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.