Archive for the ‘Lord of the Rings Online’ Category

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Developer Appreciation Week (DAW): Saying My Thanks!

March 21, 2011

Last year, Scarybooster came up with a concept — one that I would love to see become a tradition — called Developer Appreciation Week (DAW) where for one week, gamers put aside all their criticism, gripes, and general negativity to show our devs some love.

I thought this was a wonderful idea. I mean, we all play the games we do for a reason, right? We play them because we like them, and because we find things we enjoy about them, and because they are fun. But too often when I look around the blogosphere, these reasons are overshadowed by even the smallest grievances and complaints. So how great would it be that for one week, we get to bury all that for a change, and just focus on the good things? To lavish praise where it is due? To be given leave to be as big a fanboy/fangirl as you please?

Last year I participated in DAW with a post that thanked entire teams and companies for making the MMOs I have enjoyed over the last twelve months, and I think I will continue with that format today. It’s too difficult for me to even pick one creative team to focus on, let alone an individual person! As Scary himself says, it is such a hard process to find a specific developer to praise because each of them deserves it. It takes a team to make a game, and they’ve all done such great work in my eyes.

To Funcom and the Age of Conan team – Thank you. Thank you for all the hard work you’ve put into improving AoC and for the Rise of the Godslayer expansion released last year. You brought to life the breathtaking world of Khitai and gave me the chance — even if it was only for a brief time — to experience the meaning of true beauty in an MMO. To this day, the time I spent in AoC remains one of my most immersive experiences. To Funcom, keep up the good work and I look forward to The Secret World.

To Cryptic and the Champions Online and Star Trek Online teams – Thank you. Thank you for being the company that works its butt off. Cryptic will always have a special place in my heart, for all the great memories their MMOs have given me and continues to give me every day. In making Champions free-to-play, I was able to jump right back into a game I never truly really wanted to leave in the first place (technical difficulties) and I never realized how much more fun it was in that game to play with other people. F2P makes that easy — I look forward to fighting villains with my friends Blue Kae, Talyn, Oakstout and others again soon.

To Daniel Stahl and the hardworking men and women developing STO, the good things I want to say can probably fill a book. I was so happy to be part of their one-year anniversary in-game celebrations. The game has had its ups and downs, that is true…but I have seen much passion and effort in the past year reflected in the updates and Q&As, and you listen to your fans, which I respect immensely. I still feel this game is one of the more underrated ones on the market; issues with ground combat and complaints about the awkwardness of ship maneuvering abound, but rarely have I seen real praise for what I truly believe is a unique and innovative crew system. And no appreciation post would be complete without a nod to their Feature Episodes — I am eagerly awaiting the next arc, as my weekends feel a little more empty now without them.

To ArenaNet and the Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 teams – Thank you. Thank you for daring to be different, and for giving gamers the gift of more choice — from offering us subscription-free business models to other innovative approaches in online gaming. I was glad for my opportunity to delve into Guild Wars this last year, and I am eagerly awaiting to see what Guild Wars 2 will bring. It is hard not to get excited, when each piece of news or information that comes out is filled to the brim with creativity and interesting ideas.

To Turbine and the Lord of the Rings Online team – Thank you. Thank you for giving me a home in Middle Earth and for the months of joy LOTRO has given me this past year. I’ve always thought of the game as my “MMO spa”, a place to which I can escape for a relaxing game session — and going free-to-play did not change that. My compliments to the developers, who have worked so hard in ensuring that when I log into LOTRO, I feel as if I’m entering a different world. They’ve done so much in creating an immersive experience and fostering a fantastic community, I can’t help but repeat a thought I had last year — that if J.R.R. Tolkien was alive to play the game today, I think he would be damn proud.

To Blizzard and the World of Warcraft team – Thank you. Thank you for still being willing to take risks even after more than six years of success. Despite what others may say, I did think Cataclysm was a gutsy move. I know I’ve complained enough times about my disdain for WoW endgame, but have rarely ever talked what I did like about the expansion — questing and leveling. Yes, I know I say that about practically every MMO I play, but the new quests in Cataclysm were really something. Even if it was only five levels, I personally enjoyed them for what they were. Questing my way through each zone was like working my way through a storybook, and for the first time in years, I actually felt interested and excited about what WoW quest text had to say again.

