LOTRO: Wedding crashers

It’s time to put away the sword for a season in Lord of the Rings Online and break out the bouquets, because Update 27: A Great Wedding arrived last week. I’ve been starving for something other than deed-treading to do, so this will do nicely indeed.

I love that it’s a huge thematic change of pace from what we’ve been doing in the last few updates. Instead of a normal adventure zone with lots of fighting and dark mysteries, we got a redecorated Minas Tirith and a wedding storyline — as well as the new Midsummer Festival.

While it completely makes sense for the game to host the wedding and festival in the city, I think we all saw the problems that it was going to cause. Lag. Confusion. Bugs. The city just isn’t optimized to have a crowd descend on it at once, even if it is an instanced and slightly smaller version. If it was up to me, I would have restricted all of the activities to the top tier of the city and made a zillion instances of that for performance.

I’m also not a fan of going up and down and up and down in this city, but I also don’t feel like there’s a rush to get all this done super quickly. So it’s more of a laid-back experience, concentrating on one of the thousand of daily festival quests at a time and seeing where that takes me.

I really do love that every so often, LOTRO can put aside combat almost entirely and focus on quests and worldbuilding and an element of roleplay. I don’t resent these “mundane” quests because they make me feel much more involved in the life of Middle-earth than killing 300 hopped-up mosquitoes in a swamp.

I decided to do the festival on my main Lore-master rather than my Minstrel just because I wanted to do the new epic alongside of it. The cosmetics are nice, but nothing my Minnie *needs*, so I’ll be content to let her do it in a year or two when she gets here for real.

MMO fonts: The good, the bad, and the ugly

In my effort to start clearing out my drafts folder here at Bio Break, I’m digging out this topic that I started (checks) back in 2017. Anyway, fonts are most likely a part of online games that you never think about. Once you’ve been in a game for a while, you get used to its user interface and don’t really notice or acknowledge it.

Yet fonts are important, because a game usually just licenses (or creates) one and uses it everywhere — and if chosen poorly, that font can slowly and surely drag down on the user experience. So let’s take a look at eight MMO fonts today — chosen semi-randomly — and see if they’re easy on the eyes or not.

We’ll start with Warhammer Online (above), which prompted the writing of this piece. The font itself gives off a Ye Olde English fantasy vibe, which is good, but it’s not that easy to read in large chunks, especially when italicized. There isn’t enough spacing between the lines, either, so it comes off as crammed. Sometimes getting a little fancy with your font works against you.

We’ll move on to RIFT, which I always thought had a very clean and modern-looking font. Maybe a little too modern. It’s easy to read, which is a plus, but doesn’t do a lot to convey personality of the game, which is one of the jobs that fonts have to handle. Generally, though, I like it.

You know I had to include the itty bitty, smooshed-together font of EVE Online on this list. It gets points for a futuristic, minimalistic look, but dang is it always hard to read. It’s gotten better over the years, but my eyes have never leaked tears of joy to behold it.

And we’ll go with a classic — World of Warcraft — with this one. Blizzard did a great job all around with this font. It’s oozing personality (especially on the header fonts), has good kerning, and is easy to consume quickly without eye strain.

WildStar… sigh. WildStar had SUCH great art and interface style, but its font was terrible. From the color choices (blue-greens on blue-greens) to the thin, small style, it was too difficult to read without really focusing on it.

I’ll be fair and include Lord of the Rings Online here. It gets middling reviews for me. I think it does lend an appropriate personality to the game and is readable (especially if you increase the font size), but it’s not the quickest read. And considering just HOW MUCH text you go through, it could be better. I do adore the header font, though. That’s spot on.

Fallen Earth always struck me as a game that purchased its font at lowest bidder. It’s like a default Windows font that did nothing for the personality angle and wasn’t as eye-catching as it could’ve been.

I could keep going on, but I’ll end with a look at Star Wars: The Old Republic’s font. It definitely has that thick, bolded Star Wars look about it, and the spacing makes it easy to read. I think it does a pretty good job, all things considered, even if I feel like the text is yelling at me much of the time.

The LOTRO march of deeds goes on

It may not be the most thrilling activity I’ve ever done in MMOs, but deeding in Lord of the Rings Online is proving to be far more fulfilling and interesting than I first thought. Previous to 2020, I don’t think I ever cleared out more than a half-dozen zone deed logs on any given character. Now? I’m almost done with Eriador. As in the whole region.

