Rohan Next Paid Expansion?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

If you've seen my speculation post, I come to the conclusion, simply based on what we've seen so far, where the fellowship is at, and dev comments that Rohan is the most likely next paid expansion. This bit of information dropped on the forums (which I found via Kill Ten Rats) seems to hint that I'm right.


Proven Already

Monday, March 30, 2009

I think The Road Goes Ever On has already proven itself to be a most excellent blog. The first entry is up and I have to draw attention to it. For anybody who is a fan of Tolkien's original work and this game, this blog is a must read. The idea is unique, but a logical step once you think about it. A virtual tour of the books via LOTRO - it is a testament to Turbine for getting so many details right. The only thing that might possibly improve the entry would be video, but with the screenshots I saw (and that's really what makes this blog pop) that isn't needed. My favorite shot has to be of the Party Field enterance at what I'm presuming is sunset. Beautiful shot.


Quite the Non-LOTRO Weekend

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wow, I sure had a lot going on IRL this weekend - so much so that not only did I not manage to get into LOTRO, but I hardly had time to sit down at the computer and check my e-mail, let alone blog. This is a LOTRO blog so I won't go into details but what I will do is make an update on where I'm at in the game.

I didn't make it to Lothlorien yet. I've been side tracked by my other method of reducing burn out - and that was play more with my kinship members. Last time I logged in it was mostly "hanging out" with them.

I've been camping the AH house as of late as well trying to complete my collection of the new soup recipes for the cooking profession. I got all the level 50+ recipes collected, working on lower levels. Hasn't been any for the Journeyman tier on the AH at all, and I have three or four total from Expert, Artisan, and Master tiers. I'd like to get these as soon as I can so I can update my cooking guide, which is woefully expired. My local version is more up-to-date than the one I linked but still... need those recipes.

Interested in getting a group together in my kinship to do my class quest (Hands of Healing) for the legendary trait, which is probably the only one I'd really use unless I was needed to tank. The last one, the Lead the Charge set, is fairly useless in my opinion. Got another 60 captain waiting on that quest too. Need to do a Fil Gashan run. Seems to be an unpopular instance with many of my kinmates so we'll see how far this gets any time soon. Might pug it when me and the other captain are around.

Lastly, I'm trying to get a local friend interested in the game. Been sending him screenshots lately and he says he's "really interested" but doesn't want to commit to a monthly fee and the lifetime membership is too expensive at the moment. I'm unemployed or I'd offer to pay it for him with him paying me back whenver he can. Oh well - his computer wouldn't let the game look nearly as nice as mine does - which would be a bit of a let down after the screen shots I've been sending him.

Oh, one more thing. Going to try and get FRAPS working one more time for LOTRO. I desperately want to create some video. Nasty out of memory crashes.


The Road Goes Ever On

Friday, March 27, 2009

Always vigilant when it comes to the LOTRO blogging front I've ran across a LOTRO blog that promises to be a bit different. Rather than focus on the news of the game, The Road Goes Ever On is going to look at the narrative of the book as seen within the game world through commentary, excepts, and screenshots. It sounds like this blog might be the one to watch if your a fan of Lord of the Rings and of the game - and to point your fellow LotR, but not LOTRO, friends at.

Like all my fellow LOTRO bloggers, I wish the newest the best of luck. It's easy to start a blog. It's hard to keep it going.


Positively Negative?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It has come to my attention through various means that perhaps Book 7 has caused the largest uproar about changes this game has ever seen. I have to mention here that I used to surf the official forums fairly regularly but haven't done so except to pick out particular dev comments for this blog. The reason? I didn't ever find anything I wanted to talk about, and when I posted a thread about something I did want to talk about, it quickly disappeared with very few posts. So ultimately I turned to an outlet that won't disappear, my own LOTRO blog. My point is that I cannot objectively evaluate the emotional state of the forums because I don't care to spend a great deal of time over there. A bit odd to hear from a blogger who wants to support the community but I feel I have more freedom of expression and community building here.

What I really want to do is ask a few questions: Has the community as a whole become more jaded to the game? Has Book 7 spurred the largest "outrage" over changes? Is Turbine going in the wrong direction with this game?

Let me tackle the last one first. It could be argued that they have always been going in the wrong direction with this game. The MMO project using the Lord of the Rings IP used to be called Middle-Earth Online and promised to be more freeform and sandboxy than the focused and steered LOTRO. I followed the development of MEO for a while and was excited about the sandbox type environemt that was talked about. I got distracted and lost track of the game and in that time the development switched to a different company with a different vision and LOTRO was born. I got a beta invite in August of 2006 and jumped in head first. I was hooked. It was Lord of the Rings. The game would be huge. I didn't care anymore about the sandbox that was never born - the fact that they managed to capture the magic of the lore made me a believer.

That belief has continued largely unabated since. There might be inklings, however, of a more mass commercialization of the game in the form of pleasing the masses at a cost to the integrity of the lore and even existing mechanics. It's never been a secret that Turbine would like LOTRO to be the second most sucessful MMO in North America (behind WoW of course) and to do that you might just need to make it more WoW like, even if it hurts some of the positive things that makes LOTRO unique. I agree that I'd like to see LOTRO succeed on that level. I don't agree that it needs to mold itself after WoW in every nook and craney. Are Turbine going in that direction? Maybe. I would have once said no but we'll have to see how things go in this second year and after the second expansion. This is when LOTRO will go through adolecence. It'll start to mature. Will we see LOTRO find it's own place in the MMO world or will it follow after it's "big brother"? Is Turbine going in the right direction? Right now, only time will tell, but I think there is a chance it could be not quite what some of us more endeared to the IP and original vision want.

As to the apparent sudden influx of complaints post Book 7, there might be truth in that if we look as sheer numbers of people voicing complaints. But are these the same people that have always voiced complaints or are they new? Are these people that have previously been postive about the game? Are the people who post positive feedback just not talking anymore? It's very possible, post the release of Mines of Moria and an assumed influx of new players, that the percentage of negative feedback hasn't changed, or has even gone down.

Ultimately, are we more jaded now to LOTRO than last year at this time? For me, there are new systems that didn't quite live up to expectations (housing, legendary items, reputation) but there are also gems (lore consciousness, world design, group play). Am I more jaded? I think I look at things more critically now that I write about LOTRO regularly and listen to more varied opinions. But I don't think I'm any less enthusiastic and I always, always try and keep my feed back thoughful, respectful, and positive. I do not complain without saying at least why I dislike what I do and will try my hardest to come up with a different idea. Sometimes the last part doesn't always work, but hopefully my overall attitude is contageous.


Welcome Back Queues

With the Welcome Back Weekend kicking off today, we're welcoming back queues. Last time we had a welcome back weekend the forums lit up with various posts about people unhappy that those that stuck it out with LOTRO had to wait for those who didn't. Frankly, I find that attitude elitist and self-centered. A quick perusal a few minutes ago didn't turn up any negative comment but the event has just begun. I for one will tolerate a wait if it means more potential people in the game when the event is over.


Tag Your It!

Miss the games of your childhood? Like tag? Well, now you can indulge without looking like a goofball. LOTRO offers tag in a nice controlled virtual environment. Well, it still might rain, but who cares!?! As part of the Spring Festival, the Breefields play host a tag arena for indulging your inner, or outer, child. Check out the official write-up and then head on over to the tag field in-game!


Photobucket Reup

Genius that I am I didn't realize I could have uploaded all my screenshots to their original dimensions on Photobucket. So, I'm reupping all the shots to the album. As such all the links from previous screenshot posts will probably be broken. Fixing every one of those is time intensive and not worth it so this post has links to every sub-album in my LOTRO album in order for you to access the "new and improved" screenshots.


Ered Luin
Lone Lands


Revamped Starting Area Impressions

Today I rerolled an elf rune keeper I had sitting around from the start of Moria when I tried the class out (still enjoy the runekeeper quite a bit - if I ever played an alt, it would probably be her). I did this to see what the new starting instance quest progression was like after Book 7's revamp. I must say it's much, much better. The reason for why the quest givers are where they are is much more apparent and the progression is much smoother. I like the new quests and the way each one leads to the other. Some of them are the same but they're all very well written. I haven't tried the dwarf quests again but I hear those received less dramatic changes. Same with man and hobbit. Over all a good start. Apparently the progressions throughout Ered Luin have been reworked. I might consider taking my Runekeeper to level 15 or however long it takes to get through the quests in Ered Luin. So far so good. It's nice to see some attention paid to the other parts of the game besides the end-game. Heres to seeing an alternative zone progression from the Lone Lands and North Downs.


