Continuity Between Moria and SoA

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Middle-Earth of Tolkien is one big breathing continuous world from the Gray Havens in the west to the Sea of Rhun in the east, from the Lonely Mountain in the north to Gondor in the south. The question I pose today is one of continuity. Does Middle-Earth at this juncture reflect the world of Tolkien in it's seemless connection with itself?

The answer: yes and no. There are two notable locations where the world is broken up, one worse than the other. First is the gap between the Shire and Ered Luin. The long range plan is to have land between those two locations at some point but I have a feeling it's a little low on the priority list. I'm not one that cries out about my immersion being broken. If I were, it was broken a long time ago. This is a game, there are limits to how closely it can follow the source material as a different medium (just like the movies). However, certain aspects of the game world natrually lend themselves to the IP, one being a large and seemeless world.

The real reason this question comes up is because of the Mines of Moria expansion. Moria is one large dungeon. One large instance. Now, the tech behind it is more like an overland zone than an instance, but it is nonetheless seperated from the rest of Middle-Earth by a loading screen. Does this seperation hinder the continuity of the world? I'd say not so much as the Ered Luin/Shire break. Those are both overland zones which shouldn't need a loading screen between them. Moria on the other hand is almost like a seperate world in and of itself. The books described Moria with a whole new character and presence than it did the rest of the world. And in Tolkien, the land was as much a character as any of the Hobbits, Dwarves, Elves or Men. Some might even argue Middle-Earth was better characterized than Sauron himself, but that's a debate for another day.

Honestly, I port around Middle-Earth so much that there's as much of a discontinuity in the Shadows of Angmar content as there is between there and Moria. Being the Tolkien junkie that I am part of me really wants to stop porting around all over and ride to where I neeed to go, but dang it I just get bored. Not that I don't enjoy seeing the scenery of this game. It's beautiful even if you've seen the same thing over and over again. I want to play the game most of the time, not take a virtual tour of Middle-Earth. There's a time and a place for the latter, don't get me wrong, but the game mechanics have almost negated the need for a continuous world. Almost. I want to know that it's there if I ever chose to experience it. I want to know it's there because it's the right way to build Middle-Earth. Both game mechanics goals and world representation goals are fulfilled so far, for the most part.

To me, there isn't a big jarring jump between Moria and Shadows of Angmar any more than there should be. Moria is a different world in a sense but it still retains it's Middle-Earthiness. I've heard talk about World of Warcraft's expansion zones not needing any relation to the rest of Azeroth because of the discontinous world. I'm not here to critique that type of expansion - it works for WoW, clearly, but I appreciate the interconnectedness of Turbine's Middle-Earth and venture to say I'd enjoy this type of world building better.


Abandoned Goal not so Unrealistic?

After examining my archives and looking at the number of posts I had each month, December was the only month I managed to fall short on my goal of one post a day average. December is a busy month and I was actually working during that month (wish I was now...) so it's understandable I was short... but only by 2 posts.

I think where I fell short was not on quantity, but quality. December's posts and the beginning of January tended to be more information referrals than commentary on the game. When I have a goal of a "quality content" post each day, that's when I have trouble. It's unfortunately not every day that something worth talking about comes to mind.

By the way, the layout is now operating as it should. I specifically picked a variable width layout this time in order to ensure it's viewable on all resolution monitors. I happen to have a wide screen monitor and having half the space underutilized seemed like a awful waste of space (just noticed the movie quote there).


Full Size Screenshots

Friday, January 30, 2009

You've probably noticed that the screenshots I post in this blog are not full size. The originals are at 1680 x 1050 however Photobucket's max is 1040 x 768 and so the shots are scaled to fit within that. If you'd like to see any of the LOTRO screenshots that are on my photobucket (which is public) at full size, I can e-mail them to you. Simply go to my profile to find my e-mail address. Send me an e-mail with the subject line "Screen Shot Request" and the title of the screenshot(s) you want from photobucket in the body.


Massive Moria Screenshot Post

I have quite a few screenshots from Moria today. I visited a few new areas, some of them iconic so I wanted to have a good selection of the experience. Check out the links below...

