Screenshot Friday: WoW, LOTRO, SWL, SoT

I haven’t talked much about Sea of Thieves lately, but every week I’ve been drooling over the videos showing tantalizing glimpses of the game and discussing the various mechanics — most of which sound incredibly fun to me. Can’t wait for this game, and I think my kids might like it too!

Off doing an exploration deed in Southern Mirkwood, came across this pair of trees again. Always thought that this spot was deliciously ominous. The rain helps with the atmosphere.

When it’s snowing in Wildermore and the sun is out, it’s like you’re in a giant, vibrant snow ball. Magical!

What’s in the gift box in Secret World Legends? I’d like to think that it’s a 20% off coupon for Bed, Bath and Beyond. And I didn’t take it, more the fool me.

I was trying in vain to frame the setting sun right behind this walking golem, but he wouldn’t stop moving and I didn’t want to get close enough to aggro. Still, I think it looks rather pretty, don’t you?

Pictures don’t do World of Warcraft’s Lost Islands justice, really. It’s such a relaxing and beautiful setting, plus there’s that great music.

Parachuting into a better life. Those little rips in the parachute always worry me, like the whole thing is about to go.

WoW: The Goblin life calls to me!

I look FABULOUS.

So I’ve had a very strange week or so in World of Warcraft in terms of guilds and characters. Originally I was fiddling around with an Undead Warlock on the Dalaran server when I saw the notice about my old guild over on Ghostlands. I was only about level 18, so I figured why not just roll up a new character over there and hang out with them. This plan worked well for about four or five days when the guild announced that they were thinking about transferring the whole guild to a more populated server… like Dalaran.

You can see my face right now, can’t you?

Since my character there was still a lowbie, there was no strong impulse to pay a transfer fee like everyone else — I could just hop back to Dalaran on Horde side and wait for everyone to red rover, red rover, come on over. But the whole deliberation and moving process took several days, during which I was fiddling about with different characters. Did I want to keep on with my lowbie Lock, or skip ahead in levels with a new Death Knight? Someone suggested Demon Hunters and I snorted so hard that coffee came out of my nose because it will be a cold day in hell before I roll up a haughty blindfolded elf.

The time I had let me think through what I wanted to do with a theoretical new character, and I kept coming back to the idea of healing. I love to heal and I wouldn’t mind having a healing spec as my current main. It would be a change of pace and helpful to the guild. But which one?

Priest has never appealed to me (plus I do not like running around in robes). I tried Monk a few times, but the animations and hand-to-hand combat really turned me off to the class. I’ve done Druid before and I wanted a different experience. Paladin? No… plus I’m not doing Blood Elf. But then I took a closer look at Shaman, and I thought that maybe I could make this work.

It’s something I haven’t done much of over on Horde side, and the healing kit looks pretty solid. I’ll be a little bummed I can’t pull out pets or melee, but there are always alternative specs so it’s not that prohibitive.

And if I’m going to walk on the wild side, I thought, why not Goblin? I really have dismissed this race ever since trying it briefly in Cataclysm, but the more I thought about it this week, the more it felt like a solid fit. I love diminutive races, and the Gobbos are as close to Gnomes (my Alliance favorite) as one can get. Quirky, punkish, and definitely a bit different. Plus, how often have I ever gotten the chance to play a goblin in an MMO? Warhammer Online is the only one I can recall.

So I created Lilaca — lilac with an a — who has adorably styled blue hair and a face that isn’t completely repugnant to me. I’ve been taking her through the Goblin intro zones, which are so different than pretty much anywhere else in the game, entertaining as all get out, and still pretty slow leveling. My goal is to get to level 15 as fast as possible so that I can plant my butt in a city and start chain-healing dungeons for advancement, but until then I’m going to have to suck it up and do the whole quest thing.

As with many new characters, as with many alts, who knows if this one will survive the long culling process of MMOs to become something significant. I might have a brief eye on the long game, but more and more these days it’s just playing what’s fun right then and there and not stressing out too much about it.

And while I am no stranger to the WoW Shaman, I never have played one as a healer nor a Goblin to any great extent. Both are novel to me, and I’m curious if they’ll stick. I like that the armor models aren’t broken up on the Gobbo the way that it is on the Forsaken, and the totem design is suitably eclectic and zany.