I think it really helps that there isn’t anything more pressing that I need or want to do in the game. It’s a nice period of quiet downtime where every night’s session is reliably stable: I log in, check my deed log against LOTRO Wiki’s list, and continue to hack away clearing out whatever zone I’m currently in. Bit by bit, zone by zone, I’m getting through it all — and reaping a whole ton of rewards.

But above the virtue XP, the gold, the LOTRO Points, the titles, and the rest, one great reward is revisiting these older favorite zones and just marinating in them. The deeds get me to see parts of the zones I might not have quested through, and I’ve thrilled to discover a secret or fresh vista that serves as a nice surprise after a decade and a half of playing this game.

While you might think that the slayer deeds are the truly onerous chores, they’re actually not. The devs halved the numbers required several years ago, and the wiki usually has good suggestions for rich farming locations. The two worst deeds I’ve done in terms of time spent and frustration expended involved finding very specific places in large indoor instances — one in Goblin-town and one in Eregion’s Minas Elendur. I had to keep tabbing out to look at maps for those, and that got old pretty quick. That said, I’m glad I got them done in the end.

The only zone deed I didn’t do was one in Evendim that required the slaughter of certain dungeon bosses. I gave a stab at trying to solo these while setting the dungeon 25 levels below me, but it was a stupid slog and it didn’t count toward the zone meta deed, so I gave it up. At least I got the above screenshot and felt like that time was well spent.

I’m already thinking ahead to what I might do once Helm’s Deep opens on the progression shard. I don’t want to give up deeding entirely, so I might spend one night a week or something continuing to do this with the other nights devoted to normal questing. I feel like my Minstrel is already shaping up to be my strongest-performing character, so I’m growing more attached to her every day.

LOTRO’s legendary item imbuement system is a hot mess

Let’s face it: Legendary items are an interesting idea with potential that’s been utterly bungled in Lord of the Rings Online practically since their inception. The basic idea is to give players a special weapon that grows and levels up with them, getting better over time. Sure, I can get on board with that. Several MMOs have done so.

But in the quest to make LIs a source of endless advancement and grind, the developers fashioned (and refashioned, and re-refashioned) a hot mess of a system that’s as obtuse as it is frustrating. Standing Stone Games promised that it would revamp — somehow — the system this year, but yeah, they’ve been saying that for years now and it’s yet to happen. I’m not holding my breath.

It does need to be done, though. I mean, frankly, I’d be all for ditching LIs entirely and going back to regular looted gear, because just trying to understand legendary items gives me a headache. And when I try to wrap my head around the imbuement system, the headache is upgrade to a migraine.

Don’t take my word for it — read LOTRO Players’ guide to the current iteration of the imbuement system. Read it and then tell me if that doesn’t sound like a system from developers who actively hate their players. It’s beyond grindy, expensive, and complicated. It’s needlessly so in all directions.

This really doesn’t have to be that complicated. Give legendary items an XP bar, a talent tree, and then some easy-to-identify, easy-to-slot gizmos for special effects, skill bonuses, and the like. Boom. Done. Add a new tier every time there’s a level cap increase.

It absolutely drives me bonkers when MMO developers make systems like this that require a 3,000-word guide written by players (or a 10-minute video) just to explain the dang thing. That’s not intuitive or inviting. It might make sense to players and developers who have been futzing with it for years, but for newbies?

It’s frustrating because this system SHOULD BE FUN. It should be something I want to chase as I grow ever more attached to this mythological weapon that I wield. World of Warcraft at least got artifact weapons right for five minutes there in Legion before obliterating them — those were fun to level, easy to understand, and very useful. The thing I have strapped to my back in LOTRO? I just pray it doesn’t stink, but I’m sure it does.

I also kind of get the feeling that the developers dug themselves into a pit where they didn’t want to give up on legendary items and look foolish, and once they started charging players for stuff connected to it, they couldn’t scrap it. So now whatever “revamp” is coming, I guarantee you that it’s not going to do as much as it should nor will it be that easy to grok. And that is a crying shame.

LOTRO: Deed farming for fun and profit

In the past month, I’ve been bouncing around different projects and characters in LOTRO, from a new Hunter to trying to dust off my old Captain (and failing miserably). But weirdly enough, the activity that’s really stuck during this period has been doing nothing more complicated than deed farming on my Minstrel.

