Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy holidays to all you LOTRO fans out there. I sincerely hope the season brings you joy and goodwill. Best wishes to you all. And be sure to check out the LOTRO Yule festival in game.


Get to Know Gollum

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

In the continuing Know Your Lore column at Massively, they explorer Gollum. Check it out.


Yet Another LOTRO Blogger

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Well, not strictly LOTRO. I'm the only one I know about. But anyway, if you ever pay attention to the blogroll there on the left, you'll noticed that VanHemlock has started playing LOTRO. A little late in the game, but so is the Monday Night LOTRO group comprising the Ancient Gaming Noob, the Common Sense Gamer, Michael Zenke of Massively, and others.

I must say I'm very pleased to see the bloggers I love to read the most stepping into the game I love to play the most. I my mind, LOTRO is this little gem admists a sea of great MMO games. For me, it hits one of the major reasons I love fantasy RPGs: the Tolkien world brought fantasy home to me, and to experience fantasy interactively within Tolkien's world is the prefect fit for me.

I highly recommend if you're interested in LOTRO to read this post and VanHemlock's continuing posts about LOTRO (along with his podcast). I have a feeling he will do a wonderful job of conveying the first impressions (which are a unique experience in and of themselves) of LOTRO. Where my first impressions are over two years behind me, his are in the immediate present.


My Bloody Bags Are Full!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Full of way too much stuff. I have a spare weapon in my pack, which I don't know why I bother with since I've never, ever, in the two years or so that I've been playing needed. Then there's the crafting tool that isn't equipped. My horse and map. All my pots, which include three different healing and power pots (want to use up the ones I got until I move onto the next tier) and wound, poison, and disease healing pots. Oh, and a stack of hope tokens. Then there's my different banners and my herald armaments. Then I have an infused garnet sitting around till I dump it off at my house for storage until I do the legendary item quests associated with it (probably talk about that when I do). A stack of magnificent and exceptional hides for mailing to kinmates when they're full. A couple quest items (thank goodness for the seperate storage for quest items now). And then there's the whole host of spare legendary items being leveled or waiting to be leveled. Which means I have about 2 bags worth of room for trash loot and the subsequent cash from vendoring it. Considering I don't make money as a Yeoman, this is a potential penny pinching problem. And that reminds me, I have two different food stuffs in there as well.

Whew. Enough with that paragraph. It's as full as my bags. So what to do about this problem? Well, I'll shortly be rid of 3 of those legendary items - after reforging and leveling to 11. One more will quickly follow suit. But there's still too much stuff in my bags. I would really love to see larger bags. Maybe add 5 slots per for a purchase price or something.

Sure, the extra vendor chests are wonderful for the stuff that you don't keep on your person, but when you have all this stuff that more or less needs to be on you at all times, there needs to be a look at this part of the storage system.

Anybody else having storage problems? I know it's an ever-present dead horse on the forums, but I thought I'd give my two cents. Which, until recently, wasn't really that much of a problem. I think the addition of legendary items threw the issue over the edge for me.


The Zelem-Melek Hero

In their continuing fashion, Turbine recently released another hero's guide to an area within Moria. This time it's Zelem-Melek. In the interest of avoiding spoilers for myself, I have not read it. I don't know anything about Zelem-Melek. But if you want to, check out the guide.

And by the way, if you didn't guess from the last post, I've finally entered Moria. I finished most of the Eregion quests aside from the small fellowship quests out of Echad Mirobel that send you into the instance down there. There's about six or seven quests that I'll probably get back to at a later date (read after hitting 60).


An Explorer's Paradise

Moria is an explorer's paradise. It's so huge, so labyrinthine, so wonderfully the uber dungeon that anybody who loves to explore in MMOs will have a field day (or field months) with this place. I'm one of those explorer types. I love to see the world, the whole world, and all the little nooks and crannies.

What makes Moria special in this regard is the vertical space. The typical landscape in an MMO is a 2D plain. Now, sure, these plains have hills and mountains and the like, but you're rarely if ever running in and around and underneath your previous and future paths. Where you see this kind of thing is in dungeons. Well, Moria is the ultimate dungeon ripe for exploration. There's so much to see that in just one of the areas that I know this place will occupy my time for months, if not until the next expansion comes out - it's that big.

Many of the complaints about expansions is that they don't offer enough to do until the next one comes out. I must say, become an explorer and enter Moria. You'll be sated for a long while.


To Deed or Not To Deed

With the release of the Mines of Moria, most of the traits (the virtues) rewarded from the deed system can be advanced to their final 10th tier. And in some cases the there are more deeds to advance these traits than are tiers to advance, so once you complete a set of deeds that gives you the 10th tier, there's no longer any tangible reward for completing the deed.

So why would you even bother? Well, I'm one of those people who will probably bother. Why? Well, as I've said before, I'm a completionist type. I look through my deed log and see uncompleted deeds and I begin to cringe. I prefer an empty... or rather completed deed log. Unfortunately, that takes quite a bit of time, and without tangible rewards, I'm only grinding these deeds out for a goal that's purely in my head. That often makes for a tough sell, even for myself. Especially when I have a host of more entertaining content sitting in the form of Moria and Lothlorien.

And I have a long way to go yet. Only the Shire and the Trollshaws have had every quest completed (aside from the Raids in Rivendell) and every deed completed. Oh well. It just means this game has life for me.


Farming and Snowing

I'm back with a couple screenshots. I just love taking screenshots. Part of it's because I love to take pictures in real life, and what's great about this game is that it's beautiful enough to inspire me as often as real life does.

This weekend I leveled up through the Tier 6 farming out in the Hobbiton fields where there is the superior vegetable farmland. Being in the Shire, it's never a dull moment when it comes to the pristine scenery, especially in the morning.

And then I'm also questing in Eregion. Some of the quests lead you out towards the Redhorn Gate and Caradhras. You know, the famous mountain that was not pleased at the fellowship's passing. Actually, it wasn't the mountain itself, but one of the elemental spirits that inhabit Middle-Earth. In any case, the mountains were out in all their glory.


The World Beyond Moria

Saturday, December 20, 2008

So where are we going? Famous and humorous words from Pippin, but a good question nonetheless. So where after Moria and Lothlorien is the world headed? I like to look at Hayoo's Vision of the Ring speculated expansion map because it is usually kept up to date. If you click the link and then scroll to the Mines of Moria expansion you can see generally what's in the world currently. I think the MoM landmass has a few things in it on this map than actually exists in the game, such as Tharbad and the Moria PvMP zone, but otherwise it's generally a good map to compare the lands in the game to the "actual" lands of Middle-Earth.

The developers have repeatedly stated the primary goal is to follow the fellowship through their quest to Mordor. So far, that's pretty straight forward given that the fellowship is all together at the moment. Presumably the fellowship is waiting around in Lothlorien like they were in Rivendell. I have personally been to Lothlorien yet so I cannot confirm or deny this. But it goes to follow the pattern. And that's what we're working with when talking about speculated directions with this game. What is the pattern and how can we use that to make an educated guess about where we're headed next?

Well, the pattern after the release of Shadows of Angmar was free book updates ever 2.5 ot 3 months or so. We saw a major land mass added in Book 9, the immediate book update after release. We also saw another major addition four books later with Forochel. In between there were minor landscape additions every other book or so.

If this pattern continues, we should see a major landscape addition with the next book. However, we should note that Evendim was at work just before launch to be ready by Book 9's release. The question is, was a major landscape being worked on at the same time as the Mines of Moria expansion? It's a hard question to answer yes to given the time, tallent, and resources that went into Moria and the major systems put in place or tweaked. There's a good chance we'll see a major landscape addition with the second book update after Moria.

Where will this addition take us? Well, a logical direction would be to the area that houses Dol Gildur, Sauron's old haunt from the time of the Hobbit. With Sauron no longer in attendance, various orc/goblin factions might be vying for control and/or another power struggle like we saw up in Angmar with Volume 1. This would be my first guess.

My second guess would be a lower level region somewhere in Eriador to fill the level gaps I talked about before. Many of the devs have expressed a desire to see some of these gaps filled with more content for more leveling path options. A few logical places would be the connection between the Shire and Ered Luin, Southfarthing, or south of Breeland. I'm a bit leary of this type of update because of the epic storyline included with each book addition. The need for high level content in the same area as significantly lower level content poses the obstacle of how to integrate the two without causing difficulties for the lower level players.

As to what the next expansion might be... my guess would be Rohan. The fellowship has split, but there's a nice resting place for most of our main characters in Edoras and/or Helms Deep. It will be a bit more challenging with the timeline due to the swift movement of the Fellowship members through Rohan and in and out of Fangorn.

Many players desire to see places from the hobbit open up. As much as I agree with that sentiment I'm reluctant to guess that direction due to the pattern of following the fellowship. We see this both in the current content and stated goals by various developers. The hobbit content follows none of the fellowship. I find it unlikely we'll see Hobbit content except perhaps in the form of free book update detours. The next major expansion will more than likely be southward instead of north.


The Christmas Mess

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Between the snow and the Christmas rush, my job as a temp holiday worker at UPS hasn't let me log into LOTRO in the last few days, and even posting this short message is pushing my time. So, let's call this a little Christmas break whilst I deal with some real-life aggro. See you this weekend.


