Friday, January 30, 2009

TF2 Balloon Race

In need of a bit mindless shooting fix I got in a few rounds of the Team Fortress 2 custom map "Balloon Race" last night. Its a very fun map with a little bit of strategy to it. The aim of the game is to capture a set of control points which you can only get to by flying there in an airship. In order to make the airship fly one or more players must stand at the wheel in front of the ship. If you die you instantly re-spawn back at base but you can jump down a hole and immediately get tele-ported to the ship. Its alot of fun combining the race betwen points with all out firefights at the control points.

I think it is a lot of fun but I have seen the map criticised as imbalanced because if one ship gets a bit of a lead it can be very hard to catch up. This mainly happens becuase a lot of players have no clue how to play and dont bother standing at the wheel to get their boat moving. THere are actually pplenty of starategies you can try. You can try to snipe the helmsman (which is harder than it should be from behind admittedly) or if you know you are going to lose a point you can make sure your ship has a bit of momentum so you get a head start to the next one.

The map does favour some classes more than others. Engineers and Spies have limited use although there are a few places on the map where a well placed sentry gun could wreak havoc. Heavies and soldiers are probably the best classes for manning the wheel. Scouts should be useful for quick captures but are not very popular on the server I play. Pyros and demo-men come into their own in the frantic fights at control points while snipers are invaluable for taking out the oppositions helmsman. My favourite character is a soldier because they are tough enough to man the wheel or capture a control point while their rocket launcher has the range and power to successfully kill the enemy helmsman. The game doesn't implement relative velocity properly though so you need to forget the laws of physics in order to hit your target from a moving boat.

The high score table is pretty pointless though rewarding kills and captures only. Just killing enemies cnan do more harm than good because they respawn instantly with full health and ammo and can zap straight back to the boat. A smart player will focus on keeping the boat moving and only worry about killing the enemy helmsman or an enemy trying to capture a point.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

In Middle Earth No-one can hear you scream

Look who Throg bumped into in the depth of the foundations of stone:

Certainly reminds me of this bloke: Alien

Not sure what chapter of Tolkien those guys come out of but Lore buffs need not be too disappointed. Right in the middle of the lake in the Foundations you come across a shard of a bridge.

This is none other than the remains of the bridge of Khazad Dhum that collapsed when Gandalf fought the Balrog. These then must be the very depths where that epic battle was fought. I haven't come across any other signs of the conflict yet but who knows?

There is a nest of those alien creatures on the eastern side of the lake in the Foundations of stone. Throg needs to get in there to complete two quests: Warding Runes and An Unacceptable Diet. While he can handle one or two of them with relative ease three or more is a challenge they all have special abilities (like spawing nasty darklings). Three times Throg has been overcome while trying to work his way in. I try to pull carefully but wandering patrols usually blunder by and jump me while I am in the middle of a fight. To make matter worse I sudpect I amn't even in the right spot. I get to a corner and my radar tells me the rune rock I need is above my head but I see no way of getting up.

Long irregular working hours have meant that my Lotro playing has been all solo this week. I can't commit to pre-arranged groups and I am usually too tired to inflict on groups anyway. Unfortunately this soloing is getting pretty tedious. If I want to keep interested in the game I am going to have to get back into group play and that means signing on for pre-arranged instance runs. I just need to get my self a bit more organised.

Test Your Gamer Ethics

A couple of recent experiences have got me thinking about cheating in games. Is cheating in games even immoral, it is after all only a game? Can developers turn normal behaviour into cheating just by labelling it an exploit? What if cheating doesn't impact on other players in a negative way - is it still wrong. What about the old adage : "It's only cheating if you get caught"? What if everybody is doing it? Is it even possible to meaningfully cheat in a single player game?

I am no moral philosopher but I guess that every one has to form their own answer to questions like these. I did try to put together some sample scenarios though to get me (and you) thinking about the "ethics" of gaming. Feel free to suggest other morally ambiguous scenarios please.

1. You have got to the last level of a single player shooter but you can't overcome the end boss. You find a God-Mode cheat on Google that allows you to kill the boss and see the end of the game. Do you feel it is wrong? Would you Do it?