Welcome Back Weekend

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The US side of the game is throwing a welcome back weekend for all former players of LOTRO. Check out the official announcement for more details.


Skumfel Run

Yesterday some of the kin went to Skumfel, myself included (after some lengthy discussion of where we did want to go). The place has bugs, lots and lots of bugs. We had a full group for part of the run, but one of us had to leave so it was only five for the next part. We didn't get to the lower section because many of us didn't have the requirements met. Lower usually means worse, and I can't imagine what's worse than a pile of rotten flesh and bones lorded over by a gigantic spitting bug.

No wipes, so that was good, but we did lose our minstrel once. Only death though. He said it was his fault but I don't know precisely what happened. Otherwise a successful run. We did it on normal mode as far as I can tell because there was no drop for radiance gear. Either that or it's in the lower section that we didn't get to. This is my first time in the place so I wasn't completely cognizant of what was going on.

Which sort of leads me into a bit of a side topic. I'm an awesome solo player with my class. I know what I can do, can't do, what skills to use, when to use them, etc. Why do I excel at soloing? Because I've had practice. It's how I play most often. But when I get in a group, I'm much less competent. I felt like a sore thumb despite our general success. There was a moment where I had a poison DoT on me and I didn't even notice. Not until I was at 1/3 of my morale. I wasn't even watching the chat either, and two people had said I had a DoT that needed dealing with. I hit up a potion and our minstrel healed, but the fact that it turned out alright isn't the point - the fact that it happened is. Now, what's the best solution? How did I get good at soloing? I need more group play practice.

As a captain, my role in groups, aside from buffing, isn't always the same nor always clear-cut. Depends on the fight, depends on what other classes are there. Honestly, I'd rather just take orders and hit what they tell me to hit and watch what they tell me to watch. Funny that, because the definition of a captain is the one who gives the orders. And I was the only one using voice chat (they all could hear me though) so theoretically, if it weren't for my inexperience, I should have been the one calling the battle. But I have trouble seeing everything that's going on. My class roll requires that I do most of the time. I'm uncomfortable not knowing how to play my class the best in group settings. I feel like a noob sometimes. Here's hoping I get more practice in and can improve my game.


Number Project Canceled

Looks like this project is not going to go forward as planned. Turns out those numbers are a cumulative count since the last server restart rather than the number of people currently logged in. I'm somewhat disappointed. I'm not sure what I can do with this type of data. It doesn't tell me when people are on the most, it doesn't tell me how many people are on in average. It doesn't tell me a relative health of the game. Frankly, they're rather useless. Project canceled.

However, if we're able to tap into this, why can't we see what I did want to see?


The Spring Festival is Here!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Looks like it's time for another promotional event in the form of the Spring Festival. To commemorate the event Turbine has released a developer diary talking about the festival.

Each season has it's own festival with each of the four races in Middle-Earth having their own particularly activities and celebration. This year's notable activity is the hedge maze near the Breefields north of Bree. There are a few different activities you can do in the maze and all are quests repeatable, but with cooldowns. A couple of the notable ones is a dwarf who wants you to post confusing signs within the maze to... well, confuse people. I had to laugh at that one. Another one is a hobbit who wants you to round up some chickens that have gotten loose inside the maze. As a lover of hedge mazes, I had a blast doing all these quests. And there's a special title for those who complete all the quests.

Each quest will gift you with a hedge leaf that can be turned in for prizes at a nearby trader. For farmers there are three potted plants recipes you can get. Also included are some housing items, a cosmetic item, and two items you can use to slap people with. Yeah, I'm not joking. So, check out the Breeland hedge maze north of Bree!


Crafting Instances

There are 6 new solo instances in the game now targeted towards crafters. They are located in three different locations, two per: The Redhorn Lodes, Zelem-Melek, and Durin's Way. If you turn on traders on your map, you'll see new blue icons specifically where these instances are located. That's the easiest way to find them.

I ran through these yesterday to get a taste of what they were like. Each instance has a bunch of crafting nodes in them for forester, scholar, or prospector. They are in Zem Melek, Durin's Way, and the Redhorn Lodes respectively. The nodes are on a cooldown timer completely seperate from the three quest givers (per instance) you'll find outside the crafting instances. These quest NPCs have repeateable quests, every 12 hours, that reward you with barter items that can be traded for Lothlorien gold leaves, which themselves are barter items that can be turned in for goodies in Lothlorien. A little complicated, but whatever. This is where those trader icons come in - they're the guys that give you the leaves for your quest rewards.

The instances themselves are well designed, artistically, and fairly linear. There are little deviations in your path that lead to dead ends that frequently have those crafting nodes. The quests are straight forward. Kill 20 of the invaders, find 8 of the lost objects, and kill the leader. The instances will have three different random mob types that will be the invaders: cave claws, grothburg (the bugs), or goblins. The bugs and cave claws are the easiest, with the latter giving you Extraordinary Hide drops, which are a pleasant side crafting oriented side effect. I don't use them myself so I'll either give them to kinmates or sell them on the AH. You can get a stack of 50 and a bit more if you get two instances with the cave claws. The goblins are the hardest because of their ranged attack type mobs. As a captain, I have no ranged weapon so I have to get in melee range. This can be a pain sometimes, but that's the nature of my class and not anything against the crafting instances.

Like the IXP instances, these can get just as boring after a while, even with the variation in mob types. If you're a crafter, it's worth going through if you need materials. If you're not a crafter, or one who can use wood, scholar nodes, or metals, it's not really worth your time except maybe for the barter items. I haven't been out to Lothlorien yet to see what exactly these can be turned in for and if that is worth the grind.

All in all, a good addition but nothing really spectacular.


Random Screenies

I've been collecting some screenshots over the past couple of days so I thought I'd share some. I've been taking the shots mainly to entice a friend of mine to play the game with me so some of these shots are of iconic places or early areas of the game. Others are shots of convenience, such as being in Angmar a couple days ago.

Angmar Night Sky
Dread Statue Guards
Drake Fight

Breeland at Night
The Prancing Pony
Inside the Prancing Pony
The Midgewater Marsh

Hobbiton Hill
Hobbiton View
Bag End

Forsaken Inn and Weathertop


In-Game Interview by MSNBC

MSNBC has done a short interview with Rowan "in-game." My first thought is it's a bit corny and gimmicky but they focused more on in-game footage rather than the two characters pretending to talk to each other in the game. So, here's a bit of mainstream media coverage but I think it might be done in a way that general people would see as a bit... hardcore, for lack of a better word. Not that those types of people are our audience. Hopefully some of the shots will appeal to MMORPG fans that happen to stumble across the segment.



We got some publicity over at LOTROLife.com regarding the combo blog. Any way that readership can increase is a good thing in my mind. Good deal!


Ringcast 32

Monday, March 23, 2009

Another episode of RingCast has been released. I don't know if anybody else is having this problem, but I can't get it to download/play. I've tried the download link, the on-site player, and iTunes to no avail. Seems like there might be a problem behind the scenes. I trust they'll get it sorted soon enough. I'll comment on what I thought of the show as soon as I'm able to listen to it.


Number Crunching Delayed

Because there was downtime today that threw off normal server numbers and tomorrow is a patch that will do the same, but remove the daily server downtime by fixing the issue, I'm going to wait until next week to start the crunching. And I woke up later than I wanted to today to record the numbers. I live on the west coast of the US so even early morning for me is late morning for most the rest of the US. And I'm not going to get up at 6 AM just to record server numbers. So, it's 8 AM for me, 9 for mountain, 10 for central, and 11 for east coast.

I plan on recording the numbers 3 times per day: 8 AM, 1 PM, and 6 PM. Basically I want a morning, afternoon, and a primetime read. All times in Pacific of course. I'll record every day for one week (7 days) to see if there are discernible patterns. I might even make this a month long project. I do have a job prospect on the horizon that might take me out of the all-day free time "bliss" I've been in recently, but hopefully I can manage to record at work should I get the job.

Oh, and when I checked the numbers at 10 AM this morning, there were 380,332 people logged in total. Honestly, that's a lot more than I thought were subscribers, let alone players. I'm sure these count free trials that are logged in, but how many of those are there? One conclusion I know I'll find is that LOTRO is healthy.


Book 7 Patch One

Tomorrow the servers will be brought down for a small patch fixing some bugs. Most notable is that some characters had 1 morale and 1 power and no skills upon logging in after Book 7's release. Saw a screenshot of this on the forums the other day. All I can say is "teh sucketh" but now that it's being fixed... "Patch 1 FTW!".