Empty Zones?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

One of the topics covered in the latest episode of RingCast was the fact that the older content has and will be abandoned for the newer content of Eregion and Moria. This is a two-fold problem. First, the level 50 instances and raids no longer have any significance (aside from Carn Dum and Urugarth which hold the level 45 class quest items). Second, the larger world content as a whole is no longer relavent to the characters who have progressed beyond that content level. As the game progresses, this is more and more of the player base - which means the zones become more and more empty.

The question becomes, what to do about it? Through third party research (that is, reading other blogs, official forums, etc) I have realized that little to no MMOs have really addressed this question well. However, there is one system Turbine has already implemented that might be put to good use in dealing with half of this problem.

Repeating the epic story instances is incentivized by rewarding those who have already done them with barter items for relevant rewards. Thus, as fewer and fewer people are going through the lower epic story instances, the greater the demand for a full fellowship to help them complete the story. Giving players a reason to help their fellows (aside from out of the kindness of their heart) really helps the lack of groups for these instances. This sytem could be used in nearly the same fashion with the older level 50 instances and raids. Give these a level window to where the content is relevent and rewarding. Any player higher than this window will instead receive barter items as rewards rather than the epic gear which isn't so epic for them anymore. In the same fashion as the epic book instances are desired content even for those who have already completed them, so can the level 50 raids for those who have out-leveled them.

Now comes the problem of the content being too trivialized for the higher-level player. In other MMOs, a system of scaling the player level is used in various fashions (such as sidekicking in City of Heroes). So, the players that engage in this level 50 content as a level 60, for instance, will be scaled back to an appropriate level for the duration of the instance or raid. Then, once they're out, their barter items are turned in for level 60 relevent rewards. The content is no longer trivialized, and neither are the rewards. Furthermore, Turbine can still keep the current level-advanced system in place because the inherant content trivialization problems with the system are now taken care of.

At least for the instance content. The general world content is another story, and one that doesn't quite have as elegant a solution. This will require more thought.


RingCast Episode 30

Friday, December 12, 2008

The big 3-oh for RingCast. Lady Sinaea divulges her take on the Moria expansion including the Moria instances, legendary items, level 50 raiding, storage space, and crafting guilds. So, instead of waiting for my slowness to get to Moria and subsequently talk about it, head on over to VirginWorlds and listen to RingCast.

I'll probably be talking about some of these topics in separate posts as soon as I have time to listen to the podcast and respond. Which will probably be tomorrow - yay for Saturdays!


My LOTRO Dot Com

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I totally forgot that Turbine had this in the works - the LOTRO social networking site. It's called My.LOTRO.com. So, I just found out about it this evening and will be messing around with it in the next few days. I'll post my thoughts and if I like what I see, I might actually use one and find someway of linking back and forth between it and this blog. Should be pretty interesting from the little bit I read about it over at Massively.

Edit: Checking it out this evening, the first thing I did was search for my player. I got the following error message:

"Unexpected System Error Occurred

We're very sorry to say that an unexpected error has occurred for you. The site administrators have been notified about the cause of this error. Additionally, I can assure you that the public flogging of the developer responsible for this error will be severe."

You have to love Turbine's sense of humor...


Are There Level Gaps?

I came to consciously notice yesterday whilst questing in Eregion (the Echad Eregion quest hub to be specific) that the 45-53 level range is pretty well represented. First up was Angmar, which did start in the lower 40's, but eventually worked it's way up to 50 and the then level-cap. Next was the Misty Mountains in conjunction with Angmar (and later expanded). Then came Forochel offering more of a solo experience for the same approximate level range. Now we have Eregion which again is mostly solo and represents the same levels. Having done most of Forochel after I reached 50, I gained zero experience for that region, and yet still I'm at the level range I should be at when I enter Moria (which is about 53) just completing Eregion quests for actual xp. This is not a bad thing. Not. What it is is a wonderful thing - because more options for leveling measn greater replayability with different classes that don't have to go through the same content over and over again - a problem that was fairly universal upon LOTRO's release.

But, has the rest of the game managed to find as great of a content overlap or do we even see gaps? The gaps problem, which I define as a lack of content for a specific level range, seems to come up from time to time on the forums. Mostly I think there are no gaps. Players have this interesting ability (myself included) to manage to miss where content is somehow. Like, I got to the early 20s and said, WTF? Where's content appropriate to my level? Well, in that case, there was a very odd progression to the quest hub after Trestlebridge and then back to Trestle. Okay, whatever, learned that, no problem. Frickin' hard-hitting orcs. But actual gaps? I think Book 9 - The Shores of Evendim solved that problem.

However, I think LOTRO still has a fairly linear path for leveling until you get to the high level content I mentioned above. Well, except for the noobie experience, which, by the way, is simply excellent. You cannot fault this game for really catching the player on his or her first experience. So, the level 1 - 10/12 is well covered. Then you get to Bree. Doesn't matter if your a Dwarf, Man, Elf or Hobbit, Bree is your home for the next 5 or 6 levels. That's a good thing for getting groups as a concentrated playerbase will increase your chances of finding a group. However, it does nothing to help those with altitise (having a ton of alts) because you're playing the same content over and over again.

Then you get into the Lone-Lands in your late teens. From here it's a back and forth battle in either the Lone-Lands or the North Downs. Certainly there is a little bit of overlap, but on the whole, you're pretty well covered, but not overcovered with content between 18 and 32. Evendim, again, helps with the gap that was 30ish-40ish because the Trollshaws are fairly light. Then we're back where we started, but only in the beginning and end (barring 52+) do we see any lavish amount of content that will keep one from repeating the same quests over with different characters.

I for one would love to see at least two different options from our 20 ot 40 range. The perfect place for this of course would be Eriador where the War of the Ring isn't as intense as the east side of the Misty Mountains. There's a whole slew of lands yet to be developed that could play host to some good content to change up the leveling path a bit.

Certainly there are priorities in the development of this game. One of the being the progression of the Fellowship. If, however, we could see deviations in the year between expansions, I'd love to see one or two of those fill in the, if not gaps, then linear leveling progression. And puting them in Eriador saves the eastern content for expansions but at the same time fills out more of the world we know and love. And being a world buff, that would make me really, really happy.


Foundation of Stone

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Really quick, last post of the evening, LOTRO has another official Hero's Guide, this time to the Foundations of Stone, one of the deeper places in Moria. Delve into the featured article but be warned, it may contain minor spoilers.


Know Your Nazgul

No, I don't mean invite them over for the Christmas party or out for a pint. I'm talking about knowing your lore, the Massively series on the lore of LOTRO. This time they're talking about the Nazgul, or more commonly referred to as the Ringwraiths.

The first time I read through the books, it was these guys, even more than Sauron himself that struck fear into my heart. Well, not quite like that, but they were the scariest things in the books, especially in Fellowship when the Hobbits were first running away from them. You didn't know what they were, who they were, but something blacker than night terrorizing the Shire really felt menacing.

Even when their full terror was revealed as the books progressed, they seems to me at least the embodiment of the evil of Sauron (not having a body kinda puts an almost unconscious damper on things).

Then when the movies came out and I heard the blood-curtling screams for the first time, I felt the same dread and menace as when I first read of these nasty creatures. Peter Jackson's team got the perfect sound.

Check out the link if you want to know a little more about how far the evil of men can go. And even better, become a scholar of Tolkien - take up the extracurricular materials like the Silmarillion and the History of Middle earth and become a lore expert yourself. It will go much further than a simple write-up. And you'll be riddiculed as a nerd the rest of your life, but who cares about that last one.


Want to Know the Warden?

Massively has an excellent class overview of the Warden over on their site. Check it out if this medium-armor tank strikes your fancy.


Yule Tidings!

On December 11th (That's this Thursday) LOTRO will be starting it's Yule Festival! The holiday cheer is in the air of Middle-Earth. Horse races, good food, friends, a bit of drinking (Shire tavern run baby!). It's all in the spirit of the season.

I'm wondering if they'll have more Chris... er, Yule decorations aside from the Yule tree, which I already put out in the yard. I'd love to have lights or wreaths or other decorations inside and out. I have to make up for the total lack of any Christmas decorations in my own real life house. Well, except for that one porcelain tree we forgot to put away last year that's still sitting in the mostly unused family room.


I Can't Get a Horse in this Economy!

Monday, December 8, 2008

It's a tough world out there right now, especially for your finances. Businesses are going under, banks need bailing out, and the mid-level player can't afford his or her horse. Er...

Money problems aren't just in the real world. Virtual worlds can't seem to shake the eternal need of coin either. And what does one need coin for? Well, a mount is a good place to sink a few golds, especially for the level 35 player in LOTRO. If you were like me and picked a crafting profession that doesn't quite make as much moola as those damned rich explorers (or woodworkers in the case of one kinmate), you might need a few tips on getting the cash for your steed.

Look no further than Massively's guide to mid-level money making. Shawn Schuster offers a few tips and tricks to netting you the big bucks. Well, maybe not big bucks, but enough to scratch that equestrian itch.

