LOTRO: a riding I will go – IntPiPoMo 2016 (5)

This post is the fifth in a series this month for International Picture Posting Month, see this post for more details.

Earlier in the week I had a free evening and decided to take a break from EQ2 to play some Lord of the Rings Online. I planned to continued with the epic storyline of Update 19 as per my last session and was soon swept up in the move north into a new region, North Ithilien.

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As per usual my attempts at driving onwards to follow the main storyline were somewhat hampered by wandering off the road to mine ore nodes. The land is beautiful and mostly peaceful, at least compared to the grim state of war-torn Pelennor. That’s not to say danger doesn’t lurk in the thickset trees, however…

I'm not getting any closer for a clearer screenshot!

Ugh! I’m not getting any closer for a clearer screenshot!

My pleasure in blazing my own trail through a new area, and the chance to be inquisitive and stick my nose into everything, did lead me away from what I was supposed to be doing – talking to heralds along the way. By the time I reached the hidden Ranger camp at Aelin Veren, having meandered far to either side of the road along the way, I realised I still had two heralds to talk to right back near where I started at Osgiliath.

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Thankfully, I had set a bind point back at the camp there so it was no trouble to return to the session’s starting point. Heralds were duly located and given their orders. The very next quest had me going, naturally, to the Ranger camp up north again. So more riding it was!

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It’s strange, I can distinctly remember getting annoyed with long back and forth travel in LOTRO, and in other MMOs, in the past. Travel seems to be less of a feature of our virtual adventures nowadays. Not that I want every session to be dominated by long horse-rides like this, but it made quite a refreshing change to be focused on the road and the passing scenery for once, rather than fight after fight.

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Back at Aelin Veren I explored the place from top to bottom, the epic storyline encouraged me to do so, and was rather taken aback at how striking this hidden Ranger post is. I left my character in this place of safety, ready for journeys further into the region another day.

A room with a view, indeed!

A room with a view, indeed!

Posted in Gaming, LotRO | 1 Comment

WoW: NPC deaths and helpless heroes

I was shown a snippet of yesterday’s The Queue column on Blizzard Watch; the answer to the second question got me thinking about a problem I’ve had with the storytelling in this expansion: that of frequent and sudden NPC deaths. This post will be spoilerific if you’ve not played the original four levelling zones of the Legion expansion, you have been warned…

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Posted in Gaming, WoW | 2 Comments

WoW: Broken Isles zones – IntPiPoMo 2016 (4)

This post is the fourth in a series this month for International Picture Posting Month, see this post for more details.

Since I’m actually a bit behind my idea of 10 pictures a week for IntPiPoMo, the Gnome Race post was a shorter one, I’m squeezing in a bonus post at the end of this week.

Playing World of Warcraft last night I was playing around taking some screenshots and my husband looked over and commented on just how beautiful the zone/building/lighting/everything design is in the expansion’s zones. Blizzard have outdone themselves this time around. I like all four of the levelling zones for different reasons: lore, questing content or their atmosphere.

1. Stormheim

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It seems to rain a lot in Stormheim, so it’s often moody and dour.

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That’s not to say the zone lacks its own charm – it has some great quest-giver characters.

2. Highmountain

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Highmountain is probably my favourite zone because I really like the Tauren. Of the four starter zones, this zone made me care the most about the characters we were adventuring alongside.

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I think Highmountain’s vistas speak for themselves.

3. Val’sharah

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Val’sharah is a real contrast of light and dark. The unspoilt areas are really beautiful to explore.

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The nightmare corrupted areas are dark and twisted, aptly but annoyingly they’re rather a pain to adventure through.

4. Azsuna

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Azsuna is light and open but a sad zone, so much has been lost and ruined here.

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There are some memorable little areas though, and the odd touch of humour to lighten the mood.

Posted in Gaming, WoW | 1 Comment

EQ2: Kunark factions and character loyalties

Last night was my first play session in EQ2 since the expansion, Kunark Ascending, launched earlier in the week. I spent the time, just as I have the last few weeks, on levelling and preparing my Inquisitor for the expansion. He’s now level 98, so still one and a bit levels short of the cap. He also has quite a checklist of pre-requisites left to do before he’ll get access to the expansion.

