Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lotro: A Busy Weekend for Throg.

Highlights included:

- Doing everything up to the final chapter (book 15, Chapter 12) of Volume 1. Most of book 15 consisted of riding up and down (and up and down) the high moor. I love the book quests but I wish Turbine would cut out the pointless padding. At least the final chapter is supposed to be a great challenging instance bring the tragic tale of Laerdan and his daughter to a close. I will wait till I can organise a good kin group for this.

- Getting into Moria after completing Book 1 of Volume 2. It's a very impressive massive underground city. Crumbling now of course but I caught a glimpse of its earlier splendour from doing a session play quest where I got to run away from the Balrog who trashed the place.

I did a few easy quests in Moria and took my first goat ride but at level 51 most of the quests were still yellow/orange to me indicating that I needed to level up a bit first.

- Back to Eregion and I did all the quests from Echad Eregion getting up to level 52 in the process. T

Throg relaxing at a camp-fire after a hard days questing around Echad Eregion:



- On to Echad Mirobel to do the pre-quests for "The Library" and "The School" 3 man instances.

- Being fortunate to get into a pick up group for the library while doing the pre-quests. Throg (lvl 52 CHampion) a lvl 53 Minstrel and Lvl 53 Burglar.

There are three bosses in the place with a bunch of trash. The encounters are pretty similar - clear out the adds and kill the boss. Burglar crowd control (addle?) was handy for holding the bosses while Champ aoe made short work of the adds (after they were pulled away from stunned bosses of course). The big boss in the end was actually the easiest because he didn't aggro when we pulled his adds (flocks of birds) - we simply peeled the birds off in groups from the Balcony and killed them before tanking and spanking the boss.

Lest I make it sound like a flawless encounter I must own up to foolishly attempting to tank with shield and glory mode. Suffice to say a couple of deaths convinced me that a Champion is poor at holding multi-mob aggro. Swapping to dual Axes and fervour mode for all out aoe damage was much better.

I got a few drops from the instance but nothing particularly useful for Throg. Nevertheless it was great to end the weekend with a bit of fun fellowship play. Three mans are great because it is easy to get a group and everyone feels useful. Iam looking forward to having a go at "The School" next.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Curious Observation

I logged into Team Fortress 2 tonight for a bit of mindless shooting and a curious thought struck me.

Team Fortress 2 is as good and as fresh as it ever was.

Call of Duty 4 on the other hand (the other great multiplayer shooter from last year) feels a bit old.

CoD 4 is a terrific game but it was designed to keep you entertained until Cod5 or Cod6 came out. TF2 on the other hand was designed to last for a long time and it shows.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Poetic Spam

I know I shouldn't give this publicity but one particular spam commenter made me chuckle. Following a link back to the computer generated blog behind a recent piece of Spam I was surprised to discover that it was full of poetry. Original computer generated poetry. Here's a sample:

saying, - she said Marvin, almost pathetic sense in that it Damogran,
- said Ford, - Did the other Vogons. a large table with a moment that Benji mouse.
- said Arthur. - OK, sure you need that, renewed worse
was later one of wildest dreams... the last Id


While it may be that the top chess playing computers are now better than humans I think it is safe to say that it will be a few years yet before a computer wins the Nobel prize for literature.

Lotro: Where have all the group quests gone?

At level 51 Throg has comleted almost every quest in Northern Eregion as well as Book 1 of Volume 2. I guess he has done about 40 quests and completed 10 or so quest chains. In all of this there was only one group quest (can't recall the name but it involved killing the Elite Master Wood Troll who was responsible for corrupting the holly trees). A few quests mis-labelled "small group" were in fact easily solo-able as they involved killing lone signature mobs only. Where are all the group quests?

I asked in Kin chat and a player who has already got to level 58 (time to empty that bucket Amfi ;)) surprised me by confirming that most of MoM is in fact soloable.

Hmm...

A defining feature of the early days of Lotro for me was the number of great quest chains which started with solo quests and ended in one or more tough group quests with high quality rewards. This pattern persisted through the Lone Lands, North Downs, Trollshaws and into the Misty Mountains. It fell apart a bit in Angmar because the quest chains were a mess originally but that eventually got sorted in the great Angmar Revamp. Even though some folks complained when the ran out of solo quests I loved that system. I found I could keep myself busy soloing the starter quests while keeping an eye on the LFF channel for someone doing a fellowship quest I was ready for. I had some great experiences pugging my way through the mid levels of Lotro this way. It trained folks into grouping and it did engender a co-operative spirit that I believe persists in Lotro to this day.