2. The same game as above, the same boss and the same cheat. The difference this time is that the game also has a multi player component and finishing the single player campaign unlocks special abilities in the multi player game. Do you feel it is wrong? Would you Do it?

3. Another multiplayer shooter but this time the special abilities are unlocked by completing achievements in game. For example getting 100 headshots unlocks a special sniper rifle. You haven't time to play the game a lot but you would sure love to try out that fancy sniper rifle. A friend directs you to a progresion server where you can ulock every achievement in the game by typing in a special code. Do you feel it is wrong? Would you Do it?

4. A player versus environment mmmo game with a low level cap (like Guild Wars). You are invited to play with a friend who is already at the level cap but it will take you about a month to catch up with them. You friend offers to power level you in a day or two by grouping with you and hiding you in a corner while he kills mobs that are much higher in level than you are. Would you do it? Do you feel it is wrong? Would you Do it?

5. Another PVE MMO this time you are levelling up an alt. THere are a number of tough low level instances you need to complete in order to get all your characters skills. A high level guild mate offers to boost you through those instances.Do you feel it is wrong? Would you Do it?

6. You are in a raiding focussed end game guild and here is a gateway instance that must be run about 40 times in order to for every member to get access to raiding proper. The instance is long and boring but you can cut the time in half by jumping off a stairway near the beginning and bypassing a lot of trash mobs. Do you feel it is wrong? Would you Do it?

7. Same game same scenario as above expcet that a post from the game developers says that they think that jumping off the stairs is an exploit. Do you feel it is wrong? Would you Do it?

8. Another PVE MMO another end game raiding guild. A patch has the unwanted side effect of disablling the raid lockout timer allowing instances to be raided again and again in quick succession. The Devs have announced that this is a bug but that it will take at least 2 weeks to get a new patch ready. Other's in your guild have proposed that you run raids repeatedly over the intervening period in order to get every one geared up in record time. Do you feel it is wrong? Would you Do it?

My own answers on a scale of Yes (Y), No(N), Maybe(M)
1. N,Y
2. M,Y
3. M, Y
4. N,N
5. N, Y
6. N, Y
7. M, M
8. M, M

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lotro Europe Welcome Back Week

Just in case you haven't heard Code-masters (the European distributors of Lotro) are having a free Welcome Back week from 2nd to 9th of February. More details here

Lotro: Getting to Grips with End Game

Throg's first weekend as a level 60 allowed saw him make some forays into MoM's end game. For most of his kinship end-game at present means running a selection of 6 man instances in "hard mode" in order to collect radiant armour pieces. Throg was lucky enough to get a place on one such run into the "16th Hall instance".

I am told the 16th Hall is one of the longest of the Hard Mode runs. It took us around three hours to do two runs but we were only five for the first run (including a noob Champ - me) which slowed us down a bit. Nothing particularly challenging: Lots of rooms, lots of multiple orc pulls and three bosses spaced through the encounter.

Aside: On the very first pull I managed to embarrass myself self by grabbing too much aggro and getting killed! I have no excuse other than it has been a while since I played in a fellowship and I was rusty. It was a rude awakening to the realities of aggro management and was probably a necessary lesson. After that I was more careful to make sure the mobs I was hitting were properly tanked. I still pulled aggro at times but by paying attention I found I could usually walk the mob back over to the tank and let him take it back using "ebbing ire" when necessary to hand over unwanted attention.

The lore behind the 16th hall is fairly interesting. Throughout Moria you come across groups of horribly mutated orcs who seem to be infected with some kind of fungus. Following the various overlapping trails you trace the source to the last boss of the 16th Hall known only as the Lost One.

[Spoiler] The extra "hard mode" challenge comes from a quest given by Sigurd in the 21st hall to kill the Lost One without harming any of his ridiculously weak adds. The generally accepted strategy seems to be using a healer to kite the adds using healing aggro while everyone else whomps on the boss. AOE skills are completely banned of course. It is possible to make the fight easier by "clever use of the terrain" ( or ....cough.... so I have heard). [End Spoiler]

Thankfully my experienced colleagues knew the strategies for each boss and we got the hard mode reward on both occasions: a coin that could be exchanged for radiant armour shoulders. Several of the party already had shoulders and they were generous enough to let Throg have a coin. These shoulders (Dagoranc) have lower stats than the axe-handler shoulders I am currently wearing but they do have the all important +10 radiance I will need for raiding the Watcher.

