I tried to find just one, but LOTRO has the best landscapes of any MMO ever. Period. No, I didn’t play them all, but I’m still sure. These screenshots are 5 years old and date from my second foray into the game (I was in Beta/Launch for a while) — and even back then, with a scabbier graphics card and a much scabbier computer, the place is breathtaking, even in the low-level areas that I didn’t ever leave (I made it to… 35? maybe).

So here are half a dozen pix. It would have been 12-20 but I figured that was probably too much. Check out the LOTRO post tag for wayback-machine posts. I did enjoy the Ironman LOTRO I played for a while (= no quests! only mob grinding! arrrrrr!).

Click for larger versions.

Random landscape that I don’t remember where it is
Elf starting area
Elf starting area
Hobbit & Hoom starting area
Hobbit & Hoom starting area
Elf starting area (I *like* Elves)
Elf starting area (I *like* Elves)
The Shire near Bridgeford
The Shire near Bridgeford, IIRC
Obligatory Amon Sûl shot
Obligatory Amon Sûl shot



Happy 2011!

In a few hours, anyway – or, depending where you may be, happy 2011 already.

Let us hope the crop of games is good! Aside from that I wouldn’t mind a pony, great health, pots of cash and undying love. You know, the easy stuff, and not necessarily in that order (though the pony ALWAYS comes first).

Was pondering doing a recap of 2010 but really, my gaming year was pretty boring. I don’t own a console right now (can’t decide between Xbox and PS3), so I didn’t play any of those. I didn’t play any of the Dragon Age expansion thingies either. I did briefly play Assassin’s Creed in preparation for buying and playing AC2, but not for long and I never did buy the new game.

MMO-wise, I started the year with EQ2 in the firm belief (isn’t it always?) that I wouldn’t be playing anything else for positively aeons. Predictably, I got sucked into Fallen Earth in May-ish, partly because of a free offer that was too good to pass up and partly to show solidarity for what appeared to be a struggling studio with not a bad little MMO.

That lasted all of two months, I think. I then hopped into the LOTRO F2P beta and thence into LOTRO paid-up non-beta, which I’m technically still subscribed to (I think). We played that for a few months and then, a few weeks ago, somehow got sucked back in to WoW, where I’ve been having far more fun than I ever expected. The excellent company of friends I’ve recovered there doesn’t hurt one bit, either — it’s been half a decade and then some since I played with some of those people, and it’s been great to catch up over a drink or seven.

Side note: good tequila apparently does not give you hangovers.

Side note 2: good tequila seems to evaporate out of the bottle really fast. I’ll have to make sure the cap’s on tight. *cough*


Here’s how busy I’ve been — I knew Cataclysm was due to come out in December sometime, but I had no idea it was today. I haven’t been in the Twitter-stream much and I never really was in the Facebook-stream (don’t ask me why but I find FB vaguely creepy), so I haven’t seen the frothing.

Nonetheless, there’s a teeeeny tiny part of me that keeps thinking I should get this almost-brand-new-game. And try it. And maybe even like it.

I’m not sure I actually want to play or like WoW again.



In the meantime, am still enjoying LOTRO though I’m less and less sure about the monetisation aspect. I know they have to make money, and I know that being bought by WB is kind of like being bought by Disney (they both know how to wring every last drop of income out of a franchise), but… I dunno.

Example: used to be you could spend Destiny Points for a quick infusion of rest-xp, which was a nice option. I don’t remember to use it often, but I did want to use some the other day. Now, however, such expenditures are time-limited — it seems you can only do so many in a certain period of time. I don’t remember that being the case before, when I could happily cha-ching my destiny points (which I don’t use otherwise) until my rest-xp bar was full again.

Is it cynical of me to think this change has been implemented because the LOTRO-store now sells exactly the same thing only for real money and not “destiny points”?

Well anyway. Have a shiny screenshot to balance the cynicism; it’s my wallpaper right now.

LOTRO – One more wafer-thin alt!

There’s a reason the spousal unit’s superhero name would be “Mr. Methodical” — or, if he were a villain, probably something like “OCD Boy”. He is utterly incapable of doing anything casually, and this includes gaming.