Finding Joy

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sometimes I think I find more joy writing about LOTRO than I do playing it. Is this common amongst bloggers and other people who write about entertainment media? Or maybe people who write about anything? Perhaps it's an extension of the phenomenon of preferring to talk about what you do rather than doing it.

Sorry for the rather abstract philosophical post. I think I need to move into Lothlorien content now that Book 7 is out. I am definitely not a dwarf. I think I've had enough of Moria for a while. Give me open skies and beautiful landscapes. Honestly, this is one of the top reasons I fell in love with this game - the "natural" scenery. Carved rocks, even beautifully carved rocks, cannot sustain me - even to the point of adversely affecting my gameplay. Then again, sometimes we just need a bit of a change of pace, regardless of whatever it is we're doing. Lothlorien, here I come!


Urugarth Run Complete

Saturday, March 21, 2009

For the first time I've gone all the way through Urugarth. The kinship had a semi-spontaneous run this evening (plus one member from another kin that many of us have played with before). I said I'd like to tag along because I had deeds and never did quests in Urugarth or Carn-Dum. Well, I got all the boss slayer deeds done, finished the orc and troll slayer deeds, but have a couple more Urugarth-specific ones. These deeds also gave me one more max quest in my log. I'm at 47 now with about 30 of them occupied.

The run was fun, but long. We started around 6, 6:30 and ended a little after 10... so about 3 and a half to four hours. Took a small break in the middle. Quite a bit of fun getting that stuff done. I'd hate to do it too many times. I'll go again if there's ever a group again and I'm available because I still have uruks, beasts, and marching orders off orcs for more deeds as well as more quests. My silly completionism. I'm not really pushing to get these quests done though. If they don't get done, I won't be upset. Now, I'd love to say I got all the moria quests done...


Server Population Compilation

Tony gave me a great link for a widget of sorts that says how many people are logged into each US server. At the moment, I don't know what it links to to get that information nor how often it's updated. Presumably multiple times per day. As of this writing, I'm planning on doing a week of compilation of the numbers, ultimately producing a spreadsheet and graphs of the data. Should be an interesting project and I'm curious to see what patterns emerge. Of course, we're not looking at total subscribers, but those numbers aren't nearly as useful, at least to those of us playing, than the number of active players.


Most Populous Servers?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Oh that never-ending-won't-go-away topic. Why do I even bring it up? Well, those of you who play LOTRO will know that three servers are being put on daily maintenance schedules due to a "memory issue". Don't know what kind of issue, but it's because they're the most populous servers. the three are... drum roll... Brandywine, Landroval, and Elendilmir! Congratulations, you're too fat and now you've broken something! Er...

I think we all knew Brandywine was the most populous. Landroval surprises me, actually, but then again, with this IP, its certainly possible we have a large RP community (don't do it myself so I don't know) that infuses the unofficial RP server with life. And then there's my home, Elendilmir. Being most populous means very little, except in this case where it's a bit of a nuisance. So, in a completely illogical way, I'm proud. Then again, maybe not so much. If we're having growing pains (could be what these issues are, or something just broke - computer things do that from time to time) then that's a good thing in my eyes. More people means more money. More money means more resources. More resources means more game. Yay!

Sounds like they have a fix in the works, so that's good to hear. Minor annoyance for knowing that LOTRO is doing well.


New Moria Shots

Today I have a small screenshot post of a few shots in Moria. Yes, yes, you all probably want Lothlorien shots. They'll come, don't worry. Check out the other LOTRO blogs and Massively for some good Lothlorien shots.

Entrance to the First Hall
Jaxom at the Great Abyss
The Pit of Khazad-Dum
The Chamber of Mazarbul - before the battle


Comment Moderation

I had hoped it wouldn't be necessary but I had to turn on comment moderation due to comment spam. Of course the spammers get around the only registered accounts can post without word verification by using a registered account that is simply copy and pasted blog articles from other sources. Now comments will be passed through my e-mail before they're allowed. Not much difference on your end, but just thought I'd mention it if you do not see your comment show up right away.


Revisiting Angmar

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I have a ton of quests in Angmar. I have more active quests there than I do in Moria (although that's probably because I've been completing my Moria quests). Unfortunately, all these are fellowship or small fellowship quests. Still, I'm level 60 and the highest is a level 49 quest full fellowship quest. After completing the 2.3.9 session play instance (which was awesome, by the way) I decided I needed to get out of the gloom of Moria. So where do I go? The gloom of Angmar. Figures huh? Well, I really want to clear out some of these gray quests but I love to see any and all content/storylines. So off I go. Of course, I forgot most of what was going on so I took the time to review the quest lines as best as I could.

I went three for three on killing master elites for quests. First was Bloodwing on the western side of Angmar. Two adds came in but I managed to down Bloodwing and run for it, barly making it with 198 morale left. The next was an elite master Angmarim up in one of the towns there on the westertn side of Angmar. Don't remember the name off hand now but there were two other elite Angmarim next to him so I had to kill those two than run away letting my elite master reset. Then I ran back and killed him with the other two out of the way. Finally was the Silk Lady north of the Malenhead swamp (or however that's spelled). She was a pain because as soon as I hit her 6 spiders came out of nowhere to attack me. Thank goodness they were normal or I'd've been dead. But I managed to kill them all, and with my on-death skills, kept myself alive. Between Revealing Mark and my HOT on Muster Courage, I managed to stay alive. She seemed to have trouble hitting me. And having her summon spiders in the middle of the battle actually helped where I could use my on-death skills again, notably Rallying Cry and heal myself.

Then I went into the caves in Northern Malenhead. And died. Too many elite worms. Oh well, I knew my luck couldn't last. I'll be going through more of it later tonight or tomorrow, clearing as many as I can. At some point I'll bug one of my kinmates, probably a champoin for the dps and armor, to help me.

I'm still going to look at the new starter zones at soon. I did enable the quest tracker today, which apparently is a "beta" feature. Honestly, I think that just means they have too many bugs in it to justify a "full release" but didn't want to yank the feature after much hype. I like it. Sure, some might see it as easier, but when I was running through Angmar and hadn't done the quests in ages, it really helped to remember where things were at. And you don't need to use the feature, so I think it fits the best of both worlds. And really, doing quests by finding the locations "the hard way" is simply a matter of personal pride, not really affecting gameplay or "gimping" the players that use the tracker. So, kudos to those of you who continue to find quests the old way. I don't really have qualms about using the tracker. I still have to fight the same mobs, and I still get my story fix, which is one of the big reasons I play this game.


LOTROCast Episode 4

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Those of you who already follow LOTROCast or the combined LOTRO blog will of course know this already, but in the interest of not leaving a stone left unturned, I'd like to mention it as well: LOTROCast Episode 4 is out. Once again Moormur does an excellent job, this time with a discussion/interview about PvP. No devs this time, just players, but I think that's something unique - player interviews. It's a new way to get to hear some of our voices out there. You can subscribe to the podcast feed or look up LOTROCast on iTunes or Zune Marketplace.


Book 7 Impressions?

I'm one of those types of adventurers that kinda takes things in stride. Yesterday was the first time I emerged from Moria's eastern portal. And then I logged because I needed to get some housework done. Unfortunately, I later got distracted and didn't log back in again. And the screenshots I took kinda sucked so I'll re do those shortly. Anyhow, I'm fairly slow at moving my way through Middle-Earth. The Moria content isn't close to being finished, I still have quite a bit of Shadows of Angmar content I never got to. I haven't touched Lothlorien yet and will probably do so later than most of you.

That's not to say there's a lack of Book 7 impressions out there. If you subscribe to the combined LOTRO blog feed, linked on my sidebar, you'll get a good dose of Book 7 impressions and more to come I'm sure. Kill Ten Rats has a couple of observations that are worth reading as well. Lothlorien appears to be a fairly peaceful place, a zone of respite after the long dark of Moria. I think that's a wonderful change to what we experienced in Moria and holds very true to the books. Judging by the impressions of Lothlorien so far, I think Turbine might have nailed it. I'll have to see for myself, of course...

And over the next few days I should be making some observations about some of the other Book 7 content, namely the crafting instances, the quest tracker system, and the the starter zone content revamp. The rest will have to wait until I get myself out to Lothlorien, but like I said, I like to take my time absorbing the content. No need to rush.


Known Issues

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

As with every patch, Book 7 comes with known issues. Sometimes I wonder why some of these bugs keep showing up. A matter of priorities I guess. A few humorous things I'd like to draw attention to. My last post was too serious. Hehe.

Fell-Glass Spiders can appear invisible on High Material Detail setting.

