Archive for November, 2011

Ugly Finish and Uglier Weekend

Posted in Isengard, LotRO, Online Gaming, Skirmishes on November 28, 2011 by koljarn

Burhhelm finally has four pieces of the Draigoch armor set. That’s likely to be about as much as he ever gets – there are Draigoch raids all the time on Vilya, but they only have openings for Captains and Burglars.  Speaking of which, why haven’t developers learned that requiring a certain class to complete an encounter is a bad idea? Other games have done it, and it become an exercise in irritation – I remember a WoW encounter that required a mage, and I (playing a mage) got so sick of it that I refused to keep going there (Gruul’s Lair mage tanking).  Thus, other people were unable to do what they wanted simply because one player got burned out on a single encounter. Bad design.

Anyway, armor objective achieved.  I had to go on a solo skirmish marathon (about 5 hours) in order to get enough marks to upgrade the final three marks – all the raid skirmishes being run were one of the five or so that I had done on Thursday.  Needless to say, I got tired of skirmishing.

The LotRO portion of my weekend had to be cut short, though.  One of the friends with whom I frequently play the game got hacked (his account, not him personally).  We have some thoughts about why (more on this later), but we have nothing concrete.  This happened fairly early on Saturday, so Turbine ignored him over the rest of the weekend. Not exactly the best customer service – it makes me wonder why a large company like Turbine doesn’t at least run a call center so people can open tickets with them via phone.  You can open a ticket through their website, but you’re never sure that the case will even be looked at – electronic communication is sketchy on feedback.

And on that note, this brings me to my suspicions on how my friend’s account got hacked. Since the Turbine forums were compromised a few weeks ago, I changed my password to a 16 character melange of partial words, gibberish, numbers, and special characters. I had been unable to log in to the forum pages to enter the lotteries for any of my characters since that time, so I opened a trouble ticket with Turbine.  They finally got back to me with their solution – change my password to a shorter one with no special characters.  After I stopped laughing, I decided that I could live without lotteries. If the forum site requires a short, non-complex password, then your password can be brute-forced. My friend and I both think that this is exactly what happened, since he did use a shorter password.  He too is willing to forgo lotteries in favor of a secure password, now.

Anyway, since my friend was unable to play LotRO, I fired up Minecraft and that’s how I spent the weekend.  Minecraft is up to version 1.0 full release – no longer beta – and it’s a fine way to pass time.  I don’t know if I could play it for an extended period of time, but it made a nice distraction.  It’s no threat to MMOs, though. Just something different.

The Clock is Ticking

Posted in Isengard, LotRO, Online Gaming on November 22, 2011 by koljarn

OK, so this post is a bit alarmist. Consider yourself forewarned.

Part of Update 5 will be an overhaul of the various instance tokens and skirmish mark systems presently in place.  There is going to be a three-tier system put in place with different currencies dropping from skirmishes and other instances based on size and difficulty.  Okay, that will cause issues by itself, but I’ll get into that in a little while.  Some people have been saying that the rate at which you earn marks in the new system is completely out of whack. While Update 5 is still in beta, this should make you sit up and take note. From that thread and other reviews of Update 5, I have formed the following opinions:

  1. Better the devil that you know: The present system for earning marks which you can turn in for gear is a grind.  There is a serious potential for the system after Update 5 to be even more of a grind. My thoughts are that people should go earn as much gear as possible right now, do not wait.
  2. By their gear shall you know them: There will once again be a distinct division between raiders, instancers, and solo players.  Raiders will have the best gear, instancers will have the second-best, and solo players will have the trash that no one else wants.  The biggest problem in this stratified model is that it is nearly impossible to move up the ladder.  Instancers don’t want you around unless you are geared for instances, which you cannot do unless you get invited into an instance group.  Get it?  This happens in every MMO which features raiding in an exclusive manner, and there is no reason to expect that human nature will be any different in LotRO.
  3. Time to punch in: The reward to cost ratio for skirmishes is absurd, at present.  It is being looked at.  Let’s hope it gets serious revisions, or skirmishing will literally be a second full-time job if you want to get anything done.
  4. It’s just a game: This simple fact is getting lost in the shuffle. LotRO is an entertaining game, but it is only a game – Right now, it is relatively casual and relaxed – something you can do to unwind after a day of work. Hopefully, it stays that way and doesn’t turn into a grind-fest.

So, there.  I have vented and don’t regret it. I am whole-heartedly subscribing to item number one, though. So, if you’re looking for me, I’ll be trolling the Unite channel on Vilya for skirmishes and instances.  Burhhelm needs some new pants.

A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to Level 75

Posted in LotRO, Online Gaming on November 21, 2011 by koljarn

I’ve been trying to earn Superior Fourth Marks for Burhhelm every chance I get.  However, there are long periods where no one seems to need anyone other than tanks and/or healers, which is fine.  That’s why you have alts, right?

So, I have been working on my Captain. I loved the Captain at lower levels, but some time around level 45, the class starts to hit like an anemic poodle trying to swing a bamboo lawn rake. In other words, they can’t do very much on their own.  I banished the Captain for some time, testing the waters with a  Warden and a Lore Master.  However, one of my friends prodded me into giving the Captain another chance.  A strange thing started to happen at about level 60: the Captain started to hold his own once again.  He still doesn’t do damage on par with a Champion, of course (heck, a Captain can’t really keep pace with a 2H Guardian). However, a Captain is tough.  He hangs in there and makes up for his weaker damage by surviving, much like a tank.  His marks and shouts keep him healed, rather than just weathering the storm with armor and avoidance.