Of course things became more difficult as the bulk of the population moved on and it became harder to get a group to complete low level fellowship quests. I believe that Turbine subsequently revamped a lot of the lower level stuff to make it soloable in order to overcome this problem. That is understandable but I had hoped that the advent of MoM with everyone levelling up together again might allow them to re-establish the pattern of Quest chains leading to fellowship quests. Sadly it looks like Turbine decided not to do this favouring solo-able content instead.

On the positive side there is always the book quest line which has some great fellowship content and I hear interesting stories of some very enjoyable 3 man instances. There is no room for error in a 3 man group, so I am looking forward to some challenging fun.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lotro: Throg' s First Legendary Weapon.

I have been pretty good at avoiding online guides for MoM so I had only hazy notions about legendary weapons when Throg was offered his first one at the end of volume 2 chapter 1. To be honest I found it a bit confusing at first. None of the weapons on offer looked particularly impressive but I had to choose one so, Throg being a Dwarf, I picked the axe and then brought it to the dwarven forge master for identification. The related quests left me with a basket of upgrade bits (called relics) so I duly set about populating three upgrade slots (setting, rune and gem) with the best relics I had. A scroll alllowed me to name the weapon and change the damage type.

So far so good but it was at this point I spotted that my legendary weapon also comes with inherent bonuses (called Legacies). Sadly this axe has a useless set of legacies including several bonuses to the virtually unused "Hedge" skill and a bonus to the least popular "Ardour" stance. I regret wasting my best relics on the weapon but no doubt Throg will stumble across others in his continuing adventures.

At first this purple quality legendary axe was no better than a standard purple quality axe but the next quest sent me out to fight with weapon so that it could gain experience and level up. It seems that levelling up the axe earns legacy points which can be used to increase the damage or enhance the legacy buffs. An hour or so of questing in Eregion brought me up a quarter level to finally hit 51 and my axe up six levels to level 7. It seems that weapons gain levels a lot quicker than players (at least at the beginning) which is probably no bad thing.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

DM Osbon's "The Agency" interview

If any game is going to knock WOW off its pedestal as the dominant mmo it will need to do something that WOW doesn't do and cannot easily copy. One likely strategy is the console MMO. There is a persistent rumour about Lotro being ported to consoles but I am not convinced they will be able to simplify the interface enough to fit it onto a console. A game that is designed for consoles from the ground up is more likely to succeed I think.

Sony seems to think so too and their new MMO "The Agency" is being designed for PS3 and PC (notice which comes first). The game has been described as "pick up and play" and an "online persistent shooter" both of which suggestions seem to be at odds with the game's claim to be an mmorpg but nevertheless we have been promised that the characters will develop rpg like abilities.

DM Osbon over at Construed has snagged an interview with Matt Staroscik, Game Designer & Lead Writer for "The Agency" and there are a few juicy snippets in there. Talk of quests, team play and crafting - Intriguing. This is beginning to sound like a lot more than just a persistent online shooter.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lotro: Fun in Eregion

I had a busy real life schedule last week so Throg has only been able to sample the Mines of Moria content in small doses. Nevertheless what I have seen has been good so far. After following a few quest chains in the eregion region Throg has made his way down to the ominous black pool at the entrance ot the mines proper. The pool is fetid and ominous so Throg decided to dive in and see if he could wake whatever creature lived in its murky depths. The Watcher was clearly not tempted by one slightly dented dwarf and Throg made it to the othe rside without so much as a nibble. Perhaps we will meet the infamous creature later.

I believe I need to complete the first chapter of volume 2 to actually get into the mines but I held off completing that while I dealt with a bunch half orcs who were harassing the dwarven expedition into the mines. These "expeditonary" quests are interesting in that they are only available before the expedition departs - i.e. before you complete book 1. They are entirely optional and are easy enough to solo at level 50 as long as you avoid getting swamped by adds in the caves where the half orcs live. The rewards are nothing too special but I took an ear ring because it had stats better suited to a Champion (might, agility and melee critical) than the one I was currently wearing. The fact that you could only do these quests before entering Moria is a nice touch - It gives them a greater sense of urgency and makes the world seem a bit more dynamic.

