Surreal virtual moments

I’ve been extra glad of some pure virtual escapism as real world news gets worse and worse. I’ve greatly appreciated several recent moments in MMO games that featured imaginative storytelling, plain surreal situations and unexpected humour.


Bond film opening credits remake?

Bond film opening credits remake?

I can’t say much about this image without story spoilers for the Imperial Agent. There is an in-game reason why my character appears to be spewing miniature people from his mouth, needless to say at the time I was impressed and confused by the surrealism of this montage. It did remind me stylistically of an early Bond film opening credits.


Fear the watery sky

Fear the watery sky

I’ve just progressed from Goboro Reef onwards to the Draumheim zone, which surprisingly is way below the former and separated from it by a layer of ocean. So my character looks upwards and sees giant Akvan tentacled monstrosities swimming in the sky above his head. That’s not something you see every day…




Sometimes absurdity takes over in MMORPGs, and not always by design. While running World Quests on my shaman with my Husband’s druid – it’s quickest if I ride around on his upgraded travel form. That plus the reusable kite allowed us to ride off a high peak in Azsuna and glide a third of the way across the zone. Now, that’s a way to travel!

Posted in Gaming, Rift, SWTOR, WoW | 1 Comment

LOTRO: expansion news

I read last night, via Massively OP, that Standing Stone Games has been talking about the plans for this year for Lord of the Rings Online. The major piece of news is that our character’s adventures in Mordor, the focus of the next expansion, will take place after the ring has been destroyed.

Mordor is that a way...

Mordor is that a way…

It makes sense given the general trend of our character’s following in the Fellowship’s wake; at times our journey may intersect with that of specific heroes, but we are normally behind them. I see this as both a sensible choice to avoid the expansion’s climax being utterly predictable and to pave the way for what is to come. This expansion is likely to be the beginning of something rather exciting, our character’s saga emerging from under the shadow of events, rather than the end of a journey tied to the story of the books alone.

End or new beginning?

End or new beginning?

Strangely LOTRO is one of the few MMORPGs that does not adopt the “you’re the amazing hero” narrative device used by so many. Sure our characters do deeds of heroism, and get recognised for it, but we’re never quite put up on that pedestal as the saviour of the world. The Fellowship’s journey has dictated, with quite a few deviations, our general route through Middle Earth. It’ll be very interesting to see where SSG will be taking them after our trudge into Mordor…

Posted in Gaming, LotRO | 1 Comment

Rift: roadblock quests

Before the weekend I came across an example in Rift of what I’ve decided to call a ‘roadblock quest’, one that I need to complete in order to continue the main storyline of the expansion, but one that isn’t doable without unusual measures.


Up to this point the storyline was easy enough to follow solo, tough at times if I accidentally overpull densely packed monsters, but certainly soloable. The quest “Eyes on the Oculon“, however is a pretty hard nut to crack. As I neared the end of the quest, a longish series of tasks, involving me bouncing between the ironclad wrecks of the Bloodfire faction, I came to the last step of boarding their flagship to destroy the titular ‘Oculon’.


Here though, after battling past lots of trash, I had to fight four elite monsters guarding the item, followed immediately by a boss. I tried this fight in all my available specs and didn’t come vaguely close to killing all four. I had no quest item I could use to weaken them or somehow even up the odds. So eventually, as my soul repairs mounted, I looked online for some clue as to what I was doing wrong.


According to forum discussions it seems to be the quest rather than my approach at fault, although there is an accessible to all ‘work around’. The Intrepid Adventure system, drop-in and out raids, bolsters all characters joining it to level 65 (four levels above the zone). Using that system but not clicking teleport leaves me a time window of being over-powered before the system kicks me for inactivity. That allowed me to kill the four guards with ease, I then dropped from the raid in order to defeat the boss as normal.


