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.

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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.

Trecentesimus (That’s 300, in Latin)

Posted in Isengard, LotRO, Online Gaming, Skirmishes on December 13, 2011 by koljarn

My 300th post.  I was torn between using a edjamakated and fancified title or using a 300-related movie reference (Madness?  This!  Is! WordPress!). Obviously, I chose the former.

Fortunately, there is a little substance to this one as well.  Update 5 hit the servers, and it has brought the half-baked instance finder, new instances, and a new barter currency system with it. I tend to skirmish a great deal – when you get an hour here or there on a weeknight, that’s the best you can do – so I’ll pay the most attention to how the barter changes affected the skirmish vendors.

Last night started with an amusing diversion (amusing if you like tech issues).  I was updating the LotRO client, when all of a sudden it errored out and my second hard drive vanished.  Nifty trick, eh? Turned out that it wasn’t a software problem – the SATA cable had a bad connection.  Irritating, since the sables are stretched pretty tightly in my case.   Just to be on the safe side, I ordered some new (longer) cables.  They’re pretty cheap. Anyway, after getting the hard drive operational again, I went back to LotRO.

Update 5 applied pretty quickly, and I logged in to find a “treasure hunt” event underway. It appears that it was linked to the lottery or something along those lines, which means I won’t get getting involved. Since Turbine has had so many security issues, I just don’t trust their LotRO community site.  I know people whose accounts have been hacked multiple times, and they’ve never found any security issues on their home systems – they did, however, log in to the community site.  Maybe I’m just paranoid, but a little paranoia is good for you. Anyway, if you play the LotRO lottery, then you might be interested.

I had a limited amount of time last night, but I managed to do two of the repeatable quests in Galtrev, looked around the new Isengard instance hub, and checked out the skirmish camp. The Galtrev repeatables remain the same, except for the “Defence of Galtrev” quest. That one offers some new titles for legendary items.  I’m not sure about how desirable they are, but it bears looking into. The Isengard instance hub appears to be accessible by a hidden entrance near Quickbeam’s grove.  You’ll get a free port to the hub the first time via a quest. Not much to see, there; class-specific NPCs, standard NPC merchants, and the barter merchant for the Isengard raid.

Which brings us to my focus – the skirmish merchants.  You will find that all of your campaign marks and First through Fourth marks have been converted to the new standardized currency – plain old “Marks.” Superior Fourth marks may be converted to either Medallions or Seals at your discretion right now.

It may be worth your time to take the Medallions, but I chose Seals. If you didn’t buy your armor before Update 5 went live, you’ll find that you need to do a lot more work to get it – a Superior Fourth mark only nets you two Seals, and armor costs over 150 seals. I suppose Turbine didn’t want people stockpiling the old currency and grabbing a handful of new gear.  If you’ve been unlucky enough to not get any cracked sigils, you can get them from the Crafting merchant in the skirmish camps.  However, I found them to be needlessly expensive. Still, if you have more  Marks than you can spend on other things, you may want to buy sigils.

Lastly, Scrolls of Greater Empowerment and Greater Scrolls of Delving are available.

These, I like.  They will cost you some Marks and Medallions (though you can spend Seals, but I think that’s a waste). Medallions are pretty easily found, so you will be able to rank up the tier on your level 75 legendary items with a little effort. More worthwhile than the sigils, in my opinion.

A Civ V Hangover

Posted in Background Noise on December 12, 2011 by koljarn

Wow, I feel like I’m back in college.  I woke up this morning, groggy and with a dull headache, wondering where the hell the weekend went.  Then, I remembered.  A friend and I spent all weekend playing Civ V over Steam.  Not multiple games, mind you – one long, drawn-out game which is still not finished.  Brutal wait times for the A.I. – I recommend that you do not play this game if you lack patience.

On the other hand, it’s always fun to run roughshod over a unit of pikemen with your modern tank platoon.  Just saying.

A Bit of the Ol’ Burn-Out

Posted in Online Gaming on December 5, 2011 by koljarn

The problem with looking for skirmish raids and instance runs every time that I log in is that it’s very similar to looking for a job opening.  I find it draining and, ultimately, it saps my enthusiasm for the game.  So, I took a vacation from LotRO and spent some time in Minecraft this weekend.  Relaxing, but not without flaws of its own.

Anyway, I’ll see what I can do in LotRO this week – maybe levelling my Captain a bit more, or maybe working on my Guardian.  We’ll see. It would have been nice to get a Draigoch run in, though.

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.