Its strange to see Lotro crowded again with groups camping poular quest objectives. Some folk get annoyed at the overcrowding but I like the buzz it brings to the game. If I get a quest to "kill 10 orcs" I generally try to pug up with other players on the same objective so we can share in each others kills. I have a sneaky suspicion that many of the people returning to the game are a bit rusty because I have noticed a drop in the standard of pug group play a feature than has normally been unusually good in Lotro. Nevertheless people remain polite and friendly and that for me is the most important thing.

Throg is about half way to level 51 and I felt a minor moment of panic as I noticed that some of my kin had already reached level 53 and were forming groups for instances I had never even heard of. Oh no , Throg was being left behind. Thankfully I managed to calm down and sanity prevailed. Lotro is a game best enjoyed at your own pace. Some level quickly some slowly but we will all meet up again soon enough at the level cap. In the meantime we can chat and have a laugh and help each other out as best we can.

I also started an Elf Rune Master to try out that new class but the less said about that the better. I read over the skill descriptions and figured I had a fair understanding of how the class worked so in order to test myself I ran at the first yellow mob I found (yellow = slightly higher level). I reckoned the combination of damage output with healing ability would be an instant win but it proved not to be the case. I was defeated easily by a boar in my very first battle!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Kicking the Corpse of PC Gaming

For some time now I have agonised over whether or not to upgrade my gaming PC. I doubt if my existing 3 year old hardware will be able to cope with next years games but as I watch the centre of gaming influence desert the PC for consoles I have developed a gnawing feeling that I am backing the wrong horse by spending more money on PC gaming.

PC hardware prices have never been cheaper (at least in euro zone) so I could go out and invest in a new graphics card as a prelude to a complete system replacement. Alternatively I could use the cash to buy an Xbox.

Yet today I see an article in the Inquirer suggesting that the market for gaming hardware is booming. Perhaps there is life in the old dog yet.

One interesting point from the article is that the high price of HDTVs is proving a disadvantage for consoles. That is a significant issue for me actually. If I get a console I really need to get a TV to play it on unless I want a nightly fight with my wife over whether or not she can watch Desperate Housewives. The price of TVs has become just silly since the advent of flat screens. Remember when you could get a decent family TV for €250? Nowadays that would only buy you something slightly bigger than a postage stamp.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lotro: Mines of Moria goes live

Throg's first view of the new region of Pend Eregion:


Nothing else to report really as I had to go to work minutes after this was taken. I didn't expect to be playing at all today because my copy of MoM hadn't arrived. I patched the game anyway (2 hours even after applying the pre-downloaded patches) before I set off for work. Then just as patching was finished the postman arrived with my copy of MoM. Needless to say I just had to log in for 15 minutes in order to see the new zone.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Throg does Thorog (or rather Thorog does Throg)

Since witnessing the grotesque resurrection of the dead dragon Thorog at the hands of Drugoth it has been on the minds of Throg and his fellow adventurers to travel to Helegrod where the beast had alighted and to consign the undead lizard back to the abyss of death. They had put off tackling the creature because the kinship does not have the roster of 24 active heroes that estimates suggest would be required to down the beast. Also an extraordinary outbreak of Balrogs's in Eastern Angmar has commanded all attention in recent months. Now that Gandalf's fellowship are setting forth from Rivendell towards the Mines of Moria it seems likely they will need our aid on their travels, therefore it was decided to team up with friends from another kin to try and deal with the unfinished business of Thorog.

Throg gathered with his companions in Rivendell where spirits were bolstered by the news of yet another Balrog's demise. Hearts filled with hope, they set forth to Steps of Gram and the dragon's lair. The minions who guarded the entrance to the fortress had already been scattered by an earlier sortie so all that remained was a final encounter with the Drugoth and his Dragon.

Entering the main courtyard we could see the terrifying beast peached high above us. Rebirth has not removed the palour of death from the creature's visage and it is all the more terrible for it. Drugoth, the Death Monger stood before us in the shadow of the dragon and sneered at our motley fellowship. Incensed by these insults we set to with axe, sword and bow and quickly put the gaunt lord to flight but not before he called down the mighty dragon.

