LoTRO – Approaching Helm’s Deep

I adventured a bit more with Naerys, who was questing in the Woodhurst area of the Stonedeans. I was just following the epic storyline and adding a few side quests here and there.

One was to clear out Dunlendings, so I found an encampment and began thinning the ranks. But combat was taking an extra long time. I realized that I had been overleveled for earlier areas and that helped me mow through enemies, but still, somewhere in the Stonedeans the ambient quest level (roughly 91/92) approached Naerys’ level (just into 93) so that might have explained it.

Battling Dunlendings

Battling Dunlendings

Except… something tickled my brain… could there be another factor? Oh yes, my legendary items? I hadn’t updated them in… well I couldn’t remember.

I checked and that was indeed a part of it. My legendary club – the weapon of choice for civilized Hobbit Guardians ;) – was level 85 (!!) and so was my legendary belt. Oof, 8 levels lower, no wonder battles were taking a long time.

So I wrapped up and recalled to Telain Galadhrim to visit the auction house and look for level 90ish items, but couldn’t find anything suitable. I realized part of the issue is that everybody at max level only bothers with max level items. I could hold out for 2 more levels, but I didn’t want to. What to do.

It used to be there were legendary item givers at various spots along the way (e.g. Moria, Mirkwood, Stangard) but there also appeared to be a gap from level 85 to 95. It’s always possible to get them dropped randomly, but I didn’t have any luck finding a weapon or class items since level 85. Come to think of it, I probably bought the ones I was using from the Auction Hall.

Anyway, I hunted around and finally gave into the LoTRO Store. Yes, for a mere 195 Turbine Points, you can get a “3rd Age Item Trove” that lets you pick a “level appropriate” weapon or class item (and if you qualify, a saddle).

I bought one and tried it out, wondering what specifically “level appropriate” meant. After selecting a club, I found a level 93 3rd Age Legendary Guardian’s Club in my possession. Sweet!

I gave in again and did the same thing for a Legendary Belt.

What can I say, points well spent.

So I fiddled around with my new items, and noticed the base DPS of the level 93 club (i.e. no points spent into DPS all) was something like 50% higher than the DPS of my maxed out level 85 club. After spending points it is even better. OK to be honest I didn’t actually write down what the stats were at level 85 and my memory is fuzzy. Let’s just say I’m happy to squeeze some extra damage out of my club even though I will likely replace it in 2 levels.

While I was in Caras Galadhon, I also cleaned up my inventory. Naerys has 6 bags of 15 slots each, for a total of 90 inventory items. She was also hauling around bags with an astounding 77 of those slots filled. I can easily be a packrat so I decided to carefully examine everything and leave several items behind. Potions that were no longer level appropriate, the cloak and pocket items with +stealth that I carry around but never use (or not enough to devote 2 slots to), stuff from Hobbit Gifts that were account-bound and therefore more useful to other characters like Dhrun, etc.

After some inventory cleanup, I ended with 45 free slots – a nice split of 50% of my space available for goodies and 50% taken up with items for adventuring (rations of food, potions, various legendary items to level, tokens, etc.)

Naerys is now at 3.12.10, Rumours of a Battle, with the objective to travel to Helm’s Deep. I might be the last adventurer in all of Landroval to arrive, but I’m getting to Helm’s Deep soon!

Steam and MMOs

Ars Technica recently released statistics on Steam games. They sampled public data and estimated sales and gameplay for the most popular titles. Both articles are interesting and worth a read:

The 2nd page of the 2nd article has a big list of the top 100.

Naturally, I looked over the list, curious about MMOs.

First, the most popular MMOs don’t have Steam clients. For instance, in the list that Nosy Gamer maintains, which is the top 12 by XFire statistics, I can’t find the following games on Steam (list of games taken from the Apr 15 2014 list):

  • 1. WoW
  • 2. Guild Wars 2
  • 3. SWTOR
  • 4. Elder Scrolls Online
  • 7. Aion
  • 8. TERA
  • 12. Runescape

That’s more than half of them, including the top 4. Oof.