First up is the 21st hall, where the fellowship finds Lord Balin's crypt and then they flee to the Bridge of Khazadum. The Chamber of Mazarbul is where they fight the cave troll and goblins to escape to the Bridge.

Chamber of Mazarbul

Next up is a couple shots of the Endless Stair


And finally are a random shot of Dwarven stonework and a few of the Dwarven Gardens.

Gardens 1
Gardens 2
Gardens 3


Layout Tweaking/Problems

I'm in the middle of trying to sort out a new layout and by experimenting with third party layouts I've somehow screwed up a few of the layout settings and I can't seem to get them fixed. So, bear with me as I try and figure out how to fix it. As far as I can tell, reading and commenting functionality is still working fine.


Gear Check?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

One of the tenements of LOTRO as a game is that grinding for the best gear wasn't going to be a hurdle along the way of completing content. That is, you don't need the best gear in the game in order to be an effective player. My captain is wearing as of this posting mostly the critted level 47 crafted heavy armor. This armor was not the best armor for the previous level cap of 50, but it was second best. And I only got it well after reaching the level cap and grinding out a ton of coin to purchase it on the AH.

Here I am at level 58 (33k from 59) and I'm still wearing some of it. That's over 10 levels beyond when you can first wear that armor. As a note of comparison, there are four other sets of crafted gear that I could have upgraded to (as long as it was critted gear) along the way. Why didn't I do this?

Well first, it's bloody expensive because the new crafting tier (supreme) is new along with all the materials - this means there's a high demand and thus high price. Second, this newness has also made these items and materials for these items scarce, again jacking up the price. And by the time I do find the items I'm looking for, I've out leveled them. Third, I need the critted version of the gear in order for all the extra stats (not just the armor value) to be an upgrade of my current gear. Lastly, and this is the point I'm really getting at, is that I haven't really needed it. Or do I?

First, I don't think this is a true gear check. A gear check, for those of you who don't know, is basically a set of content that cannot be completed without a specific set of gear be it stat bonuses or armor value. The Mines of Moria thus far has not seen me too hindered by my lack of gear. That said, I feel my armor beginning to become obsolete.

With Moria, the mobs are more smart. They use different and more powerful skills against you and hit harder. Better gear obviously mitigates this and as I've progressed, I've subtly noticed it. Not so much as to prevent me from completing the solo content in Moria or to reach the new level cap.

I cannot speak to group content such as instances or raids. I would imagine that because of the harder mobs that I might encounter a true gear check at this point. I still think that LOTRO does an excellent job of not punishing you too badly for having 10 level obsolete gear.

Lucky me I'm 5/6 pieces away from a full set of class specific level 60 gear. For Captains, this comes in three different sets: Rallying Shout/Stoutheart, Brazen Call, or Hall-General's Armor. The last on is the teal "Radiance" set which is the best armor in the game at the moment. Hard to get. I'll save talking about that for a future post. The armor I bought from the AH is the Rallying Shout and Stoutheart armor. All I'm missing is the helm. But I'll probably have it before I reach 60 so I can immediately put on the new armor.

Honestly, it's going to feel nice getting into a new high level set of gear with appropriate stats. I can't wait to see the difference in combat. I'll certainly be making a post about reaching 60 and my new armor. I'll make sure to include a screenshot of the new stuff as I've dyed it all to replace one of my outfit sets. It's not the best looking armor in the game but not many of the high level captain sets are in my opinion. Perhaps only the North Star set from the Rift is visually appealing to me (aside from this level 60 set). I'm so glad we have the outfit system. I'd be one ugly captain.

And then of course is the critted Jewelry which will help round out my stats... but that'll be very expensive.


X-Fire LOTRO Contest

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The details can be found here, but basically if you log into your X-Fire account and join the X-Fire LOTRO Clan you can earn prizes based on log-in time. As far as I can tell. If you have X-Fire and are interested in some free subscription time check it out.

I do have an X-Fire account but I'm a Lifetime member so free subscription time is pretty useless to me. And my X-Fire client doesn't seem to work all that well with Windows Vista and operating in-game with LOTRO. Oh well.


