Runes of Magic

About a week and a half ago, I discovered Runes of Magic. This is a (mostly*) free-to-play MMO which I decided to give a try, and so far I’m loving it.

Although ROM is still in beta and is very small – there are only 5 regions on the map yet – I’m actually loving it so far. I’ll say it’s like World of Warcraft but there are some major differences, some of which will be familiar to Guild Wars players.

*Now, although its free to play, there are extras you can buy with “diamonds” which can be purchased for real money. You can buy diamonds with game gold in the auction house but you’re talking millions here (although 1G in ROM is like 1 copper in WoW). Many of these extras are cosmetic but some are kind of useful, like a permanent mount which you can have from level 1 if you so choose. Although you can “rent” mounts at any time with game gold instead. So while its often easier to go the diamond route, there’s no necessity to, if you don’t want to pay.

As with WoW, everything is seperate for Europe and the USA, although unlike WoW, it’s easy to register for one not where you live, if you so choose. I’ve registered accounts on both sides of the Atlantic, although that was problematic until I realised that I needed to manually edit an .ini file to switch from one to the other.

Character Generation
You can at present, only be human, although elves are coming out in the next expansion. There are no Factions (like Horde vs Alliance), everyone is on the same side, although there is opportunity for PvP if you wish, there are PvP servers, and on the PvE servers there is still duelling and arena fighting.
You have a choice of one of six classes to begin with: Warrior, Knight (equiv to Paladin), Scout (equiv to Hunter but without pet), Rogue, Mage and Priest.
Character appearance is much more versatile than WoW, and characters are well frankly, much more attractive. More like Guild Wars here, only with many more options. Hair colour for instance, you can pick from anywhere in the RGB spectrum. You can even change height and bulk of the body.

Here is me, at level 10:

Beginning
Once you have your character named, you can enter the world. You’ll be offered the chance to follow a tutorial. If this is your first time, take it. Even if you’re familiar with WoW. The interface is just different enough and it’ll save a lot of frustrated mouse-clicking later. Plus it only takes about 10 minutes and you get a gift bag with a trinket in it.

Early quests are very tutorial-like. In WoW you get taught via quests how to use the flight-masters, and in RoM you get taught via quests just about everything; using portals, getting a house, gathering and crafting, using runes.

Levelling is fast – actually it’s TOO fast because your level soon outstrips the level of the quests that remain, so you end up with the dilemma of whether to stay back and finish them, or skip onto the better ones. I’ve been inclined to stay back and do them all for completeness’ sake. Every time you level you get to spend talent points on class-related skills, and you also get a gift bag containing some nifty piece of gear appropriate for your class and level.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that loot drops are more appropriate to your level. In WoW, if you’re killing level 10 mobs they’ll drop gear of level 5 or so. In RoM a level 10 mob will drop level 10 gear, or even higher sometimes. So you’re always getting chances to equip your character up-to-par. Also collection quests have a high enough drop rate that you’re not tearing out your hair and grinding for hours.

Gathering and Crafting
You’ll be familiar with these if you’re a WoW player. The gathering skills are herbalism, mining and woodcraft. No skinning here. The crafting skills are blacksmithing, armour-crafting, tailoring, carpentry (makes bows, staves, clubs and other wooden weapons), alchemy, cooking. Food isn’t necessary for health recovery but it does give you buffs. These skills level in the same scale as your character level, ie 1-50. You can choose ALL the skills at apprentice level (1-20) but beyond that you start being selective, although you still get plenty more choice than in WoW. Gathered materials sell for a huge price in the Auction House. And armour & weapons are cheap. Go figure.

Your House
Every player gets a free house. Here you have a storage box, you can switch character class (more about that later) and you can invite friends in and decorate as you wish (or as you can afford). Guilds can also purchase a guild castle, as they could in Guild Wars.

Runes
Everyone in RoM can do runecrafting, which is basically using magical stones that you find in the field, to put magical effects on weapons and armour. Its a little like enchanting and a little like jewelcrafting in WoW, but not quite either.

Daily Quests
not just for the top level characters, daily quests are for all. Every town or village has a noticeboard, here you can pick up dailies and do up to 10 a day. Dailies pay Prius tokens as a reward, you’ll need these later for your Arcane Transmuter.

Transport
Transport round the world happens in several different ways and all are available to characters of any level.. You can rent or buy a mount from level 1. Renting is kind of expensive. The cost of buying one with diamonds is about £8 on the European servers.
You can use teleport portals. Maor towns will have these. It will cost game gold to use them.
You can keep your own Transport book. You need Marking Ink and Transport Runes (you’ll be given some at lvl 5 although you can buy them any time with Prius Tokens). basically with marking ink you can set a teleport point anywhere in the world in your book, and at any time you can use a transport rune to take you there.
Or you can just run, and do some gathering along the way. The slowest but most profitable way.

