10/10 Project: Runes of Magic

Let’s recap:

The 10/10 project was a dream, given form. Its goal: to broaden one’s horizons, by dedicating the short space of one evening to sample a new MMO.

The idea was to at least give MMOs you may not have cared about before a second look. Perhaps you’ll find some interesting concepts, or even a new dream MMO. Worse case scenario: the better part of a night (or two, in the case of crappy installation problems) is lost.

I got about three games in before GW2 turned me into a one MMO player, leaving the next 10/10 project MMO waiting in the wings for nearly six months.

Finding out Runes of Magic was hogging 9GB of my disk space was a good kick in the pants to give up GW2 for one night.

Installation

The good news is that it was pretty flawless.

Googled up “Runes of Magic,” registered on the first website that popped up, got the client download. That installed GameForge Live or some such, a launcher which then took care of all the Runes of Magic installation nitty gritty without me having to google for patches and esoteric ways to apply them ad nauseam.

The bad news is that it is slow. Takes a hell of a long time to download each presumably humongous patch, and then apply it, and then download yet another, and apply that, and on and on.

It’s all automated though, so you can just leave the computer running and walk away, or browse in another window. Traditional MMO players are no doubt very used to the process.

The problem with fire and forget is, one can forget it. And I did, for half a year.

Which necessitated another long evening of adding on more patches to get up to the current version.

Log-In

Here, I encountered the first and only major stumbling block. My account simply wasn’t recognized.

Type in username and password, no go, no such account exists on our servers or some such error message popped up.

Ehhh… Revisiting the website and account logging in there worked just fine. I DO so have an account. WTF?

Some googling later, it turns out that if you visit the http://www.runesofmagic.com website and not the us.runesofmagic.com one, you have automatically signed yourself up for EU servers instead of NA ones.

Doh! How would a completely new player be expected to know that?

I briefly considered making a new account for the US website, on the presumption that my country’s link to North America usually gives better ping (in the 200-300 range) than to the European Union (350+), then couldn’t be bothered.

Switching servers was a simple, fairly effortless, matter of backing out to the launcher, and selecting a tiny flag option at the bottom from the American flag to the UK one. Thank you for no offensive as hell region locking.

Character Creation

Fairly basic. So basic I didn’t bother taking any screenshots of it.

Three races to pick from, elf, dwarf, human. (And dwarves look ugly as hell, which made the limited choice option even easier.)

A decent but not staggering selection of faces and hairstyles to choose from via slider. i didn’t count, but I got the impression there were around 10-15 of ’em or so.

There were also some body sliders that I’d classify in the “very odd and rather pointless” category. You can literally change the height of your character by what seemed to be a colossal amount. I stared at my giant elf for two seconds, then brought him back down to a more normal-looking range.

The head slider enlarges and shrinks just the head alone to ludicrous amounts. Want chibi anime head proportions? I think you can just about attain them. Literal pinhead? No problem.

There was also a breast slider. Yep, you read that right. Breast, not chest, slider.

Except I was on a male elf, so moving it about did nothing. Absolutely nothing at all. I didn’t feel like switching genders and possibly erasing my previous selections, but I think one’s imagination can probably fill in the blanks for the female characters.

Hip slider made one’s character anorexically slim or ridiculously plump. While I’d normally congratulate a game for moving beyond idealized body standards, the overall impression I got was more of plain no-finesse laziness, leaving the player in charge of making a character of non-absurd proportions.

Seriously, if my memory serves, you can change the size of upper arms, lower arms, hands, legs and feet individually to ridiculous degrees. Casually moving around sliders yields a high chance of a severely malformed and out of proportion avatar.

So one ends up with very little choice after all, imagining something of realistic proportions and then gingerly moving the sliders and eyeballing it until it vaguely looks right.

On Classes

Class selection was a lot more interesting.

There were four general classes – warrior, scout, rogue and mage – and two race-specific ones for each race. The wiki gives a nice breakdown of all of them, and they seem to offer a good range of roles, following the (of course) ubiquitous holy trinity system.

The unique spin and main schtick of Runes of Magic is that you later get to pick a secondary class to go along with this primary class. This pairing, along with the later unique combination specific elite skills, presumably creates different playstyles and group roles from the class synergy.

