LoTRO – Summer Festival

Two things I absolutely MUST have on my hobbits are: Pie-Eating Champion title and the first Hobbit-Dance. They just make me happy. ūüôā

I was lucky that that summer festival had an encore, or I’d have to wait until the next festival to get these two enhancements.

Pie-Eating Champion is the title I wear the most on Naerys, who is adventuring outside Minas Tirith, so I want to get it for Spessartina and Scarlatina. The title comes from doing a quest from Humbert Sandweaver in the Bree Festival Grounds. Unfortunately he only runs the contest 1 of every 3 days.

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I checked in and was bummed the contest wasn’t running. Oh well, there is other festival stuff to do. Something I hadn’t tried before was kite-flying, so I accepted that quest and quickly ran around the Party Tree to finish it off.

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While doing this I came across the scariest site in all of the Shire, to me:

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In real life, I hate mushrooms. So this field that I never noticed before is horrifying.

Warden

So I have two hobbits in the Shire, my new minstrel and warden. I decided to quest leisurely with my minstrel Spessartina, and beeline the epic storyline (do storyline quest on-level, local questing otherwise) on my warden Scarlatina.

I do want to get the Innocence virtue that comes from doing 75 quests in the Shire, but also only take one char through the Shire at a time. I decided the warden makes a better candidate for pushing a bit since they are fairly sturdy (medium armor, shields, lots of self-buffs) and I mostly expect to solo on her.

The warden has some of the most unique mechanics I’ve seen in an MMO. They have three “gambit-builder” skills: Spear, Shield, First, a.k.a. Red, Green, Blue (for the color associated with the skill), a.k.a 1-2-3 (for the hotkeys that 99% of everything about wardens assume you have bound to each skills). Using these skills as building blocks, wardens build more advanced skills, gambits, based on various patterns of the gambit-builders. Here’s a list from Lotro wik. Another visualization of warden skills is the complicated looking gambit chart from Martin Krzywinski (just follow the colors/numbers from the center).

This skill system takes a little getting used to, but is the kind of challenge I’m looking for: deciding what skill to use to get the effect I want, build it up and then execute it. It takes a bit of planning ahead since forming a gambit takes multiple gambit-builder skills. You can’t just hammer each skill on cooldown and expect to survive.

Meanwhile my minstrel actually finished the prologue up first. However, Spessartina is headed back to the Shire to quest a bit more.

I also thought about what to do about the Aria of the Valar I have on my first account. Naerys is level 100 and outside Minas Tirith, so the buff is mostly wasted on her. I intend to play Spessartina through the storyline – I’ve done Shadows of Angmar and Mines of Moria multiple times (!) but it’s also been a while since the last time. My warden Scarlatina is on the other account.

So I think the beneficiary of the buff will be my burglar Dhrun. Burglars are fun to play, mine is level 82-ish and somewhere in Rohan, so not too close and not too far from level 105. I’ll think about it more. The only other choices on that account are hunter and lore-master.

 

GW – Path of Fire preview

I entered the weekend special event, hoping it would help me decide one way or the other whether I’ll buy the GW2 expansion next month. It did help me decide… not to.

First, I was having a frustrating time with the intro. Part of that was my fault – since I don’t have a max level engineer, necromancer, thief, etc. I decided this would be a good time to check those professions out. It did not go well; I kept dying and quitting to Amnoon city, but as I later found out, you have to complete the intro storyline to get the raptor mount to enable taking part in other events like the races. If you quit to Amnoon, the storyline quest takes you right back to the intro to do over again.

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I came across another blogger, Endgame Viable, that pretty much summed it up for me too. Like them, I re-entered and eventually made it through. It helped I went back to playing a ranger, the class I have the most time on (I’ve played mesmer and elementalist a reasonable amount as well).

Once I got back into the groove of playing at range, kiting, strategically letting my pet soak up the enemy’s attention, I advanced to the checkpoint where you had to douse fires and then do some raptor jumping to reach higher area.

This too was frustrating as I couldn’t make the jumps that looked doable… I ran around and found another spot with a higher vantage point and finally was able to complete that section and advance to the cave run and spider fight.

Eventually all I had left to complete the quest was reach the city. Except in the way was something that gave me concern for the expansion, a simple missing bridge:

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The first time I missed it and fell down. I tried to skip the jump by taking a straighter path to the city but got a “return to the zone or you will be kicked from the instance” message, so I ran back around to try the jump again. I made it on my second attempt.

