More on Skirmish Traits (LOTRO)

I realize I kind of skimmed over the whole skirmish trait system in my last post. Here’s more detail.

You’ll talk to a Skirmish Captain to organize your traits. Here’s an empty trait panel — it’ll feel pretty familiar to any LOTRO player:
Empty Skirmish Trait Panel

And here’s my “full” panel, tricked out for a healing companion:
Full Skirmish Trait Panel

You’ll see there are slots that I need to unlock as I advance, same as with normal traits.

The top trait row, Attribute, basically sets the ‘class’ for your soldier. Right now I have two choices, Warrior (essentially a Champion) which I got via the tutorial, and Herbalist (a healer) which I bought with Skirmish Marks. You put a Role Attribute trait in slot 1 of this row; I’m as yet unsure what goes into the other slots in this row. I couldn’t slot both Herbalist and Warrior. There are some cosmetic traits; maybe those go in the other slots? If you want your Companion to be a hobbit-lad, for instance, you can buy that feature with skirmish marks. Maybe someone can fill in the gaps here.

Here’re the pop-ups for the two Roles I currently have:
Warrior Role   Herbalist Role

If you notice the red text at the bottom of the Warrior Role, it’s because I had the Herbalist Role slotted when I took the screen shot.

Next two rows are Skills and Training. I’m honestly not clear on what the difference between the two is. As a reward for completing the Skirmish Tutorial, I took “Herbalist Education” which gave me a bunch of herbalist traits; two each of Skills and Training. (Note I had to buy the Herbalist role in order to put these to use).

Herbalist Skill #1   Herbalist Skill #2

Herbalist Training 2   Herbalist Training 1

The last row is for Personal traits which directly impact your character. I only have one of these to show off:
Personal Trait

Changing skirmish traits costs silver, same as changing normal traits does.

And that’s as far as I’ve taken this. I was going to do some more experimenting but the Skirmish Join panel says I’ve exceeded the max number of skirmishes I can take part in this week!! I assume that’s a bug (since I only fought in 1 skirmish), but it does indicate that there are systems in place for preventing you from doing nothing but grinding skirmishes all day.

Obviously this is all new to me and I can’t say how I’ll feel about the system come springtime, but for now I’m pretty excited. Hopefully there’ll be lots of traits to unlock and/or purchase which will give the player many options for customizing exactly the kind of companion he or she will be taking into battle.

First look at LOTRO Skirmishes

After all the problems that players ran into last Tuesday during the Siege of Mirkwood Preview/Stress Test, Turbine decided to open Bullroarer (the test server) to all players again this weekend. I jumped on tonight and sure enough, Skirmishes were working like a charm.

I wasted no time in going through the Skirmish Tutorial, which comes in two parts. In part 1 you begin outside the south gate of Bree, and have to liberate the gate, then the Auction House, and then Bill Ferny’s house. But before you do that, the Second Watcher gives you a Horn you can use to summon help. The horn is a skill, not an inventory item, and it basically summons your soldier, who at this point is a kind of generic man-at-arms.

Once you have him at the ready, off you go to take on a few pretty easy fights, and soon enough you will have liberated south Bree. Part two of the tutorial is the defense of the Prancing Pony. Before you begin this battle, you can talk to a couple of NPCs. One sells you a soldier trait, and the other is a Skirmish Bard which lets you slot that trait. You get a Warrior Trait, so buy it (for free), slot it (for free as well) and then summon a soldier, who’ll now be a Tier 1 Warrior.

This is a defensive battle as you fight off three waves of mobs. Skirmish mobs don’t drop much; at least I saw no random loot. If they do drop something it’ll either be a temporary item that gives you a buff (use it or lose it; it disappears at the end of the skirmish) or coin and some kind of Skirmish Mark.

This is a fun little battle. It’s really neat seeing Bree under a heavy snowfall. The challenge rating isn’t very high but this *is* the tutorial after all. After you’ve completed it, you’ll travel back to the Skirmish Camp (by the way, I should point out that I took the Skirmish Tutorial outside of Bree but you can take it from any Skirmish Camp; I’m not sure if other camps send you into different tutorial skirmishes) where you’ll finally finish the tutorial, opening up the Skirmish System as well as the Skirmish Vendors.

