Archive for October, 2009

And Now for Something Completely Different

Posted in Background Noise with tags on October 28, 2009 by koljarn

This blog has been going for over a year, and so I thought I might introduce you to the brains behind the whole thing.  He has the brains of a rocket scientist.  I’m not sure where he’s hiding them.  He’s also got the cunning of a Bond villain, which he demonstrates every day.  Yes, I mean my fox terrier, Kipling:

A fox terrier in his natural habitat.  On the couch, where you want to sit.

A fox terrier in his natural habitat. On the couch, where you want to sit.

He’s ten years old, so I figured I’d give him the moment in the spotlight that he craves.  Well, it isn’t really the spotlight that he craves so much as KFC.  Like all terriers, he’s a bit loopy.  Then again, people who own terriers are a bit loopy themselves.

Captains Courageous

Posted in LotRO with tags on October 26, 2009 by koljarn

Another weekend gone, and another one spent with friends in what seems to be our standard questing group.  That’s two Captains, a Hunter, and a Rune Keeper.  Mostly, it’s a hybrid group, but it has been enough to deal with most elite swarms on-level.  It could probably use a Champion for more off-tanking and AoE, but it’s pretty sound, despite being a shade low on DPS.

That’s the one limitation that we have run into.  Even with a Hunter, our DPS is a bit low.  Of course, our hunter runs out of power only ten seconds into your average fight – the rest of the group is not sure how he’s doing that, but it impresses us.  Anyway, we’re beefing up our levels for a trip to Fornost in two weeks.  Burhhelm has already furnished new melee weapons to everyone, and those should last in the low 40s.  Authang is trying to keep up with the demand for new jewelry, but the lack of crit material (yellow rock salt) is holding me back from making some really nice things.  I suppose Burhhelm is going to have to go a-mining once more.

One last question which we have been knocking around is what weapon a Captain should use.  There are three real options in the two-handed range, as we see it.  The first is the greatsword – it’s probably the best for soloing.  The racial 2% bonus to sword damage is nice, but it’s not a deal breaker.  The headsman’s axe is nice when grouping, because it can debuff a target’s armor for the whole group.  The other weapon that we’ve been knocking around is the halberd.  The extra threat generated by a halberd is useful when trying to peel a mob of of a lightly armored person, and it’s useful for holding agro.  Which one of these is the “best” weapon for a Captain?  I can’t say for sure.  It may be that you want one of each, really.  Each of them has a niche.

No, I Will Not Deliver Your Pie

Posted in LotRO with tags on October 22, 2009 by koljarn

I’ve been clearing out the low-level deeds with Angring, my Captain.  Part of this required an extended stay in the Shire.  Rapture.  Glee.  Yippee.

Anyone who knows me is already acquainted with my personal view of Hobbits: they are the other white meat.  Setting aside my rage in the pursuit of Deeds, I tore into the various quests, killing sprees, and exploration tasks.  I’m pleased that I’m nearly done, but there is one quest chain which I will not touch: the infamous pie delivery.

You know the one.  The chain where you are not allowed to get near a “Hungry Hobbit,” or they may smell your pie.  Actually “smell the pie” sounds like a naughty euphemism, doesn’t it?  In the quest line, someone discovers that the pie filling is rancid, and you have to bring all of the pies back without allowing a Hungry Hobbit to sniff one of the rancid pastries.  This is the part which I don’t get at all.  If the pies are rotten, then you can be sure that I’m handing more of them out.  I’m hoping that the little rodent-scum all die of botulism.

Of course, I’ve been over this rant before.  I apologize for repeating myself, but hobbits have that effect on me.

So, the plan is to get fully deeded by this weekend, then the Captains Three (though the third seems to be morphing onto a Hunter) will storm the Great Barrow for once and all.  It ought to be fun.

Bobbing for Pumpkins

Posted in LotRO with tags on October 16, 2009 by koljarn

The Fall Festival is in swing in the Shire, the Ered Luin, and in Bree.  You can almost smell the harvest brews and just about taste the baked treats.  Okay, that’s more than an exaggeration.

The Festival really consists of running around and knocking out a few quests each day, emoting at some NPCs and using objects here and there.  It’s not rocket science, but it will keep interested parties busy for about an hour each day.  I’m trying this out, just for grins.  You can get a statue or maybe another horse, nothing to so excited that you wet yourself.  Unless, maybe, you’re the type who has to redecorate your house every season, or has to own one of every horse in the game.

