I have played LOTJ for awhile now with some breaks between firmly addicted
sessions. I do have some criticisms of the place, but the most important thing
to note is, in my mind, that I keep coming back.
Space Travel - The flight system is one of the most enjoyable mechanics on
LOTJ for me. I loved it the first time I wandered into a public taxi on my
first play-through, swiftly realized that after launching I had no idea
whatsoever what to do that I was drifting slowly toward a sun, and found
myself panicking while scouring helpfiles for how to contact other characters
to rescue me. I ended up finding a way to send a radio message to other ships
in my immediate vicinity, and whoever it was that answered after several such
desperate hails guided me step by step, little by little, into getting into
planetary orbit so I could land again. I'm sure this might SOUND like
complaining, but it was actually one of my favorite experiences on a MUD,
ever. I went from 'I wonder what this nonsense does' to suddenly finding
myself immersed in the moment and setting, having to explain that I didn't
take any naval courses at the academy, I don't want to fly into a sun, HELP.
Flight is complex but not so complex that it's unapproachable. Even with a
good understanding of how to use the system now, there are layers and levels
to it well above what I know. Orbital bombardments, tractor beams that
actually work, capital ships that require multiple players to properly use...
The list of what ships and 3D gridded space travel can do for every player
from a diplomat with a personal shuttle to a smuggler with a beat-up
freighter, then all the way up to a major government with several capital
ships is pretty endless.
The Timeline System - This was difficult for me to comprehend, coming from
games where the timeline is the timeline and it's always moving in a linear
fashion, but it's actually pretty darn fantastic once you get a feel for it.
The immortals design a three-part (each part is called an Era) storyline that
extends across a couple real life years, then release the players into the
often fully redesigned world to do their thing. There is usually a trigger
point for the Era turnover, such as one major government managing to
destroying the other. Throughout the course of the timeline, the three Eras
play out. If you're still with me and don't get why this is a good thing (I
didn't at first!), you have to think about it within the context of how Star
Wars stories typically end - dramatically, and with massive destruction.
Having a timeline means that that timeline will eventually end, which means
that the players can (and probably will) destroy the ENTIRE GALAXY without
it needing to be prevented by Staff so the game isn't ruined. With a finite
story in mind, the players really can do anything. Being able to play within
a plethora of different overarching stories and time periods is an added
Staff - The immortal team are about on par for what you would have expected
from a MUD staff 15 years ago. They aren't awful by any means, but expect
some unprofessional decorum. There are game-wide echoes with threats to the
playerbase, flexing the ole immortal fist over this or that issue. A recent
one was an immortal not liking that people were reporting building errors in
their clan bases. While a simple, 'Guys, please report issues to your clan
leaders so they can contact me with a list instead of spamming channels'
would have sufficed, instead it threatened to Hell ('punishment'/jail room)
the next person who reported a problem, and ended with 'You have been warned.'
I get it, to an extent. I'm sure it was annoying to deal with. But there's
professionalism and then there's that. I tended to feel the culture around
MUD immortals having that attitude faded out long ago, but it's alive and
kicking on LOTJ.
The flip side of the immortals being unprofessional, however, is that they're
fun. You can joke around with them on Discord or the OOC channel, their news
posts to the players with updates are often funny (DILLY DILLY!). Despite not
always knowing what will push the wrong button and admittedly being a little
wary as a result, I have no real complaints about the immortal staff. If the
worst thing I can say about the imms is 'I don't understand why the tone of an
occasional gecho has to be hostile' then we're in good shape. They're active,
they're invested, they don't cheat or spy on players. That's all you really
Roleplay - When I'm recruiting friends or acquaintances to try out LOTJ I tend
to tell them it's 'SMS RP.' The vast majority of roleplay I've seen during my
time on the MUD has been over comms, which are spoken-word messages sent out
over your comlink to specific frequencies, clan frequency, or the public
frequency. Should you roleplay in person, you'll be using socials and the
'say' command. It IS roleplay in the sense that you are speaking for your
character, but it isn't roleplay in the sense that most players of RP MUDs
(RPIs, in particular) will expect. There is some variation, of course, where
you'll find somebody who uses emote to do some of their own writing, but for
the most part roleplay is socials, 'say,' and comms.
Coming from a background of heavy RP MUDs I was pretty disappointed at first,
and I definitely struggled for immersion without the benefit of imagery or
context. Over time, however, I have come to respect what people can accomplish
using the aforementioned tools. It isn't my preferred roleplaying style, but
there are many (most?) players on LOTJ who wield it to great effect. There
are some who wield it so well that they invoke incredible amounts of
personality without ever writing an emote. It's different and it's probably
not what you would expect of an RP MUD, but that doesn't make it bad. Unique
I hesitate to dub anything strictly 'bad' about LOTJ, but I think it's
reasonable to list what I would change if I could.