In this, I’ve been going back to earlier zones and then finishing up deeds until everything is done for the region. At this point the questing deeds have long since been done, so pretty much all that’s left are exploration and slayer deeds. The exploration ones are fun enough, a scenic drive through old familiar landscapes. But weirdly enough, I’ve even been enjoying the slayer deeds.

Listen, I’ve never been one to eschew farming mobs. There’s something relaxing about shutting one’s brain off and just grinding out bad guys while listening to music or watching a show. It’s just that LOTRO’s original slayer deed count was comically high. Fortunately, this got a lot more sane in recent years, and while you do have to kill hundreds of mobs for any given deeds, it’s not that bad. Part of the challenge is finding the best possible grinding spot where the mobs are thick, plentiful, and respawn quickly.

I don’t feel as though I’m wasting my time with any of this. On the contrary, I’ve been looking at deed farming as a way to invest more into my character. First, I get virtue XP to use toward a whole host of stats, and every last bit is helpful. Second, I get lots of drops that I can vendor or auction for gold. Nothing bad about storing up a fat bank account! .

And third, I get LOTRO points. With these and my monthly stipend, I’ve been saving up for big purchases — my current goal is to make sure I have enough to buy the Rohan premium house when it comes along.

There are also some additional rewards that come with deed farming, including getting motes, titles, and other various goodies. And while I’m farming, I’m usually chatting with my kinship and enjoying their company. That doesn’t feel like time wasted at all.

As of the writing of this, I’ve worked my way through all the lowbie zones, Lone-lands, North Downs, and Trollshaws. It’s a good start, but there’s plenty more deeds to go — and more than enough to keep me occupied until Helm’s Deep releases!

LOTRO: Hunters ‘R’ Me

You may eat an everything bagel, but I like to game with an everything Hobbit. That’s what I think of my newest character, a Hunter I made on Landroval for the express purpose of… being everything. She’s there to fully complete zone quests, to do all of the deeds possible, to craft (Scholar), and to rake in as much LP as possible. There’s no race, since this is a regular server, and so I’m just doing a half-hour or so of casual questing with her each night.

So far? It’s been relaxing in that familiar, been-there, pie-runned that sort of way. Pretty much the only real newness to me is the Hunter class, and that I’ve even dabbled in the past. I’m going yellow line with her, mostly because I love using an exploding decoy and whipping out some nasty AOE abilities.

Night over Frogmorton. This game is still so very beautiful in so many ways.

One advantage of rolling on the same server as my main character is that my Hunter has access to a ridiculously huge (I think 260 slots?) wardrobe. So it was pretty nice to get her decked out in a spiffy outfit from the get-go that didn’t look like lowbie thrift store.

Whenever I start up a new Hobbit, I always make sure that the first two quest chains I run are the mail and pie chains. They’re very lengthy and somewhat tedious, although I don’t mind them because of the nostalgic value (and the fact that I can put on a TV show and mindlessly do them). These chains have the added benefit of unlocking all the stablemasters, racking up a ton of completed quest for the zone deed, getting a big chunk of combat-free XP, and snarfing up all of the quest accepts as I run about.

It was a little weird to roll a Hunter about two days before SSG dropped a major Hunter overhaul. I was a little peeved that the yellow line DOT that I’d been using went from a focus-free instant attack to a two-focus cost. So I had to rearrange my rotation a little and get used to being more stationary before I attacked.

If I had one wish for the Shire, by the way, it would be for a much larger Shire. Like a whole game of nothing but Hobbit MMO goodness. But if I had another wish, it would be for far more stablemasters in the zone. I think Overhill needs one, at the very least, and I wouldn’t be opposed to Frogmorton or Tuckborough either.

LOTRO: Going on a spending spree

Wells of Langflood, while a nice zone, certainly was one of the smaller LOTRO content updates in recent memory. Either that, or I really blitzed through it way faster than I have done so in the past. I usually milk these new zones for a month or more, but this one was done in under two weeks playing pretty casually. That’s a slight bummer, because now I’m going to end up sitting here twiddling my thumbs until new stuff or unlocks happen again — but at least we have the summer wedding update and the upcoming Helm’s Deep progression server unlock on the way.

