Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2008

Far Cry 2 aka Grand Theft Auto Somalia

I am currently playing Far Cry 2, bought to test my shiny new 1Gb HD4850 grapics card. I still amn't sure about the game. It feels more like a GTA game than a true sequel to Far Cry. The only open ended sand box game that really sucked me in was Mafia. It had a compelling storyline set in a seductively beautiful entirely credible 1920's prohibition era city. GTA 3 was set in an ugly city and had a poor story, I hated it. Far Cry 2 is set in a lush jungle setting but it lacks the Tropical beauty of the original Far Cry. Even more importantly there are no civillians in this world. Every one you meet totes a gun and 99% of them try to kill you. I guess it is understandable that Crytek choose not to populate their game with the starving victims of conflict but the world feels much shallower for lack of ordinary people. An engrossing storyline could save the game for me but so far I have seen no sign of it. I am only a few hours in however so things could improve yet. Far Cry 2 has

Man Stuff

My brother in law bought a 40 year old combine harvester . His wife (my sister in law) doesn't understand. His sister (my wife) doesn't understand. His mother (my mother in law) doesn't understand. He has a few cattle but he is not a tillage farmer and this is in reality an entirely superfluous purchase. They shake their heads at the foolishness of it all. His mumbled attempts to justify his purchase by calculating its value in scrap metal are unconvincing. I can understand though. It makes sense to me when I see the glint is his eye as he describes the combine. It makes sense when he tells me about a 1970's documentary film which spawned an unfulfilled ambition to join the contractors who drive their great harvesters on the annual trail from Texas all the way to Canada. Most of all though it makes sense when I climb on top of this great smoking, grinding whirring, clanking machine, gloriously uninhibited by today's mandatory safety features and trundle across t

Lotro: In search of the mythical female dwarf.

If Throg sometimes appears to be a bit grumpy then consider the fact that our poor hero seems destined to live a lonely life without the comforts of the (slightly) fairer sex. Ever since the flood of of adolescent hormones first hit his bloodstream in his mid 50's he has been hoping to meet a sturdy young lady with a neatly trimmed beard but his success with the ladies to date has been non-existent. It is not for want of dwarfly charm that our hero's passions have been unrequited. It is a simple matter of never having found the right woman. Or rather it is a fact of never having found any woman at all. Throg has searched and searched but in all his travels around Middle Earth he has yet to meet a single dwarf of the opposite sex. It would seem that dwarven women are fabulously rare and are those that do exist are highly protected by their fathers (who were young themselves once and know exactly the sort intentions a young dwarf is likely to have towards their beloved daughters)

Lotro: The Forges

Throg just dinged 57 when he got a request to join a kinship group doing the Forges instance. This is one of the progression instances that needs to be farmed in order to get the end game radiance gear that is a prerequisite for raiding in MoM. The quests for this place are level 58 up so Throg wasn't really eligible but the group was short a body and Throg is not a dwarf to turn down the chance of a bit of axe swinging so I signed him up. The forges themselves are very impressive. We are in the heart of the mountain where massive trolls toil away in the glowing lava pits. I didn't have much time to admire the scenery though because we were trying for "hard mode" which means running the instance within a very tight time window. Hard mode gets one radiant armour drop as far as I can tell. We got the first two bosses down but wiped on the third and had to give up because one of our party had a dodgy internet connection and kept getting cut off. I think Throg acquitted h

EVE: 5 free Days and Thoughts on Microtransactions

EVE have offered me and other lapsed players 5 free days in an attempt to encourage us back to the game. This is fairly standard business practice for mmos and I am sure they get a few returnees from such schemes. The message set me thinking however. First of all I probably won't be availing of the 5 day offer, not because I don't like EVE (I think it is superb) but because I know that you cannot really achieve anything in an mmo in 5 days. It is just enough to whet your appetite for more and I simply do not have the time to play EVE seriously at the moment and I am not prepared to take on a monthly subscripton for a game I would only play sporadically. Recent announcements from EA and SOE have riled a bunch of bloggers about the whole subject of microtransactions in games. I agree that there is a huge moral hazard that games will suffer as developers start designing in such a way that they can screw more cash from players using microtransactions. However I could envisage

EVE Online: May we Ambush You at 10:00am tomorrow Please?

