Curating a playthrough for others #LOTRO

I prefer to play MMORPGs with friends or close family by choice, I’ve done a lot of soloing over the years mind, but usually enjoy questing more with others. Playing some Lord of the Rings Online with my husband I’m in an unusual situation where I know the content better than him; his highest character just dinged level 30. That’s quite the contrast with World or Warcraft where he has for many years played more than me and consistently levelled more alt characters through current content.

In that latter game I’m used to following his characters around in new expansions or zones since he usually gets to play more and earlier than I so knows the content somewhat already. When play time is limited (which it usually is for me) I’m more than happy to avoid too much running in circles.

I get so lost in Nazjatar on my own

In LOTRO the tables are turned and I know the content better so I’m the one taking choices on what to do and in what order. Often it seems the quests have a logic to them in terms of which quest overlaps with which other ones. Since returning to the game we’ve followed the Eglain’s various camps and settlements around the zone and done everything required at each. Simple enough.

Pointing the way

The complication comes with levelling speed in the live game and the epic story that gives a narrative path through the various zones. Our characters have just dinged level 30 and we’re about 80% of the way through the Lone Lands, with the Agarmaur still to do (and some important story there). Yet we’ve had some quests for levels now inviting us to go defeat evil to the north west in North Downs, and if I want him to experience all the epic quests we’ll need to take that detour before heading east again.  Bearing in mind the wiki states that North Downs is for levels 24-32 and that we have class quests to do up there beyond the epic book, and I’m starting to be concerned over just how much I should be curating the content to play versus what to skip.

Dinging 30, oops!

I’m sure if I look I could find a “fastest levelling path” guide or similar. I think what I need here though is an “essential quests not to miss” guide instead since I want his levelling experience to hit all the high notes among the voluminous but excellent story content in the game. A quick search while writing this didn’t provide an obvious list – what not to skip because of rewards exists, and a comparison of similar level zones, neither of which answers what I’m looking for. We’ll follow the epic quests path for sure, but I’d like to avoid skipping entire zones where possible.

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Autumnal gaming 2019

As has happened before, a period of absence from gaming has soft-rebooted my gaming selection somewhat, though it is not unexpected. A break from WoW Classic and Battle for Azeroth for just over two weeks left me unmotivated to play either upon my return.WoW Classic is ok but it is all content I’ve seen before and I’m not a huge fan of repeating old stuff at least when there’s new stuff I’ve not done. As for BfA itself, well the news coming out on 8.3 sounds interesting, but that’s not going to be here for some time and 8.2.5 wasn’t that meaty from my perspective.

At least we got Deadmines done.

The controversy over the Hearthstone tournament certainly weighed into decisions over WoW as well although I only play that one of the many games Blizzard publishes so I’m less invested than many gamers. It’s old news now, I suppose, but I’ll just state for my own blog record that Blizzard’s handling of this leaves me feeling very uneasy not least because the tournament was held in Taiwan (the island Republic of China, not the People’s Republic of China on the mainland). Geopolitics was a major area of study for me not so long ago, for a major US company to defend Chinese (PRC) oppression of free speech in this way, at a conference in a smaller democratic country whose very existence the Chinese government actively disputes, makes me deeply uncomfortable.

On more positive notes the Autumn is shaping up nicely with new content to look forward to in two of my main titles. Everquest 2 has an expansion coming called Blood of Luclin. I’m going to be playing EQ2 a bunch over the coming months for sure, it is practically my de-facto MMO these days. I am aware going into another expansion that I need to put in some effort to keep up with the crowd this time if I want to resolve my long-standing issues with grouping. It is also time to find a new guild, as mine has been inactive for over a year now.

Fly me to the moon…

There’s also my recent foray back into Lord of the Rings Online with my husband and the inevitable temptation to try once-more to crack that cliff edge of difficulty trying to get into Mordor’s content on my main. I fear the time investment is simply too great. The guild I joined in LOTRO last time I was playing regularly seems to have declined rather sharply, so there might be a need to go guild hunting there too if I want to do anything nearer the cap. The weight of content and progress weighs heavier on my Champion in LOTRO as Mordor is a barrier to access to the zones that came afterwards; there’s no skipping over it as yet. At least in Everquest 2 more recent expansions and the gear-up equipment on offer means it is perfectly possible to jump back in and make story progress on whatever is current. Even if LOTRO offered an insta-ding upgrade with decent gear, my Champion would be locked out of the Epic storyline because of the Mordor chapters.