Which means, if he starts crafting, that he can’t help but want to make one of everything even if 99% of everything is crap. This takes up a lot of his gaming time, as you can imagine.

When I talked him into playing LOTRO with me a couple of months ago, we swore up and down that he wouldn’t have to craft if he didn’t want to, yadda yadda yadda. He crafted. Now he doesn’t dare log in because he knows there are piles of unsorted crafting all-sorts waiting for him — and, being Mr Methodical, he’s also incapable of just ignoring said piles and playing like they don’t exist.

The long and short of this is, I now have official permission to make more alts. Because, you know, someone has to craft all the stuff we use. Really, that’s the only reason. Nothing to do with making a pile more alts and starting some more crafters. Nothing at all.

Stop laughing, you there at the back.


Random pic below — Captain Ysharros checking out the canyon approaches to Angmar on her spiffy new Harvestmath Festival mount. The horse looks keener about it than she does (can’t blame her).

A grand old MMO tradition

I don’t know about the rest of you young whippersnappers, but there’s something Mort and I seem to do in every MMO we play.

At least once, we take a couple of ridiculously under-levelled characters and run them from SafeLands01 through StupidDangerousZones 03, 04 and 08 to end up at Place-You-Don’t-Really-Need-To-Visit-Yet.

In LOTRO, we ran a level 15 (Mort’s RK and scholar) and a level 19 (my hunter) from the warm comforts of the Shire and Bree all the way to Rivendell. For one thing, we’d never done it before nor ever seen Imladris in game – which made it worth doing in and of itself. For another, Mort needed to join the Scholar’s Guild and that’s where it is.

Before you wonder why a center of Elven learning is in BFE-turn-right-past-the-Trollshaws, I should point out that Timbuktu was once a great centre of learning. No, really. But do you know where it is? (No bonus points for smartypants.)

And finally, to quote George Mallory: because it’s there.

The run through the Lone Lands was… eh, a little brown, a little sere, a little jiggy as we avoided the odd crebain-type and orc-type. Nothing much to write home about. Past the Last Bridge and into the Trollshaws, which marked the edge of anything either of us had previously experienced, and we thought we were doing pretty well. That was before we almost ran smack into the wandering elite Stone Troll.

We avoided him, as well as the wolves and worms and bears, oh my! We made it to the ford over the Bruinen basically unscathed, at which point I was thinking “Pfft, what’s the big deal about running to Rivendell anyway?”

That was before we started climbing the far slope.

We — well, mostly Heloyse, who was in the lead and had a bit more health than the weedy Rune-Keeper — spent the next 10 minutes running from one aggro to the next. Sickle-flies, boars, bears, wolves, bats, bees, barracudas — the entire world was about 6 inches away from Helo’s backside, snapping at her heels and wearing her down one bite at a time. This was the point at which I was screaming “Don’t heal! Don’t heal! You’ll get aggro!” to the spousal unit faithfully running along behind, interspersed with Muttley mutterings about how if I’d only waited just a little longer I wouldn’t be putting Helo’s “Undying” title in jeopardy. (You get that by reaching level 20 without dying. During the run, Heloyse was level 19.75 or something.)

Sadly I didn’t have any time to take pictures of the conga-line of drooling, slavering and buzzing monstrosities that chased us all the way up the eastern bank of the Bruinen. Suffice to say that when they finally dropped off — just as we came into view of two burly and oh-so-welcome high-level guards apparently randomly posted on the road — we really felt as though we’d run the gauntlet.

Running to Rivendell: not for the faint of heart, or the low of levels.

Great views though.

LOTRO – One more wafer-thin Alt?

Slowly but surely I’m giving in to my Altoholism over in LOTRO.

For those of you who are single-character players, the lure probably doesn’t make much sense. You make one character, maybe a mule or crafting alt who will never get much attention, and just go about your mono-char business. The other altoholics out there, however, will know what I mean.

First, I had to make an alt to play with the spousal unit, so we wouldn’t have to force-level him to Ysharros’ level or so she wouldn’t have to hang around waiting.