Visiting the 16th Hall also gave me an opportunity to visit Moria's lowest level The Foundations of Stone and to do some questing there. This is a tortuous maze of tunnels populated by dangerous mobs including many elites trolls. I am reminded of Nan Gurth in East Angmar which was a similarly difficult zone at level 50. A visit to the only settlement in the region (The Shadowed Refuge) confirmed that this was indeed a hub for MoM's end game. In contrast to the solo questing available elsewhere in Moria many of the quests from the Refuge can only be undertaken by high level fellowships. I managed to complete a few while doing the 16th hall run and had a go at the few solo quests available. My biggest hurdle in Foundations of Stone at present is navigation - it is very easy to get lost in the maze of passages and the normally excellent dynamic map is no help at all.

Before going in to the 16th hall I juggled traits to equip "Improved Rend". Rend is useful aoe skill that does a decent amount of damage over time but the improved version puts a long lasting armour debuff on all the mobs around you. Apparently this reduction of 1242 armour points can increase the damage a mob takes from everyone in the fellowship by as much as 10%. With its area of effect and 1 minute duration it is really easy to keep it on all the mobs around you. In order to fit this in I had to lose the fervour boost you get from having four traits in the Berserker line. Generating 1 point of fervour every four seconds instead of the normal five was a nice perk but not essential. I have started using the three point Brutal Strikes instead of the 4 point Relentless strikes and that has more than made up the difference. In any case the following useful analysis suggests that Brutal actually does more damage than Relentless.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lotro: A Champion with a Shield

A Champions primary role is all out melee damage but in Glory stance a Champion swaps dps for survivability and threat generation which allows them to do a pretty good job of tanking. Its not quite as simple as grabbing a shield and popping glory however. Glory mode has drastically reduced power and fervour generation which forces the Champion to rethink their whole skill set.

A recent moment of panic when Throg was almost made main tank for an instance run made me realise that I have never practised with a shield didn't really know how to use one. Rather than practise in a group putting others at risk I decided to do some solo work with a shield first just to figure out what skills did and didn't work. I equipped a nice heavy shield that I got from Lothlorien quests and set off to the nearest orc camp to learn the ropes.

Observations from using a shield in Glory mode:

1. DPS is unsurprisingly way down. Instead of fervour's damage bonus you get glory's damage penalty and you lose the extra damage from the off hand weapon and you have far less power and fervour so you can't use the most devastating skills. All in all I reckon damage is probably half of what you can put out in fervour mode.

2. Survivability is way up. I found I could handle groups of 3, 4 and even 5 orcs and survive situations that would have been suicide in fervour mode. Initially this surprised me a lot. Taking into account the extra armour and the benefits of blocking, evading and parrying I was still taking damage at 2/3 of the rate of fervour mode. At first glance this does not sound like enough to compensate for the massive reduction in dps output.

The key thing I had overlooked was the impact of time. Compared to fervour mode fighting in glory mode feels like combat in slow motion. The extra damage mitigation means you last for longer which gives time for your in combat morale regeneration to make an impact and gives time for your self heal (bracing attack) to cool down and be used again. It even gives time time to drink a morale pot or two during a fight. The slower pace of the fight also makes it easier to pick and choose the right skills. To be honest I felt more in control than in a typical fervour stance fight against multiple mobs where it is a madcap race to kill them before they kill you.

3. You have to use low power low fervour skills. Happily MoM introduced some great new low fervour skills which make this far less painful than it used to be. I found that I could run a continuous cycle of Blade wall (traited to build fervour), Wild Attack and then either Feral strikes for a single target or Rend for multiple targets. Power does drain slowly but I had more than enough to last through 5 mob fights. For longer battles you could use power pots or the "on defeat" skill Second Wind to top up power. This rotation is self sufficient in fervour so Glory is building up one additional pip every 12 seconds in the background leaving you enough fervour for a heal with bracing attack every 30s or so. Note that most of rend's damage comes from a bleed over time so don't spam it while the bleed is still active.