Mordor, /shudder

In a sense this is perfectly normal for MMORPGs, as a genre they demand time investment for progress and I’m not actually against that. It’s the perennial dilemma of wanting to juggle multiple and perfectly excellent games balanced against the need to work 40 hours a week to pay the bills. It’d be interesting to see this Autumn if I can make a good start to Blood of Luclin while at the same time at least get my LOTRO main unstuck finally – catching up with the latest content in the latter game is going to take me a long, long time I suspect but then playing through the content is my main aim anyway. Let’s just see what the coming months bring.

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Is area loot fixed? #SWTOR

A small but very welcome change to our moment-to-moment gameplay in Star Wars the Old Republic was noticeable since our leveling trio last played. Coming back to the game this week was a slightly-delayed chance to indulge the still-relatively-fresh joy I feel over having visited Galaxy’s Edge recently.

While playing I suddenly realised that area loot in group wasn’t the usual buggy mess that we’ve become so used to over the years. The last few times we’ve played invariably we would all need to loot everything since loot seemed to be created for the others when one or more of the group looted something – it meant we would often have to loot multiple times. You would loot one of the ‘light beams’ and they would all dutifully disappear, but then when a colleague looted some more might appear meaning doubling back a lot. I’m not sure if this is because of an actual bug-fix or if it just doesn’t bug now we’re out of the Hutt Cartel zones.

We’re playing through the early instances of the Shadows of Revan expansion on Imperial side now, another case of enjoying the alternate perspective on a familiar story for me, a completely new experience for my two group-mates. It’s a rather neat story line and one I’m happy to play again after a gap of several years. SWTOR remains a very good small-group game to play with friends, at least through the base game, Hutt Cartel and up until this expansion. The inclusion in Revan of the story-mode flashpoints is a nice change of pace from just doing zones and missions as well, we did instantly dismiss the auto-spawned GSI helper-droid(s) to keep a semblance of challenge for our trio.

It might have been a pure coincidence but I was able to take a lot more screenshots with print screen also in this session than any session I can remember. Given the prevalence of loading screens in the game, and the fact that loading between areas always seemed to me to be the moment that would cause Print Screen to stop working, I was able to take screenshots throughout the evening without resorting to the XBox for PC overlay alternative. Like the recent addition of a quest text font size button in Lord of the Rings Online, this kind of small but impactful change can make quite the difference to how a game feels to play overall.  I’ve no idea whether this was another bug fix or just a coincidence?

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LOTRO’s varied class design

I played some Lord of the Rings Online together with my husband for the first time in years on Sunday evening. It was quite a hiatus since we last played these two Hobbits together (my Warden and his Minstrel). Syp’s post yesterday on which LOTRO alts he’d play given enough time chimed nicely with my return to a beloved, if sorely neglected character.

Tanking time little Hobbit!

Technically this alt hasn’t been as ignored as many of my others since he’s currently my equal 1st most skilled crafter with Anórien tier weaponsmithing (tier 10 of 12), tied with my cook alt. He was stuck wearing the Stone of the Tortoise for years to keep his crafting activities from leveling him beyond his static partner.

Otherwise I’ve levelled a gaggle of other alts through the starter zones to try out other classes’ mechanics and to get started on other crafting professions. I started a Dwarven Runekeeper as a I wanted a healer for group fun with a guild. He did get some healer action but low level instances weren’t that popular and that idea withered at the time as I was focused on taking my main through Mordor.

I have a level dinged Captain that I’d love to catch-up to my main as a more solo-friendly character for more difficult content and as a more flexible guild character since Captains are full hybrids (i.e. can be tank, healer or dps). So far I’ve failed to connect with her though, as learning 95 levels worth of abilities isn’t easy in later content and I haven’t yet broken through my feelings of guilt over potentially replacing my faithful Champion as my main.

Otherwise  I have an Elven Minstrel (the Anórien cook mentioned above) also in the 20s that I love the play stylings of but haven’t for whatever reason taken higher. There is also a Dwarven Hunter, Elven Guardian and Elven Lore-master in the teens level-wise that I would happily play if I could only conjure more free-time. That’s really the ultimate point of this post, the class variety and design of LOTRO has always impressed me. LOTRO is such a lore-constrained game with very mundane abilities: no conjured black holes here, even magic is more subtle.  Despite this the character classes feel and look distinct to play, quite a feat in a relatively old game. It’s because of this strength that I always feel tempted to log back into one of these alts just to get a few levels more.

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To jump on-board or not? #Archeage

Back from holiday and there’s been quite a lot to read about while I was away, I did keep up with blog posts and gaming news somewhat but found blogging on my mobile too annoying to do much. I’ll need to do some more catch-up posts on the big ticket items that have happened while I was away.

The most imminent near-future news is that Archeage Unchained launches on the 15 October. I’ve played a bit of Archeage over the last year or so, although the current live game isn’t that fun to play as a free-to-play player as you are locked out of so much gameplay (notably housing). Despite the limitations and the low population levelling zones I’ve enjoyed the game’s systems a lot when I have played it. In particular the mix-and-match class system is great, it’s rather reminiscent of Rift’s soul system.