This may have been a good selling point once, but these days, there are plenty of other MMOs around with some form of dual-classes or multi-classing: RIFT, GW1, DDO, the Final Fantasies, etc.

It’s an interesting system nonetheless, and I am given to understand that they recently made it possible to select a third class, so you can have three classes to pick from and swap around when creating your primary/secondary hybrid class blend. Which leads to slightly greater flexibility of options to play different roles down the line.

Tutorial

I went with an elf scout.

This was mostly to have a change from my usual melee dps/tank preference, and because I’m leery of trying to level tank or healer roles in a ye olde traditional style MMO. Not interested in prolonging fights when I’m just here for one night. Gimme dps, baby, and preferably do it before I even have to walk up to a mob.

tutorial

I really like that they have a tutorial.

You are given the option to skip it, but with a big warning that you might miss out on some very cool stuff – which is, I think, a good blend to hit between always offering the option to skip (forced tutorials that are uber long are generally not cool) and enticing new players to sit through it.

I usually do tutorials. They help to orientate me to each new MMO’s little quirks and I like to see what the new player experience is like for say, someone who may never have played an MMO in their life before.

To be honest, my first reaction on seeing the tutorial was, OH GOD MY EYES.

This is a GW2 carry over though. Traditional MMO UIs are just so… cluttered now.

I didn’t have a major issue with the graphics level or aesthetics, I found it pleasant if basic, and the look all vaguely reminded me of Guild Wars 1 in a general sense.

Same style of scenery, just less artistically arranged.

Same style of scenery, if less artistically arranged.

It even had click-to-move, along with the usual WASD movement.

I found the controls and camera slightly sluggish, but not unplayable. I’m not sure how much of that slowed responsiveness was the game engine itself or just my ping to EU servers, so won’t comment further. I got by. It wasn’t game-breaking.

Targeting was a lot more annoying. I’m used to having a target nearest key to lock on to the nearest mob, and a target next that acts like tab targeting. These two functions were blended into the same key, so your first press ostensibly grabs the nearest (assuming your camera is positioned correctly) and then subsequent presses scroll to the next, following some slightly bizarre logic that it’s never quite the one you actually want to hit.

Mouse clicking to select usually ended up a lot faster. Again, I got by. Presumably you get used to each MMO’s little quirks if you play ’em long enough.

The Game Proper – Starter Area Elven Island

The whole thing gave me a very oldschool vibe.

The chat window had a lot of informative text scrolling in, reminiscent of MUDs and older MMOs that impart a lot of information via that channel.

I got a newbie pet, a glowing fairy, who sent me text whispers in the tutorial and each level up to give me tips – an extremely MUD-like carry over.

Yes, there were traditional quests. A lot of them.

You know the sort. See NPC with exclamation mark over head. Click NPC.

Skim read through gigantic pile of text that rambles on, as the quest writer valiantly tries to be entertaining but take up as much space as possible while coming up with excuse #1423812 for why you need to go over yonder and kill 10 rats or fed-ex [quest item] to NPC B because NPC A is too lazy to walk or has some other crippling reason why they cannot move.

When done with your little errand, run all the way back to the first NPC and click, so you get another text popup and experience, money and item rewards, some of which you can pick.

For extra player infuriation points, make the player do the same thing again. Because you’re trying to kill time and make the player stay longer in the zone, or are just morbidly curious to see how long they put up with it.

For bonus points, write a cheesy love story saga where the player has to take messages from boy to girl and girl to boy because they’re too shy to ever look each other in the face and talk. How they’re ever going to consummate that love, I don’t know. (*has LOTRO flashbacks*)

Or when you’re bored of that, try the rejection letter schtick around the same theme:

dimeadozenlovestories

Yeah.

Most of the quest text writing is like that.

On the plus side, there was a lot of lavish attention paid to trying to give you a mini story/reason around killing yet another 6-10 mobs of something or other. Or clicking on them. Or picking things up.

On the other hand, it feels like the lavish attention was spent by someone a little grammatically off with English (I think RoM’s developer roots are Taiwanese and German?), trying to tell me a long saga about nothing terribly important.

Even the lore quests were long and convoluted ramblings about some elven champions and kings of one sort of another, having wars, having babies, begatting so-and-so, who had yet more wars, mixed in with some strange rabid obsession about proper elven Etiquette and Honor and being all Champion-y. Capitals included.

