Changing Game Tastes

I’ve noticed my gaming tastes changing over the months/years. Currently my MMO playing is ebbing while other games are not.

I still do play though. I’m taking a break from SWL because I was stuck on a ridiculous blocking storyline quest and can’t advance without passing it. Whoever thought that was a good idea is… well they’re just wrong.

I log into LoTRO a few times a week to grab daily rewards and quest a bit. But that makes for glacial progress and thus Spessartina, my hobbit minstrel, is still in the Rivendell/Trollshaws regions and a few levels away from starting the next storyline quest. Scarlatina, my hobbit warden, is likewise still in the Lone Lands. That’s fine though, I always do enjoy coming back to LoTRO and playing a bit.

In ESO, I decided to start a new char after migrating to the PS4. In order to play something different, I picked stamina nightblade. Since Redguards get racial stamina bonuses, I went with that. I’m not too far along, having completed the Morrowind tutorial and then immediately sailing back to Stros M’Kai in order to work through the original storyline. I’d rather play in the order the game released in!

What I have been doing more of is playing single player open-world adventure-style console games, like Rise of the Tomb Raider. I take advantage of Redbox and rent some games too (Monster Hunter World, God of War) with an eye towards checking a game out before buying it. I really like God of War but I can also wait for a sale since I have a backlog. 🙂

I hit level 15 in Ingress, almost 2 years after I started to play. It’s still fun and easy to work into playing bits and pieces as time permits.

Recently I was in Hawaii on a family vacation, and had an afternoon or two to myself. So I got some exercise and walked around doing some banners/mosaics. Again, missions involve visiting various points of interest and doing something (typically hacking the portal). A series of missions that together form a picture is called a banner or mosaic. And I like doing those. Here’s the 3 I did:

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Top 3 rows are “Iolani Palace”, middle row is “Legend of the Menehune”, bottow rows are “Aloha, Waikiki”. Not a bad way to enjoy a walk around town!

I’ve also been playing a lot of Pokémon Go. Yes, there isn’t a whole lot going on in the game… or is there?

The fundamentals of “collecting all the pokémon” is still the driving force, but Niantic has been slowly adding more and more things to do in the game.

There is a rudimentary quest system, which currently leads to finding legendary pokémon (so far: Zapdos, Moltres).

You can have a buddy pokémon that gains candy when you walk certain distances, as well as hatch eggs, so when I walk or run with my phone I leave it on with pokémon running. Every candy helps!

There are medals which grant catch bonuses after getting certain numbers. I’m still working on a few (e.g. 156/200 Steel type, 136/200 ice type, etc.)

They revamped the gym battling system to encourage more turnover, and as a result I’ve been working on getting gold on gyms I live near (when you attack or defend a gym you gain points on it, and rank up bronze to silver to gold. Each higher tier yields more stuff when you spin the disc, you also get more stuff when the gym is your team) since that results in the most efficient farming. 😉 I have 13 gold gyms and am close to #14 and #15.

A recent addition are community days where one pokémon spawns in abundance for a 3 hour period. I missed the first few, but have participated in last month’s (Mareep) and yesterday’s (Charmander). I met up with 3 friends and we walked around Rockville town center, seeing dozens and dozens of other players, catching every charmander in sight and evolving Charizards with a special event-only move (Blast Burn). We joined in raids for the Legendary Ho-Oh and I am happy to say I got one:

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A bunch of players gathered for a raid as the event was winding down, but it turned out to be a Latias. Luckily I got that one too:

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The thing about Legendary raids is with enough people, you will defeat the boss.  All your pokémon may faint and you might have to re-enter, but enough people will do it unless they are horribly underleveled (using low combat power pokémon). The hard part is catching it afterwards. Each player that participates get a number of white premiere pokeballs to use, that are only available from winning legendary raids and they don’t carry over, but there are bonuses for the team that does the most damage, for defeating the boss, your badge level at the gym, team that controls the gym. So when teams form, usually Valor (red), Mystic (blue), Instinct (yellow) will try to form their own group – not being exclusionary per se, anybody on any team can still hop in, it’s just more beneficial to you if you are raiding with others of your own team since you really want those extra premiere balls. That’s because legendary pokémon are ninja dodgers, and they are also very good at breaking out. So more premiere balls is better.

Over time I’ve switched to a curve-ball style throw (wind up in a circle before a throw until you get sparklies, then throw at an angle and the ball will curve left or right depending on whether you wound up clockwise or counter-clockwise). I don’t know the specific numbers but especially for a legendary Pokémon you want to use your best berries (golden razz berry) with a curve ball throw and ideally get a nice/great/excellent hit (how well you hit the circle target)… and even then there is a large chance the legendary will break out. I had 2 Latios (the blue clones of Latias) escape after raids because they I missed or they dodge half of the time, and broke out of all hits – as I recall it was roughly 25 chances over 2 raids and nothing. Argh! To a degree its a random chance you can attempt to raise, so all you can do is have the opportunity to catch one, which is what happened yesterday and I am thankful. 🙂

For the Latias raid, I counted 35 players. Yes, almost 3 dozen people across all age groups and genders, standing on a street corner split into multiple raid groups, all wanting their chance to catch a Latias. It was awesome in many respects!