Then we discovered that since we had half the crafting classes covered, we might as well make another alt each and cover them all. (There will be crafting guild issues down the line since you can only join one guild and most chars have more than one crafting ability, but we’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.)

Slippery slope, I tell ya. Slippery slope.

So for now there’s Heloyse the Hunter who sits behind her Guardian buddy and sticks bad guys with arrows. That’s rather fun and it only belatedly occurred to us that we’re a rather stereotypical Legolas/Gimli pairing. Oh well – still fun!

But there’s also Yvriel the Warden, who is paired up with hubby’s new Rune-Keeper. He doesn’t often play casty types so we’re taking it slowly, but it’s also been quite entertaining so far. I thought I was going to make a Champion, because they look like slicing and dicing fun machines, but somehow I ended up selecting a Warden during char creation so I guess my subconscious decided for me. Besides, they’re a lot of fun too. Gotta love that Ambush move.

But wait! At some point I made a Lore-Master, Aethinviel, who ended up being the non-picked wallflower and doesn’t have a duo partner yet. I’m not sure how that happened except that I really wanted a hunter. I’m a hunter fan. So poor Aeth is in her mid teens and getting used to doing stuff by herself. Sneak up Weathertop for some herbs, at level 11? No problem! Thanks to my stupidly elephantine memory for irrelevant details from years ago, I remembered exactly a) how to get up to the top while avoiding most of the mobs and b) what the herbs looked like, though the whole shiny-clicky-me! effect makes that rather easy anyway.

So now I have not one, not two, but FOUR characters and I’m feeling a little tipsy. And distinctly less flush. Playing more than one char limits how much you actually gets done and siphons funds and resources away that you would otherwise be selling. That said, we both have spanky new houses in Falathlorn, so that’s taken care of, and the main thing left to do now is to get the Kinship house out of years-long hock. 6600 silver in one go is a lot to throw down!

Thanks to all those who have waved at me in tells – I still find it a little weird, though somehow also very flattering, and some have even sent me food packages! I guess I’m a hobbit at heart: food is always welcome!

LOTRO – "F2P" business must be good

I’m increasingly grateful that I bought Angmar/Moria/Mirkwood before LOTRO’s F2P model went live.

For one thing, it’s now almost impossible to find a copy of Moria outside major metropolitan areas (and Albuquerque apparently doesn’t count) or eBay – aside, of course, from the LOTRO store where it now costs 2495 Turbine Points. A few weeks ago I’d have said that was about $24.95, but that was back when 1 TP was worth $1.

The F2P launch must have gone really well, because all of a sudden Turbine Points aren’t worth 1:1 anymore. It’s more like 1TP = $1.5, which to me is just shy of highway robbery. I liked the 1:1 ratio, it’s easy to remember and easy to apply when you’re looking at stuff in Turbine Points — and it doesn’t make things seem all that expensive.

I’m rather shocked at the sudden 50% inflation in the cost of points. Shocked, but not all that surprised.

It also seems to be entirely impossible to find any copies of Siege of Mirkwood, anywhere, unless my Google-fu really has deserted me. Not even in the LOTRO Store and I’m very confused about that, but I could probably find an answer to it if I trawled through the forums a bit. Naaaah.

I’m loving LOTRO, yes. Loving how the spousal unit is getting fleeced because I didn’t get my ducks in a row before “F2P” went live? Not so much.

+ Gratuitous Basenji pic because we have one and they’re AAAAWWWESOME! (Ours is brindle though.)

Basenji duz not approov of fleacing playas!


Signs of life – LOTRO, FF XIV

Finally, some time to play! Cue much happy sighing and wondering if I’ve forgotten some work I should be doing. When you’re really busy, playing can seem like a bit of a guilty pleasure – which only enhances its appeal as far as I’m concerned.

LOTRO remains very fun and will always be exceedingly pretty to look at. I don’t think I’ve taken so many screenshots in years, but since most of them are landscapes and the like I won’t inflict them on you (much).

Speaking of you, hello and welcome to the nice new people stopping by! Thanks to those who haven’t abandoned me for greener blog pastures — not that I can blame them, an un-updated blog is like cheese with no wine.

