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The PA Report - At the gates of Helm’s Deep: six-year-old Lord of the Rings Online is still absolute

DogDog Registered User, Administrator, Vanilla Staff admin

imageThe PA Report - At the gates of Helm’s Deep: six-year-old Lord of the Rings Online is still absolutely beautiful

It's a weird quirk of the MMO genre. Despite aging graphics engines that are far less advanced than brand-new single-player games, MMOs often end up being some of the most beautiful games of the year long after their release.

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  • RogueywonRogueywon Registered User regular
    Final Fantasy XI's Chains of Promathia expansion had some jaw-droppingly pretty zones, by the standard of the time. The floating islands of Cape Riverne and the bizarre half-celestial, half-Lovecraftian shapes of Al'Taieu remain among the best visual design I've ever seen in a game.

    There were two problems; first, getting access to these zones required getting past some achingly difficult dungeons and boss fights. Second, the game's next expansion, Treasures of Aht Urghan, featured some of the ugliest environment designs ever seen in a game.

  • BananamousBananamous Registered User regular
    I tried LotRO and couldn't get past how flat the graphics looked. There is some scenery that's amazing, such as the treelines and the buildings, but look at the ground in the pictures above, especially the shots with cobblestone road. It's so damn flat looking. Also of note, look at how defined the seam is in the second-to-last shot, where the cliffside meets the road. It's unnatural. LotRO is a weird mix of beautiful and amateur-looking design.

    I'm a design nerd, and my eye can't ignore stuff like that.

  • gacbmmmlgacbmmml Senior Web Developer IHG.comRegistered User regular
    PS. WoW's latest expansion is "Mists of Pandaria", not "Mysts" :)

    Noah (girls are cute, but monkeys make me laugh)

  • 3clipse3clipse I will build a labyrinth to house the cheese Labyrinths are awesome!Registered User regular
    When I first got into Guild Wars 2 I spent hours just wandering around looking at things. It's a really beautiful game. Definitely agree with this piece Andrew - more MMOs need to be lauded for their beauty.

    XBL: R3clipse
    Steam: BIRD BIRD KILL IT
    Battle.net: Eclipse#1200
  • TyrusPeaceTyrusPeace Registered User regular
    @3clipse GW2 did get Best PC Graphics from IGN, although I only knew that because an ad banner told me so. https://www.guildwars2.com/en/media/awards/

    @gacbmmml I think everyone wants to play Mysts of Pandaria now.

  • A_Wild_NeurobiologistA_Wild_Neurobiologist Registered User regular
    Yeah, the hyperbole here is a little much. If I want to be inside of a beautiful fantasy world, I'll play The Witcher 2, Bastion, or Skyrim. The MMO just isn't the place for amazing worlds unless you buy into horizontal expansion as king.

    Also, I think you may need a little vocab refresher -- "droll-but-impressive realism" I do not think droll means what you think it means. There are also two too many references to jaws being dropped in this piece, but that's more my frustration with turns of phrase that get inserted into the collective consciousness and then become overused.

    "There's a calm serenity to this game that most games aren't brave enough to go after."
    I.e. it's empty. Everquest has the same serenity, but it's not because the game is brave, It's because the technology is old, the design is flat, and the world is sparsely populated.

  • raykremerraykremer Registered User regular
    Graphics hit the point of diminishing return years ago. No matter how much better the hardware gets, stuff is never going to substantially prettier than what we already have. All that's left to produce a nice looking game environment is the actual artistry.

  • chispitochispito Registered User regular
    While I'm not particularly impressed, you do bring up a good point that good art direction covers a multitude of sins.

  • BrohameBrohame Registered User regular
    It's always nice to stop and smell the flowers. D&D Online is a game I keep leaving then coming back to over the years. Mostly because it's the only MMO that I feel like has come anywhere close to playing D&D. So I understand why someone who loves Tolkien would do the same for LoTR. The game IS pretty... to the people naming other games that have better graphics, I think you're missing the point. Just because there are other games that are prettier doesn't negate the nice art in LoTR Online. It's not a contest.