In his half living state Thorog breathes neither the fire nor ice but his instead his breath engulfs victims with the pure evil of shadow. His teeth claws and tail are just as deadly as those of any living dragon. Indeed they are made more terrible by Thorog's habit of fixing his eye on a target seconds before unleashing his most devastating attack. If the hapless target of Thorog's eye remains within sight of the dragon they and anyone unfortunate enough to be standing close by would surely die when the beast attacks. It took all of the courage that Throg and companions had brought with them from Rivendell to overcome the knee buckling fear the dragons eye causes and dive for cover before the dragon could strike.

Throg got the eye several times and managed to avoid killing any of his companions but did die himself on an occasion when he ran for a far away corner and did not manage to get off the pedestal into hiding before the dragon attacked. Sadly he was less successful at performing the champions key task of clobbering the dragon when it reared up to pounce. The creature moves constantly and what with knockbacks and running in and out of Hopeful Heart to deal with hope wipes it is hard for melee fighters to stay in place on the beast to be ready and able to clobber at the right instant. It is a fight for hunters who can rain damage down upon the dragon from outside the range of many of his attacks.

Sadly our heroes did not vanquish the dragon, deaths from his roving eye and the constant pressure from hordes of spiders that Thorog calls upon to hold the party while he goes to his perch for healing proved our undoing. Nevertheless full credit must go to the officers who co-ordinated the attempt with a motley crew of adventurers many of whom were inexperienced (like Throg it must be said). Under their guidance all were well marshalled and the tricky mechanic of "Thorog's eye" was well explained. The class balance was perhaps not ideal being short on hunters, captains and burglars.


Aside: My first time in Helegrod and an interesting conclusion to "the Shadows of Angmar" before the "Mines of Moria" expansion is released tomorrow. Who knows when we will come back? All attention is likely to focus on Moria for the next while. Our casual friendly kinship would find it hard to maintain a regular 24 man raid roster. Nevertheless I suspect that we will be back eventually to kill Thorog. After all, with three wipes last night, now its personal.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Iron Grip Warlord

Thanks to Melf_Himself for bringing my attention to Iron Grip Warlord an independent game from Isotyx. The first map can be donloaded and played for free including online play while the full game costs $24.95. Well worth the price in my opinion.

Iron Grip Warlord is a curious hybrid of rts, fps and tower defence game set in a steam punk universe. It has standard rts elemetnt of resource gathering (by killing stuff) and structure building, you also play in FPS mode yourself as one of the troops. The tower defence bit comes from the fact that you must defend your base against an endless succession of enemy troops and armour who thread their way through your city to annihilate your base. In practise it plays like Company of Heroes on acid and is a total blast as you run around building, repairing and shooting all the while trying to plug gaps in your defences.

Best thing of all is that it is designed for multiplayer co-op mode which is tremendous fun. I have only played disorganised "pick up games" where it is pretty much every man for himself but I imagine that the game would lend itself very well to organised team play.

In single player mode your team gets padded out with bots but they are pretty dumb leaving you to do everything yourself so it is much harder than multiplayer. Being a masochist I have spent several hours trying unsuccessfully to win a round on medium difficulty settting. I haven't got there yet but I am getting closer! My current strategy relies on careful placement of land mines and judicious use of the bazooka for killing enemy armour before it gets to the top of the hill.

Oh by the way it took me ages to figure out how to get extra ammo. If you are in the same dilemma then you need to build a support station. These are great as they replenish health and ammo. I reccommend making one in a safe spot first thing and running back regularly to restock.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Did Lotro Screw up in its Implementation of Titles?

Some time ago in a post about artificially creating value I discussed the way that Guild Wars dangles hard to get titles in front of players as carrots to keep them motivated while World of Warcraft dangles epic gear with uber stats. At the time I felt that titles and other vanity rewards were a better way to go because they don't create an unbridgeable gap between hard core and casual players.

Lotro has gone in for titles in a big way. Just look at an incomplete list of titles you can get within the game here. It seems that you cannot trip over the corpse of a dead wolf in Middle Earth without earning some new apellation. Some titles do indeed represent major achievements like defeating a raid boss but there are so many glorious sounding titles for minor achievements that all titles have become devalued. Many players don't even bother to display their titles and fewer still care what the various titles mean. Contrast this with Guild Wars where titles are harder to come by but are genuinely valued by players.

Its probably too late to change now but it seems a pity to me. In my opinion Lotro has missed a real oportunity to make titles a desirable goal. They have managed to devalue all titles by making too many of them and making most of them too easy to get.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Review an older game: Sacrifice from Shiny Entertainment

Zubon over at Kill Ten Rats has thrown out a challenge for bloggers to review an older game. I think it's a great initiative. I do have a problem though I am not very good at reviews. I am well able (and often willing) to give an opinion but there is a world of difference between a hastily scribbled opinion and a well thought out, systematic, structured review.