I don’t want anyone to misunderstand – I like the fact that the festival is in the game.  It adds a little depth, and offers some nice non-combat things to do.  It’s just not my thing.  However, I would suggest that anyone who wants to try out a festival get it in gear and explore this one, because the winter festival will probably coincide with the Siege of Mirkwood expansion.

Grab the content while you can – you may not have time later.

I Blame Alfred Hitckock

Posted in LotRO with tags on October 14, 2009 by koljarn

I’ve been cleaning up the ol’ Deed Log, grinding out a few slayer deeds here and there.  I’m mostly done with Eregion.  I completed my genocidal campaigns against the Half Orcs, the Dunlendings, the Worms, the Wolves and Wargs, and even the vermin (Lizards and Crawlers).  However, it’s been problematic to get myself motivated to finish off the Craban Slayer deed.

Those crows are just a bit too sparse.  They are everywhere, but only occur in small clusters, which makes killing 360 of them a tedious chore.  I know it could be worse – I have a few Misty Mountains deeds on my list as well, and there is no outpost of civilization near the mobs in that zone.  However, it’s still irritating.  Just because I feel the need to blame someone I am blaming Alfred Hitchcock for filming “The Birds.”  I’m also blaming Crow T. Robot, just because I can.


Addendum: Okay, the troll-slayer deed in Angmar has got this beat.  The trolls aren’t difficult to find, it’s just slow, slow, slow.  That’s what I get for chasing after the Discipline virtue.

It’s Shiny, It’s Silvery, It’s a Pain to Find

Posted in LotRO with tags on October 9, 2009 by koljarn

Yes, smiths and smithettes, I’m referring to mithril flakes.

As a weaponsmith, I find myself needing far less mithril than, say, a jeweller or an armorer.  I still mine, however.  Just because I don’t need an upgrade right now doesn’t mean that I won’t make something for friends, my kinship, or an alt.  So, I still mine, and I do find the occasional flake of mithril.

There are some signature and elite mobs in Moria and in Lothlorien that will drop a flake a mithril, also.  However, finding them is a rarity, and fighting a level 60 elite is not something that I do solo.  The majority of the mithril  that I have found has come from mining.

I can honestly say that the mithril flakes that I found by mining have all been found in Moria or in Lothlorien.  Never in Eregion.  Also, I’ve never found a mithril flake in a rich node of ore.  Only in basic nodes.  I’ve found mithril in khazad copper, khazad iron, and khazad gold nodes.  I suspect they can also be found in khazad tin, but I have never come across a flake of mithril that way.

I’ll also say that the best place to hunt mithril by mining is not in Moria.  There are too many hostile mobs that slow you down, and you end up doing as much fighting as mining.  If you’re still not level 60 then the experience is welcome, of course.  If you are level 60, then you should take steps to gain access to Lothlorien as soon as possible.  Lothlorien has some hostile mobs, but it also has a high number of neutral animals.  These animals don’t attack you on sight, so you can dig up nodes of ore without interruption.  Statistically, mining more nodes means finding more mithril.

When doing some serious nonstop mining, I gather one or two mithril flakes per hour spent in Lothlorien.  I also get a load of ore, which I can use or sell as I see fit.  You can even pick up the Lorien quests and mine as you ride from location to location.  Getting some reputation and a bit of pocket money is always welcome.

The Riddle of Steel

Posted in LotRO with tags on October 8, 2009 by koljarn

So, the devs have posted a diary entry on the LotRO page about the new legendary weapon system.  There are two halves to it.  Here are the basics, plus my knee-jerk reactions.

First, the experience table for items is being revamped, which will mean that it will be easier than before to get a legendary item or weapon up to the mid-point in experience.  That’s good – it allows you to make new legendary items useful in a timely fashion.  Existing legendary items will have their level caps raised and have their experience level adjusted for their existing number of experience points.  Okay, no problem there.

Second, the legacy system is going to be overhauled.  Legacies will be divided into primary (highly desirable) and secondary (nice to have, but frequently useless) categories.  A newly identified legendary item will always get a random primary legacy assigned to it.  There is a chance at adding an additional primary legacy as you advance the item in level and earn reforgings.  Okay, I guess – it would be nice to be guaranteed another primary ability at level 30 or 40, though.  It’s not like it doesn’t take a good deal of work to get an item to that level.  Finally, existing items will have their legacies reset according to the new legacy system.  This is something I do not like – if you worked long and hard forging weapons until you came up with a desirable one, then it’s a bit of a slap in the face to get it taken away from you.

