LotRO: Never Mind, I’m Rerolling

You may recall that the last time I talked about LotRO and its Legendary Server, I had decided I was definitely going to see my warden through to 50. At this point, though, I haven’t played for a couple of weeks now because, for some reason, the last few weeks of December is super busy, and my enthusiasm for that character has waned, which has made it harder to want to log in. My warden muscle memory is getting a little rusty, and I’m so far behind the pack now (just finished up the Lone Lands) that starting over isn’t going to make much difference, though I still think I can catch up before Moria hits if I stick with it. Also, while playing warden is really fun, it’s also a little exhausting. There are so many things to keep track of! You’re constantly thinking about building gambits and gambit combos and trying to balance self healing with taunting and DoTing. I love that type of tactical, always-three-steps-ahead gameplay, and it’s very rewarding when you’re hitting everything just right, but I’m realizing that it’s not the kind of thing I want from LotRO right now. I’m more interested in a simpler, more relaxed gameplay experience. I figure, if I’m not happy with the class, I should reroll now and not feel bad about it.

So I rolled a lore-master. “But wait,” you say, “isn’t lore-master probably the next most complex class after warden?” Yes, it probably is. And I’m pretty sure they got a fairly sizable nerf not long ago too. But it has pets and DoTs and a little healing and crowd control! What’s not to love? Plus, it’s a different kind of complexity. It still has that always-three-steps-ahead feel I love about the warden, but with cast bars. You have to use all of your tricks to stay ahead of the game, but it’s more spread out and less frantic. Besides, I never said I made sense.

I’m making quick work of the lower levels. I just did most of these quests on my warden, so rather than reading and doing every possible quest, I’m trying to push myself by only doing on-level or above quests. Going from warden, a self-healing, self-buffing tanking machine, to a lore-master, a squishy caster, has been a bit of an adjustment. On a good day, though, I’m able to use my stuns to keep enemies at bay and burn them down one at a time. On a bad day… well, let’s just say I’ve been stocking up on food and health gear.

I still really want to level a minstrel healer some day, but I think lore-master is probably a better pick for me right now. My minnie is a farmer/cook, so he’s actually a decent level for never having left Ered Luin, just because of crafting XP. This has always been my problem with this game; all of the classes are so well designed that I want to try them all, but there’s so much content that I’ve never seen that I feel bad alting too much. I feel pulled in both directions and usually end up doing neither.

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LotRO: An Unexpected Party

For those who don’t know, January 3rd is J.R.R. Tolkien’s birthday. It’s something of a holiday among Tolkien fans (I’m a pretty casual fan; I’ve read the Hobbit and the Trilogy, but beyond that, most of what I know comes from LotRO and reading wikis), with various celebrations culminating in toasting “The Professor” at 9:00 pm your local time. I cut a piece of pie for myself (peanut butter pie isn’t very Hobbity, but it’s what I had on hand) and logged into LotRO to celebrate. I had no particular plan, so I did my Yule dailies on the Legendary server and then started puttering around Bree. That’s when I heard music coming from the stage across the street from the Prancing Pony. It was a little Tolkien Day party, with a three piece band in matching outfits and maybe a dozen humans, hobbits, dwarves, and elves gathered around enjoying it. I only caught the end, but they were doing a rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas with a “singer” /saying some fun Lord of the Rings-themed lyrics. At 9:00, they handed out free beer and toasted The Professor, and thanked him for creating an incredible world that lives on beyond him and which we now virtually inhabit.

There were bigger parties (I saw a video of a particularly big one on Landroval). I, and anyone else there, could have gone there and had a bigger community experience. The musicians could have gotten way more exposure for their guild there. But they didn’t. I like to think that it’s because they think of Arnor as their home community now, and they wanted to celebrate with them. It’s kind of how I view LotRO; there are plenty of bigger, flashier, newer MMOs out there, but I like LotRO because you don’t get experiences like that in just any game. And these weren’t “influencers” asking you to like and subscribe and follow and whatever else so they could get your ad revenue. They were just random players doing something cool for random players like me who happened to wander by.

In short, I love this game and its community, and I need to play more.

Gaming Resolutions For 2019

It’s that time of year again where everyone is making their New Year’s Resolutions! Here are a few of mine, in the realm of gaming at least.

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I just can’t justify the cost of 4K.
Sorry, I had to get that out of the way.