I'm especially a fan of the last point given I'm not a resource gatherer (unless it's of the vegetable variety). So, anything and everything I loot gets dumped for cash on either a vendor or the Auction House. Still, his advice about resource nodes is huge. If you want some money, be an explorer. You just better like running around gathering ore for hours on end. The big bucks are found on the Auction House. Yes, you can sell those resources but you really make the cash if you level up your armourer, woodworker, tinker, or weaponsmith and sell the high-level goods for golds apiece. I bought my entire set of level 47 critted crafted armor on the AH for somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-14 gold. And that was when the prices were falling due to smaller demand and anticipation for the next crafting level with mines of Moria. Pieces at their peak were reaching 8 -10 golds each. I couldn't tell you what or how much the highest level gear goes for now, but being so close to the release of MoM, you'll get a pretty penny - a lot of pretty pennies - for your effort.

And, like everything, making money takes time. Even in the virtual world. So, if you're will to invest a little of the t-word, you'll get yourself some cash. Just stick with it, LOTRO won't let you down in the riches department.


Massively Loves LOTRO Fishing

Nice little write-up over at Massively about fishing. Check it out if being a virtual angler has ever caught you hook line and sinker.... yes, I know, the joke was dumb. Hehe.


Beauty in Angmar?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Indeed. Well, it depends on your definition of beauty. Maybe I wouldn't call this screenshot beautiful, but rather magnificent or impressive. This is Barad Gúlaran, a fortress of the Witch King. It's quite an imposing sight running by on the cliffs above the valley in which it's built and towers over.


A Plethora of Legendaries?

While I've yet to enter Moria proper yet (I'm still playing through Eregion content) my kinmates have been sending me legendary items for my class (captain). Most of these I can't use yet, since I'm level 51 (soon to be 52!). But it seems to me that there are a considerable number of these items in Moria. I have to wonder if this is a bit oversaturated. I mean, after a while, you're going to be flooded with legendaries you have no room to level, runes up to your eyeballs, etc, etc. It almost seems like an over powered system.

Again, I haven't been in Moria myself yet to see if this is the case, and certainly I should ask my kinmates about it, but what does a ton of legendaries do to the gameplay? Well, for one thing, you'll be more able to get the exact combination of legacies you want on your items. If you don't like one weapon, there's surely another just around the corner. This is furthermore enhanced by the choice of legacies (between two random options) when reforging. Add in the runes from breaking unwanted legendaries down and you have a further ability to pick and choose what you want. Relatively speaking, you'll have the legendary of your dreams in no time.

Is this overpowered? Is it cheap? Is it ruining the challenge? Honestly, I don't know yet, having not experienced the challenge of Moria. We shall see if my initial observations come true in the weeks to come.


Shut Up We're Playing LOTRO

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Shut Up We're Talking, a podcast over at VirginWorlds.com hosted by Darren and Karen, has their latest episode up. Now, it's not specifically about LOTRO, but Darren along with four others have a Monday night gaming night in LOTRO. Previously they played DDO, another Turbine game, but now they've migrated.

I highly recommend listening to Shut Up We're Talking. It's an awesome general MMO podcast. I found the latest episode, where the talk about switching to LOTRO, as well as playing the game at the same time as recording the episode. Makes for a unique experience. Check out the podcast.


Horse Routes Interactive Map

Friday, December 5, 2008

From Hayoo, who brought you Visions of the Ring and the interactive expansion speculation fan map, is a new interactive horse routes map. I've only found a couple errors, and it's up-to-date to Moria aside from these and Moria itself. I highly recommend checking it out if you need to know how to get from one place to another in the ever-expanding world of Middle-Earth.


12-5-08 Screenshot

Thought I'd just share a screenshot with you all. I cannot rave enough how much I love the graphics of this game. I'm currently still investigating a way to get video capture to work to put together a little Middle-Earth tour of sorts. If anybody has any suggestions on good software to capture game-footage using a Vista system, let me know via comments below.

Fords of Bruinen


The Jeffery Steefle Massively Inverview

Okay, the slightly delayed reaction to the interview is here.

First, I must say, in accordance with my own enthusiasm with LOTRO, I'm pleased to hear Michael Zenke has enjoyed his experience in the game. Certainly the larger MMO population becoming interested in the game, or at the very least acknowledging of LOTRO's value is the best thing for the game. But when figures within the gaming press and blogosphere - those with influence in other words - latch onto a game and convey enthusiasm, it's almost just as good.

Secondly, I always enjoy listening to Steefle talk about the game. He always speaks with such vigor about what's going on that it makes me want to stop whatever I'm doing and jump right in and play some more. You can really feel his excitement and dedication come through.

Now, for what was said... Most of the questions were gathering reaction on how Moria was received. Generally, it's a bit too early to tell. I agree. While my initial reaction is quite positive, I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the new content, particularly the Mines themselves. I've tried both new classes through the starter instances, but haven't gone beyond that. The Rune Keeper is my favorite out of the two, but my Jedi affinity is coming through in that respect - it's just cool to "shoot" lightning out of your fingers.

One of the topics that always intrigues me is where the game is headed. To be a fly on the wall in Turbine's offices would be worth a great deal of coin. This topic was barely broached in the interview, and with good reason. When the topic of the future comes up, rarely do developers deign to answer. At best you get cryptic responses and allusions. Oh well. I have a speculation topic in my head for a future post.

Over all, an enjoyable interview. Good questions, logical for what's just happened in the game. It's always nice to hear interviews conducted by people who play the game. I think players, particularly trained in some fashion as journalists, always know how to approach interviews with "their" developers best.

So, if you want a good idea on where the Turbine team stands with LOTRO - check out the interview.


Promised Commentary

Thursday, December 4, 2008

In my previous post I promised to upload my take on the interview of Jeffery Steefle conducted by Massively.com. However it will be delayed until tomorrow evening. Apologies.


Massively Speaking About LOTRO

Massively Speaking, hosted by the prolific Michael Zanke and Shawn Schuster, has released their latest podcast and it's all about LOTRO. They're joined by Executive Produce Jeffery Steefle to talk about the new content and features of the expansion, as well as alluding to some oblique hints about the future. I have yet to listen myself, due to time constraints at this writing, but I'll be sure to check it out this later this evening after work and give some of my thoughts.


Rings of Power

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Massively has another Know Your Lore article, this time about the Rings of Power. Few people, even those who read the books a few times, really latched onto what exactly the Rings of Power were, are, and what they can and can't do. It's especially nagging at those who've only watched the movies, and they did a relatively poor job at explaining them.

Of course, Massively ties this into the game world. I'm excited to see the increasing presence and significance of the Rings of Power as they relate to what's going on in LOTRO.


Bit of Book 15 Trouble

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The kin helped me and another member out with Book 14, but before that they did a book 15 instance with some others that needed that chapter. Frankly, this quest is a royal pain in the posterior. We wiped both times we tried it. I mean, it's a long fight, and there's a fair bit you have to pay attention to. I'm rather annoyed by the whole experience. But that's kind of who I am. If something doesn't go successfully the first couple attempts or so, I move onto something else and go back later. Otherwise I'll just continue to be frustrated to the point of anger. Not healthy. So, I moved on. And so did the kin, going to the Book 14 instances.

But, I also feel like I somehow wasn't pulling my weight. Like, the first time I asked "go where?" "Where's that?" "Oh crap, now I'm dead." I felt slow on the uptake, dense, unskilled. I know I'm a decent player. LOTRO isn't particularly heavy on the skill-checks, but in this instance is very much a skill-check. And people thought the session play was difficult. That was cake compared to this. You really have to be on your toes. We even had two minstrels and I play a captain. That's a recipe for success if I've ever seen one. But alas, not the case. I really did feel somewhat helpless to what was going on around me.

We'll have to see how it goes in the future. Right now, I'm not very impressed.


First Look at Moria

I completed Book 1 of the epic quest line for Volume 2 and got my first taste of Moria, Durin's Hall, or Threshold. Can't remember what it was called off the top of my head. I can't wait to explore more, but I'm trying to get Book 15 finished before that.

Durin's Hall 1
Durin's Hall 2
Durin's Hall 3

I must say Turbine has much improved their cutscene sequences after a book completion. It looks freakin' amazing. Blew me away. No more of that in-game fuzzy rendering looking through a ring animation. While still the stylized loading screen thing, it's a pre-redered animation mini-movie thing. I'm much pleased with the improvements I see in this regard. As for the whole quest, yeah, it was cool, but after comming out of Book 14 totally blow away by the ending narrative moments, I'm a little underwhelmed by the enterance to Moria. I mean, we didn't even get to see the whole watcher, just the bloody tenticles. However, if I'm reading the deeds correctly, there will be two other encounters with the watcher that may fulfil my desire for a full on battle with the creature.

In other news, I've worked more with the lengendary item system, reforging my halberd and seeing how that process worked. I'm really enjoying this sytem and can't wait to get some better weapons in there for improvement. Obviously, since I haven't gotten into Moria yet, I'm not getting any new relics. I haven't even found a relic-master or whatever it's called either. Guess they're in Moria.