Secret World Legends: Surviving zone transitions

As I recently moved on from Blue Mountain to Scorched Desert in Secret World Legends, it was like night and day — in more ways than one. The abrupt and significant shift in the zones, themes, and even horror genres is a lot to take, especially when you’ve spent so long getting used to the previous area.

Back when I was first following The Secret World, I was under the assumption that areas like Solomon Island would be about the size and length of a standard MMO zone and that we would be hopping all over the world to many, many such zones. I didn’t realize that at launch there was only going to be three areas divided into eight zones and that we’d be spending significant time in each of them. That investment of time and interest acclimates one pretty strongly to Solomon Island, Egypt, Transylvania, and Tokyo so that while we may be ready to move on, the actual move itself is slightly traumatic.

Here’s the basic flow of the game:

We start in Solomon Island, which is dark and murky, set in New England and sporting the most “American” aesthetics (holidays, architecture, etc.). The horror genre is a blend of overt Lovecraft and Stephen King as well as a hearty dose of the zombie apocalypse and ghosties.

Then we shift over to Egypt, where the sun is blazing and the architecture is old and couched heavily in the desert biome. There is some modernity, but more antiquity than what we had before. The horror genres du jour is more mummies, creepy cults, giant insects and a dash of Indiana Jones and Aladdin.

Once we’ve adjusted to two zones of sun-blasted heat, it’s over to the old world of Transylvania with its craggy countryside, Soviet architecture, and European style. The three zones embrace a lot more of folk tales and traditional horror staples, such as vampires, werewolves, cannibals, ghouls, and fairies (yes, fairies are horror staples, at least to me). It’s… more Brothers Grimm and Van Helsing.

The final shift, at least for now, takes players to the “ground zero” of Tokyo, which is a golden opportunity for the devs to capitalize on all of the Japanese horror tropes. The Filth is by far a greater threat here than in zones previous, but there is plenty of room for spectres, Japanese demons, and intensely clean places that are sullied with too much blood. Tokyo is also the most modern and urban of all of the adventure zones, so there isn’t much in the way of roaming a countryside.

I love the diversity, even if moving from one area to another can be a shock to the ol’ gamer system in me. Egypt only pleased me in the fact that there was more light, but I couldn’t wait to leave it before that long.

It makes me wonder a lot about what’s ahead for the next adventure area. I could see both the Congo and South America as featuring more primal horror in jungles and whatnot, but Antarctica could hold a few surprises with snow-shrouded scares (just watch The Thing for some inspiration).

Battle Bards Episode 101: Ragnarok Online

As the Battle Bards cruise into their second hundred episodes, it’s time to cover a very long-lived fantasy MMO from 2002, Ragnarok Online. The game has an… interesting soundtrack and a devoted following in some circles, but as the crew discovered on today’s show, the score is not without its criticisms. It’s time to kick summer vacation to the curb and trumpet another parade of MMO music!

Episode 101 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Aplen Rose” and “Theme of Alberta”)
  • “Theme of Lutie”
  • “Splendid Dreams”
  • “March with Irish Whistle”
  • “Dream of a Whale”
  • “Sleeping Volcano”
  • “Antique Cowboy”
  • “Christmas in the 13th Month”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Mail from Frotierkilla
  • Jukebox Picks: “Meet Tiki and Mermaid” from Dragon’s Crown, “Devil’s Swing” from Bendy and the Ink Machine, “Drake’s Theme” from Uncharted
  • Outro (feat. “Erebos’ Prelude”)

Am I missing out by not having a collection?

Time and money. Money and time.

Two things I’m often very short on these days and work against the idea of harboring a collection. But it hasn’t stopped me from being wistful that, as a geek, I don’t really have a collection. I kind of wish I did. I have collected things to varying degrees over the years but not seriously and not extensively. I have some SNES games, but not really a collection. Star Wars Legos. MMO memorabilia. I tried vinyl collecting for a hot month last year. But not really having time to commit to cultivating a collection and the funds to support it keep killing it.

I feel like I’m maybe not as interesting or fulfilled without one, sometimes. I have a friend whose “thing” is collecting PEZ. He’s been doing it for decades now and has an amazing collection. He’s even got a tattoo. Everyone knows that’s his collection and supports him in that.