To BioWare and BioWare Austin – Thank you. Thank you for advocating a bigger focus on lore and character, for pushing the boundaries of video game writing, and for putting story first. Thank you for making groundbreaking RPGs in recent years like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, and delighting me with choices, consequences, and interactions with the game environment and NPCs in ways I’ve never imagined. Thank you for the desire to bring those elements to MMOs. To the Star Wars: The Old Republic team, I appreciate all the weekly updates on the game, even the Fan Fridays and the tiniest lore reveals. Not too many companies do that for their fans.

To Trion and the Rift team – Thank you. Thank you for releasing a complete and polished MMO. And the more I play Rift, the more I find to like about it — from rifting to artifact collecting, from the soul system to running dungeons with my guild. I’ve seen for months people saying Rift is a fun game, but that Trion hasn’t really made any huge breakthroughs or done anything that new — but I tend to disagree. For one, the devs have bent over backwards in some cases to listen to their players. Yet they’ve also stuck to their goals, to bring about their vision for the game. And finally, they made full use of the beta process and managed to pull off an incredibly smooth launch. I feel Trion has in fact managed to do something very few MMO companies have done before. I know it’s a different argument, but it counts for something.

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My PAX East 2011 Recap

March 14, 2011

So PAX East weekend is at an end. I feel a little sadness at that, since I had such a great time, but there’s a bit of relief as well. For one thing, I am exhausted.

This is the first chance I’ve gotten in days to get online and give my blog some attention again. If there’s something I learned, is that PAX lines are the great leveler. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, how old you are, everywhere you look everyone is groaning, gasping, cringing as they shift on their tired feet and stretch their sore back and leg muscles.

Anyway, here are the highlights of my weekend, which included some hands on time with Star Wars: The Old Republic. Mission accomplished!

Friday

We arrived in Boston after about 9 grueling hours on the road. We were delayed earlier in the day by traffic and other complications, such as a 5-month old puppy with an overactive bladder. By the time we were settled in, it was already almost 9pm. I had wanted to hit up the Rift community meet-up, but even as the hours passed by as we were driving, I knew the chances of making it were pretty slim. We were just so tired by the end of our trip, I opted to crash early so we could wake up tomorrow refreshed. Such a shame, though; I heard afterward that the Trion crew threw a rockin’ party.

Saturday

So the real fun begins in earnest. My brother-in-law lives in the area, so he knew all the best places for cheap parking around the Convention Center. However, we arrived to find out he had forgotten his PAX pass at home! As a result, I was dropped off to enter the building on my own.

I waited in the line to get in, noticing I did pretty good for myself. The doors finally opened at 10am and we were released from our taped off corrals like cattle. You know me; I made straight for the EA booths, specifically 912 where Star Wars: The Old Republic is located. I stopped in my tracks as soon as I saw a wall of TV screens showing off the Taral V flashpoing gameplay and just stood there and watched. This was the first time I’ve ever come so up-close-and-personal with the game, and I think I just wanted to take a quiet minute to appreciate the moment.

It was kind of hard to do. There were so many people. It wasn’t long before there was an announcement on the stage, telling visitors that the lines for the demos were already capped for the day. And this was barely 10 minutes after the door opened! Crazy. I heard they weren’t going to let anyone get into the line anymore, but that was okay with me. I knew before coming that there was going to be an iffy chance whether or not I was going to be able to get some hands-on experience with the game, and I’d already come to terms with myself about that.

Imagine my surprise when someone from Bioware wearing an Old Republic shirt came up and told me and the group around me, “You guys are looking at about a 3-hour wait,” before moving down and counting heads again, then telling those people “4-hour wait”. Apparently, by wandering straight over with the crowds to ogle the TV screens, I had unwittingly and cluelessly queued up for the demo line. Hell, I wasn’t there on Friday, I didn’t know! I just followed everyone else and it turned out to be the right place! I couldn’t believe how lucky I got.

Of course, that meant I’d left my husband behind and he wasn’t very pleased. He hesitated to ask me to get out of the line though, even before I told him it would be like me pulling him out of a Superbowl game when his favorite team was playing. He said, “No, it wouldn’t!” but he was understanding and made me promise I would wait in line again with him tomorrow if he wanted to play the demo too. Hey, to try for another chance to play SWTOR? No complaints here! I have the best husband in the world.

