A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Posts tagged “Lord of the Rings Online

Crafting My Way Through Middle Earth

In a little over a week I went from level 1 to level 40 by primarily farming and cooking with some tailoring on the side and a handful of non-combat quests and activities in Lord of the Rings Online.

I’ve discovered several things during this experiment:

– There’s no money in grinding tailor or cooking or farming

– There’s money in making a ton of Blackberry Ale and a few other recipes

– Seed money from friends is a great thing

– Explaining what you’re doing to a random stranger can occasionally net some gold (in this case, I got 4 gold from someone who thought crafting my way through the levels was rather funny)

– Several recipes have an issue where they’re made of really inexpensive components until the final stage where one of the things you need is going to cost a lot more than the final product (case in point: coffee sells for about 3 or 4 silver per cup and one of the components is a large clay pot worth something around 7 silver… and you need 1 large clay pot PER cup of coffee made)

– As a result of the prior point, stopping production and selling what you have created can not only save you money, but can generate a significant quantity of money at the same time (stopping at roasting the coffee beans and NOT making the cups of coffee will actually turn a profit)

– I finally beat out my frequent misspelling of “recepie”

– Taking a break every now and again isn’t a bad idea… when I hit level 33, I went and got all the exploration deeds in Ered Luin, The Shire, and Bree-Land, as well as all the stable masters (especially the ones just inside the adjacent areas at Trestlebridge, Oatbarton, and The Forsaken Inn)

– Having a friend who is an alt-aholic and who has every crafting profession AND a massive stockpile of materials to support fledgling crafters is SO HELPFUL

– Yeoman is THE BEST vocation to do this with as Farming and Cooking are essentially self-reliant and Tailor can be ignored or supplemented by friends or the auction hall (if you’re lucky)

– My choice to make a hunter was BRILLIANT as the Return to Camp and Guide skills are invaluable for getting to everywhere I want to go

Now that I’m a Master Westemnet Farmer and a Master Westemnet Cook, I’m grinding Westemnet coffee for experience and money. It’s not bad and if I really want a lot of money I can always make Blackberry Ale (serious profits there). In the meantime, I’m enjoying relaxing, catching up on some podcasts and listening to game soundtracks.

I highly recommend giving the crafting only approach a shot if you’re up for it. It’s pretty nice.

Until next time!

– Thomas

P.S. Blackberry Ale gets you seriously knackered in one use. BE CAREFUL WHEN IMBIBING IT!

P.P.S. “I drink when I have occasion, and sometimes when I have no occasion.” – Miguel de Cervantes

The Flow of Gaming

This past week I’ve gone from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, to Dragon Age 2, to Lord of the Rings Online. I basically went from an intense, 3rd person perspective, free-running, roof leaping, high seas sailing, cannon firing game to a high fantasy, tactical RPG, with a strong narrative that’s quite heavy at times, to a character that’s only leveling by farming and cooking and tailoring.

That last one is part joke and part vacation, with a dash of whimsey and spiced up by being able to catch up on podcasts.

First thing’s first: I finished AC4 and WOW was it good. The story was compelling, the meta/modern story tied it to the other games in the series, the gameplay was satisfying with a minimum of frustrations (I dropped the F-bomb only occasionally and it was typically when Edward decided to grab onto something I didn’t want him to grab… still way less common than with Altair or Ezio), and I finished with 95% completion (or something like it). I might go back some day to polish the game off properly, but right now, I’m stuffed. The ending left me rather proud of the man Edward had turned into and I only wished there was more of him. Tragically, if you look him up, there isn’t too much more to his story after he returns to England. I wrapped up AC4 in just under 70 hours of play.

In the “I’ve finished this great book, now what?” glow, I noticed that Origin was having a 70% off sale and, being me, I couldn’t resist poking around. I found that Dragon Age 2 was going for 6 bucks and snapped it up. It would’ve been a mistake to turn that down, especially after enjoying Dragon Age: Origins SO MUCH back in January. I banged through Dragon Age 2 in less time than it took me to play AC4 (approximately 24 hours of play). In fact, it was another proverbial page-turner of a book. I couldn’t put it down.

The gameplay of DA2 is definitely more streamlined from DA:O, but it’s not bad at all. The interface is simpler, you don’t have to worry about equipping armor to your companions and, as a result, you have more discretionary funds because you’re not stockpiling equipment. I found myself never hurting for money in the game and swimming in equipment I couldn’t use (I first played through as a Rogue and my current playthrough is as a Mage). I loved all the tie-ins to the previous installment and genuinely enjoyed the story. It was heavy in just the right places, shocking me in some parts, making me laugh in others. All told, a wonderful experience that I’m glad I had.

So, coming down from THAT “I’ve finished another great book, now what” glow, I was chatting with a friend on the weekend who talked about his silly idea in Lord of the Rings Online where he’s leveling only by crafting. That’s right, he got out of the intro and was level 26 through only cooking and farming after about 4 months of just dabbling in it. I latched onto the idea and immediately made a new character and set about the Yeoman vocation with gusto. As of yesterday night/very early this morning, I’m about 65% of the way through level 30, I’ve made inroads on Westfold cooking and farming and Journeyman tailor. It’s actually rather enjoyable and I find myself laughing a bit every time I ding a new level. It’s certainly allowed me to catch up on podcasts I’ve been missing out on lately.

There appears to be this ebb and flow of gaming intensity. Intense gaming to slightly-less-intense gaming to extremely-not-intense gaming. Almost like AC4 was the first part of the bell curve, sloping upward and taking half the peak, DA2 was on the other half of the peak and the downslope, and LOTRO is at the bottom (at least for what I’m doing in LOTRO right now, although it’s normally a pretty mellow experience for me). I’m left wondering now… what’s next? I’m certainly looking forward to getting back into Star Wars: The Old Republic (I’m waiting mainly for Galactic Strongholds to drop) and in the meantime I’m poking tentatively at the Arena Commander module for Star Citizen and hoping I can become a better pilot in my plucky little Aurora (and wishing I had more cash to throw at them so I could get more ships to try).

For now, I’m kind of into the whole farming/cooking thing. I’m looking at doing some Blackberry Ale producing today with some valuation scribbling going on so I know if it’s profitable or not. Regardless, the whole thing gives steady experience, so it’s a win-win.

Until next time!

– Thomas

P.S. I remembered this video today. It’s from Babylon 5, Season 1, and it highlights how my thought process works sometimes. Garibaldi gets some of the best lines in the show.

Heading to PAX East

This week I’m heading off to PAX East in Boston.

There’s a lot less I’m interested in this year than last year. Last year, XCOM was new and turn-based strategy games were the major topic of conversation in several panels. This year, not so much.

As of right now, I’m hoping to sit in on a few panels:


– Noon: Rooster Teeth

– 4:30: Future of PC Gaming


– Either the 10:30 PA Make-a-Strip panel or the 11:30 Firaxis Games Mega Panel and I’m leaning towards the latter

– 1:00: ExtraCredits


– 10:30 Inside Gearbox Software

– 1:30 Live D&D Game

And that’s about it. I’m hoping to spend a bunch of time on the expo floor checking out booths and just generally relaxing and enjoying the convention overall. I don’t expect to be going back next year since it’s so expensive and the sign-up for passes this year sold out so quickly.

I’m hoping to see some Star Citizen at the convention and I know that Chris Roberts is sitting on the Future of PC Gaming panel. I think Awesomenauts will be there again and I’m hoping to swing by to see Lord of the Rings Online and a few other games.

I’m quite excited for the trip, but I’m concerned I won’t be interested enough in the convention this year. In future years I’m looking to go to local conventions instead as a cost cutting measure.

Anyway, I’ve got a lot of Diablo 3 to get to before the convention. I’m hunting for great loot!

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “I’m on the hunt.”  – Montross, Star Wars: Bounty Hunter

Player Housing and Great Expectations

Before I say anything of any real quality, you should watch this trailer because it’s what’s inspired me today.

Now that you’ve watched it, allow me to elaborate on what’s up here…


Ahem. Pardon my excitement, but I’m always thrilled to have something branded as Star Wars actually welcome me home. Makes me kind of misty eyed.

My first experience with player housing was actually in Star Wars Galaxies. It was a rather robust system too. You could form player cities with mayors and city planning and so forth. I remember fondly my Mustafarian Underground Bunker on Rori (it’s a moon of Naboo, look it up). I had set up the bar area as a kind of hunter’s lodge thanks to a bunch of quests on Kashyyyk giving beast heads as trophies. I even set up some sets of old armor and had a couple of rooms that were nothing but artwork from the game. It took a little work, but I was proud of my home.

I have a house right now in Lord of the Rings Online. It’s a nice little two room hobbit hole across from my kinship house. It serves my needs for having a place to call my own in a game and it’s got a small chest for storing items in it (which is always nice). However, LOTRO’s decoration system is nowhere near as robust as SWG’s system. In LOTRO you have hot-spots where you can place an item and rotate it and whatever, but certain things can only fit in certain spots. In SWG, you could put ANYTHING ANYWHERE in your house. You could dump your entire inventory in one spot. You could build a pixel perfect TIE Fighter out of nothing but blaster rifles and armor plates. You could hang a painting in midair. They also had houses shaped like all kinds of things. Want a Jedi Meditation Chamber? Would you prefer a Sith one? What about an AT-AT or a Sandcrawler? Or how about a house that floats and looks like Cloud City?

You could also have a variety of structures all owned by the same character. So, on my commando, I had the Mustafarian bunker. On my trader, he had access to the bunker and used all his 10 slots for harvesters and factories. Kid you not, I would put down a harvester to mine so I wouldn’t have to sit there all day and then if I had a series of things I needed to build that all required the same components, I’d throw down a factory and pop in the schematic and all the resources it needed and let it rip. Log in a few hours later, tidy up, and go about my business. Each character had 10 “lots” and each structure took up a certain number of those lots. Some structures, because of size, would take up more lots than some and would also have a higher maintenance rate.