Hero's Guide to the Great Delving

Continuing on the Hero's Guide series of articles for Moria, Turbine has released their latest detailing the Great Delving. Again these posts can contain spoilers so click with caution.


Exploring Barandalf

This small mini-region within Evendim is just north of the Shire. Check out Turbine's write up of it here. My own experience with the place was one of immediate attention. That is, it's a part of Middle-Earth unlike the rest. The primary action taking place within a typical temperate zone most of the land is fairly sylvan. The expanse of sand and the river with cliffs beyond helped to break up the monotony of a largely green landscape. I would love to see more varied regions within Middle-Earth in the future where applicable.

Rohan should prove to be different. Eregion reminds me a bit of the Lone-Lands, which also breaks from the slyvan mold and that's a step in the right direction (though I find the Lone-Lands to be somewhat dull except for Amon Sul [Weathertop]). There's also the possibility of the desert of Southern Gondor/Harad when we get that far (seems a long way off).


Mines of Moria Trial

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

If you're reading this blog, more than likely you're already playing LOTRO. But if that is not the case, or you have friends you want to play, what better way to get them hooked than to have them try out the game. The Mines of Moria free trial is now available. Get it here.


Get Chummy with Orcs

The latest Know Your Lore out of Massively is all about orcs. What kinds, where they came from, how they breed, etc. Check it out.


Generosity at My Expense

I already asked if I am too nice. This time, along those same lines, it's "am I too generous". You see, I give needed materials to my kinmates for crafting. I don't use nearly all the materials found as drops because I'm a cook and farmer, getting all my stuff in one area and nearly all from one NPC. I just forward it along. However, many of these materials can get a lot of money on the Auction House.

My philosophy is, I love to give stuff to people. It's fun for me. And I'm helping my kinship. But would I be helping my kinship better if I sold some of that and, for instance, bought better equipment on the Auction House. In that case, I'd be better equipped for helping the kinship on various quest tasks etc. So, there might indeed be such thing as too much generosity and I might not be helping the kin as well as I could. What I thought was a selfless act could be considered a short-sighted act. Food for thought in the near-term. Now I have to decide how to digest it.


Rune-Keeper Love

Monday, January 26, 2009

I don't play a Rune-Keeper. Tried it out to level 6... just enough to get past the intro instance quests. Fun class in my opinion. I think I'd like the magic classes a lot and if I ever seriously consider an alt again I'd probably go with a Rune Keeper.

Anyhow, they're getting some love with new additions to the class in terms of items. Chisels will inhabit the ranged slot for Rune Keepers (but aren't ranged items) and give passive buffs to damage and avoidances. Inlays and Enamels can be applied to Rune-stones to give benefits such as reduced/unbreakable inductions and range increases. These sound like one-off buffs but it certainly possible they could be over a certain amount of time like food buffs.

This is the first news I've heard about Book 7 aside from an expanded Lothlorien zone and quests. Seeing as how I've hardly started Volume 2, Book 7 is still far away for me. I will certainly be posting about and reacting to any more news about Book 7.

Thanks to Massively for the heads-up.


Maddening Quests

I got a little frustrated last night questing in the Waterworks. I came to the conclusion that it's a beautiful area of Moria but the quests kinda suck. Well, a few of the quests suck, most notably when you have to go over to the west side of the area. Here you'll find mobs so thick they frequenly stand "in" each other (there being no colision detection they just cohabit 3D space). When it comes to the salamander mobs, this is particularly annoying - and dangerous. These mobs hit hard and their fire DOTs make fighting more than one at a time hard as a solo player. And yes, these quests are rated as solo.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the quests should be easy. Indeed I completed a rather challenging solo quest on the other side of the Waterworks and felt quite satisfied with myself afterwords. But there comes a point where a quest is either mislabeled (a few of those out there) or the design of the quest area is faulty. In the case of the neck-deep mobs, I'd say we're working with the latter here. If you have mobs overlapping each other physically, this is got to be a bug. Add in a rather rapid respawn time and you'll be constantly in combat as you rotate through the same spawns over and over again. This is not sustainable nor survivable. Even when you're two or three levels above the mobs (which I was).