  • Quint126Quint126 Registered User regular
    I will always fondly remember Star Wars Galaxies as having some of the most jaw-dropping and beautiful landscapes of any MMO I have ever played. I still remember the first time I spied a broken down AT-AT in the middle of a green meadow on a clear day. Absolutely amazing artwork.

  • InfamousDSInfamousDS Registered User regular
    edited October 2013
    I love how PAR has virtually ignored FF14:ARR outside of a piece where Sophie said "I don't really like it" during the Alpha. The environments are pretty, there is a plethora of series love in it, and it has shattered every expectation Square-Enix had for it (as well as many player's and other news-site's expectations).

    LoTRO may be having a new expansion come out, and that's all fine and dandy, but where was the article about the relaunch of 14? About how the servers had such a huge overload that they had to add new ones and stop retailers from selling new copies to stave off the success? The only thing I've seen is a passive mention that SE doesn't like YouTube (a position they made much clearer in a revision to the EULA), and articles which argue that any MMO that isn't EQNext or F2P is lame and dumb and doomed to fail before they try to start.

    InfamousDS on
  • AJLeuerAJLeuer Registered User regular
    Star Wars: The Old Republic blows by every MMO I've ever played with its beautiful sightlines, gorgeous art, and amazing locations and characters. Without shooting for photorealism, it still manages to create awe-inspiring worlds. It's too bad the gameplay isn't just a bit better, I would have sunk quite a few more hours into it. It's really is a tragedy it got such a bad rap - it's no where near as bad as you'd think from simply reading others' reactions.

    World of Warcraft and LOTRO are also absolutely splendid when it comes to visuals, exceeded only by the aforementioned SWTOR. I love that games like Metro, Battlefield and Crysis are pushing the bleeding edge of realtime rendering, but it's also great when MMOs advance video game visuals in other ways.

  • NativeJovianNativeJovian Registered User new member
    So, it's pretty.... but is it any fun?

  • MuffinsMuffins Registered User regular
    Filler Article~

  • NagoraNagora Registered User regular
    Well, I'm not seeing it. It just looks like run-of-the-mill computer generated polygons and texture maps to me.

  • Emperor PalpatineEmperor Palpatine Registered User new member
    Several elements in those screenshots don't like like they are part of a game that is bragging about having DX11 or even just DX10 graphics.
    The blurry ground textures and the ugly mountain sides in the last screenshot look like a DX7 game. In the second last image, the abrupt transition from the rocks to the road, notably on the bottom left of the image, also doesn't look like something designed in 2013 with DX11 technology.

    And lore wise, that version of Helm's Deep looks more like something designed by the Orcs than by the Free People...

    I'm definitely not impressed.

  • JasconiusJasconius sword criminal Illinois???Registered User regular
    I am also not seeing it. It's ugly. I've played it, and it was ugly then too. Boilerplate fantasy graphics that were dated when they came out.

  • RogueywonRogueywon Registered User regular
    Infamousds - quite a few segments of the gaming press have been quite shy in talking about FF14:ARR. These do tend to be the same segments that have been happily talking about the death of the subscription MMO.

    The launch of an apparently highly successful subscription MMO (the free trial period has ended for early adopters, but servers remain heavil populated) with no in-game montisation is an uncomfortable factor for those who have been telling us to shut up and learn to love the pay-to-win model.

  • Sgt.Big_BubbaloolaSgt.Big_Bubbaloola Registered User regular
    Slightly bizarre to feel this I know, but I do sometimes fire up an old game from time to time that have these large environments but are now mostly empty (certain areas of WoW, even some Bad Company 2 maps) and feel slightly sad that nobody ever visits them anymore. All that hard work by the designers, and now just sitting there on servers ...... unloved ...... untouched. *sniff* i'm getting soppy in my old age I think.



    Well gosh, I suppose I might as well settle in for a nice cuppa ...... this is gonna be good!
  • trevoracioustrevoracious Registered User regular
    I just got back into LotRO a few days ago, unaware that a new expansion was going to drop.

    I think what pulls me in is the wandering. I just like running around in sunny Middle Earth.