Anyway, I’m obviously excited for housing in SWTOR. Unfortunately, I don’t know what the options are going to be. I really hope we can have homes on different worlds and not just the capitals of each faction. I wouldn’t mind being able to have multiple homes either. For example, I could have an apartment on Coruscant, a bolt-hole on Nar Shaddaa, a nice house on Alderaan, and a safe-house on Corellia (just to name a few). I have no idea who would want to live on Hoth or even Belsavis, but I wouldn’t knock it if it was done right. Further, I hope they allow for a robust decorating system. Don’t just give us the place and then not let us make it ours, like with our ships. If I could decorate my ship, I would be SO HAPPY. If I could treat my XS Light Freighter like the home-away-from-home that my old YT-1300 in SWG was for me, I would be so thrilled. In my eyes, customization is king when it comes to player housing. I’ve said it a couple of times now on Twitter, but if they give us the SWG decorating system, I’ll be over the moon with joy. If they don’t and it’s closer to the LOTRO hot-spot decorating system, I’ll be cool with it, because it makes sense and it’s easy to learn. The thing that will hands down tick me off will be if we can’t decorate or move anything at all in these locations. A player house that can’t be decorated is useless to me. Oh, and the player houses HAVE to have a practical thing to them. Maybe they’re conveniently located or you can port to them or maybe they count for getting rest exp. How about extra storage? Does it help foster the community in any way (like everyone in the tower of apartments belongs to the same HOA and they all can hang at the pool as a perk)? Can you sell your deed on the auction hall or trade it to other players? Can you add permissions for other players to come in and therefore have a guild apartment (like a frat house I guess)? Will we get deeds for housing as quest rewards? Will free-to-play accounts have access to this system or not? Will it be stripped down if F2P does have access? Whoa, my questions started ranging there.

I remember fondly the old interior decorating competitions the community would have in SWG. I think if they do it right, there could be an amazing opportunity to do something similar in SWTOR. It adds a level of playability and roleplaying. I’m not just there doing quests, I’m earning credits so I can buy that set of lights that would really compliment my decor or I’m earning these area rugs that will make my new place feel much more warm. I’m hoping this happens, but I’m not expecting it because I’ve learned to keep my expectations kind of low these days, lest I find myself as bitter as those people who hate the Star Wars prequels.

Oh, and if they make it so people can craft housing items (like the aforementioned lights or rugs) or even receive housing items as quest rewards sometimes, well, be still my beating heart.

So, here’s hoping they put a lot of work into this housing system. I’m really hoping for a lot, but I fully expect to have the following happen:

– You can only have a place on either Coruscant or Dromund Kaas (obviously faction specific)

– You can’t decorate/move objects around the interior/add objects to the interior at your whim

– You will be allowed to have amenities in your player house, but you’ll have to pay cartel coins or vast amounts of credits to get them (like on your personal ship and they’d be the same thing just paid for separately, so you’d have to buy the mailbox for your ship separate from the mailbox for your house)

– The place will cost a certain amount of credits or cartel coins to purchase and will cost credits to maintain (another of the credit sink locations in the game)

– There will be special housing locations you can purchase via the cartel market that aren’t available to people who don’t have cartel coins (maybe not)

– This will allow for new cartel market items that add stuff to your player house that do nothing but appeal to the part of the player base that loves collecting things from the boxes of stuff

– The player house will be impractical to access and therefore will lose a lot of its value to a significant portion of the player base upon its release (there will be much scoffing and derision thrown around about this)

– You won’t be able to interact with the scenery outside of the already existing emotes (by which I mean there won’t be any scenery interaction like laying on a bed by clicking on it, you’ll have to jump onto the bed and use the lay down emote like in LOTRO)

Some of these predictions are obviously pessimistic and I hope they’re wrong. Some of them (the credit sink bit) is unavoidable because that’s how the dev team does things (I recall them explaining in a community meeting once): if they introduce a new way of making credits in the game, it has to be balanced with a way to spend credits, and I think the opposite holds true, but I could be wrong.

I hope so hard that things are better than I’m expecting, but by keeping my expectations low, I won’t be disappointed, just sadly justified.

EDIT: A quick note here – in order to get the players invested, you HAVE to make them feel like they own what you’ve given them. You need to allow them to feel like it’s theirs. With allowable customization of the environment that can be suited to the players tastes, you allow that player to take possession of the house or ship or whatever. It encourages them to show it off and say, “check out my sweet pad”, among other things. You want your players to love the house and to keep coming back. You want them to buy into it. The best way to do it is to have as robust a customization system as you can manage. That’s what makes SWG stick out to me even years after it was shut down. That’s why my Iowa in Star Trek Online is my love, because I poured my heart and soul into making her mine with painstakingly chosen components and abilities. That’s why I’m having fun in Diablo III with my Wizard and tweaking his skills and equipment. That’s what sticks with me and gives me stories to share: it’s all about the customization. Give us that and you have my sword, my bow, my axe, and my heart.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “There is no place more delightful than one’s own fireside.” – Cicero

P.P.S. This is too good a thing to leave with just one quote, so… “‘Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam; Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like Home.” – J. Howard Payne, Home Sweet Home.

Gaming Outside of my Comfort Zone

Last week I discussed gaming inside of my comfort zone and now, well, let’s step outside for a bit.

I started with single-player games and therefore, by definition I suppose, multi-player games are somewhat outside of my comfort zone. That said, the local multi-player games, such as arcade cabinets or LANs or shared/split-screen situations, are some of the most fun I’ve ever had. Much like dining, local gaming is very much a social occasion that I enjoy thoroughly. Inspired by this (and voice chat), in recent months I’ve endeavored to talk more to people I don’t know in online games. It paid off most recently while playing Lord of the Rings Online last week. I’ve discovered that it’s always nice to have someone to talk to while wandering the dark paths of Mirkwood or even the well-lit, but wolf-infested trails of Enedwaith.

Outside of socialization, there are some types of games that just always fall outside of my comfort zone. Some I eventually do play, like hidden object games that I used to feel were such a waste of time, but now see the virtue in a decent hidden object game (hint: it has a story that’s fun and appeals to me). In this case, I can recommend The Clockwork Man and its sequel The Clockwork Man: The Hidden World. Both are on Steam and are short diversions with some replay value if you like that sort of thing (which I apparently do).

Some games start in my comfort zone and then just fall out of it, waiting for me to come to some decision. For example, I used to play a lot of real-time strategy games. They were all the rage for a few years and the market has shifted to more action-y, MMO-style games. As a result, I played StarCraft, WarCraft 2 and 3, Star Wars: Empire at War, Age of Empires, Empire Earth and so on. The latest RTS I can think of is StarCraft 2 and I have zero desire to play it. I’m not entirely sure of the reason since I truly love the story and the setting, but I’m just not feeling it. I’m quite literally not comfortable playing RTS games any more.

Occasionally a game pops into my comfort zone without dragging any others along for the ride (like RTS games did). These days there are some very popular games classified as MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arena). Spawning from edited maps for older RTS games, today they’re marked by the extremely well-known League of Legends (a game I have zero interest in aside from the impact it has on the gaming community and marketplace as a powerhouse of popularity) and similar games (Dota 2 springs to mind and, before you ask, I also have zero interest). These games never appealed to me to begin with mainly because I’m not extremely fond of player versus player combat. I’ve always had anxiety issues with such confrontations (even in local gaming situations for example, Street Fighter) and in the MMO setting I’m not fond of how I was treated in past head-to-head situations by some people in Star Wars Galaxies. So you can imagine my surprise when I started playing Awesomenauts. It’s a 2D MOBA done with bright colors, humorous dialogue, unique characters, a plethora of potential strategies, and a practice mode so I don’t have to go head-to-head (or team-to-team). The thing that attracted me to it was even more surprising: the fact that it’s designed in the vein of a Saturday morning cartoon. The theme song slays me every time. That said, I maintain my zero interest in other MOBAs.

That player versus player thing is always something I’m uncomfortable with. Duels in games, even to just test our mutual capabilities (like the exercises I would run with my friends in Star Trek Online), they stress me out and make me extremely anxious. Clammy, shaky hands accompany every PvP situation I take part in.

Another situation I’m not extremely fond of making myself do (but will if compelled/convinced) is raid gaming. You know, find 12 or so people and pray you’re all able to go do this big boss fight thingy. Yeah, in my experience, it’s an exercise in futility and I’d rather spend my time doing easier things and enjoying the ride than throwing myself up against a wall. That also stresses me out a bit, but not as badly as PvP. Also, if I’m comfortable with the people that are going on the ride, this is much more fun for me. Small events like the small fellowship missions in LOTRO or the flashpoints in Star Wars: The Old Republic (not the crazy ones) are built for me and my close friends to hurdle, and those are often pleasant experiences. I still don’t seek them out very often.

It’s worth pointing out that if a game starts feeling tedious or like work, it immediately falls out of favor, but not necessarily my comfort zone. For example, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is an amazing game and the thing that pulled me in was the cyberpunk style setting with the potential for playing without killing anyone (or at least, without killing MOST everyone). After a fashion though, I just felt it was too tedious. I still like the game and have every intention of going back to it (when that will happen is anyone’s guess) and it holds up as an example of an FPS that doesn’t make me motion sick.

I suppose you could say that in all these situations, I need something to entice me to leave my comfort zone. In the case of online games, it was my desire to associate with my fellow gamer. I wouldn’t have played The Clockwork Man if it wasn’t for its promise of an eventual steampunk connection with its story. With Awesomenauts, you have a game that doesn’t take itself seriously by design and it’s quite enjoyable in its occasional aggravation (I’m not exactly that good at it which is part of why I confine myself to the practice mode). With big group missions (or at least small group missions) I need to see the reward that’s being offered and I need to feel assured that the group is capable of getting there.