Appear invisible? Oxymoron alert!

The Stable-Master in Combe cannot swift-travel to Michel Delving. Out of spite he has denied you the ability as well.

Oh Turbine, you make me giggle.


A Veritable Plethora

Today is the big day, as you all know. Book 7 is released. I'm currently about half-way through the patching process. I didn't use the pre-patch method and I usually don't mind waiting for the client to patch itself on release days. There seems to be a veritable plethora of posts today. You can find many of these posts using the combined blog feed linked on my sidebar, but Kill Ten Rats has also posted some about LOTRO. Three posts to be exact. Two of them are commentary on issues they see in the game, particularly with the instances and the changes to those instances. The third is an outline of the instance progression, containing spoilers.

As I haven't played through any but one of the instances, I'm not able to comment well on the issues within them, however I did hear they were fairly buggy and had some exploits. However, as Kill Ten Rats points out, one person's exploit is another person's creative thinking. I have to err on the side of the development team however, as it is their definition that ultimately counts. They are the ones defining the game, and while the player base is experiencing that definition, everything is ultimately in their hands. I think we as players get too caught up in an entitlement mentality at times. And here's where capitalism comes into play. If we as players don't like what we're experiencing, we go elsewhere. So the development team's job is to strike that balance - guiding the game where they think it needs to go but in a way that the players like. This doesn't change who is in control, however, who sets the agenda. The developers choose to listen to the players because it's good business, but that doesn't mean they're any less responsible for the direction the game goes.

Okay, now it's time to get personal. I have a goal of getting the radiance gear from these instance runs. I haven't done many so I'm not experientially familiar with the timesinks involved. I only know that by educated guessing and second hand conversations. Despite my goal, I'm conscious that it's unlikely that I'll experience this content in full. I just don't play often enough and don't have the patience for what's involved in getting groups together. I prefer to group with my kin because it's relatively painless and I don't have to work hard to do it. But getting a static group of six players together for six hours minimum for one of six instances is hard. It's not hard because the content is necessarily hard. It's hard because it takes time. Game time is part of free time and free time is a luxury. Most of us have to ration it, myself included, despite my current unemployment. I have to face reality hear and realize I'm not the type of person this content was designed for. I'd like to be the type of person, because I'm really am a completionist, but when it really comes down to doing the deed, I just don't have the will to make that time commitment. Quite frankly, there are more entertaining and fun things I could be doing with my time, some of which don't even involve LOTRO. So while I'm a big fan of the game, I think I'll use my time to push for completing the epic storyline. I love story so that's where I should focus. Gear, instances, what does it matter? I'm experiencing Middle-Earth am I not? Is a 36+ hour gear grind really Middle-Earth or just a game mechanic for those of us with more time and the personality to push through such things?

And with this realization, I also have recognized that I'm not doing the activity that I've gotten most enjoyment from - grouping with my kinmates just because we want to do content. Many of my recent play sessions have involved solo experiences, and those are not the most memorable moments by and large. Where I find most joy is playing with my friends. So, I'll drop the goal of getting the radiance gear and put in it's place play with my kinship. If they're doing instance runs for gear - sure, that's what I'll do, but if they're doing the epic story, that's what I'll do. It's a game for goodness sake. Play it, don't work it. Right?


Yet Another Book 7 Preview

Monday, March 16, 2009

On the eve of Book 7's launch, the WarCry Network plays a bit of Book 7 with Aaron Campbell, aka Rowan. What I enjoyed about this preview was that it didn't focus soley on the advertised features: Lothlorien rep, battle session, etc. While those are cool features, there are also many little details in each and every expansion that can be just as exciting - if not with the same longevity. Check out the preview for some more Book 7 love. Tuesday!


Massively Cloak Giveaway!

Massively, during the downtime for patching to Book 7 tomorrow, will be giving away 25 unique cloaks to commemorate the event. That's not very many so you'll definitely stand out should you happen to win one of these. I'll be looking into this myself tomorrow. More details are available at the site.


A Little More Attention

Sunday, March 15, 2009

In an effort to draw more attention to the combined LOTRO blog feed, I've put a little blurb about the LOTRO community we're trying to build on my sidebar, right at the top. If you didn't notice, I highly recommend using the feed to get all the great LOTRO blog updates from the whole team. Enjoy!


Hands of Healing? Really?

I've been doing the Hands of Healing level 58 Captain class quest and I've done a lot more killing with my hands than healing. The only non-aggressive task involved talking to some dwarves to raise their spirits. Would dwarves I've never talked to before really take a Man's words to heart and refocus their will on the task of reclaiming Moria? Perhaps if I arrived with a lump of mithril. Certain dwarves might then accuse me of theft and I'd be even less of a positive influence. Okay, I'm starting to wander here but my point is, I find it a bit odd that I'm doing more killing than healing for this quest chain. There's got to be a way to design some quests that involve healing. Perhaps even make an instance where if I attack a foe, I fail, and I must leave my NPC companions to do the attacking. I become the healer. Might require a bit better AI in case I aggro a mob or two. I wear heavy so I can absorb a bit of damage, but not indefinitely. Regardless of the justification in the quest text, I'm slightly disappointed in this rather bland set of quests.


Sunday Progress Report

Looks like I've abandoned Thursdays. Oh well. I said I would. Probably would. And I did. Yesterday's playtime ended up being not what I was anticipating. First off, when I logged in, it was a slow night for the kinship for whatever reason. Only three or four of us on. Not even enough to do an instance run. And I didn't feel like PUGing one because there would be no guarantee that the same six would stick together and get all of us the barter coin for the armor. I ran three or four runs last time with a PUG (the only time I did an instance run) and there were at least that many ins and outs of the group, one of whom did get the drop. Actually, I think they did one more run after that but then left. And then I had to go due to some real life obligations. I don't blame anybody for that, and I don't know their situation, but it seems like it happens more often in PUGs because there's less communication before the run about where everybody stands time commitment-wise. It's just the way it is.

So no instance runs. However, I did do some solo quests, one of which is part of the level 58 Captain quest for the Hands of the Healing legendary trait. All solo so far and I don't know what the future holds for that quest, so it's all new to me. Did a bit in the Flaming Deeps and then talked to three NPCs scattered in other parts of Moria. I also worked on part of the epic quest: 2.3.x. I got to chapter 9 which is a session play: We Cannot Get Out. I forgot that was the session that was borked and you cannot complete it. Figures, so I had to quit the session and at that point I took a break for dinner. Unfortunately, I got side tracked watching TV and didn't log in the rest of the eveing. For all I know more of the kin could have been on and I might have gotten some instance runs in. There's always another day.

And in between all that I did some exploring, particularly in Nud-Melek and the Flaming Deeps to find some of the exploration deed locations. I love exploring, particularly if I have an objective in mind (like a quest location). For example, I know A is here and I am at B, here, so how do I get there? Moria is awesome for that because of all the multiple levels. You might be underneath what you want to find but have to figure out first, if there is an underneath, and how to get there. One quest I did out of the Redhorn Lodes was like that. Good fun.

I'm still purchasing my Sublime Jewelry set. I have two more pieces to get (one if I win the auction I bid on yesterday). I really should take a break and save up for another chest in my vault so I have more space for my food stuffs but I guess I'm being vain. Besides looking pretty (yes, I know you can't see the jewelry on your character) they give me nice stats. Speaking of food stuffs, I've been using my guild recipes to cook stacks of critted restoration food (morale and power) and selling them on the AH. I'm making a profit so that's really a first for me with food and the AH. Thank goodness for guild recipes. And with the lowering of the cooldowns with Book 7 (yay Tuesday!) I'll be able to put them up more often and get coin even quicker.

So here are my goals:
  • Purchase 1 more vault space
  • Complete Sublime jewelry set
  • Run instances for Radiance armor set
  • Clear out (complete) lower level quests and deeds in old zones
I have quite a load with just those four. We'll see how things work out.


Great Gear Guide

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Some time ago I ran across a great gear guide when I was looking to see what armor sets I was going to purchase for my Captain when he got to level 60. But captain armor sets aren't the only gear on this wonderful site. There's all the other class armor sets, along with all the crafted armor and a fair number other types of crafted good including jewelry. This site is current as of Mines of Moria. Hopefully they'll be adding in the new radiance sets seen in Book 7.


A Free Saturday

For once, I'm not out and about doing things in real life today. That means I have a good portion of the day to play LOTRO. And what's great about this happening on Saturday is that there will be many more people on. The chances of finding a group for instance runs will be much greater. Many more of our kinship members will be on because today is Saturday. Hopefully we'll be able to get a few runs in and I'll get some of my Radiance gear.