Do Not Run TOWARD A Balrog

Saturday, November 29, 2008

You will die. Or be defeated. Heck, you'll die. Why I didn't realize that? I don't know, but I didn't, and I died. Actually, I thought I was supposed to die, like in the session play associated with Laeradren. However, this time you're supposed to live and escape. Regardless, this session play featuring the Balrog was epic. I mean freaking cool. At least the Balrog part. The rest was kind of drivel quests leading up to it. Yes, the real meat was the visuals. So, this is a screenshot post, but I will say, it's probably better to experience it for yourself in full moving glory. Not sure why I'm even bothering, but I'll do it anyway.

We'll start out with Dwalin's Throne Room. You thought Thorin's Hall was sweet, wait till you get a load of this...

Throne Room 1
Throne Room 2

Now the big daddy of them all.

All His Glory
Oh Crap!

You can barely make it out in the last picture (The originals are 1680 x 1050) but that's over half a million hit points on this sucker. And the first Arch Nemesis I've seen. Wow.


A New Volume

I broke my creed to do the epic book quests in order. That is go through the books in sequence. However, since there's hardly a soul out and about in Forochel for me to finish Book 14, and that book is required to start on Book 15, I went ahead and ran through Eregion to complete Book 1 of Volume 2. This book is required in order for you to 1) get into Moria, and 2) get a legendary weapon. I've accomplished number 2 at this point.

The legendary item system is much more straight forward once you're working with it directly, rather than have someone type or talk about it. Get your weapon, identify your weapon, equip your weapon, slot your relics, settings, etc. Name your weapon if you get a naming scroll. And then start bashing mobs with it to give you XP. Now, your first legendary weapon requires you to have it equipped to get XP. All other legendary weapons do not. Unfortunately, this weapon isn't as good as my Mirrored Ancient Steel Halberd crafted for me by a kinmate, but in order to progress, I need to set my lovely pointed object aside and go for a slightly lesser one.

However, as the weapon gains levels, you have the opportunity to increase it's power and therefore even my first legendary item, a purple, could become stronger than my Ancient Steel Halberd - a teal item.

I'm definitely looking forward to getting into Moria itself and being able to start working on better weapons and collecting the bits used in the system.

Going back to Book 1 of Volume 2 (Hence forth just book 1 or B1), I'm miffed that I forgot to take a screenshot of the door. It's quite beautiful and perfectly portrayed from the books. The quests of B1 aren't anything spectacular save one, but just being on the brink of Moria is enough to get me excited. I look forward to delving more into the epic quests and moria, but for the former, I'll be going back to my sequential ways by finishing Books 14 and 15 of Shadows of Angmar before I continue on the Volume 2 epic.


A Grey Day in Eregion

Today I went into Eregion (Caution: Map in link may contain spoilers) for the first time. Unfortunately, it wasn't sunny, but I still think the beauty of the landscape comes through. One of the things I loved about Forochel was the way the devs made the region seem much more open and expansive. Indeed, it was fairly large, but the way the terrain was built you felt less closed in. They've applied the same principle to Eregion, giving it a wonderful wide open scrub land like appareance in most parts.

To me, this approaches what Rohan should be like, only more open and more vast. Wide plains to roam across. I really like Eregion. You can get anywhere fairly directly and the mobs are easy enough to avoid if you're going cross-country. Some places the only way to get to a quest hub is cross country, so keeping it relatively easy to move about is important. One of the reasons Angmar is one of my least favorite zones is because of the density and level of the mobs, posing problems for getting around in Easter Angmar in particular. Then again, it's Angmar for crying out loud. It should not be easy to move about in a barren wasteland ruled by the Enemy.

Lastly, I'd like to finish this post up with a few screenshots. I must say again I'm quite pleased with the look of this part of Middle-Earth. My questing hasn't been extensive save for working on Volume 2, Book 1, but I'll save that for another post.

Landscape 1
Landscape 2
Landscape 3
Jaxom in the Moonlight


I'm Finally in MoM

Okay, after a whole slew of frustration regarding my computer and its upgrade. Well, it was a whole new build, but anyway, I'm finally back into LOTRO. Happy Thanksgiving by the way. So, amongst all the normal things to be thankful for (family, friends, food, football) I'm also thankful I've gotten my computer up and running.

Unfortunately, this is not a first impressions of Moria, but rather of how the game looks now that my system is upgraded... phenomenal. I'm amazed at how well this game looks. Having the DX10 shadows on now really helps bring the world some depth and life. I'm also stoked about my frame rate, which is incredibly better with my new graphics card, an ATI Radeon HD 4870 1GB.

I'll probably post some screenshots when I get out to Eregion, one of the new regions. Some place I haven't been yet.

One of the things I wanted to do was to get some video capture of the game in the higher quality settings. Unfortunately, now that I have vista, I seem to be unable to get any video capture software to pick up the game's graphics. Just a black screen. Kinda annoying. I'll have to research the issue further.


More Moria Videos

Friday, November 21, 2008

Massively has linked to three more videos about Moria. Now, if you're a devoted player (I hesitate to use the word hardcore) you'll have already seen Moria. But for those who are lagging, for whatever reason (like me), here's more little tid-bits for you.


ETA on Getting Back Into LOTRO

My motherboard and processor will arrive on the 24th. My HD, RAM, vidcard, and power supply will arrive on the 25th. My case will arrive on the 26th. And I'll be out of town the 27th and 28th for Thanksgiving. So the 29th I'll be building the computer, reinstalling software, etc. I might make it on that evening. More probably it'll be Sunday afternoon, the 30th. That's 9 days from now. The wait is too long if you ask me, but I'm excited about it. Not only will I get back into the game, but I'll also be able to play with the settings maxed out. It'll be sweetness for sure.


Whole Slew of News

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

So a whole slew of news is passing me buy without posting about it. I'm just so bloody tired after work that most of the time I eat dinner, half-way fall asleep in front of the television for an hour... maybe... and then I go to bed. I don't want to think, let alone read something. We'll see how it goes.

But, since I'm writing this, I'll post something of interest, albeit without my thoughts. There is a two part interview with Jeffery Steefel over at IncGamers. Never heard of the site before but I found it through the TenTonHammer feed. Should be interesting to hear what Mr. Steefel has to say. He's always so excited about the game that anytime I hear or read something where he makes comment, I want to play. I appreciate that coming from the lead guy on LOTRO. It really helps push the game forward if the devs are excited about their work.

Oh, and the new computer is on it's way... or at least the parts are so I should be able to get back into the game without dealing with any more of these stupid motherboard problems.


MoM Collector's Edition Spread

So I bought the Collector's Edition of Mines of Moria. Or rather LOTRO, because every box comes with Shadow's of Angmar as well. Anyhow, I picked that up last night from my local GameStop. Of course, I entered the product key, and installed the game and patched the game etc etc. But what I'm most interested in mentioning today is some of the perks that came with the CE. The best way to describe them would be to show them, so I took a few pictures.

The Box
- Pretty cool box if you ask me. There's a magnet that keeps it closed. Much more elegant than a tab or Velcro.

The Box Opened - Oooh! Goodies!

The Spread - So here's the "bang for the buck". Some people might argue 80 bucks wasn't worth it. I argue it so very much was. Because I, despite wanting to remain an unbiased observer of LOTRO, am still a "fanboi" at heart. I really do love this game. I already posted on what's included in the CE, so check out the archives or the official site for that info.

Moria Map - I'm a map nerd. I love maps. Any kind of maps. Even game maps. I love them all. And having a cloth map of the Moria zones is epic for me. Actually, I can't decide what I like more, the nice little gold One Ring sitting there, or the map. It's all cool. And of course, there's the sound track and art book in there as well. Like I said, well worth the money.


Massively Article Round-Up

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Massively has posted an article round-up concerning the Mines of Moria. Any and all articles concerning the Mines of Moria are all referenced on one page, so no digging through their archives or mine for links.

Only a few hours away!


Lower Level Mines of Moria Content

Monday, November 17, 2008

Does it exist? Well, to some extent. Certainly the Mines themselves are only open to higher level players, ideally 50-60. But, there is an associated "free" content update in the form of Book 15, as well as combat revamps, a Moors revamp, improved itemization with quests, two new classes, etc. Take a look at this Massively article for the full low down.

In my mind, the Mines, being only open to high level players, is really where this expansion is at. The epic quest line, the legendary items, and the high level instances. Where it really shines for the low level players is the two new classes to try out. If you're one of those casual gamers that likes to dabble in a bit of everything for a couple hours a day or every other day, the two new character slots will give you the space needed to try out both new classes.

The Mines are only a night away!



Mines of Moria releases tomorrow. I'll be stopping by my local GameStop where I preordered the game to pick it up. I'm quite excited. Unfortunately, I'm not sure of my work schedule tomorrow and the rest of the week, so I might not have much time for first impressions. But I'll try to get something up.

Granted, I'll need to go through the first chapter of volume 2 before I can really give impressions of the new world content, but I'll probably give a brief overview and commentary of some of the UI changes when I log in tomorrow night.


What Will I do Moria?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Jump off the the Bridge of Khazadum. Why? Just because I can.