So of Ars Technica’s estimated top 100 Steam Games, I see the following MMOs, not counting FPS type shooters or RTS games:

  • 1. DOTA
  • 17. Planetside 2
  • 21. Spiral Knights
  • 48. Realm of the Mad God
  • 51. Path of Exile
  • 94. Fallen Earth

The thing is, and I don’t want to get into arguments about what is and isn’t an MMO, but my own definition doesn’t include MOBAs or action shooter RPGs and games along those lines. To be fair, I haven’t played most of those games so I can’t render an opinion based on experience – for instance, I list Planetside 2 since Nosy Gamer did – but what blew me away was the game at #94. Fallen Earth.

Congrats are in order to Fallen Earth for being the only MMO (IMHO) that made the top 100 Steam Game list! Represent!!

That’s the only game I think is really an MMO in the list. Spiral Knights and Realm of the Mad God look more like arena shooter type games, Path of Exile looks like a Diablo-style dungeon crawler action RPG. Besides, further up on the list at #40 is Torchlight 2, a game in a similar vein.

Fallen Earth. Ranked #94, which places it above games available through Steam which aren’t on the list at all, such as EVE Online, LoTRO, TSW, DDO, FF XIV, RIFT, Neverwinter, Darkfall: UW, AoC, etc.

Perhaps what partly explains Fallen Earth’s lofty position is that it was released recently enough (Sep 2009) so the majority of the player base hadn’t already bought it standalone by the time it came to Steam (Oct 2011) for all of its time to be tracked (after Mar 2009). And with the transition of Fallen Earth to Gamer’s First, the shrink wrapped product fell by the wayside versus purchasing it on Steam. Where, just to take an example, Trion has been over RIFT the entire time, selling direct on their website, so the proportion of direct sales to Steam sales is different than it is for Fallen Earth.

Now to be fair, MMOs typically also have their own standalone clients; not everybody buys through Steam. For instance, LoTRO and DDO both became available via Steam years after their original release: LoTRO release Apr 2007 and was added to Steam Jun 2012, etc. So many players probably don’t go through Steam and thus no stats. And there is the fact half the popular ones (Digital Dozen) including the top 4 aren’t on Steam at all.

It would be interesting to see the tail end of the game list, if Ars would publish it. Games #101 to 200 or even higher. I have a feeling Valve/Steam might not be too happy about publishing more, however.

New Monitor

I decided to treat myself to a little computer upgrade and replace my monitor. I had a 20″ LCD on my Windows machine, and decided to “go big” and get a 27″ monitor. A nice ASUS PB278Q wide quad hd monitor (i.e. can do 2560 x 1440). It came in today and I’m still drooling as I quickly log into each game and fiddle around a bit.

My video card is the decent but certainly not high-end Geforce GTX 650. I used DVI with the old monitor but the new one needs HDMI for the full resolution (or dual DVI but my card doesn’t have that available). A pleasant surprise was that the monitor includes speakers, and unknown to me until now, HDMI carries sound! I was used to cabling speakers to my sound card (and not having an HDMI monitor until now) that I never payed attention to HDMI at all and assumed it was video only. I found out about the audio when I cabled my new monitor and heard faint music… but I had unplugged to speakers to move them. For my purposes the monitor speakers sound just fine so I’m going to use them instead of the separate ones. One power plug saved – less clutter and a little more room on my desk! :)

Anyway, the extra screen real estate is FANTASTIC.

Here are a few screenshots, I just can’t resist.

Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2

My ranger Glyneth with Vigil Keep in the background.

LoTRO

LoTRO

My champion Autumn looking towards Hardirion in Enedwaith.

EVE Online

EVE Online

Aurora flying a Caracal towards a station.

Secret World

Secret World

Wayness surveying the hellscape outside a motel in Savage Coast. Wow, just logging into TSW makes me realize how utterly slack I’ve been playing it.

