LOTRO: The day after


The title here has a double meaning, in that I not only started playing the new Update 13 epic story the day after it came out, but the storyline itself begins the day after the Battle of Helm’s Deep.  Time to put some distance between me and the mountains of corpses left behind.  I can only imagine the smell!

As an aside, I would totally buy a few t-shirts or posters that had reprints of the tapestries in some of these Rohan mead halls.

tap3tap1Ugh… I cannot get over how awesomely manly these are.  I can feel my chest hair growing thicker and more robust just from the viewing.

tap4Gandalf, Theodin, Legolas, Gimli, Aragorn and Extra #47 ride out with me through the new forest that has moved in around Helm’s Deep.  By this time I’m really wondering why the in-universe author of the books chronicling this adventure (Frodo?) decided to leave me out.  I guess I didn’t have much of a catchphrase.  Anyway, we spot a few Ents strolling by, a moment that would be more filled with awe had we not just spent some two expansions constantly bumping into them.  What up, tree dudes?

tap5The Fords of Isen on fire remind me of how good-looking this game can be (especially if you could see this in motion).  It’s also a somber moment to remember that the previous battles were not casualty-free.

We’re approached from the rear by several riders.  DUN DUN DUNNNN… Could it be?

tap6Oh jeez!  You guys?  You’re still alive?  You haven’t, what, fallen prey to level 5 goblins or gotten treed by a badger?  Well there you go Aragorn, your red shirt fan club has found you.  The war is all but won now.

I guess this brings to a conclusion a journey for the Grey Company that started a very, very long time ago.  There’s only like five of them left because, well, they’re them, but the survivors are pretty jubulent that they found Aragorn and can give him that big helping hand he hasn’t needed to date.  Meanwhile, the Shire goes unprotected and is looted by waves of bandits now that the Rangers have pulled up stakes.

LOTRO: Where everybody knows your name

spidermoonI have been neglecting LOTRO as of late.  Part of that is the anticipation of Update 13 and going into a “fasting mode” prior to it arriving, and part of it was from just getting too focused on Guild Wars 2 leveling to the exclusion of all else.  So when I had 45 minutes yesterday to play, I logged in to run my Lore-master through a couple of more epic chapters.

When I jumped into the game, one of my kin greeted me and said that he was glad to see me — that it had been a week since I was last there.  And even though that was a small thing, it really made an impact on me.  My kin in LOTRO (Lonely Mountain Band) is fairly big and I’m not necessarily the most vocal or active member, but the kin really prides itself on generating an atmosphere of family.  So people notice people, people talk, and people go out of their way to greet one another.  Even if they hadn’t logged in for a while.

I’ve found that in both games and the real world, feeling as though your presence or absence from a group matters is integral to your interest in that group and related activity.  I’ve been in many guilds where my comings and goings are ignored, where I’m just another face in the crowd.  Sure, that can be influenced by how much I participate in guild events and guild chat, but I’ve also observed that leadership has a huge role in setting the tone and example for the rest of the group to follow.  Those little “hellos,” “nites,” and “grats” add up, especially when coupled with more significant questions and conversations and encounters.

It’s the same example that I try to set in our youth group at church.  When a teen comes, I make a point to personally welcome them and ask them about their week, and when a teen misses a meeting, I give them a call — not to nag, but to let them know that their absence was felt and that they mattered to the group.  We’re always ignored by so many people because paying attention takes effort and selflessness.  It’s good to push back against that.

All I know is that the warm greeting I received yesterday probably contributed greatly to my interest in logging back in today.  There’s a lesson for all of us in that.

Weekend Gaming Update

SwordAxe!  Why am I not allowed to use this weapon?

SwordAxe! Why am I not allowed to use this weapon?

I actually had a busy and productive weekend, gaming and otherwise.  Here’s what I was playing:

Lord of the Rings Online

Our kin was abuzz about the revelation that there will be a new class this year, and while there are popular theories, there was no consensus (in our kin or in the larger community) as to what it will be.  Ranger and Beorning seems to be two of the more common guesses.