If there was one thing that impressed me (for good AND for ill) about the very traditional quests in the Elven Island, it was the ludicrous density of them, and how much they criss-crossed each other. Especially in the newbie area.

Talk to one NPC and he sends you on a chain that leads you across other NPCs with exclamation marks, who will send you to other locations and back again that you end up criss-crossing to the point where you essentially memorize the layout.

Swimming causing you to lose your starter mount and having an elven starter area surrounded by a circular river, a lake and waterfalls did not help.

Re-mounting took ages of wait time. Nothing as smooth as World of Warcraft’s, and worse than LOTRO’s, imo. The slightest twitch of movement before the whole thing was done would cancel the horse and make you sit through the mount animation again. One was almost convinced it might be faster to walk. You could talk to quest NPCs while mounted, which was good, but combat canceled the mount and there would be that horrible mounting time again.

There were also dailies that confused the picture even further. If the map tracked my footsteps, I think it would have looked like a spider’s web.

I did them all eventually, mostly out of sheer masochism and wondering if the deluge and insistence on backtracking would ever stop. It eventually did, though by that time I was done with the whole island except for repeat dailies and had hit level 13 when I think a good level to leave is supposed to be 10.

Once I moved beyond the gates of the immediate newbie area, it got back to a more traditional quest hub format where you can talk to a bunch of NPCs then go somewhere and crank out a whole bunch of quests, killing mobs and picking up items and so on until done, then return for turn ins. Not as polished or efficient as something like WoW though. a lot of distance sometimes separated NPCs and there was a great deal of backtracking.

Combat and Skills

Actual combat didn’t take very long and felt decent for traditional MMO hotbar combat. minus the targeting issues and actually getting in range and camera positioned correctly with the sluggish responsiveness.

Shoot vampiric arrows that did DoT damage to initiate, hit the autocast range attack for autoattack, mash arrow skill buttons that depleted focus. Finish up mob that has closed to melee by this time with a sword autoattack or two if needed. Over in 2-3 seconds.

If anything, the fight may have ended too quickly. But when you gotta kill 6-10 of something or other each quest, you’re not complaining.

There was a fair amount of developer-enabled twinking of newbies, I get the feeling, with the stuff I got out of the newbie bag. There was one magic stone that enabled me to buff up a weapon to +8 enchantment level. Which I gather is fairly ludicrously overpowered.

Other stones I got later demonstrated an Aion-like RNG system of enchantment. Click stone, click weapon to enchant, cue RNG roll. If you’re lucky, it increments by +1. If you’re unlucky, the thing fails and lowers the enchantment level. So the whole thing devolves into an RNG lottery of using up plenty of stones while striving for best stats and raging when the enchantment fails and resets your progress.

I did manage to “cleverly” +8 my melee sword rather than my bow, mostly because it was the most current weapon I had at the time. I got lucky as the enchantment was a massive increase to physical attack which I think affected both bow and sword as a scout.

Some skills were incremented via use. Weapon skills and some kind of defensive skill seemed to do this. And capped at your level.

Class skills were incremented via a skill panel (hit K) and upgrading with TP, talent points, I think – some form of experience currency that you also get rewarded from quests and mob kills.

Presumably one may later have enough only for essential skills that make up a build and need to TP grind to make more skills accessible and fully upgraded. At the newbie level, the skills were limited enough in number that I could upgrade everything without running out of TP.

Neat Concepts

newbiebagofrewards

The bottomless bag of newbie rewards was cool.

After each level, you get to open up this bag, which drops some helpful items and yet another bag with a level requirement that is incremented by one.

Some helpful tips are included in the pop-up text, though they started getting way off in their assumptions as to where I was, talking about the next city Varanas while I was still criss-crossing madly on the starter island.

housing

They have a housing system. You apply for your own personal house instance. Get a number which you can give to other players for them to visit your house. (I wouldn’t bother to visit mine, it has an empty storage chest and a plant pot, period.)

You can place furniture into special slots within your house, and then drag and place them anywhere and rotate at any angle. No z axis that I saw, though. Stuff went on the floor.

plantingsystem

They have a planting system. I dunno what you would call this. Crafting? A minigame? Non-combat activity?

You stick some manner of pot furniture into your house. You stick a seed in the pot.