In the end, gaming outside of the comfort zone is, to me, all about expanding the comfort zone to include new things. It requires a draw of some sort. Just… I won’t play sports games. I’m sorry, but they do absolutely nothing for me. There’s nothing to pull me in at all. I’ll watch friends play Madden every now and again, but I don’t watch any sports for real and I’ve no desire to pretend to play them when I could be slaying goblins with magic swords (too generic?) or being a beautiful siren who sings people to their deaths (I’m planning on playing this in a tabletop RPG sometime soon and it’s WAY outside my usual character type).

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “… the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt (because, really, that’s what it’s all about)

Gaming Inside of my Comfort Zone

I was going back and forth yesterday on Twitter with a friend of mine and the concept of playing outside of one’s comfort zone came up. That said, I want to talk about playing INSIDE the comfort zone first, so I’ll get to the outside part next time.

There are a lot of games out there. The ones I feel most comfortable playing are the ones I can pick up and just run with without a second thought. When I sat down to play Dragon Age: Origins, for example, it was like pulling on a new pair of shoes that looked and felt extremely similar to my last pair. I still needed to break them in, but I was already familiar with the process and it was pretty quick since I wound up doing a lot of walking in a very short period of time.

So there are games that are, in and of themselves, within the comfort zone. For me, it’s a space flight simulator, a turn-based strategy game, a Baldur’s Gate derivative. These are the kinds of games I grew up playing.

Well, what about the games that don’t fit inside the comfort zone automatically? I can still be in my comfort zone even then, given the right opportunities.

For example, I love playing self-sufficient characters. My favorite D&D character was a Psychic Warrior who, with proper power choices, I was able to fight effectively, defend myself against a myriad of potential harms, and heal myself. To this day, I still play that way where I can. My Captain in Lord of the Rings Online is one such character. When I played Star Wars: The Old Republic as the Smuggler, I chose to be the Scoundrel and went straight down the healing tree. I did the same thing as a Mercenary Bounty Hunter and a Commando Trooper.

If I don’t have just one character, I believe distinctly in the balanced party. While Dragons Age is wholly within my comfort zone, I maintained a solid party of a rogue (for lockpicking primarily), a mage (for healing), a warrior (for tanking), and anyone else (for DPS). Yes, that restricted my play a bit, but it made decisions really easy when I went to make party choices. In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, I always had the four types of soldiers represented and then the two extra soldier spots would be where that particular playthrough was different from earlier ones. I’ve had those two spare slots taken up by a heavy and a support and an assault and a support before and that allowed me some considerable latitude in play style.

In Civilization IV, I set up the environment if I can so that my civilization is totally contained and secure before spreading out and taking new lands. I focus on infrastructure so that I can develop a powerful military at the drop of a hat and a few turns. In Star Trek Online, I chose a ship type that can take a lot of damage, then I proceeded to make it deal a lot of damage and be able to handle every situation that could come up. A long time ago when I played the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game, I built a deck that was affectionately referred to as “Whatever you do, I stop and make you regret it” or something like that. Essentially it was a balanced deck that countered many things the other player could do and then could crack them on the knuckles for doing it.

For me, it’s all about the balanced approach. Mixed arms and combined tactics to provide a well rounded and quality experience. I suppose I’m the kind of guy who likes to dip into every style to ensure an approach that can respond to every issue that might arise. In some games it’s just the simple “just shoot them” strategy. In others it’s more nuanced. My particular comfort zone playstyle is a kind of go-with-the-flow thing and it totally works for me.

The real trick for me is finding that comfort zone in each new game I pick up. Sometimes I’m lucky, like with Borderlands 2 where I started playing the Mechromancer and was pleasantly surprised how it flowed with my playstyle. Other times I’m not so lucky, like with Neverwinter where I played a long time as a Cleric before realizing that the Guardian Fighter was where it’s at for me.

An odd little thing: the Mass Effect series started in, I think, 2007 (yup). When that game came out, I played it for a week straight and loved it. Truly loved it. Turns out, I’d played its predecessor, a little game from 1986 called Starflight. Now, it’s quite a stretch to go from Starflight to Mass Effect, but the ship shape was kind of similar, the ground vehicle was (aside from armaments) was remarkably similar, and the stories I developed for my Starflight crew in my head was rivaled neatly by the stories developed for the crew of the Normandy. Look it up. Starflight inspired Mass Effect. Mass Effect has essentially been in my comfort zone since I was 4 years old. How about that, huh? Oh, I beat ME2 and ME3 each in a week as well. I’m that kind of gamer, just can’t put a good game/book down.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with finding and playing inside your comfort zone. It allows you to kick back, relax, and just play.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. There are no quotes I could find quickly about the benefits of staying in your comfort zone because everyone’s trying to be all inspirational on the internet and encourage people to do stuff that’s new and “outside your comfort zone”. I maintain that you need to be aware of what your comfort zone is prior to stepping outside of it, hence why I started with this piece instead of the next one. If you know your comfort zone and you stray from it, you always know where it is for when you need to get back to it for whatever reason.

Nothing but Dragons

Aside from brief forays into Borderlands 2 and Lord of the Rings Online, I’ve spent all my time since New Year’s Day playing Dragon Age: Origins. Yes, I was in the Awakening DLC earlier last week, but a bug deprived me of all my equipment and like a fool I forgot to save regularly enough, so I got mad, exited the game, and an hour or so later made an Elven Mage.

I beat the game AGAIN as the Elven Mage and I’m most of the way through the Awakening DLC now.

The gameplay changes drastically with each class and the stories are so different (well, more or less). As a mage, I’m treated differently because of that, but also occasionally because I’m an elf. That said, it feels like people see the mage part most and elf part least (helps her ears are covered by her hair).

Anyway, I’m hoping to finish Awakening soon and maybe I’ll pop into the other DLCs in the near future.

On the LOTRO front, I’m moderately into it again if only because my friends have shown interest again. One friend stopped playing because I did and he’s several levels and most of Moria behind me, but I have no problems going back and helping him out (it helps me build up resources, so no complaints here). Further, LOTRO is just a fun group game. It helps my Captain is very party friendly, especially considering he was built for it.

I’m starting to itch for different gameplay, so I’m going to be fortunate if I get through Awakening before I start in on spending free time in another game.

Oh, in the nature of full disclosure, according to Origin, I’ve spent 131 hours playing Dragon Age: Origins. Yeah. Hence why I think I’m starting to pull away.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “All I want is a pretty girl, a decent meal, and the right to shoot lightning at fools.” – Anders, Dragon Age: Awakening

A Little Overwhelming

Lately I’ve been playing a lot of Borderlands 2. This past weekend I added a fair amount of Mass Effect 3 multiplayer. Last night I played some Diablo III and now I’m itching for it. Tomorrow the expansion to XCOM Enemy Unknown will arrive (XCOM Enemy Within). Around the 18th, Lord of the Rings Online is going to reformat gameplay to make combat flow better and to reduce the number of skills my poor Captain has.

It feels like a lot. Typically around summertime I start wondering what there is to look forward to in gaming and I always forget that the big things happen right before the holiday season in the October-November range.

So, on the games I’ve mentioned…

In Borderlands 2, I finished the DLCs “Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep” and “Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty”. I started in on “Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt” before I got sidetracked.

In Mass Effect 3 multiplayer, I started playing with a group of people that I met online and who are looking to have a good time. Fortunately for them, I’m pretty good at ME3 multiplayer these days, so I was coaching some of them here and there and we netted a bunch of awesome victories. It’s so much fun playing with people who really want to do well. I really lucked out here.

In Diablo III, my friend was playing a level 40 Barbarian and I happened to have a level 39 Barbarian, so I popped into his game and found myself woefully underpowered for playing Nightmare difficulty at Monster Power 10. I had to redo my build and pick up some new equipment, so we’ll see how things go there. Also, is it just me or is the auction hall more overpriced than usual these days? I hope people realize that if they price things to sell, they’ll actually sell them.

I’m planning on starting a new XCOM game tomorrow that will probably detract from all other gaming (except social gaming because I’m not about to say, “No, I can’t play with you because I’m playing with myself” because that’s totally uncool). Also, as I was writing this, a friend insisted that we hadn’t fought each other in multiplayer yet, so I guess that’s what I’m doing tonight!

Depending on the level of the change and how it feels to play LOTRO, I may stick that out longer than a day of gameplay when the changes come. I don’t know yet, but I’m hoping I’ll play it a bit more often in the future.

Anyway, that’s what’s going on with my gaming habits right now.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Good plan? Great plan!” – Tiny Tina

Stepping Back Into MMOs

Until this past weekend I’ve been mostly playing single player games. That ended as I jumped back into Star Trek Online.

My current project is to make my Chimera-class Heavy Destroyer a fully functioning ship that I have fun breaking out every now and again. The first job is building the three parts to the Nukara Appropriated Munitions set, followed by building the Nukara Strikeforce Technologies set. I recognize that they’re not the best sets in the game, but I’m here to enjoy myself and I’m turning the Chimera into a beam-boat, so nyah. Also, it’s going to take a while to build up enough dilithium for all the parts I’d like to put on her. I’m currently uninterested in working on fleet projects, so that works in my favor. Once this is done, I think I’ll be able to focus on the fleet again. Side note: I’m going to be naming her after my dearly departed dog, Terra, once she’s done and ready for deployment. Durable, fast, and powerful… that’s Terra.

I’ve also had a bit of an itch to hop back into Neverwinter. I haven’t had a chance yet to see just how amazing it looks on this machine, but I did hop in briefly to max out all the settings when I installed it. Shouldn’t be anything short of spectacular looking.

I’m craving some DC Universe Online as well. I made a Power Girl facsimile (Power Girl is my favorite) and I’m hoping to get back to her soon. She’s so satisfying to play!

