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Showing posts from May, 2007

Ctrl Alt Del

One of the nice things about being a behind the curve is that every so often you discover something every one else has known about for ages and probably got tired of but is new for you. So it was that I discovered Ctrl-Alt-Del yesterday and spent a very enjoyable couple of hours browsing through the archives of Tim Buckley's terrific web comic about a group of 20 something gamers and their not entirely successful dealings with reality. The characters are crazy and likeable and very true to a gamers spirit. Perhaps the most famous episode (and the only one I remember seeing before) is where total gaming addict Ethan proposes to his girlfriend with the aid of a local gaming arcade . Reading through the archives reminded me of many of the games I played over the last few years and reminded me how quickly time moves in cyber space. In one sense I am amazed that I actually like this comic at all. It is written by and written about twenty something year olds who grew up with Nintendo an

Lotro /Played

6 days 7 hours 19 minutes and 26 seconds. 151 hours in 51 days since the start of the pre-order game. That averages out at almost exactly 3 hours per day. That is on the high side of my own estimate but you can't argue with the game clock or can you (In case that link is dead it is a post on the lotro europe forums where a player got 136 years from the /played command). In my case I think the number is correct but in my defence I will point out that I am in the habit of staying logged in while I go off and do other stuff. This could explain some of those extra hours but not many because the game does auto log off after a while. Twenty hours a week wouldn't get me into a hard core raiding guild but is still a hell of a lot of time for an adult with job and family. We are taking a long summer holiday in about a months time and I will be without a computer for about six weeks. I am sure I will miss gaming but I am very much anticipating the break. I have been fairly remiss in

LOTRO - How fast are you levelling?

I saw some folks over on Tobolds Blog compaining about the lack of solo content for level 35+. I try to mix solo and group quests but group quests are not always compatible with the demands of real life so it is nice to have a choice. Happily Throg has only got to level 29 in the 6 weeks since I started playing so I am pretty sure that the free Shores of Evendim expansion (with new solo content promised) will be out in penty of time for me. Sometimes it is good not to be the fastest! Even so I would guess I am playing the game an average of 2.5 hours per day. I will do a /played when I next log on and check. I am sure the number will be horrifying.

Throg's Lotro Journal 27 May 2007: That's the last time Throg will trust a Shade.

It is usually considered polite for quest givers to give an indication of the difficulty of a task they want undertaken. For example they will let a willing adventurer know whether the adversaries they will face are likely to be more or less experienced than themselves and where the challenge is too great to be faced alone they will recommend that the adventurer bring a fellowship of willing companions. Thus when the shade of Emelin asked Throg to defeat the Gaunt-Lord Brudhraw ( In the Gaunt Lord's grasp ) he took careful note before setting out that the quest was suitable for his level and did not require a fellowship. You may ask what our good friend is doing assisting a spectre but I can re-assure you that he is following a path set out for him by the eminent wizard Radagast the Brown. Our dwarven champion became somewhat suspicious when he realised that the creatures he encountered on the way to Brudrhaw's chamber were all considerably more experienced than his own 28 lev

It's official: Club Penguin is the next "Big Thing"

I like to pretend that I read Terra Nova regularly. You see Terra Nova is written by academics who write scholarly articles about gaming, people who have PhD's in MMORPGs for heaven's sake. I like to pretend I read it but the truth is that TN has slipped from my Daily Fix webroll to my Weekly Fix webroll. I guess when it comes to blogs I am more of a "Popular Mechanics" reader rather than a "Nature" Reader. That is why then I am about a week late in noticing that the game my kids and wife are addicted to has finally gained MMO respectability. Club Penguin has been written up in Terra Nova . I have written about Club Penguin before. I have used it, half in jest, when responding to other bloggers as an example of where MMORPGS are going. Now however it is official. To quote Mike Sellers from Terra Nova: "Club Penguin is ... a great example of a true second-generation MMOG." I really don't have anything more to add. Club Penguin is a great MMOG

Throg's lotro journal 22 May 2007: Sometimes you have to break the rules.