4. On Defeat skills are very useful. These skills that can only be used after an opponent has been defeated are always nice but even more so when you are a bit short on power and fervour due to being in glory mode. Red Haze (extra fervour for the rest of the fight), Second Wind (a quick injection of power) and Blocking Blades (increased parry chance for the rest of the fight). The only question is what order to use them in. I tend to go for blocking blades followed by red haze followed by second wind because I don't really run out of power or fervour.

5. What about legendary Weapons? As this is just a test I used my standard third age axe that has +4% fervour damage and little else (it does have a small + parry I think). Obviously it would be better to use weapons and rune designed for glory mode - with increased glory damage, increased glory power and increased parry legacies.

6. So what about tanking then? Well this was all solo stuff just learning to use the shield so I can't claim to have learned a lot about real tanking. I know some of the the basics - grab and hold on to mob aggro, turn the mob away from the rest of the group, keep your back to a wall if necessary :), rotate between targets if necessary to keep aggro on multiple mobs. Most of a Champions threat comes from damage so I imagine the same skills would be useful. You don't have enough fervour to do lots of aoe though so holding multiple mobs must be quite hard. Perhaps battle frenzy could be used to fire off an attention grabbing raging blade and of course glorious exchange will help once you can use it. I imagine that using rising ire every so often to pull aggro from your healer would be a good idea (maybe use this instead of bracing attack).

7. Is a Champ with a shield and glory stance viable for solo play? It is viable in that you can kill just about anything that a fervour champ can but it takes a lot longer. I don't think its is worth it unless you are in a particularly dangerous spot, for example a goblin camp with lots of patrols and fast respawns. In fervour you might be able to aoe them down three at a time but let another ranged mob wander by to shoot at you from outside your aoe range and you will die quickly. Glory + shield will save the day in that situation. The extra trait slot at level 60 means you can have heavy shields traited without sacrificing too much so I will definitely be carrying one around from now on. One thing to watch for is mobs with self heal or lots of mitigation (some bosses). The low damage output from glory mode might not be enough to overcome their self heal.

8 What about (Ardour stance)? I am almost afraid to mention ardour stance because it is almost universally reviled among Champions and mentioning it on forums is a quick way to get called a nub but I actually think using ardour with a shield could work for soloing. Ardour stance gives you increased power, fervour and damage compared to glory but reduces your parry and evade percentages by quite a bit. It doesn't affect block however. I played with it for a while and I found that it was a useful alternative for handling large groups. It doesn't feel quite as safe as glory mode but you can kill things a lot more quickly. I am currently trying to level up an axe with ardour buffs to see how far I can push this.

EVE: Skill trainng queue revisited

I while back I wrote a blog post requesting an EVE skill training queue that was picked up by Massively and a few other sites. It generated quite a bit of comment on both sides of the argument. Newer players were generally in favour of a skill queue while more experienced players seemed to prefer the status quo. Perhaps this is another case of old timers who have learned to live with the current system not understanding why newbies should get an easier deal than they did back in the old days.

Although I am not playing EVE at the moment that post still generates the occasional comment. This morning an anonymous commenter posted a detailed proposal for a scheme in which you pay a fee to put skills in the queue, the fee being dependent on the both the length of the queue and the value of the skill being queued. I think that is a brilliant idea. Such a fee should help to dissuade afk character farming by making it unprofitable.

The suggestion was posted anonymously so I cannot give proper credit but I am reposting the comment below because I think it deserves a spell on the front page.
Anonymous (now known to be Solbright) said...

== Proposed formula for the upcoming skill training queue ==

Refined a little ... Adding a skill queue to Eve's skill training system introduces one problem for CCP - Pilot farming becomes a lot easier to automate. The result will be more people will engaged in the practise, with the accompaning drop in money value of EBay'd pilots. I suspect this will be deemed unacceptable. There is a simple solution that can counteract this likely problem and at the same time make the use of a skill queue a service that still needs to be worked for.

Charge an ISK fee for each skill that is queued in it (Here's a possible starting rate):

ISK_fee = skill_size * 10 + queued * 1000000

* "ISK_fee" is, obviously, the amount subtracted from the pilot's wallet for having a specific level of a skill appended to the skill training queue.

* "skill_size" is the skill points of the level to be trained.

* "queued" is the number of queued skills to be trained when you add the new one.