EVE online thrives on truly massive space battles and CCP are doing their best to ensure that such large concentrations of players do not cause undue server lag. Even still I am a bit taken aback by a request in the latest newsletter for players to notify CCP in advance if they are planning a large fleet engagement. The announcement contains dire warnings about abuse of the system but I am still not sure. To quote Sun Tsu: In conflict, direct confrontation will lead to engagement and surprise will lead to victory. So if you are planning a surprise ambush on the heartland of Band of Brothers so you really think it would be a good idea to notify CCP in advance?

Lotro: Help I'm Levelling up too fast.

I have been doggedly trying to do every quest in each region before I move on. I pretty much cleared out Eregion, The Great Delving, Sivertine Lodes, Durins Way and now I have moved into Zelem Melek (a region who's geography still completely baffles me by the way). It is not compulsory to finish every quest but there is something very satisfying about clearing out an area plus you usually get a nice title and trait rewards for doing so. The only problem is that I am levelling up faster than I can complete quests. As a consequence of my completionist policy I spend a lot of my time doing quests which are a fair bit below below my level. Throg is now level 56 fast approaching 57 and still has a lot to do before finishing Zelem Melek. It's not really a problem but Throg is probably a little under-geared because the rewards from these quests are generally below his level. At least with the Christmas season coming up I should have time to run a few more fellowship instances which

Lotro: Second Moria Patch Delayed due to Exploit

The second MoM patch was supposed to be deployed to European servers yesterday but was pulled at the last minute. Codemasters support forums say that an exploit was discovered and the deployment was put off till today. Servers are still down so I guess the update is still in progress. The interesting thing about this is that the US got the patch 4 days ago on the 15th. My guess is the exploit was discovered on US servers and they decided to delay deployment in Europe until it is fixed. I wonder if they are hot-fixing the US servers too. Anyone finding that you can now vendor beginner level light hides for 100G a piece in the US please let me know.

Lotro: The Forgotten Treasury

Throg joined a Kinship group for the Forgotten Treasury instance last night. It was an enjoyable change from the solo questing that the now level 55 dwarf champion has been mostly doing so far in Moria. Some members of the group had tried and failed to clear the Treasury before so we knew it would be challenging but we were lucky enough to have a well balanced group with Guardian, Minstrel, Lore Master, Hunter, Burglar and Champion (Throg). Throg (level 55) and the minstrel (53) were both below the 56ish level of the instance but the others were all higher so it more or less balanced out. [SPOILERs ahead] It is a well designed enjoyable instance set in a circular chamber with balcony around. As you enter, a boss absconds to a locked side chamber with his treasure leaving the fellowship to clear trash ringed around the balcony. Once the trash are cleared you have access to a puzzle which must be solved in order to open the locked door. Clearing the (including six mini bosses) also get

Recycling mmo content

The first raid of World of Warcraft's Wrath of the Lich King expansion is Naxxramas. The same Naxxramas that was the toughest most challenging raid of vanilla WoW several years ago. What an interesting way to overcome two challenges of mmo development: the problem of obsolescence of older end game content and the high cost of new content development. I haven't played WoW in quite some time so all my info is second hand but from reading a few WoW blogs it appears that the new Naxxramas is very similar to the old Naxxramas. Monster levels have been increased of course, loot tables have been revised and the location of the encounter has been moved but it seems that the old tactics still work. Clearly this is the new environmentally friendly face of mmorpging: content recycling. Perhaps the most surprising thing is that there doesn't seem to be many complaints. Most people seem happy with the idea. The few complaints I have seen come from the very hardcore who managed to clear

