Catching up

We had a big ice storm here in New England during the Thursday overnight. Friday morning our power went out, so I couldn’t post before work. At lunchtime I came home to check on things, making sure neither Angela nor the guinea pigs had frozen to death, so no lunchtime post writing. By the time I got home, power was restored. My heart goes out to the many people who will be without power for several days; high today will be in the 20’s so its going to get terribly cold in all those houses. One of my co-workers had to leave the area to go stay with family; they had no heat, it was getting cold, and all the hotel and motel rooms are booked. I guess some of the schools have been set up as shelters for those without the means to get out of the area.

Funny thing about electricity is how much you don’t notice it until it isn’t there anymore.

Anyway…

Thursday night before all this started I got my first taste of this year’s Frostfell celebration in EQ2. I can’t remember if my account was active for Frostfell last year, but if it was I didn’t pay much mind to Frostfell because there’s a lot of stuff new to me that I’m told isn’t new this year. For my first outing I aided Queen Bunny in her fight against the commercialization of Frostfell. It was a fun little quest, solo (and it scales to your level) and it took me to the Steamfont Mountains, an area I’d never visited in EQ2.

One thing I learned while doing this quest is how badly equipped Riowa is. I was taking a lot of damage which made me think to check his gear and it’s all level 30-32 (and he is 42)! One of my “problems” with EQ2 is that I’m perpetually doing “gray” quests because my quest log is perpetually full. So I always log in to ‘knock off some of these gray quests’ and end up leveling in the process, making even more quests gray. I’m anal about going from A to B to C (in everything I do, not just EQ2) so I take every quest I see, and what I’m learning is that there are too many quests for any one character to do and still maintain some level of challenge. Not sure what to do about that… the A-B-C thing is pretty deeply ingrained.

Anyway, Friday night I was so totally spent that I mostly watched TV. I jumped into WoW a bit to use up Rested Experience on my baby Rogue on Rexxar, but I have to be honest, WoW just isn’t engaging me. It was fun for a week or so but now it’s just the same old same old again, even with the added benefit of CoWs. My account is up for renewal on the 23rd and I don’t think I’ll renew. Winter’s Veil starts on the 15th so I’ll probably play around in that a bit then be done with WoW.

In LOTRO the Yule Festival has begun, and I’ve read there’s a quest in the Shire that earns you a Christmas Tree for your yard, so I need to do that this weekend. I’m wondering if I can get my Champion to 35, get a decent horse, and win one of the Festival Races to get a better horse, all in the course of one special event. But there’s Frostfell fun to be had, too! So many choices! I managed to snag the whole week between Christmas and New Year’s off, though, so I’ll have some extra gaming time. On the other hand, next week is going to be hell week (launching a new web site at work) and I don’t imagine I’ll be getting much gaming dune.

More Rune-Keeping

Last night I put a bit more time into my LOTRO Rune-Keeper, as well as reading up a bit about them. It’s an interesting class in that it feels flawed in the early levels, but if I’m understanding things right it gets a lot more flexible higher up.

I’ved died several times and I haven’t gotten to level 10 yet. Generally getting the “Undying” title at level 10 is pretty easy in LOTRO (I think they call it Undying, forgive me if I’m wrong) but not with this Rune-Keeper. The problem is how ‘locked in’ you get to one type of actions.

You see, your melee abilities are all but non-existent, so you need to use spells to kill anything. And the more you use spells, the farther your ‘needle’ moves towards doing damage, which is fine as long as everything is going swimmingly. But if you get an add or two and need heals (and you will, since all you’re wearing is cloth armor) it takes a LONG time to move that needle back the other way to the healing side of the gauge, and by the time it gets there, you’ve fallen in battle.

Now if you’re cautious, you can cast a HoT on yourself, and throw down a healing rune, before every battle. I fear I’ve spent too much time as a Champion though, and I tended to cut corners on those activities unless I know I’m going to pull multiples. So probably 50% of my problem is me rushing.

All *that* said, from my reading it sounds like higher levels get you skills that move the needle pretty quickly to neutral, allowing you to start healing a lot more quickly (at least “weak” heals until you build up healing mojo). It sounds like it’s going to be a pretty interesting class once it gets all its abilities, and by interesting I mean ‘challenging’ (but in a good way).