Anyway, I love my new monitor, can you tell? I’m plagued with thoughts of another one as my eye wanders over to the 24″ monitor on my Mac Mini. I can skip food for a few weeks, right? ;)

EVE – Three Month Stealth Bomber

I was reading through the Brave Newbies subreddit, and saw an interesting discussion. It was a link to an infographic about training to be a “pretty good tackler in 7 days“.

And that’s cool. New players that are interesting in doing something useful (for a PvP corporation, I gather) can use some direction. What I also found interesting was a comment in the discussion, about doing something similar for stealth bombers. I figured I could look into that while I’m away from my home computers.

First, stealth bombers are Tech 2 Covert Ops Frigates: Amarr Purifier, Caldari Manticore, Gallente Nemesis, Minmatar Hound.

I have no direct experience with these ships, so I went to see what the game itself recommends as far as skills. To do that, I opened ISIS up and looked at the Amarr Purifier. (I chose Amarr partly for self-interest, as the 3rd char on my account is Amarr. I have a Caldari, Gallente, and Amarr.)

I clicked on the Purifier and browsed through the various Mastery levels. I figured level 3 would be a good one to shoot for as a newbie stealth bomber pilot.

EVE requires the following skills for Mastery 3 of the Purifier:

  • Amarr Target Management
    • Radar Sensor Compensation 3
    • CPU Management 4
    • Long Range Targeting 3
    • Target Management 4
    • Signature Analysis 3
  • Armor Tanking
    • Mechanics 4
    • Repair Systems 3
    • Hull Upgrades 4
    • Armor Layering 1
    • EM Armor Compensation 1
    • Explosive Armor Compensation 1
    • Kinetic Armor Compensation 1
    • Thermic Armor Compensation 1
  • Cloaking
    • Mechanics 3
    • CPU Management 4
    • Cloaking 3
  • Core Ship Operation
    • Energy Grid Upgrades 3
    • CPU Management 4
    • Electronics Upgrades 3
    • Science 1
    • Power Grid Management 4
    • Capacitor System Operation 4
    • Capacitor Management 3
  • Core Weapon Fitting
    • Gunnery 2
    • Weapon Upgrades 5
    • Advanced Weapon Upgrades 1
  • Navigation
    • Warp Drive Operation 3
    • Fuel Conservation 1
    • Acceleration Control 3
    • Evasive Maneuvering 3
    • Spaceship Command 3
  • Stealth Bomber Missiles
    • Bomb Deployment 4
    • Missile Launcher Operation 5
    • Target Navigation Prediction 4
    • Rapid Launch 4
    • Light Missiles 3
    • Guided Missile Precision 4
    • Missile Bombardment 4
    • Missile Projection 4
    • Warhead Upgrades 4
    • Heavy Missiles 3
    • Torpedoes 4

A few of these will change based on race of the ship – for example, Radar Sensor Compensation changes to Magnetometric Sensor Compensation for the Gallente Nemesis, Gravimetric for the Caldari Manticore, Ladar for the Minmatar Hound.

CPU Management is listed more than once; it is clearly important. ;)

Some skills are already going to be satisfied, such as Electronics Upgrades. That has to be 5 just to train Covert Ops in the first place. Another is the racial sensor compensation – Radar Sensor Compensation and the others require CPU Management 4 before they can be injected. It seems that new characters already start Science 3, so Science 1 is done. Same deal with Spaceship Command 3. Minor issues.

So after creating a blank character in EVE Mon, and adding those skills in, I get a just over 83 days 5 hours. That breaks down into around 47 days 1 hours for training the non-stealth bomber missile skills, and 36 days 5 hours for the missiles. A major chunk of the 47 days is the ~19.5 days it takes to get to racial Frigate 5 and Electronics Upgrades 5.

So in 3 months, a completely new char could train into stealth bomber. They’d just need to buy a bunch of skill books and keep that skill queue chugging. If you were PLEXing another skill queue for an alt, you’d have about 7 days left over to train up a few skills higher, such as Navigation, or add some Rigging skills or what have you.