The time went by quickly, especially after I got to know my neighbors in line and started talking to them about the game. In a bizarre twist of fate, the nice gentleman beside me I was chatting a lot with turned out to be none other than TheDarkKnight, creator of the epic thread on the SWTOR general discussion forum, “Information gathered on the Old Republic so far!” I don’t think I’ve ever interacted with him on the forums personally, but I see his posts so often that I almost feel like I know him. It really struck me then; people talk all the time about how fan expos and conventions are such great places to meet up with your online friends, but it didn’t hit me until that moment — you can literally run into anyone in the community here. I was so glad to be in line with someone I “know”, and like his forum thread, he was a wealth of SWTOR information.

Finally, the moment of truth — as I neared the front of the line, all of us were asked what we were interested in demoing. I’ll admit I was sorely tempted to play the Taral V flashpoint. But being more popular, the wait was going to be a little longer. I decided not to test my husband’s patience and decided to play an Origin demo. I was plucked from the line along with TheDarkKnight who also opted to do an Origin, and led to another cordoned off area to await my chance to play — and if you’ve been following my SWTOR posts, my choice won’t come as a surprise — the Bounty Hunter starting area.

Sorry to tease, but I’m afraid my hands-on experience will have to wait for another post. I just have so much to say, but my brain is so tired right now, I can’t promise I can communicate all I want to say in a coherent manner. And also, I want to write it together with the hands-on experience I got the next day, because as it turned out, I managed to play the demo for the Taral V flashpoint after all…

After I finished the demo, which was about half an hour long, I gathered up my SWTOR swag consisting of a poster and a couple shirts. I received one of the latter after playing the demo and TheDarkKnight offered me his since he already have some — he said so that I could have both a Republic version and a Sith version. I was so touched and thankful! Bless good people. Bless gamers.

I went in search of my husband and my brother-in-law, who had been walking around checking out the rest of the expo. I had originally wanted to check out the Guild Wars 2 panel at 3pm, but I got done just shy of 2pm and BAM! Twitter informs me that they were already 100% full. Like, as in don’t-even-linger full. I should have figured.

I found the guys finally; they had been exploring, checking the Warner Bros/Turbine booth. My brother-in-law discovered free-to-play Lord of the Rings Online and they’d grabbed a couple game discs. I met up with them in the Nvidia area, where they’d been playing some of the demos there in 3D, and my husband wanted me to give it a try as he was impressed enough that he was actually willing to consider getting a computer with 3D capabilities for his next rig.

Ugh, I don’t know. First of all, everything’s a lot darker with the glasses on. Bugged the hell out of me. Also, I have messed up eyes, my left eye being far-sighted while my right one is near-sighted. Things generally balance themselves out, so I’ve never actually required glasses — but you can imagine what weird things that can do with my depth perception at times.  Anyway, I learned something that day. My vision gets screwed up when I attempt to see through 3D glasses, to the point I actually wonder if I see the same thing as other people with normal vision. Even if I was wearing my contact (yes, I was only ever prescribed one contact lens, and I’m only advised to wear it while driving) I don’t think I could stand having something resting on my nose while I’m trying to play a game. It’s why I disdain glasses. I’m fussy like that. Sorry, 3D, no thanks for now.

I also wanted to check out some Guild Wars 2, but was surprised to see no booth for them. Instead, their demo stations were spread out around the exhibition hall. There was one at the Alienware booth, for example. I knew there was also on at the Nvidia booth, so I went and looked for it. There was quite a handful of people waiting to play, so all I was able to do was watch for a while. I was quite impressed with what I saw. The person playing was a Charr — and the movement and combat I saw was exceedingly smooth. Not being able to get some hands-on experience with Guild Wars 2 was probably my only regret for PAX East.

We took an hour or so afterward to eat and go home to check on the doggies. My brother-in-law has a dog too, so it’s been a madhouse here with three hyperactive dogs running around. After cleaning up the mess the little puppy made, my husband and I took off back to the convention center to attend MMORPG.com’s “The Future of Online Gaming” panel. It was my first and only panel at PAX East, and boy, was it a good one. Information was sort of missing from the program, so I’m trying to go by memory here — panelists included Craig Alexander from Turbine, Scott Hartsman from Trion, Curt Schilling from 38 Studios, Colin Johanson from ArenaNet, James Ohlen from BioWare and a couple other devs from big companies. It was fascinating, to say the least, being able to hear what these bigwigs had to say about the genre and to see what their visions are for their games.

