Archive for July, 2016

Cities and Celebrations

Posted in LotRO, Online Gaming, Uncategorized on July 25, 2016 by koljarn

Sometimes, you need to break your own rules. I had been avoiding the Epic quest line for a few weeks now while friends were catching up. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that they have been sidetracked in other games, and in real-world activities. So, I’ve decided to go ahead and start pushing my way through the Epic once again. If my friends are ever able to join me again, I can always use a reflecting pool, to assist with the instanced parts.

Last week, I voiced my displeasure with performance in Minas Tirith. Of course, the Epic takes you right back to the city on a long series of FedEx quests. The conspiracy theorist in me says that this was intentionally designed, to encourage player to buy Mithril coins so they can teleport between quest sites. Who knows, maybe it’s true. Not a big deal for me, since I’ve been piling up Turbine Points for ages, but it could be considered gouging to a Free-to-Play user. Once again, the Tower of Ecthelion is in my rear view mirror. I’m Pelennor bound.

In server-specific news, there was a in-game concert on Landroval. Actually, it was the eighth time this annual concert was held. Called “Weatherstock,” it is held at the summit of Weathertop (hence the name), and lasts quite a few hours. There was quite a bit of creativity on display, as well as the requisite griefing attempt which crashed the zone for a while (it isn’t an online game without an idiot showing up). Overall, it was a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. I’m not a huge fan of in-game events, but they are important part of developing an online community. I will say that I enjoyed it enough that, should Warner renew the license for the Middle Earth IP, I would attend again next year.

Finally, the Summer Festival began over the weekend. I was pleasantly surprised that you can pick up Anfalas Crystals for legendary items using the festival currency. Part of why I sometimes avoided the festivals in the past is a sense that I should be working on content, levelling, or gearing up. This, at least, allows me to enjoy the festival and still work on my legendary items while I relax and go fishing. I approve.

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Exploring the White City

Posted in LotRO, Online Gaming on July 19, 2016 by koljarn

I have been avoiding tackling any of the Epic Quest storyline, as I’m waiting for my adventuring companions to catch up to my current chapter. However, I have been freely exploring and undertaking the local quest content, other than the Epic.

Having pushed my way through Itilien and into Minas Tirith, I like what I’ve seen, but I’ve run smack into the limitations of the game client at this point. Because LotRO is an older game, it rally doesn’t utilize multiple core CPUs all that well (after all, the game engine was written a decade ago). The main gate area of Minas Tirith is especially bad; the models and details thend to pop in slowly, and the performance degrades even further, the longer you move around the city (which indicates a memory leak as well). Remember Wulf’s Cleft back in Dunland? This is why all of the troops in the camp were actually 2d paintings rather than full 3d models. After a couple of hours, the game dumps me at the desktop. There are multiple posts on the official forums about this, some of them with in-depth analyses with charts and graphs. The bottom line is that you can expect a lot of crashing while in Minas Tirith (or restarting), as you are going to spend a lot of time there. The quests in the city are pretty well done; it feels like your point of view has switched to Pippin’s, which is no great shock.

I have also begun to top off my skirmish soldier’s stats. Skirmishing remains one of the things that LotRO gets right. It is the oppopsite of an Epic Battle, like Helm’s Deep; these are small battle, but the outcome of them feels significant. It doesn’t hurt that skirmishes are great ways of racking up experience and coinage.

So, that’s it for this entry; hopefully, I will have gotten to push past Pelargir next week.

The Road to Osgiliath

Posted in LotRO, Online Gaming, Uncategorized on July 11, 2016 by koljarn

So, a solid weekend of gaming. I don’t know if you could term this a serious return to LotRO, but I have certainly been enjoying the Gondor content so far. I think a moving to Landroval was a good choice. The people have been friendly, for the most part, and they even had a concert of sorts outside of Bree this weekend. I spent a little bit of time there, but a couple of my friends signed into the game, and I had to leave to meet up with them. The music system in LotRO is something that I wish other companies would emulate. It lends itself well to in-game social events, which is something missing from many other games.

The Gondor content has been enjoyable, so far. Aside from a few meaningless FedEx and Kill Ten Rats type of quests, Central Gondor feels right – it feels like LotRO used to feel. Pacing is slow, but steady and story-focused. Combat in LotRO is known to be slower-paced than other MMOs, but my Champion seems to deal with most opposition quickly enough that I can’t complain. I’m not up to Minas Tirith, yet; I only just finished exploring Pelargir. I completed the Epic Battle for the city, but I’m not a huge fan of the “Big Battle System.” To be perfectly honest, I feel like a third wheel in just about any Epic Battle; I found that I still enjoy a good Skirmish, though. Trouble in Tuckborough, Thievery and Mischief, and the Defense of the Prancing Pony all remain fun and atmospheric. I heartily recommend Skirmishing if you want to level up, or snag some new gear (it won’t be raid quality, but it will work fine for levelling and soloing).