In the dim twighlight of Harangmar Throg and his companions spied on their intended target and considered their grim task. Radagast the Brown had asked for the sigils of gaunt necromancers in order to determine which lord these vile creatures serve ( Breeders of the Dead ). Unhappily these gaunt-men are powerful elite necromancers of 29th and 30th level each guarded by a group of loathsome wights. Throg thought of his uncle Halcin and the golden rules upon which the battle hardened fighter had placed so much stress. "Allow your guardian to taunt the monsters and absorb their blows while the minstrel keeps up his spirits with gentle lyrics" Throg remembered and also "The rest of the fellowship must concentrate all blows on one foe at a time". This however was not a full fellowship. There was only Throg the champion (26th level), A guardian (33rd level), a captain (24th level) and his manservant. A near disastrous first attempt convinced the party that without a mins

Throg's Journal 21 May 2007: What in Thorin's Name Happened Here

Less than a day's ride North of Bree lies the pleasant hamlet of Trestlebridge. Throg never made the trip during his first sojourn in Breeland so he thought to take some time out to visit. He was much taken aback to discover that the once tranquil spot had been devastated the night before in an Orc Attack. It was not alone the ferocity of the Orcs that cowed the residents but also some strange magic they wove which which seemed to conjure Thunder and Lightning from the very air itself. Needless to say our fine dwarf's was not long a tourist for survivors of the raid sought his assistance in wreaking vengeance on these loathsome Orcs. In a daring lone raid on a neighbouring Orc camp our hero discovered a strange black powder which seemed to be connected with this mysterious Orc thunder. Then with the aid of a fellowship of adventurers he raided the Orcs again , this time destroying their stockpiles of the vile powder. Throg knows not what sorcery conjured this black stuff but it

Throg's Lotro Journal 17 May 2007: A Hero's Creative Side.

When not battling dire foes Throg likes to spend his time at bench or forge honing his crafting skills. He will never be a tailor I fear for his his stubby little fingers cannot grasp a needle without injury but he is proud to have achieved master journeyman status in both prospecting and forestry. Thus was his attention caught in Bree Craft Hall this evening when a young Elvish Lady called out for help to boil a batch of leathers she had collected. In the cold lands of Ered Luin Elves and Dwarves are not on best of terms but Bree is a melting pot of all sorts and Throg is not a dwarf to turn down the chance of making a few silver. He offered his services to the young elf in exchange for some trifle. She was most taken aback that he sought charge for his services. Throg was too polite to call the lady a tightpurse but he did feel somewhat agrieved that she expected him to work for nothing especially considering fine price that boiled leathers might fetch at auction. Happily it transpi

Lotro Patch Day - And no unexpected down time.

Yesterday was Lotro Europe Patch day. Almost every previous patch day has resulted in extended downtime so I didn't expect that Throg would go adventuring last night. I was pleasantly surprised therefore when I managed to log in at 7pm (GMT) for an evening of trouble free gaming. Well done Code masters - it looks like you are finally getting your act together on the Lotro front. The Patch notes are here . To be honest the only thing that caught my attention is something which hasn't been fixed. It is under Known Issues: "When in a fellowship, you may not receive credit for the completion of an instance quest unless you yourself speak to the NPC which starts the instance. In light of this, when fellowships plan to run an instanced quest, members who wish to receive credit for the quest should not use the "Travel Now" option. Players should decline this option and instead, speak to the NPC themselves to enter the instance and join their fellows. A change to the Tra

Lotro: My User Interface

Although you cannot change the scaling of the lotro user interface you can move things around. Here is the interface I am using: I've tried to put all the controls and information panels at the bottom of the screen. This means the eyes don't have to move as much in the heat of battle. It also gives a nice unimpeded view of the surroundings in the top half of the screen. It took a bit of getting used to but I now prefer it to the more traditional buttons at bottom, panels at top view. I have also tweaked up my graphics settings a bit. I am now running with high quality textures, and very high view distance for objects, landscape and frills. I do get a bit of jerkiness in towns but out in the country I get nice smooth frame rates and the visual quality is lovely. Here is a Bree screen shot (the yellow number in the corner is frames per second recorded by FRAPS): Here is a view of the deserted Lone lands. Notice the higher frame rate: One thing that I found makes a huge improveme