=== An example ===

Say we have an existing skill, Minmatar Battleship level 3, in training. The skill training queue is empty, then add the following to the queue for later training:

* Trade is a rank 1 skill. Level 1 is 250 skill points (SP), requires this skill to have been previously started training.
** As first skill in the queue: 1,002,500.00 ISK = 250 * 10 + 1 * 1000000

* Mining is a rank 1 skill. Currently at level 2, level 3 is 8000 SP.
** As second skill in the queue: 2,080,000.00 ISK = 8000 * 10 + 2 * 1000000

* Anchoring is a rank 3 skill. Currently at level 2, level 3 is 24000 SP.
** As third skill in the queue: 3,240,000.00 ISK = 24000 * 10 + 3 * 1000000

* Anchoring will be at level 3, level 4 is 135765 SP.
** As forth skill in the queue: 5,357,650.00 ISK = 135765 * 10 + 4 * 1000000

* Minmatar Battleship is a rank 8 skill. Will be at level 3, level 4 is about 362040 SP.
** As fifth skill in the queue: 8,620,400.00 ISK = 362040 * 10 + 5 * 1000000

* Minmatar Battleship will be at level 4, level 5 is 2048000 SP.
** As sixth skill in the queue: 26,480,000.00 ISK = 2048000 * 10 + 6 * 1000000

There is a complexity in providing the correct skill level to be inserted in the queue depending on what levels are already queued or in training.

Another complexity I perceive here is what happens to the original ISK_fee if a queued skill is then removed from the skill training queue before training of it was started. The seemingly most obvious solution is to have a memory of each item's ISK_fee, and refunding it if the skill is removed before training is started.

Actually, the only sensible option here is to clear the whole queue - refunding all the ISK_fee's contained in the queue. Otherwise you end up paying for deeper queue positions than needed.

Edit: The anonymous commenter has revealed him/herself as Solbright.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lotro: Throg hits 60

Throg actually hit 60 a few days back but life has conspired to keep me away from the blog. I brought him to the edge of Lothlorien for the last half level which was a good choice. Nice to be out in the sunshine again and there are good quest rewards to be got from killng orcs there. Some of the quests are marked as small fellow but don't let that put you off - they are soloable with careful pulling. Minor gripe: a few players were farming the orcs for drops making it harder than it should have been to complete the quests. My requests to fellow up were rudely turned down.

Aside: It seems that the orc camps in Lothlorien are one of the few fast respawning level 60+ spots in Lotro at the moment and are therefore favourite spots for farming. However there is a better choice: The library of steel single player instance can can be farmed repeatedly for the cost of 1 adamant crystal (exit or fail the instance to reset it). It also has level 60+ mobs and being a single player instance does not interfere with other players

Aside to the aside: The main driver to farming in Lotro at the moment seems to be the legendary weapon system. The randomness of the system means that you need to farm an insane amount of mobs to get a good 2nd age weapon and an even more insane amount of mobs to get all the relics needed to max it out. Perhaps a future update will make second age weapons more readily available through the crafting system.

Aside to the aside to the aside: I am not a crafter but from what I have seen MoM seems to have borked high level crafting. Weaponsmiths are screwed because there are easier and better ways to get legendary weapons than through crafting. Armoursmiths and Tailors are screwed because quest rewards and drops are better than crafted gear and because everybody is running hard mode instances for their radiance armour sets. Scholars are screwed because morale and power pots now drop like rain water and radiance gear seems to be replacing the need for hope pots. The only professions which seem to be holding their own are jewellers and cooks.

End of nested asides.

Anyway Level 60 allows Throg to don his level 60 axe-master armour set. It has given him a good boost in armour class a good boost in might and a fwe useful set bonuses but his total morale actually dropped by about 60 points compared to the randon collection of stuff he was previously wearing. I reckon its still worth it plus its looks like a serious set of armour which is nice.

Time to start joining my fellow guild mates who are doing daily hard mode runs for their radiance armous sets. I am not sure I have the patience to grind out a fulll radiance set for my self but I'd like to go along for a few runs and to help others out perhaps.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lotro: Gearing up for end game

Throg has crept up to level 59 and with the XP bar to 60 filling up fast I thought it was time to take stock of his current gear and stats to make sure he doesn't disgrace himself in the end game dungeons. Most of the stuff he is wearing comes from mid 50's level quest rewards and is a bit below par for end game.