Well, actually, I'll be trying to finish up book 14 so I can jump right into book 15 and then into Volume 2, chapter 1 and get into Moria proper. The only way you can get into Moria is if you have a legendary weapon and you can only get your first legendary weapon through V2B1C1... or 2.1.1. That'll be my first goal. And of course, from there I just start checking out the Moria content.

But the real question is if I roll one of the new classes. I really like the idea behind both the new classes - gambits for the Warden and the dichotomy of the Rune Keeper. I will probably try both through the starter instance, just to get a flavor for the classes, but I'm not sure if I'll be keeping any of them around for continued play. My current alts aren't above level 12, and I've been mainly focusing on crafting. I'm a pretty monogamous player when it comes to my characters.

Speaking of crafting, I'm very much looking forward to leveling through the additional tiers of crafting. While cooking and farming aren't the most exciting of crafts, they level pretty quickly. I'm curious to how the crafting guilds specifically work and how it affects crafting.

Oh, and seriously, I will be jumping from the Bridge of Khazadum if I can.


Mines of Moria Patch Notes

You know the moment is near when the patch notes are released. Patience, the LOTRO community manager, released the patch notes for Mines of Moria today. If you're interested in very specific information about changes, fixes, etc, look here. However, you will not find any spoilers about Moria. I know my tongue is now wet... Only three days!


Hero's Guide to the Waterworks

Friday, November 14, 2008

Just like Durin's way before it, Turbine has another Hero's Guide, this time to the Waterworks. Again, there are minor spoilers to be had, but if you want to know every thing you can know before getting into Moria, this is an article for you.



Uh-oh, here's the dreaded comparison post. Well, not really. At least, I'm not arguing blindly for one being better and the other being a knock-off copycat.

Massively has a good article detailing differences and similarities. While not as extensive as I would have liked, I'm quite pleased with the results. Never trust a blind post on some forums for your info on what game has what feature and which one is better. Heck, never trust a blog either, but leave it to the professional game journalists to do the job for you. Check out the article.

Now, here's my feelings...

First, I've never played any MMO except for LOTRO. Therefore, any opinion I have of WoW is only through third parties. Fortunately, I have spent a good deal of time immersing myself in the MMO world and blogosphere so I can get a good idea of what different MMOs are like. My sister and her boyfriend also play WoW, so I have a close source for questions, comments, ect.

To me, WoW is indeed that 800 pound gorilla that no game will ever surpass. Well, never say never right? How about this - that will probably never be surpassed. If this game were a physical object on the earth, it would throw the planet's gravity out of whack it's that huge. LOTRO, on the other hand, is a comparably much smaller game. And that's fine with me. I appreciate the audience we have built, and while more is better because more means money for better gaming, I'm content with the population we have.

Juding from my third party sources mentioned above, the game does seem very similar, but there's no need to call either one a rip off. It's a product of the business, and business's copy other businesses when they're competing for the same consumer - in this case the MMO player. There are very similar mechanics, and there are a few different mechanics.

Where the differences truely lie is in what I'd like to call the atmosphere. WoW presents a very different type of fantasy setting than LOTRO. I'd call LOTRO's fantasy a real fantasy. That might seem like an oxymoron, but I agree with Massively's take on it. This world is inhabited by something, that while fantastical, would not seem out of place in our own world's past. It feels natural and normal, particularly in the game setting. WoW on the other hand presents a whole weath of different fantastical and sometimes flamboyant elements. The fantasy is the world and the world exists for the fantasy. LOTRO, the fantasy exists for the world. It is the world that defines what exists and what doesn't whereas WoW gives the impression that this world was created to showcase many of these really cool fantasies.

Some might argue this realism makes LOTRO boring. I find it quite the contrary. It makes it compelling - at least for me. Experiencing something that I could accept in the real world, even if in the past, brings me into the game world and atmosphere. I feel like I could be there. It helps sell the game for me. And of course the lore of the world, being a fan of Tolkien, helps a great deal.

I hope my thoughts on this weren't too scattered. My current job is very physical and I mostly feel like crashing into my bed when I come home at night. Updates to this blog will be more scattered, but hopefully regular enough to fulfill my own goal of having a regularly updating LOTRO blog to read. But of course the Mines of Moria expansion comes out on Tuesday, so despite my exhaustion, there will be a wealth of new first-hand posts to be had.


Hero's Guide to Durin's Way

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

So there's a "Feature Article" over on the main LOTRO site detailing the lore and geography of Durin's Way, one of many sub-regions within Moria. I have to warn you, there's storyline spoilers within, so if you want to get your story only when your in-game and questing, do not read this article. If your one of those people that are voraciously devouring any and all Moria content you can get your hands on... well, you probably didn't need me to tell you this article is up, but in any case, you're sure to inhale this article as fast as any other.


Another Legendary Guide

Monday, November 10, 2008

Just as the player created legendary item guide showed up on the Lorebook last week, this week we see another guide created by the folks over at TenTonHammer.com. It seems to cover the same information, so it's really just a matter of personal preference which one you read or refer back to. But for my part, I'm telling you it exists.


Pre-Download Mines of Moria

Turbine is offering a downloader program to pre-patch the Mines of Moria content. Obviously, you'll only be able to experience that content once MoM goes live on the 18th, but you won't be waiting ages for the game to patch when the servers come up. If you need help with the process, there is a walkthrough as well.


New Time Priorities

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I've gotten a seasonal job that has the potential to keep me out for 11 to 12 hours a day, which means updates to this blog will be potentially few and far between, even with the release of Mines of Moria. Hopefully I'll find some time to get things posted by rearranging the other priorities. In the meantime, expect most updates on the weekend, when I'm not working.


Moria Monsters

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Yet another dev diary for me to point out today, this time in relation to the monsters of Moria. The guy who comes up with all the skills and monster behavior wrote an epic piece on the principles of the new behaviors seen in Moria monsters. I don't know if these will be carried over to those in Shadows of Angmar or not, but it sounds like fights will be a lot more interesting.

The last page details some of the more common monsters and their behaviors. Certain mobs require a Monster Corruption dispelling skill to get rid of buffs they put on themselves. Others can be dazed or mezed to solve the problem, while still others you can simply run out of range of their skill if you can't dispell it in any way.

Now, as a Captain, I have a couple concerns. First, our dispelling skill is gated behind two other skills, the first of which requires a hit in order to open the series. So, not only do I have to work through the skill progression, I have to count on a hit on the skill that's not even the one that dispells the corruption to even have the possibility of doing so.

Second, we dont' have any mez or daze skills, so we cannot avoid the mobs whose behavior is modified by doing so. Now, the dev diary does say even-level mobs are still designed to be one-on-one soloable, but I have my doubts as to the captain's viability if two of the new behaviors are difficult if not impossible to deal with. Time for me to check out the captian forums and see if there's any hubub about it. Likely I'll find the usual complaining.


Designing Moria

There's a small five page overview of how the design of Moria came about, from the technology to the art concepts. Check it out. Fairly simple and barely an introduction, but still interesting.


A Cluster F***?

A new dev diary is up on the official site today called Anatomy of a Cluster. In it, Amlug details how their changing the structure of instances to better relate to each other, creating what they call a cluster. In Urugarth, Carn Dûm, Barad Gularan, and The Rift, there is no obvious progression through the instances, nor any relation to them other than the story - if you so choose to read the story. Otherwise, they're just bad, dark places in the world where you kill stuff like trolls and orcs and the like.

Now, certain games have created progressions through instances where you are required to follow a specific path gated through hard locks, gear, or some other means. In LOTRO, this is not the plan. There should be no reason why you cannot do one instance before another (or raid). However, by going through the instances, there will be rewards that give you abilities or stats that will help you in later instances of the same cluster.

For example, going through one of the new instances in Moria and completing it's "challenge" (the objective giving you these rewards) will give you a part of a piece of the corresponding raid's gear set. In this case, that piece of gear, when ultimately assembled, gives you radiance which helps with gloom. Radiance and gloom are apparently an expansion of the hope and dread system. I do not have any details of how this works at the moment, but I will definitely talk about it when I encounter it in the game or in a future dev diary.

Basically, the point of the diary is that instances will now be linked together in a cluster, with a reward system tying them together. By working through this progression, in no particular order, you'll be better set for the raid at the end. So, there is a one-two system here. Instances, then raid.

I've not been raiding in LOTRO, so I do not know what the experience is like, nor much about the raid locking system. I'm thus not a good judge of if this system is better than the not-worded-as-such cluster f*** in Shadows of Angmar (Amlug would have prefered to see the four instances I mentioned above put in a cluster).


Another Welcome Back Weekend

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Turbine is doing another extended welcome back weekend for former LOTRO players. If you're reading this blog, I would assume you're already a LOTRO player, but if you know anybody who has played and might want to jump in for a few days to play for free, then this is there chance, and let them know.

Now, last time this happened, there was a queue to get into the servers, and a certain number of paying players were ticked off that they had to wait in line behind (presumably) people who were not paying. That seems a bit arrogant to me, and if the free players were the only ones who had to wait in line, then that would be a big hindrance to the whole point of the weekend - getting former players back into the game, and perhaps buying the Mines of Moria expansion. So, give them the best customer service they can get, and then they'll be more players in the game potentially. And that benefits everybody in the end.