But the thing is, I bet these kinds of stupid jumps are going to be littered all over the expansion. Why else would they have the intro quest tell you that you can jump with your mount, force you to jump with your mount to advance, and then insert another unavoidable jump  on the final approach to Amnoon?

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I was so annoyed when I reached Amnoon, I logged out.

Action Combat

Basically, I could make it through by staying in motion all the time, running, dodging, attacking when I can and running in circles as much as possible. I don’t find that gameplay fun. It’s why I stopped playing Wildstar, the active combat mechanism is interesting but not when it is dialed to 11 all the time.

And that’s what the GW2 design feels like to me. Secret World Legends and LoTRO have telegraphs, times you need to move out of the upcoming fire, but I’m OK with it in those games because it is a mechanic for tougher fights, not a mechanic employed all the time for every group of enemies.

I think this is why I never could get into GW2 as much as GW1. The original game was more strategic, enemies didn’t respawn unless you zoned, there were henchmen and eventually heroes to direct, you could pause and plot the next fight… and a lot less rolling¬† left/right and running in circles. And GW1 didn’t have jumping… I fear it will crop up in PoF often enough to irritate me (jump to get to the next area of a quest, make a critical jump or fail a storyline quest, etc) so I’ll sit out Path of Fire. I would like to finish a storyline in GW2 so that’ll be a side project, one I don’t need the upcoming expansion for.

I know some players like the action combat of GW2, Jeromai and Bhagpuss for example, so I might be an outlier. Certainly most of the current playerbase has to be OK with it, or at least tolerate it better than me. One thing nice about having so many MMOs these days ūüėČ is these kinds of design issues can vary to offer a different experience to the wider audience. People that like this style combat have a place to go.

SWL – Flappy the Chaotic Raid

SWL is running a special event: The Whispering Tide. It’s a one-room boss fight, with a few adds here and there, that goes off every hour. I didn’t think I could participate, as a level 2 or 3, but I saw that as long as you reach Jack Boone (and presumably take his quest), you can enter and get boosted if you are low level.

Jack Boone… oh yeah, he’s the “last cowboy” outside Kingsmouth, who gives you the Fistful of Zombies quest. He’s essentially the very first quest giver past the tutorial. I was that far along so I could participate!

It’s nicknamed Flappy by the playerbase since the boss is a giant raven that swoops in and does some area attacks before landing. The he continues area attacks, summons some adds, and flies off only to repeat.

The entry is reachable from jump portal outside the central Agartha tree, so a few minutes before the hour I jumped over and found a large crowd waiting for the doors to open.

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The fight itself is basically use every skill on cooldown, avoid standing in telegraphs/filth, and well to be honest, you’ll just get one-shot sometimes so run back and rejoin.

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It’s crazy and not all that strategic, but you know what? It was fun and I do appreciate that the devs let everybody participate in this quickie raid. It’s also fun to see a crazy number of players and their skill animations all trying to take down the various monsters.

The reward is some XP, and the ability to open one of the crates from the event login reward.

Builds

I made two characters, but SWL is fairly unfriendly to alts. One character, Holgren “Komorebi” Angrado – Holgren Angrado is from Michael McClung’s Amra Thetys series which I enjoyed very much – is the one I linked from TSW mostly to reserve the name, so he started with all weapons unlocked. That’s also the character I redeemed the shadow-bound weapons on, from the ARG before launch, so he also has decent starter weapons of every type! Meanwhile my other character, Amra “Tsundoku” Thetys has none of that.

Holgren joined the Templars while Amra joined the Illuminati. I’ve barely seen anything of either faction (I was Dragon in TSW) and I’m kinda leaning towards Illuminati based on how cool I think their NYC base looks, but I hear the Templars have good faction quests and ultimately it doesn’t really matter that much.

But since Holgren has such a huge advantage over Amra as far as weapons and weapon unlocks, I’m going to play Holgren. He’s using a magic build right now, elemental and chaos, since SWL makes you pick a class during char creation, but I want to switch to a build with mitigation/healing.

I played through short videos for each weapon and four have extra effect mini-game mechanics that don’t appeal to me right now: Assault Rifle, Elemental, Blood, Blade. Elemental and Blood remind me of the LoTRO Runekeeper mechanic of attunement, which might be fine but I’d like to keep things simple for now. Blade looks like a “beserker/rampage/adrenalin” weapon where you want to keep fighting to keep the buff going… not really my playstyle. Assault Rifle looks like I’d spend a lot of time eyeing grenade status in a fight.