I was initially attracted to it as a game that emphasized crafting and trading as a valid gamestyle. It’s something that I’ve also dabbled in occasionally in Black Desert Online, another MMORPG with quite a lot of depth to the crafting and trading sides, but the combat and character development systems never appealed to me in that MMO.

Why have one talent tree, when you can have three?

The game world is really beautiful to travel around, and so much of it is still totally unseen to me so that’s also a positive factor. Travel is a big part of gameplay with mounts that exist in the world, multiple automated taxi-style options and an unusual selection of player vehicles on land and on water. Oh and every character has a glider as well just for good measure. Each of the personal movement systems have progression systems attached; e.g. you level your horse or other mount as you ride it, and there are skills to unlock.

Featuring a mostly player-driven world, Archeage offers gameplay that other MMORPGs do not (at least to the same extent). Crafting and gathering are very important for driving the player economy, yet like any game with this focus joining as a new player is intimidating. When I tried Archeage the cost of even low level materials on the auction house were way out of my character’s meagre means. Starting again from scratch wouldn’t take long as, unlike in EQ2 or LOTRO, I’ve never progressed that far in levels or crafting skills.

This relaunch of a buy-to-play version of the game by the current publisher Gamigo would offer a golden opportunity to see the game at its best and busiest. A with all progression / classic/ server type experiences it is likely I’d get left behind as we’re fast approaching expansion season for several MMOs that I play regularly. Nevertheless the chance to experience the game anew does tempt me.

The main and overriding negative of doing so is that Archeage by its nature is a ‘needy MMO’, it requires a significant time investment to fully enjoy this style of gameplay. When I looked at crafting in the past it looked complex and rewarding but also very grindy to progress. There are several MMORPGs that I want to make renewed progress in so this re-launch at this time of year poses a dilemma.

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Galaxy’s Edge, Disneyland

I’ve just spent a weekend at Disneyland California enjoying some immersive escapism for a few days. I’ve been before but this was my first chance to see the new Galaxy’s Edge zone a Star Wars themed set-piece.

There’s only one ride so far open (a second will open in early 2020), though it’s pretty iconic. It’s called Smuggler’s Run and has a team of six players paired up as pilots, gunners and engineers respectively. I’ve not done a theme park ride this gamified/ interactive before so it was doubly enjoyable both as a Star Wars fan and gaming enthusiast.

Dark cockpit = poor quality photos…

Pilots had a measure of control on X and Y axis movement shared between them to up the requirement for coordination. The experience was onrails as it is a CGI interactive movie not a 3D simulation after all. I had a go as pilot and found it very immersive. The views out the cockpit windows in front and slightly to the side and above were very effective.  I also tried engineer but that was hitting lit up buttons on a side panel which dragged my attention away from the forward window and view of the action a bit more.

One of the group of six friends (the perfect number for this ride!) is a Disney fanatic and had heard that a test version of the ride had free aiming for gunners but that it was too hard for non-gamers to get a half-decent score. Likely the same would apply to piloting and engineers – the controls in each role are simple and consequences for mistakes not very severe from what I could gather.

That’s a good thing though as this is designed for mixed groups of families, fans and theme park enthusiasts – not crack teams of Tie Fighter series veteran-gamers. I imagine a more complete simulation would have caused no end of arguments between those of differing skill levels.

The single ride is set within a largish area of a lovingly designed Star Wars settlement – think Mos Ridley if you’ve never heard of Black Spire Outpost or the planet Batuu. The backgrounds, ambient sounds and dedication of all the cast members (Disney employees) to keep the experience as immersive as possible really impressed me.

It naturally has me hankering for some SWTOR game time once more, gotta love that galaxy far far away!


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Storm Crow Manor, Toronto

I’m in the impressive city of Toronto at the moment and visited yesterday evening a temple of geek/gaming in the guise of a gaming bar called Storm Crow Manor. I’ve seen a few similar establishments in the UK, but nothing quite this gloriously over the top.

There was plenty of board and card gaming going on as we sat eating and drinking with a friend from a nearby town.

The drinks, decor and food menu all reference a hodge podge of SciFi TV and films, MMORPs and literature. The mocktails were delicious and one even had a dry ice effect.

As we were leaving I spotted a list of upcoming events – sadly we won’t be in the city long enough to enjoy these board game and ttrpg events, but I like the idea of living near to a venue like this as a home for geek and gaming culture. I’d highly recommend a visit if you’re ever in Toronto!

Posted in MMORPG, TTRPG | 2 Comments