Blaugust 2019

I’ve fallen into a blogging slump, so I decided to participate in Blaugust 2019. It’ll be motivational! Writing a post every day will be… unlikely, but I can definitely try for the Silver Award for 15 posts.

The reason for my slump isn’t a mystery – it’s simply that my available entertainment time is sliced and partitioned among more activities that before. So, not as much MMO’ing of late.

Anyway, I don’t want to write too much today and steal way from future posts. 😉

Awaken Online: Catharsis

A friend of mine, who knows I enjoy playing MMOs, recommended a book to me recently: Awaken Online: Catharsis.

The plot involves what you would expect: in the future there is a VR helmet used for playing a realistic MMO, a kid named Jason finds escape from the real world in it, etc. Wait, isn’t this a lot like Ready Player One?

Yes and No… there are some trope inversions so far in AO:C – our real world hero is a chaotic evil necromancer in the game, and his real world antagonist is seemingly a holy paladin…

I am enjoying it quite a bit… not wanting to put it down and stop reading. 🙂 I’m only halfway through and planning to add the book’s sequels to my reading list.

What funny is the next expansion for ESO, Elsweyr, will add the necromancer class. I told my friend that her book recommendation might also make me pick up ESO again.

Dang it, I can tell I’m going to get the ESO expansion. As much as I love LoTRO I like the class and quest system in ESO better. Hm… perhaps the crafting system as well, although I never got too far along with that.

I do NOT have time to play two MMOs!!

LoTRO – Legendary Server

So I’ve been playing LoTRO again, on Anor, one of the new Legendary Servers. I ran out of gas with two new characters on Landroval, largely because the early zones are sparse, but restarting on Anor has been a lot of fun since there are so many players around now.

When the server opened I delayed going to work just to create characters with the names I wanted. Yep, silly but on the other hand, not getting a preferred name would irritate me ever so slightly every single time I played. So it was worth it. As a result, I have Hellebore the hobbit guardian.

As you know, female hobbits are typically named after plants or gems so I wanted hellebore as a name and got it. 🙂

My favorites are hobbits and elves, the “uncorrupted” races – I racked my brain but could only think of evil men (bandits) and dwarves (dourhands) in the Shire and Bree and couldn’t think of any evil hobbits and elves. There are also Beornings as a late addition to the playable races/classes, with no evil one I can think of either. But I’m not a lore expert so perhaps there are evil hobbits, elves, beornings…

Anyway, I’ve also enjoyed every class I’ve played in LoTRO. Which leads to the funny situation of why I’m playing a guardian again – which was my “main” and highest level char on Landroval.

The first char I considered my main was a hunter, and after easing into the game I tried out several others for variety. That led me to the lore-master, my main until somewhere in the 60’s. As I recall, somewhere in Mirkwood, I accidentally deconstructed the wrong legendary item (staff) and kind of screwed myself since the others ones I had were bad. I was bummed and decided to take a break from the LM, giving myself time to get over it (the reality is this error wasn’t terminal, I could always get another LI and level it up, and so it really only set me back a few weeks, tops. But at the time it really stung; I figured I’d play another character for a bit to ease the pain). That other character I took up was… my guardian who was the last of my original 5 chars to go through Moria. I wound up really getting into the guardian and played that char, alting on my burglar for variety.

Flash forward to Anor, starting with a hobbit minstrel. Things were going well until level 17 when I was overwhelmed by some bandits and suffered my first defeat, thus denying that character the level 20 survival title. Again, not the end of the world but I figured I’d take a break… and played my guardian who has now taken over lol.

Basically, because I enjoy every class (captain and beorning are the two I have the least experience with), these kinds of “take a break to play the alt” run the risk of finding a new main!

So Hellebore the guardian is now level 28ish, wrapped up the Lone Lands and is off to Esteldin to continue the Vol 1 Book 3 quest line.


Along the way I grabbed some screenshots of Weathertop.


Questing around in Far Chetwood.

I joined a kinship, the Council of the North, because they advertised the desire to do 3/6/12 man content. That’s what I want to do!

Where Does the Time Go?

Wow, just like that another ~3 months have passed and I haven’t blogged. I’m a slacker!

The most exciting thing I’ve done recently is… travel to Iceland for week, to meet up with friends who were taking a vacation there. Due to various scheduling issues, I had a free day in Reykjavik after arriving and before hopping on a bus to cross the island and meet them.

I did a walking tour of Reykjavik, which looks a lot like the two Ingress mosaics I did. 🙂 I also caught every Mr. Mime and Volbeat I saw (two of the European regional pokemon). More on that later.

And… I wandered by the HQ of CCP.