All in all, I liked Wells of Langflood. Not too hard, some decent stories, and a really nice addition in the new Hobbit village of Lindelby. I rather enjoyed doing silly Hobbit chores once again while soaking in the serene pastoral sights and the gorgeous village music. I really hope River-hobbits will be added to the game sooner rather than later, because I am totally on board with rolling one.

Previously I had really thought that my progression server Minstrel would be the last character I ever leveled up through the game, but more and more that looks not to be the case. It’s more a question of “when” I’m going to get serious about a third character than “if,” especially with River-hobbits and this fall’s challenge server. I’m leaning toward a Hunter in the latter case, and hopefully by then the class will have gotten its much-needed fix. I’m really keen on the idea of just doing a much slower and more thorough character that’s not trying to keep its nose pressed against the border of current content.

But that’s all a while for now, and so I’m thinking it might be best if I invest some more time in my current characters. I could get into some serious deeding and maybe even crafting (whaaaa), but for this past weekend, I had a better idea.

So my Lore-master has been around since… honestly, I don’t know how long. She has a /played time of 3 weeks, 3 days, and 23 hours, so it’s a significant amount. And during her full adventures through Middle-earth, she’s racked up so much unspent currency and tokens that I thought it was high time I go about and do a shopping trip to actually use it. Here’s what I ended up with:

  • In Dol Amroth, I got some T9 relics and a scroll of renewal.
  • In Tinnudir, I picked up a couple of so-so armor pieces for cosmetics and a lot of healing pots to stash in shared storage.
  • My Pelargir reputation was too low to buy anything, even though I had hundreds of silver pieces. Go figure. This was also the case with Mirkwood’s Malledhrim.
  • The newer quartermasters generally have a better selection, so in Vales of Anduin I got some cosmetics (including a dorky crown), a pig and bee pet, a nice damage rune, and some housing music.
  • In the Wastes, I got a couple of forgettable housing items and a tier 8 essence. I should’ve sprung for the spooky horn emote instead, but I didn’t see that until I had spent the tokens.
  • In Skarhald, I got a swift travel skill, but then got frustrated because so much good stuff was locked behind rep. So I stopped there and buckled down to work on Grey Mountain Expedition reputation. I’ve never really done much in the way of rep grinds in this game, so I figured it would be an interesting experience if nothing else.

LOTRO activities I’ve never done

The new zone in Lord of the Rings Online is a pretty quick one, all things considered, so it looks like I’m going to have some free time after I’m done with it before the next progression server unlock or patch. I’ve been mulling over several different options, from doing deed hunting to working on a new character to maybe taking up crafting. Maybe.

The crafting thing got me thinking about something else, which is the fact that there are plenty of activities in LOTRO that either I’ve never done at all or only done lightly. So let’s make a quick list of them:

Crafting

Other than fiddling with crafting in the first few weeks of the game, the only time I’ve really engaged with crafting was when I leveled up the scholar profession to make potions. I forget which character or how far I got with that, but it was fine and provided some sort of useful adventuring benefit. I haven’t really looked into how useful crafting is as a whole in the game, if making one’s own gear is that profitable or helpful, but I’m not going to be investing in a whole ton of time into making gear that I can easily get from questing rewards.

Hobnanigans

I think this is PvP chicken soccer? Or something? I’ve never done it, just gotten annoyed at the pop-ups trying to get me to play it every time it comes around. I should do it, I guess, just so that I can say that I did.

Chicken runs

I’ve done chicken runs, but I’ve never gotten past the third or fourth one. You really need a dedicated group, complete with bodyguards, to help with this. I’ve seen kinships organize these, and I would like to partake one of these days.

PvMP

LOTRO’s weird PvP mode is so isolated from the rest of the game that that only time use PvE players encounter it is when the few but loud PvMP fans come to the forums to bellow “WHAT ABOUT US?” to deaf developers.

Join a band

Oh, I’ve played music in LOTRO, but to date, I’ve never been part of one of the many player-organized bands that perform in the streets and taverns. Sounds cool, but I’m not that good at music or standing still in general.

Raiding

I think I can definitely say I’ve never done a LOTRO raid. I’ve done several dungeons and skirmishes — none recently, mind you — but it’s just not quite the same kind of scene or draw that it is for other MMOs. And I’m not salivating for uber gear enough to subject myself to the raiding mindset.

