Friday, December 12, 2008

Graphical polish

I've long hoped that some of my wishes regarding the ingame graphics would be addressed. Here is a short list of the areas I believe are in need of improvement:

-Waterfalls. First and foremost. They are very much at odds with the rest of the incredible environment. They look out of place, and are not believable due to the lack of particle effects. The waterfalls all look as if they have too much body. The effect being used is simply to push a texture over a flat plane, which works fine for say, lava, but a new system is desperately needed for waterfalls, especially considering how realistic the rest of the water is. This image shows how waterfalls are the same bright white-ish colour at all distances:

-Draw distances.
I've always said that the maximum frill distance should be increased. Since book 14 though, the rest of the draw maximums seem to have been DEcreased. For those of us with the graphical horsepower, we should be able to push draw distances, and LOD (level of detail) thresholds out as far as we want. I shouldn't see Duillond suddenly vanish as I walk towards the downs; I shouldn't see Bree festival pop into being where there was bare land. Ruins in the Lone-lands should be visible as far as the terrain is.

-Atmospheric blending. I love the weather effects in this game. However, Middle-earth seems to be full of strange places which bizarrely affect the normal weather patterns. Get too near to a goblin shrine, for instance, and the rain instantly stops, and dark clouds begin to circle overhead. Trestlebridge's falling ash also used to be able to stop rain, but this was specifically addressed. In short, I would like all localized special atmospheric effects to BLEND with the dominant regional weather pattern, and not supersede it. Instances, of course, would be exempt from this rule, but places like Annuminas would not. It is silly to think that it is always raining in that part of the city. Players really enjoy seeing familiar places in different conditions. More variable effects through blending would help a great deal.

Remember that Forochel fog effect? Imagine if it could be applied in a controlled fashion to the Barrow-downs, or to Bree-town for the morning.

-Bears. Yes, bears. Of all the creatures of Middle-earth, they are quite possibly the most poorly textured and animated. When compared to the more recently designed creatures, such as the Saber-kittehs with their fluid animation and believable coats, the bears just don't measure up. It is particularly important because bears are an available Lore-master pet. Seeing them barrel down the street in their semi-random gait is a bit disconcerting. Being a large fan of bears in the actual sense, I would very much like to see them upgraded.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Caps and uh...caps...

I thought I'd start off by addressing a fundamental problem with the new LOTRO combat system. I realize this might not be the most interesting topic, so I will follow with some screenshots. (Screencaps.)

I believe in being straightforward. The problem is caps. The rest of the changes are more or less fine, despite the general uproar about being switched from plain percentages to 'ratings'. Let me tell you what I like about the new rating system: it enables much more scalability, flexibility, and fluidity throughout the entire level range, with itemization. However, this is a powerful tool that Turbine must learn to use properly. It is clear that they are being VERY cautious, however, particularly with the introduction of the hard mitigation and avoidance caps. This is an informal blog, and I'll be honest: this feature alone nearly killed my excitement for the expansion.

I understand where they're coming from, though. A better solution would be to implement harsher non-linear diminishing returns past the previous 'cap'. I'll give an example: say my Guardian had 16% block (no stance) pre-expansion. Now he has something like 11% + 3.5% partial. Stanced, it's 16%, but if I wasn't stanced, it'd be capped at 15%. Even stanced, if I do something, such as activate 'Guardian's Ward', my block percentage hits the cap at 20%. There is nothing I can do, no way to get it past this point. It no longer says 'MAX', but the knowledge is there. If instead, it let me push it to 20.05%, or 20.07%, that would be much preferable. It would have a negligible effect on gameplay, yet such a major effect on the player's attitude towards the change.

That said, I strongly urge Turbine to rethink the restriction of 'Builds' for Guardians and other classes who would like to tank to morale and vitality alone. If a player wants to stack as much block or parry as he wants, at the expense of other stats, then he should be able to. It's up to the team that itemizes the world to ensure that there are no game-breaking combinations out there.
...and thus ends my first rant on this blog. More later. Now as promised, here are some screenshots showcasing the incredible art and world design that Turbine has become rightly famous for:

Monday, December 8, 2008


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