On the other side of the spectrum, Hammer and Chaos look simpler since the special bonus appears to auto-apply. The other weapons, Fist, Shotgun, Pistol, are in between as far as complexity of the mini-game.

Thus, my preferred main weapon will be Hammer, Chaos, Fist, Shotgun, Pistol as primary and then something healing as secondary. Of the weapons on my preferred list, Fist is the healing weapon. So I plan to switch to Pistol/Fist to have a range attack and some healing as well, and see how that goes.

I’m not opposed to eventually using the four “complicated” weapons, just not right now. The game is familiar (quests and zones I’ve seen) and yet new (changed combat mechanics) so I’ll keep it simplified until I get to Blue Mountains or Scorched Desert and see how my build is doing.

 

LoTRO – New Chars

With some new-founded motivation I started LoTRO, my goal was to create 2 characters and play them a bit. In reality, the evening bogged down with the minor housekeeping that MMOs impose.

First up, creating characters. That doesn’t take much time in general, except for the dreaded naming issue – I want a decent name, something that fits, but the problem is so do all the other players. As a result, I spent 30 – 45 minutes trying to come up with names that weren’t already taken. Sigh.

It’s easier in other games that let you have a first and last name (i.e. a space is allowed to separate names) but LoTRO isn’t one of them. I decided to make my new minstrel and warden both female hobbits, so something lore-appropriate are flower and/or gemstone names. I tried a bunch but most were already taken.

Eventually I found spessartine, a gemstone, a name that was already taken. However, modifying the name slightly to Spessartina worked, thus a new minstrel was born!

On my other account I tried numerous flower variants, and eventually wound up back at heliconia (I tried that name for my other newbie minstrel but ended up spelling it Heliconya to avoid conflict, so I already knew Heliconia was taken). However, digging deeper I found a Heliconia species name I liked: Scarlatina. It helped that the -tina suffix matches with Spessartina. Thus, another name and a new warden was born!

After logging them in, working through the initial mini-tutorial, I decided it would be a good time to catch up with the latest fancy configuration options and install plugins. I used plugins when I played WoW and know that can be very useful, so I dug around for recommendations on good one for LoTRO. I started with the LoTRO Plugin Compendium, which helps install the other plugins, then Buff Bars, Combat Analysis, Minstrel Buff, Palantir 2, Sequence Bars, and Warden Ease.

I installed Huge Bags as well, but it seems that functionality is already in the game, I just haven’t been taking advantage of it. Bag 1 has a button that toggles edit/combo mode – rows from other bags can be dragged/combined together. So I logged in Spessartina, Scarlatina, and Naerys, and configured their bags into one giant bag. It didn’t take too long and will improve how I manage inventory.

Next up, I had to reposition UI elements. Various game elements were overlapping each other so I straightened that out too… on each character because these settings aren’t shared.

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Eventually I finished this too. A representative screenshot appears above: I’ve moved various windows around so they don’t overlap as much.

What I didn’t have energy for was sorting inventory items, I just dragged them all to the end of the bag (also seen in the screenshot above).

How does a brand new character have 35+ items already, you ask? Well all that stuff in my bags are goodies from various preorders (cosmetic armor sets, mounts), anniversary gift boxes, and so forth. I’d move it into an available vault space but I can’t! I’m still in the tutorial, secondary phase, so I don’t have vault access yet. I also don’t have the riding skill so I can’t add the mounts to my skills yet.

To sum up: I played for ~2 hours and didn’t get that much gameplay. I started 2 characters, spent a long time coming with names, got them out of the initial tutorial, installed plugins, rearranged my UI, amd consolidated bag space.

I wanted to have some action so I started Vol 4 Book 5 on Naerys by speaking with Mithrandir in Minas Tirith, and quested along to the Vol 4 Book 5 Chapter 4 in the village of Dr√Ľ Bh√Ľta.

Off like a herd of turtles!

MMO Updates

This was an eventful week for the MMOs I am interested in. Secret World Legends released on Steam, GW2 has an expansion coming in September, and LoTRO expanded to Mordor. Whew!

Even better, my schedule is settling down and I should be able to carve out some consistent time in order to play. It’s been a lot of mobile games lately since they are convenient and doable in small chunks.

SWL

I’m determined to play this game more. I only ever reached the Scorched Desert in TSW, but some of the most memorable quests I’ve played in MMOs were from this game which is amazing considering that I am barely out of the starter zones.