And wow, do those vendors have some nice stuff. Everything from rare crafting materials (shards and such) to armor or weapons for general use, to new Traits for your soldier, to house items and cosmetic items for your soldier. You buy all this stuff using Skirmish Marks.

I opted to buy an Herbalist Trait for my soldier. Once I slotted this trait, plus some skill traits, I had a capable healer to follow me around in a skirmish (I was playing a Champion so a healer seemed a natural choice).

It was time to try my first “real” skirmish, and I picked a Solo Level 40, Tier 1 skirmish on Weathertop. Gandalf’s battle with the Nine has drawn evil things to this place, and you have to aid the Ranger stationed there in protecting the area. I don’t want to go into too many details because half the fun is experiencing these things first hand.

I will, however, say that it was an awful lot of fun for me. And I’ll rile the haters up by saying it was particularly fun for someone who always solos. Between the Ranger (who aids you) and my healer minion, I had half a fellowship, which meant for once I could use all those Champion skills that are generally pointless when soloing (Challenges/Taunts) or that I never use due to shortness of solo battles (lots of the AoE melee attacks).

There are Lieutenant mobs that show up now and then, and some of them were pretty epic, at least to someone level 40. And there was (simple) stuff to do beyond just fighting.

The rewards for completing the skirmish were pretty generous. Maybe too generous. 75 silvers and between the tutorial and this one skirmish I had enough Skirmish Marks to buy a piece of heavy armor or a weapon better than what I was using. 75 silver is more than I pay for a week’s rent on my cottage! So 1 skirmish = weekly rent with some left over to spend on wine and wenches? Sign me up!

Siege of Mirkwood launches on Dec. 1st and I’m sure by Dec. 2nd people will be whining about “grinding marks” because, let’s face it, MMO players are a whiny bunch. And if you’re some kind of crazy completionist and want to buy everything you can as soon as you can, then yup, you’re going to be doing a LOT of skirmishes because there is a *ton* of stuff to buy. Maybe its time to get some counseling for that OCD!

But the system should be a dream for ‘normal’ players. I love that there’s good stuff to buy after just doing a couple battles, but there’re also some really nice, very expensive items that will take some time to obtain. Setting and achieving personal goals adds so much to these games, at least for me. I’m really looking forward to playing “for keeps” once Mirkwood launches. This (I assume) is just the beginning of what they’ll do with this system.

I have a few images from the tutorials. I was so engrossed in the one ‘real’ skirmish I took part in that I forgot to take any shots!

[Update: Oh, I forgot to mention this. When I reported on Tuesday’s Preview Program I said the combat changes made my Champion look like he was going into convulsions at times. I did not see this effect last night, so perhaps the problem Tuesday night was due to lag (which was awful for me when I was playing).]

MMO Soloing: A bedtime story

As a confirmed soloer, I get subjected to a certain amount of bs from the grouping contingent. One of the most frequent quips these people fling at me is “If you’re going to solo, go play a single player game.”

Now no amount to logical explanation has been able to push these folks off-message. As far as their concerned, people who solo are a) stupid for paying a monthly fee if we’re not going to group, and b) ruining the games.

So instead of logic, I’m going to tell a quick little story before I put the weekend to bed and start another long work week.

I was exploring the western shore of Lake Evendim tonight. It’s a place I’ve never been before. I wasn’t hunting for anything more dangerous than the boat back to the eastern shore, which I’d been told existed somewhere. I was staying along the water’s edge, dodging anything mean looking up on the slopes above. Then I saw a large white boulder behind some bushes. An outcropping of platinum! As a jeweler, I need platinum, so without thinking I charged straight through the bush and tried right-clicking on the platinum to harvest it.