Since I have no direct experience flying such a ship, I’m not sure what other skills are important as well. Hopefully all the critical skills are already listed, and anything extra is just nice to have. It looks like a good outline to follow at least.

Hm…. now I’m tempted to put my Amarr character on this plan! Although I’d be better off going for the Covert Ops exploration frigate, since flying that might lead to finding valuables through exploration.

OK, I just checked. ISIS suggests, in addition to the above except for missile skills:

  • Scanning
    • Astrometric Rangefinding 3
    • Astrometric Acquisition 3
    • Astrometrics 3

for a Covert Ops frigate, which are the Amarr Anathema, Caldari Buzzard, Gallenete Helios, Minmatar Cheetah. Those skills only take another 3 days to train!

But you have to also look at what ISIS suggests for the Tech 1 exploration frigates (Amarr Magnate, Caldari Heron, Gallente Imicus, Minmatar Probe) to see what is recommended for Data/Relic analysis:

  • Data and Relic Analysis
    • Archaeology 3
    • Hacking 3
    • Survey 3

Grand total for all these exploration-oriented skills is a little over 4 days 6 hours.

If all you wanted to do is train into the Tech 2 exploration frigate (basically leave out the stealth bomber) then the training time is 51 days 7 hours.

Anyway, I think I found a goal for my Amarr alt: Tech 2 Covert Ops frigates! At least to mastery level 3. I have a feeling mastery 4 and obviously mastery 5 would take quite a bit extra.

LoTRO – Finding Fúni

Halbarad has a brilliant scheme to buy the Fellowship some additional time: sew confusion by crafting an imitation ring of Barahir. Unfortunately Fúni, a dwarf jewel-crafter of sufficient skill to do this, has been captured by the Ninkoth Uruks.

Autumn tracked them easily to Minas Elendúr, where she found a frightened man standing outside.

Minas Elendúr

Minas Elendúr

“It is enough to drive a man mad!” he said. Autumn gloated, thinking that it is good she was neither Man nor male, unsure of which he meant.

Autumn stepped in and followed large blood stains towards Uruks. The dwarf cannot remain alive after losing so much blood, she thought, but then remembered they were a hardy folk.

Bloodstain Trail

Bloodstain Trail

After battling several Uruks, the bloodstain trail led down some stairs to the bottom of a courtyard with a magnificent statue. There sat Fúni, injured but alive. And true to his people, he refused to leave without gathering some treasure!

Autumn was incensed but held her tongue, realizing Fúni may be delirious and in any event, Halbarad needed his cooperation. So she agreed to gather up some trinkets and explore Minas Elendúr further. Besides, there were Uruks to slay and Fúni did not appear mortally wounded.

After wandering seemingly for hours, slaying many Uruks, Autumn found several treasures that brought a smile to Fúni – and even better, he agreed to leave.

Back at Echad Eregion, Halbarad sent Autumn south to speak to Lothrandir at Echad Dagoras. The view south from his perch among the ruins is quite pretty!

View from Echad Dagoras

View from Echad Dagoras

GW2 – Bobbleheads

I logged in to check out the bobblehead versions of my characters.

I think my Charr guardian looks especially good/fierce:

Fierce Charr

Fierce Charr

I’ve been lazy about getting to 80 on Glyneth, my ranger. She’s currently at 71 and would easily make it to 80 by the mid-month patch… except I’m not going to be able to play much in the next week or two. I’m house/pet sitting for a friend and will be away from my regular computers and on my notebook instead.

My notebook is a 2009 era MacBook Pro. While it does have a NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT for video, let’s just say that the system isn’t exactly going to stun and amaze. I figure I can at least log into EVE in order to keep my skill queues topped off – this is very very important! – and might be able to get a little bit done in LoTRO or GW2. But I think it’ll just be more pleasant all around to dig into my backlog of Steam games and play a few of those instead.

