Tenfold Hate

Weekend Update
November 30, 2008, 10:54 am
Filed under: Lord of the Rings Online

Between celebrating Thanksgiving and playing LoTRO, my weekend has blown by rather quickly. I’ll have more to write about when I get back to work and catch up on gaming news. In the meantime, here’s a seasonally-appropriate pic of my rune-keeper.lotro-rk

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Holiday Weekend Chock Full O’Gaming
November 26, 2008, 9:36 am
Filed under: Lord of the Rings Online

I just wanted to wish everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving. Be sure to spend a good amount of time away from the keyboard with your family, friends, pets, or whomever it is you value in the real world. Outside of family fun tomorrow and some further alcohol-induced celebrating with friends Friday, I intend to devote a good chunk of the weekend to LoTRO.

My guardian is hovering around level 24. He’s a tinker, and I’ve devoted the majority of my game time this week to crafting. LoTRO’s crafting system is unparalleled, IMHO. They managed to couple simplicity and accessibility with depth and practicality. There’s nothing clunky about it, it never feels dumbed down or like you’re grinding through the process to get to the GOOD items (WoW), it never feels like punishment (Vanguard, I’m talking to you), and the quality of the items makes it worth the investment if you put some time and effort into your tradeskills.

I’m still dumbfounded that LoTRO of all games has captured my interest so intensely. The warm, detailed world; the enchanting music; and the strong community trump all the tiresome first gen MMORPG elements of game play that would normally sour me pretty fast. I’m nearing the end of that honeymoon period I always have with a freshly started game (usually around a month of intensive playing for me) and I’ve found very little to criticize. It’s looking like Middle Earth may be my home for a good while.

Revisiting Middle Earth
November 20, 2008, 1:16 pm
Filed under: Lord of the Rings Online, MMORPGs

Last night, my brother-in-law and I set out to conquer Middle Earth on our freshly rolled rune-keeper and warden. This was an exciting night for me. You see, we’ve both been playing MMORPGs for many years now, but we’ve never quite been on the same page. He avoided WoW because of the cartoonish graphics, while I embraced it. When I started Guild Wars, he had just quit.

When he started LoTRO, my computer fried–and when my new comp was in working order, I began one of my many brief stints in Vanguard. He was playing Tabula Rasa when the reskinned shinies of Burning Crusade lured me back in for a couple months. That, coupled with the fact that having two kids under four-years-of-age severely restricts his game time, contributed to our repeated passing like two pixelated ships in the night.

But yesterday, we breezed through the introductory Thorin’s Hall content, settled on our crafting professions, and talked of future adventures. Our timing was finally right. And the same can be said for LoTRO and me–the timing is finally right. The first thing you need to remember is I’m generally mono-game-ous.

I half-heartedly tried a 10-day free trial of LoTRO when I was in AoC open beta, having freshly stepped off the Warcraft hamster wheel for a bit of a breather. Turbine’s vision of Middle Earth immediately appealed to me, but I just wasn’t able to wash away the putrid taste PvE, level-based gaming had left in my mouth.

Fast forward to present. As WAR proved to not quite be my cup-of-tea over the course of the last month, I warmed up a little to the idea of returning to a straightforward PvE title. WAR taught me that it wasn’t PvE I was sick of, but the arbitrary nature of most gameplay in MMORPGs, whether it’s fighting PvP battles that don’t impact anything, or filling experience bars for the sake of leveling.

After all, that’s why I constantly dream about truly persistent environments and non-scripted encounters against AI that actually lives up to the “I” in its name. Patterns reveal themselves all too quickly, the virtual world loses that illusion of spontaneity–and with it any sense of “life”–and the game loses it’s luster.

Don’t get me wrong, LoTRO is not revolutionary in this way by any means. You’ve still got the kill, collect, and messenger quests anyone coming from any slew of MMORPGs is all too familar with (and generally tired of). For me though, the care given to storytelling in LoTRO is what breathes life back into what’s long ago become a tired treadmill.

As my guardian wrapped up Chapter One, that sense of progressing through a story conjured up the old feeling I’d get running with friends through a D&D module during my fledgling pen-and-paper days. The mechanics and the process of leveling felt secondary here–an afterthought–where it seems to be the focus in all too many other games. After all, if we’d played D&D strictly for our love of rolling dice, we’d all have just become craps players, no?

My first time playing, I didn’t give myself much of a chance to interact with the fabulous community LoTRO has. This may sound crazy, but it’s almost like the reverence and love players have for the Tolkien cannon somehow rubs off on the game–and that respect and courtesy translates to how players treat one another. I experienced this on a microcosmic level in Vanguard, but at the time, that game had neither the population nor the cohesive world to keep me there.

The community as a whole seems to truly enjoy experiencing the game and its world without eyes and minds locked on the destination–or the progression bar at the bottom of the screen. More than anything, I’m puzzled at how a game that seems so conventional on the surface has been able to rekindle my interest and offer a depth largely absent from the majority of most other kill/collect/rinse/repeat MMOs.

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Early Morning Mines of Moria
November 18, 2008, 8:54 am
Filed under: Lord of the Rings Online

I woke up this morning to the LoTRO: Mines of Moria expansion fully downloaded and ready to go on my comp. Since my highest level character is only in his twenties, it’ll be a while before I experience the new content. However, I was most excited to roll a rune-keeper, the new healer/caster hybrid.

And so my dwarven guardian, Wurlormur, welcomed his new brother, Furlormur, into the world. Just had time to run him through the first few quests in the dwarf starting zone before I had to get ready for work. I have never managed to level a caster to any substantial level in an MMORPG. The closest I’ve come was the blood mage in Vanguard, so I’m hoping the LoTRO healer/caster hybrid suits me since I’m more at home with cleric/priestly types than glass cannons.