Interesting thing happened at the end of the panel. I knew from the conversations on my feed that many of my Twitter pals also attended this panel. I tried to see if I could spot any of them…and lo and behold, I caught sight of someone I thought might be Pete from Dragonchasers, just from the description he provided me of himself earlier last week. But see, I wasn’t sure. How embarrassing would it be if I was wrong? But I saw a woman with him who I thought might be @g33kg0dd3ss, and just went, ah, screw it, I’m gonna go ask!

I go, “Hi, excuse me, are you…” then wondered what the heck should I say? If I said “pasmith” his Twitter handle and it turned out not to be him would I just look like some random whackjob? So I quickly finished with, “on Twitter?” And when he said “Yes, I am!” that was when I finally relaxed and realized I was right. It sure was Pete and @g33kg0dd3ss! I also got to meet @Scopique briefly before I had to go to dinner. But I knew I was going to have a chance later that night to get to chat more — I was going to the PAX East 2011 tweetup!

So glad I made it. It was so much fun, meeting with some of the people I’ve known on Twitter for what feels like ages — @Scopique, @girl_vs_mmo, @adarel, @sera_brennan, @kylehorner, , @Hawkinsa1, @_jwgoodson, @g33kg0dd3ss and @pasmith. I wonder what my husband and brother-in-law made of it. I think to a certain extent it might have amazed them that some of us are only meeting in real life for the first time, the conversation was so lively and cheerful. Everyone had such a great day and we were all sharing our experiences and stories, and I just couldn’t help but think wow, this is the spirit of PAX.

It was almost 1am when I left the meet-up. As reluctant as I was to go, I knew it was getting late. It was also the night to “Spring Forward” and we were going to lose an hour of sleep. I had to be rested, for I had a BIG day ahead of me tomorrow. My husband is going to make me get up bright and early to make it into the SWTOR line again, after all…

Sunday

Sunday was light compared to Saturday. I hadn’t even originally planned to do much on this day, before I got roped into my promise with my husband. Thought maybe I’d sleep in late, walk around the exhibition hall a little, visit the gift shop and just have a relaxing day.

So I was not a very happy camper when I was dragged up at 7am in the morning, after only 3 hours of sleep. I sat bleary-eyed in the passenger seat while we drove to the convention center once more. I fought the urge to curl up in a ball and fall asleep on the ground while we waited to be let in.

Long story short, as early as we showed up, we still ended up in the SWTOR line waaaaaay near the back, to the point we weren’t even sure we were going to get to play today. I turned to my husband and asked him what he wanted to do. It was his day, I promised him. So I was going to let him call the shots. He figured we could afford to wait a little and see what happens.

It turned out he was right to follow his instincts. Within half an hour, the line had shrunk and we were bumped up to only a few hours wait. Being a Sunday and the last day of PAX East probably had a lot to do with that, with people taking today to do everything they had missed and of course, those with day passes would be reluctant to spend half their day in a line.

I had wanted to save instance content for when the game is released, but you know, when you’ve waited hours in a line and you’re suddenly faced with the opportunity to play it, I was just like, ahh screw it, gimme flashpoint NAO! So that was how I ended up being able to play the Taral V demo.

Again, I’m just going to have to sit on the write-up of my experience for now. It’s going to take some time to gather my thoughts during that whole time while I was being bombarded with so much stimulation and information. It’s not just about my excitement and anticipation while I was playing the game; the atmosphere around me itself was just chaotic and insane. Imagine trying to play with your group without any effective way of communication, while hundreds of people are talking and shouting around you and watching and commenting on your performance being shown to the crowd on a big TV screen. Add to that, you’re thrown into this instance as a level 32 character you’ve never played before and know nothing about. And if that wasn’t enough, you literally only had seconds to familiarize yourself with the ability set up in the action bar, as well as the really clunky gaming mouse they provide you with.

We were given some time before we were seated to learn our abilities and decide on our class and discuss strategies, but it’s just barely enough. It’s no wonder we saw so many groups flounder on the boss. During our briefing, we were told only about 15 groups have made it, as in killed the boss, which is about 1 in 5 or 6 groups. However, the BioWare employee helping us out at our station told us it was probably less than that, closer to 1 in 7.

I am so proud to say that our group consisting of me, my husband, and a two guys that we got to know who were beside us in line, got to be in that minority and beat the boss! We didn’t exactly do it gracefully, as it was one of those really hectic encounters that leave you wondering, “Holy crap, did we seriously manage to survive that?” Actually, our tank died. Usually when that happens, it’s a wipe. I had no idea how we managed to hold out, but at the end, we were so shocked we actually made it that we didn’t cheer for victory until our booth assistant cried out, “You guys did it!” I think even our audience watching our TV screen was a little shocked. The instance was already awesome, but the way we ended it just made it EPIC.