Throg's Lotro Journal 15 May 20007: Cleansing the Lone Lands

Our normally feisty hero is feeling a little bit down in the dumps this morning having suffered no less than four defeats last night. He pretends to laugh it off but I suspect what galls him most is that these defeats happened in full view of his kinsmen. The great Kinship of Pog Mo Thoin had decided that the time had come for the scourge of evil to be swept from the Lone Lands once and for all (again). A migty fellowship of warriors assembled with Guardian, Hunter, Minstrel, Thief and Throg the Champion. In truth, at only the 23rd level of proficiency Throg was least among this mighty crew all other being at least of the 25th level but what he lacked in skill he made up for in courage. The forces for darkness are surely licking their wounds this morning for the kin cut through the Lands as a fire reddened blade might cleave butterfat. First they cleansed Saruman's forces (once again) off the summit of Weathertop . Why they persist in retaking it remains a mystery but each time the

Is Microsoft going to kill Free Software?

About 20 years ago I first heard of Richard Stallman and the GNU Movement. At the time Richard and his supporters were promoting free software with an almost evangelical Zeal. They were also trying to develop a free clone of the Unix operating system. I thought they were interesting but nuts. I actually went to the trouble of digging up and reading the original GNU manifesto a major premise of which seemed to be that programmers enjoy writing software so much that they shouldn't expect to be paid for letting other people use it. To be honest I couldn't see how it would work and I figured that the nerdy name they chose (Gnu stands for "Gnu's Not Unix" a kind of geek in-joke) was proof if proof be needed that they would never amount to anything. Well in some ways I was right. Here we are twenty years later and the GNU movement has still not managed to put together a complete operating system. The wildly successful free operating system Linux borrows many componen

Throg's Lotro Journal 13 May 2007: This fellow needs a dwarf's help???

  Kekonnen is the leader of the Earth Kin and his people have been chased into the Lone Lands by a band of savage Trolls. He has asked for Throg's help to destroy these loathsome creatures. Needless to say our Champion dwarf signed up on the spot. Now, far be it from me to cast aspersions on our brave hero but I have to ask if HE HAS HE COMPLETELY TAKEN LEAVE OF HIS SENSES? If a whole tribe of Giants cannot withstand these trolls what hope does a dwarf have. Throg's heart may be large but his limbs are not. I think our champion had better recruit a fellowship for this commission. A large fellowship.

My chickens have most definitely come home to roost

Some time I ago I posted about my clandestine campaign to get my family interested in computer gaming. All my attempts to introduce my beautiful wife and beautiful daughters to the joys of first person shooters or war strategy games seemed doomed to failure. Things looked slightly more promising on the MMORPG front - my wife was particularly tickled when she realised you could flirt with other players and still fondly remembers the time when her sylph like night elf priest (level 2) was chatted up by a passing muscle bound warrior (level 3 and a pimply adolescent no doubt). The shine soon wore off however when the girls realised that the whole point of WOW and similar role playing games was to kill things or be killed yourself. In fact that pretty much sums up the whole point of just about every game in my collection. I was stunned therefore when a friend of my girls introduced them to the web based online game Club Penguin and they loved it. It is an MMORPG or at least I am calling

Throg's Lotro Journal 11 May 2007: Assault on Weathertop

Throg waited with his kinsmen on the lower slopes of the giant fortress that casts its shadow over the Lone lands. Saruman's foul Orcs had shown the presumption to take up residence in this citadel but Candaith the defender issued the call for brave warriors to cleanse the rock. Throg and his valiant kinsmen answered that call. Looking at his huddled kinsfolk steam the night air with their breathing Throg wondered. Did they also feel the fluttering of a hive of bees in their gut? It was not just Goblins and Orcs they had come to face. There was talk of monstrous Wargs and perhaps something even darker. No matter, Candaith's shout heralded the opening of the first gate. The time for thinking was past. Now was the time to fight. Throg flung himself at the hapless defenders. True to his champion calling he let the blood lust take him. As his fervour rose he became a dwarf possessed. Throg charged into those parts of the battle where his foes were most densely packed so that he m