I’m looking forward to putting more time into this guy. I may end up nuking my Minstrel, who I’ve never gotten past level 11. It’s nice that Turbine gave us 2 more character slots with the Moria Expansion, but I’d still like a couple more. Ideally I think we should have enough slots to have one of each character on a given server. Anyway, my Minstrel is my armorer and I need to get my RuneKeeper up to spec in crafting before I nuke anyone.

First taste of LOTRO RuneKeeper

I’ve been doing my best to resist rolling another LOTRO character since I have a passel of them in their teens and only one over 30. But the Runekeeper’s combat/healing system intrigued me, at least on paper. I’ve never been able to stick with a traditional healing class… I just don’t seem to have the mindset for it. But I thought maybe the Runekeeper would be different.

So tonight I caved.

I spent so much time creating him that I didn’t get to actually play much. But what’s really weird is that he has no weapon, except his rune. So when he melees (which isn’t very effective and isn’t something he should be doing) he’s just swinging this brick-like rune around. Really odd.

At the puny level of 3, I’m thinking this is going to be a pretty group-centric character, but we’ll see. I have 1 HoT, 1 DoT that stacks but takes a long time to cast, and a couple of DD lightning spells so far. It takes a long time to kill stuff, which makes him feel a lot like a healer.

Obviously level 3 is insignificant insofar as getting a feel for a class. But I just had to share the weird brick-fighting technique. I’ll play him more sometime over the next few days and see what happens after he gets to the teens.

At this point my characters are “born” with almost a full bag of freebie stuff! 4 cloaks, 3 Moria Coins, a Bree Steed Receipt, a decorative piece of armor and a ring of agility!

Weekend recap: EQ2 bonanza

So aside from re-subscribing to WoW, the weekend was mostly about EQ2. (Hmm, it just struck me that in the past few days I’ve griped about how lost I felt in EQ2 because there’s so much new stuff, and griped about how WoW seems so unchanged!)

I leveled my Berserker to 40, finishing out all the gray & green quests he had laying around for Butcherblock, including a fun storyline involving fighting off an invading bugbear army. I did have to call in the cavalry for the last step of that one. Angela brought in one of her healer girls and mentored me as I fought the last boss.

So now I had all these skills at Apprentice I, so I jumped on my Alchemist who was level 38 or so, but with 100% Vitality I quickly caught him up and got the ‘Zerker to at least Apprentice IV on everything. The Guild Hall makes this *so* easy to do. There’s this huge pile ‘o resources that you can draw directly out of, and all the crafting stations have been nicely laid out around vendor NPCs. The only time I had to leave the Hall was to buy training books off the crafting vendor. Thanks to everyone in the guild that have made the guild hall possible: I’m definitely riding on coattails in that regard.

I also played a bit of LOTRO, but that was mostly busy-work, trying to get my inventory organized across various characters. I turned in my Moria rewards, which seem mostly meh. There’s a cute “pesky dormouse” that you can put in your house, but he takes up a large wall slot. And a songbird, also for the house. And a pocket item that wasn’t too interesting (to the point that I don’t recall what it did). Let’s see. A horn that gives a hope (or whatever hope is now called) buff; that could be useful. And then potions for resistance to the 4 elements. Of those items, I could pick any 3. I got the dormouse, bird and horn.

I also gave up on trying to tank with the Champion, and re-arranged his traits. Dropped the one that let him carry a heavy shield and the ones that gave him better taunting and went full-on damage improvements. Oh, and I raised up his cooking a lot, just burning through components to get some inventory space cleared up. So my main LOTRO character spends his time either slicing & dicing orcs…or baking blueberry muffins.

Virtually no single-player gaming this weekend.

Upgrades and patches and crashes, oh my!

So last night, leaving work, I was like a kid the day before Christmas. Not one but TWO shiny new expansions awaited me at home. By the time I went to bed, I felt like a kid on Christmas afternoon who’d found that all those mysterious packages had held socks and underwear.