What does this sort of thing do to the player? Well, I wanted to log. Frustration is not having fun and if I'm not having fun in a game, why play? Certainly I'm somewhat masochistic in my quest to complete every quest in the game, but there's a level of fun in that for me. Where the fun stops is when design flaws come into play. For some reason I have a fairly low tolerance for this sort of thing. I think I'm justified in all honesty. The very nature of a game is fun and anything not fun doesn't belong in the game. There's no reason I should continue to play a game that is not fun.

Okay, I'll turn off the rant now. I'm still a huge fan of LOTRO. This should be evidenced that I fought against my instincts to log and instead did another round of quests after (finally and with the help of a kinmate and a random person) completing the frustrating ones. I actually think I would have logged if this second set of quests sent me right back into the fray of mob city, but instead they went else where - including the properly challenging quest I mentioned above.

My kinmates agreed on the insanity of that particularly area and the general suck of the Waterworks quests. And on the nastiness of the salamanders. I told them at the end of my maddening adventure that knowing me, I'll torture myself and still try and get these quests done. Thinking about that today, after some sleep and perspective, I still think I will. But maybe after I gain a few levels and make it somewhat easier on myself.

By the way, three levels to 60... I have two second age emblems I'm leveling to see which one comes out better... I got a new halberd (still third age) finally to replace the one I got from Volume 2 Book 1... and I'm two pieces away from a complete level 60 Captain's armor set (all bought off the AH).


Abandoned Goal

Just a quick post on this subject. I started out this blog with the goal of having one entry a day. I wanted to be a blog that produced a steady stream of content (but quality). Unfortunately, that's an unrealistic goal. Unless you're Tobold where his posts/day are actually greater than one. But I'm not Tobold and this isn't a prolithic and well-read blog (as far as I know).

I was fortunate in starting with the one-post-a-day goal during the ramp up to Moria. There was a lot to talk about. But now my goal now is to maintain regular updates. It seems the pattern will be in fits and spurts with some days seeing four posts, some seeing one, and still others getting none. I imagine there will be some points where you'll see the return to a one-post-a-day average, probably close to and after content updates. Until then, I hope my blogging is satisfying the market of LOTRO blogs that I saw lacking at the time of The Middle-Earth Adventurer's conception.


The Waterworks

Friday, January 23, 2009

My exploration of Moria has been what could be termed systematic. That is, I'm carefully and thoroughly going from zone to zone but not rushing out and looking at everything. I took this approach for the initial part of Eriador opened at release. When Evendim and Forochel were released, I spent the first part of my time just exploring the zone. While this tactic had it's advantages for the explorer and helped me get to know the zone before I started questing and trying to find places, it left me with little exploration to do later on. With Moria, I'm spreading it out. Giving me a little taste of the wonder I get from exploring a new local in Middle-Earth as I go on. So far I've been in the Great Delving, The Silvertine Lodes, and now the Waterworks. Which brings me to the point of this post - screenshot time!

Of the three zones I've visited so far, this has been the most impressive and Moria-like for me. It's so atmospheric. A wide expanse yet dark and dank. Check out the shots below and enjoy the fallen grandeur of the Waterworks.

Shot 1
Shot 2
Shot 3


Newly Discovered Feature

I was sitting in Moria yesterday thinking about when I might get the Forgotten Treasury group quests completed. In Shadows of Angmar, I tended to skip the group content, but still leave it in my quest log for another day. Unfortunately, that "another day" never came along (and they're still sitting in my log). This takes up valuable quest slots - there's a finite number of quests you can have in your log. My thoughts were along the line of "I want to get these done fairly soon so I don't repeat the problem I had before." Lucky for me, the Moria content is much closer in level so the group content is more likely to have PUGs looking for it. However, I'd much prefer to do these quests with my kinmates, which is a normal thing to want.

In any case, this got me looking at my total and maximum quests in the log, just to see what kind of breathing room I had in case I came across more fellowship quests. Hovering my mouse over the quest numbers popped up a tooltip I had no idea existed. What's more, this tooltip explained to me a feature I had no idea existed - that is, as you complete deeds, you open up more quest slots. Currently I'm at 46. Now, I had 45 when I started Moria and I thought they had just raised the cap. Seeing 46 now gave me pause and helped contribute to my discovery.