So yes, while I don’t have any deep thoughts about MMOs for the time being — wait, hold on. I do. I have some thoughts about FF XIV but since they’re based on hearsay and not personal play, I’ll keep them to myself for the time being. (Mostly.) Nonetheless, FF XIV really throws into sharp relief the fact that we don’t play the games we want to play but rather the games we’re given. If the designers decide that everyone should have purple hair, that’s how it’s going to be. If the designers decide that the only way to advance is to stand on your head and recite the Bhagavad Gita, that’s how it’s going to be too.

I really don’t like the idea of being told how much I can play for xp before I get slammed by penalties and how many quests I can do in a given day. Which still doesn’t obviate the fact that I play as I’m told in every other game too — I just don’t dislike it. The difference is my approach, not the fact that we do — whatever we may think — for the most part play the game that’s designed for us. They make the mazes and we run through them.

This isn’t a bad thing per se. Games need rules. I don’t play Monopoly using Scrabble rules (though that might be interesting now and then) and I don’t play poker using canasta rules – if I did, I’d be playing canasta, not poker.

So before you start yelling at me that actually we play the games we want and not the games that are designed for us, I’m not painting a dark developer conspiracy. I don’t do that and I’ve spoken against it before (somewhere here, find your own damn links).

We are the conspiracy. We get used to expecting certain things and when those things are designed differently, we usually react — at least initially — with dislike. As I’m doing with FF XIV, sight unseen. I never did get a chance to get the patcher working and check out the open beta, work being what it was. However, Pete at Dragonchasers has some interesting writeups so check that out if you’re on the fence about FF XIV as I am.

In the meantime I’ve been faffing around Middle Earth, mostly on my own, sometimes with the spousal unit, and it’s been fun. The No-Quests week really did remind me that even though the maze may be created for me, I do get the freedom to decide what particular path I want to take through it — which is a not inconsiderable freedom and one we might want to make use of more often. There is nothing that says I have to hit level X by day Y, or that I have to do Activity A instead of Activity B. Most MMOs, however theme-parkish, still don’t insist that you do the same thing all day every day; that’s usually our choice.

So I’ve been harvesting and selling and mooching around and visiting places I may be just a little too high for — and it’s been a lot of fun. There are so many quests to do in most of the established MMOs these days that you absolutely can’t do them all while they’re still challenging. (Not unless you can level-lock, which some games like EQ2 allow you to do.) But since I’m not a gigantic challenge-chaser anyway, I’ve been happy to visit the Barrow Downs even though the mobs were mostly conning green and pale blue — and, in contrast, to run through Evendim and suddenly realise that everything was conning either red or purple and that I should probably watch my blithely mining step.

Maybe Heloyse and Mortormur will visit the Barrow Downs — they’re already a little high for most of the Old Forest, at 17, but the Downs should still be quite the challenge. Even I like a little danger now and then.

As I said, I’ve taken a ton of screenshots. I’ll throw some up because they’re fun – to me, anyway – and hopefully illustrate how atmospheric LOTRO can be and how profound the attention to detail is in almost everything you look at. (For instance: the snowy landscape around Thorin’s Gate has beaten-down, mulched-up areas where people take shortcuts through the snow. It took me a while of seeing those to realise how natural they looked and how much they contribute to the illusion of a world where stuff does go on whether your character is there or not.)

If you’re lucky I’ll be able to post a little more regularly now. Or maybe that’s unlucky.

The brightest stars fade more slowly at dawn
Do want! (The map table, not the men.)
Creepy old Barrow in the creepy old Barrow Downs...
Obligatory Weathertop pic

What I want isn’t what I wanted

The spousal unit and I were both in the Lord of the Rings Online Beta a few years ago, but we decided against getting or playing the game at launch.


I’m not really sure. It just wasn’t our thing back then; maybe the crafting wasn’t hardcore enough.

Now it is (our thing; the crafting still isn’t hardcore). Well, mine, anyway, and I’m trying to talk him into playing too on the rare occasions we both have some free time – which have been rarer than the jackalope this last month, so I think we’ve been able to log in together maybe twice so far. But the new Free to Play model makes it easy, and you don’t feel pressured to log in to get the most of your sub or trial time.