One thing I haven’t really gotten into is analyzing pokémon stats any deeper than the builtin appraisal system. But the serious players are all about pokémon IVs (individual values; the stamina, attack, defense stats) and move sets (fast and charged; attack and defense). There is of course a massive amount of stats info google will turn up, and it is kind of mind boggling since IVs can’t be changed and move sets are randomly assigned (however there are in-game items called Technical Machines that can change fast or charged attacks). There are also apps that help analyze these things so as a first step, I bought PokeGenie and started analyzing all my high CP wonder pokémon. I may change up what pokémon I keep, what ones I evolve and power up based on the next level of stat analysis. 😉

By and large I’m mostly a “collector” player, just trying to fill out my pokedex. I swap buddies to get candy for evolving, fight gyms here and there to make them Mystic (my team), leave pokémon to defend gyms for badge levels and coins, and so. It isn’t the most sophisticated game ever, but for a low key mobile phone game, I’m finding it social and fun.

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LoTRO – Trollshaws

After a bit of questing in Evendim, Spessartina reached level 37 which is the suggested level for starting Vol 1 Book 4: Chasing Shadows. So I bailed out of Ost Forod to Bree and then to Ost Guruth and across the Last Bridge into the Trollshaws! Since I’ve done the SoA content a few time I’ll just quest as needed to keep level with the storyline and at all time prefer advancing in the storyline.

It’ll be a ways until I replace my guardian Naerys with my new minstrel Spessartina but I’ll enjoy the journey.

One thing I like about LoTRO is how many player activities are always going on in Bree. One some random evening there may be a concert outside the Prancing Pony.

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I always stop and watch for a few minutes, dancing my favorite dance (Hobbit Dance 1).

Anyway, I stopped at the skirmish camp south of Bree to upgrade my gear to level 37 items, and then on to Thorenhad.

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Fall colors view from Thorenhad.

LoTRO – Lone-lands

After finishing up Vol 1 Book 1 on Spessartina, I headed east of Bree to the Lone-lands. It had been a very long time since I quested through and was pleasantly surprised at the reorganization. The Forsaken Inn was jam packed with quest givers to start you out, but one or two other Eglain camps spaced out to the east helped lead to Ost Guruth.

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Lone-lands is both familiar to me and fun, however at the same time I’ve gone through enough so I beelined Book 2 in order to head to Esteldin in the North Downs.

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I just had to lend a hand to Radagast the Brown first. He didn’t fight too much during the Red-Pass instance, but in the end he did call down a lightning strike to drive Ivar away.

Spessartina reached level 30 and I decided to reorganize a bit.

First, I settled on Virtues to work on: Innocence, Tolerance, Charity, Honour, Patience. I’m a fan of mitigation/resistance virtues over straight stat buffs, and this collection represents, as the primary effect, physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, resistance (x2) and ICPR (in-combat power regeneration). I need just a few more quests, kill deeds, and exploration to get them all into the 2-3 range.

Second, I respeced to Warrior-Skald. I had been playing as a Watcher of Resolve, but many fights were dicey. For example, when I had to collect sigils of the gaunt-men, who are signature mobs with an add usually standing right next to them. Oh, the gaunt-men can also summon. So many times I was briefly fighting 3 enemies at once. My strategy there was simple: fear one away (Invocation of Elbereth) and then immediately try to kill the gaunt-man before he summoned another. My morale dipped under 33% many times and I decided that going forward I would spec fully into Warrior-Skald, the minstrel DPS spec. Why not, LoTRO makes it pretty easy to have 2 specs and switch between them.

Third, I was looking for a diversion and went to a skirmish camp. I find these fun in small doses, so I’ll do some later. Maybe I’ll even make a point of doing a skirmish every time I play as a way to break up the quest/leveling process.

What I hadn’t noticed before was the great gear you can get by trading in marks! Back when I was leveling my original group of characters, my “main” was a hunter about 5-10 levels higher then my next highest character. My hunter, Glyneth, is an explorer and provided hides, ore, and wood for my other character’s crafting until they got far enough along to do it themselves.

I don’t get enough hides to tailor armor for two characters, but now I don’t have to farm for materials thanks to skirmish gear – I can get jewelry, and weapons too! This is awesome!!

The tiers on skirmish camp items looks like every 3-4 levels, which is perfect. It lets me gather/craft while leveling but still keep their armor/jewelry/weapons reasonably up to date without having to farm on my higher level characters. 🙂

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. 🙂

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.

 

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 Drû Bhûta.

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. 😉

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.

[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.