Play More Lord of the Rings Online
I love LotRO. Every time I log in I wish I was playing more often. Yet sometimes it’s hard to get myself to log in. I don’t know how to explain it. And it happened again with the Legendary server; I started off strong, logging in almost every day, and then I fizzled out in December. I want to find a way to motivate myself to log in every day again, and get to 50 before Moria hits. Maybe start work on an alt?
Also, there’s always that looming anxiety that LotRO might not be there much longer. While I feel more confident about LotRO’s future now than at the beginning of the year, with legendary servers bringing back a bunch of players, lately Daybreak has been killing everything it touches. It’s still unclear what exactly the relationship is between Standing Stone Games and Daybreak, but it’s enough to make me nervous.

Spend Some Time In Elder Scrolls Online’s Housing
I love housing systems, but I feel like I always put off actually doing anything in them. Logging into WildStar (may it rest in piece) to get screenshots before the shutdown reminded me of all the grand plans I had for my various houses, and how little I actually got done. I’m starting to get decently well established in ESO, and I have some ideas for a few houses that I’d like to start working on.

Play More Group Content
I’m pretty comfortable playing MMOs solo or duo with my wife. That’s great, and I don’t have a problem with it, but I’d like to start getting into dungeons more. After all, why play a massively multiplayer game, join a guild, etc. if you’re going to play alone? Ok, there are a lot of really good reasons, but the point is, I’d like to start doing dungeons (and possibly larger group content?) more often in ESO, LotRO, and whatever other MMOs the new year brings. I really enjoyed tanking some dungeons during ESO’s Undaunted event (despite the buggy/overloaded group finder), and I’ve had the itch to do some healing again as well.

Publish A Game
I tend to start a lot of game dev projects and not finish them, and lately I’ve been thinking about why. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’ve been hearing this advice for years now that you should “make the kind of game you’d like to play.” The problem is that the kind of game I like to play is large in scope, deep in complexity, and rich in story. That’s why I play so many MMOs and RPGs. But my first published game (created by, at most, me and two or three friends) just isn’t going to be any of those things. Maybe one of them at best. I think I need to lower my personal expectations to making a game that I wouldn’t pay more than five dollars for. That’s not settling, that’s walking before I run. I don’t need to be Pixel or Notch or ConcernedApe or any number of other developers whose first published game was a labor of love masterpiece.

LotRO: Life On the Legendary Server

I’ve never gotten into the whole progression server thing. I guess you could count Old School RuneScape, which is an odd sort of progression server that progresses in a different direction than the original game did. But other than that, I don’t usually sit around thinking “Man, I miss the days before this game had so many quality of life improvements.” But one game that I’ve always regretted not getting into earlier is Lord of the Rings Online. I’ve always been way behind the pack in LotRO, and its player base isn’t quite big enough that it has a critical mass of people playing low-to-mid levels that I can group with. So I’m basically stuck playing solo until I reach cap, and I always get burned out before I do. That’s why I was excited by the idea of the LotRO Legendary Server. It’s kind of a cheap version of a progression server; all of the current updates, class mechanics, and newer classes/race are there, but expansion levels will be unlocked every four months. I’m pretty happy with that setup, though I do miss skirmishes and all of the easy cosmetics that come with them.

A lot of people are asking what the point of this server is and who this server is for. It’s true, there’s not a ton here you couldn’t just do by just rolling up a new character on a new server and not doing anything to help yourself out. Some people are already doing that. But for me, this is an excuse for a larger community to reroll and progress at the same time. It’s for people like me who didn’t play the game at launch and want to play level 50 or 60 dungeons as they were designed, and not by getting carried by people twice the level it was designed for.

Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, but I thought the announcement of the launch date was rather sudden. I was expecting it to pop up late this month or maybe next month, and so when the date was announced less than a week before the launch, I had already spent all of my gaming budget. The logical half of my brain told me that I had already spent my budget on the special edition of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and that I shouldn’t overspend, and, besides, next month I’ll be playing the crap out of the new Super Smash Bros. and probably won’t even make it to cap anyway. The fun half of my brain said that I’ve been wanting an excuse to get back into LotRO, this is probably the last opportunity I’ll have to be part of a community leveling experience in this game. The day may come when I listen to the logical half of my brain when it comes to LotRO, but it is not this day.