Only it wasn’t an outcropping of platinum at all, it was a huge bear. It hit me a few times as I parsed what was going on (the bush was still obstructing my view). By the time I got my wits about me and starting fighting back I was at 50% health, and the bear was yellow to me. I hadn’t eaten anything, had no consumable buffs up; as I said, I wasn’t looking to fight. I knew this was going to be mighty close.

Then a shaft of light came flying over my shoulder. Another attacker! I shuffled around the bear so I could see and… no, not another attacker! A dwarf named Grain, and he was hitting the bear with some kind of magic. Next thing I know, my morale was surging upwards, and the bear lay dead at my feet. I turned to Grain, bowed low. He bowed back, then opened a book, read from it…and vanished.

This kind of totally random and unexpected encounter is why I played MMOs even though I mostly solo (it should be noted, Grain was soloing too). A few moments later he sent me a tell, and we chatted a bit about our adventures in Evendim — it was his first time there too, as best I could tell.

Anyway, so that’s my answer to a) and why I’m happy to pay $15/month to play in a living, breathing, ever-changing world, instead of some static single-player RPG. As to us ruining the games…I can’t help you there. If you want to group a lot, make some friends and group with them. Best way to make friends? Stop trying to shove your world-view down other peoples’ throats.

Now I’m off to bed. Hope you all had a fun weekend of gaming!

Gambling on game design

Been quiet around here, but as you can see from Tipa’s widget over on the right, I’ve been playing the heck out of LOTRO. LOTRO seems like a pretty divisive MMORPG – people hate it or they love it – and frankly I haven’t been in the mood to debate the merits of a game I’m enjoying. I’ve just been playing, and having fun, and enjoying the experience without deconstructing it. It’s been a nice, relaxing change of pace.

Then I decided I wanted a Summer Festival Horse, and I ran into a system so infuriating that it almost made me walk away from LOTRO for a while (one of the joys of being a LOTRO Lifer is that walking away is easy since you know it’ll be there when you feel like coming back, with zero hassles).

Y’see, there used to be races that let you win a Summer Festival Horse, but I guess those generated a lot of ill will. People would think they’d come in first but the game would say they were in second, due to latency/lag or whatever. I’ve seen this in just about every MMO I play..if you play next to someone, your character on their screen is always behind where it is on your screen.

But I digress. For this Festival they removed those races and instead put in a couple of 3rd party races. There’s a hobbit’s pie-eating contest/race, and a dwarf’s drinking race. You place a bet on which contestant will win. If you bet right, you get 12 Summer Festival Tokens.

But in order to bet, you need Race Tokens. You can get 2 of those via a zero-effort quest (just talk to an NPC) but that quest is on a 2-hour cooldown.

The actual races run about every 12-13 minutes, I’d say. 10 minutes after a race ends, a new one begins, and races are 2-3 minutes.

With me so far? Get 2 tokens. Go to the race location. Wait up to 10 minutes for a race to start. Bet on a contestant. Win or lose. Wait 10 more minutes for another race to start. Bet. Win/lose. Then wait ~1:45 for the Race Token quest to cool down.

Duplicate this: there’s one race outside Thorin’s Hall, the other on The Hill at Bag End. So you can travel back and forth to maximize your time.

It takes 56 tokens to get a Festival Horse. So you have to win your bet on 5 races. There is zero strategy to the races – at least that’s what they say: that it’s all random.

It took me 22 races to win the number of tokens I needed. My win/loss ration was 4-18, but at one point I was 0-9 & had determined that the game was rigged against me! To say I was frustrated would be quite an understatement. I left LOTRO running all day, actually setting a timer so I’d know when to come back and get Race Tokens again.

Now, LOTRO defenders will tell you there are other ways to get Festival tokens: You can fish for them. But my character has a lousy fishing skill, and you can only improve your fishing skill 10 points a day. There are 4 fishing quests. 3 of them are 20 minutes long, and 1 is 10 minutes long. During these periods you can catch special “Festival Fish” which you can turn in for tokens (4 fish/token, although there are rare fish worth 2 tokens each). This would be a fine alternative except that these quests have a 14-16 hour cool down, so effectively you can do them once/day. I did do them all, which is why I had 56 tokens after winning 4 races.