That Captain isn’t up to level 75, yet, but the experience of playing the class is far less painful than it was before.  Hopefully, this momentum can be sustained all the way to the level cap.

PUGnacious Perseverance

Posted in LotRO, Online Gaming on November 14, 2011 by koljarn

After a two week drought, Burhhelm has finally begun to get a trickle of Superior Fourth marks by attending PUG skirmish raids.  For those not familar with the term with regards to MMOs, a PUG is not a breed of dog.  A shame, really, because hanging out with a dog is generally preferable to PUG-ing in a MMO.  In MMO-speak, a PUG is a group of players with nothing in common except for a desire to complete a particular raid, instance, or encounter.  In most cases, they haven’t grouped with each other before and they are probably not familiar with each other’s styles of play. In other words, it is likely to be a disorganized mess.

Likely, but not necessarily.  Out of the three skirmish raids in which I participated, only one was a failure. The other two went very well, and there are specific reasons why they succeeded.  It is worth posting, because these reasons are good guidelines for anyone who wants to run – or participate in – a PUG.

1. Don’t assume that everyone knows how to deal with mob X, special attack Y, or programmed event Z.  A brief comment can keep the entire raid on an even keel and acting together.

2. Don’t use the in-game voice chat exclusively.  It’s fine for “Look out!” type announcements, but it is generally like trying to listen to someone speaking to you via a fast-food drive-in intercom. If it’s important information that people must have, then type it out.

3. If you’re going to avoid triggering the special encounters for a skirmish, then steer well clear of them and communicate this to everyone in the raid. Pulling a nasty elite mob into the ranged and healing players while the melee players are in a pitched battle is likely to cause problems.

4. When running a raid, keep things simple.  Nominate one main tank who will try to hold agro for incoming mobs.  Nominate an off-tank to peel mobs off of the healers and ranged classes.  Finally, name a DPS assist – all non-tanks should target through the DPS assist.  It is simplistic, and thus it works well with a group of random people.

5. Similarly, select a simple Fellowship Maneuver for your group to follow.  Everyone should try to participate in the maneuver when it triggers. Fellowship maneuvers should not make-or-break a raid, but they do make things run more smoothly.

Those 5 little steps may seem like common sense, but treat them like a checklist anyway. If you find yourself in a skirmish raid where these points are all being addressed, then you will succeed. Simple as that.

For All the Wrong Reasons

Posted in LotRO, Online Gaming on November 9, 2011 by koljarn

My Captain alt has been making (slow) progress.  Up to level 61, he has finally acquired a Galadhrim horse (his first 250 health mount) and acquired the “In Defence of Middle Earth” trait. During all of this, he has gone up a mere three levels, from 58 to 61.  Why so slow?

I’ve made it no secret that I’m not a fan of the class, probably because I group with friends on weekends, but during the week I almost exclusively solo. My philosophy has always been that grouping is for achievements, loot, and fun.  Solo play is more focused on development – levelling up should be done solo, so you are not a drag on other people.  Likewise, earning coin and crafting needs to be done solo so you don’t infringe on other people’s time. Now, don’t misunderstand – the Captain class is capable of solo play.  However, unlike a Champion (which excels at solo play), the Captain sort of muddles on when alone. A Captain has heavy armour and can heal himself on the fly, so he’s go a lot of staying power. Unfortunately, I never placed staying power as high on my list of priorities as killing speed.

So, why do I torture myself by playing the Captain? Oh, you’re going to smirk at this.  I play him because he’s a forester and a tailor, and he’s already fairly high level. I’m sure it sounds silly, but my circle of friends has no full Guild tailor amongst their characters, but they still have characters that need light or medium armour (and everyone needs a cloak). Furthermore, the only high-level woodworker we have is Burhhelm.  True, he is a member of the Weaponsmith’s Guild, but he’s all we’ve got – and he cannot collect or refine lumber. So, I feel a bit trapped into playing the Captain.  No wonder I have so much animosity for the poor guy.

Well, back to the grind.  It’s almost time to trudge through Mirkwood.

Captain Asthmatic

Posted in LotRO, Online Gaming on November 1, 2011 by koljarn

Grouping for Superior Fourth Marks has been slow.  How slow?  I’ve gotten more than half of Burhhelm’s marks from skirmishing.  It’s been a bit frustrating, so much so that I’ve taken to playing alts while monitoring chat channels.

I’ve got a few alts, and I thought that the next one that I was going to level up would be my Guardian.  My friends, however, encouraged me to look into playing my Captain once again.  I had left the poor sod at level 58, stranded in Moria.  Disgusted by the Captain’s lack of DPS and staying power, I had no use for the class.  Yes, I know it’s a support class, but solo capability is vital in a game where you spend most of your activities on your own.

After a few day, I believe that I can say that given the changes from the Rise of Isengard, the Captain is more viable than he was before. People say that his damage output is better, but I still find it weak.  What he has, however, is amazing staying power. He may be wheezing along in a protracted battle almost every fight he gets into, but he will win. It’s not exciting, it’s not glamorous, and it’s not flashy, but the Captain certainly gets the job done.