So a new hobbit warden named Isnan was born. I’ve always wanted to level a warden, as it seems like a really fun and rewarding class, but it’s so complex that I know I won’t know what I’m doing if I don’t devote myself to it for a while, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I’ve been having a blast so far. There are so many people in The Shire and Bree-Land! I love it! I spent pretty much the whole weekend in Middle-Earth, which is something that I very much needed. I thought the 40% slower pace of questing would be annoying, but at least a low levels, I haven’t really thought about it. I’ve still had plenty of XP to get through the whole Shire without having to farm. Well, I did some actual farming because I’m a cook, but not the “mindlessly killing mobs for XP” kind. I love the flow of the hobbit story, starting out wandering around the shire, delivering mail and pies and keeping bears away from honey. Best of all, the way the game transitions you back to the reality of the threats from Mordor is that a hobbit thinks she’s seen the ghost of Golfimbul (for whom, as everyone knows, the game of golf is named), and in the process of investigating you wind up stopping a legit goblin invasion force. The rangers, of course, are having none of that, and you end up running the message to Strider in Bree and getting mixed up in this whole quest to save the world. I’m amazed all over again with what a great job Turbine/Standing Stone has done adapting the world of The Lord of the Rings to game form and weaving the player into the story without making them Frodo Jr.

I’ll see you around the Arnor server! Feel free to PM Isnan and say hullo!

MMO Living Conditions, Ranked Worst To Best

A while back, my wife and I got into this anime called Log Horizon that involves thousands players getting trapped in an MMO world. Not in a virtual reality way, but actually physically there, having to work out how to navigate the intricacies and politics of a world where former players are apparently immortal. Since then, we’ve often joked about what it would be like to wake up one day in the various games that we play. Here are a few of the games that I play or have played over the years, ranked based on how much I would or would not want to live in them.

Tamriel (Elder Scrolls Online)
This game has finally clicked with me and I’ve been enjoying playing it a lot lately, but there’s no way I’d want to live here. There’s a three-faction war on, yes, but that’s the least of our worries in this world. Crime is rampant, everyone is racist, and daedra are constantly causing terrible things to happen all over the place. At least two thirds of quest stories end depressingly, usually involving people ending up dead. And can you imagine living in Vulkhel Guard with dark anchors dropping from the sky every five minutes about a hundred yards from the city gate? Sure, adventurers love killing the daedra there for the experience, but what happens if they don’t show up one day?

The Star Wars Galaxy (Star Wars The Old Republic)
There are a lot of cool places to live in the Star Wars ‘verse, there’s a hyperdrive-equipped spaceship in every driveway, and the prospect of having force powers is tempting. But in the time of the old republic, you’ve got about a 50/50 shot of living in the not-so-bad Republic, or on a world dominated by the Sith, or, perhaps worse, some Hutt gang. And then there’s the whole thing with the Eternal Empire coming through and wiping everyone out with their superweapons. Given the choice, I’ll pass on this one.

Gielinor (RuneScape)
Life in RuneScape is pretty simple. For the most part, catastrophically bad things tend to only happen when you go looking for trouble, and there’s no shortage of ways to earn gold for those willing to do a little menial labor. Even basic housing is pretty cheap! The only reason it doesn’t rank higher is because, quite frankly, it’s one of the least exciting MMOs I’ve ever played. It’s about as safe as real life because it feels a lot like real life, just with the occasional fireball thrown in.

Tyria (Guild Wars (2))
All things considered, life isn’t too bad in Tyria. Sure, there’s the occasional threat of elder dragon attack, but cities (other than poor Lion’s Arch) seem relatively safe, and travel is fast and easy (and cheap!). Also, anything you need help with, from your livestock getting loose to a bandit raid to a mordrem invasion, you can pretty much just yell until adventurers will wander by and help you.

Nexus (WildStar)
Aside from the fact that this world is about to cease to exist, Nexus seems like a pretty cool place to live. Sure, there’s the constant threat of random faction violence, becoming a Strain mutant, and danger from all manor of weird alien life forms. I’m not saying it’s safer than any of the other worlds on this list. But there are hoverboards. And space ships. And giant plots of land in the sky that you can get for free! What more could you ask for?

Middle-Earth (Lord of the Rings Online)
Middle-Earth has its fair share of places that would be terrible to live (forget orcs, I can think of way too many places infested by giant spiders), but for every one of those, there’s a place like the Shire, or Bree-town, or Rivendell (which, while beautiful, is infested by elves, who are almost as bad as the spiders). Pretty much everywhere is beautiful, apart from Mordor and Angmar and maybe a few other places, and most of the free peoples are pretty friendly and helpful.

Why Are Games So Depressing Lately?

The other day I was feeling kind of down–nothing major, just normal stressful life stuff–so I thought I’d jump on a few MMOs to escape reality for a bit. First I got on LotRO. I’m in Mordor and, well, it’s not exactly a cheery place, so that didn’t last long. So I logged off of that and thought I’d try Guild Wars 2. The character I’ve been running through the story on is just starting Orr… land of zombies, ruins, and undead dragon corruption. Not much better. The Elder Scrolls Online offered me a quest that involved a daughter murdering her father because he betrayed and murdered his son. Diablo III… well, everything’s depressing in Diablo, isn’t it?