Speaking of slaps in the face, there is a P.S. for Champions: your stance based legacies are on the chopping block.  While I found the legacies for Champions to be lacking in overall utility, I simply have too much paranoia and cynicism built up from playing various MMORPGs over the years regarding rumored “fixes” to existing items/systems.  To be blunt: I think the devs are going to cause more harm than help with regards to legendary Champion items.

That could be the paranoia talking.  We’ll have to wait a little longer to see what the situation is.

Get the Cheese Ready, Here Comes a Whine

Posted in LotRO with tags on October 6, 2009 by koljarn

I really enjoy playing LotRO, but there is one issue that I run into again and again: the integrated voice chat is less than stellar.

Now, you may be saying “It comes with the game, and you pay nothing extra for it – what more do you want?”  What I want is a voice chat that offers a decent volume control and a microphone gain control that works.

My complaint about the volume control is nothing new; do a search of different blogs, articles, and forums, and you will see the same thing here and there.  There are two issues that I personally have with the voice chat volume controls in LotRO: first, they don’t go up high enough, second, you can’t adjust individual players.  I understand that the second may be a bit too much to expect from a primitive version of a voice chat package, so I suppose I could overlook it.  However, I have all of my other sounds turned down to less than 10% just to make the voice chat come in at a reasonable level.  This, of course, means that I have to crank the volume on my speakers so that I can hear anything at all.  Which means that when I play any music or sound effect outside of the game, I have to be sure to turn down the volume or I’ll blow the windows out of my house.  Get the idea?

As for the in-game microphone gain, I’ll tell you outright that it just doesn’t work.  At present, doing a microphone test in Windows will nearly deafen you, but in voice chat it barely comes across as a whisper.  That’s with the gain controls maxxed.

So, how do I know that the culprit is the LotRO voice chat and not my hardware or Windows settings?  Because, amusingly enough, the microphone and playback work just fine in Ventrilo or Teamspeak.  It’s not a serious problem, of course, but it is something that I encounter several times a week, and so I had to voice my frustration.

Trio of Terror

Posted in LotRO with tags on October 5, 2009 by koljarn

When I started playing LotRO, I had my eye out not only for a game that I would enjoy by myself, but also for one that would keep my fickle friends interested.  They tend to play a game for a few months, then move on – as do I.  So far, LotRO has kept all of us busy with no sign of getting old.

However, one of my friend decided to change his preferred character class after taking a minstrel all the way up to level 45.  He’s playing his Rune Keeper alt, who can also heal fairly well.  He says that the Rune Keeper does far more damage, and is a more viable solo character.  Not having played a Rune Keeper or a minstrel, I have no way of making any judgements on this.

My other friend is levelling his Guardian through his 50’s using a greatsword instead of sword and board.  My Guardian has just ground his way to 30, and I can absolutely confirm that they are a nightmare to level with sword and board – they kill so slowly that mobs respawn around them, and your cooldowns are available multiple times in a single fight.  Two handed upgrades their DPS from pitiful to mediocre, but it makes them more viable solo – and they are still rather tough, even without a shield.

That’s where our main characters are at.  This Saturday, we tried something a little different.  One of my friend’s sons came along with us, and we tried a low-level group composed of three Captains and a Burglar.  These alts are all in thier low 20’s, but the healing from three Captains is nothing to sneeze at.  Additionally, I would have to say that their two-handed damage is just about on par with that of a Guardian, plus they get a henchman and some very nice buffs.  Three Captains plus their henchmen make a healing/DPSing stampede which can overwhelm large numbers of mobs in a single pull.  It was a blast, and we may try another outing in a few levels (so we can clear out our quest logs and start fresh).  I’d like to hit the Great Barrow with a level 25ish group with three Captains in the mix, that would be a good test of their durability.

Longevity – the Topic that Refuses to Die

Posted in Background Noise with tags on October 3, 2009 by koljarn

More random brainstorming about MMORPG longevity.  I’ve been considering the setting and the role it plays in keeping someone interested in the game.

You can have dynamic, simple and yet eloquent controls, an efficient and appealing game engine, and knockout visual and audio effect, but without a good setting, it all fizzles.  As a matter of fact, a good setting can keep a game around for a long time on its own.  Take Ultima Online as an example.  Even with updated graphics, the game engine is an old clunker based on tiles.  However, the setting of Britannia from the DOS-based Ultima games is compelling enough to keep subscribers coming back for more.

In what may seem like a paradox, though, games set in what appears to be a hot IP (Star Wars Galaxies and the Matrix Online come to mind) are not generally well received.  A lot of that may come down to slipshod development, and trying to get by on the strength of the IP alone.  However, I think that more is expected out of a game that tries to present itself using a hot IP.