This ‘roadblock quest’ is either miscategorised and should be flagged as ‘group’, or preferably adjusted to cater for the thinner player population in zones below the current content. Sure, I might need to work more on my builds still, but killing four elite mobs at once seems a bit of a stretch for normal solo content. I imagine there are examples in other MMORPGs of quests that can block progress and that are far more difficult than they should be, perhaps due to a bug or a misjudgment in the quest’s difficulty.

Posted in Gaming, Rift

SWTOR: embracing rogue gameplay

I’ve never liked playing rogues in World of Warcraft or any other MMORPG actually. I have tried to play it a few times but I just didn’t like the melee-only combat, positional ability-use and such.

Backstab time...

Backstab time…

With the Imperial Agent and, to a lesser extent the Jedi Shadow I play for the latest content, Star Wars the Old Republic may have finally converted me to this style of gameplay. There are a couple of crucial improvements or tweaks to the formula that Agent in particular brings though.

Melee time

Melee time

Playing Imperial Agent, with the Operative advanced class, gives me stealth and balanced set of blaster skills, knife skills and utility abilities. Movement and position are important as usual, I have melee-only skills and the traditional “backstab” attack. But unlike traditional rogues I have some valid ranged attacks as well, so I can choose to stand back and shoot or charge in and stab or a blend of the two. That balance  I think what’s really appealing to me about this class in combat – I love the stealth of the Jedi Shadow but it is a strictly melee class. The Agent gives me options either to react to a developing situation or  to mix-up combat gameplay so it doesn’t become stale or repetitive.

'Ranged rogue'

‘Ranged rogue’

I’m not sure it’ll become my main character in future, I do love my Jedi characters, but this class has made me reappreciate an archetype that I’ve never really liked in the past.

Posted in Gaming, SWTOR

“Let’s play something else”

My husband and I have a long gaming history together. Back before 2007 – when we tried WoW and discovered the virtual delights of MMORPGs – playing something else would usually mean buying a PC game box, buying two boxes (for local network coop) or trying something new on console.

Some of my older games

Some of my older games

These days, “let’s playing something else” usually means the latest MMO fad or going back to a MMO we have played before. Gone are the days of buying boxes: so there’s no ritual of travelling to a PC gaming store in the hope they have copies in stock. That has been replaced by the always available digital download, and what a download!


NB: I included a couple of non-MMOs to show just how crazy their disk usage can be as well.

I suppose recent trends in game design have excerbated this problem, lots of cutscenes and the improvements in graphics have bloated game installs beyond any sensible bounds – 20-40 gigabytes of data just to get started. It’s made worse by the amount of patching required to get a game installed or even an already installed old game back up to speed. Our internet connection is pretty fast (40 meg, in theory) but having to patch two computers does impact patching times, its either a double download or the delay in copying on and back off a memory stick.

On balance I think the new world of digital delivery and low-cost / free to play access to games is better than the old world of “buy a box and hope it’s good”. It can be a bit deflating to, on a whim, want to play something together but to then put that off for an evening or over-night while the game downloads and patches. I do sometimes miss the old spontaneity of choosing a box from shelves stacked with games – browsing a Steam queue doesn’t have the same tactile appeal, somehow…

Posted in Gaming | 3 Comments

Trying something new (WoW, Rift)

Sometimes it’s fun to just try a new way to play a character, or a new approach to a challenge. Here’s two examples from my gaming this weekend that inspired this thought.

Last night we were leveling our next pair of alts in Stormheim (boring to repeat solo intro, rest of the zone is really great). We got to the point where you start using the Stormforged grapple launcher and this happened…

Spider Bear and his flying tortoise

Spider Bear and his flying tortoise

I laughed so hard the first time I saw this, my pet turtle flying through the air besides me with his mouth wide open – I could easily imagine him like a joyous dog that holds its head out of an open car window, mouth open and tongue lolling, as it enjoys the rush of air. We used the grapple launcher a lot in this particular area so I took a lot of similar screenshots as we were playing.