For starters there was his legendary axe. I had been lucky enough to get a near perfect level 55 Third age axe with golden fervour bonus, golden aoe damage bonus, golden rend pulses, silver extend on defeat conditions plus a few other nice things. I cannot imagine a better set of legacies so I held on to the axe for a long time. Unfortunately it is impossible to squeeze more than 38DPS out of a level 55 axe so with a tear in my eye it had to go. I replaced it with a so so level 59 axe that has a golden fervour bonus and not much else. I used my accumulated store of weapon XP relics to quickly boost it up to 44dps, quite an upgrade from the level 55.

From what I can see decent level 60 Champions seem to have morale over 5000 with Might and Vitality both around 450. At level 59 Throg has just over 4,600 morale, might around 420 and vitality around 410. Not brilliant but a reasonable platform I think on which to start building.

Throg's armour mitigation against common damage is only 32% and I remember being over 40% at level 60 which suggests he needs to upgrade his armour level quite a bit. Happily I already have 5 out of six pieces of a level 60 armour set (the Axe-Master set). A friendly kin mate gave him boots and gloves while he managed to pick up the helmet, shoulders and trousers cheaply on the auction house. Helmet and boots are equipable already but he will need to hit 60 to wear the rest. The set bonuses aren't terrific (+will on a Champion set?) but they will give a good upgrade over he random collection of parts he is currently wearing.

Jewellery and pocket items are ususally harder to acquire. Throg currently has a "survivalist set" of ear ring, bracelet and ring which give nice resist bonuses and an ear ring he got as a rep reward from the miners. He is still useing the phial of swirling waters pocket item though, a level 60 teal item - surely that can be replaced soon.

After that I guess there are traits to consider. I haven't worked on any virtues since the new expansion came out. Moria didn't raise the level cap on virtues above the old limit of 10 so the ones I previously raised to 8 or 9 are still OKish but could be upgraded. I may even need to swap out some altogether because I loaded up on shadow protection for Angmar but shadow resist is not much used in Moria.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lotro: Unrequited Dwarf Lust

Ever since finding a distinctly feminine axe in the remains of Balin's Camp Throg has been asking every adventurer he meets if they know of the whereabouts of the dwarven womenfolk. His search took him to the 21st hall and on to Orc Watch in the Redhorne lodes. From there a lead sent him deep into the lodes where he finally stumbled upon a tunnel infested with crawling insects. Hidden at the end of that tunnel Throg came across the door to a chamber that could only be the fabled hideout of dwarven femininty.

Imagine first the excitement mingled with trepidation of our randy hero as he turned the delicately gilded handle and pushed open the door to that chamber.

Imagine then his utter dissapointment on discovering that the womenfolk had fled and that the chamber itself was now infested with crawlers.

In a fit of frustrated rage he slaughtered every bug and sliced open the maggots cradled in what had once been dwarven creches.

Throg says he has gotten over it. After all a sharp axe is a more useful companion in a brawl than any woman he says. I am not so sure he is as over it as he says. There is a certain sword with a delicately feminine curve that he took from the chamber. I have seen him take it out from time to time to gaze at it with a far away look in his eye.

Welcome back to Lotro

Despite the almost invisible launch of MoM it seems that a bit of a "return to Lotro" trend has started. Quite a few of my fellow bloggers (including Tipa, Wilhelm2451, Melmoth, Thalian, Khan, Scott, Sente and Van Hemlock)are playing and blogging about the game again. I expect that this surge of enthusiasm will pass as such things ususally do. Some of those who got bored before will get bored again and leave but some will hopefully stay to savour all the new content that Turbine has added since launch time.

I don't want to say too much about this. These are all articulate folks and are well able to write for themselve. What I will say is: Welcome back.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Subscribing to blog comments + a request for help

Thank you DM Osbon for bringing my attention to the "notify me of comments via email" feature of Wordpress. If like me you sometimes lose track of the comments you leave on other folks blogs then this feature is a godsend. I checked the blogs on my daily reading list and most don't seem to have this feature. Perhaps it needs to be enabled, if so then please do it for your own blog.