Early Patching for Book 7

If there's one thing that can drive players nuts its having to wait through the patching process after the servers go live. Instead, why not patch now and be ready the moment Book 7 hits live. You can check out the forum post by Sapience for a direct download or torrent of the patch. Note, this is for North American, Australian and New Zealand players only. The EU players will have to wait. I don't know if they'll get a pre-patch or not.


Kill Ten Rats Talks to Jeffrey Steefel

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ravious over at Kill Ten Rats talks to Jeffery Steefel, the executive producer of Lord of the Rings Online. While this link isn't exactly a traditional interview question and answer, he summarizes the talk he had with Mr. Steefel. Basically it's a more in-depth talk about the lore side of Book 7 and a little bit of what we'll see next.


March 17th for Book 7!

Sapience has announced Book 7's release on Tuesday, March 17th. We are four days away. The final patch notes can be seen here.


More Book 7 Screenshots

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Massively has added to their Book 7 screenshot collection. Still images give this game little justice but they're still worth the look, in my opinion.


Summarized Book 7

Interested in a concise summary of the changes to take place in Book 7? Then head on over to the Book 7 Spotlight page. It's the one stop shop to all things Book 7, particularly the latest dev diaries.


Solving Problems Part II Dev Diary

Scenario continues his narration of the process of creating the crafting instances for Book 7. I don't have much to say about it except that I always enjoy hearing about the internal processes that it takes to get from idea to reality. That helps me decide if an idea is too complicated or what sort of barriers might exist for such an idea before I even suggest it. Not that I suggest very many ideas on the forums. I've found those ideas are usually already suggested by other people and/or the developers themselves. There's a lot of creative and thoughtful people out there both in the community and in Turbine.


March 11th Dev Chat Transcript

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

For once I can say that a dev chat has given me some interesting information to talk about. Well, maybe they all have interesting information, but I've usually found them somewhat superficial. Today's dev chat has a few things I'd like to talk about. First up is a bit about the captain's In Harms Way skill:

Question: In the Bullroarer patch notes, you stated that it is becoming increasingly difficult to design content with IHW at 100% [damage mitigation]. Could you please expand on this? Do you believe there is a place in [the] game for a 100% damage bubble? Will you be giving captains additional group survivability tools to compensate for this significant loss?

Answer: There were cases where the In Harms Way skill was being used with other skills that trivialized or completely negated content in the game. Our content team did not have any reasonable way to address this - doing so on their end would have meant a severe reduction in the amount of content they could produce over time, due to having to compensate for every 'scenario' that would occur. We chose instead to address In Harms Way, which we believe to be the root cause of concern with this particular issue of trivializing game content. We do not believe there is a place in the game for a 100% fellowship wide damage bubble at this time, so we changed the skill. Making the skill have a 50% damage reduction still means that the skill on its own could be useful, since Captains (via various banners) tend to have a lot of morale. Spreading out the damage for their entire party becomes a preventative tool vs. a panic button, but it also means the skill can be used without pairing it with another. As always, we will be evaluating the change over the course of Book 7, and we will be monitoring your feedback in case we need to make changes.

Welcome to the wall of text. There's a lot there. Where to begin....

First is the point about the negating of content - basically being so overpowered that content became trivialized. I could see how that potential was there but I personally never ran into that situation. I always found the skill usage to tread the fine line between saving a wipe and wiping anyway. If things are going really bad, not even the IHW, LS, and SOM combo would save you. I'm not sure I totally buy this, but since I cannot know for sure, I'll accept it.

Second, there was no other "reasonable" way of addressing the issue. Okay, if I accept the first point, I have to accept this one. And I'm not a programmer or know their tools so I cannot say what's reasonable or not.

Third, they do not see a situation that merits a 100% damage mitigation. That goes with number two - since they seemed to have trouble designing content for such a situation.

Fourth, the skill is now useful on its own without the use of Last Stand or Strength of Morale. Okay, this is the kicker in the "argument" I think. Because of the way In Harms Way was working (100% damage mitigation) I always assumed this skill was never meant to be used on it's own (unless you'd like to sacrifice yourself for the good of the group - which I happen to not be adverse to and have used the skill to that end before). Given that we get Last stand and especially Strength of Morale, I was convinced things were working as intended. Perhaps they were, but as things progressed, they stopped. It's like many features that saw a change with Mines of Moria and now Book 7 - long term feedback changes. Do I like that IHW can now be used as a separate entity? Does it justify the change, that regardless of what you call it, reduces it's effectiveness? I'm willing to accept this new advantage - this trade off. But I haven't tested it yet. And it's still on the test server so it can be changed. I can't know if it will work as intended. Perhaps, as an offhand thought, it should only be reduced to 66 or 75%.

Lastly, IHW as a panic button or preventative tool. I think these aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, I say such a still is a natural panic button and should be forced into being a preventative tool. We're inclined, with cool-down timers, to save INW for the right moment, and the right moment often takes the form of a panic situation. We can't know it's the right moment until the time has passed for preventative measures. And there are a host of other skills that operate much more effectively as preventative skills than IHW.

And now, I have to admit a feeling of loss over the epicness that was IHW. I felt powerful, I felt useful, I felt effective. So does everybody that has an overpowered skill or even class (I'm not saying Captains are overpowered). Compounding that feeling was that I was saving the whole group - it is one of the only times that a Captain is on the "front lines" so to speak, actively saving the bacon. The DPS, tanking, and even healing get all the glory usually. Buffs are in the background, not as noticeable. But when the IHW, LS, and SOM combo was hit, everybody knew the captain was doing something spectacular. We were pulling through. It was our small reward for being the quiet guy in the back that was subtlety helpful. I reveled in that roll, but I also reveled in coming through.

That's not to say that we can't have an epic moment like that, or that IHW will no longer be epic. It'll just be a little less epic and it remains to be seen if it's a 'bad' change or not.

The second item I want to talk about, or rather point out is that Under the Banner managed to get a question in about fansite and blogging tools in relation to the Lorebook. We've of course been having a discussion around this blogosphere about that issue. It sounds to me like they're open for further discussion but the question was to large for the dev chat environment. I definitely encourage my fellow bloggers to follow up on this question. I haven't been the one taking the lead on this, but if anybody needs me to do anything, let me know.

That's all I got for now. I apologize for spending so much time on the Captain issue, but I can only write about what interests and affects me. Playing a captain, this definitely falls in that category. I hope it was entertaining anyhow. Happy adventuring!


Updated Bullroarer Patch Notes

The patch notes for Book 7 on Bullroarer have been slightly altered. The changes can be found at the official forums. There's only one item of note I'd like to bring up:

Power recovery from the Blade of Elendil/Improved Defensive Strike has been reduced.

This is obviously for captains. Honestly, the power recovery isn't that significant to begin with. It's hardly even a level 60 skill (average) worth. So reducing it doesn't seem necessary. If anything it should be increased. Unless it was first increased for Book 7 and now it's decreased again. I don't remember mention of it in the original patch notes though so...

This is really just a "whatever" item. It's not worth getting worked up over but it's one of those changes that doesn't seem to really mean anything. Part of me wonders if they can't be trying to fix some issues that actually need fixing ya know? Sorry to sound so cynical. I really love some of the changes in Book 7 but there are times where one should be critical, even of one's own favorite game.

Here, let's end on a happy note: I love the humor in these notes. I laughed out loud and the Boromir cloning.


A Combined Community

It's an ongoing process between us LOTRO bloggers to figure out a way to build a more cohesive community in not only our blogs but in the larger space of the forums, the lore book, and perhaps even third party websites. The first step, however, seems to be making our blogs easier to access and creating an awareness of everyone involved in LOTRO blogging. As such as combined LOTRO blog has been created consolidating the posts from all the sites you see on the left sidebar. To create an even greater ease of use, I've included a link to the combined blog feed. With this feed you will be subscribed not only to The Middle-Earth Adventurer, but the rest of the LOTRO blogs on the list. Hopefully this should make following this emerging community a lot easier. Thanks goes to Tony over at MMeOw for creating the combined blog.

Like I said, this is the first step and I'm certain we'll be brainstorming even more ideas to build community here.


Future Book Update World Speculation

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I love to speculate on the direction we'll see the game go in terms of world additions. As a Tolkien fan, it would be my dream to see all of Middle-Earth realized at some point, from the coasts of Eriador to the Shores of the Sea of Rhun. From the peak of the Lonely Mountain to the harbors of Harad. Unfortunately for me, this is Lord of the Rings Online. As the title implies, only parts of the world mentioned in the book may be included in this game under the license agreement. Drat.