I’ve started investigating Survival Hunter, whereas I’ve mostly stuck to one spec/weapon for my main characters. The idea of melee Hunter in WoW has interested me since it was first mentioned during Legion’s development. It’s a completely different playstyle for the class, I’m not sure I’ll swap completely to it as it’s less practical for group content, but it seems fun for questing and the damage output is pretty high.

Sadly I have no screenshots of living opponents for this new spec...

Sadly I have no screenshots of living opponents for this new spec…

Earlier in the weekend I was leveling my Cleric through Goboro Reef and I reached a point where I had to close a water rift and then a fire rift. I conjured a water rift using my lure and closed it solo no problem, although it did end prematurely due to the intervention of the quest’s story. There was already a fire rift open nearby, however, so without thinking I just started on that. All went well until phase 4, the final phase before closing the rift (there was no way I’d beat the timer to push it further), whereby I became utterly stuck on simple swarms of fire bugs. I tried my Druid build with tanking satyr pet, said pet died in seconds and me shortly afterwards. I tried my previous solo build (Inquisicar), built around self-healing and a good measure of the tanking soul’s toughness, again these bugs put out so much damage I was dying really quickly. Almost at the point of giving up, having shouted in zone for help and got no response, I decided on a whim to try to create a new area damage build. So I did some quick research about which souls to chose, and then built my own mixture of the Cabalist, Defiler & Inquisitor souls.


This gave me an array of area damage spells, some with a damage over time component, others that stun or root groups of enemies and even a ticking time-bomb spell that does no damage until it expires. Layering these different attacks, and keeping on the move while stunning and rooting the groups, made the fights suddenly so much easier: so long as I interrupted or move away from their coordinated blasts of fiery breath it was fine. It really gave me a sense of satisfaction and achievement to have solved the problem myself and to have discovered another radically different way of playing this character.

Posted in Gaming, Rift, WoW | 4 Comments

Gaming mix in early 2017

My current MMORPG gaming mix has changed somewhat since coming back from the holidays, as usual I have more stalwart games than I can find time to play so I have my usual shortlist that I try to concentrate on in order to make progress on self-imposed goals.

World of Warcraft

WoW remains our main trio game at the moment, although 7.1.5 didn’t add much for small groups beyond the new grind to upgrade legendary items. We’re leveling alts now through the Legion content; learning the quest chains to do and those to skip to get through zones efficiently. As I’ve written before playing the same zones again and again can be a path to boredom, so we’re also doing some rounds of World Quests as times and mood dictate. World bosses once a week are a highlight still as the gear and gold are still worth it for such a minimal time commitment.

Hunter-alt leveling in Val'sharah

Hunter-alt leveling in Val’sharah

Star Wars the Old Republic

I’m mostly leveling my Imperial Agent now in SWTOR, without a guild in this game I’m unlikely to ever really get back into doing group content. The IA story is pretty awesome, at least in parts, I’m in chapter 2 at the moment and nearly done on the Taris world story.



Leveling through the Nightmare Tide expansion for the first time, still in the Goboro Reef zone – zones in this expansion are large! I’m rather enjoying the water-themed storyline, and am having fun this time around experimenting with builds on my cleric.


Lord of the Rings Online

I’m not really finding much time for LOTRO, annoying as I’d just found a new guild before Christmas, but then leveling alts through zones I know well isn’t doing it for me at present. I did have a really fun afternoon last weekend playing all three wings of the Great Barrow dungeon on my Runekeeper, his first go at healing! If I find other opportunities for group fun I’ll certainly pop back into the game again.  If not before I’ll be back in-game properly when the next update comes around.


Everquest 2

Another game that has fallen off the list, I played it pretty intensely before Christmas to get my second character levelled, so I think a bit of a break is needed. I kind of have SWTOR and EQ2 as a bit mutually exclusive in my gaming mix at the moment – I prefer to play both when I am subbed, so until my current SWTOR run ends, I’m not going to do much involved in EQ2, the new expansion will have to wait.

Posted in EQ2, Gaming, LotRO, Rift, SWTOR, WoW | 1 Comment