy them because they want to play a RPG. If they start up the game it’s because they want an RPG and all things being equal will choose the RPG path to any goal. Even if the minigame is something I’d play as a standalone game it’s boring when I’m in the mood to play an RPG.

          If crafting produces better gear than you can get by other means it become necessary. To avoid the game being brokenly easy for crafters it’s necessary to balance the game on the assumption that everyone has overpowered crafted gear.

          • Pickly says:

            Considering that crafting systems are often used as a selling point to games, and the way trading systems work, the assumptions in the above post are wrong. If crafted gear is better than normal gear, stat wise, it means that some players will need to make the crafted stuff, but only a few need to do so, since they can produce materials for everyone else. If crafting is the same, than some people will avoid it, but others who enjoy that sort of thing will take up crafting to get some equipment rather than fighting. There are certainly differences in how much different people prefer different elements of these games, and a good crafting system will draw in players who like that sort of thing. (However the system works, assuming it is fun.)

  11. Caffiene says:

    For Shamus’ benefit, I present further evidence that fans invest way too much time checking the details of things:

    Your map is missing a frowny face for Budgeford, between Stock and Scary. ;)

    Great as always. I laughed myself silly (which may explain how I spent enough time following the map to notice the missing emoticon).

  12. Joshua says:

    The mini-games of crafting aren’t there to be entertaining- they are there to feed certain addictive tendencies of obsessive completeness along with the reward of “leveling up”. I’m sure they could make these crafting games more interesting, but I’m not sure what incentive they have to do so.

    I think farming is actually the easiest skill to improve, and possibly the cheapest. IIRC, you can buy everything you need to get to Master level right there in that field, and the price isn’t that expensive. Getting ingots, fallen branches, or worse, scholarly relics, certainly takes a LOT longer time and encourages just going to the Auction House. And as far as being a supplying craft, I think it is more important as a source of materials than any other profession. Finding bits of ore, branches, etc., is a lot easier than finding any particular vegetable or fruit.

    To elaborate on Shamus’s comment on crafting, each vocation gives you three different crafting professions, and each profession tends to either produce raw materials or use them(only being a Scholar can do both). The system is also set up so you cannot produce all of the raw materials that you need for all of your crafting skills, the purpose being to require crafters to work together.

    For example, a Historian is a Farmer, Scholar and Weaponsmith(Yeah, I don’t get that combination either). They can produce crops but not use them, can produce and use scholarly relics, and can make weapons but need others to provide them with ingots.

  13. Aaron says:

    Is Lulzy going to participate in the Spring Festival? Some screen shots of her getting blotto while joining the Inn League would be fun, especially if you can get the more inebriated versions. Running around the Shire drinking herself stupid sounds like something she’d be doing after she abased herself running errands for the post office (and returning spoiled pies).

  14. HeadHunter says:

    Had I been drinking when I read your “mouthfuls” line, ale would have shot from my nose!

    BTW, I also enjoyed the HR reference in the first panel. Good work.

  15. RubicantX says:

    As rayen015 already brought up: “Harvest Moon”
    I can’t believe how addicting and fun it is to plant and grow crops etc.
    Not to mention naming several cows after my mother and nana (grandmother). Teehee.

    I also like where you mention how you can look any way you want if you can afford tailoring or w/e. Playing dress-up with my armor and non-combat clothes is one of the most fun things in newer RPG’s where all armor and weapons look different.

    Love the way you are doing this via narrative.

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