I'm pretty stoked about this for a couple of reasons. First, I can always use new quest slots. Always, always, always. I'm a completionist and it's a whole lot easier for me to keep track of the quests I haven't done if they're in my tracker rather than some mental note of where to find the quest NPCs in the world. Secondly, it gives me another reason to go deed grinding. I find it somewhat ironic that just the other day I was talking about needing different rewards for deed completion. While opening more quest slots isn't a really strong incentive except for quest-a-holics like me. Still, it's another reward.

The tooltip currently states I have 5/40 deeds completed for opening my 47th quest slot. Putting the math together when I first bought the expansion and suddenly had 45 quest slots means that I had completed at least 200 deeds. Wow... 200? And I feel like I still have a ton of deeds to go. I wonder what the current limit for quest slots are. Presumably that would be the number of deeds available in the world to complete unless there's another arbitrary cap somewhere along the line.


Soloing 40 - 60

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The last solo-questing guide from Turbine was released yesterday and covers the remaining 20 levels. Primarily an outline of the quest hubs and some of the quests to be found at each hub. The mentioned quests all link to the official Lorebook if you're interested in more detail.

Eregion was not mentioned at all in the guide which I find odd because Eregion is almost primarily a solo zone within the level range. The quest progression here is fairly straight forward. Head out from Rivendell south along the Bruinen and up the east side of the gorge when you get past Echad Candaith. Here you start at Gwingris, move out to Echad Eregion, then Echad Dunnan, and finally Mirobel (here you'll find a series of small fellowship [3] quests in addition to some solo quests).

Like the guide said, in order to gain access to Moria you need to complete Book 1 of Volume 2 which is a solo instance opening the Doors of Durin. You can find this questline beginning at Echad Dunnan.


Moria Patch 3

It's coming tomorrow and resolves an issue with the class I play, the Captain. Apparently using Noble mark while also having the trait Master of War slotted would cause escort NPCs to attack you as well as generate 40 times the amount of threat as intended. This seems like a straight forward fix of a couple bugs but of course there are Captains out there who want that much threat and aren't happy. There's always somebody who isn't happy about a patch, even one as small as this one.

Official Patch Notes


Get To Know Your Man

I play a Man Captain in LOTRO. From my experience, the Race of Men are actually played less in the game than the other races, except for Hobbit. Elf is probably most popular, then Dwarf. That's probably because Men are boring. They're the same thing as you, so why would you want to just play you? (See how I just called you boring?)

Anyway, I fell in love with the Captain so I don't really care he's a man. But I should. Men have a very interesting history in Middle-Earth. And a very interesting future. Check out Massively's latest addition to their Know Your LOTRO Lore column... this time obviously about the Race of Man.


Am I Too Nice?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I didn't ask this as a question in kinchat yesterday, but rather just said I'm too nice. But today I thought I'd talk about it. See, I grouped with this other player in a PUG when I was doing the Library and School quests in Tham Mirain, in Eregion. Nothing special happened necessarily except that he/she was a nice player. Well, they weren't mean, but like I said it wasn't like I just met my new best friend.

Anyhow, he sends me a tell a few days later asking for a summon. Cool, I'm in position to do that, certainly. Then yesterday he asks for summon, this time for a friend of his he's power leveling. Probably to play together. That's cool. But I'm in Moria and this person can't be summoned to Moria because they're too low level (required level of 35). So I need to go out of Moria and to a zone that's lower - in this case I ended up in Rivendell. But that required I take considerably more time out of my own adventuring to assist this person I haven't even met yet at the request of somebody I've quested with once.

But I did go ahead and help them out because I wasn't in the middle of anything at the time of the request. I told myself well, if I was I would have probably said no. But I hate saying "no" to helping people out. And that's where today's question comes in... there's got to be a moment where one can be too nice and never get anything done. Certainly I'm probably not going to become the summon service of Middle-Earth any time soon (sorry hunters, that's you) but there's a point where you're going too far out of your way. So, I asked myself, with the realization that I cannot always fulfill requests like this, am I being too nice?