LOTRO: Dipping into the Wells of Langflood

After far too short of a testing period, LOTRO pushed Update 26: Mists of Wilderland live late this month, giving us the Wells of Langflood zone, a new epic book to explore, the anniversary festival, and anniversary presents. It was a lot to take in on the live servers, especially since it had been a good long while since Update 25 (November’s Minas Morgul expansion).

Happily, I had finished up with my progression server adventures (at least until the next unlock) and was able to devote my full attention in the game to this and this only.

I’ll start with the bad, which is the usual disappointed sigh that this patch was rammed through after too little public testing. That meant, as usual, a lot of bugs and problems slipped into the mix, the most notorious being the presence of mounted combat mobs where there really shouldn’t have been any. SSG said that this was a simple error in file names, that one type of warg rider wasn’t specced for mounted combat and the other one was, but however it happened, we ended up with these mobs that are zooming around the landscape on lightspeed and really impossible to fight unless you also want to mount up and then ride off cliffs. There was also a ton of lag over the first couple of days, so much so that a couple of times I had to log off until it got better.

On the plus side, hey, it’s never a bad day when we get more LOTRO zones and questing content. The content creation team’s been doing amazing stuff since Mordor, and I’m really glad that we’re getting a “happy” zone instead of a grim, depressing one. In this case, we’re returning to where we left off right before Minas Morgul, going north from the Vales of Anduin into the Wells of Langflood.

The zone has that riverside quality to it, although there are deeper gorges and more difficult landscape traversing than down south. One thing I really like is how SSG experimented with giving players two options to approach the Wells. The normal world questline starts at the south and goes north, whereas the epic book starts at the north and presumably goes south. I’m going with world stuff first, the epic later.

For the occasion, I decked my Lore-master out in a new outfit. I wanted something different than robes and tights, so I went with this nerdy battle-master look. I really like this ravaged armor piece and gave it a few touches (such as with the Grey Company shoulder piece), but then softened it up with a floral headpiece and a backpack stuffed with maps and books.

I do admit that I’m having a problem getting back into the swing of LM combat. It’s just not as smooth and instantaneous as the Minstrel, and the mobs have that high-level toughness that requires me to be more cautious than ever. I don’t hate the class, but I do have some serious envy for how quickly Rune-keepers and Hunters burn down mobs all around me. If I ever do roll up a serious third main character, perhaps for the new server later this year, then I’m 99% sure it’s going to be a Hobbit Hunter.

Wildermore may be the best zone story LOTRO ever told

With Update 26 on the way, I had a feeling that it was time to get Riders of Rohan good and done. I figure we’re still a ways out from Helm’s Deep coming on the progression servers, so this would give me more than enough time to switch over to the regular server to do the new update when it dropped. I need an MMO scheduler to handle my commitments here. Like a secretary or something. Any takers?

So the other weekend, I powered my way through all of Wildermore. Wildermore was the zone added to the end of Riders of Rohan, with its own story arc and epic book to go with it. I had fond memories of it, due to it being a rather gorgeous-looking snowy area, but it took going back to make me realize that this might be one of the best examples of zone storytelling the team has ever done.

Essentially, Wildermore is a region that’s under assault by a brutal, unstoppable ice giant. He’s kind of a Jason Vorhees-style slasher, plodding his way up to all of the villages, killing key figures left and right, and leaving ruin and icy destruction in his wake. I don’t think I remember any other point in the game where so many named figures got killed in rapid succession as they do here, but the first part is just hard to endure. I as the player felt impotent to stop the giant and frustrated to see the pain and suffering all around.

On top of the murders, the giant also managed to bring a sort of enduring winter with him. Wildermore isn’t meant to be a snowy region, not all the time, at least, but the unnatural weather change forced people to adapt in a hurry. It’s one of my favorite regions to screenshots, especially in the Balewood forest, where snow-frosted evergreens are thick around and it’s so easy to feel like you’re actually getting lost in a real wood.

Anyway, I ended up in awe of how well everything fit together to tell this story — the environment design, the map, the zone quests, and the epic quest. There are some powerful revelations, downfalls and triumphs, and at no point was I left wondering what was going on or who these characters were.

And I got it done! I might’ve played it a little more than usual that weekend, but sometimes when you have an end goal in sight, you want to cross it. So now my Minstrel is quietly working on Bingo Boffin missions while the countdown clock ticks toward Update 26.