    I also found the juxtaposition of 10-year-old character models next to near current-gen water effects pretty hilarious. But still, I'm enjoying it LotRO in a super casual way. I'll probably never see most of this content, but that's fine.

  • GradyHooverGradyHoover Registered User regular
    By MMO standards, LotR Online still might be the most gorgeous one of all. Six years old? Dude, this is about as good as FF 14 looks or better.

  • GunganGungan Registered User regular
    edited October 2013
    I played LOTRO when it first came out on a trial account. There is definitely something comforting about walking through those environments... especially the Shire. However, even when it launched the graphics to me looked flat and terrible, and plummeted squarely into the uncanny valley. I tried it again after it went F2P, and I could not get past all of the upsell buttons everywhere. The character screen was also aspect ratio locked to 4:3 at like 1024x768 resolution. It looked horrendous. More than that, the combat was still awful and completely unbelievable as my weapons slashed through thin air and had no rewarding feedback. I don't understand why so many MMOs just fail at making a responsive "do what I want to do when I want to do it" combat system. Of all of the MMOs I've played, only WoW got it perfectly right. GW2 and FF14 come in a close second, and are actually playable.

    It's like MMO designers ignore the design of the controls when making their games. If I'm casting a spell, and my target dies before the spell is finished... interrupt the goddamn cast bar immediately instead of letting it fill before telling me my target is dead. If there is a global cooldown of 2 seconds, make sure the animation for the skill I just used is no more than 2 seconds. Overlapping animations look ridiculous and broken. If I press a button, that needs to be reflected on my hotbar and character's actions immediately. WAR had the worst possible hotbars of all time, and simply would not react to your key press until a second or two after you did it, and you had to practically mash the button.

    Anyways, I think I went on a bit of a tangent rant there.

    Gungan on
  • metalsonic_69metalsonic_69 Registered User regular
    Is the world actually accurate to Tolkien's maps of Middle Earth?

  • GunganGungan Registered User regular
    edited October 2013
    Eh, so so MetalSonic. Places are where they should be, but the stuff in between is wishy washy and the walking distances are often completely bonkers.

    Gungan on
  • iamnamelessiamnameless Registered User regular
    Playing LOTRO gives this really odd, "uncanny valley" kind of feeling, because over all these beautiful landscapes a really low quality models are running around with terrible, jagged animations. To be fair, even when it came out, the model quality made me go *UGH!*

  • in2Zul4hin2Zul4h Registered User regular
    My favorite parts of LOTRO were its profession system and its legendary weapon levelling system. There's really a lot to like there. I'll have to remind myself to play it again at some point.

  • rahkeesh2000rahkeesh2000 Registered User regular
    @InfamousDS they've virtually ignored MMOs period since Sophie left, as Groen's been more tilted towards e-sports articles. But in a 2 person operation there's no way all the "important" gaming stuff can be covered anyway, and PAR never had any pretensions of doing so.

  • kimjo42kimjo42 Registered User regular
    Ah great, now you've given me the itch to power this baby up again!

    Bye, bye Nevervinter!
    Hello again, old friend!

    Really, thank you! :)

  • yenzinyenzin Registered User new member
    I love the beauty of LotRO a lot more than WoW, GW2, Everquest or any other MMO I have played. The graphics in the others are often too bright and shiny or too cartoony. While I can recognize that GW is very beautiful, the world and characters don't seem real to me. And they certainly don’t look real in WoW.

    LotRO's appearance brings the world to life. Often times it is just the small things that help add to the bigger picture - like the puddles on the streets of Bree or the constellations in the sky.

    How many others have noticed the Big Dipper or Orion's Belt? Not many. But it is detail like that that makes the game truly special.

  • likalarukulikalaruku Registered User regular
    Since the landscape looks how the books describe them, unimpressive looking areas are unavoidable. Who's heart didn't sink the first time they saw the boring grasslands of Bree, or the barren Lone Lands? But you can't deny that you didn't enjoy every nook & cranny of any Elvish town, that The Shire didn't blow your mind, or not appreciate the vast differences in the way one forest looked from another. Really, the only thing that looks dated are the stiff unmoving faces of the NPCs.

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