Well, in jest one of my kinmates said "yes" to my statement of I'm too nice, but he might have just as well been serious.


Tooting the Horn

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I've never put much weight in user-rated awards. The awards over at MMOrpg.com aren't an exception. But, for what it's worth, LOTRO and Turbine has won a couple of them. This could mean that us LOTRO players (and fanbois) turned out strongly, or that people just wanted WoW to stop winning, or many gamers legitmately like the game. Any one of these could be true, or it could be something completely different.

Of course Turbine is going to "toot the horn" about it all. Grats Turbine. You already have me. Hopefully you'll get more fans from the awards.


Soloing 20 - 40

The next article regarding soling in LOTRO has been released by Turbine. Once again I have to call it fairly basic, mainly going over basic systems, but ones you encounter farther into the leveling curve, such as the reputation or gaining a personal horse. The outline of quest hubs is nice, but you can find more detailed information from player created guides and such on third party sites or the Lorebook.

My advice for this is to jump back and forth between the Lone-Lands, the Northdowns, and Evendim. Sure, you're traveling a lot, but that's somewhat necessary to find quests soloable and that will net you experience to advance your character.


Fellow LOTRO Blog Posts

I thought I'd take a moment to shout out to my fellow LOTRO bloggers. The Ancient Gaming Noob has just reached level 20 with his captain. 20 of course is a significant milestone where the captain can now wear heavy armor. It's amazing what a bit more armor will do for you at those levels. Speaking of armor, I really need to update mine. I'm still wearing mostly the level 47 crit crafted gear. It's hard to find any of the middle-level 50-60 crafted gear on the AH. I'll see what it looks like when I get to the top tier again.

The Common Sense Gamer is still enjoying his time in LOTRO amongst other games. He's recently hit 30 with his Warden. He raves about the epic book quests. I rave about them too. The most immersed I've ever felt in this game (aside from simply wandering around the Shire) is when I've participated in the epic quests. The writing is superb in the game as a whole, but the epic storyline takes the cake. Don't ever miss these quests.

Lastly, Van Hemlock is stoked that he's actually playing the same game as everybody else for once. I'm stoked too seeing nearly all the bloggers I read enjoying the same game I've been enjoying for the last couple of years. Hemlock is particularly impressed with the deed system in LOTRO. I've come to take it for granted at this point, but the flexibility is indeed one of the great aspects of the mechanic. That and for someone whose second letter in their Bartle profile is A for achievement, deeds go a long way for me.


Soloing and Grouping

Turbine has put up a feature article talking about soloing from level 1 to 20. A majority of the article talks about basic strategy that's good to heed in both solo and fellowship situations, as well as brief overviews of game mechanics. The experienced player will undoubtedly know everything in this article already but for the first time player, it's definitely a boon to keep these things in mind. I'd refer a new player to this guide myself.

I'd like to take a moment and talk a bit about the soloing game in general. I primarily solo. However, I've done most of the group quests up to my level as well. That's just the nature of someone who plays for completing all the quests (aside from raids, at this point). LOTRO definitely has a wealth of solo content which is really the best play style for me. There's been many a time where I found myself unmotivated to try and find a group for a certain quest. The only time I found a lack of solo content was when I was at the previous level cap of 50 and had completed all the solo quests in the game. But playing at the level cap is a post for another day.

This of course opens the Pandora's Box of solo versus group play. I think that dead horse has been beaten enough in game forums over the years. For LOTRO, I think the ratio of group to solo quests is satisfactory. I'm not going to say perfect because I don't know if I'd like more group quests or not. But I am happy with the state of soloing in this game. Angmar, my least favorite region is probably the king of group quests. I'd say half of that region's quests are group quests. Do I dislike Angmar because of the group quests? Well, it's not so much group quests as the type and time commitment of those group quests. Many of them, particularly the quests to go out into Carn Dum and Urugarth, take a considerable amount of time to complete.