Other MMOs on my machine right now are Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Lord of the Rings Online, Champions Online, and Uncharted Waters Online. Multiplayer only games are Mechwarrior Online, ME3 Multiplayer, Star Conflict, oh, and Warframe (which I have very little opinion on right now since I’ve barely played it and I’m just not willing to spend time there yet).

If anyone has a recommendation for a fun free-to-play MMO that I could step into and check out, I’d appreciate it.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. Instead of a quote, here’s a helpful article for Star Trek Online players who might be new or at least not entirely aware of all the things you can do in the game.

A Little Here, A Little There – MMO Free-to-Play Cash Shops

There’s quite a few games I enjoy that are now Free-to-Play and have the a la carte system we commonly call a “cash shop”. On the whole, this mechanic is optional, yet most choose to throw in some cash in order to take advantage of the shiny things they like to hide behind the pay wall. Some games do it right, some games need some help.

A game that does it right is Lord of the Rings Online. Their LOTRO Store accepts Turbine Points and makes them readily available in small amounts as you normally play the game. Kill 30 goblins in the Shire, gain 5 TP. Kill another 80 wolves and gain 10 TP. Do some stuff over here that takes a bit of time and get a few more. It’s pretty nice. Since TP go to your account, you can do that same stuff over and over and over again until you have all the TP you want. Of course, it’s your time to spend.

Further, the things available in the LOTRO Store make a lot of sense: extra character slots, account bank space, removing the money cap, costume slots, extra inventory space, even the expansions and adventuring zones are available with an investment in the store. Play enough of the game (and if you’re lucky there’s a sale going on) and you can actually get entire zones of quests added to your experience. Not too shabby. Everything’s pretty reasonably priced too.

Star Trek Online is where I fear things start to get a little hokey. They converted from their Cryptic Coins to the Zen of their parent company, Perfect World Entertainment. As a result, things feel more expensive, but the conversion rate is a bit kinder to those of us who want to know what things cost at a glance. Oh, 500 Zen for that? That’s $5.00. Pretty straightforward. That said, a new ship in STO that you get through the Cryptic Store can go for 1500 Zen and ship packs of three have been known to go for 3000. It’s understandable (I guess) since these ships are the primary mechanism for playing the game. They’re your home away from home. I know that as soon as the Regent-class Assault Cruiser Refit dropped, I paid money to get it ASAP. Also, the Andorian Escort pack. Thus far though, those are the only ships I’ve really dropped money on because I was looking forward to playing with them and I feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth. It’s a mixed bag depending on what you’re looking for in the Cryptic Store.

Neverwinter’s cash shop is a different kind of beast though. There’s things in there that are really worth it like 500 Zen for two character slots (not bad at all) and you can easily drop 500 Zen on a decent mount that can be redeemed account wide for any character high enough to use it. Those are really nice. The things in the cash shop that really get my ire going are the companions. They’re single character purchases, but they’re all in the 1000-3500 Zen range. The 3500 Zen one? A Honey Badger companion. While I get that it’s probably pretty cool and all, that’s THIRTY-FIVE DOLLARS for a SINGLE companion. It doesn’t apply to your account, just ONE character. That just doesn’t feel right in any sense of the term. While I’d love to have a Galeb Dhur (spelling off the top of my head) companion, I’m not willing to drop 30 bucks on it. It’s just not worth it to me.

Further, something these games all have in common are the availability of lockboxes. Lockboxes are these loot items that drop and have random things available in them if you have a special key to open them. In STO and Neverwinter, you must purchase the key for 125 Zen (individually) or 1125 Zen (for a pack of 10… buy 9 get one free?) or buy them from other players on the in-game Auction Hall. In LOTRO? Lockboxes drop, sure, but so too do the keys. Just not as frequently as the lockboxes. I think that’s really clever. It’s like… here’s a lockbox and if you want to wait to open it, it’s going to take up valuable inventory space until you find a randomly dropping key OR you could throw a few Turbine Points at it to make it open NOW. Your choice.

STO and Neverwinter could take a page from LOTRO’s book. That random drop key is CLEVER.

As an aside, Star Wars: The Old Republic also has a cash shop, but there’s a different issue than just the price of things there. Some of the stuff they put in there is perfectly fine (thank you for the character slots!), but the problem is with the permissions that you have to pay to unlock if you’re not a subscriber. I mean, I’m a 6-month subscriber, collector’s edition pre-order player, but I think that the things my friends who are Free-to-Play can’t do without purchasing some kind of permission is pretty darn harsh. Some make sense like limiting the number of space and PvP and other special types of missions. I get that. There’s other permissions that feel like unfortunate decisions. One friend told me that she can’t open lockboxes with credits in them, even if they’re quest rewards because she doesn’t have permission. That’s just insane. You can’t apparently buy that permission a la carte either, you MUST subscribe (I think, don’t quote me on that). I’m tempted to log in, open her lockboxes for her, and then hand her all the money inside. As is, I’m going to see if I can get her some cool stuff with my Cartel Store stipend since the game is being mean.

I certainly appreciate the cash shops. It gives me something to browse through, like a SkyMall catalog for my game, and it definitely has some useful things every now and again, but it’s also full of things that make me question their usefulness. Kind of like the “slippers with headlights” of cash shops… not sure I need them, but I can envision a few times where they might be handy. I think the devs are on the right track most of the time, but sometimes they need to have a reality check.

How about a survey on the goods in your stores? I’d be more than happy to participate in a value studies survey on the contents of your cash shops. With Neverwinter it’ll be easy since they’ve got a lot less stuff in there right now compared to the more established games.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. I might have used this one before, but it’s wildly appropriate here: “Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it.” – Publilius Syrus’ Maxim 847

P.P.S. It occurs to me that I might not be allowed to open my friends lockboxes if they’re bound. That’s… unfortunate.

P.P.P.S. Apparently she can’t receive credit lockboxes at all since they’re subscriber only. VERY unfortunate.

Whacking Things With A Stick – Satisfaction In Gameplay

There are days where I just want to hit stuff with a stick. Seeing as that’s not entirely socially acceptable, I poke through my catalog of games to find the experience that fulfills that desire best. Sometimes I come up with a winner, sometimes I don’t. Here’s a short list of games that I find give me that great “hitting someone” satisfaction in order of most to least satisfaction.

Mass Effect 3 multiplayer – Seeing as I’ve finished the single player game, the multiplayer component provides replayability and a pile of stuff that I still need to improve upon. Oh, and my favorite weapon, the M-37 Falcon, is a micro-grenade launcher. Satisfaction guaranteed.

Lord of the Rings Online – My captain has a variety of abilities that just FEEL good. He screams and does damage, he swings his halberd and you hear the slicing, cracking, crunching of contact. Yeah, it gets tedious, but by then, my thirst for whacking things with a stick has been sated for at least a couple of hours.

Diablo III – On my Wizard, it’s just satisfying to voip people. Yes, that’s the sound things make when you just erase them from existence. That said, it’s more satisfying to do this during the earlier difficulties as Inferno has a habit of pissing me off repeatedly in a 30-minute period.

Awesomenauts – It’s starting to get up there, but there’s something eminently satisfying about playing Leon and popping out of stealth to land a killing blow on some unsuspecting ‘naut. I mostly enjoy playing Raelynn though. Sniping has never been this fun for me. It’s a bit of work and sometimes I cry out in frustration.

XCOM Enemy Unknown – The satisfaction of crushing an alien squad is quite palpable. Delicious even. That said, XCOM games are pretty cerebral and I always feel a little removed from the “satisfaction zone”, so these games (new and old) are fun, but less viscerally satisfying. Strategy games on the whole share that same removal sense, so that’s nothing new.

Star Trek Online – I don’t know what’s wrong with me these days, but I just have no drive to play this right now. I don’t know if it’s the high end grinding that’s in the game or anything, but I just haven’t been in the mood to command the Iowa lately. Thus, the satisfaction of playing has dropped. There is something to be said for lots of torpedoes, but that’s a bit of a gimmicky approach and isn’t practical in the long run (says the guy who has a character with a Caitian carrier that has nothing but torpedoes up front and turrets in the back; verdict: hilariously fun, but gimmicky as all hell).

Star Wars: The Old Republic – Right now it’s not super satisfying to play, but I’m building up a good craving and waiting until it turns into an out-and-out need to play the game. I’m thinking I’ll play a Knight soon because I love hitting things with Lightsabers, but also because the day I got the game I made a Knight and turned to my Mom and went, “Mom, I’m a Jedi Knight!” So, yeah. It’s not satisfying NOW, but it will be.

This list is forever in flux and I’ve left a few games off to help keep it short. Games will go up and down the list as my whims dictate. This is just a snapshot of my current thoughts.

Right now though, it’s the deciding which stick to whack on what target that’s the tough part.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Enough is as good as a feast.” – Joshua Sylvester

Deciding on a Game to Play

Now that I’ve finished my Bounty Hunter playthrough of Star Wars: The Old Republic, I’ve been a little lost as to what to do next. I’ve got a lot of great recommendations from my viewers, but I’m torn. Here’s a few of the ideas for what to play next…

Planescape: Torment – brilliant idea. I’m just not sure if I’ll be able to put up with it long enough to beat it. I remember it being kind of hard. I’d be willing to buy this again.

Baldur’s Gate – also a great idea, but I’d have to buy it again and I’m not sure I’m willing to do that. I beat this back in the day.

Star Wars: The Old Republic – this time as a Male Jedi Knight or a Male Sith Inquisitor. That’s a great idea and extremely tempting, but there’s a spoiler concern I ignored when I did the Bounty Hunter that I’m feeling a lot more these days.

Mass Effect – this is another brilliant idea, but I would probably trim out all the side quests. Stick to primary story and stuff. I’d have to pay even more attention to what I was doing though because, well, things aren’t as clearly defined as they are in SWTOR. Hey, it’s either that or have a full 40-80 hours of gameplay put up on YouTube… and that’s just the FIRST game.