Skill Grinds - Holymoly the grinding. First you'll be rolling through quests
to get your 'levels' complete, which for most character archetypes won't be
too awfully bad. Skill levels are just time-consuming enough that you'll be
getting tired of it when you finish, and you'll come away with a feeling of
accomplishment. For most archetypes, besides practicing with a few of your
more finicky skills over time, you're good to go. For engineers, scientists,
or slicers, you have a good two, maybe even three real life weeks ahead of
you of either botting or entering the same two commands over, over, over and
over again to get slivers of skill percentages at a time. The science grind
takes about a week of solid 24-hour botting. The slicing grind, which involves
entering 'slice (thing)', waiting a couple minutes, then entering 'secure
(thing)' over and over, can take multiple real life weeks to finish, and cannot
legally be botted.
While I can't argue against the idea that making these things so incredibly
long-winded also makes them infinitely more valuable to have, I do tend to
question a game mechanic that requires the player not to play the game,
especially over an extended period.
Helpfiles - LOTJ needs some variety of helpfile searching system. 'Help search
(keyword)' or something would raise the bar on my experience tenfold. It can
be difficult to find helpfiles and many are outdated or insufficient. You can
often get the information you need by phrasing it as IC-ish as you can and
asking other players over comms, but it's best to have solid helpfiles. It
would prevent a lot of the frustration of learning something new as a player
that your character should already know, and it would stave off some of the
more awkward IC questions that can be immersion breaking for roleplay.
LOTJ is a charming game with a horde of satisfying systems and a unique
roleplay style. Don't expect perfection, do expect fun.
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Comment posted on Sun Feb 24 16:33:17 2019 by Part-Time LOTJer:
A little more than a year ago I wrote this review for LOTJ, and as I've come back (again!) since to play some more I thought I'd revisit. As far as I can tell, literally every flaw I cited in my previous review has been improved upon, up to and including the amount of grinding that was required to do certain things. There's still some of it, but it's nothing at all like it was. It's come to a pretty comfortable balance. I'm genuinely floored by how much obvious care and work has been put in by the Staff to resolve the (admittedly minor) issues and kick things up to a whole new level. This was never a bad game, it was always good. Now, though, it's coming up on fantastic. They kept all the good and smoothed out the little rough spots. I really couldn't be happier.
Game areas have taken a noticeable uptick in quality and design since the last time I played. They were never bad, they've just gotten better. I spent an afternoon fishing on the Wroonian coast the other day, because that's totally a thing now. Couldn't be more tickled by the variety of new quest types and styles I'm discovering. The builders have gotten amazingly creative.
Code updates and new feature releases have become a thing, and as they never really had been throughout my time on the game it's kind of a big deal to me. It really adds to the excitement, seeing long-desired features being added and things we never knew we wanted (but definitely do) getting released. Again, kudos to Staff here.
Roleplaying has moved away from being so comlink-specific and become a lot more common face to face. On top of that, almost everybody I've run into puts the effort into writing their own emotes (rather than exclusively using socials/say). This is more of a style preference than anything - different strokes for different folks - but I'm pretty thrilled with it. There's nothing wrong with says/socials, but emotes! I'm stoked. For the wordier RPers out there, if you tried LOTJ before and it wasn't your style, you may be pleasantly surprised by trying it again. Don't expect MUSH-style essays, but do expect some truly great, compact emotes that suit the faster-paced atmosphere of the game world. LOTJ has achieved that difficult to find middle-ground.
Something else I touched on before were Staff attitudes, which while by no means abusive, I did feel were a kind of antiquated. It had the air of being a Staff from another time - prone to flexing unnecessarily, so on. I go back to being baffled here, because it's like somebody waved a magic wand and it all vanished overnight. Same Staff, same playerbase, completely different atmosphere. Newbies are actively being recruited, too, which used to be kind of a rough spot - any game that survives for decades gets a bit of the "old guard" mentality, especially in a deliciously competitive environment like LOTJ's IC world. The "old guard" seems to have diminished of its own accord. Instead of "struggle like I had to!" attitudes it's "lets get this newbie the helpfiles they need to get good."
Honestly, this has been one of the most surprising returns to a game I think I've ever had. I've always been a fan of LOTJ, but this is something else. You guys are owed big, giant "well done."