LOTRO defenders will also tell you the new races are fun social events, and that may have been true with the Festival began. But when I was doing them during the day, I was the only one doing them, so it was boring as hell waiting for the races to begin.

I would urge Turbine to make some changes to these races. Some suggestions: let the players influence the race in some way. Maybe cheering for your contestant could help them go faster or something? Give the user some kind of feeling of control. Second, give tokens for more than 1st place. How about 1st place: 10 tokens. 2nd place: 4 tokens. 3rd place: 1 token. Lastly, let us save up ‘losing tickets’ and cash them in for a consolation prize of a few tokens.

Basically do something so that a player on a bad streak at least feels like he is making some kind of progress. Lose 9 of these races in a row and let me tell you, it’ll drive you to a very unhappy place. I felt like Sally Brown after Linus convinced her to wait for The Great Pumpkin instead of going trick-or-treating.

Anyway, to sum up my rant: sending players through such a huge time sync and taking all control away from the outcome of the event just makes the player feel bad about your game. I know this is a ‘stop-gap’ while you try to get the real races working, but it needs to be tweaked before the next festival!

In the end, through sheer stubbornness, I got my Festival Horse (shortly after midnight. I’d started working towards it before morning coffee). Yay! I actually just bought my regular horse the night before (which is why I started going for the Festival horse so late). And then today (with more tokens from fishing and some left-overs) I added a Summer Cloak!

Screenshots or it didn’t happen:



Aside from this occurrence, I’ve been having a hell of a good time in LOTRO this time back. Saving up for my horse was a good short-term challenge. Normally I think you’d have the $$ to buy a horse by the time you hit level 35 (when you get the ability to ride) but I’d been paying 50 silver/week in rent for long stretches when I wasn’t playing (and therefor not generating any income) so I was way behind the curve on savings.

I’ve also been *gasp* grouping with people. PUGs. And so far, no bad experiences. Since tuning into the global LFF channel my appreciation for the game has changed. For the most part, the folks that hang out on that channel are happy to answer questions and have interesting discussions on how to play and or ‘build’ various classes.

I started a 2nd character and have been experiencing the new “New Player Experience” with him. There’s a lot less running back and forth, which I know people hated. But at the same time, now it all feels much more like a WoW-style “theme park” experience. You’re carefully shunted from one NPC to the next, spoon fed quests and passed along. I guess that’s what people want, but I was surprised to find that I rather missed roaming around Breeland.

Changes coming to LOTRO’s Epic Chains?

Thanks to Ethic for bringing this to my attention.

In a LOTRO dev chat hosted at Warcry, the follow exchange happened:

WarCry: Meeko: Any chance that some of the epic instances in volumn 1 will be eased as not so many people are around to group with who are interested in doing them… or a way to hire npc’s to help complete them in future?
Orion: Funny you should ask this. Book 8 will see the first change along these lines. Chapter 11, Orthongroth is already set this way. Moving forward – post Book 8 – we are taking a different approach. My recent work has been focusing on providing both solo and group version of the Epic instances to allow players to choose the way that they want to complete the overall epic story.

Full Transcript

Orion is Allan Maki, who I find variously attributed as a Content Designer and a Community Manager for Turbine.

I’m pretty excited about this. I’ll admit at this point I play LOTRO as a single-player game, just to get lost in Tolkien’s world when the mood strikes me (the beauty of a Lifetime Membership). I’d love to do the Epic Instances alone, where I could take my time and enjoy everything that’s happening instead of skipping through in-game cut scenes and quest verbiage so as to keep up with whatever manic group of power-levelers I happened to have PUGged with.

Bring it on, Turbine! Can’t wait for more Epic Instance to offer a solo version!


So last weekend I was playing LOTRO and made the journey to Rivendell, on foot. As I crossed the Fords of Bruinen I stopped to look around, and said to Angela “Check this out. Remember when Arwen drove back the Nazgul here?”