Early steps on the path back to Kunark

Early steps on the path back to Kunark

Out of curiosity I decided to check out my Sarnak Shadowknight, who was my main character for a year or so, to see what he would need to do. During general questing in the Kylong Plains zone, from the game’s original Kunark expansion, I’d seen that Sarnaks are one of factions on the continent. So it got me thinking at least briefly about whether I should revert to this character to play since he’d have a personal motivation to get involved with new events in the continent. Reading others impressions of the expansion thus far I noticed a reference to the quests forcing adventurers to fight against Sarnaks, his own people, that might pose a bit of a dilemma for this character. Although he’s capped already but has even less of the checklist done so I decided to go back to plan A and carry on with the Inquisitor; at least he, as a human, has no particular stake in the age-old Iksar vs Sarnak conflict.

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A proud Sarnak

Admittedly it’s rare when I play any MMORPG to really feel like I don’t want my character to do a specific quest. There’s a quest in DDO that I always refused to do on my Paladin since it involved fighting brethren from his own religious order at the orders of a rival zealous faith. In SWTOR skipping missions wasn’t generally an issue, it was more micro-decisions in conversations within missions or instances that might go against one of my characters moral compass. So far in my EQ2 adventures I’ve blithely wandered through the world causing chaos and fixing wrongs, without very deep thoughts about my characters’ place in that world.

Would a Sarnak character be willing to even talk to these NPCs let alone help them?

Would a Sarnak character be willing to even talk to these NPCs let alone help them?

I don’t want spoilers of the new storylines so I’m not delving into this issue until I’ve seen the expansion’s content on my neutral Inquisitor. As a broader issue though, it got me wondering whether major storylines or even whole expansions ever take us on a story path that certain characters might not want to follow at all?

Posted in EQ2, Gaming | 3 Comments

Mountain vistas – IntPoPiMo 2016 (3)

This post is the third in a series this month for International Picture Posting Month, see this post for more details.

Although I enjoy a variety of biomes in my online gaming, mountains have always inspired me for some reason. In MMOs mountains often represent a border between regions or a barrier to progress. They can also hide some interesting secrets; caves, ominous fortresses or long-abandoned ruins. Despite their imposing slopes or potential dead-ends and confusing switchback paths, mountains also should represent a way to climb and look down on a world – this post is about mountains that you can climb, not distant peaks that are simply high fidelity wallpaper.

1. Lord of the Rings – Misty Mountains

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The Misty Mountains in Lord of the Rings Online does a wonderful job of evoking the majesty and tempestuous nature of mountains – the sudden blizzard that can sweep in, obscuring vision and monstrous foes, was so very atmospheric.

2. Lord of the Rings – Minas Tirith, Gondor

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Gondor is another mountainous region in LOTRO, plenty of peaks to climb and valleys to cross as you journey southwards. The highlight of the region, for me at least, is the great city of Minas Tirith. It’s a sight to behold when you first come across it, it’s literally built on the slope of and into a mountain. It’s such a grand city in scale that you feel like you are scaling a mountain as you adventure within its concentric arcs.

3. Rift – Iron Pine Peak

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One of my earlier MMO gaming memories is that of the first playthrough of Iron Pine Peaks in Rift. It’s a beautiful zone, full of ice and snow. It also has plenty of secrets to divulge – caverns hidden under slopes and distant sights, such as solitary towers, that entice you ever onwards.

4. World of Warcraft – Highmountain

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Although World of Warcraft has many mountain areas I have actually plumped for Highmountain in the most recent Legion expansion as my example for the game. Since Mists of Pandaria the game engine is capable of a lot more verticality in its mountains, they have greater height and scale to them compared with earlier zones. Highmountain illustrates this perfectly, when you get near the summits of the zone you are so very high up compared to neighbouring zones.

5. World of Warcraft – Highmountain (2)

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A design decision taken by the Blizzard dev team in Legion was to give mobility other than flying mounts a real role. Here you see my Moonkin (Balance druid) using his flap ability to float down from a great height. There are plenty of options – engineering items, goblin-made handgliders, the usual spells like levitate or slow fall – all allow characters to navigate this zone in fun and interesting ways.