All in all, we got 45 minutes to play. There are some people questioning why they just don’t decrease the amount of time the demos take, so more people get a chance to play. It’s a nice thought, one that I’d entertained many times myself while I was in the line, but at the end of the day, there was just no other way to get so immersed in the flashpoint experience. To be able to play through the content, utilize your abilities and enjoy the combat and story dialogue, you simply required that much time. I have to admit, any less wouldn’t do it justice.

We got kudos for being able to “complete” the flashpoint, and received posters as a reward. Since my husband and I were both in the group, plus the poster I got yesterday, I now have a set of Republic-side and Sith-side posters, plus an extra Sith poster. Methinks they will look good in the game room once we set it up in the new house.

After our demo, we went around and took some pictures, did some last-minute things. For example, I desperately wanted to look at a 3DS and see what this glasses-free thing is all about. Instead of heading for the Nintendo booth, I found a much smaller crowd at the Capcom booth, where some of their games were being demoed on 3DSs. I didn’t really want to play; I just wanted to look. And the effect I saw was sort of…underwhelming. After all the great stuff I heard about the 3D effect of the handheld, it wasn’t at all what I expected. But hey, maybe it’s just my screwed up eyes. I’m probably doomed to never be able to enjoy 3D technology, until I suck it up and wear my contact, or get laser eye surgery.

I didn’t stick around long after that. I was pretty exhausted. I went home and — what else? — fell into bed and took a nap. Like I said, this is the first time I’ve managed to power up my computer and get online. What a crazy weekend, but it was one to remember. I’ll definitely never ever ever forget my first ever PAX!

Now, I shall crash. I’ll try to post about my thoughts and experiences with the Bounty Hunter origin and Taral V flashpoint demos tomorrow, if I can. Good night!

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1 Year Of Blogging

January 12, 2011

Okay, so I knew my blogoversary was sometime in January, but er, little did I know I’ve already missed it by five days. I just can’t believe it’s already been a whole year. To understand my shock, you have to realize that some of my hobbies in the past have been extremely short-lived, and that I’ve never seriously kept a blog before (well, unless you want to count that site I started a few years back, which was mostly just a collection of incoherent ramblings from a college girl and her drunk Life Sci major friends…) MMOGC is really the first blog I’ve ever written with a focus on a specific topic, that I’ve also managed to maintain for more than a few months.

In many ways, I still consider myself a fledgling blogger, which is why I can’t tell you how surprised I was (but also flattered and deeply, deeply honored) to find my little blog listed on Massively a few weeks ago beside other blogging greats, many of whom are writers I respect immensely. I remember my motivations for starting this blog — a desire to write for fun about a hobby that I enjoy, as well as be part of a community to talk about the MMOs and other games that I love. Even so, I never expected at the time that a year later I’ll still be banging away at posts on this thing, and that people will actually read my stuff.

I had no idea either that I was going to make so many friends in my first year. That, to me, has been the most rewarding part about this experience. Most of my friends in real life are not gamers, and because of that, I have very little opportunity to talk about games outside the internet. This blog has served as a jumping-off point for me, opening a window to the greater online gaming community and connecting me to the a social network in which I can talk with others about games and all the other geeky things I like.

I also started this blog to track my gaming habits and dialogue my thoughts, so I can look back at any time to see what I’ve been playing. Based on number of posts, Star Trek Online, World of Warcraft, Age of Conan, and Lord of the Rings Online seem to be the MMOs that I spent the most time playing in my first year of blogging. For a game that’s not even released yet, Star Wars: The Old Republic racked up a lot of posts too, but if I’ve established any kind of tradition over here at MMOGC, it would be writing about the weekly SWTOR Friday updates. And that will probably continue until the game comes out.

Do I have any regrets? Well, yes, actually, one. Believe it or not, it would have to be naming this site MMO Gamer Chick. Honestly, I wish to hell that I had come up with something more catchy, perhaps something more original. The day I made the blog though, I remembered a text I got from a friend while we were both in grad school. It was “ya crazy MMO gamer chick!” in response to the way I juggled 4 nights of WoW raiding on top of all the readings, mountains of assignments and responsibilities of practicum we were burdened with. I worked hard to manage that schedule, and was proud of that, leading me to embraced that identity at the time…but I’m not sure if I want the name for the blog forever.