In the sister blog to mindbending puzzles I get around this difficulty through the use of "instant book reviews" which allow me to dress up my half though out opinions as a kind of quasi-review. Its a lazy cop out but it works so I am going to use the same formula here. Therefore I now present the mpb instant game review of Shiny's action rts: Sacrifice released way back in 2000.

Sacrifice from Shiny Entertainment. This 2000 masterpiece remains one of the most beautifully crafted PC games of all time. Everything from the storyline to the sublime array of creatures and spells just oozes creativity and artistry. The action/rts hybrid format is intimidating at first: you must learn to juggle your own spells while managing an army of creatures as well as keeping an eye on resources. Once you get over the steep learning curve though there is an awesomely beautiful game to be discovered. Even the single player campaign offers superb re playability as there are many paths through the game each supported by a dynamically evolving storyline. Now that the game has been re-released as one of Good Old Games launch titles you may even be able to find partners for a spot of multi-player.

Lest you assume my mini-review is the sentimental product of less than perfect recollection I will remind you that is only a month since I played through a full single player campaign. I can happily assert that the game stands up to modern scrutiny and remains a stunning achievement in gaming.

On a closing note I refer you to a heartfelt lament about Sacrifice's lack of commercial success written by Kieron Gillen of Rock Paper Shotgun fame. He concludes:

Sacrifice reminds me exactly how good, how imaginative, how brilliant it’s possible for a videogame to be and it’s clear that no-one’s going to spend serious money on making a game like it ever again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Predicting the Gastronomic Singularity

Proponents of the technological singularity hypothesis predict a near future event in which in which advances in artificial intelligence will fuel an unprecedented step change in technology which will utterly change mankind and our place in the universe. I am pleased to report the discovery of yet another near future singularity but this time one which will have an altogether more satisfying and wholesome outcome.

In a moment of ease I found my mind wandering back to memorable meals of my recollection. It soon became apparent that while I could recall quite a few memorable meals in recent times (staring with a particularly satisfying breakfast this morning) I could recall fewer and fewer memorable meals from times gone by. Spotting the similarity with the "time between paradigm shifting events" which underlines the technological singularity hypothesis I immediately decided to apply the same analysis to gastronomic events and I present here the fruit of my labours:

First a table of memorable meals:
Memorable Meals Time before Present (hours) Hours to next memorable meal
Breakfast this morning 2
Lunch yesterday 21 19
Sunday Dinner 45 24
Dinner Party Last Week 230 185
The last night of our Holidays 2880 2650
Christmas Last Year 7440 4560
My 40th Birrthday Party 35184 27744
Our Wedding 122640 87456
First Cake I remember 350400 227760

Next a plot of the time between memorable meals (click to make bigger):


I think you will accept that an obvious trend emerges here. The linear trend (on a logarithmic scale) is surely proof that the time between memorable meals is reducing. In so far as Good, Vinge, Kurzweil and others have interpreted the curve of paradigm shifts against time to point towards a forthcoming technological singularity I think we can only conclude that a gastronomic singularity is clearly on the cards here. A time of such rapid and unprecedented change (in my eating habits) that we cannot even begin to imagine what meals will be like after it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lotro: Book 12 revisited and some fowl play

Yesterday evening Throg joined a kinship group to help a colleague complete Book 12 of Volume 1. This was the last book I completed before taking a break from the game and I remember it being particularly challenging. Last nights run through was very smooth though a far cry from the multiple wipes I remember from the first time around.

It was so much easier in fact that I have been trying to figure out what made such a big difference. I reckon several factors came together: We are all a bit more experienced with a number of players who have already completed the book, our gear is bit better all round (lotro is not particularly gear intensive but every little helps) and we were all using Ventrilo voice chat.


The group consisted of a minstrel, two captains, two champions and a lore master. There was no guardian to steal aggro from so the two champions went to town with all out area of effect damage and cut through hordes of mobs in rapid time. Normally this would be a suicidal strategy but with heavy buffing from two captains and healing from a well geared minstrel it worked a charm.