I did a bit more of my Lore-master’s epic story while thinking about what it might be like to level up a new character all over again.  True, Turbine’s revamping several zones and that will definitely make it easier, but… whew.  It’s a daunting prospect, and one that I’m only willing to undertake if the new class is sufficiently compelling.  I can only imagine what the lowbie levels will look like as everyone rolls the same class.

The Walking Dead Season Two

I’m on week three of a deliberate push to kick my weight loss back in gear with a three-pronged assault: No going to fast food (even for “healthy” options), no artificial sweeteners (sigh… goodbye coffee), and a daily round of exercise biking.  The latter is something I’m looking forward to each day, if only that it’s the one time that I allow myself to play a bit more of chapter two in the Walking Dead Season Two.  There’s something about being interactive with the game that makes me forget that I’m exercising in a way that watching a TV show or reading a book doesn’t.  My concern is when I get to the end of the game — I’m going to need to get a few more on deck.

Guild Wars 2

While every other MMO seemed to be having some sort of bonus weekend, GW2 was trucking along.  I guess their “every two weeks” thing isn’t applying to the season one finale here, because we’re heading into week three.  Apparently there’s going to be a “small epilogue” tomorrow, but I’m still waiting for that feature release that’s supposed to come after.

Anyway, I did a lot of smaller activities: I ran the Lion’s Arch fight a few times (and once through successfully), I did my dailies, and I fiddled a bit around with my lowbie Mesmer because a few guildmates goaded me/encouraged me to stick with it with the promise that the class blossoms a lot later than the others.  I believe “learn to play” was tossed around.

The Secret World

I joined up with my friend MJ to do a couple of scenarios on Saturday evening to get those bonus oreos.  I wish I had been running them more, because man, we were rolling in rewards.  I’m within striking distance of getting a purple shotgun and I netted several more augments as well.

We ran elite duos with three people and did fairly well.  I think we ended up with 5/12 in Mansion and 14/15 in Hotel.  It helped that we had friendly snipers in Hotel and no super-annoying hinderances.

All in all, good times!

LOTRO Update 13 is blowing up my skirt, gentlemen

I’ve been chewing on the preliminary patch notes for LOTRO’s upcoming Update 13 this morning and finding the taste quite palatable.  It’s a good mix of quality-of-life improvements and much-needed content, and as a decent patch should have, it looks to contain something for everyone.

The revamps of three (!) lower-level zones is a pretty major feat in and of itself.  I probably won’t be leveling up a new character any time in the forseeable future, but I don’t begrudge the fixes for those who have gotten bogged down in the 30s and 40s.  Misty Mountains and Trollshaws in particular always irked me with how fragmented and non-intuitive they were.  That’s a shame, as they’re both visually striking areas that should have good quest flow to back it up.

Personally I’m most excited about the two new zones (lots of Ent play coming with them, too) and the improved mail system.  I take my time with zone progression, so I’m hoping to spread these and the attached epic storyline out for a couple of months at least.  Should get me to WildStar’s launch.  I am about ready to leave the Rohan/Isengard section of the game, considering that we’ve been here for years now, and both Gondor and Mordor await.

My Lore-master just got into Enedwaith in the epic story, so while she’s making progress she’s probably not getting up to the current story cap any time soon.  It is so dang nice to just focus on the main storyline, let me tell you.  I don’t feel cheated out of content either.

Why living in LOTRO’s Shire would be a hellish nightmare

shireI was up for a good part of last night with stomach issues, and as such had plenty of time to let my mind wander.  I started thinking about that common hypothetical — “If you could live in a place in an MMO, where would it be?”  And while my first instinct was LOTRO’s Shire, the more I thought about it the more I got freaked out by the notion.

Might’ve just been the stomachache, tho.

As beautiful and pastoral as the Shire is, I think existing there would be a nightmare on the level we can’t even begin to imagine.  For starters, the law enforcement consists of perhaps 20 plucky Bounders spread out all over the zone, while there are two significant camps of Dwarf and Man bandits.  The law can’t or won’t deal with these groups, so it’d be like living with established gangs in your back yard.