Still, there's a good amount of content to be had from this massive volume. I take this time to make some conjecture on where we might go with future landscape additions from free book updates between the Mines of Moria expansion and the next paid expansion (presumably in November if Turbine holds to their schedule).

We should look at past update patterns first as a model for what we could see this year. There were two major landscape additions post launch. First was the Shores of Evendim and second was Forchel. Landscape additions were not present in all books, though counting minor additions such as the Misty Mountains and the Trollshaws, we saw about half the Book updates include some sort of world update.

Considering the expected timeline until the next paid expansion (shorter than between release and Moria by the way) and the fact that Book 7 has a world addition, I would guess that we'll see only one zone addition to the game before November. The question, of course, is where.

In the Shadow's of Angmar, the main enemy and antagonist came from Angmar (although there was some of Saruman's work in Breeland and the Shire). As such, the new zones dealt much with Angmar's influence on the land - especially Forochel. These zones were added in close proximity to Angmar as the threat would be greater the closer you got to the enemy stronghold. Expanding South and/or towards the western shores would move the players farther from the immediate threat. It would have been more difficult to justify the story going that direction as well as higher level zones. (I think some of these Southern Eriador locations would be better suited to alternative advancement zones equivalent to the North Downs, Lone Lands, and Trollshaws.)

I have to admit I'm missing crucial information in the form of the complete story of Volume II. I've only completed through Book 3. But knowing the LOTR and a bit of the world's history, I can say that a plausible enemy focus would be Dol Guldur - to the east of Lothlorien. We're still too far away from Isengard to feel the full force of that threat. And it would a better focus for a Rohan expansion (more on that in a minute). Mordor is even further away. Mirkwood poses some considerable natural dangers in addition to whatever might be infesting the former stronghold of Sauron. It's close to Lothlorien, where we've just finished up with the epic quest in the soon to be released Book 7. It's a logical place to go for a landscape addition.

As to what we might see in the next paid expansion... well, we always, always have to remember where the fellowship is going. From Lothlorien they went south on the Anduin until the Falls of Rauros and from there split up - five going west (two in captivity) and two going east. The next resting place is Edoras, in Rohan (Sam and Frodo are a much more complicated endeavor and would be hard to guess about regarding expansions at this time). Therefore Rohan is a logical subject for the next paid expansion, including Isengard and Saruman as the enemy focus. Fangorn is also in that make up - which will be cool to see as it's like the Old Forest on steroids.

So, those are my best educated guesses at this time. Like I said at the beginning, I'd love to see some more additions to other parts of the landscape that we're less familiar with - if only to further flush out my fantasy of having a full Middle-Earth to live in, but in all honesty, we're more than likely going to follow the fellowship to the foot of Mount Doom before we see some of the peripheral content


Know Your Lothlorien

Massively has updated their Know Your LOTRO Lore column, this time with an entry for Lothlorien. Of course they chose Lothlorien because of the upcoming book 7. Between Under the Banner's write up of Galadriel and Massively's entry about Lothlorien, we're should have a good grasp on the elven lore for this particular update.


Ten Ton Developer Interview

Aaron Campbell, also interviewed over at GameSpy, talks to Ten Ton Hammer about Book 7. There's not a lot of new information here, if any, for those of you following the LOTRO blogosphere, dev diaries, and the forums regularly but as always, it's nice to see the devs giving out information to the hungry masses no?


Live Content Design Dev Diary

Scenario, of the world design team, took a break from world design and decided to tackle some live design aspects, notably the crafting instances we'll see in Book 7. The latest dev diary talks about the design principles for these instances. This is part one of at least a two part diary. I look forward to reading more. Check it out.


Stratics Chat March 11th

Monday, March 9, 2009

There will be a dev chat on March 11th over at Stratics. MMeOw has more detailed information on participating. I've never taken part in a chat myself nor have used an IRC client so my experience is limited. You'll certainly see the chat log linked here afterwards as well as a commentary on anything interesting.


Galadriel Profile

I'm hard pressed to ignore such a wonderful post over at Under the Banner. I consider myself a bit of a lore junkie, but I pale in comparison to the guys (and/or gals) over there. Summarizing Tolkien's work is extremely difficult and time consuming considering its breadth and often contradicting information (due to various versions of the notes and history he was working on prior to his death.) UtB has done an excellent job when it comes to this iconic figure in the lore. If you're ever curious about Galadriel, check out the article. It's worth the read.


Massively Tour of Book 7

Massively has a developer guided tour of the Book 7 content on their site. None of the information presented here is necessarily new, however I've found each site tends to offer a unique perspective on the content. In this case, their screen shots are unique to them, not any publicity package handed out to the press.


The LOTRO Blogging Community

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The LOTRO Follower has posted an idea about a centralized LOTRO blogging community. Many of us have posted our comments and thoughts on the manner. Each and every one of us has our individual blog goals. Some of them overlap, some of them don't. Furthermore, each blog has it's own personality, a reflection of that blogger's take on LOTRO and the world around him or her. While I like the idea of a more cohesive community, I don't think giving up each individual blog to create a unified one is the correct way to go about it.

I'd like to see a post aggregator (much like Google Reader does for blogs, which is what I use to keep up on the ones I follow) either integrated into each blog's sidebar or perhaps a unique site that is functions only in this manner. I suppose an integrated feed might accomplish the same thing, but whatever the system, it needs to retain the individual identities of each of the blogs - to retain the benefits of all of them. We each have something unique to offer and the community would only suffer should that uniqueness disappear in a well meaning attempt to build cohesiveness.

Right now, I endeavor to mention blog posts that I find particularly stimulating (not that all of them aren't worth reading) but I cannot link to all of them all the time. It would bloat my posts and push my own content into the "margins" so to speak. As it stands, I have about 1/3 original content and commentary and 2/3 linked content from other blogs, Massively, or the official site. It's something to think about as an emerging community.

In the mean time I have redesigned my blog roll. It is now divided in two. First is as best of an aggregator as I can manage for the LOTRO exclusive blogs. It includes the name of the blog, the title of the most recent post and the date posted. I thought about including a snippet, but I think that becomes too much text and overpowers the rest of the sidebar functions. The lower blog roll is for all other non-LOTRO or non-exclusively LOTRO blogs but still related to The Middle-Earth Adventurer's interests.


They're Sprouting Like Flies!

Friday, March 6, 2009

And for the second time today I've run across yet another LOTRO blog. There are certainly many more out there than I thought. And I'll have to reverse my previous idea to cut out my blog-roll bloat. Instead I've done a bit of reorganization. The roll no longer lists most recent posts or last update. I'm not sure if I like that or not. Sometimes the post title rather than the blog title is what gets a person to click the link. Still, I don't want my left side-bar to be absurdly long so this will probably have to do. I will say, if the blog is on the roll, it's worth checking out.


New Player Experience Dev Diary

A new dev diary is up today, this time looking at the new player experience changes to the game. This is one of the items on my list that (if I'm remembering correctly) I had no problem with what so ever. In fact, after reading through the diary, I'm quite pleased with the changes. Essentially, the starting areas have been altered to avoid some of the more tedious running. The dev diary mostly focuses on the dwarves and elven starting areas, where the most significant changes happened. The elves and dwarves should now feel more a part of their own race's story in the introduction instances. Over all, there are more quests and quests that better focus the player on the epic storyline as well as moving them through hubs more efficiently. All in all, a needed and welcome change.


New LOTRO Blog

The LOTRO Follower is now on the blog roll (why do I keep adding?). The vision of this blog seems to be the same as mine. At least, one of my visions - to create a central place for all my LOTRO news and information. To me, however, there is no competition in this business. We're all a part of the community. So welcome to the club, LOTRO Follower! I look forward to reading.


A Bit More About Crafting Instances

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Want to know more about crafting instances? LOTRO Life has some answers. Looks like they've been doing some testing on Bullroarer. (See, so many people are testing that I don't even need to. I can just point to these excellent resources!) They explain how it works, although it's a bit confusing and I had to read it a couple times through to really get the gist of it. Check it out!


Thursday Progress Report

Well, this is looking like a regular post. I did an update to my personal LOTRO gaming last Thursday and it just so happens that I'm updating again on Thursday. Maybe I'll make it a regular Thursday feature, maybe not. Most likely I'll just post interesting things that I did in-game the day after it happens.