Lord of the Rings Online – not a bad thought, but I’m not willing to make a new character. I did the first part of the game TOO MANY TIMES. That’s my fault, but hey, that’s how it goes. If I do show anything, it’d just be me doing random things at level 66. I highly doubt that would be interesting.

The Secret World – I see the allure here of wanting to see a bit of Let’s Play here, but again, it’d be a spoiler issue AND I don’t own the game.

Civilization – Uh… no. *laughs*

Blood Bowl: Chaos Edition – I don’t like football enough, sorry.

Those are all the game requests. There was one for a series of snapshots of different games until Neverwinter comes out (uh, that’s going to be a while) and there was one request for reviews on books, shows, movies, etc. and that’s also a perfectly valid desire.

I’m leaning toward a couple of these and I’m far from making up my mind.  Maybe SWTOR, Torment, or some other game. Mostly I’m just thrilled that I have viewers that give a damn about what I put up. In the meantime? I guess I’ll talk to my camera.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “The difficulty in life is the choice.” – George Moore

LOTRO and Streamlined Joy

Saturday night I played some Lord of the Rings Online with some friends. Recently they performed a couple of streamlining things that really impressed me the other night and that caused me to dive in for most of Sunday… and I’m itching to do more.

Two of these mechanics came courtesy of the recent Rohan expansion: auto loot and open tapping.

Auto loot is just on. There’s no toggle, you don’t have to click on a corpse any more, you just kill the enemy and you automatically get its stuff. I have “Always Loot All” on, so I pick up everything. If your inventory gets full, you have a 50 item overflow bag that allows you time to finish what you’re doing and then run and sell to a vendor. It’s the most streamlined mechanic I’ve seen in a while and I love it. I can just plow through hordes of orcs, stopping only to sell loot. Hands down one of the most enjoyable things ever to the point where a friend sounded pretty amused to hear that I was playing LOTRO mainly because it’s the only MMO on my machine that has auto loot (more than just that reason, but it’s funny nonetheless).

Open tapping is where… well… you can share kills with people (in or out of your group) and get full credit and your own loot drop. No splitting exp or the other guy getting full credit for a mission and not you. No shared loot. You get your own rolled loot drop. Brilliant. If you hit an enemy someone else is fighting, there’s no reason to get angry at all. There’s no kill stealing! SO COOL! It does require a psychological shift though since I’m used to NOT randomly helping people and just cutting through an area. I’m certain most people don’t care, but it’s nice that everyone is essentially in a giant pick-up group for regular enemies. Last night a burglar and I tag teamed a couple of named bad guys in the beginning part of Lothlorien. I’ve got nothing but respect for that fellow.

So, taking advantage of these new mechanics (they also streamlined the quests in the latter half of Moria), I set out and finished questing in Moria (at least what I could find starting from the Twenty-First Hall and going to the Foundations of Stone) and started in on Lothlorien. I stepped out of Moria and immediately went, “OMG WHAT IS THIS LACK OF A CEILING?!” Yeah, I’d been in Moria for a while.

Anyway, yeah, I’m excited over auto loot and the end of kill stealing. You know you’re a gamer when…

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. My reaction to the following quote: WTF? I suppose if you’re waiting for a friend…? “For those wishing to disable experience gain, a new pocket item is available in the LOTRO Store that will disable all XP gain while equipped. Other advancement, such as deeds and reputation, are unaffected.” – Official Notes for Update 9, Against the Shadow

F2P MMO Cash Shops

I’ve played several Free-to-Play games that have what I colloquially refer to as “cash shops”. These are in-game interfaces that take some kind of currency that can typically only be obtained by an expenditure of real world money.

Thus far, my favorites have been The Lord of the Rings Online, Star Trek Online, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Each of them has something I like.

For The Lord of the Rings Online, you can purchase piles of Turbine Points for use in the LOTRO Store, or you can acquire TP through finishing optional deeds in the course of playing the game. Kill 30 wolves here, get 5 points. Use a skill 150 times, get 10. Finish this much of the storyline, get 20. Also, you can do them again and again courtesy of having multiple characters which allows you to effectively grind these points. Grinding is right, as many of these deeds are tedious time wasters. You often get a bigger bang for you buck if you just buy the points outright or even subscribe for the monthly stipend. I love this alternative way of getting points though. Further, they consistently add wonderful items to the LOTRO Store like extra mounts, cosmetic equipment, and more. Some of the more straight-forward purchases are in fact things that I think should be available from every cash shop such as character slots, more inventory space, and convenience skills/items. This is pretty much the ultimate example of an in-game store (it could be better, but not by much).

In Star Trek Online, you can purchase Zen (used to be Cryptic Points) to spend in the Zen Store (used to be the Cryptic Store). You can acquire Zen in another way though… by selling refined dilithium to other players via the dilithium exchange. The rates change based on the demand, so keep an eye on it if you want to make a bundle. You can also sell Zen in exchange for refined dilithium, so it does go both ways. Refined dilithium can be made in a variety of ways in the game, but it’s a primary ingredient for a ridiculous number of game mechanics and I know I’m forever running out. The store offers my favorite staples like ship costumes, extra character slots, extra room for bridge officers, ships, bank, account storage, inventory, the list goes on. Further, you can buy whole new ships with special abilities and unique appearances and many of them are Zen Store specific. My favorite purchase to date has been the Regent-class Assault Cruiser Refit. The developers are regularly adding stuff to this store, so it’s often a joy to keep an eye on it.

Star Wars: The Old Republic has had its Cartel Store for a very short time, so it’s got plenty to grow into. I’m disappointed that it didn’t have spare character slots for sale since this would appeal to my friends. Further, I’d like to see a wallet increase (F2P has a 200k credit cap but if you throw some money at the game you get a 350k cap for being “Preferred Status”) and I think they could make a good business out of offering stacks of companion gifts through the store. Thus far, they have a few cool suits of gear (no set bonuses unfortunately) and some of the more standard purchases for the F2P crowd (extra inventory, weekly passes to flashpoints, etc). At this stage, there’s two really cool things that the Cartel Store allows. One is that you can preview the gear from the store on your character without leaving the store. Very nice. The other is that you can spend Cartel Coins on other parts of the game like expanding your bank or inventory normally but also on anything on your Legacy perks pages. This allows your lower level characters to get some of those fancier items without having to have a huge pile of credits on hand. That said, I’m holding onto my pile of Coins until I see some things I just can’t live without. So far the only thing that’s remotely appealed to me has been the Carbon Freezing Chamber animation and that’s more whimsy than anything else.

So, there you have it. Cash shops are here to stay, but they certainly add something fun to the game. Plus, when I have some down time I love to go shopping. It’s fun to see what’s available. All the developers need to do is frequently add more stuff to the store. If they ever stop and the store stagnates for too long, well, they’re in trouble.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “The use of money is all the advantage there is in having money.” – Benjamin Franklin

Game Jumping

In a form of Quantum Leaping, I managed to jump from MMO to MMO to MMO this weekend with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of fun. I’ll cover what happened yesterday, but this has happened effectively three days in a row now.

I started with Star Trek Online. We need dilithium for our latest fleet project that will station security officers throughout our starbase and I kicked us from 22% to 30%. I was also invited along on a Khitomer Accord Ground Elite run and we successfully finished it. That was exciting and definitely new for me. There’s a lot more for me to do in Star Trek and with Season 7 just around the bend, I’m excited to see what’s coming up.

I moved into Lord of the Rings Online. I’ve been hammering Moria lately, trying to get to the other side, but there’s a short series of quests that had me going back and forth between two places and it’s just plain irritating. Last night I thought I’d finished it, but I was wrong and I need to go back to this area between the places. So, I stepped out of Moria and basked in the sunlight of Middle Earth as I built up Turbine Points so I could afford the Hurried Traveler trait (it makes my milestone skills cooldown in 30 minutes instead of the default hour). I was thrilled to finally get it.

I wrapped up yesterday with a bit of Star Wars: The Old Republic. I’ve been playing a Consular lately, a Sage.  She hit level 15 last night as I plowed through the Black Sun portion of Coruscant. I designed Aikyria and I’m quite proud of her since she’s very lovely. I’ve got quite a crush on her. All that aside, it’s really fun throwing rocks with the force.

I’m very much looking forward to the upcoming release of XCOM Enemy Unknown and I’ve ordered a replacement for one of my sticks of RAM to help out here. Turns out I have two sticks of RAM: a 2 GB and a 1 GB. I’m replacing the 1 with a 2. With that single swap, I’ll have 4 GB and I’ll be meeting the recommended system requirements and I should be able to run the game well. I’m also getting a replacement heat sink since my fan seems to like making a sound every now and again (well, three times in total this week).

So, yes, plenty going on and great things happening.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “All of time and space; everywhere and anywhere; every star that ever was. Where do you want to start?” – The Doctor

Discussion – Irritating MMO Conventions

Last night I was playing Dragon Nest when I screwed up my free respec on my Cleric. I got so fed up that I thought of this article topic. Allow me to point out some really stupid and highly irritating conventions in online games (and possibly some single player games) to me.

– When allocating skills, there’s no room for error

Seriously, I’m tired of this. It’s been around for a very long time and it always ticks me off. A good early example of this is Diablo II. If you weren’t sure about allocating that one skill point per level, you could let it sit, but if you spent it accidentally, there was NO way to get it back. At all. Today, Hellgate Global (well, Hellgate: London in general) and Dragon Nest leap to the top of my thoughts when I consider this shortcoming. If you spend that skill point, you’d better be damn sure that’s the skill you want to improve because there is NO going back (unless you throw money at the game in the case of Dragon Nest). Star Trek Online has a slight issue with this, but it’s got a much more forgiving respec system than most games. Essentially, when you get your skill points, you can allocate them and they’re spent, but when you go to respec (and they give you a free respec per rank – Lieutenant Commander, Commander, Captain, Rear Admiral, and Vice Admiral I believe) you can add and subtract your skill points willy-nilly to see what you’d like to do and only when you’re ready and have spent all your points can you hit the Apply button. For a possible remedy, I want to see plus and minus buttons so I can fix things just the way I like it before hitting the apply button and making things permanent. Leveling up my character should not be an exercise in frustration.