Exclusive MMORPG Outfit

MMORPG.com is offering an exclusive LOTRO outfit simply by logging in to their site. Once you do that, go to the following link and follow the directions there. You'll need to enter the product key you'll get into your Turbine account page.

I think the outfit looks pretty cool, so if you're into the cosmetic items, and want another outfit, this is a good one to get.


You're Insane!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sunday night I logged into LOTRO, my intent merely to check on things, see if anybody was on, and check up on how much food was still in the kinhouse. If I haven't mentioned it already, I'm a yeoman, so that gives me the professions of farmer, cook and tailor. I have leveled the first two to Grand Master, so I like to keep the kinhouse stocked with level 40 food (the top tier) for use by my kinmates. Well, so long as I have the coin to cook it, since I do this pro-bono. Sometimes I get donations though.

Anyway, I managed to run into some people doing 13.9 (link contains spoilers), which is where I was at in the epic quests. We finished the book, and since two of my kinmates helped, we just went off to do our own thing afterwards. This happened to be killing various things in Carn Dûm (the non-instanced part) for one of them on 8.1 (link contains spoilers). Well, our tank randomly decided it would be fun to aggro four trolls, two angmarim, and an orc, all even level Elites. I didn't have time to say it then, but I was thinking "You're insane!"

Oh, and guess who had to heal through all that? Me. The Captain. No minstrel. My heals are miniscule compared to the minnies. And another thing. Our other member was a hunter. DPS squishy. He was on his own. But guess what... we didn't wipe. No one died. Our tank held aggro like gorilla on both coffee and steroids. And I spammed Words of Courage, my shield brother heal, the shield brother healing buff, and Rallying Cry. Then that wasn't enough. Grimbur (our tank) was still going down. I saw him pop his own pots, but we weren't going to make it. So I hit what I like to term the "oh shit" combo. It's In Harms Way, followed by Last Stand... which allows me to take all the damage from the whole fellowship, but not die in the process. Then, once Last Stand is almost over, I hit Strength of Morale, an massive heal skill from a man racial trait. This bought our tank some time to refresh some of his morale pool, and me more morale to work with in helping heal him.

So we survived, barely. Grimbur, you're insane! But it was epic!


A New Lease on Virtual Life

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I picked up a motherboard second hand, to replace my dead one. Hopefully this one will last. I first looked around a new ones, but I couldn't seem to find one with an AGP slot... which is the old tech that my graphics card uses. Looks like they don't really make them anymore. So I found one on the cheap via a friend of mine. Actually, I'm not sure where he gets his parts, so I'm a little leery about the quality. Seems to be working find at the moment. We'll see.

But hey, that means I'm back into LOTRO... and in time for MoM!


My Rivendell Hazing

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Back in beta just after they opened Rivendell to us testers, my kin decided they were going to take me on a Rivendell Run. Now, the reason this was (and still is, to a lesser degree) significant is that there is not a clear path (i.e. without mobs) between the Fords of Bruinen and Rivendell. I was also somewhere between level 10 and level 20, if my memory serves me. Finally, the mobs I just mentioned are low to mid 30s. Not healthy for a little lowbie like I was. But hey, that's what was so fun for me and my kinmates (who were higher than me, but just able to do the content out there anyway).

Their advice to me before we set out. "Don't stop running. And don't aggro anything." Sounds like a blast. It was indeed a blast. We're running along through the Trollshaws, and I see my first mob, an Auroch (which were present and elites then) standing in the middle of the road. I'd never seen these massive cattle-like creatures before, so not only are they the largest buggers I've ever run into but hot-damn I see a purple name. Purple is a bad, bad color. It means that it will kill you if you even breathe.

I mention something to this effect in the kinchat. Their response "Just be glad we're not running this at night. The trolls come out and actually chase you." Trolls... well, I guess that's why it's called the Troll Shaws. Bloody hell.

The next major event happened when they decided to break their own advice and tell me to stop runing. Why? Well, we were going to visit some drakes. WTF is a drake? I ask. You'll see, they tell me. I can just read their mischievous grins in the chat. Turns out a drake is a very, very small version of a dragon. Most of them don't fly, but when you have a mob that's a good 10 times my body mass and spits fire at you... well, it doesn't really mater that it technically isn't a dragon. You're just as dead either way.

So I stand and watch as they show off by taking down this monsterous beast. But I was impressed... after I got done pissing myself.

What was so... anti-climactic, in a sense, was actually getting to Rivendell. Sure, I was stoked to actually visit one of the most serene places in Middle-Earth. A peaceful refuge in an otherwise hostile world. The nerd moment was epic. But that drake sure gave the elves a run for their money.

All in all an absolute blast. I must say though, as much as these guys are still cool, them drakes are no longer a match for my mighty level 50 epicness. Yes, that 324 probably would have made me toast back in the day. Mmmm, extra crispy.


A Legendary Read

At some point I'll be done using the word "legendary" to describe anything and everything related to the Legendary items system. Apparently that point hasn't come yet. The most recent dev diary about the Legendary items concerns the quests associated with it. In short, this is a nice little insight into the developer process... and the woes of screwing it up.


Legendary Player Guide on Legendary Weapons

Pyroburn, a fellow LOTRO player, has created a wonderful guide for legendary items. I dare say it's better than the official dev diaries. Or maybe it's just the fact that I've read through how this system works a few times now so I'm finally starting to get it through rote. In any case, it really is a great guide and I can't say enough times how much I'm excited about this system.


Ettenmoors Revamp Part 2

Friday, October 31, 2008

A second dev diary, this time going into much more detail about the intricacies of the changes made to the Ettenmoors, showed up on the official website today. If you're a PvMP player, this is the one dev diary you need to read.


LOTRO Is Music To My Ears

I have never had the time or desire to delve into the music system in LOTRO. None of my characters even own an instrument. But there are those out there who have excelled in this entirely social system. I give great props to anybody who can really excel at playing music in LOTRO. It really gives the overall environment and community an extra depth.

A couple days ago I ran across a video on YouTube of a quintet playing Conan music, of all things, but it's fantastic. Check it out.

Massively also has a new guide to music in LOTRO. If you're at all interested in playing some tunes in Tolkien's world, check out the link.


A Brief Applogy

I try very hard to update this blog on a daily basis. If it's not a news story, I work even harder by coming up with some sort of commentary on LOTRO gaming. The last couple days I have been sick. Sick, sick, sick. Every year at this time... or thereabouts, I get a cold. Like clockwork. Yesterday I hardly had the energy to leave my bed, and spent most of the day sleeping.

So, while it might be impractical to get a daily post out for the entire life of this blog, for now, I apologize for the delay. Now, back to resting up. Stupid colds.


Taking For Granted What You Don't Have

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I go through cycles in my playtime with LOTRO. Sometimes I log in for a few hours every day. Other times I only log in twice a week. Just depends on my mood. But, when I know I can't log in, I really, really want to log in. It's just like anything else in life. You take for granted what you have all the time, but as soon as it's gone, you realize how much you want it. With my motherboard dead, LOTRO is just that for me.

And maybe it's partly the fault of all these awesome Mines of Moria dev diaries coming out of Turbine lately. Yesterday's one about legendary items really makes me want to be in there experimenting with the new content right now. But alas, I can't. Not only is MoM not released, but I don't have a system capable of playing the game at the moment.

I'm a bit worried about finishing the epic book quests, more than anything. I wanted to have them finished by the time MoM was released, so I can jump right into the new content with the rest of my kinmates. Certainly I don't have to have completed the Shadows of Angmar epic quests to start the MoM epic quests. But I like to keep my story in the proper order, so I've been doing the books in order, without skipping ahead. And with Moria only open to those who have completed the first chapter in Volume 2 and received a legendary weapon, a whole host of content will be unavailable to me - even if I get my gaming computer back up and running.

I've had little luck finding a motherboard that has an AGP slot for my current graphics card. I don't know if they make them anymore. It's old technology, with the current gen being the second iteration of the PCI-Express slot. Two stages removed from AGP. I'm going to investigate if changing the batter on the mobo makes any difference. The symptoms could be indicative of a dead battery. Which would be a relatively cheap and quick fix and get me back into LOTRO. We'll see how it goes. I'll keep you posted.


Ettenmoors Will See A Revamp

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Looks like the Ettenmoors will see a pretty significant revamp to location and gameplay with the Mines of Moria. I'm not a PvMP player, so I can speak to how these changes will affect my own gameplay. But, if you're interested, Turbine has released a dev diary for you.


Legendary Write-Up for Legendary Items

Turbine released a dev diary yesterday explaining legendary items. I, for one, needed an extensive diary (this one is 10 pages). I had a basic idea of how it functioned, but getting this write-up really helped flush the particulars out for me. Certainly, I'll understand it even more once I get hands-on experience, but until then, this will do nicely. I highly recommend checking it out.


Ten Ton Warden Overview

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The folks over at Ten Ton Hammer have posted their overview of the Warden class. It doesn't have much more information than the official dev diary, but it's an "independent" perspective. Check it out if you're interested.