Finally, to you, awesome reader, I just want to say thank you, I couldn’t have done it without you. MMOGC may be just a blog, but it has been a big part of my life for the last year. Whether you’re a long time reader or are just dropping by, thanks for checking out my little corner of the internet; you know I love sharing it with you! May Year 2 be even better than the first!

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I Like This Fluff And I Cannot Lie

October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween! It’s the best time for MMO gaming, if you ask me, a time when the most interesting events take place in our virtual worlds. I’m like a kid again, roaming the MMO neighborhood knocking on each door begging for treats.

Literally begging. Like, “Pleeeeeeeaaase, let that Skeleton Painted Horse drop for me this time!” I’ve logged into Lord of the Rings Online daily to try for this macabre black beauty, and alas, still no luck. I swear, I don’t recall even yearning so much for the World of Warcraft Headless Horseman mount. As an upside, I’ve picked up many other Harvestmath items, and all the quests have left me with more Fall Festival tokens than I know what to do with. I promptly went to do the horse races and picked up a Sable Harvestmath Steed, whose name is now “Consolation Horse.”

Okay, that was mean. I know horses have feelings too.

Now if only I wasn’t so dirt poor, I’d move out of my dinky house into a larger one so I can display even half my haul of fun items. This being my first year of LOTRO, I’m drinking it all in.

I didn’t really check into WoW’s Hallow’s End this year, seeing as it’s something I’ve done so many times already. And the latest patch has been such a troublemaker, the last thing I want to do is play bob for bugs.

The third MMO I’m playing right now is Star Trek Online. There’s no event happening there per se, but their efforts to join in the fun can be gleaned from their latest hair-raising Feature Episode “What Lies Beneath” (more on that tomorrow).

Anyway, like the title of this post states, I love fluff. All the nice things in our MMOs that have no real purpose or impact outside their own context, but I participate in anyway, just for the sake of the experience. In LOTRO, my vice is housing decorations. In WoW, it’s vanity pets. And in STO, it’s costumes. While it’s not included in the current C-store sale, I picked up the new Seven of Nine costume.

Over-sexualized and impractical? Hey, I don’t disagree! But personally, it bothers me no more than gold armor bikinis or superhero leotards. And what better time than Halloween to slap on a skintight cat-suit and parade around the galaxy? Give T’Andy a pair of ears and she’s all but ready to storm your bridge, polaron-split-beam rifle in hand yelling “Trick or Treat!”

Speaking of treat, I also gave in to a temptation which had been gnawing at me for weeks, and I am now a proud owner of a giant teddy bear with six-inch fangs. What kind of Vulcan would I be, anyway, without my loyal pet Sehlat?

And now if you’ll excuse me, there has been knocking at the door since 3pm. Off to pick out the 3 Musketeers bars for myself from the treat bowl before the kids take them all.

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My New Favorite Place In LOTRO

September 23, 2010

After all this time in Lord of the Rings Online I thought Rivendell was the pinnacle of beauty, but it seems those damn elves had been holding out on me.

Imlad Gelair

After gaining the reputation required, I finally discovered what was behind that mysterious door beside the waterfall. Before I made it to Imlad Gelair I had to make my way through the long dark caverns…for dramatic effect, I suppose. Hey, it worked. You elves are awesome, I get it.

Ever since getting this new PC, I’ve also been unable to play this game without feeling the urge to take a screenshot like every five steps I take. The habit’s gotten quite out of hand, to the point where I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve actually fallen off cliffs and bridges because I was too busy pushing the “Prnt Scrn” button to notice where I’m going. The less said about how many times I’ve been beaten to a pulp and killed by mobs because I was too busy taking pictures, the better.

For all the mishaps, at least I was able to come away with some great shots. For all that trouble, I might as well share a few of my favorites.

I think one of the most wonderful thing about LOTRO is the sky. Kind of a stupid comment, I know, but I can probably stand there like an idiot and stare at it for hours. I mean, it looks like it goes on foreeeever. And that cloud looks like a fine mushroom pie!

Sunset over the Lone-lands.

The trees in this area around the river Bruinen in the Trollshaws always reminds me of a Monet painting.

Looking Around the Riverbend.

All that swimming is a pain in Evendim, but at least it gives me plenty of time to take pretty pictures.

Morning's rising on the Lake of the Twilight.