– Marketplace/Auction Hall/Exchange prices are too high

This is a classic case of people not understanding how to price things I think. I mean, what Lieutenant Commander has 1 million credits and will spend it on ONE Mark IV Phaser? I didn’t and I don’t expect other people to as well. I price things to SELL, not to sit on the Exchange for days as a thing for people to laugh at and then be outsold. In Dragon Nest there’s a 30 item limit per week with a max of five items up at a time (without throwing money at it, I think). The downside is that I’m seeing items that are going for 5 gold when I’m lucky to have any gold after buying one pesky item off the marketplace. The over pricing problem is rampant and is very obvious when the stacks of 20 Crude Onyx used for upgrading Rare Level 16+ equipment is going for 65 gold AT MINIMUM. Yeah, I’ve never seen that much money and I don’t really ever want to because then I’d have spent way too much time playing a game where the max level is currently 24. It gets to the point sometimes where if I can’t find it myself, I don’t worry about it and I just make do. I don’t think this is as big a problem in Lord of the Rings Online, but still, it can rear it’s ugly head if you’re looking to buy your class quest items so you don’t have to go into Carn Dum and Urugarth. For an example of a possible remedy to this, Star Wars Galaxies has always had (I think) a 200k credit limit (maximum bid) in the Bazaar, however you can price things however you’d like on your personal vendor.

– People spamming the chat with inane crap (mostly gold sellers)

This one’s an obvious one, but a goodie. Dragon Nest currently has an infestation of gold sellers and there seems to be at least three in every instance of Carderock Pass. I remember in Star Wars Galaxies making my Commando unsearchable because at least that way I couldn’t get private messages from other people advertising their billions of credits for cash. I don’t care how hard it is to make money in an online game, I’m going to make this statement: I NEVER HAVE AND WILL NEVER BUY IN-GAME MONEY FOR REAL MONEY. There’s a caveat and that’s only if the company who makes and maintains the game decides to make a cash-shop that has a money tree or something in it. I could see it in Lord of the Rings Online, but just barely. However it goes, I really want to club these chat spammers to death every time I walk by them and their chat bubbles. If people are having a stupid conversation, I’m willing to look the other way. At least in that case the chat box is being used as intended. As a possible remedy, I’ve seen used in games a (not sure what it’s called) repeat chat limiter that prevents people from saying the same thing too many times in a row. It won’t stop spammers, but it will definitely make them talk less often.

– A lack of a Buy Back option in NPC stores

Lord of the Rings Online did something smart here. They allow for the last few items you’ve sold to be bought back in the same session you’re playing in (I think it’s the last 20 items sold). Sell too much at once or log off and log back in and you’ve lost your chance to get back some of your stuff. Dragon Nest? You sold it, you lost it. I think it was the same with Ragnarok Online too. Star Wars Galaxies had a similar issue where if you accidentally sold something you’d have to file a help ticket to get it back and even then you might not get it back. Eventually the developers for Galaxies popped out this device that sits in everyone’s datapad and allows for personal rescuing of items accidentally sold. Star Trek Online has a buy back mechanism as well and even allows you to reconstitute things in the replicator that you accidentally threw into the recycler. Some developers seem to be catching on here, but really, I need to pay more attention when selling stuff in my inventory. Wish the item locking mechanism from LOTRO could be used in other games. I like it. For a possible remedy… well, just add the buy back function!

– Players crowding around particular NPCs

This is a problem in every game where there’s really only one NPC for a particular thing. LOTRO attempts to remedy this by providing multiple Auctioneers and Vault-keepers where they can, but from time to time it’s really irritating to go to click on an NPC and wind up trying to figure out how to get rid of a pop-up menu for interacting with this other player that you don’t know. In Dragon Nest I’ve noticed something here: if you’re in a group around, say, the blacksmith and you need to click on him, move the mouse over the NPC and it turns into the NPC interaction cursor. Basically the game ignore people in the way. I like that. Not quite sure how they did it, but it definitely makes the crowds seem more manageable. Star Trek Online seems to manage this issue by increasing the range of talking to some NPCs I think (it might just be my imagination). I think to handle this issue, possible solutions may be to increase the interaction range on certain NPCs or whatever. Expanding the zone of interaction would allow for more people to get in there and such. Another possible solution here is letting the player hold a key or something that fades player characters a bit or completely and keeps the NPCs or environmental interactions in full color and brings them to the foreground (so to speak).

I think that’s enough for today. I don’t expect these issues to go away overnight, but sometimes just airing them out makes them feel more manageable from a player’s perspective. I’m not a developer, but I’ve tried to offer solutions where I could.

Until next time, keep your eyes open.

– Elorfin

P.S. “Only through observation will you perceive weakness” – Charles Darwin

Discussion – The Urge to Replay

I’ve had this craving recently to dive back into a game that I’ve already beaten. I’m not entirely sure why though. Let me try to convey my thoughts on the matter.

First of all, I have plenty of games I haven’t beaten yet:

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Splinter Cell: Conviction

Lord of the Rings Online

Champions Online

Hellgate: London

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

Spiral Knights



Police Quest Collection

Space Quest Collection

Roller Coaster Tycoon

X-COM Apocalypse

X-COM Terror From the Deep

These are just some of the games I have access to right now. I haven’t even touched the stacks of handheld games I haven’t beaten yet or even the console games I haven’t beaten. Seriously, I could focus on one or more of these and actually FINISH a few more games, but I have this craving to keep playing/replay certain games even after I’ve finished them. Here are the siren songs that keep calling me.

Chrono Trigger

Chrono Cross

Final Fantasy XII

Star Trek Online (I consider it beaten, but since they keep adding new stuff, I dunno)

Mass Effect 2

Republic Commando

I’ve successfully resisted replaying a few of those games lately by focusing on LOTRO, but Final Fantasy XII has been calling me exceptionally often lately. Whenever I look at my dormant PS2, I have this craving to play FFXII and I don’t really know why. I beat it rather soundly last time, but for some reason I just want to start a new game and pound the crap out of it again. It’s a massive investment of time though, so I’ve been able to resist it successfully. Resisting Chrono Cross is kind of easy though, however sad because well, I can resist it because it doesn’t have voice acting and I’m afraid the game might put me to sleep without enough stimulation. Strange, right? I know, but I once nodded off while playing Final Fantasy VI on the PSX and that’s my most favorite FF game of all time. I managed to whet my Chrono Trigger appetite recently when it came available on the Wii and I also own a handheld copy of the game (but it’s so much more fun to play on the TV).

Lately I’ve been having this strong desire to play a game where I can shoot things. Obviously, this rules out games like LOTRO and Chrono Trigger, so I’ve been giving sidelong glances at Splinter Cell: Conviction and Hellgate: London and a few other games with colons in their names.

I’m not sure about the details behind my desire to replay a game over finishing a game, but hey, that’s why this little site is here! To let me expand upon my random thoughts and help me discover what’s going on! I seriously think that I have a problem with finishing games because deep down I don’t want the experience to end. Further, I like replaying certain games that are quick and exciting or allow me to carry over information from a prior game. It’s possible (since FFXII doesn’t fit this mold) that I might have a strong desire to replay a game if I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the original playthrough. I did kind of give up on the extras in FFXII when I realized I just wanted to beat the game at level 70 or something as a result of losing to a stupid extra boss that was an hour or so away from a save point. I’ll never understand why they don’t put save points in front of every boss fight, however optional. FFXIII has save points galore, but I guess when you really need one it’s never there.

Anyways, I’m off to work some more on my Captain in LOTRO. I got him to level 50 last night and he’s currently working on upgrading his first legendary item to level 10 so I can go back and put a hurting on the Watcher in the Water. It’s a decent halberd I’m using, but I’d prefer different legacies. We’ll see what happens.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Congrats on finishing the game. Now get a life!!” – Eiji Nakamura in the “Programmers'” Ending of Chrono Trigger

Discussion – Level Up

This last week I’ve spent a significant amount of time playing Lord of the Rings Online. Starting last Monday, I went from level 29 to nearly level 44 last night (Sunday). 14 levels in a week. Here’s how I did it (more or less).

I created this Man Captain a while ago and he initially went through the Man starter area of Archet, through Combe and Staddle and onto Bree-town. Here’s the thing, I stopped at about level 14 when I realized I would most probably die during a quest or two (this was somewhere around the Midgewater Marsh). At this point I relocated to Thorin’s Gate and did all of the quests in Ered Luin (first the Dwarven starter quests and then the Elven ones). Then, upon completing Ered Luin, I started from the west side of the Shire in Little Delving and made my way all the way through it. By the time I was done I was around levels 15-17 (I can’t recall). Then I progressed to Bree-town and polished off everything between Bree and the Shire (without going into the forest). I then did a bit of traveling up the Greenway, knocking out quests until I reached the Orcs. I finally turned around and pulverized the Old Forest quests and started in on the Eastern Bree Fields (which are actually north of Bree, but whatever) and once those were done, I did the Barrow Downs.

By this time I was in the early 20’s. I think maybe 23? Anyway, I went through the Lone Lands all the way from the Forsaken Inn to Ost Guruth, doing all the quests west of Ost Guruth (but none of the quests originating there). I then took advantage of Frideric the Elder’s quest to port myself to Trestlebridge in the North Downs and I did all the quests I could until I reached Esteldin. Once there, I did all the quests I could that took place west of Esteldin and I didn’t touch the ones that went east. At this point I switched back to the Lone Lands and proceeded to do as many quests I could do in Ost Guruth and the eastern Lone Lands.