Lotro: Thought about End Game Progression

Several members of Throg's kin have hit the level cap and more are fast approaching it. At level 54 it seems that I am among the most casual of the active players in this casual friendly kinship. In kin chat I can see that much of the talk has turned to those instances that must be run in order to gear up for the "Watcher" raid instance. My understanding of the Watcher is that an extension of the hope/dread mechanic is being applied to create a gear check . Effectively a special "radiance" armour set is required to prvent your character from constantly cowering in fear. Radiance armour is got from repeated runs of a set of preparatory instances in so called "hard mode". This is the first real gear check in Lotro. Previously end game raiding (in the Rift and Helegorod) was open to any max level character and it was quite possible for a very casual player to go along on an occasional Raid as a tourist. Turbine's new approach offers advantages and dis

Lotro: Throg Moves into Moria

Throg moved into Moria on Friday after completing almost every quest in Eregion. I am happy to say that after a weekend of adventuring in the Great Delving I am still enjoying exploring the crumbling ruins of Durin's kingdom. Despite being entirely subterranean it is not claustrophobic. The caverns are huge but they are also dark and ominous. Indeed the most common cause of death for new entrants like me is plunging into chasms through one of the many cracks in the paths. Just as in Eregion it is mostly solo stuff but it somehow seems more appropriate to wander the gloomy tunnels on your own. The darkness and the broken nature of the terrain means that Moria is an explorer's paradise full of nooks and crannies to be ferreted out. Highlights of the weekend included: Heading off on foot through the dangerous Zelem-Melek area in order to get to the 21st hall, the main settlement of Moria and the location of Bank and Auction house. Stumbling across the starter quest for Volume 2 b

Does anyone know what happened 3D sound in games?

The oldest part of my gaming PC is the sound system comprising of a 6 year old Soundblaster Audigy and a set of Creative quadrophonic speakers. 3D sound with environmental audio effects used be a big deal. I can still remember the first time while playing an FPS that I heard footsteps behind me and spun around to answer my would be assailant with a shotgun blast. In terms of sheer immersion I can honestly say that high quality sound has always sucked me in far more more than high quality graphics. Yet sound cards and 3D sound seem to have become the forgotten side of computer gaming. Many modern games don't support environmental audio or 3D at all. Those that do often offer half hearted support - the rear channels play ambient musak . Even games that make an effort to support 3D sound sometimes get it wrong. In Bioshock for example there were some shockingly bad examples of positional audio. Certain sound effects actually had a dead spot - they would disappear altogether as you spu

Lotro: Volume 1 Completed

I'm not up for a long blog post but I thought I should mark Throg's completion of Volume 1 of the Epic quest. Book 15 Chapter 12 brings Vol 1 to a close and finally wraps up the tragic tale of Laerdan and his daughter. Most of book 15 is a bit tedious consisting mainly of riding up and down the high moor on various errand quests but the final chapter is a doo hickey. Its is a roller coaster ride of excellent instance design that keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole way through. Throg went in with a Kin group equipped with Ventrillo and we still wiped twice on the first boss. Getting our strategy right and killing him was just the beginning though - you begin a dangerous trawl through corridors and rooms filled with challenging encounters and we were on the edge of our seat for the full hour or so that it took us to work out way to the final boss. Terrific stuff. Nice rewards too - a useful piece of armour, a new title that for once actually means something, a few novel

Two reflections about McDonald's

Inspired by Bill Harris's story about bringing his son to McD's for breakfast. Reflection #1 Have you ever noticed that the toys which come with McDonalds happy meals are exceptionally well made, much higher quality than the tat you get in discount shops? In addition they ususally have some trick that immediately grabs your attention like a doll that sings the first three words of the latest hit song or a toy car with working electric windows. However the most amazing thing about McDonalds happy meal toys is that they provide precisely 5 minutes of play value, no more no less. I suppose they are designed to keep kids entertained for as long as it takes to eat a McDonalds meal. Indeed I have found that there is no point in taking these toys home with you. The kids have generally exhausted their play value by the time you are ready to leave. How they engineer such precisely contolled utility into each toy amazes me. A triumph of design, every single one. Reflection #2 A former

Lotro: Sometimes it's the little things.