So yesterday I logged in finding myself at the Orc-Watch in the Redhorn Lodes. I looked around at my quests and decided I didn't want to do any of those. I'm feeling a little burned on Moria, so, taking my own advice, I decided to change up my activities. Instead, I went out to the Misty Mountains intending on clearing out the rest of the Goblin Town quests plus one quest to kill the Thunder Lord giant.

I did this giant quest first, barely able to solo the guy, who was an Elite Master. I managed to only take on one other giant while I was killing him and I didn't need to fire either Last Stand or Strength of Morale. It felt good to accomplish this.

Then it was off to Goblin Town with four quests. I finished the GT exploration deed, Bilbo's Buttons deed (got to Honesty tier 10 with these), and all but one of these quests. Turns out that I can't solo this guy because of the troll that's right next to him. Total of three mobs. I died trying. Oh well. But hey, maybe one of my kinmates wanted to help me. And that was the start of an epic adventure through GT and a couple other zones in Middle-Earth clearing out the last quests in the Misties, the North Downs, and Forochel.

My kinmate pulled up his level 60 champion and I wept at my relatively woeful DPS. But that's what I needed. I had to burn through the mobs before they burned through me. And that's what we did. I can now say that the Misty Mountains are 4 deeds away from being 100% complete - Bears, Trolls, Giants, and Worms. Granted, I'm only on the first part of trolls and giants so I have 6 really. It'll be a while because both these mobs take forever to kill solo.

We then headed to the North-Downs for an epic duo of Master of the Black Tide. This quest involves clearing out the tent atop a hill in Dol Dinen full of orcs and trolls. Any mobs in the tent will aggro you if you attack the boss so you can't just go straight up and kill him. We had to clear the tent. And we did, bloody carnage we did. It was amazing. I wish I had the presence of mind after the battle to take a screen shot. Bodies of trolls and orcs littered the floor. I was totally amazed we got all the mobs down before respawn. It got a little hairy for a moment when we got five adds, two of which were trolls, but we made it. It was glorious. Kudos to my champion kinmate who made all the difference. Epic. The Northdowns is all the Fornost quests away from 100% complete.

And lastly we finished off my last Forchel quest which puts that zone four deeds away from 100%: Grims, Sabertooths, Worms, and Dwarves.

All in all, a wonderfully productive evening, even if I got no other reward from it (except the coin) that I would immediately use. And of course the company of a friend. I have to say mate, your willingness to help me on these quests and deeds that you didn't even have is a testament to your quality as a person. Thanks again for all your help.


GameSpy Lothlorien Preview

There is more stuff to talk about with Book 7 approaching than I know what to do with. March is shaping up to be another epic month in terms of post count. But honestly, I can't get enough of this stuff. Despite reservations about some of the changes in Book 7, notably DPS, XP, and In Harms Way, I'm still excited about the Lothlorien content. For all of Moria's Dwarven glory, I'm in the mood for a little sunlit sylvan bliss. GameSpy's recent preview has given me just the taste I'm looking for.

"In a lot of ways, designing Lothlorien was very much like designing the Shire back before release. We have to be true to the books so we need to design content that's based around the essential character of the land." Aaron Cambel, Live Content Producer, LOTRO.

Didn't I say somewhere (can't remember which posts so no self-link) that Lothlorien should be handled as delicately as the Shire? I'm so happy to see this comment. I wasn't particularly worried about the design of the zone. I can't think of any zone that hasn't been designed to fit within the lore of the IP. It's all been great. But that they keep their heads with it is wonderful.

The other item of note in this preview is an additional detail of the reputation system. To summarize, there is the chance that you can lose rep with the elves. You have a morale choice presented to you in the form of a quest or quests as well as "protected" creatures who's death will lose you rep. This is a wonderful new dynamic to the rep system that I think should have been there from the beginning. It's a direction that the rep system needs to go in order to be more robust, more exciting, more interesting than just a simple grind for rewards. Give players an interactive choice and you have much more compelling content. The MMeOw blog also has posted some thoughts on this feature.


Lothlorien Concept Art

There's a beautiful piece of concept art that's been put up on the official site. It's of Galadriel's court. If this bit of art is any indication of how the court will look in game, I can't wait to see it.


European Dev Chat

I only ran across this yesterday, right before the dev chat was to start. I don't attend dev chats so that wasn't a big deal, but I wish that I could have found out about it on the main US site rather than through a third party and by sheer luck.

There are few items of note I'd like to talk about that have come out of this dev chat. First is about raid content and the following comment from Jalessa:

"Our progress in our raid sets in the future is something that we are continually discuss[ing] and plan[ing] out. We will continue to use radiance as a requirement for future raids, as you have seen with our current Moria sets. We also plan to improve set bonuses and item bonus amounts."

I made a post a while back about gear checks, and why I like LOTRO because there's not really a gear check in the game. Sure better gear means you do things faster etc, but it wasn't required. Decent gear for level 50 meant you could viably complete the Rift or Helegrod. Requiring radiance gear for raids here on out is a gear check of the purest form. You will absolutely die without the radiance gear because the dread is too much. Yes, this is already in the game with The Vile Maw watcher fight. Raiding wasn't precisely casual before, but it's significantly less now. At the very least you have to complete six instances six times each. That's 36 instance runs, 36 times you have to find a fellowship, 36 times you have to commit. All for six pieces of gear.

Of course, one might argue that casual players don't need to experience this content. It's not casual content and there's plenty of casual content in the game already. That's absolutely true, but what made LOTRO different than, say WoW was it's embracing of all content for all players (within reason of course). Perhaps that was a pipe dream, impossible to achieve. I thought they managed fairly well with Shadows of Angmar content, notably raids. Add this to some of the other changes in Book 7 and I feel like LOTRO is going the route of WoW on a few things that might not be the best way of going about it. Just because WoW has 11 million players doesn't mean it does everything right.

I'm probably being unfair to say the devs are coping WoW consciously. They more than likely came up with the ideas on their own. But I'd like to see this game go a little bit of a different direction. Something a little bit unique. The casual friendliness, even in upper level content, was one of those somethings.

The second item is a comment about the XP curve change by Jalessa:

"The change was primarily focused towards our low-mid level players, in an effort to make our game more approachable to the casual user."

There's that word casual again. But that's not what I want to comment on this time - more the abstract level range mentioned here. I put up a post about the level 30 wall the other day (along with links to other blogs talking about the subject) and I think that the xp change could address this problem. Furthermore, it was mentioned Orion is looking over the mid-range content to see how to make it less linear. Honestly, I think the best solution is a new set of zones to duplicate the progression. I'm not sure how redesigning the content at the lower levels will make it any less linear. You still go from the same zone to the same zone.

Lastly is a lighter comment about festivals by Keth:

"In addition to another horse to try and win, there will be a hedge maze for you to try and find your way through. This hedge maze will be instanced, so you'll never see more than a handful of people in the maze at a time."

I love hedge mazes in real life. I'm probably overly excited about this feature of the festival. But I love that they're coming up with new "light" activities to do for these. It's a lot of fun and a good change of pace from the normal questing/deeds/instances. Oh, and yet another horse? We'll need our own stables at this rate. Give us a horse ring! Ya know, like our key ring. I suppose you could call it a stable. A horse rings sounds... odd.


Lothlorien Screenshots

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The folks over at Massively have posted some screenshots of Lothlorien. This is one of the most iconic places in Middle-Earth so, in my opinion, it should be one of the most meticulously designed. Much like the Shire and Rivendell. Still images are a far cry from what the place actually feels like, but I think I like what I see so far. It's drastically different from the movies, so if you're coming to this game from only those, be in for a surprise.


The Level 30 Wall

This isn't the first time this has been talked about. And it certainly won't be the last. I thought I'd point to a couple of other discussions about the Level 30 Wall, as it's become to be know. First is LOTROCast. If you haven't checked out that podcast yet, I highly recommend it. Second is a post by VanHemlock. He's currently working in Evendim, a zone designed to deal with this wall. By all accounts, the wall still exists to some degree.

Now, I'm a ways away from the wall both in terms of my level 60 captain and my alts (which are at most level 12). It's been a while since I've dealt with the wall. I was reaching the wall when Evendim came out. And yet, between my eastern North Downs, Trollshaws, and Evendim questing, I did feel a bit burned out. When there's content that gets a bit repetative as well as a linear solo progression, you can feel burned. But I got through it. I slowed down, I didn't play as much, but the itch to play never really left. I just stratched it much less. I guess that's something unique to me. Not just me, but to my situation. Many players lose the itch completely. I'm not sure how to avoid that. I avoided it because I love the lore. I love the world. And, despite some holes, such as this wall, the game is overall very well designed and polished. That kept me going. And it's my first MMO. There's an intagible quality about one's first experience in anything that leads them to almost romanticize it. I trie and be objective about this game, but truely, I have a biased love for it, regardless of my critiques or concerns.