You can choose to put different kinds of irrigation water and fertilizer into other slots, and then click the respective buttons to add those ingredients to adjust the slider to the optimum levels for that seed.

Those optimum levels will slowly drop over time. And there is an overall plant growth time before you get to harvest the plant with a button.

Here, the newbie plant tutorial takes 30 minutes. I leave it to your imagination to extrapolate how long high-level plants might take and how often you might want to revisit your house to water them. Or just go read the wiki – I don’t care – it looks elaborate at first glance with a whole bunch of different materials for different level ranges.

I’m not a fan of waiting games, personally, but hey, some people might like this sort of thing.

gathering

If anything, I’ll give Runes of Magic points for having crafting systems that seem fairly elaborate and oldschool (a ton of different crafts you can pick up, but you can only level to near max a few and max out one.) It sort of reminded me of Wurm Online slightly.

They streamlined out gathering a bit, which I thought was nice. Clicking on a node lets you harvest, and it automatically repeats the harvest action until the node runs dry.

Each harvest increments your bar by a certain percentage, depending on what you’re harvesting and what level your skill is. This is described in an oldschool text message sending you percentage numbers 40.00%, 36.78%, and so on.

As you gather, you gather stacks of a 10 minute buff that pile up and renew. This buff is supposed to increase your chances for rare successes and what not. I did manage to pull some level 46 blue herb out at one point. Ooh boy.

The major pain was the progress bar. It took 5 seconds per action. Sounds minor, but I dare you to count one mississippi, two mississippi up to five, and keep repeating that. Each node kept going for 5+ harvests or more. There was a high density of nodes in the newbie zone.

That’s A LOT OF STANDING AROUND DOING NOTHING. In my suddenly free time while locked in the gathering animation, I entertained thoughts of how people would likely endeavor to bot this because no enterprising human is going to put up with this for long.

crafting

The crafting UI looks fairly elaborate too.

Standard stuff. Refine gathered materials into usable crafting ingredients, usually taking two of those into one item. Stand by proper tool to have the option available.

The one basic weapon I managed to make from the basic ingredients revealed it made white items, with a chance of creating a green or blue rare success with better stats. I did manage to get one blue success, out of 5 created. Sadly, I’d way outleveled the weapon by that time.

Same problem. Each bar took five long seconds to progress. I was a blithering idiot by the time I processed 10 pieces of ash wood into 5 ash timber. LOTRO crafting felt quicker by comparison, and you know I am already dreadfully spoiled by GW2’s automatic super-speed up of large stacks.

Follow/Move To

followmoveto

You know what kept me doing the quests, rather than throwing my hands up, not being bothered to locate weirdly named NPC #8 and quitting from being totally lost at the start?

This unique follow / move to right-click context menu.

Move to, when it worked, triggered an automated running route to the named NPC. This was context sensitive via the quest text, so you could right click on the blue name, select move-to and have a free trip there to the NPC whose location you didn’t have an initial clue of.

The pathfinding wasn’t great. It slammed one into walls now and then and one had to manually move around those obstacles, but even buggy, it took some of the tedium away.

I was very sad when move to stopped working once I got out of the initial newbie area.

Fortunately, the follow function did. This was like a basic built-in in-game version of a WoW add-on like Questhelper or something similar. Right-clicking an NPC to follow marked it in red on your map, and provided a helpful little red arrow to follow until you got to him.

Conclusion:

A decent traditional MMO. Fantastic intro music (I hear the soundtrack is awesome and often overlooked.) Oldschool in nature. Some neat and interesting ideas with their class system and their non-combat activities – crafting/gathering/housing/planting, etc.

WHICH TAKES TOO FUCKING LONG.

Personally, I have neither the time nor patience to go through a whole bunch of traditional quests of merely passable quality.

I did not do any instances or see any raids (though I did see announcements scrolling across my screen announcing stuff that looked like public zone quests or siege castle warfare of some kind), the 10/10 project being only a one night stand sort of deal.

With a holy trinity system, I can only imagine that dungeons and raids would follow the same kind of style and structure – some guys tank, some guys heal, the rest pile on DPS. I doubt there’s anything really surprising or revolutionary waiting in the wings, maybe some neat ideas, is it.

Thanks for letting me visit, Runes of Magic. I’ll take my 9GB free space back now. No hard feelings. We’re just not compatible.