I’m not looking for Rainbow Puppy Fun Times Online, but why does everything have to be so dark? There are even some games, like Secret World or Path of Exile, that I avoid completely because, while the gameplay sounds fun, one look at a screenshot or video is enough to tell me that I won’t last long because of the setting. So why do games get so depressing? I know I’m not the only one who has gotten burnt out on a game because they went from a starting zone that was colorful and cheery to one that was Fifty Shades of Brown. I think the idea is for the location to create a sense of desperate struggle against evil, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire expansion has done a great job of telling a story of a desperate struggle in a place that is absolutely freaking beautiful. I used to log into Marvel Heroes at times like this. It was light and fun without involving much thought. But now that that’s gone I haven’t found anything else to fill that gap.

So what gives, game devs? Life is depressing enough as it is! Why do games have to bring me down too?

LotRO: Walking Into Mordor

I finally did it. I walked into Mordor, and I have the title to prove it. They said one simply could not do it, yet here I am.

You ask, “but last time you posted about Lord of the Rings Online, weren’t you were in Moria on a rune-keeper?” Yes I was. And I finished Moria, too, by the way, and I still love my rune-keeper and I have been working my way through southern Mirkwood with him lately. “Then what are you doing in Mordor with your old captain that you haven’t played in a couple of years?” Excellent question, hypothetical reader with a surprising knowledge of my many alts! The answer is that I finally broke down and bought the Moria collector’s edition and boosted my cappy to 105.

I’m not gonna lie, it was a bit of a rough week/month for me, and this was kind of a stress buy. Plus it was on sale, and apparently I can’t resist a sale. I was recently playing with my friend on his captain, and it reminded me of how much fun I used to have with that class. Unfortunately, my captain was also half way through Moria, so redoing the content I just did on my rune-keeper didn’t sound very appealing. A level boost seemed like the perfect remedy for this situation, and one just happened to be included with the collector’s edition of Mordor. And honestly, at the rate I plod through content in this game, I’m starting to worry that I’ll never see a lot of the later content before the game shuts down (not that I’m expecting that any time really soon, but realistically, it’s not going to be around forever).

Several things jump out at me upon boosting from Moria/Siege of Mirkwood content straight to content that’s less than a year old. First is just how much better this game’s graphics have gotten. The graphics in Eriador show their age, though there are certain places where it really doesn’t matter; the landscapes are absolutely gorgeous despite 2007’s technical limitations. The graphics in Mordor are significantly improved, with some really nice texture and animation work. Yes, to a certain extent, it still looks like a game from 2007–most NPCs’ textures still look painted on, with no facial animation or overly fancy armor meshes, and of course some of those same awkward animations are still there and just as awkward as they were back in the day–but still, the improvement is striking, especially not having progressed slowly and naturally through the areas added by the various expansions. Second is that, while I thought ahead enough to boost a character who had all of their skills unlocked and whose rotation I was familiar with, I have no idea how to do mounted combat and the Aria gives you zero mount XP. So far it has only been a problem here and there, so hopefully it won’t be of a big deal, but still, it would have been nice if they had boosted my mount’s level as well as my character’s.

I am also once again reminded of what a great job this game has done with its worldbuilding. Granted, as much of it as is reasonably possible is pulled straight from the pages of Tolkien’s books, but I think that master wordsmith would be proud of what Turbine/Standing Stone has added to his legendarium. And the attention to detail never ceases to amaze me! Frodo is even missing a finger in the scenes after the ring is destroyed! I had to fiddle around with my camera for a few minutes to even check. A lesser studio wouldn’t have bothered to create a new nine-fingered character model, or at best just slapped a bandage texture over his ring finger. That’s dedication!

The Mordor collector’s edition also came with the High Elf race and a character slot. While I’m trying to resist the temptation to create yet another alt, I figured I’d at least run through the unique tutorial instance they created to shoehorn in this minutely different, anachronistic set of elves. It was cool to get to be a part of The Last Alliance and see the Free Peoples’ first encounter with the Nazgul, though I was kind of disappointed I didn’t actually get to be there for the defeat of Sauron. Rather, I got stabbed with a Morgul blade à la Frodo, which apparently, rather than turn them into a wraith as the Witch-King thought, causes High Elves sleep for three thousand years. I also thought it was cool that they start you out with a set of armor that looks like the one you wore in the tutorial, but old, tarnished, and complete with a tattered cape. Not only is it sometimes nice to have gear that isn’t in totally pristine condition, it also makes sense for something that’s been taking up space in Elrond’s Attic for a few millennia.

All told, I’m really happy with my purchase, and really happy to be back in LotRO.