And I stopped, appalled.  Because that’s how it happened in the movies, but not in the books.

And I realized it had been far too long since my last read-through of The Lord of the Rings.

So I dug out a copy — Angela’s copy, (despite the face that it has Elijah Wood on the cover), since the pages of my copy are falling out — and started reading. This has been rather a hellish week, work wise, and I’ve only managed a few pages each evening before falling asleep, but already I’m finding it really interesting to read the book after playing the game. Places referenced casually, like The Chetwood, mean something to me now.

I do find myself wondering why the hobbits chose the path they did, given the fine road from The Shire to Bree (in the game) but maybe that will become more clear as I re-familiarize myself with the true story.

If you’ve been playing LOTRO and haven’t read the books in a while, I highly recommend doing so! The two complement each other really nicely.

Goals and lack thereof (LOTRO)

Once again, a session of LOTRO has left me thinking about how different people approach these games in different ways. The most frequent complaints I see aimed at LOTRO are that there is too much running around, and too much grinding. I disagree with both of these complaints.

And granted “too much” is a very subjective number, but I felt like there had to be more to it than that. And then I thought about my session this morning, at the same time I was replying to Ysharro’s post about immersion.

I was having coffee, listening to some music and feeling pretty mellow. So I figured I’d take my 33 Champion to Ered Luin to start on some of the deeds there that I’d never done. For the uninitiated, this is the starter zone for Elves and Dwarves, I think the mob level caps out at 13 or so.

I arrived at Celondim and started my task. The next hour or so had me running around in Ered Luin, discovering locations, killing enough wolves, goblin and brigands to get those deeds going, mining lots of ore for my ‘younger cousins’ to practice on (or to sell), also got some good loot off the brigands and goblins for the youngsters. I chased deer around just to watch them run. Admired flocks of birds swirling through the skies. Climbed ruins to see how far I could see. Caught snowflakes on my tongue. Splashed through ponds full of lilly-pads. Picked some berries for cooking later.

At the end of the session, I’d completed a couple of deeds, earned a modicum of coin, and gained about 100 exp (less than I’d get from killing one mob of my level). And I was quite content; I’d had much fun.

And I think that’s pretty significant, particularly when you hook this experience into Ysh’s post. I was *in* Middle Earth. I wasn’t worried about what I was accomplishing…I was immersed. I was role-playing, even if it was only in my head. There’s no “catch snowflake on tongue” action in LOTRO.

At one point, a dwarf asked me if I’d make him some roast pork. I needed yellow onions for that recipe and the vendors were all out. So I switched over to my Captain, who is a farmer, and he grew some onions. While in the midst of this, he struck up a conversation with a minstrel about what a good life the farming life was. The minstrel took a break from his own farming to play a song to help pass the time, and my Captain gave him a round of applause for his efforts before wishing him well, but explaining that he needed to ship off his produce before it spoiled.

And that’s why I play MMORPGs even if I don’t often group; for people like that minstrel. I add this just to head-off the “why play an MMORPG solo” contingent. 🙂

Now if I played LOTRO to watch my experience bar move and get to the next level, today would’ve just been a huge waste of time. And if I played it to be “uber” and have every trait completed, so I felt like I *had* to go back and kill 60 wolves, I can see where that’d be pretty distasteful. And in fact I do sometimes play other games that way. When I played WOW originally, I played it the way I do LOTRO now (back then, people really *did* roleplay, and some nights I’d play for hours and never leave Stormwind), but after a few years of that, when I start a new character on a new server, as I did to join CoW last month, *all* I care about is leveling as fast as possible. So I do get it.

I think there are two significant facts to expose here. First, I grew up on Lord of the Rings. I first read it at 14 or so, and re-read it every few years. It influenced my life in many ways: specifically, it nurtured this sense of imaginative play that led me to become a fan of fantasy in all forms, and to gaming and RPGs in particular. So being in the world is its own reward, in a sense. Also, I have a Lifetime Membership. This means if it takes me 5 years to get to cap, I don’t care. As a solo player, cap is more or less Game Over in MMOs. Time to start a new character. A monthly fee would probably add some sense of urgency to the experience.