6. Neverwinter – Icespire Peak

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Neverwinter’s mountains are mostly backdrop, but the Icespire Peak zone is an exceptio. It’s very atmospheric and grand in scale, particularly this bridge between peaks that is made from a gigantic fallen sword.

7. Everquest 2 – Lavastorm

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Most MMORPGs that have mountains have snowy, wind-blown zones. Occasionally there’s something a bit more varied out there – take Lavastorm from Everquest 2. It’s a giant volcano full of lava pits, magma tunnels and fiery monsters galore.

8. Wildstar – Scourwind Peak, Malgrave

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Wildstar also has a great sense of scale to its mountainous areas and offers possibly the greatest opportunities to climb higher and higher for that great vista or elusive achievement.

9. Tera – Mount Tyrannas

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Mount Tyrannus in Tera is a classic snowy mountain area but one that is particularly beautiful with the game’s high-definition graphics.

10. SWTOR – crashed starships of Taris

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SWTOR doesn’t feature many explorable mountain ranges, planets like Alderaan have mountains in the distance but you never reach them. However Taris gives an example of a rather unusual take on mountain vistas. The debris of the planet-wide city in the explorable zones towers above you as you travel – on occasion you can actually travel up sheer sloping planes of metal to a great height – urban mountaineering, perhaps?

IntPiPoMo 2016 picture count: 26/50

Posted in EQ2, Gaming, LotRO, Neverwinter, Rift, SWTOR, Tera, Wildstar, WoW | 2 Comments

Gear complexity

Syp had a post last week about the “Jenga tower of MMO gear complexity“, pointing out the common problem of aging MMOs – that the complexity of managing our characters’ gear increases as new stats, enhancements and tiers of equipment are added. It’s certainly a problem I can identify with.

For instance I have a capped character in Everquest 2 but have no real clue about the bewildering array of stats on his gear. It’s a game that I’ve played for quite a long time but I’ve never played at end-game, when gear selection and optimisation generally really matters in any MMO. As Syp mentions in his post, the Legendary Item system in LOTRO is a clear example of out-of-control gear complexity. I am happy enough to spend the accumulated talent-like points on a given weapon to customise it for my character chosen playstyle; but the deep system of relics, item deconstruction and recycling that sits behind this is way beyond my understanding.

Developers don’t just add new stats to gear, they often seem to have a back-and-forth attitude to stat complexity. WoW has gone through many revamps of itemisation and the stat system. Primary stats have changed a fair amount over the years but the secondary stats have changed even more. Older stats like MP5 or spirit have been trimmed in the name of stat simplification, yet new stats always seem to be added (e.g. secondary stats like mastery or versatility, or even minor stats like speed) to keep us players on our toes.

I have no problem with some rpg-style ‘crunch’ in the MMOs that I play – I like to put some thought into my characters through their gear and optimisation. However, I do think it can be taken way too far by developers who, perhaps, are so close to these systems that they forget just how byzantine they can appear to players. It’s rather telling that most of the WoW players I know always use Mr Robot, or a similar add-on, to tell them whether a gear drop is actually better or not to what their character is currently wearing…

Posted in EQ2, Gaming, LotRO, WoW | 2 Comments

EQ2: Heroes Festival 2016

The Heroes’ Festival in EQ2 has come around again, this time the game celebrates its twelth year. It’s been on for a week so far and finishes this coming Monday. I’ve not had that much time for it this year – WoW’s Legion expansion still dominates my available gaming time. But I did want to snag the new, rather striking, patchwork flying lion mount that is easily obtained on any character by completing six festival quests.

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It’s notable that the mount has flying from level 35, much lower than other mounts, so it’s a real bonus to mobility for lower level alts. I only had one character who I’m likely to level any time soon, so I snagged a second on that character while it was available.

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There’s also a bonus XP week starting today for the final run-up to the launch of the game’s next expansion. I still need a few levels on my Inquisitor to reach the cap of 100, so here’s hoping I manage to find some time for levelling after the weekend!

Posted in EQ2, Gaming