I use blogger and it seems that blogger also has a "subscribe to comments" function but I can't find how to enable it. I notice that Tobold's blog has a "suscribe via email" button on the comments page and I know he uses blogger but I cannot find a way to enable the same button for my blog. Perhaps it is there but I can't see it because the blog is my own ans I am automatically subscribed anyway? If this is the case then please let me know. If not but if you know how to enable it then please let me know how to do it.

Edit: I have just spotted the "Subscribe to comments (atom)" button on my blog but I don't think this is what I want. This seems to subscribe to all comments on the blog, not just the comments on one post.

Edit #2: Duh ... perhaps the subscribe to comments (atom) button does subscribe to just one post only but it doesn't seem to do it via email. I just got confused. Help please.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Lotro: The Watcher 1 Throg 0

After a week's holiday from mmorpgs thanks to Far Cry 2 (not great) and Dead Space (great) I logged back into Lotro last night. It was a fairly productive session. I managed to complete all my quests in the Waterworks of Moria getting about half way to level 59 in the process (or rather getting to level 58.5).

The Waterworks is an interesting region at the very bottom of Moria (bottom = South in Moria's curiously non Euclidean world geometry). This is where the dwarven residents of Khazad Doom used to pump their water from and as you might expect the place is full of engineering works and great water wheels. Nothing works properly any more and the expeditionary engineers are struggling to get the stuff back online. Before they can do that they need your help to deal with the not too friendly wildlife who have moved in including giant spiders, salamanders and toads with a few fungus infected Goblins thrown in for good measure. There is a whole bunch of quests in the region and I got about a level and a half out of them. They are mostly of the kill ten toads variety. I didn't mind too much as all the mobs were easy to find with no rare spawns but as Ravious over at Kill Ten Rats points out there is a fair amount of pointless travelling involved too.

Turbine I love your game but when are you going to finally realise that travelling is not content?

Did I say I completed every quest in the Waterworks? Sorry that was a bit of a fib. There is one little quest I haven't done yet. After clearing the various infestations and collecting all the parts needed to repair the great wheel I was sent off to talk to the a dwarf Kaldi who was checking out a spot called the Vile Maw. Kaldi is pretty sure that the creature I frightened away from the gates of Moria has taken refuge in this watery hole. He would like me to go in and finish the tentacled creature off all for the modest reward of 56 silver (A final foray).

Given that the Watcher in the Water is currently the hardest raid boss in the game I think I'll wait a while before trying to kill him :D. In fact the overwhelming 15 dread in the Vile Maw pretty much ensures that anyone without a full set of radiance armour hasn't a chance and that means months of grinding progression dungeons in hard mode to get the set pieces.

Pretty standard mmo end game stuff you might think but there is a difference. End game bosses are usually locked behind attunement quests and gear checks so that casual "Tourists" never even get to see the hardest parts of the game. In Moria however any player can just walk into the Vile Maw and gaze at the watchers watery home. You can even wade out into the pool and spawn the beast. Without a properly equipped raid group you have no chance of killing the monster but you can still go in for a look. Thanks again to Ravious for pointing out that there is a deed you can get in there by finding several corpses. Throg's attempt ended in failure when the Watcher spawned and one shotted him but Ravious has done it solo.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Dead Space - Creepy Spaceships.

Now this is more like it ... Dead Space: A creepy spaceship populated by nameless monstrosities who have infested the crew and converted them into shambling horrors. This game reminds me of Doom, Unreal System Shock 2 ane even Half Life. These were the titles I cut my gaming teeth on and in some ways playing Dead Space feels like coming home for me.

Neither the concept nor the plot are very original but I feel at home in this space horror setting and I am really enjoying it so far. I have seen criticism of the mouse control scheme for the PC version but I have gotten used to it. In a third person game aiming and shooting will never feel as intuitive and smooth as a first person shooter but it hasn't hampered my enjoyment so far.

The game even has a limited upgrade system, not as sophisticated as that in the System Shock games but enough to add a bit of choice as to how you play the game. Ammo and health packs are fairly limited even on "normal" difficulty setting so you do need to think about your tactics and where best to spend your upgrades.

The graphics and sound are great (hurray the game even has surround sound support) and the creepy ambiance is very well done. I am only three chapters in so far but if it keeps up like this I will be well pleased.