Combat has been streamlined, build/skills simplified, etc so I’m going to give it another shot and get further.

In TSW I played a Dragon character, so this time I rolled up an Illuminati and a Templar to see if I like those factions better – granted there are minimal differences.

LoTRO

Well I broke down and bought the Mordor expansion despite telling myself to wait until December to buy it with store points. I did just buy one copy so I’ll pick it up for my other account with store points. I am at least partially frugal. ūüėČ

My reasoning was that this is my favorite MMO. I haven’t played much lately, and I’ve taken breaks, but I’ve always come back and really enjoyed the pacing, setting, and storyline. When my kin was active I also grouped and really enjoyed it. How can I not get the expansion?!

Since my guardian Naerys is only level 100 and a few books behind in the storyline, my goal is to beeline the epic quests and enter Mordor. At least just a little bit.

I haven’t decided what to do about the character boost. I’d prefer a character that can heal should I join the occasional group, rather than tank (requires too much knowledge of the encounter) with Naerys, so that means Runekeeper, Minstrel, or Beorning. Of those, I have a low 60’s minstrel parked at Caras Galadhon. I could boost her up, but I’m thinking of rolling a new minstrel and boosting that character instead.

Why? Well, my existing minstrel is an elf and that’s fine, but I like hobbits and would rather have a hobbit minstrel. All else being equal, hobbits have 2 useful race abilities: stealth and silence, whereas elves have their own stealth and grace. I don’t remember Eldar’s Grace ever saving my bacon but Hobbit Silence has plenty of times. Minstrels get their own¬†feign death skill, so a hobbit minstrel has two emergency skills which is very compelling to me.

Over on my other account my hobbit minstrel is level 20 and in the North Downs. What I plan to do there is roll a hobbit warden.The warden is so unique as far as how they play I gotta give it another whirl, and pecking away at leveling through the content would be a great way to relearn the warden gambit system.

My existing elf warden is also in the low 60’s parked at Caras Galadhon, but is on my first account. I’ll make better use of my store points if I play a character on each account rather, so the plan is a few months down the road, I’ll have a boosted hobbit minstrel on my first account, and a hobbit warden on my second account that I intend to play through the storyline normally.

On the other hand I also really enjoyed playing my burglar (who is level 82 in Harwick, only my 2nd character to move past Mirkwood) but is on my first account as well. Perhaps when I do buy Mordor for my second account I’ll boost a burglar there if my warden bogs down!

GW2

So this is where it gets tricky. I have super nostalgia for GW1, but that’s a different game. GW2 never fully clicked with me. The evidence is that 5 years after GW2 released, I have yet to complete a storyline or season on any character! I’ve gone into Heart of Thorns just enough to get minimal gliding on a few chars, and that’s it.

So, a purely logical analysis says that I should NOT get Path of Fire, or at the very least, not until I finish a storyline (or more) on at least one character, which will be my ranger or mesmer. Both elite specs look fun to play and are useful support roles. Both are level 80 and both have an ascended trinket collection thanks to me logging in most every day, even if I didn’t play beyond that, and collecting laurels.

Should GW2 not take again, I need to put it aside and try 2 games I have that deserve attention as well: DDO and ESO.

To this end I’ve decked out my mesmer and am venturing south of Lion’s Arch to advance the storyline.

[PoGo] Legendary Raid

I play Pok√©mon Go partly as a filler game while playing Ingress. I find the fun to be mostly in the collecting, because the gameplay isn’t all that sophisticated: throw balls, catch Pok√©mon, repeat.Fighting comes down to: tap the screen, long press when your special attack is charged. I’m not even sure dodging helps that much relative to the time you lose fighting (i.e. there is a strict time limit on a fight, so losing say 25% of your available time trying to dodge attacks might mean you time out instead of exhausting the 6 Pok√©mon you take into battle – at least against raid fights).

One variant that I do since I am also a runner is: leave game up on phone while running, in order to “walk” buddy Pok√©mon and collect candy. This is handy since evolving a Pok√©mon¬† requires candy, some Pok√©mon I don’t see much of, so if I need more I’ll make one my buddy and “walk” it for extra candy. I just did this with a Dragonair and evolved it into a Dragonite, who now is the highest combat power out of my collection.