Atmospherically, the game remains stunning. The environment is a major reason that I always kept returning to LotRO over the years. The graphical upgrades that came with 18.2 make the game even more of a feast for the eyes. Some of the images that I’ve seen, such as the view of the Beacons of Gondor near Calembel, the gulls wheeling over the ships docked at the quays of Dol Amroth, or the dark, foreboding skies that become more threatening as you travel further east, all of these are beautifully done and heighten the experience. Something I really miss, however, is the Chance Thomas soundtrack, which made the original zones, Moria, and Rohan even more enjoyable. I know more than a few people who play without music at all, however, so that may not be important to everyone.

I’m not sure how much life Turbine has in them, but I hope that we will at least get to the battle at Morannon. I suspect that they will add part of the Dead Marshes as well – I have mixed feelings about that, but it could be interesting.

Fell Deeds Awake

Posted in LotRO, Online Gaming on July 7, 2016 by koljarn

It has been many years since I last made an entry in this blog. There are a number of reasons for this, such as work, prioritization of time elsewhere, or a plain old lack of effort. Frankly, I sometimes wonder if writing in this blog wasn’t/isn’t just an act of narcissism; I’m certainly not a recognized video/computer game critic, and the subjective opinions I express here are just that – completely subjective, and probably of little use to anyone else.

Enough introspection.

In my last entry, I wrote about a revamp of the skirmish rewards system in LotRO. It seems appropriate, then, that I write about LotRO now. Update 18.2 was published on 7/5/2016, adding new featured instances, new housing features, and a new raid. If it seems like Turbine is catering to their users, they definitely are; Small instances are great for casual players, the housing additions make the RP crowd smile, and a new raid can be seen as reaching out to more hardcore players. I’ve seen plenty of criticism about all of the features in 18.2, though; just some more proof that you can’t satisfy everyone. It seems to me that just a few days after the release of the new features, it is a bit early to make any final judgments, though. From my own perspective, I like what I have seen.

I’m still playing catch-up in LotRO. I play from time to time, but take long breaks in-between. When I last played Burhhelm, I had arrived at Dol Amroth and done a few of the city quests. I don’t mind going through a grind, if I can play with a few friends on occasion, but grinding out reputation completely solo can be a chore. So, LotRO fell by the wayside in favor of other games for a bit. I was pleasantly, surprised, however, after I made another visit and found that large additional zones had been added. Exploring new areas is something I enjoy, so I decided to jump back into the game. So far, I have not regretted it (note, however, that I am not in any sort of end-game grind mode to try and get better gear).

I do like the epic quest line in Gondor, so far. However, it is noteworthy that we have strayed far from the original Shadows of Angmar concept; we were originally running interference for the Fellowship of the Ring by making a general nuisance of ourselves in Angmar, thus drawing attention away from the Ring-bearer. Things really started to diverge during the Mines of Moria expansion, and went fully off-track during the Siege of Mirkwood. Following in the tracks of the Fellowship seems like a sure fire way to draw more attention to their errand. Joining forces with the Grey Company did get the story back on track, but then Turbine had us hop from one side of the Misty Mountains to the other. As much as I absolutely loved the Riders of Rohan expansion, we really had no reason (story-wise) to visit Stangard, Wildermoor, or Eastern Rohan. While I was not a fan of the “Big Battles” of the Helms Deep expansion, I did like that we got back on track, following Aragorn and the Grey Company, essentially returning to the original concept of running interference for Frodo and Sam. To me, it feels like the game is back on course (plot-wise).

Another part of why I’m enjoying the game again may be due to the server consolidation. I used to play on Vilya, which was never heavily populated. However, it had become more than a little sparse. I understand not running into another player in the wilderness (the size of the LotRO map is huge), but it was becoming rare to even see another player in major towns. My circle of friends and I transferred to Landroval. Not the most densely populated server, but it has a respectable number of players, with an active player base. I haven’t attended any player-run events, yet (I haven’t done that sort of thing since I played UO, back before Y2K). However, I might take a look; we will see. I’m not looking to join a Kinship or anything similar, but it might be nice to make a few friends and acquaintances on this server.