For me personally, these times of playing games just to “be in the world” are the best times I have playing, and I actually feel kind of sorry for people (including myself, when I get caught up in it) who are driven to push that experience bar, or accomplish some other explicit goal every time they log in. That to me seems too much like out-of-game life. Rush, rush, rush, push, push, push. Get ahead of the other guy. I have enough of that in real life; in an ideal world, games are about play and imagination and relaxation to me. (At the same time, I recognize that to many people, games are all about competition.)

This is getting long and less and less focused. But I wonder if the people who find LOTRO slow and grindy are more driven, accomplishment oriented players, and those of us who enjoy the game are more about the experience of being in a fantasy world?

LOTRO through fresh eyes

The other day Angela expressed an interest in giving Lord of the Rings Online a try. As I have a Lifetime Membership, I was delighted by the prospect of having her playing too, so immediately send off a Trial Key. She downloaded the client, created a character and got to level 2 while I was at work (so basically she was testing that the game would run). Tonight she decided to play again, and I had the chance to watch her.

Now, I really enjoy LOTRO a lot. Looking at the game through my eyes, it’s a thing of beauty. But the difference between Angela and I is that I play tons of games and feel compelled to at least try every major MMO that hits the market. And I’ll often randomly download and install a F2P MMO just to try something new. I’ve seen dozens and dozens of MMO HUDs and GUIs and I jump around from game to game very easily. Angela, on the other hand, has been playing EQ2 pretty much non-stop since it launched in 2004. She doesn’t play single player games on the PC and only very very rarely will she get into a console game.

So there I was, watching her play LOTRO. Problem one, of course, is the intro segment. I have all my character slots filled so I couldn’t roll a new character to play with her, but I did have a Rune-Keeper who’d just left the starter area (he was level 7), so I was waiting for her. But from the time she logged in at level 2 until the time she left the starter area at level 6, all I could do is watch and advise. I know she could have skipped the starter area, but that brings its own set of problems and let’s face it: the point of it is to teach you the game mechanics. Now it takes me almost no time to zoom through the starter areas, but I know all the quests and where to go when. I’d forgotten how long it can take when you don’t know that the rubble is actually in the cave under the town, not in town itself (for example).

None of the ‘big stuff’ was a problem for her. Getting quests, looting, fighting… all that is similar enough that she didn’t have to give it a second thought. What did bug her, a lot, was the sensitivity (or lack thereof) of the keyboard when it came to turning her character. As she ran across the world, she appeared to be a bit intoxicated, veering back and forth slightly as she kept under, than over, steering. After a bit of discussion we determined that LOTRO has a bit of an “acceleration” feature to turning. You press the Left key and you turn slowly, then faster the longer you hold it down. At least, that’s how it felt to her; I’ve never noticed it but again, I play skillions of games and I’m used to adjusting. But it drove her crazy.

Also, she didn’t like the constant location of the tooltips (though I think that might be tweakable); she prefers them to be right where the arrow is pointing. See what I mean? It’s the little details that make a new game feel strange and unfamiliar after a long time spent with an old favorite. I could tell that LOTRO just felt awkward to her.

One of my favorite aspects of LOTRO is the lore. I drink in every paragraph of text quest. I sit transfixed during the infrequent cut scenes between Chapters in the book quests. Angela was playing with the sound so low I don’t think she even heard the voice over during these, and when she got a new quest she’d immediately scroll down to see what the reward was and hit accept. Later she’d skim to figure out where to go, but she didn’t seem to care about the ‘color’ text one way or the other.

On the other hand, she seemed to like how you can hide or show you cloak or helm from the character panel, rather than digging into the options panels to toggle them. She stopped to stare at flocks of birds bursting out of trees to fly off into the distance, and asked me how to hide the UI so she could start taking snapshots. And once she finally got out of the starter area and we could group, she seemed to enjoy the actual gameplay. Deeds were something new to her, but I advised her to play like I do; to not really worry about doing them at first, and to get your kill counts up ‘naturally’ and then go back and top them off if you need to, before you leave an area.