And as Azuriel notes, I’m a person who grabs a games during Steam sales – some sales are 80% off! – and then isn’t always diligent about playing. In fact, to my embarrassment, I’m one of the elite 24% that owns Borderlands 2 and hasn’t even claimed the initial achievement. Um… the dog ate my homework?

In my defense, I did complete Tomb Raider, the late 2013 release. I only have 24% of the achievements, so I’m not a completionist, but I did play to the finish and enjoy it. So I don’t always just grab a game on deep discount and then forget I have it. ;)

Anyway, I have a bunch of games that should run fine on my 2009 MBP. Mark of the Ninja, FTL, Fez, Kerbal Space Program, SpaceChem, etc. As you can see I’m also a fan of indie type games, and love that the Mac (and even Linux) is reasonably supported. As a matter of fact, Borderlands 2 will run on my MBP, and now I am determined to crank it up and hit E twice, haha.

EVE – Cruiser

I have a tendency to “train one more level” of some random skill, for the incremental benefit. 5% more damage here, 2% less capacitor usage there, hitting level 4 of skill X allows training skill Y, etc. Soon, I’ve planned out 5 more days of skills and spend more time juggling my queue than flying around blowing stuff up. Or exploring, researching, etc.

This stems from my careful and conservative nature playing MMOs. I hate it when my character dies, even in a game where that doesn’t set you back much. I think the last game I played with an actual death penalty was Asheron’s Call, where you suffered a “vitae penalty” and potential item loss. Guild Wars gave a penalty as well, but defeating a boss would give a morale boost and help erase that – and if worse came to worse, map travel back to an outpost would remove it. There was no item damage or loss.

However in EVE, getting blown up means a loss of items. And to get your stuff back, you need to return in a ship to do it. In the meantime, other players might be there helping themselves to your former possessions! If your medical clone isn’t up to date, there is loss of skill points, and then you basically need to rebuy all the stuff you lost.

So, I tend to play carefully. Hence, the skill training gyrations.

But that’s part of the reason I bought a PLEX, to make my life in game a little easier. Rather than grinding out the ISK in order to do anything (buy skillbooks, buy modules), I can just buy stuff and undock without the very real concern that imminent bankruptcy is looming.

So I said the heck with it and flew my main character Aurora to nearby Dodixie to do some shopping. Aurora has a bit over 18 million skill points and can fit a lot more gizmos than Summer. Aurora can get much fancier stuff, such as a cruiser fitted with tech 2 modules.

I bought a Caracal (Caldari Cruiser) and equipped it using some guidelines from a BattleClinic loadout:

  • High Slots – 5 x Rapid Light Missile Launcher II
  • Med Slots – Medium Capacitor Battery II, Medium Shield Booster II, Medium Shield Extender II, Sensor Booster II, Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
  • Low Slots – Ballistic Control System II, Damage Control II, Armor Repairer II
  • Rigs – Medium Polycarbon Engine Housing I, Medium Hydraulic Bay Thrusters I

I’ll just say that fitting my first cruiser is awesome – they have so many slots and way more power and cpu than frigates or destroyers. Obviously. ;)

For ammo, I bought a few thousand each of Scourge Light Missiles, Scourge Precision Light Missiles (tech 2 upgraded missile), and Scourge Fury Light Missiles (also a tech 2 upgraded missile). I’ll load up each and try them out.

This is massive overkill for the intro epic arc (The Blood-stained Stars) but hey, I need to try out Aurora’s new setup somewhere! ;) Summer had a challenging time at the end, fighting the last 2 NPCs… Aurora should easily crush them both.

Later, I plan to outfit Aurora in a covert ops ship, the Buzzard. I’ll be practicing scanning, cloaking, and all that stuff in hisec before daring to step into low or null!

I’m angling Aurora to be a mission runner and exploration character. She’s also got various electronic warfare skills trained which might come in handy. Summer will be more of a planetary interaction, research, and manufacturing character. They are both working on core skills, with Summer just starting and Aurora nearly finished, and after that they’ll split more as to what skills they train.