I think the final quest in the Book 15 quest line - the culmination of the Shadows of Angmar story - epitomizes group quests I don't like. In this case, it's a difficulty that doesn't only challenge your skill as a player. That I have no problem with. I like a challenge, especially overcoming a challenge with other people. But throwing in random luck and a mechanic that is so touchy you can do everything right and still fail really grates at me. I don't think there is much group content like this. The quest for killing Heart-Rot, the wood troll in Evendim, approaches this. Overcoming that, however, gave me a great deal of satisfaction in my accomplishment. Maybe I just need to stick with it when it comes to group content like this. I might just be a little pansyish about the whole thing.

In anycase, LOTRO is built with the idea that you can solo the game and still get as much reward out of it as any other playstyle or activity. I think they've achieved this on the solo and group content. There's still PvMP, raiding, crafting, and the social part of the game that I have yet to evaluate. Mostly because I haven't delved into that content nearly as much. Perhaps in the future, once I complete the Mines of Moria content.


Get to Know the Dwarves

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Massively's Know Your Lore column has been recently updated to include an entry about the dwarves. If you're at all interested in where these stern but merry (when drunk) race of short folk come from, check out the article.

One think I greatly appreciate about this column is how it delves into the histories of Middle-Earth found in the Silmarillion and beyond. Many people haven't read any of the books beyond the trilogy and/or the Hobbit. And many players of LOTRO haven't read the books at all. There is a whole wealth of lore surrounding this universe just waiting to be explored. Now, you have to have a tollerance for some dry reading at times, but if you're interested in any of it, I highly recommend checking out the books besides LOTR.


Cleaning Up Eregion

Friday, January 9, 2009

I finished the last quest(s) in Eregion this evening, which were seven quests in Tham Mirdain. Both the school and the library instances. I'm glad to see them out of my tracker, because I was at 41/45 quests. I can't say I'm completely done with Eregion yet because I have a whole slew of deeds to complete, the most annoying ones being more killing in Tham Mirdain, which means going back into those bloody instances. They're fun the first or second time around, and after that, well, not so much. I guess that's typical of deed grinding.

I'm not a fan of the long deeds that require a group to do. Getting a group together for quests takes long enough, but just for deeds means there are even fewer people available. It's the same thing with the Carn Dum and Urugarth quests in Angmar. I'll probably never finish those until there's a couple expansions down the road to get me to a much higher level where I can solo 3 elite trolls or orcs etc at once. I know it's unlikely my kinship would be willing to help. They're busy doing more productive things than helping me on my futile quest for completionism. So, it'll be a while. And the deeds will sit.

I'm having fun with Moria so far. I haven't left the Great Delving (the first "room" in Moria) yet. I'm at that point though, which I thought as a good breaking point to go finish up the Eregion quests. I wanted them out of my tracker, because, like I said, it was too full.


Latest Ringcast is Out

Thursday, January 8, 2009

It's been a month, but Lady Sinaea is back with a short podcast talking about some of the high level Moria instances, Tier 6 crafting, and the Moria reputation. Seeing as how I've not done anything that Sinaea talks about, I'm not going to comment on this episode. I'm currently half-way through level 54 and only at the Dolven view in Moria. That's mainly because I took a lot of time going through Eregion, which I have to call pretty traditional content. Nothing really special about that zone except for following the fellowship.



Scalability Beyond Moria

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What I mean by scalability is extending the current systems into multiple expansions and an increased level cap. The question I want to raise is how these systems will perform as the game is scaled.

We've already seen Turbine overhaul a system due to a level cap increase. This was the combat system. As I understand it, the previous system used direct percentages whilst the new system uses an index rating. After looking at the mouse-over tool tips on my stats, these indexes seem to correspond to an underlying percentage anyway, so I'm not sure how this new system changes anything except for burying the information deeper into the user interface. I'm trusting what I cannot see here will make the combat more scalable as the levels increase with new expansions.

What I can see is that certain other systems will be a problem, most notably in its use of superlatives, which are adjectives denoting a hierarchy. With the new tier of crafting, instead of a grand-master crafter, I'm now a supreme master crafter. The problem is that superlatives are limited in number. We're going to run out of them, and fairly quickly. So what do you then call the next best tier or crafting item (such as hides)?