Motherboard Meltdown

My motherboard decided to quit on me. As a result, the gaming system is down. That means I won't be logging into LOTRO till I get a new 'puter. Well, theoretically I could buy another motherboard, but I'm already planning on getting a new computer once I manage to find a job. But that planned system will require more of an investment than a new mobo similar to the one I already have.

I'll still be able to keep track of the LOTRO news and such, and if I have commentary thoughts on the game so far. I hope I manage something by Moria. Otherwise I'll have a game with no means of playing. Tis a lamentable problem I have.


A Bit of Bookishness

Saturday, October 25, 2008

This isn't a post about LOTRO. Rather it's about LOTR... no O. I recently acquired (reminds me I still need to pay for) the 50th anniversary hardbound edition of The Lord of the Rings. Being a LOTR nut, I was quite pleased with the purchase, to say the least. Here are some pics.

The Boxed Book
The Book and Box
Can't Forget The Map

So, pretty cool. This is one of those books that stays on the shelf. I already have a paperback set of the three books in good condition so... when I read through the stories again, those will be used. It almost makes me sad that I don't want to read through this one. But, it is like a collectors piece. Even if it's not worth a whole lot of money post-purchase, it's representative of a fond piece of literature. And there's nothing like a good hardbound boxed book to do it.


Monsters Invade Moria

Friday, October 24, 2008

Today! In about a half an hour monsters will be invading Moria. These monsters will be played by Turbine staff and in addition to jacking you up, you'll be getting things like festival masks and legendary items. Also, any player who logs into the beta will a unique title: Mithril Hunter.

So, any of you who are participating in beta... well, you already probably know about this. For the rest of us (me included), oh well. And have fun!


A Middle-Earthly Wildnerness

One of the biggest "feelings" I was struck with when reading through J.R.R. Tolkien's masterpiece was a feeling of great emptiness - of wilderness. And on top of that a sense of grandeur fallen into ruin. In my explorations of LOTRO's game world, they have really done a great job of conveying the fallen kingdoms. Ruins scattered everywhere across Eriador really help ground the place with a sense of history and time. However, the wilderness half of that equation is lacking. There's always something going on. Certainly this is a period of great upheavel and the rise of evil, so indeed, the world is abuzz with war, but even after conveying the feeling of great doom, the Middle-Earth of the books was a wild place.

Orc camps, goblin camps, spider lairs - those are wild, but not naturally wild. Where is the deep woods and rolling foothills without a sound but birds and beasts and my own footsteps? To me, that is Middle-Earth.

And LOTRO is something else. It's like a wierd hybrid that touches on elements and moments of what the "true" Middle-Earth was like, but then has to by its very nature throw in the game part. I'm not complaining that LOTRO isn't fulfilling the spirit of the world. In fact, I think it is on the whole - as far as it can. But it's not my fantasy adventure in Middle-Earth. Perhaps I would have prefered stepping into the world before Sauron had risen again, when birds were birds and beasts were beasts. Where orcs and goblins stayed in their caves and men minded their fields instead of the coins of others. Again, LOTRO isn't that - it is what it is. A game using the IP of Tolkien, but a game.

And really, I have to ask myself, could I have gotten anything better? Well, many people assert that Middle-Earth Online - what LOTRO was before undergoing a drastic redesign - could have given us this through an open world and sandbox style game. A make your own adventure. That's fine for some, and I might have enjoyed it. But I'm not sure that any product that has to be a game can at the same time be Middle-Earth as I experienced it through words. They're a different medium - a different form of entertainment. It's a futile exercise.

That said, when I've tired of the mob slaying, deed grinding, and general adventuring, I'll find myself preferring a quiet place in the Shire, or watching Amun Sûl at sunset, or fishing at Nen Harn, or watching the sunrise over the Icebay in Forochel. I get my tastes of the wild,when I can. I'd certainly love to see more of these places in LOTRO, where you can just relax without necessarily seeing another player. They don't have to be large areas, just a small peaceful, and empty place. Me and the Middle-Earth beneath me.


Another Bonus XP Weekend

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I'm not certain if this is just for the European servers or if there is another one on the US servers. I don't know if the first bonus XP weekend happened in Europe either. However, the link does come from the European LOTRO site, so if it is only happen in one place, Europe will be it. I found nothing on the US LOTRO site as of this posting.


New Trait System Explained

Turbine has released a trait dev diary today explaining the overhaul to the class traits. Briefly, there are three different trait sets that give additional bonuses the more of one set of traits is slotted. So, like the armor sets that accumulate bonuses the more pieces you have, your class traits will do the same thing if you slot traits from a particular set. This culminates in a legendary trait which will go in the new third legendary trait slot. But you have to have a total of 5 traits from a specific set for you to receive the legendary trait.

It all sounds pretty cool and, in my opinion, a better way to help guide players to character differentiation within their class. The critique, of course, is that it's very similar to WoW's different class specs, and that it requires certain traits you might not want if you want to get the legendary trait.

First off, I won't touch the "stolen" idea complaints with a ten foot pole. Anybody who knows anything about the MMO industry knows it's all about seeing what works well in the compeditor and trying to duplicate that as close as you can. It's the way it works - get over it. Second, sure, there might be a loss of nitty gritty customization with individual trait differences, but I think the bonuses from using traits in a set will outweigh what you might loose by being "forced" to slot a trait you don't want.

Looks like a sound system and good upgrade to me.


Kinmate's Moria Report

A few of my kinmates have been participating in beta. Some since July. One of them came on yesterday and started asking questions about Moria and his thoughts on them. I brought up the complaining on the forums and he just said "psshh" or something akin to that. Certainly there are issues, but they're being overblown on the forums - which is normal. Seems to be human nature that forums about games will always attract those that want to complain. I trust his assessment better because I've played with him often, I've chatted, I've gotten to know his personality and play style better than random forum posters. So, I'm not worried. And yes, despite my long post yesterday explaining why negative forum posts should be taken with a grain of salt, I was still a little apprehensive in the back of my mind.

Anyhow, he's really excited, which gets me even more excited. November 18th - I wish you were here.


The Unchanging Player

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

This is the ideal we all want. Either consciously or subconsciously we do not want things to change. It's a fundamental part of human nature. So, when I see posts such as this one, while it's intelligent, to the point, and non-agressive, I still have to question whether or not it represents the "truth" of the situation. It seems inevitable that these sort of posts show up when any change is on the horizon. And the size and scope of the change is directly proportional to the number and "volume" of the outcry.

I'm not dismissing this poster's argument, by any means. Heck, I don't even play a minstrel, nor have played in the beta, so I wouldn't know. But experience tells me exactly what I laid out above - people will complain about changes. Certainly there are times when those complaints have an aspect of legitimacy. This one might very well incorporate some of that. Or even all of that. However, I've come to learn my own opinion is the most accurate. For me. And that's what can be frustrating about using a forum environment for scoping out a game update. Number one, if you don't have an experienced-based opinion yet, you don't have all the facts. Regardless of how many "facts" are posted. Secondly, it's not your own opinion, and when has anybody else's opinion every exactly matched your own? Point for point. In its entirety. The meaning of life sort of scope.

So, everytime I read posts like this, I have to remind myself - wait until you've experienced the game. Then, I move onto the next few questions...

Does this change accomplish the goal it set out to? There's always a goal the developers have with changes. And rarely do you ever not know what that goal is when that change goes live. So you can indeed objectively determine if the changes accomplish that goal, regardless if you "like" the changes.

Is there "unintended consequences"? Nearly every change, be it in a game world or in real life, will affect something other than what it is supposed to affect. Frequently, these are indirect waves that shuffle down through systems. One class's gameplay change could affect how another class reacts when they play together.

Are these changes, unintended or not, limiting my ability to effectively play the game? Now, here's where subjectivity comes in. How do you define "limiting" and "effectiveness"? I would take each goal, accomplishment, etc in the game and compare if I can complete that within the set parameters. For example, does the change eliminate my ability to solo through content designed to be soloable? Or does the change eliminte my ability to power through group content that was meant to be more difficult than it is for my class? A little subjectivity, a litte objectivity.

The point is to keep an open mind, and in that open mind, go through these questions. Certainly the changes might not inhibit effective gameplay, but maybe you prefer to play the old way anyway. That's fine, that's your opinion, and you might even act on those preferences (like leaving the game). At this point, I hope one is intelligent enough to attribute their actions first to personal preference rather than changes in the gameplay (albeit these have a factor in that decision).

Or the changes really might be a big pile of auroch's crap. In that case, raise your pitchforks and storm the castle.


Durin's Way

Massively has posted a youtube video and screenshots showcasing Durin's Way in Moria.


Changing Combat

The Mines of Moria expansion represents a major overhaul to the combat system. With a finite percentage system, if upgrades continued at the present rate, players would see 100% damage mitigation with still more room to grow in the game. As such, Turbine needed to revamp their system in order to allow for an extended life of the game.

Check out the official dev diary.

It sounds somewhat complicated, and it is more so than our current system. I for one will need to actually try out the combat, and have everything in front of me before I'll truely have a working understanding of it. I can conceptually comprehend what and why they did what they did, but there's no substitute for getting out into the field and giving it a go.