Throgs Lotro Journal 9 May 2007: Pickled in in the Prancing Pony

Another mysterious bug struck down the inhabitants of Eridor last night and it was late into the night before most adventurers could leave their slumbers and enter the world. Throg and his kinsmen from Pog Mo Thoin decided to celebrate their recovery with a few convivial tankards of ale in the Prancing Pony in Bree. Throg normally has little time for Bree but he will travel a long way for a cold beer in good company. Sadly the beer in the Pony was warm, overpriced and tasteless. Nevertheless it went down with frightening ease - one slug and a tankard was empty. Our gallant hero is suffering from an inexplicable headache this morning and his memory of the night before is a little hazy. He did take the time to utter a curse upon the landlord for serving him foul ale. His exact words were: "That b*stard must have poisoned me. I had no more than nine or ten tankards before the room turned into a sea with tables, chairs and good folk swimming around in it". Best not to t

Throg's Lotro Journal 8th May 2007: Questing in the Lone Lands

Throg has relocated to the lone lands and the Forsaken inn has proven to be a useful base as well as comfortable watering hole. In Bree Land you cannot turn a corner without tripping over some would be hero but adventurers are thinner on the ground in the Lone lands. Throg's services are much in demand. For the moment his commissions are fairly routine - killing beasts and dealing with troublesome goblins and orcs. Our noble dwarf hopes that once he has proven his ability to the good folks of the lands they will send him on more challenging (and more lucrative) missions. Truth be told Throg feels far more at home in the lonely mountainous wilds of the Lone lands than ever he felt in the lush territory of Bree. The barren mountain slopes remind him of his beloved Ered Luin - all that is missing is a fall of snow. Indded snow would be a welcome change from the heat. Nevertheless Throg is prepared to put up with a little warmth in exchange for some peace and quiet. Something that was

Lotro Lag problems.

My two year old home-built PC is struggling to run Lotro as smoothly as I would like. I experience a lot of stuttering in crowded areas such as Bree and Archet. Lowering the graphics resolution helps a lot at the expense of prettiness so it is almost certainly a graphics card defficiency. I have noticed that playing on the Laurelin (Role Play) Server is less jerky than playing on Evernight (non Role Play). I guess there are fewer players on the role play server. Fewer players means less crowds and less effort at rendering for my poor graphics card. I use the excellent utility FRAPS to measure frame per second (fps) rates - it can even do screenshots for games that don't have this facility. Graphics card reviews give much space to comparing average fps between cards but from a players point of view it is not average frame rate but minimum frame rate that affects game experience. I would love to have frame rates consistently above the 60 frames per second refresh rate of my LCD mo

Throg's Lotro Journal 6 May 2007: Rush Hour in the Barrow Downs

Well there is certainly no shortage of adventurers in Bree Land. When Throg set out with a party of fellow braves to rescue the young hobbit girl Lalia he little expected that they would find themselves in a veritable queue of fellowships all rushing to rescue the fair maid. Lalia had wandered into the wight infested Barrow downs following some fanciful tale of a long dead prince. I can assure you that the wights who wished to feast on her tender flesh had no chance against the almighty mob of adventurers who escorted the young lady off the downs. Truth be told she was more at risk from the flailing swords and axes and harps of her rescuers. Those who arrived late for the event were somewhat disgruntled that they had missed their chance for fame and glory but the young hobbitess proved herself a good sport. Immediately following our rescue I noticed her sneaking back to the downs to allow yet another party believe that they were in fact her deliverers. With such a surfeit of would be h

Lotro - Overflow Inventory for Quest Items

Throg was collecting some trinkets for a quest [forging a new blade]in the Barrow downs but he had forgotten to empty his bags and they were full of vendor trash. When Throg picked up the trinkets he got a message he had never seen before: If you can't read the message it says "Your inventory is overfilled. Items are being held in an overflow area until you remove one or more items from your backpack". Returning to Bree and selling some stuff Throg found the trinkets magically appeared in his backpack. How cool is that? Even with full bags you can pick up quest items. Throg later tried to pick up some non quest trophies and it would not allow him to do so until he made space in one of his bags. It appears the overflow storage only works with quest items. Still it is a very user friendly feature - you can always pick up quest items no matter how full your bags are!

