“Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it for ever!”

This is undoubtedly the cry of many members of The Knights of Minas Tirith, a kinship on Landroval who suffered a particularly nasty robbery over the weekend.

The RP neighborhood of Wildore threw a fairly elaborate block party this past Saturday night, with fishing and dancing and even a kissing booth.  During the event, the “mayor’s” house (a kinship hall) and several player houses left their chests unlocked so the party planners could coordinate items and whatnot.  Apparently, a thief came through and wiped them all out, replacing the stolen items with coal.  The kins are trying to hunt down the individual responsible, but so far, no luck.

In many MMOs, robbery like this is fairly commonplace, but you don’t hear about this sort of thing in LOTRO that often, especially on the RP server.  It’s the kind of place where people really can leave their front doors unlocked and not worry about it, although as this event proved, it takes just one person to spoil the stew.

Stew Spoilers: Coming to TBC this fall.

Anyway, the fact that these kins were putting on a huge party requiring a lot of work and were repaid in a cruel fashion has gotten a lot of people rallying around the victimized parties.  It is heartening to see folks offer to buy and replace the stolen goods, but that doesn’t take the sour taste away.

Technology: It’s FANtastic!

Today my wife and I went shopping for a used van — such are the necessities of a two-kid family.  My two door Civic wasn’t really cutting it anymore when I was trying to navigate babies and car seats to the cramped back of it.  So with tearfully fond memories of a car I’ve had since 2003, we rode off to a few dealerships to hunt down a deal.

I won’t bore you with the details (we finally purchased a 2009 Mazda5, which could only graciously be called a “van-like” station wagon, but it’ll suit our needs just fine), although we were plenty bored.  I don’t know if you’ve been car shopping before, but if you haven’t, you need to be prepared for the huge stretches of nothing that happens.  Every time I’ve gone shopping for a vehicle, I’ve ended up sitting in a car dealership for the better part of a day (five hours today), of which stuff happens only a little bit of the time.  The salespeople like to make you wait so that you’ll get antsy and agree to the price, so they frequently leave to go to their sales manager’s office — which is apparently in a different hemisphere, requiring an arduous travel schedule — with our offers and counter-offers.  Then, when you agree on a price, you end up sitting there while the forms are printed, forms which I estimate started their life as trees on the same day, trees which were chopped down on commission by the salesman, pulped behind the dealership, made into thin sheets of paper, and finally brought to a printer.

If I lost you in that chunky paragraph, here’s the TL;DR version: we ended up sitting in an empty cubicle for hours on end, completely bored.  It’s here where technology comes to the rescue.

As much as I try not to be ADD, I really have a hard time doing *nothing*.  I spend a good amount of my waking hours connected to the internet and media and gadgets and entertainment, so when you ask me to just sit and not give me something to do (like meetings), I go nuts.  My wife left after we agreed on a sales price, so I braved out the remaining few hours with the help of my trusty iPhone.

Seriously, this is when the iPhone transforms from a trusty, helpful gadget to a minor-league superhero.  With the internet, movies, Kindle, games, Twitter, blog posts, news and day planner at my fingertips, I could outlast the best of them.  You never know when you’re going to suddenly be stranded in a holding pattern with nothing to do — like if you go to the post office and there’s a 30 minute line, or if you go to pick up someone at the airport, someone who told you their flight was coming in at 5:00pm but they didn’t come out the doors until 6:45 (not that that ever happened to me).  I feel a little more secure that if any of those occasions pop up, I’ve got a literal library of books in my pocket.  It’s really neat, and why I’m probably not resisting the technology revolution as much as my foreboding sense of doom tells me I should.

TOR: A Companion To Call My Own

Some people call me the Space Cowboy, some call me the gangster of love

Having just finished Mass Effect 2, I can vouch that companions are an essential part of the BioWare experience.  They’ve always been, really, and not just in BioWare — memorable sidekicks from Floyd in Planetfall to Crow in The Longest Journey have enriched our journeys, even though they were just lines of code.

While people will (and already have been) decrying companion characters in TOR as promoting anti-social behavior and taking away reasons to group, I think that’s both baloney and missing the big picture.  MMOs need to be doing more to connect us to the world, and I don’t see the harm in bringing some of the elements that have really worked in past games into the online world.  Sure, maybe there will be people who will rely on companions only and will never group, but there are people who will never group anyway.

There’s a reason why some of us get so attached to our pets in game (combat and non), because we crave the virtual companionship they offer, even if it’s mostly in our head.  I’m pretty psyched about TOR’s companion system, and we’re finally seeing more about how it’s going to happen this week.  There’s not a lot of blindingly new info, but they have confirmed the following:

  • You can collect multiple companions, but can only have one out at a time
  • Companions can be droids and from races other than humans
  • Each companion brings something different to the game in terms of skills: tank, heals, hacking, DPS, crowd control.
  • They have special abilities in battle
  • You can equip gear on your companion
  • You get your first companion early on
  • Companions have a relationship with you, which can change (friends, enemies, lovers)
  • You can change that relationship and their attitudes with the Affection system (words, gifts, actions)
  • They give commentary and viewpoints on the world and your actions
  • Companions are optional, not mandatory for play

One complaint people have had is that we will each be sharing the same companions — that companions won’t be unique to just one character.  I can see that as being a deal-breaker for some, but really, there isn’t an alternative unless you don’t want the companions to have much of a personality or backstory (in other words, just be a blank slate).  I’d rather have a deep and detailed character in my party, and I think it’ll be interesting to see how my companions end up different than other players’ companions — kind of like alternate universe versions of the same person.