On my first foray into Moria I decide to do a bit of exploring. While admiring the cavernous surroundings I missed my footing and fell through a crack in the road en route to a place called Dolven View. I plummeted into the chasm below. Stunned but still alive I stumbled around in the dark trying to find a way back up to the inhabited regions on platforms far above my head. I had nearly given up when I spotted a dwarven guide with a "quest in progress" ring above his head. I had no memory of starting such as quest but I clicked on him anyway. "Are ye trying to get to Dolven View" he asked "Yes, yes" I shouted back "This isn't the right way at all" he said "Turn back and go up that ramp to the South" You'll find another guide there and he'll tell you where to go next." Sure enough there was another guide and sure enough he and further guides directed me back to civilisation complete with helpful warnings abut cracks in

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

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.

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 bi

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

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 t

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. Th

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 D

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.

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 an

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 &q

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

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 art

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

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

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 p


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 d

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

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 strugg

Lotro Notes

Despite my commitment to limit my objectives in Lotro I have been playing quite a lot over the last few days. No raiding but a couple of kinship forays into Annuminas combined with a lot of questing in Forochel. I have grown to like Forochel. At first glance its snowy appearance is reminiscent of the Misty Mountains but whereas Misty is a dangerous barren wasteland Forochel teems with settlements and quests and even has a few instances to boot. In point of fact it comes pretty close to Bree land in terms of the amout of stuff that is going on. Most of the quests are solo friendly but there a reasonable number of group quests with decent rewards for someone of mid 40's level. At level 50 Throg has outgrown most of the rewards on offer but it is still a very enjoyable zone to quest in. A lot of my fellow bloggers have abandoned Lotro (although Khan and Thallian always put in a good word) so I was pleased to stumble across a good lotro blog I hadn't read before: MMeow . Aft

Lotro: Forochel Questing

Yesterday being a bank holiday here in Ireland I had plenty of time to do some questing around the Forochel area. All the quests seem to give reputation rewards with either Thorin's Hall or the Lossoth Eskimo's who live in this frozen land. Throg is a dwarf so my Thorin's hall rep is already pretty good but Lossoth rep is useful not least because it opens up a number of quick travel routes around the freezing waters. Sadly I probably won't get the friend status required until after I have completed most of the quests in the region. I got as far as book 13 Chapter 6 with the aid of some kinsmates and a couple of others. We had to retrieve a book from the dourhand controlled icereave mine. Ice-reave is very reminiscent of Sarnur the Thorin's hall rep dungeon in Ered Luin. The mobs also drop the dourhand tabards but seem a little easier than in Sarnur so I could imagine this being the preferred new zone for grinding Thorin's Hall rep. We did a few more quests in

Jumbled Thoughts On Re-subscribing to an MMO

My first session in Lotro after resubscribing reminded me of many of the things I don't like about mmos. I spend most of the time travelling to the far North of Forochel in order to continue the epic quest line with book 13. At the same time I was trying to refresh my memory of what all the skills in my bar do along with the significance of various trait and gear selections. It was all somewhat tedious and at the same time left me feeling a bit inadequate knowing that I have probably fallen far behind my kinship buddies who have been raiding regularly since I left. Things perked up a bit when I finally got stuck into a few quests. The server seems quite a bit quieter than it used to be but there were still a few calls for assistance in the "looking for a Fellowship" channel. I have always considered pick up groups to be one of the strong points of Lotro so I joined one to help a lower level player overcome a quest mob. Grouping is a bit of a dilemma for me. Without a doub

A book reccommendation

I seem to be carrying the flag for my home town today but coincidentally I have just finished "The Inferior" by Peadar O Guilin another Dubliner. I may have been somewhat biased in my recent recommendation of WAR but I need no such incentive to heartily reccommend "The Inferior". It is a great piece of Science Fiction. Thoroughly entertaining.

What I meant to say was : WAR is Brilliant Buy it Now.

I have just become aware that GOA the European publishers of Warhammer Online are establishing a major support centre in my home town (Dublin) with the promise of 400 jobs. I guess that customer support is at the bottom of the food chain (why is that?) but in these recessionary times a job is a job and those 400 new taxpayers will help share the burden. Therefore with extreme prejudice I would like to point out that Warhammer online is the best game since tiddly winks and I would like you all to go out and buy it. Just be sure to buy the Euro version, even if you live in the U.S. Think of the added educational benefit of being able to converse in all those different languages (English, French, Italian, German and Spanish according to this page ).