It was here that I remembered Oatbarton. This very northern part of the Shire is actually in southern Evendim. I was around level 33 or so when I did this and the experience payout was absurdly good for simple “preparing for a festival” quests. I did all the quests in Oatbarton and Dwaling, up to the High King’s Crossing colossus statue. Then I bounced to the North Downs and worked on the quests east of Esteldin, went back to the Lone Lands to polish stuff up, and then I opened up Evendim.

I think it was Friday when I hit Evendim like a sledgehammer hitting things in a Gallagher show. I did nearly everything I could in Evendim. I hit level 42 on Friday night. Saturday I took a bit of a break (had to get the dog to the vet for a checkup and I had a D&D game that night), but Sunday I started in on Angmar, made significant headway into the Trollshaws, and I knocked on the Misty Mountains’ door.

As of this morning, I still have Annuminas quests I’d like to do in Evendim, 6 fellowship quests (5 of them gray) in the North Downs, 9 quests in Angmar that I’m holding off on, a few quests in the Trollshaws and Misty Mountains to get to, and a smattering of Epic and Special quests to knock out. Ahh, progress. This is what happens when I just let go and play. Now, I still have my level 60 Rune-Keeper who is set for playing with my high level friends and I have my level 27 Guardian that is playing with a particular friend, but this Captain is just for me. I can’t wait to get him to Eregion and Forochel and see how he handles that.

A side note: I named my Captain Zyphus after the god of accidental death in the Pathfinder campaign setting. His herald is named Pharasma after the goddess of death in the same setting. I find it kind of humorous that I have the greater goddess as the minion to my lesser god. Good times.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! I did not come here tonight to make you laugh! I came here to sell you something! And I want ya to pay particular attention, because The Amazing Master Tool Corporation, a subsidiary of Fly By Night Industries has entrusted who? — me! — to show you! — the handiest and the dandiest kitchen tool you’ve ever seen, and don’t ya wanna know how it works! First you take an ordinary apple! You place the apple between the patented pans! Then you reach for the tool that is not a slicer, not a dicer, not a chopper in a hopper! What in the hell can it possibly be? SLEDGE-O-MATIC!” – Leo Gallagher

Discussion – Recent Developments

Recently I’ve been playing copious amounts of Star Trek Online and Lord of the Rings Online, almost to the exclusion of all other activities. I know, unhealthy, but there’s good reason.

Star Trek Online recently came out with their Season 4 update and, well, holy crap they did a lot of awesome things all at once! To summarize, they added a “shooter mode” to ground combat, reduced the cooldowns on ground abilities and, overall, increased the responsiveness of the ground combat portion of the game; they changed how the Borg worked in ground combat, adjusted weapon damage across the board, added voice chat into the game, changed the loading screens, updated graphics here and there, and made the Gorn look completely awesome.

Now, my personal project of late in STO is essentially to get the Explore and Defend accolades for every location (which is a lot of work) but the last couple of days I’ve just been trying for a minimum of 5/15 per region. I’ve succeeded with the Explore accolades and I’m now tackling the Defend accolades (and coincidentally I’m tackling the “Kill Enemy Flagship” accolade at the same time).

I’ve even made a recent adjustment to my playstyle, both on the ground and in space. On the ground, my main character Vyris wields a Phaser Assault Minigun Mk XI (I kid you not, when I’m in combat and using this weapon, you can hear me shouting “You want some of this? Come get some!”) and I redid a lot of my Bridge Officer’s ground abilities. I typically have on a ground mission two engineers, a tactical officer and a science officer, so I changed the engineers to both be able to summon Medical Generators (Mk II) and Turrets (Mk II) and Shield Recharge (Mk I), with one doing Weapons Malfunction (Mk II) and the other doing Quick Fix (Mk II). The tactical officer now has Draw Fire (Mk I), Photon Grenade (Mk II), Target Optics (Mk II) and Overwatch (Mk II) and the science officer is running Hypospray – Dylovene (Mk I), Medical Tricorder (Mk II), Vascular Regenerator (Mk II), and Nanite Health Monitor (Mk I). In space, the change wasn’t as drastic, but I swapped out Beam Array: Overload (Mk I) for Beam Array: Fire At Will (Mk I). This makes me feel like some kind of death blossom. When approaching a fight with multiple enemies, I activate Cannon: Scatter Volley (Mk I) and then once all the enemies spread around me, I activate Fire At Will and just, well… I’ll try to show it off sometime soon! Oh, and the U.S.S. Iowa-B (NCC-91061-B) has received a rather sizable refit…

Yes, that’s the United States at night that I’ve decided to use for my backdrop. You’re welcome. Here’s another for fun.

So, the significant changes to my ship’s appearance has been the black paint job, saucer section and, well, you can’t tell from these pictures, but I changed out the hull of the ship as well. Here, take a look at a lower resolution:

Anyways, that’s enough about Star Trek for now! On to LOTRO!

In LOTRO, I recently purchased the pre-order for the Rise of Isengard expansion coming out this September. I didn’t get the super duper awesome pre-order, but I did get the next one down, so I received a cool horse, an incredibly awesome looking cosmetic outfit, a title (Guard of the Isen), 1000 Turbine Points for use in the LOTRO Store, and a nifty little item that gives me an extra 25% experience per monster kill as long as it’s in my pocket slot. Very nice. Further, I’m progressing through level 59 and last night I took off the “kid gloves” and started beating Moria with a lead pipe… er… by that I mean I started working on Moria way after I should have. At least I got experience for every kill since my level 60 Hunter friend noted that nearly half of all kills we were getting weren’t even giving him experience (the level 51 monsters were too low level to give him anything but loot). I guess we put it off too long, huh? Oh well, it was fun! Also, the kinship I’m in has finally gotten a kin house and we’ve been having fun decorating and so forth. One of my friends decided to put this massive stone tower in the front yard of our house… note, this house looks like a hobbit home, so it’s short and built into the side of a hill… and now it has a big tower in front of it. Ah, the humor! Here, have a picture…

Also, here, have an imbedded video where I’m talking about the stuff I got from the expansion and showing off the new kin house.


Whew, a lot of things!

Until next time! Keep playing!

– Elorfin

P.S. “I was afraid that by observing objects with my eyes and trying to comprehend them with each of my other senses, I might blind my soul altogether.” – Socrates

Discussion – My Burgeoning Lack of Self-Preservation

I believe that we’re constantly developing… as individuals and participants, as thinkers and conceptualizers, as gamers and creators, as introverts and extroverts. We’re an amalgamation of attributes with a little of this and a lot of that (or maybe it’s the other way around for you).

In my early days of Star Wars Galaxies, I couldn’t stand it when my character died. It wasn’t just the inconvenience of cloning or the death penalties or even the detriment to my equipment’s quality. No, it was, I think in retrospect, the break of my immersion in the game that ticked me off the most. It made little sense to me for me to die in combat in Star Wars. I don’t rightly know how else to put it, but it certainly rubbed me the wrong way.

This feeling of wrongness has extended to other games in recent and not so recent history: Guild Wars, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Splinter Cell: Conviction, X-COM: Terror from the Deep, and there’s a few others I can’t really think of right now. Is it always a break of immersion? No, sometimes it’s just out and out frustration with the game crushing me or putting something in front of me that I try to deal with and am quickly shown incapable of handling or whatever. Essentially it’s when the game slaps me in the face saying, “Hey idiot, you’re doing it wrong,” when all I’m trying to do is do it right the way I know how. It’s this sense of personal failure at something I KNOW I should be good at handling or doing.

Recently I’ve been noticing this sensation slipping away bit by bit. It’s where I’m sitting with my friends and I tell them, “Hey, I went for a run into Angmar and knocked out Book 7 all by myself. It’s easy enough to solo, you just have to get up to Gath Forthnir…” and then I go on about how I have a bunch of the difficult “Fellowship Recommended” or “Small Fellowship Recommended” quests. By the way, when I say “recommended”, I really mean “REQUIRED”.

It’s not just there, I think it was slipping away as I was working on Eregion last week. I knocked out all but ONE quest there in just a couple of days. I just… WENT. I didn’t worry about difficulty, I just jumped into every quest and tackled it with everything I had at my disposal. The other night when I was running through a portion of Eregion, I stupidly attacked a level 49 Rare Elite Warg that had about 9k hit points… I got it about halfway down and it killed me, but my thoughts afterwards? “Meh, I was stupid to think I could take it on without a buddy to help. Oh well. What’s next?” In the very recent past, I’d have gotten pissed and probably rage-quit in the process somewhere.

Is this the development of apathy or is it just the maturation of my character? Somewhere in my thought processes, I can dimly recognize some sort of “picking battles” where I try to limit stress and strain through… well… picking my battles. I mean, sure, it’s inconvenient to die in LOTRO and sure, I have to spend a lot of money on equipment repair as a result of “retreating” and yes, I’ve got a 2 hour cooldown on the Revive so I can’t afford to die a lot and still expect to make progress, but it’s almost like it’s losing its meaning for me. In-game deaths are offending me less and less and are becoming an “Oh well” moment or even a “well, crap, guess I’ll do something else then”. It’s a sign I’m overreaching somewhere or that I need to compensate for something elsewhere.

It’s a fascinating experience, developing like this. Will I ever be completely over the sense of personal failure that accompanies loss in these circumstances? Probably not, but it’s interesting to sit back and notice this shift in perspective, however minor. It’s a big deal for me!

Until next time, stay calm and respawn.

– Elorfin

P.S. “Growth is exciting; growth is alarming. Growth of the soul, growth of the mind. ” – Vita Sackville-West

Discussion – Adventure

This past week I’ve been terribly ill (fever and so forth) but I’m getting better (day by day) and in the mean time I’ve been playing quite a bit of Lord of the Rings Online (and participating in the Star Trek Online Feature Episode Replay here and there). Essentially what I’ve done is attempt to catch up to my friend (that Champion I mentioned last week) who is level 53 (I’m about 1/3 of the way through 52). I polished off quite a bit in Forochel leaving two quests (one fellowship and another small fellowship) and I started in on Eregion. A note on Eregion: it’s been a while since I’ve visited a region I haven’t touched at all, so when I did finally dive in, I was able to do one run through the region and finish eight (EIGHT!) quests at the same time. Quite a lot of fun.