And, as always is the case with forums, there are unhappy people. Unhappy about class changes, unhappy about combat changes, unhappy about riding a furry goat. Unhappy, unhappy, unhappy. Sometimes I wonder if the word unhappy is synonymous with the phrase "dedicated forum poster". Then I have to remember we still have an on the whole awesome community that puts things like crafting guides and class guides up.

Such is life - I will be reserving judgement until after I play. And something tells me, just like the complaints for Shadows of Angmar systems, I'll adapt and still enjoy what I have before me.


First Review of MoM

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gamespy has posted a short review of the Mines of Moria. There's hardly anything there, but it does offer the first official editorial comment on the expansion to LOTRO. I can hardly wait!


The Rune-Keeper Revealed

Turbine has posted a 10 page article on their website describing the new Rune-Keeper class in great detail. Check it out!


Slice the Grinds

I talked a bit about what LOTRO's grinds are yesterday, but I didn't have any solutions. Merely, I asked, why does it have to be that way. Well, here's a thought about what could be done.

Grinds are doing the same task over and over again for a long period of time. It's only at the end of that period of time is there a rewards. Oftentimes, we as the player have become so jaded over having to grind, we're not nearly so receptive to the reward as we could be, even if it's a fairly good reward, something we wanted. There's nothing to keep us going between when we start the grind and when we end it. How about spreading the reward throughout the "grind", so as you're doing the task, you're getting rewarded and reassured more often.

The reward, however, must be something the player can see affect his character. It can't be something intangible such as points. Rep-points might be given out on a per-mob basis, but after a certain amount of time, they loose their impact. A series of small, but meaningful rewards is a better motivation then one large reward at the end of a long grind.

An example in LOTRO might be the slayer deeds which reward trait upgrades. These aren't very large upgrades to begin with, so there's already a problem of large grinds for small reward. But what about giving each mob kill, or a set of 5 or 10 mob kills an incremental increase in the stats (traits) you're going after. LOTRO frequently uses a whole number to signify strength, rather than percentages. In this example, percentages would be better suited to seeing this incremental increase. Rather than have a set number of mob kills, certain mobs will just increase your stats. It is also possible to have a maximum threshold of effective kills, with diminishing returns nearing that point to move players onto other deeds (and thus areas of the gameworld). The player here is seeing an increase of numbers that mean something more than just points or a tally, but the overall "difficulty" of the deed, that is, the number of mobs slain, isn't necessarily reduced.

A potential problem with this idea is when grinds are used to reward gear. You either have the gear, or you don't. LOTRO is implementing a legendary items system, which essentially allows you to upgrade your weapons. Something similar with all types of gear would eliminate the grind for the gear upgrade. In this case, smaller upgrades would be rewarded as you're "grinding" that marginally increase the stats of your gear, rather than an all-at-once reward at the end.

That's just one idea that floated into my head. How it could be implemented to the current LOTRO game isn't something I could speculated about. However, it is a way that the grind might be sliced.


Oh Captain, My Captain

Monday, October 20, 2008

Thought I'd share with you a pic of my captain. What he's wearing there isn't the functional gear, but rather an outfit comprised of mirrored elven gear for the torso and legs, and the rest is heavy elven soldier's gear. All except the cloak, which is actually a low level cloak I don't remember the name of.

I finally got all the critted crafted gear. Mainly bought off the AH since the prices have been falling pretty steadily. Apparently the gear from the Rift, Annuminas, or the Ettenmoors is more popular. Honestly, this stuff suites me just fine.


The Grind - A LOTRO Primer

This is one of those subjects that pops up on every blog about online gaming. In MMO development, there seems to be this idea that in order to maximize player time with the game, one or more "grinds" should be incorporated into the game. A grind is essentially a task that is repeated over and over again for some goal, be it experience, faction points, crafting ability, etc.

LOTRO is no exception to the idea that grinds belong in MMOs. Fortunately for me and the rest of the LOTRO players, the grind isn't necessary to advance in the game and experience a vast majority of the content. However, there are systems in this game that do require grinds.

The first, and probably most used grind is the quest grind. Now this should be an oxymoron. Unfortunately, it's not. There are moments in the game, particularly around the middle levels when working in the Lone-Lands and the North Downs where the quests begin to feel like doing the same thing over and over again. Hunt these boar (boars are infamous in LOTRO), collect this item, talk to this guy. Over and over and over. It's a moment where you must question why you are playing a game where even the quests are grinds. Fortunately, this doesn't represent the quality of most of the quest content. On the whole, I would say LOTRO's strong point is the compelling quest lines - particularly the epic book quests. Still, this grind exists. Thank goodness I got past it. But, it has been a sticking, and even dropping point, for quite a few LOTRO players. They just can't get past those middle-levels (20-30[5]). I hope that Turbine at some point takes a look at this content bracket and either revises the quests or adds another option with more varied, compelling, and even innovative quests.

The second grind is the crafting grind. Being someone who enjoys crafting, this isn't too bad. Now, I am a yeoman and have only leveled cooking and farming to grand master. Unfortunately for me, cooking is (was worse) expensive, so the grind in the last tier took quite a bit of time. Cooks don't have a very strong and stable market for food unless it's critted food. Lucky for us, this grind is the least annoying of them all - or rather, least expansive. If you hate grinds in crafting, then it might be the most.

The third grind is the deed grind. Deeds are like the XBox 360 achievments, or the recent achievments added to WoW. They're a set of optional, non-quest, objectives to complete. The come in a few varieties. You receive a title and/or a trait (character stat modifier you slot) as a reward for completing the deeds.

  • First, the explorer deed focuses on finding a set of locations in Middle-Earth. These frequently revolve around some aspect of the lore. As such, they tend to be loved by the lore junkies out there. These are the least grindy of the bunch.
  • Second, there are also quest deeds, which advance as you do a certain number of quests. These also rarely incorporate grinds (unless it's quest grinding).
  • The third type is collection deeds. These are deeds asking you to collect a set of items, typically books or papers, off certain mob spawns. These can be a grind, but in my experience, the items drop at a decent rate for almost every deed.
  • Fourth, slayer deeds are the ones that create the most grind. These are the primary source of trait upgrades, but unfortunately, those upgrades require a grind. These deeds are two-tiered. the first tier gives you a title - such as "Slug Squisher" (for killing slugs in the Rukshuk Bog in the Shire) - and the second tier gives you the trait - such as Determination (trait for the slug slayer). The second tier also requires more kills than the first. The early deeds aren't too problematic (unless being farmed by many other players) with 30 the first time and 60 the next. But, as you get to the more advanced zones, you'll frequently see 150 for the first set and 300 for the next. Killing 300 of anything is a grind.
  • Fifth are the social deeds. These deeds revolve around emotes. A player will receive a new emote of other players emote a certain type to them a certain number of times. To prevent random emote spamming, these are blind deeds. That is, you don't know where you stand in terms of progress. These are definitely grinds, but the blind nature of them reduces the impact somewhat.
  • Sixth are the class skill deeds. These deeds give you improved skill traits that will upgrade certain skills. These aren't a grind necessarily because you advance them by doing what you're already doing - using your skills.
  • Seventh is what I'd call miscellaneous. They cannot be easily classified. They might (Shire post runs) or might not (festival tavern run) be grinds.

The last grind is the reputation grind. This basically means gathering reputation drops from mobs of a certain type to turn in with a given faction's rep vendor for reputation points. The number of points you have determines the level of reputation you have with that faction, and that level determines the type of rewards you can aquire. It has been my experience that these rewards are seldom worth the grind it takes to get the required rep.

However, despite my dislike for grinds, I've been doing a fair bit of it over the past few weeks. Certainly I still have quests hanging around, but all of them are fellowship quests. With my kinmates few and far between lately (work, life, MoM beta) I've been slower in the completion of fellowship quests. I'm not a huge fan of PUGs (pick up groups) despite having a fairly high sucess rate of a good group. So I've been grinding deeds and rep.

The rep I've been focusing on has been to unlock certain quick travel routes that are gated by reputation. Merely to make things more convenient should I ever need to travel to a given place. The Council of the North is my main focus. Their quest hub in Northern Angmar is time consuming to "run" to due to aggro and the distance from the nearest ungated quick travel route. I also have a fair number of quests still up there that I might want to complete at some point. The deeds I have been focusing on haven't been in any particular order. I've pretty much completed the ones I wanted to for the trait upgrades I need. So I've just been going through them systematically. Lately it has been completing them in the Trollshaws just to say I can completely check off an area of all quests and deeds (barring the raids quests).

The question is, why is this sort of gameplay necessary. I have the fortunate (or unfortune, depending on your point of view) to have a need for coin. My crafting skills aren't particularly profitable. So, these grinds, by gathering and selling the trash loot, gives me a "good" source of income. Still, there ought to be a better way of going about gaining the rewards and money that is more fun than a grind system. It's not hard, it's just tedious and time consuming. MMO companies are taking the easy road out with this type of content, in my opinion.

So, I bide my time till Moria with my grinding. I do bring a bit of it on myself by my completionist attitude toward the game, but still, it doesn't change what exists.