GWAR: When Guild Wars and Warhammer Online Merge

I can’t say that Guild Wars has ever clicked with me.  It’s one of those games that I intellectually like, I appreciate its parts, but never have gotten hooked on it the way I’ve seen others get addicted.  But in my enthusiasm for the upcoming Guild Wars 2 I became willing to give Guild Wars Classic another shot, especially since the Massively group’s been running missions on Thursday night.

Therefore, Syp Tsunami — the greatest-sounding character name EVER — was born, a Necro/Elementalist sporting fashionable Hot Topic threads.  I rushed through pre-Searing Ascalon over the course of an afternoon and caught up in time for the group runs last night.

It was… okay.  I mean, it’s one of those things where everybody knows these missions like the back of their hands, so they blitz through them and you just follow along like a faithful puppy, triggering perhaps one skill before each skirmish ends.

There was one thing that happened: as our party was watching one of the cutscenes (which I do love, even though all of the characters move their mouths like they’re puppets and have someone’s hand up their butt) someone’s phone rang really loudly over vent.  That spawned a whole lot of cutscene commentary:

“Prince Rurik, it’s for you!”

“Tell them I’m… indisposed.  Fine, I’ll take it.  Mom!  I’m in the middle of a cutscene!  No, I’ll do that later!  Yes, I studied for the test.  Fine!  Bye!”

“Prince, the Charr…!”

“One second, I have to give Arnie a buzz, he’s my ride to the DQ today.  I have the afternoon shift.”

Quote of the Day #2

“It takes only one person taking RP events too seriously to ruin it for everyone. We have all seen this player. This person is typically in love with his character, and take everything that happens to his character seriously. This player is capable of single-handedly sucking all the fun out of roleplaying, and most likely you and your friends talk trash about him in private channels.”

~ Patrick @ Massively

Quote of the Day

“Turbine has had to balance creating an innovative and entertaining game with a lore beloved by many.  They’ve had to balance creating a story that make you feel part of Tolkien’s epic quest, with classes that appeal to players, and with game play that is entertaining.  I think that what these Lore Lawyers need to understand is that if Turbine stayed true to the ‘Tolkien Lore’ this game would probably be very boring.”

~ Alberos

A Few Decisions

I’m taking inventory of my life right now and trying to reorganize my daily/weekly schedule to be more productive.  I feel like I’m trying to accomplish a lot but in a haphazard way, and that is leading to frustration.  I’m also getting back on the exercise bandwagon (yup, so easy to fall off) which means a half hour out of the day for that.

So three decisions regarding MMOs.  The first is that I’m going to drop STO.  I don’t *want* to, it’s just that it’s the least of the games I’m playing, and the only one that’s requiring a monthly sub for me.  If I could play it a few days a month, I’d be happy and would be willing to explore the full game, but as it is, it’s going to have to go bye-bye.

The second is that I’m jumping back into Guild Wars with the Massively group.  I’ll talk more about this later, but the reasons behind it are that I’ve never gotten past the initial few missions in this game and would like to see it through, I’m pumped for GW2 and this might help take the edge off the wait, and I’ve really enjoyed the Massively DDO nights.  Knowing that there’s a dedicated group one night a week for these games provides a lot of encouragement to play them.

So I’ll be doing DDO on Wednesdays, GW on Thursdays, and LOTRO for the rest of the week.

The final decision will require me to eat some of my own words, but oh well.  After being stubborn about the “must grind virtues on level” thing in LOTRO, several others (including Scott of PvD — hey, you get props, man!) have convinced me that maybe I’m being silly here.  I was listening to a podcast where they were talking about how frustrating it is to grind these at level, and how refreshing it is to go back when you’re way over-leveled and just breeze through them, and I asked myself, “What am I doing?”

It’s so easy to forget that I’ve made a commitment to play games to have fun, not out of duty or obligation.  I’ve railed against painful grinds in the past, and I think I was becoming a hypocrite for holding on to this one as long as I was just because I want to have a fully-buffed character.  Instead, once I decided to drop the virtue focus, I felt a burden lifted from my shoulders.  I’m just going to play LOTRO to play it — with goals in mind, sure, but to do the quests, skirmishes and whatever strikes me as interesting that day.  It’s made me excited to get back into the game for a nice Welcome Back Week, and I’m glad for it.

Apologies

I just wanted to apologize for my WAR/pink dye post the other day.  It was written off the cuff without looking into the “Pink for Tink” thing that much, and I was just focused on being amused by the discongruity of Mythic being so anti-pink dye for a long time and now putting it in the game that I didn’t really investigate it much.

In any case, any time a game community — both the players and devs — pull together in an awesome way like this to support someone going through a real life struggle should be commended, and not treated flippantly.  My wife’s mother died from breast cancer, and I know a few others who are going through that battle right now.  I’ll add my prayers to Tink and her family, and offer my apologies for not being more sensitive on the subject.

P.S. – Thanks to a few readers who challenged me on this.  It’s what makes me like blogging, that the community is thoughtful and unafraid to speak up.

DDO Fail

So tonight we’re grouped up in DDO, doing one of the explorer areas, and we get so utterly lost that we decide to “deathport” back to town.  One hot jump into lava later, and we all pop up in our respective taverns, ready for Round 2.

All except our leader, Orvidos, who got sent aaaaaaall the way back to the very beginning of the tutorial.  As in, the very first thing you see when you start a new character.  We have no idea why it happened, although we suspected it was a combination of him using vet status (rolling a new character at level 4) and not having bound at a tavern yet.

There was much amusement in guild chat (except by him) that our group literally failed so badly that the game punished us by making our leader start the game over.

Bravo, Turbine.  That takes guts.