The game introduced raids in a general revamp of how gyms work, and I think they did a pretty good job. It used to be gyms would stay up until defeated, while made it pretty tough for a team that is outnumbered in an area. Now, Pok√©mon slowly lose health unless fed berries, which helps make sure there is turnover, or at least provides an item sink. Fighting changed as well: before you’d fight a gym from weakest to strongest, and Pok√©mon would heal completely in between; now you can select specific Pok√©mon to fight, and they don’t heal up in between. So those 3000+ CP Blesseys and Snorlaxes aren’t the barriers they used to be.

Anyway, I was with a friend after work, relaxing before dinner playing Ingress and Pok√©mon Go for a bit. As we were walking around hacking Ingress portals and looking at the Legendary 42K combat power Lugia on a nearby gym (impossible for 2 players so we ignored it), a car drove up and 3 people piled out, asking if we were doing the raid. After a bit of organizing, 5 of us entered battle… and got soundly trounced. We were all decently leveled (my friend and I are level 28, the others ranged from 28 to 31) but we got crushed. My friend and I learned you can heal up and re-enter the fight; all of us had our 6 Pok√©mon knocked out and all of us healed and re-entered since there was time left… and we still only fought the Lugia down to 60%.

In the time we were there, others saw us clustered at a raid and showed up: a couple walking their dogs, and then another carload of players. I took this picture before 3 more players came up – eventually we had 15 players for the raid!

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My friend and I learned more as well: raid passes are good for the entire time – we thought you had to spend a pass every time you entered. We also found out players use a website to find raids (GymHuntr) – after all, there is no in-game chat for organizing.

Anyway, this time 15 of us took down the Lugia. I received 8 premier silver balls for my attempt to catch the scaled-down post-raid Lugia. Unfortunately I didn’t catch it, but my friend did!

Right after the fight my friend’s game glitched and kicked her out, she thought she lost her chance at the Lugia. But another player helpfully mentioned that pulling up the gym and spinning the sign lets you re-enter… my friend did that and went on to beat the odds and catch a Lugia. So chalk that up as another thing we learned about the game.

At this time one player started walking around, checking on how others were doing as far as catching the Lugia. He started rattling off percentages: 4% for a straight throw, 8% for a curve ball, 1.5 multiplier for a regular razz berry, 2.5 multiplier for a golden razz berry, further modifiers for hit quality… by the time I heard this I was out of premier balls so it didn’t matter – to be fair all I would have done different was use golden razz berries; I’m not good at throwing curve balls and actually hitting the target!

I found a chart showing catch percentage as a function of ball type, throw type, hit type, etc. Mind boggling, I had no idea people charted this stuff out to such detail.

I’m not sure how premier balls figure in, but I think I was operating at a roughly 4% chance per throw, equivalent to a normal hit using a razz berry. Thus over my 8 throws I had a 1-(96/100)^8 chance = 27% chance of success. Had I used a golden razz berry each time I would have had a roughly 1-(94/100)^8 chance = 39%. Curve balls as well as golden razz berries would have improved that to about 1-(9/10)^8 = 57%. Perhaps I should practice throwing curve balls on the numerous trash mobs Pok√©mon around.

It was fun, and kind of surreal to think that this raid ended up roughly as large as raids I’ve done in WoW and LoTRO. Except PoGo has no chat functionality, no LFG/LFR system, and requires people to travel to specific areas in the real world?! Mind boggling. ūüėČ

[LoTRO] Mordor on a Budget

Mordor is almost here! I remember starting LoTRO in 2007, 10 years ago, wondering if the game would expand all the way there. Well, it is going to do so apparently at the end of July… but I decided I’m going to be frugal and wait to buy the expansion in the store.

The Mordor FAQ says:

Can I purchase the expansion with Store Points?

Mordor expansion will be available for Store Points after Update 22 this winter. Point prices will be:
Base Edition (includes Mordor Region & Instances only): 2495 Points
High Elf: 1000 Points

As it happens I have 2495 points on both accounts, actually I have more than enough to also buy High Elf as well, on both accounts.

The expansion packages seem quite pricey to me, for what you get. If the Collector’s Edition were $20 less I would purchase it on both accounts to have it available, even though I really only have one character in striking range of Mordor (Naerys my guardian, level 100, currently 2 or 3 books behind in the epic quest line. I could make a push and adventure into Mordor sometime in August).

Instead, I’ll wait, get back into playing, advance Naerys in the storyline right up to the Mordor entry point, and save a chunk of money by purchasing the expansion with store points. The only downside is waiting until Update 22, sometime in the winter, but since I’m not ready to go there right now, I might as well wait.