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Happy Being A Part Of It

September 21, 2010

Some people like to avoid crowds, but not me. I love them. Maybe it’s a preference I developed from living in big cities practically all my life. From Bangkok to Hong Kong, Toronto to Shanghai, these places were always crawling with humanity no matter the time of day, and I find myself feeling a little awkward and out-of-place now in the tranquil quiet of suburbia. Not surprisingly, I am the same way with my games. There’s only one thing worse for me than having to live with the belligerent riffraff of a bad community, and that is having no community to live with at all. The thought of going out into an MMO world encountering next to nobody is a depressing thought, and I’ve stopped playing games before on the sole basis of having no one to play with.

So while some were staying away from Lord of the Rings Online hoping to wait out the flow of F2P players, I braved the server queues (which thankfully weren’t all that bad even at peak times) and couldn’t wait to jump right in to try and take advantage of the population increase.

I’ve only experienced benefits, much to my pleasant surprise. In the last week, I’ve had no problems finding groups, and not a single encounter that made me cringe. People are still spontaneously role-playing and making music and all that good stuff for no reward but the experiences’ sake. In all areas and especially the early zones, I see helpful answers in the Advice chat. In other words, nothing’s really changed. If anything, more people on the Landroval server have meant good things for my little Hobbit Minstrel, who has gained so much experience from all the group quests.

I’ve always thought of an online gaming community as a fragile thing, difficult to cultivate but extremely easy to destroy, not something you can fine-tune. Perhaps that’s why most MMO communities today are utter crap. But LOTRO has surprised me with the way its adapted to the influx of people so swimmingly. When it comes down to it, I truly believe the players shoulder the bigger responsibility. Developers can only do so much to provide the tools to encourage a good community, and maybe intervene occasionally to weed out the unwanted behaviors. The problem is, there are tons of ways to punish the bad but not enough ways to reward the good, especially when it’s those good behaviors that are the grassroots of a great community.

That’s where I think the players come in. Apathy is what erodes away a community’s foundation, people pointing fingers or counting on someone else to take care of the problem. Too many are also quick to call someone an asshole or do unsavory things, and then turn right around and wonder why the community is so piss-poor when someone else decides to call them names or act like a jackass. On the other hand, you can definitely see a difference when enough people  take the time to care. One of the reasons the community on Landroval is such a good one is because its members take such great pride in it. You can read it in the forums and you can feel it in the game. There’s a sense of personal responsibility and self-discipline without being overly prudish or stuffy, and I think it’s an awareness that spreads to everyone who comes on board.

In the end, what we have around us is what we make of it. I’m looking forward to spending more time in-game and in my new kinship, going forward with F2P LOTRO.

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LOTRO: Forth We Go

September 8, 2010

I haven’t been following up with news about Lord of the Rings Online for a while so I’ve been pretty clueless, taking for granted that free-to-play was going to come one day and subsequently, swept all thoughts about the game onto the back burner. I didn’t realize that day was coming up so soon, this Friday the 10th to be exact, but even sooner for current subscribers and F2P beta players. It took me a second to even remember that I am on a multi-month plan, so even though I haven’t played for a couple weeks, I still currently have an active subscription.

I also realized I shouldn’t be surprised if the next time I log in to find my Hobbit homeless. I’ve been so neglectful of paying upkeep on my player house.

Anyway, I suppose I qualify for the headstart, which some part of my muddled brain just remembered last minute that it was today, hence the reason for dragging myself up at this late hour to start the launcher and get the update started (crappy internet being slow and all, even then it probably wouldn’t be done until early afternoon). I am suddenly contemplating my original idea of downgrading my account to premium immediately or soon after F2P. This probably isn’t the best thing to do at 2am in the morning, because trying to figure this out is hard enough as it is. I won’t have to worry about a thing if I maintain my VIP status which I actually would prefer if it’ll make my life easier as I continue to play. But since I have a) bought the main game and the expansions, b) have already bought my riding skill, and c) will be logging in mostly to play only my one character, will maintaining a sub will even be all that different from premium? I am thoroughly confused, and not just because I need the sleep.

I’m looking forward to rejoining the Landroval community; despite reservations in the past, I’m actually feeling quite optimistic now that F2P will bring good changes. Perhaps it’s also time to find a new kinship because I was only stagnating in my quiet old one, when a little inspiration and a fresh perspective is probably a little more apropos for entering a new era of LOTRO.