Then I considered the wildlife.  Aw, shrews, we can give them a pass.  But what if your neighborhood had roving packs of vicious wolves, giant mutant slugs (with teeth), mega-mosquitos, irritated boars, and of course BEARS out the wazoo.  Oh, and super-big spiders that perhaps habitat your workplace.  The NPC populace of LOTRO is indeed fortunate that the animals mostly stay put because if this was reality, they’d be overrun with deadly beast attacks and probably have to barricade themselves into their homes.  I’m not going to raise a family where a roving ursine might decide that a toddler sounds like a good midday snack.

I’m not even sold on the idea of living among Hobbits.  Height similarities aside, while they’re charming to visit, Hobbits are woefully naive, surprisingly petty, and seemingly incapable of handling any serious life crisis.

I dunno.  Maybe it wouldn’t be that bad.  At least the only elves in the zone are passing through.  Give me giant mutant slugs any day of the week over those pointy-eared jerks.

Stuck to LOTRO with community glue

danceLast night I logged in to see one of our kinship members delivering his farewell speech to us, saying that he’d tired of the game and was quitting the kin for good.  That’s always a bit of a morale bummer, but for a kin as large as ours, it happens now and then.

Everyone was gracious about his departure and afterward there was an interesting discussion about what has kept us in LOTRO.  One guy said that when he previously quit the game, it was after marinating in the toxic atmosphere of forums (both official and fan).  I’m not surprised by this — as I’ve long said, going on the official forums is the quickest path to hating the game you love.  But this guy said that ultimately it was the community that encouraged him to return, and he’s glad he did because it reunited him with a game that he genuinely loved.

I don’t often see people in guild chat just stop to gush about their love for the game, but that’s what happened last night and it was such an uplifting experience.  Kind of a group therapy where we all shyly admit to the obvious — that no matter what anyone might say, this game is fun for us and we enjoy it a lot.  What we enjoy about it differed from person to person — some said the lore, some love the epic story, but others just enjoy the social aspect of the kin and our fun player events (such as a murder mystery party we’re throwing on Saturday).

For me it’s a mixture of all of those reasons plus a little bit more when I think about why I’ve stuck with LOTRO for so very long.  The community there has always felt special and helped me to bond with the game, because there’s something magical about being around folks who are enthusiastic about the game world and its IP.

I have been very fortunate to have been part of three welcoming, enthusiastic kinships over the course of my career in the game and I don’t see myself leaving any time soon, probably thanks to those bonds.

LOTRO and GW2: Victory from defeat

victoryIt was a very productive gaming weekend over at the Syp homestead.  For starters, I buckled down and finally finished up Helm’s Deep on my Captain in LOTRO, enduring the final four epic battles and enjoying the scenery afterward (the circling carrion birds were a nice touch).

Yeah, I’m not a fan of the epic battles at all.  Maybe they’re more fun with a party, but I didn’t feel that they were significantly different than skirmishes, and in many ways were worse than skirmishes (you don’t get XP per kill, for starters, and all of the epic battles are “defend this position” instead of offensive actions).  I mean, they did tell the story of Helm’s Deep well and I was constantly ogling all of the scenery, but did they have to be so dang long?

Anyway, Helm’s Deep is done and my cappy is in a good spot to tackle the upcoming update.  I then spent some more time on my Lore-master’s journey through her epic story.  She’s already past Mirkwood and just finished the “Ranger roundup” portion of the next volume.  Time to go south to Enedwaith and Dunland!

I’ve got to admit, the epic story is just so much more enjoyable when you don’t have to stop and do a thousand side quests along the way.  I like side quests, especially the first  time through, but sometimes you just want to continue a story uninterrupted.  I feel strongly about that in relation to SWTOR as well.  I know that once I get to Rohan I’ll need to do all of the quests, especially because a few of the quest lines have class trait points tied up with them, but for now I’m pretty happy to ride the epic book expressway.  I’m still one level above content, so no worries on that front.

The other portion of my gaming this weekend was given, surprisingly enough, to Guild Wars 2.  I’m ignoring the activities over in Lion’s Arch in favor of leveling up a fresh new Asura Necromancer and a Human Mesmer.  Yes, I’m waffling between the two, trying to figure out which one will interest me the most for the long haul.  It’s weird because there’s aspects of both that I like and neither has a clear advantage.  But I do want to settle down with one and see if I can get back into the GW2 groove by the time the next season begins.