Lotro: A screen-shot of Throg

I'm afraid I am too tired to relate Throg's adventures today but I thought I would include a screen-shot of Throg himself. I am very aware that my blog needs a bit of pictorial colour and I am jealous of the gorgeous screen-shots taken by Tipo in her MMORPG blog West Karana . I am artistically challenged unfortunately so my screen-shot isn't a patch on hers but for what it is worth here is the bold dwarf. I cropped the image in Picassa 2 and used the Picassa "I'm feeling lucky" button to liven it up a bit. Screen resolution was 1280x1024. I am using custom graphics setting - basically high quality mode but with view distance extended and with textures reduced to medium. My graphics card has only 128Mb of memory and it struggles with high res textures sadly.

Throg's Lotro Jounal 4 May 2007: Further Adventures in Bree-Land

Our aspiring hero has spent much time in the the old forest south of Buckland. To be sure it a dark, tangled place full of dangers. Venturing deep into the forest in the company of an able fellowship Throg found and destroyed the evil spirit behind the corruprion of the forest oaks [The Haunted Forest]. Unfortunately the trees which the spirit had animated with evil intent still wander the depths of the woods. The fellowship set out then to cull their number earning for themselves the admiration of the good folk of Bree who titled party members "The Root Hewers". While following the trail of the traitorous dwarf Skorgrim Throg has found himself working with the enigmatic ranger called Strider. Throg does not yet understand all of Strider's motives but it is clear that he and the great wizard Gandalf are concerned about some great evil. Apparently even hobbits have got caught up in this tale which seems odd. Throg cannot imagine a gentle hobbit standing up to the dreadful

Lotro maps and help sites

Using maps and help sites does feel like cheating so I generallly try to find stuff out for myself in game first but there are times when a good map or a quest database is an essential aid to enjoying a game. Lotro is a new game so the help sites are only getting off the ground but there are already some very nice sites out there. Here are some of my favourites. Sooner or later someone is bound to come out with an interactive map for a new MMORPG and th efolks over at Middle Earth Headquarters have produced an absolute humdinger. Their maps are based on the game maps and they have a filter tool and a drop down search tool to allow you to find anything you need. Combine this with the hand drawn maps regions that are not mapped in the game from The Brasse and you need never get lost again. The Brasse has a lovely humorous style and they have a nice quest database as well. The quest information is very good but not very well indexed. I like my quest databases to be indexed in various w

Why I hate alts in mmorpgs

I hate alts. I hadn't realised this until I read a suggestion from Tobold about MMORPGS offering a "fast level" mode for players who have got a main character to a high level but for some reason need to level a second character (an alt). For example they might want to try out a new race or their guild might have a shortage of a particular class but don't want to endure hours of tedium grinding the low levels again with the new character. The suggestion is a good one but it doesn't fill me with joy because I really hate the whole idea of alts. For me an mmorpg is about playing a role in a fantasy world. Immersion is hugely important and becoming attached to a character is hugely important to me. Nothing and I mean nothing shatters this fourth wall like Throgmage the sorceror announcing in chat - "Oh I see we are short of healers for this raid. Hang on a minute and I'll switch to Throgmonk". For all I love Guildwars it is probably the worst game in th

LOTRO: Throg's thoughts on the recent influx of immigrants from Azeroth

Since leaving his rugged mountainous homeland of Ered Luin Throg has been struck by the number of adventurers who have recently come to Eriador from far away Azeroth. We are not certain why so many bold wanderers should choose to migrate at this time. Could it be that Azeroth has run out of dragons? Throg is sure that Azeroth is a very fine place. Indeed his own ancestor Camuun won much reknown as a hunter in those fair lands but our doughty dwarf has mixed feelings about the benefits this latest invasion. On the positive side this influx of migrant adventurers makes it easy to form fellowships in order to carry out commisions that would be too difficult on ones own. To give them their due many of these former Azerothians are well skilled in the arts of combat knowing when to attack and when to defend. On the other hand Throg is tired of the constant comparisons between Azeroth and Eriador. At first they complain because we do too many things differently in Eriador and then they compla