I first hit LOTRO to get Mines of Moria installed. I’d opted for the downloadable version of that, and had “pre-downloaded” and installed the expansion a few days earlier. When I got home, the servers were down for a hot fix, but I ran the client anyway and… it took two hours to convert the game to Moria! Urgh. Once that finished, I logged in (after sitting in a queue) and played “spot the differences” with the UI (which primarily seemed to surround traits). I’d read about the big combat changes but I didn’t really see anything markedly different, but then I’m no theorycrafter. I wanted to get EQ2 going so I logged out after a few moments.

Angela had run the updater for EQ2 for me in the afternoon, so no patching was necessary. I had to re-open my account, apply my key and off I went, back to Norrath. My Dire Bear was kind of cool, but not as cool as the higher level ones (my character is 38) and not as fast as my horse. And beyond that… nothing really. I can’t fault Sony; they’d made it clear that this expansion was for level 50+, but I figured I’d find *something* shiny and new to excite me, but not really. I did log in to find I had 153% of the experience I needed to level from some change made in the past. So as soon as I got a point of xp, I dinged to 39 and half-way to 40, so level 50 doesn’t seem out of reach.

But then I crashed. Silently and with no fanfare. The screen froze for a second and suddenly I was looking at my desktop. I rebooted the PC, just in case, and once Vista eventually lurched back to life I logged back in. Played for 20 or so minutes and bam! Another crash to desktop. No obvious cause…nothing that connected the two occurrences in my mind. When last I played EQ2 (this past summer) the game was rock-stable for me, so I dunno what’s up. I have updated my video drivers since then; maybe its the PhysX crap in the nVidia drivers? I started surfing the support forums, but by this time it was after 11 and I finally just said “To hell with it” and went to bed, dejected and rather cranky.

And woke up even crankier this morning. Tonight I get to check out the “New XBox Experience” which honestly doesn’t sound all that exciting, but we’ll see. I’m going to set EQ2 to use a totally default interface in case one/some of my mods are out of date and breaking that game. If that doesn’t fix it, I’m not sure what I’ll do. Probably let it set for a few days until I’m more in the mood to troubleshoot PC gaming. If it turns into a long-running diagnosis/fix attempt cycle I’ll just write off my return to the game as a bad idea and go back to Warhammer.

Ah well. At least its Ghost Hunters night!

Update Week!

This week is going to be full of excitement, once we get through the typically dreary Monday.

Tomorrow, the first major Warhammer patch goes live, LOTRO: Mines of Moria launches, and EQ2: The Shadow Odyssey launches. I’ve got Moria pre-ordered and pre-installed but I have to wait for Thursday, apparently, for Amazon to get Shadow Odyssey to me. In between those 2 MMO expansions, Wednesday brings the “New XBox Experience” which should be worth an evening of playing with.

I am, frankly, more excited about Moria than I am about Shadow Odyssey. On the other side of the room, however, Angela can’t sit still, she’s so eager to get the latter, and she has zero interest in Moria or LOTRO. Moria brings 2 new classes and a level cap raise, along with lots of other stuff, not least of which is 2 more character slots/server. Odyssey is directed at casual level 50-80 characters, from my understanding, and since my highest level EQ2 character is 38…well you can see why I’m not that excited.

Still, more games to play than I have time for… I kinda hate the 4th quarter holiday rush of game publishers.

Romantics & Dreamers

Sometimes I just don’t understand other gamers. Why do they hate the things I love, and vice versa? There’s something about me that’s just different from most gamers. And I finally figured out what it was.

I’m a romantic and a dreamer.

Fable 2 actually got me thinking about this. I loved the game, and the ending was incredibly moving to me. It left me feeling quiet and thoughtful for a long time. But I read other impressions of the game and they’ll tell you the ending sucked. Huh?

Well, if you’re playing with your fingers and eyes, the ending did suck. If, like me, your heart was thrown into the mix, the ending was amazing. One of the most thought-provoking endings I’ve ever encountered.

This morning Angela was working on a web site that I’d done the database design for. I knew she’d have a certain number of questions about the choices I’d made, so I didn’t want to get too engrossed in anything. So I logged into LOTRO to work on some Shire deeds. The character I was running is well beyond the level of the Shire but he never did the deeds in there. So mostly I had to run around and ‘discover’ landmarks, and hunt lots of very gray bugs and slugs and wolves.