The final instance ("Weapons of the Enemy") deserves particular mention. You face a lone boss in a courtyard surrounded by a pillared walkway. The floor of the courtyard causes moderate fire damage over time. The boss nukes anyone he can see with area of effect fire balls. You can hide behind a pillar to dodge fireballs but that area is patrolled by ghosts who silence any casters (ie your healer) who try to shelter there. On top of all this the boss has some kind of invulnerability buff which he puts up, I think, if he is not engaged in melee. On my first go at the book we wiped and wiped on this mission. With our minstrel almost permanently silenced we ended up suicide tanking the boss in relays (it was a relatively quick run back from the resurrection spot). This time round we got it first time with no hassle. It went so quickly that I amn't entirely sure what went right but I think it was a combination of our minstrel standing inside the courtyard away from the silencing ghosts and one of the champions permanently clobbering the boss to prevent him using any nasty abilities. The rest of us just piled on the damage and the boss went down quickly. Book 12 completed in record time.

Earlier in the day Throg joined a fun kinship event. An officer ran around in chicken mode trying to achieve a sequence of ever more preposterous objectives while a raid group of 20 or so kinnies were tasked with protecting him. Whenever the chicken died everyone had to make their way back to the Kinhouse for a swig from the festival keg. In addition to woozy drunkenness this also transports the imbiber to a random region of middle earth from whence they must make their way back to the chicken run. We had much confusion (headless chickens?) and several feathery deaths but in the end the chicken managed to make a complete circuit of the dangerous Misty Mountains. In fact it was easier to keep the chicken alive in those dangerous parts than in the starter region of the shire because high level players do not automatically aggro mobs in the shire making it harder to distract their attention from the quick footed chicken. A fun time was had by all and a number of old friends returned to Lotro for the event, a hopeful sign of things to come with the upcoming expansion imminent.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Lotro: Book 14 Complete

Throg managed to complete book 14 last night with the help of some generous kin fellows which sets him up nicely for the release of MoM and book 15.

Chapter 12 (The skin of Bregmor) still proved somewhat trouble-some and we wiped once to the rapidly re-spawning adds of the Nemesis level end boss. The second time around our dps heavy group (Guardian, 2 Champions, Hunter, Captain and Minstrel) managed to fight our way through but it was skin of teeth stuff. There were several deaths including the main tank and Throg ended up tanking the boss. I suspect the only reason we survived is that one of my colleagues realised that not all the adds respawn. Killling the non respawning mobs reduced the damage to manageable proportions and allowed us to overcome the encounter.

I think I am learning to play my champion well enough but I still lack the ability to read a fight like this in order to plan a good strategy. This is probably due to lack of experience but I will salvage some pride by pointing out that playing a melee character doesn't help. In a big fight Throg is usually stuck up the mobs rear-end with a very restricted view of the overall position.

Book 14 ends with another big instance, this time in the new zone of Mirobel. On paper this looks harder than chapter 12 with lots of tough mobs including healers and some with nasty stun abilities but we actually had an easier time of it. We cleared our way in carefully to avoid any disastrously big pulls. There was a potentially difficult fight with a sorceress who forms a healing blood pact with her two adds but Throg got the job of pulling the adds out of range (to the doorway) while the rest of the group killed her. Thanks go to Lotro Wiki for the strategy suggestion.

Throg got a nice set of shoulders for completing book 14: Hadoranc. Compare those with Gloom bane shoulders from the Rift and you will see that they are almost as good apart from the set bonus. The set bonus for the raid set is very nice of course but I like the way you can still get very decent gear just by doing book quests.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Lotro:Torhammas

Throg is not a dwarf to turn down the prospect of a good fight so when a fellow adventurer asked for help in overcoming the wayward mammoth Torhammas our champion friend was quick to volunteer. The four strong fellowship consisted of a guardian, a hunter a second champion and Throg himself. Despite the lack of healing this DPS heavy group made short work of the Mammoth. The Guardian grabbed the beasts attention and held it while Throg laid into it from behind. The other Champion and Hunter quickly despatched the mob of Gauradan's who tried to come to the creature's aid. Fair dues to the doughty guardian who not alone endured the full fury of mammoth's tusks and bone crushing feet but also managed to hold the mobs attention while his three heavy hitting companions unleashed their full fury. Throg did catch the monsters eye at the very end of the fight but that was probably for the best, the brave guardian's armour being somewhat dented by that point. After the battle dice were cast to divide up the spoils and Throg won a tuft of the beasts fur that a tailor might use to make a pretty cloak. Throg is no tailor though so he was happy enough to pass the furry morsel on to one of his more nimble fingered colleagues. (Cloak Picture borrowed from this thread)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Bamboozling Cash Machines

Cash machines (ATMs) in this country love €50 notes (€50 is about $64 or £40 at current exchange rates). Requests for hundred's of euros are usually dispensed in wads of €50's and though most machines also dispense €20's stocks of this lower denomination run out quickly giving rise to a "please select a multiple of €50" message.