Dual Class
Level 10 is the magical level. Three things happen, the most significant being that you get sent off on a quest to the capital city of Varanas to train in your second class. Incidentally the cities are MASSIVE – so big they have teleporters to get from one district to another. And the graphics are just stunning. Then you go to your house to swap classes, and you start back at level 1 in your new class. From here onwards, you have two classes to level uip. You gain experience only in whichever one is your primary, so you have to level them seperately. You can swap them over any time you visit your house. In my case I picked Warrior as my first class and Scout as my second; the same combination as my first Guild Wars character.

Arcane Transmuter
At level 10 you get an Arcane Transmuter which is a gadget that assists with the runecrafting and can make some really nifty buffs on your gear. The components cost though, either diamonds, Prius tokens or gold.

Off to the land of the Goats
Also at level 10 you get a teleport spell that will take you to another starting-area where you can level up your new class. Here you’ll find a whole new region and a new set of quests. The NPCs here are all goats. They’re not blue space-goats though. To be honest, the OCD part of me nagged about all the unfinished quests I’d left behind so I only stayed here a couple of levels before returning to where I was before – and discovered also that the first newbie starting area spawns a whole bunch of new starting quests after you’ve switched classes. So I went back to where I was. I guess I’ll go back when I’ve finished the first region’s quests, although I’m now lvl 13/10 and still have a long way to go yet. Like I said before, I think there are too many quests.

There’s plenty I’ve not seen yet. Instances. Guilds. (Most guilds don’t seem to be recruiting characters below lvl 25/25). PvP – which I’d rather pass on anyway. I’m sure I’ll have more to report later.

So… if anyone wants to join me I’m on Mactanacht (EU) or Govinda (US). Casteylan’s the name on both servers (no surprise there).

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Goodbye SL

It seems like Second Life is over for the whole household.

Gradually one by one over the past 3-4 weeks, our avatars have all been getting banned with no explanation. All of mine, my daughter, her boyfriend’s, and even my partner, who made an av and logged in to it about twice. None of us have any idea why, there’s been no emails and no replies to support tickets. The BF says he thinks its a billing issue but I’m frankly skeptical – it seems heavy handed to ban all avs that have ever logged in from this house, just for a billing issue.

Lewis Luminos, my last one, was banned today.

Based on what I know of the way Linden Lab operates, and reading the experiences of other people who’ve been banned, it seems that they do not acknowledge appeals and they do not reverse bans, and any future accounts logged-in at the same IP will also be banned.

So I guess none of us will be returning to SL again any more.

Teen Grid Merger

Yes, I know, it’s just a rumour and everyone at Linden Lab denies any possibility of a merger, but since the changes regarding Zindra were announced, the rumours have been flying thick and fast. I read today an interesting article by Teen Grid veteran Ralph Schnook, who talks about his reasons for hoping the grids will be merged.

Now, while I can’t find fault in his arguments, and I do think a merger will be generally a good thing for the teens, I also think it will be totally a bad and potentially dangerous thing for people over 18.

See, everyone says “What about the pervs and pedophiles”, and it’s true that there will be a minority of people like this who will prey on kids just as they do now on Myspace and similar communities. But what bothers me also is the risk adults face from kids. In particular, any involvement in any sort of sexual context, which could potentially get the adult involved in a pedophilia charge (even if it’s a made-up AR by some kid with a grudge) if one of the participants turns out to be underage.

As things stand, any kid on the adult grid has broken terms and conditions, and has knowingly lied, by being there. The adult who embarks on a relationship inside SL, has no responsibility for ensuring that their partner is adult because they’ve already declared so when they signed up. If they’re not, they lied – the kid is in the wrong, and the adult is in the clear.

In a merged grid, the kid is there by right, and suddenly the responsibility for ensuring you’re not in a relationship with a kid is yours. The kid can lie, just as before and tell you that they’re over 18, but this time you are the one that will have to prove innocence if accused.

Isolating adult content in Zindra, to a place that’s supposedly accessible to adults only, will help a little, so those people who sell adult content or adult services are to some extent spared part of the risk. But how certain are you that your IM chat, that took place in your own home, isn’t being copied and forwarded on and ending up as part of an AR in the category of “corrupting a minor” or some similar such thing?

I guess all it would take is that you make an enemy over some trivial thing and playground-politics takes over. It would be as easy to AR someone for that just as easily as it’s currently possible to wrongly accuse someone of being underage.

Yuk. No thanks.