I’m subbed up though and will stay that way. There are too many useful perks to being subbed. That said, the LOTRO F2P model does seem quite well done, without too many “I can’t do this!” frustrations and without too heavy a stick beating you about the head telling you to spend money. In contrast, I get the feeling SOE pulled out their biggest stick when designing EQ2X, but since I haven’t actually tried the latter — and really don’t want to right now, they’re not in my good books — I shouldn’t comment.

The point being: tastes change. Requirements change. Free time amounts change.

In my 20s, I could spend hours and hours hanging out with my friends, shooting the shiz and fixing the ills of the world. Beer was a bonus but not obligatory.

These days, I have neither the time nor the inclination to do stuff like that very often. I have a schedule. Responsibilities. Stuff to do (rather than just talk about). And besides, it just isn’t as thrilling to talk about stuff all day when you’ve already spent 20 years talking about said stuff.

My gaming life hasn’t been all that different, though offset by about 10 years. In my first few years of MMO gaming I was perfectly content to spend hours and hours hanging out with my friends, shooting the shiz and fixing the ills of the game. And I don’t mean hanging out in the same chat channel – we actually hung out in (virtual) person. Did I mention Asheron’s Call didn’t have very advanced chat capabilities?

Those truly were halcyon days — both my 20s and my early gaming years — and part of me always looks back to those when I look for something new to play or wonder why I’m not perfectly content in what I’m currently playing. But the plain fact is, we change.

I grew (not up, necessarily). I want different things from games now, but part of me will always judge games (or social gatherings) through the lens of my early experiences. Sometimes those games don’t look right through the lens and it takes me a while to realise they might actually be fun for who I am now not who I was 10-20 years ago.

That’s it. No point as such, just the observation of something I only needed 10 years of gaming to notice.

So yeah. I’ve been working. A lot — no, let me rephrase that. A LOT. Apologies to readers old and new (hi Alarron!). I’m trying to take a few days off, though some dumbass accepted work for today (/e slaps self on back of head). I will most likely spend those days playing, not blogging — though it’s good to see that the old urge hasn’t quite abandoned me yet.

I love you guys, but there’s no way I’m going to make time for blogging when I’m getting up at 0500 and working till 1900, even if my gameroom is my office is is my blogging desk. I’ll make time to play something first. Speaking of which, it’s time for my self-prescribed game-hour.


Quick chars/servers update. I’m mostly on Elendilmir right now, because the queues on Landroval were too high for the spousal unit (not paying, doesn’t get to jump the line). So even though we haven’t really played as much as we’d have wanted to, it’s where I am.

Ysharros the Man-Captain (/raisebrow) is now 23, has a faster horse and better armour, and owns a deluxe house in Falathlorn. To the manor born, I tell ya.

Heloyse is the duo-with-hubby-hunter who hasn’t had much screentime yet.

And… err… I think Aethinviel (tbc) is the Lore Master I made in a fit of OMG MUST HAVE AN ALT!!! She hasn’t been played much either.

Someone actually contacted me yesterday in game, asking if I was the Stylish Corpse Ysharros — as far as I know there’s only one other person who occasionally uses the handle and she’s in the UK — and that was really flattering. I’m sure the big bloggy types get that all the time, but as far as I can recall it’s only ever happened to me once or twice. It’s pretty neat.

This many goblins!*

*I lie. It was all Elrohir. I just cut him out of the picture.

IronWoman LOTRO – It ends here

(Listos version: Blah blah blah DID NOT BLOODY GRIND ANY MOBS ANYWHERE blah blah enjoy questing blah blah blah all things in moderation blah blah.

Some days I wonder why I bother blogging.)

This is where it started, the foolish notion to play an MMO for a week and not do a single (standard) quest.

Then there were updates. One update, ah! ah! ah! And then I updated a second time-ah! Then, after throwing une vache over the battlements, I did some more updating: three and four. Gosh, is that all? It feels like I’ve written Moby Dick meets War and Peace this last week, but I guess it doesn’t really weigh in much over a single Gravity’s Rainbow.

Either way it was a very interesting week, and for the most part a fun one too.

(Wall of text warning!)

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