I guess that keeping the bulk of cash in one large denomination simplifes operational logistics but it does not mesh well with my personal spending habits. I tend to use a credit or debit card for most purchases over €20. When I spend actually currency it tends to be of the loose change variety: €1 for a newspaper, €2 for a cup of coffee and so on. I can assure your from personal experience that it is a rare vendor who has the professionalism to keep up their customer friendly smile when proffered a €50 note for a €1 purchase.

The foregoing has led to my becoming an accomplished practitioner of the ATM Bamboozlement game. The aim of the game is as follows:

To Bamboozle an ATM into giving you low denomination notes while still making a total withdrawal which is as close as possible to the amount you require.

A secondary rule is that the total amount must be withdrawn in one transaction. This rule is justified by the need to minimise ATM transaction charges but it is also a vital element in maintaining the challenge of the game.

It all boils down to the amount you choose to withdraw. Clearly a request for €100 or €200 will result in your wallet being filled with hard to spend €50 notes. On the other hand a request for €60 is a good play while €80 is an even better one. Both of these requests are likely to be met with a wad of €20's but also leave the tantalising possibility of getting a €10 note from one of the rare ATMs that still stocks this denomination.

Be careful, ATMs do not always play fair. Yesterday I tried to withdraw €110, thinking this to be a master play. The machine refused to comply responding instead with a request for an amount "that can be dispensed in €10, €20 and €50 notes only". There are many ways to dispense €110 using those denominations and in any case I am sure the reference to €10 notes is bogus as I have never seen this particular machine dispense anything smaller than a twenty. Clearly this message was an attempt to dis-orient me and put me off my game.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Lotro: Book 14 Highs and Lows

Low: Chapter 1 Being sent all around Eriador on errand missions.

High: Chapter 1 Ending with a challenging but do-able instance.

Low: Chapter 2 - That @£$$%% Elf Laerdan. After all I have done for him!

High: Chapter 3 - Hmm... Laedan's diary, lets have a peek.

High: Chapter 4 - While reading Laerdan's journal I imagine yourself to be an Angmarim soldier guarding the tower that Throg and his companions assaulted way back in Chapter 12. Yes its a trivial quest but the concept is way cool.

Low: Sadly the instance ends just before the "good guys" arrive. I was looking forward to seeing Throg bursting through the doors to attack me.

High: Chapter 6 - Another scene from the journal this time I imagine I am the Elf Laerdan fighting hordes of enemies in order to save my daughter. Laerdan is tough but he is totally outnumbered. This must be one of the toughest solo quests in the game. I took me three goes to complete but I really enjoyed it. (Spoiler - if you are struggling with the last bit make sure you keep an eye on the quest tracker)

Low: Chapter 7: This quest is blocked until a server wide effort manages to collect 70,000 pieces of ring lore.

High: My server has already collected the ring lore. I can go straight into the quest!

Low: Chapter 8: More pointless travelling

High: Chapter 9: An instance in the Barrow Downs, an area Throg spent a lot of time in back in his teens and early twenties. Did the instance in a pick up group without too many problems.

Low: Chapter 10: Another pointless trip to Celondim

High: Chapter 11: Off to Forochel, I really like this area.

High: Chapter 12: A tough instance, prepare to be challenged.

Low: My pickup group with minstrel, loremaster, hunter, 2 Captains and 1 Champion (Throg) has no guardian to tank.

High: I'm the tank. My first ever proper tanking job with Throg. Time to equip a shield and finally discover what all those little used Champion tanking skills actually do.

High: I don't actually suck as a tank even against a tough Nemesis mob.

Low: We wipe three times before giving up. I don't think Throg made a bad tank but in hindsight we probably gave up too much DPS by putting our only Champion into low damage tanking mode. It might have been better to let one of the Captains Tank and have Throg revert to his more ususal DPS role.