Unfortunately I was there on a Saturday and they were closed. Otherwise I would have visited the lobby!

I also found the EVE Online Monument, and found my character name! I looked that up in advance of course, the print is tiny.



Still, it was very cool to find my character name and of course visit Iceland which is BEAUTIFUL in basically every direction you look. I’m already plotting a return in 2020, do some more hiking.


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:


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:


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:


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.

SWL – Stuck in Tokyo

I’ve hit an interesting situation in Secret World Legends – I’m stuck on a quest.

The mission is Contract Killers and I’m stuck specifically at the “reach the top floor” portion. What’s in the way of success are… demonic little girls. The barrier they provide is if you leave their line of site, you are killed. Must be something along the lines of “see no evil”, but reversed.

I couldn’t figure out what to do so I looked up the quest. Now knowing what I need to do, I still fail the mission at the point where there are 2 of these girls – keeping both in my line of sight, walking backwards to the next part… I haven’t been able to do it.


That little girl with the green eyes – I can get by her, it’s later when there are 2 I keep dying.

On the one hand, I do like how SWL sometimes throws these sorts of challenges in. Ones that you just can’t fight your way through. Ones where your weapon level, gear level, etc. don’t really matter.

On the other hand, this is a storyline mission and I can’t get to the rest of the Tokyo story, and thus presumably can’t get to the South African content that is coming, unless I complete this mission. Plus, how are you supposed to figure out what to do other than by looking it up? That’s kind of annoying. I’m all for puzzles and challenge but this one feels a bit out of place.

So yeah, I’m on the verge of rage quitting the game. I’ve got a large backlog, why be frustrated here?

SWL – Tokyo Arrival

Well I’ve been slacking on the blogging. Part of that is I haven’t been playing MMOs too much, probably half the days I just jump in to LoTRO and/or SWL and grab the daily login reward.

But, I did progress in SWL, zipping through Transylvania (Besieged Farmlands, Shadowy Forest, Carpathian Fangs) following the storyline. Now I’m in Tokyo!


I also hit level 50 somewhere along the way in Shadowy Forest or Carpathian Fangs.

I’m enjoying the storyline but I do have a few (minor) criticisms about the game.

One is that many quests are overly padded. A typical quest in this category had this template: perform some task X times, say 5, where 2 or 3 would be just as good and not merely drag out the mission. Examples include Venice Is Sinking, where much like the Last Train to Cairo mission that bridged the storyline advancement between major zones, it was a lot of repetitive “pursue/run/climb, fight, click gizmo, repeat 4 more times”.

In Tokyo one offender is Hell of a Blow, where you plant 5 bombs, which is concurrent with The Right of Way, which is double tier repetitive mission because for tier one you have 4 mini-boss fights to get to tier two where you have 5 or 6 “pursue, fight, get by puzzle, click gizmo, repeat” sequences to get to the final showdown.

Usually after finishing one of these type quests I stop for the day, needing a break.

The other is that combat is a bit dull, however that may be due to my build. I’m a pistol main with fist secondary, but I typically only use 3 skills during a fight: Controlled Shooting, Trick Shot, which are bound to LMB and RMB; and Kill Blind, my stun/interrupt. So it’s a lot of dodging/kiting while rhythmically clicking the mouse, and occasionally using a heal skill (Clean Slate). I’m going to mix it up and take 2 fist skills (Beserk, Feral Growth) to make better use of my secondary.

So I’ll try Beserk, Feral Growth, Kill Blind, Controlled Shooting, Trick Shot, and maybe Ricochet. Ideally I’d start using more skills per fight and use fist abilities more often as well.

My third criticism has to do with gear advancement. I now have all purple gear and I’m seeing the complaints from other players about how tedious it is to advance/grind up. It takes 2 max level green items to make a blue item, 2 max level blue items to make a purple item, and so on for purple->orange, and orange->red.

Multiply that by 2 weapons, 7 talismans, 9 glyphs, and 6 signets (I think) and you’ve got a massive amount of stuff required to advance.

I get the need for a throttle, but a side effect here is you are effectively locked into a weapon past a certain point, since switching from say a high purple or better weapon means a serious amount of stuff just to get back to where you were.

And one thing I miss from TSW is the variety of skills available and builds possible. Granted many builds weren’t effective but now with 2 purple weapons and around 30 skills total to pick from for those 2 weapons, I’m kind of locked in going forward. Which is why I want to revamp my build from 6 skills that I only use 3 of 80% of the time.

I’m not sure how much more storyline there is but I’ll be one of those players that takes a break after reaching “the end” since Funcom hasn’t released any new content yet.