The new trait sets lend a much-needed framework to character-building. From what I’ve gathered, LoTRO has grouped each trait into one of three sets (or builds, a la other MMOs). If you equip five traits from the same trait set, you receive a nice set bonus geared toward whatever path you opt to focus on. I’ve only played around with this on my guardian so far, and for that class you have a trio of standard tank archetypes to choose from (a set for defense/damage absorption, a set for damage dealing, and a set for gaining/maintaining aggro).

These sets should really streamline the process of molding your character to suit your desired play style without forcing each player’s hand into a cookie cutter build.

I always thought of LoTRO as WoW’s prettier, smarter younger sister. Upon launch, I was so burnt from WoW endgame hijinx I needed a solid vacation from level-based PvE gaming, despite LoTRO’s stunning visuals; engaging story-driven quest lines; lack of raid-centric gameplay; and fun crafting system.

If I wasn’t so far behind the leveling curve, EQ2’s new expansion would be quite tempting, and after hesitantly trying TBC out last year, WoTLK isn’t a bandwagon I have any desire to climb on right now. Great game, but been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. So for once, Turbine’s timing is just right for me, having grown tired of trying to make my own fun in WAR and waiting patiently for TCoS to wash ashore in the U.S.

LoTRO was the first MMO I ever played where I felt crafting was more than a necessary evil. So if I don’t get too sidetracked by prospecting, jewelry, and cooking, I’m hoping my guardian will see the Mines of Moria at some point before work closes shop for the Christmas holidays.

Renowned Comic Creator Crankier Than MMORPG Bloggers?
November 12, 2008, 12:26 pm
Filed under: Comics, Film

You be the judge.

I agree with Moore’s criticism of Hollywood as a vampiric machine that spoon-feeds moviegoers utter crap and all–especially when comic book licenses are concerned, but putting a hex on a movie?

I think Zack Snyder did a great job with his Dawn of the Dead remake. He was able to perform that difficult juggling act of maintaining the essence of the original while freshening the material and making it his own. Most directors fail miserably trying.

Sure, we’re not gonna get a frame-by-frame recreation of the graphic novel in all of it’s intricacies, but I think Snyder has proven he has the talent and enthusiasm for the subject matter to capture the spirit of Watchmen without peeing all over the source material.

Heck, it’s guaranteed to be better than The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Gamer’s Grab Bag
November 11, 2008, 2:53 pm
Filed under: Gaming, MMORPGs

Over the weekend, I purchased my first PS3 games–LittleBigPlanet and Fallout 3. I’ve played through the first few introductory levels of LBP and have nothing but good things to say about this game. The physics engine is really cool and learning to negotiate the controls was easier than I thought after 3+ years away from any sort of console.

I picked up LBP at Gamestop where they had some leftover preorder cards floating around, so my sock puppet was able to add some neat “God of War” Minotaur and Medusa bonus outfits to his repetoire.

I only played Fallout 3 for about an hour, and quickly became bored with the constant cut scenes. Take my initial impressions with a grain of salt. I’m not a fan of FPS-style games, and prefer my RPGs from behind a keyboard and monitor. I’ll have a more balanced perspective when I muster up the energy to play more and get into the meat of the game.

I logged into WAR a couple times over the weekend. I had a great time Saturday night taking a keep in Ostland. We had a decent warband and Destruction put up a good fight, but we ultimately prevailed. Did I mention how much I love the Swordmaster? But outside of open world group play (which is usually a weekend guarantee on my server) I haven’t been very engaged with questing or scenario grinding lately.

Last night, I also checked back into LoTRO. My brother-in-law is a Tolkien fanatic and very casual MMO gamer who just got his main to max level in preparation for Mines of Moria. He’s probably gonna roll one of the new expansion classes, so I was getting my level 12 Guardian in shape for the influx of low level players who will no doubt be looking for a tank come late November.

After all this RvR hooplah, I could use some good old-fashioned dungeon crawls. And visually, LoTRO still puts all other MMORPGs to shame. Prove me wrong. The world is so damn pretty, I actually enjoy getting lost in it. I’m hoping some cooperative group play will cure some of the existential loneliness WAR conjured up in me too.

Bought a PS3
November 7, 2008, 10:31 am
Filed under: Console Gaming, MMORPGs

Okay, I picked up a PS3 this week. I haven’t even hooked it up or purchased any games yet. I’ve devoted all my game time the last four years to MMORPGs, so I’m not even up on what seems worth playing. The last two console games I purchased were Red Dead Revolver and X-Men: Legends for the PS2. That’s how out of the loop I am.

I’m putting my MMORPG playing on hold for the most part until TCoS is released Stateside. I am riding out my 3-month WAR subscription. As I’ve pointed out before, the classes are awesome; the look, feel, and style of the world is spectacular; and the game appeals to my fantasy sensibilities more than any other MMO outside of LoTRO, but if they don’t fix the current lack of Open World RvR, I don’t think I’ll be sticking with it long term.

I still feel it’s the best MMORPG currently on the market for people who need an alternative to PvE, but the player interaction just isn’t there. The PLAYERS are there, but for some reason, no one talks to each other! It’s bizarre. In a strange way, I BLAME the ease of grouping, be it the instant scenario queues that wisk people out of the “real” world or the non-commital, freestyle nature of public questing.

When I look at my gaming history over the last few years, it’s been all about the fantasy: WoW, Guild Wars, AoC, LoTRO, Vanguard, and DDO. So it’s about time that I hang up my sheath for a little bit and try something new. Any suggestions?

I’m eyeing Fallout 3, but beyond that, not sure where to start…