So, the best way to avoid the wall is to pace yourself. If you're feeling burned, take a break for a couple days. And when you come back, only do a handful of quests. 2, 3, 4, maybe five. That's it. Go to a different activity next. Like crafting. Or maybe there's a deed you want to finish. Work on that. But don't do any one activity for an extended period of time. This, in my opinion, is what leads to burn out and can lessen the impact of the wall. Basically, instead of speeding full force into it, just stroll on up and give it a tap. It's still there but it didn't hurt nearly as much.

For Turbine's part, I hope to see them give an alternate direction out of Bree. The city acts as a wonderful quest/player hub and I don't think it should lose that functionality. However, instead of the lone-lands/northdowns/evendim/trollshaws progression, let's go say... south. Lots of room down there on the map. Get a duplicate 18 to 48 progression to Eregion and the Mines.

What about Turbine's stated goal to include an epic book in each zone expansion, free or otherwise? Well, I don't think a lower level zone is mutual exclusive to the continuation of the story back in Eriador. There are a lot of creative people over at Turbine that should be able to come up with a legitimate reason to send the players back to the southern areas of Eriador. And that story can be at the level cap or close to it depending on where the epic story terminates when such additions are made. So, there's a little bit of high level content in an otherwise low level zone. There's ways to build the zone that shuts off this part of the content. You can instance it, you can put it in a remote valley/area. Heck, even seeing a couple level 60 (or higher) mobs patrolling an area is enough to deter a level 30 from sticking his nose in. Just make sure these mobs don't count towards deeds that would normally be completed at a lower level.

There are ways around the wall now. Or there are ways to make it hurt less. And in the future, I hope Turbine considers something like what I've said above. I hope they don't get too much tunnel vision to Mordor and forget that there are other parts of the game that can make as much impact to your players as moving east.


Pruning the Blog Roll

My blog-roll has gotten rather large. I have thought about how I might go about keeping it manageable. First I had to ask, is a large blog-roll a bad thing. Not really, but a large one might appear daunting to a reader. Furthermore, I want to keep it relevant. So, that left me with the thought of removing non-LOTRO blogs. This would eliminate a few, but in all honesty, not that many. Nearly every blog on their has LOTRO posts - just not every one of them. And the ones that don't, well, those are still interesting reads. And these are mostly the blogs that introduced me to reading blogs - they have a special place in my heart.

So I finally came to the conclusion. I want the content of The Middle-Earth Adventurer to be relevant and fresh. Therefore my blog-roll should point to blogs that do the same thing. I've as such decided that blogs that haven't been updated for over a month will no longer show up on the blog roll. This will not eliminate many of the blogs on the list either, but it doesn't compromise any of the other goals for the blog roll: relevancy, regularity, quality, etc.

This does not mean I have stopped following those blogs. As soon as they update, they'll be back on the roll. And you can still find them, if you've forgotten the address, via my profile and the list of blogs I follow. Let's call the blog roll a selected list and my profile the comprehensive list.


A Few Random Comments

This will probably be the last post talking directly about the Book 7 patch notes. I think I've pretty much covered the major issues/changes. I'm certainly not the only one talking about the Book 7 patch. You can find coverage at Under the Banner, MMeOw, LOTRO Chronicles, and LOTROCast. With that said, here are my final thoughts regarding the notes:

Captain's banners "have discovered unforeseen reservoirs of buoyancy and now float in water."

First off, I love the random humor that shows up in Turbine's patch notes. Secondly, this is awesome. Obviously not as life-changing as many of the Book 7 updates, but as a captain, I will tell you this is a very good thing. I noticed this most poignantly in the Waterworks where oftentimes I found myself fighting creatures in "deep" water, where my banner would fall all the way to the bottom. Most of the time, this wasn't far enough to remove me from it's AOE, but on occasion, the water was deep enough for the banner to despawn, leaving me with less morale and morale regen. A captain lives and dies by his buffs, so to have even a small problem like this fixed is a good thing for us.

Warg-Riders now count towards the Moria Warg-slayer deed.

This is another awesome. Those warg riders are a pain to kill as a melee class. Having them count both towards gobs and the warg deed makes it a little more tolerable. I've finished my gob deed, however, but I still have a little more incentive to take on this buggers after Book 7 launches.

Reduced cooldown on crafting-guild recipes.

This makes me happy. Very happy. As a cook, my crafting takes longer than most to give me significant income. Because it's so easy, relative to other vocations, cooking is often given to alts and many players use their own cooks for food - limiting the demand. Furthermore, profit margins are rather thin due to this low demand. Having the craft-guild recipes that would give me a full stack of the superior version of food greatly reduces the production cost, allowing me to sell for even more attractive pricing but also give me a greater profit. Reducing the cool-down on these recipes allows me to put the goods on the market faster.

Certainly this will probably reduce the viable selling price. More incentive for cooks to craft their superior stacks means more potential competition on the AH - and thus lower prices. Still, I don't think it will hurt that much. A good thing, in my book.

New cooking recipes - soups and stews!

These new recipes will give cooks the ability to craft soups and stews which boost resistances: fear, poison, disease, and wound. I'm excited about this, though I'll have to tick off another slot in my bags and hotbar for these. A necessary evil. I don't know how much of a resistance boost we'll see from these. Hopefully Turbine finds the right balance, though I'm sure they'll be lower than most people will hope for.

Minimum level for fish recipes.

Apparently these didn't have minimums, which is odd. Not a big deal. I don't craft fish recipes because the time-sink in order to get enough fish is prohibitive. Basically, it's not worth it.

Deconstructing a legendary item at max level will now return the relics to you.

This is big. At least for me, who lost 3 tier 6 relics by deconstructing my level 30 emblem. Good move here. Before, if you wanted to retain your relics after the last reforge, you couldn't slot them into your max level legendary. If that legendary was still worth using, this means you wouldn't get as much out of the item as you should. It didn't make sense. Glad to see this fix added. Still, I am bummed that I lost my 3 relics. Took me long enough to build up relic forging to get to that point. *sigh* Tier 8 is so far away.

Monsters that burrow will no longer do so when close to death, "because that's annoying."

Amen! Pain in the butt and annoying is right. I honestly thought this was an intended behavior. I suppose it could have been anyway. Glad that's changed. It actually makes a difference if you have more than one mob on you. As a captain, I need to have a mob die to activate my "on death" skills, one of which is a fairly significant heal. This might be the difference between life and death, and when I couldn't hit the mob and kill him, it was a problem. I'd usually switch targets (why waste that time trying to hit nothing) but that meant I had to switch back and then back again. This takes time, attention, and sometimes I click the wrong thing and I'm wasting more time - not to mention morale and power. Good change.

Warg-Riders will no longer use their Hamstring/Ride-by-Attack unless they are attacked.

That makes these buggers a little less obnoxious to fight. I would change up my skill progression by avoiding using an opening Battle Shout. This is a ranged skill but two melee skills are gated behind it. So, I would hit a Warg-Rider with a ranged skill but then have to run - very slowly because I'm hamstrung - to the warg to use the next skill in my progression. Pain in the butt, and if the Warg decided to run again, I'd lose the chance to use those skills. Both of these have the potential to give me very good supercrits. And there's yet another skill gated behind those - one that is my mob-buff cleansing skill. Basically, these guys are a pain. should be a little more manageble now.

That's it. You'll certainly notice I skipped a lot of notes. I clearly concentrated on the ones that affect my captain (who, if you hadn't guessed, is a cook). That's necessary. For one, I wouldn't know what I was talking about if I covered other classes, and two, it would take way too long to read and comment on every single note. And many of them aren't worth commenting on. I hope you enjoyed my patch note coverage. This won't be the last time I talk about Book 7 changes, however. Other bloggers might inspire me to a topic, and there's always upcoming dev diaries and forum posts.


Under the Banner Video Review

I ran across Under the Banner, another LOTRO blog a little while ago, but didn't mention it because the author had just come back to LOTRO and his blog from WoW. I wasn't sure if the blog would get back to regular updates or not. However, I'm greatly pleased to see the latest entry to the blog - a video review/preview of the new Quest tracker feature. The presentation is clean and professional. I highly recommend watching.

I hope UtB puts up more video previews. It is an excellent way to discuss the upcoming Book 7 content. And you will now see Under the Banner on the blog roll here at The Middle-Earth Adventurer.