It was a fun change of pace for us that she was playing a Guardian (Tank) and I was playing a Rune Keeper (hybrid healer). When we play EQ2 together, she’s almost always a healer and I’m always a Melee DPS class.

I still love LOTRO, but I’m not at all convinced the game is going to “stick” with Angela. We knocked out 5 quests or so (maybe 20 minutes of playing together), and then she’d had enough. And as a write this, she’s back in her beloved Everquest 2. But even if she decides not to continue, it was a neat experience seeing LOTRO though another person’s eyes. LOTRO seems to be the “Hater Flavor of the Week” now that everyone is done trashing Warhammer and my instinct is always to defend it since I feel its a great game. But seeing someone I care about play it and not being immediately enchanted really gives me perspective; we really are all different when it comes to these games. Knowing that on an intellectual level is a lot diferent from experiencing it on such a personal level. Here’s someone who I care deeply for, and share many, many interests with, and she’s seeing the game in a totally different light than I do. Hopefully from here on out I can be better about ignoring the haters (they’re entitled to their opinion and nothing I say is going to change their mind) and just enjoy talking about the game with my fellow enthusiasts.

Switching channels

So my EQ2 sub ran out, leaving both myself and Angela feeling a bit blue. We’d been adventuring together quite a bit; something we haven’t done all that much of in the past. I’ve left EQ2 so many times, and each time I come back I like it a bit more. This is the first time I’ve left wanting more. As soon as we get money stuff straightened out I’ll be re-subscribing.

Today I was MMO surfing a bit. I tried Warhammer again. Made a level but that didn’t really feel like it made much difference. Spent way too much time deleting gold spam from my mail box. Bleh. Did some more FusionFall, and honestly that game continues to be fun in a very cotton-candy sort of way. So easy to jump in, run around a bit, and jump out.

Then finally I fired up LOTRO. I’ve been exploring Evendim. Correction: I thought I’d been exploring Evendim but in fact I’d really been just on the fringe of it. Today I got into Evendim proper. One thing Turbine knows how to do is take your breath away as you explore Middle Earth. Remember in the movie version of Fellowship, when they’re paddling down river after leaving Lothlorien, and they come around a curve in the river and suddenly there’s the huge guardian king in front of them? While Turbine took that scene to heart. I don’t want to say more because the whole beauty is discovering this stuff for yourself.

I’ve said it ad nauseum, but I just adore exploring Middle Earth. It feels like almost a burden, though, that I have a quest log full of Fellowship quests at this point. I just can’t experience the world quite the same way when I’m in a group of people; can’t take time to stop and gawk at landscapes and ancient ruins and amazing creatures… I suppose I can always come back when I’ve out-leveled the content, right?


MMO Soloers get some love from Turbine

As an oft-time solo MMO gamer, I’m used to being spat upon by the herd-mentality masses. “Go play a single player game!” they scream at me. “Your [sic] an idiot for paying a monthly fee to play a game by yourself!” Or even, “Hey solo player… YOUR MOM!”

OK OK I’m being a bit over-dramatic but seriously, there’s a big component of the community who seems to think there’s something “wrong” with preferring to play an MMO solo. And some day I’ll do a big long whinging post about why I do it, but that day is not today!

No, today I just want to direct you to this guide to Solo Leveling in LOTRO. Why is it worth noting? Because it comes from Turbine themselves. So apparently they acknowledge and appreciate that some of us prefer the solitude of a quiet walk through The Shire to a booze-laden Tavern League Quest Marathon.

Actually, the article doesn’t feel all that solo-oriented and if you’ve never played LOTRO it’s a decent “Getting Started” article for anyone to read. If you’ve played a grouped character and want to start a solo alt, the article isn’t going to teach you very much. Hopefully future installations will be a bit more meaty with regard to the soloist.