Lotro Once More

I reactivated my Lotro subscription with a view to completing my outstanding book quests in preparation for the forthcoming release of Mines of Moria. Going back to an MMO is a funny experience, a bit like moving back in with your parents after living on your own. On the one hand there is a warm comfortable feeling of home but there are also memories of the boredom that inspired you to move on. Lotro is pretty quiet these days. I wonder will many return for MoM. Here's a picture of Throg in snowy Forochel:

I'm Not Giving up Blogging

Thanks to the Ancient Gaming Noob for drawing my attention to a recent Wired article in which Paul Boutin claims that blogging is a thing of the past. Of course I don't agree but I do accept some of Paul's points. I agree that the time when you could "become famous" through blogging is probably over. If that is your motivation then you should probably pass over blogging and get with the next big thing be it twitter or face book or more likely something else that most of us haven't even heard of yet. On the other hand there are many other reasons to keep a blog. It can be a personal creative outlet. It can be your very own soap box. You can use it as a kind of online diary. It can add a new dimension to your hobbies. It can be a social thing. You may be even be lucky enough to find a community of like minded bloggers. Telling people to stop blogging because they have no chance of getting to the front page of Google is like telling amateur musicians not to bother

Is Warhammer Online History?

Two well known bloggers Tobold and Melmoth announced their departure from Warhammer Online this week. Is this the beginning of the games decline or is it just natural turnover? I don't know. Other bloggers such as Syncaine , Keen and Saylah are still waxing lyrical about WAR, pointing out that this game seems to have really innovated in terms of making group play both fun and rewarding. Not only do I not know but I must admit to being completely unqualified to express an opinion. I have never played WAR and I am currently going through an "anti-mmo" phase as indicated in my series of posts with the tag line " mmos are history ". However, being unqualified to give an opinion doesn't sop me from having one, so, for what it is worth, here it is: I think that the time of explosive market growth for WOW / Everquest style mmo's is pretty much over (in the developed world at any rate). Future subscription growth rate will be low or even negative. I think t

MBP's instant book reviews get their own blog.

My instant book review sidebar was threatening to grow off the page so I have shifted the whole lot sideways to a new blog called . There should be a feed in the sidebar which will take you there. I like the idea of using multiple blogs to organise stuff. If this works out I may well spawn a new "instant game reviews" daughter blog.

Crysis Warhead and XIII, a tale of two shooters.

Played and finished Crysis Warhead last weekend and am currently playing XIII, a game I have had for years but never got around to playing. Warhead is a pretty decent follow up to Crysis. The action runs concurrently with the first game and the two episodes mesh together pretty well. As has been noted by many commentators the graphics been optimised and the game is far less of a system hog than its precursor. While the game has much to recommend it I have to admit I found myself getting a little bored. I think that an unfortunate combination of factors combine to remove much of the challenge. You are equipped with an uber suit that unbalances the game. While some enemies are equipped with similar gear they all neglect to wear headgear leaving them vulnerable to a single headshot. Headshots are very easy to get because the suit offers invisibility mode giving you plenty of time to line up the crosshairs. Virtually every encounter in the game can be easily overcome using invisibility to

Upgrading a Motherboard on Windows XP

Although my wife is not a gamer she is into video and photography both of which put strains on her desktop PC. The machine has a plethora of hardware hanging off it (scanners, video capture, additional hard disks etc) and has literally dozens of specialised pieces of software installed. It is amazing that the 2002 vintage machine was able to function as well as it did but for some time now I have had the guilty realisation that it is long overdue an upgrade. With hardware prices at an all time low (in euro-zone anyway) the sensible course of action might have been to just replace the whole lot with a brand new machine. Quite apart from the cost however there was the unpleasant prospect of having to reinstall all that additional harware and software. Instead I opted for a motherboard upgrade. Out of pocket cost was minimal - a remaindered socket 939 motherboard (€15) and 2GB DDR ram (€55). I already had a spare Power supply, 7600gt graphics and Athlon 64 processor, relics of a previous