Another scalability issue was briefly touched on in my last post about the deeds and associated virtues. There's a finite number of virtues and an ever-expanding list of deeds. Not having gone through most of the Moria content, I'm only guessing, but I'd say it's highly likely that every virtue can be leveled to the tenth and final tier, making additional deeds that reward that virtue useless for all but any title they might also reward. The advanced portion of the slayer deeds are completely unnecessary, so players will pick and choose completing the easiest deeds for their virtues and ignoring the rest. And ignored content, to me, points to a problem - this one being scalability.

How does one solve these problems? For the superlatives, I'd just switch the whole thing over to numbers, unnamed tiers of crafting and material. It's not nearly as pretty as words, but I don't see how it can continue much farther down the road. This is by far the easiest thing to do.

But what about the deeds and virtues? Sure, some of them like the explorer deeds that reward a title have a reward that doesn't cause a problem, but there are far more that have an associated virtue upgrade. We might be able to tack on more virtue tiers for a while, but this is only a bandaid. Like the combat system before it, the virtues will become too powerful. A diferent reward for deeds would be the easiest way to reinvigorate the deed system at this point, however they need to be just as compelling as virtue rewards. What that might be, I don't know. Titles are pretty compelling for me, but I'm a title and content whore.

We'll just have to wait and see what Turbine comes up with. There are a lot more people and smarter people working on this problem than me.


Solo IXP Quests

Monday, January 5, 2009

I took my first step into one of the solo instances for item xp gain. I can't remember the name off-hand but you find it in the Dolven View. You're supposed to clear the area and find an anvil. Okay, seemed easy enough. Word of advice: don't pull the "boss" mob until you've cleared the rest of the dungeon or they all come at you at once. I didn't survive. C'est la vie. I'll try it again at a later date. Maybe one level higher.

These quests seem like a great and quick way to get item experience and/or a damage type change. Nice short instance. I'll probably post something brief about it again when I actually finish one.


Do Virtues Really Help?

This question popped into my mind as I diverted my attention from Moria briefly. I have great difficulty moving onto another area of the world when I know there are activities within the previous area that are incomplete. It I really followed this philosophy, I'd still be sitting in Angmar or the Misty Mountains trying to finish Carn Dum, Urugarth, or Goblin Town amongst the countless deeds out there. Moria would be a long way off with Eregion inbetween.

So, I don't really do that, but every time I look through my deed long, I have this little nagging voice inside my head saying, get those done. It's especially "loud" when I see deeds active that I know improve virtues I have slotted.

That brings me to my point, which is do virtues really help improve your character that much? I think one needs to look at that question from two perspectives: subjectively and objectively. In absolute numbers (objectively) the virtues do improve your character. How much? Well, that depends on what tier your virtue is at. Take a tier 10 virtue and it's almost as good as a piece of equipment in terms of stat boosts. However, from tier to tier, the improvements are fairly small and unnoticeable (subjective).

I think it's a valid pursuit to complete deeds for virtue improvements you know you will use. For me, the one who likes to complete every deed, even the advanced ones that give me virtue upgrades I won't use, maybe not so much. I'm a title whore and completionist though. At the very least, the deeds give a modicum of character differentiation.


Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

At long last the holidays are over. My temp work for UPS is finished so I'm actually home again for something other than sleeping. I hope everybody had an awesome set of holidays. I know mine were a nice break from everything. I didn't work on Christmas, thank goodness, but I didn't log in either. Well, briefly to say "merry Christmas" to the kinship, check my mail and pay my rent. Then I was out.

I have to admit I used some of my Christmas money to cheat on LOTRO. I bought Mass Effect. So it wasn't as bad as becoming a WoW convert (hehe) but I must say I became downright obsessed over this game. I absolutely love the story and got completely caught up in it. But I beat that game yesterday afternoon. Lucky me it's a finite single player experience (can't wait for the sequal though).

But now I should be back into LOTRO and regularly posting. Unlike a lot of bloggers out there, I'm not going to be posting any 2009 predictions etc. For one, I only follow MMO gaming casually and via third-parties. Furthermore, I only play one MMO, and that's LOTRO. Maybe I should do some LOTRO predictions, but I can only think of 2: We'll see two new major landscape additions to the game and one new expansion within the next year.

I do hope to see a great year for LOTRO in 2009 and I believe it will be.