Lost Pages of Taborea: Answering email

Runes of Magic screenshot
Today's email comes to us from Jack Readman.
Dear Jeremy: As the subject suggests, I am curious about Runes of Magic. I have given it several tries before and can say I enjoyed it, but I always left it after a while due to distractions. Currently I'm playing RIFT and enjoying the endgame raiding and to a lesser extent the 5-mans. So I do like my PvE content. What does RoM have to offer in this regard? I love The housing thing and other diversions like that. What else is there? Tell me what is great about RoM and what gives it its flavor? How dependent do you have to be on the cash shop?
Thanks for writing, Jack. I'm sure many players have very similar questions when approaching Runes of Magic for the first time. I've tried to formulate a response akin to how I'd explain RoM to my friends -- if they'd actually want to listen to me for as long as this article is.

I can only offer my opinions, but ultimately what you think of RoM is up to you. I play RIFT, but I haven't gotten beyond level 20. I'm also not really into endgame in RoM yet, although I think I'm fairly familiar with the MMO as a whole. Keep in mind certain features will net you different answers depending on how a player approaches MMOs in general. I can tell you right off the bat that the majority of RoM's dungeons are six-man or twelve-man, but for the rest of my verbose answers, you'll have to click past the break.

A couple of things I've found that attract players -- and especially raiders -- to RoM are:
  • The dual-class system. This feature has always gotten a lot of attention.
  • The gear-modification feature. It doesn't get as much attention, but it's probably loved (and hated) even more than the dual-class system.
Runes of Magic screenshotRoM allows for an extreme amount of gear-modifying to improve armor and weapons. As a quick run-down: Any weapon or piece of armor can have up to six named stats attached to it. In addition, you can drill up to four slots (which hold runes) per item, refine them with jewels (as high as +16 now), raise the tier of an item multiple times (which could also award ghost stats), and add an over-durability bonus.

It really doesn't stop there because of the different tiers and levels to named stats and different tiers for runes. A tier one named stat is green and has one number attached to it (i.e., +10 DEX). A tier two named stat is yellow and has two numbers attached to it, Orange is the highest, with three numbers attached to it. So you can see what I mean when I say there's a lot of room to modify gear.

The dynamics of the progression-based MMO are changed somewhat in RoM for a couple of reasons.
  • A player much lower in level could stomp a higher-level player due to modified gear.
  • The stats, tiering, runes, and all the other ways to improve armor can be obtained by any players of any level without the need to progress through the instances. If they can obtain all this without the need to go into a dungeon, they can also skip dungeons and go straight to bleeding-edge content.
This could be hard for players used to the way World of Warcraft and other MMOs squeeze raiding into a one-way tunnel. A player in RoM who levels in a couple of weeks to cap (and who also speeds up his gearing by using tools from the item mall) could push himself straight to the hardest instances. Players who might not want to spend money (or don't have the money) need to spend more time earning gold outside of dungeons or slowly make their way through the dungeons in order.

I judge dependency on the cash shop by comparing it to the content and not other players. I understand that some want to compare themselves to other players, and this in turn can set a bar that new players may want to meet. RoM's cash shop is very congenial but can get very expensive. From a business perspective, I think RoM's cash shop is more successful than other games' cash shops because of the way the items from the shop are integrated into the game.

I've seen some players say RoM is the most cash-shoppy of all F2P games. I don't think that's true, but I understand the complaints. It's just proof to me that Runewaker made a really fun game and has a successful business. It tells me more players could be spending -- and overall they are spending more. It's the same for any business. If I see Myty Kong shoes making more money than Hypp Hopp Granny shoes, I'd say Myty Kong is more popular.

Runes of Magic screenshotSome things in the cash shop are instant or timed enhancements: potions, refining jewels, permanent mounts and others. Some of the items are tools that have to be used in-game to modify gear in combination with other drops and items found in the game. Purified Fusion Stones are important for improving gear, as are refining jewels. Cash-shop jewels offer a much higher success rate than the refining jewels that can be bought in-game.

Nearly everything that's in the cash shop is also attainable in-game. Superior potions, transport runes megaphones, and some really good named stats can be attained in minigames, even purified fusion stones can be bought with in-game currency. Players may be spending lots of real money on RoM, but ironically, you don't need to spend any money to play the game because everything needed to progress is already in the game.

Some players will ask "how much does it cost to compete?" I'm not too keen on questions like this. I primarily play with friends and for myself. I'm never trying to compete with anyone other than myself. There are players who will spend hundreds of dollars a month, a week or maybe even more money than that in the pursuit of being the toughest player on a server. Even in MMOs with really low populations, there will always be players at different levels. The nature of the question is rooted in the fallacy that the grass is always greener on the other side.

At around level 55, you'll feel RoM hit a curve. Mobs of your level will be considerably stronger and take longer to down. Pretty much everything inside and outside of dungeons will require more reliance on modified gear. You may hit that wall and find that you have to grind gold and tokens to buy the gear to get you into the next dungeon, farm the lower dungeons a lot, or be tempted to dip into the cash-shop to speed things up. Granted, the latest addition of crimson-stats in minigames reduced grind, making it a bit easier to gear towards endgame.

Runes of Magic screenshotWhile there are multiple in-game currencies and real money involved, the true commodity is time. Are the dungeons and other content in RoM fun enough to repeat the necessary amount of times? Is the amount of playtime needed to progress reasonable? As someone who abhors repeating dungeons like that, I can't really tell you. Once, I ran speed-runs through Kalin shrine with a guildmate for drops to sell for gold. After only six times, I was about to go mad. I just could not keep going.

As far as PvP servers: I don't see anything being changed. There's no increase in pressure to spend or gear faster unless that is already the player's desire. What I think really changes is the fact that open-world PvP is harsh due to the fact players can be looted. You can lose stuff from your backpack and stuff you're wearing. The PvP system reminds me a little bit of Darkfall, and the real-world money aspect reminds me of PLEX in EVE Online. Still, the ability to instantly swap gear, turn PK status on and off instantly, and have protection bubbles and non-droppable, upgradable costumes mitigates much of the severity.

Other features in RoM

RoM has many ancillary systems to keep players happy. Housing and customizing armor are big ones for me, but there's also a pet system that lets you raise and merge pets that can provide buffs, aid you in battle, and even craft for you. There's a housekeeper system that lets you hire multiple NPCs to provide different potions and food buffs. There are minigames strewn about that can be mastered and provide rewards. There are more aspects and nuances to RoM that would require more than a quick summary -- too much to talk about in one article, but you can browse through my older posts to find out more about RoM.

Each Monday, Jeremy Stratton delivers Lost Pages of Taborea, a column filled with guides, news, and opinions for Runes of Magic. Whether it's a community roundup for new players or how to improve versatility in RoM's content, you'll find it all here. Send your questions to jeremy@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.