And y’know, I was enchanted. Whenever I’ve been away from LOTRO for any amount of time, I’m a bit stunned when I return. The landscapes, the music, the people going about their business…it all feels very much like a “world” to me, and one where there is still hope and happiness. Watching the sun come up and the clouds move slowly across the sky. Watching brooks babbling over rocks, and the sunlight reflecting off the water. It all feels very relaxing. It feels like I really am in Middle Earth. And it makes me want to defend this place from the intrusion of darkness.

And at the same time, I know for a lot of gamers what I was doing would be considered pointless grinding and a huge flaw in the game. They wouldn’t stop to watch a shrew clean its face or nibble on a tidbit it’d found. They wouldn’t notice the sky. They’d find a hobbit outfitter that sells cosmetic items and snort and think “What a waste of money..why would I get this for my toon?”

Actually, I think “toon” is significant. If you think of your characters as “toons” then yeah, every time you think about them you’re reminding yourself that this is all really just a spreadsheet with graphics layered on and that there’s a most efficient way to increase those numbers quickly. I think of my characters as characters or, more often, as “me”. I have to deliberately say “Gillain did this” rather than naturally sliding into “I did this”.

I feel faintly embarrassed to be admitting this. Ysh was talking about Wizard 101 a few days ago and someone commented that he was too old and too male to play Wizard 101. It’s just part of our culture (particularly among the young, and I consider anyone under 35 or so in that category) that guys are supposed to be hard and apathetic about beauty (except for hot women, of course) and fluff. We’re supposed to be all about the killing and efficient leveling. Competition and being the strongest and the best.

But that just isn’t me, at least a lot of the time. I’m about the experience. That’s why I get so excited when I run into Gotrek & Felix in a tavern in Altdorf. It’s why I mutter under my breath when I have to slog through a marsh and ruin my new boots. It’s why killing 10 rats isn’t a problem for me, but killing 10 bunnies is.

I mean yeah, I really like getting a new level, and I enjoy winning a bout of RvR. But not all the time. I need more than that, and maybe that’s why I’ve gotten somewhat less enthusiastic about Warhammer. Mythic deliberately designed a GAME rather than a WORLD and I kind of miss the world aspects sometimes.

Anyway, no real point to all this. I’m certainly not saying one way is better than the other (and I don’t think there’s a dichotomy here…it’s definitely a gradient kind of issue). I just find it harder to find other gamers like me than I do the type that is very goal-driven and not really about the extras. Maybe we need to form a support group or something.

Thanks for reading all that, if you’re still here. 🙂 As a reward, here’s a couple of ‘wallpaper’ screens I took this morning. Very valuable, very rare!!

lotro lotro

TGIF, WRUP, and other acronyms

So last night was all about the Thursday Night Football, thus no gaming was done. In fact overall damned little gaming got accomplished this week, much to my chagrin. XFire says I spend 2 hours playing Warhammer in the past 7 days, and that’s the game I spent the most time on, PC-wise (not that I always trust those numbers). I did play the Left 4 Dead demo on the 360 a couple of times, and spent quite a bit of time at Nile Online.

Yes, fascinating stuff. But what of the future? This is an odd week for me. I finished Fable 2 and didn’t/don’t want to wade into some lengthy single-player game because next week the LOTRO and EQ2 expansions hit, plus the “New XBox Experience” arrives (which, granted, will probably only be interesting for an evening). I could be playing Warhammer but fear getting sucked back into it, only to have my account turn off early next week.

So I feel like I’m in a quasi-holding pattern. I might stalk follow Ysharros into Wizardry 101 over the weekend, just because it sounds fun and easy. Quick to download, easy to learn… just some nice concentrated fun. Or at least that’s the vibe I’m getting.

Or I could fire up the EQ2 account and get re-acquainted, but I dunno… does it make sense to get re-acquainted only to install an expansion and have to relearn stuff? Might be just as easy to wait.

Curiously, I’ve paid very little attention to the big MMO expansions. I know WOW has Lich King and a Death Knight class and that’s about all I know. Moria has legendary weapons and 2 new classes, which I know very little about (but I’ll roll a Warden because I always roll any class called Ranger or Warden). The EQ2 expansion I know ZERO about, except that Angela is super-psyched for it. I guess it adds… new stuff. I don’t even remember the full name of it!! LOL.