Lately I’ve been feeling a pang of envy when I watch YouTube videos of fans that have these amazing collections of various things (usually video games). I’m not envious of what they own, but that they have a thing. It makes me wish that I had collected cool art or had been more serious about accumulating a game collection back when I had a lot more time and spare income for it. Now I don’t know if it can ever really happen. The console game market seems a lot more pricey and rare now that people have been more aggressively collecting through ebay and craigslist, and I don’t even know where I’d start. Plus, with the re-releases like the SNES Classic, I wonder at the purpose of even having such a collection.

But I still kind of want one.

Another issue I have with collection is where to put one. I don’t have a lot of space in our house that is actually just mine. We have four kids and a smallish house, so my space is pretty much a desk and a bookshelf. We’ve talked about carving out part of a room as a den, but I’d feel selfish when the kids are already bouncing off the wall for lack of space. A physical collection of items would require a lot of shelf space no matter what it is, and that’s why I asked family members to stop getting Star Wars Legos for me. I just had no more space for them (and wasn’t super-interested in amassing a great amount of them).

Probably the one thing I do collect a lot of and organize is music, particularly video game music. This is not a boast, but I genuinely think that I probably have one of the largest MMORPG music collections out there right now. I’d be very interested to meet someone who has more (and peruse his or her library!). It’s satisfying to collect and organize and possess a wide range of something you like.

Maybe this ties into another part of my nature, that I get really excited about things I see that are cool and feel compulsion to do/collect/enjoy/practice that too. But really, we only have so much time and money to go around, and one has to make choices.

Perhaps one day I’ll focus on a collection and really go for it. I am going to set up my SNES again for my kids to enjoy soon, and there are several games that I would love to own with it. But I doubt I’ll ever be able to afford seriously collecting for it. Maybe a little at a time, see where that gets me.

Do you collect? How’d you get into it and why do you do it?

LOTRO: Goodbye Bingo Boffin, hello virtue grind!

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Actually, “endings” in MMORPGs are not as common as in other games, as we’re used to the adventure (and the road) going ever on. But after 52 installments of Bingo Boffin’s journey, it was finally time to draw his story to a definite end.

The final part took the form of a dinner party in which Bingo invited neighbors and all of the friends he made over the course of his travels, providing a fitting epilogue, a few laughs, and even a reunion of Hobbit cultures that were previously separated. We also got to see just how much Bingo has grown over the year and how he turned into somewhat of a skillful diplomat.

The dinner party bit was a nice bookend to how the whole chain started, and I really liked the quiet moment when Bingo reflected on his travels with you in the foyer. “Every adventure comes to an end someday,” he said, but there wasn’t a lot of regret there. Bingo satisfied his urge to explore and see the wider world, and he’s brought more than a bit of that home with him.

While there were parts of the chain that were more time-consuming, boring, or annoying than others, overall Bingo Boffin’s quest is a wonderful addition to the game and a great alternative to the “real” epic quest. I especially recommend it if you like fluffy items as rewards, such as cosmetics, housing decor, and pets. I’m swimming in the latter two, and I really need to take an evening to work on my home so I can clear up some inventory space.

Now that we’re weeks, if not days, away from Mordor opening up, it’s time to prepare for the expansion. For me, this means first of all making a new outfit! I love the Bartleby backpack and worked an adventurer’s outfit around that. While I have plenty of pets, I’m making it my thing to pull out squirrels in any MMOs that let me. Love my white squirrely here as a tribute to Squirrel Girl.

Next up is to flesh out my virtue roster. I made a list of how many points I need to bring each to 21 (that being the new cap when Mordor launches) and took an hour or two to cross-reference my deed log with LOTRO Wiki to figure out which deeds I needed to do. I really wish there was a better way to organize this in-game, but oh well. Here’s what I ended up with:

There’s a lot of slayer deeds in there, alas, but I do have several slayer accelerators in my bank, so I’ll try to make the best use of those. Hopefully it won’t be too bad and I’ll be able to get most of these done by launch day.

By the way, SSG, I’m really OK with you delaying the expansion to late August to get in some more testing. July 31st feels too fast, too rushed for what needs to be a homerun release. There’s no rush here!