This makes me an un-informed consumer but a happy gamer. I love discovering stuff on my own, and THEN researching it to learn the nuances. Werit wrote a post called Too Much Information that captures my feelings well enough that it seems pointless for me to repeat them here.

Apparently there’s a big free content update either going into Age of Conan, or already launched. Interesting. I’d like to jump back into AoC at some point. But then Ardwulf has me wanting to take another look at Vanguard, too. Plus Chronicles of Spellborn launches sometime soon, and I wanted to look at that as well. And I’m definitely not ‘done’ with Warhammer Online!

Is it any wonder that MMOs have churn problems these days? So many interesting choices and it’s hard to justify two concurrent subscriptions for most people. Add to that the lure of so many fantastic single-player games out now. It all just feels like too much. Are there enough gaming dollars to support all this content??

Anyway, let’s get to the WRUP part: What are YOU playing this weekend?

Character Transfers incoming to Warhammer

Everyone else has blogged about this too, but when I was getting ready to write my daily lunch-hour post I was drawing a complete blank. So I’m taking the easy way out.

We are pleased to announce that in the coming days we will be offering Free Character Transfers from our servers with lower populations to a set of servers with higher populations. To help you better prepare for these transfers we have provided additional details below.

http://herald.warhammeronline.com/warherald/NewsArticle.war?id=416

Casualties of War’s Destruction side is on one of the servers that is currently tagged as a ‘Source’ server, so they need to decide if they’re going to move. My Destruction characters are on one of the servers tagged as a “Destination” server, so that’s good news for me. More warm bodies to wreak havoc with. CoW won’t be moving to ‘my’ server though as they’re on a Core Server and I’m on an RP one.

I’m glad they’re not letting people cross server-type lines in the transfer. There actually is RP on my RP server…not big elaborate stuff, but on a small, on-going scale, and its fun.

I’m still on the fence about what to do at the end of this Warhammer Month (the 18th of November, iirc). I enjoy the game when I play it lightly. When I start playing it a lot, the frustration builds. But do I want to spend $15/month for an MMO I’m going to play lightly? On the other hand, I still am somewhat confident that Mythic will continue to improve things (slightly less so after results I’m hearing about this Witching Hour event). And on the third hand, I don’t want to break my ties with CoW.

A perfect solution for me would be a Lifetime Subscription offer. That I’d snap up and then be able to relax and enjoy Warhammer when I’m in the mood for it without that nagging feeling of “I *should* be playing this game more since I’m paying for it.” That’s the route I took with LOTRO and I’m really, really content with that decision.

I’ve got a few weeks to decide what to do. But I have both LOTRO and EQ2 expansions pre-ordered. Maybe I’ll let Moria languish for a while and play EQ2 and WAR together for a month or two, then dive into Moria.

Bonus XP in LOTRO

[EDIT: Not only is it a bonus XP long weekend, but former players can come back and play for free for a few days in the Welcome Back Weekend.

From October 2-6, 2008, we’re offering free LOTRO access to our former players, and +25% bonus experience gain for everyone who logs in and plays. Returning players are invited to patch up, jump in, and start playing on their old characters to get them ready for Moria!

SOURCE
/EDIT]

In preparation for the release of Mines of Moria, Turbine has announced 25% Bonus XP from Oct. 2nd to Oct. 6th. I’ve been meaning to log back in to LOTRO — I don’t want to totally lose touch with the world — but Warhammer is shiny and new and comes with a monthly fee (I coughed up the $$ for a Lifetime Founder’s Membership to LOTRO back when it launched, so the game is now ‘free’ to play for me.) so I haven’t gotten around to checking in with Middle Earth since WAR launched.

Perhaps this will be my incentive. Balancing two MMOs is pretty difficult for casual gamers that get at most an hour or two per weeknight to play. This challenge is made worse if, like me, you’re an alt-aholic (I have 14 Warhammer characters already…granted lots of them are level 2 or 3, but still).

Honestly LOTRO is probably a better “workday” MMO for me in the long run. By the time I log in, I’m generally tired and cranky and fairly impatient, which doesn’t make me a great group member. The stronger PvE focus of LOTRO is a better fit for me under these circumstances. But for now, Warhammer is providing plenty of solo PvE enjoyment. I don’t really get all the hate that the PvE aspects of War gets, honestly.