Last night the Hunter, Champion, and my Rune-keeper delved into Sarnur for the first time. I wasn’t all that worried because, as we’d proved in the past, if the three of us are together and on the ball, we can handle just about anything. Unfortunately, we got to a point where killing enemies was just far too difficult without the appropriate equipment (well, for my allies anyways). In the first area, the enemies were a joke. Easily, we were slicing our way through the beasts and Dourhands with speed. In the second area, the enemies were fun to kill. There was a bit of a challenge and there were Snow-troll Rippers in groups of two or three that forced us to implement plans on the fly and were a general pleasure to defeat. Then, just past the last group of trolls was the third area… in this area the enemies have special protections that only Ancient Dwarf-make weapons can bypass. My friends had none of this weaponry on them (even though I did make it for them in the past, it never mattered until now). After several minutes of fighting three enemies individually, we finally made our way out of Sarnur and I personally crafted some Ancient Dwarf-make weapons for my friends. We had to stop adventuring there, but when we’re all able to next time, we’ll dive in and be better prepared for what awaits us.

Usually I do a bit of research before I do something. For example, before I go see a movie, I like to know what it’s about. Before I go buy a game, I need to know what I’m getting myself into (and if it’ll run on my computer). Before I buy a book, I’d like to know if it’s in stock where I’m going. Before I go to dinner, I like to see if there’s anything I can’t have on the menu (yay allergies?). So, when I’m gaming, it’s a change… I dive into a mission or quest most times without knowing what I’m fighting or what I’m doing. When I find myself at the gaping maw of a fire-breathing dragon and look up at its great height I am caught breathless with momentary fear and awe… and then I get down to business. Knowing the dragon is there would not change much of anything and sometimes the surprise is great fun. Sometimes it’s just a thrill to try to adapt to the situations as they pop up. Other times, I’ll go into a mission or quest having fully researched it and I’ll still be amazed at what I see. I don’t know, something about LOTRO or STO or whatever encourages me to just go ahead and walk through the next door. Why bother looking things up when you can just see them for yourself right through that next tunnel or passageway?

There’s adventure around the next bend, friends.

Until next time,

– Elorfin

P.S. He often used to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep and every path was its tributary. “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.” – The Fellowship of the Ring

Discussion – Tackling Challenges

As I believe I’ve already told you, I’m kind of an easy to stress out gamer. I get frustrated with difficult to obtain achievements and loot to the point where I had to pass an edict to keep myself from hunting the extremely rare ones. Anyways, this is regarding challenges of a different kind…

You see, I play MMOs with friends (Gasp, I play multiplayer games with my friends? Blasphemy!) and we each have a different playstyle, a different approach to the game, and somewhat different desires. Seeing as I’m mostly writing about my own perceptions and preferences, let’s tackle my side, shall we?

There occasionally comes a time where I just don’t feel comfortable doing a quest or mission until I’m higher level or I’ve reached a certain level of preparedness or I’ve got a party to do it with. Sure, it can be viewed as cowardice, but again, I’m attempting to avoid stress and increase my enjoyment of the experience. Also, yes, I’m scared I’m going to waste my time trying something I have no business doing on my own or in an ill prepared group. I would rather not beat my head against the wall, thank you very much.

Last night my friends and I did a quest in Lord of the Rings Online that had quite literally turned into a joke this last month or so (“Hey, how about we go kill a drake?” “Uh, nahhhh.”). There’s a difficult fellowship quest where you must kill a fire drake by the name of Bloodwing in the lands called Angmar. In our first attempt, it was just two of us about a month or so ago. The battle to get up to said drake was easy enough for my Elven Hunter friend and my Dwarven Rune-Keeper (as long as we took our time and we were careful), but when the two of us reached the top, disaster struck in the form of a fire breathing monster that slaughtered the Hunter before I could do anything and, in my haste, I jumped off a cliff to escape the creature. It did not follow, thankfully. In a later conversation with the newly-retreated Hunter, we agreed that our friend, a Dwarven Champion, would be most useful in the battle, but we were unsure how big a difference it would make. Last night we found out, after a month of avoiding the quest (and also the game). We gathered in Aughaire and set out to slay the drake. We cleaved our way up the path that winds around the spire that Bloodwing is based on and after a moments rest just outside the lair, we went to attack and, to our surprise, the Champion fell very quickly. As it happened, Bloodwing had a companion with him that made all the difference at the beginning of the fight. The Hunter and my Rune-Keeper backpedaled and the fire drake did not follow… but his minion (a smaller drake) wandered out. After the Hunter and I dispatched this smaller drake, I managed to revive the Champion and we gathered our strength. The Champion, better prepared, ran into Bloodwing’s lair as the Hunter sprayed arrows into the massive beast! As the battle ensued, I channeled positive energies and maintained a close watch on the party’s morale, bolstering it as needed, providing much needed resistances as I was able to do so. The Champion stood his ground as Bloodwing breathed great gouts of fire upon him and I managed to pour out tremendous amounts of healing energy to help him stay on the front line. At two points during the fight, smaller drakes jumped into the lair, but they were trampled under the immense outpouring of damage dealt out by the Champion and Hunter and the damage dealt by the enemy was reduced to nothing as I quickly  moved to heal the injuries. By the end, Bloodwing laid there in a crumpled form with his equally crushed minions and the Hunter helped us travel home with some of his pathfinding abilities. All in all, a successful run. A satisfying run.

We’re still going to reference the quest as a joke: “Hey, how about we go kill a drake tonight?” Only now it’s not looming over us as just a joke, but an accomplishment.

Yes, I’m not the first person to leap up to a challenge, but once committed, I’ll get to it. Eventually.

I’ve discovered that I have a bit of a different view these days. I don’t know what’s causing it, but my perception is shifting. There’s not much point in being scared to attempt a quest in a game, is there?

Until next time, have epic adventures with your friends!

– Elorfin

P.S. “I get by with a little help from my friends.” – The Beatles

Discussion – New Content in Games

It’s an interesting thing, looking at how my interests in games have shifted away from console games to MMOs for my timesink. Here, let me explain…

Before there was Star Wars Galaxies, I got into Final Fantasy games and similar RPGs on the console. I got my first console that was all mine back in 2001 when a classmate got a PS2 for Christmas and just gave me his PSX and his copy of Final Fantasy VIII. From then until 2003, I played a lot of RPGs and even after Galaxies came out, I still played console games a lot. It was only until this past year that my MMO playing has superseded the console game playing. I think I have an explanation for this and I think it’s related to the constant release of new material.

When it’s a game I’ve never played, the new material is just on the next screen, but after a while, even that feels a bit stale. Star Trek Online just wrapped up another Featured Episode and each component of it was new and fresh and different. Lord of the Rings Online has these new zones that I’ve never been to and they have new and different creatures with new and different quests.

I’m not sure that this is entirely the case though. As I no longer have regular access to a 360, I no longer have a real desire to play it and the associated games (gah, I still want to play and beat Lost Odyssey and Final Fantasy XIII). I’ve been tempted to go back and replay Final Fantasy XII because I genuinely enjoyed it, but I’ve got more work to do in LOTRO and there’s more awesome to experience in STO.

I suppose the constant release of new content is one of the many reasons that has shifted my attention away from console gaming. I’m sure there’s a few other reasons floating around somewhere. Having friends playing too is a good one.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. I wasn’t exceptionally motivated to write today, but I did come up with this article on the fly.

P.P.S. “The times they are a-changin’.”  – Bob Dylan

Discussion – An incomplete approach to my fear of failure and gaming

I have a fear of failure. It keeps me from doing some things in my day-to-day life, it drastically reduces the number of risks I take (in or out of games), and it makes me question whether or not I want to continue doing certain things once I’ve achieved a certain level of progress but feel like I’ve hit a brick wall.

Connected to this fear of failure is a big amount of stress (it’s stressful trying to avoid failure) and I hold myself to (occasionally) absurd standards that just invite the stress and the sense of eventual failure. Yay self-perpetuation, huh? This further causes a strong sense of restlessness when I just want to kick back and enjoy myself only to find that the things I typically do are filled with strategies and methodologies that are designed with an eye towards avoiding failure and sometimes I just want to PLAY without fear.

There are very few ways to reduce the fear of failure. One of them is a save/load mechanic. Seriously, I save a lot. My father taught me that a quick way to keep that soldier from dying is to save at the end of every turn and if things worked out okay by the time my next turn rolled around, save on a different spot at the beginning of the turn. If things didn’t work out, reload and see what you can do to fix it. Rinse and repeat.

Another method to reduce my fear is the game design. Honestly, if I can pick up a game quickly and it just comes easy to me, I’ve got no worries. I’m not afraid of screwing up Final Fantasy Tactics because I know the game very well (and I know when I need to prepare… Riovanes Castle SUCKS!… also, I was taught some nifty tricks that help me be prepared). FFT comes EASY to me.

I suppose when it comes to my fear of failure, preparedness helps. I keep a notepad next to my computer so that when I play games, I can jot down things I should remember. When crafting in Galaxies, I would hand write the list of resources I needed and manually go through my resources to see which ones were the best for the job at hand (and I would figure THAT out by using a bit of math that required a calculator). When playing LOTRO, I keep a list of the tasks for a region at hand so that I know what I need, how many, when I can turn them in, and when I can’t turn them in any more. I love strategy guides that help me prepare for what’s ahead with little tips like “you should make sure to purchase plenty of potions for this next part: FAIR WARNING” or something like that.

If we want to get into the psychology of it all, I suppose it’s a fear of the unknown, a fear of failure and a fear of loss that are all interconnected to bring me here. I’m a sore loser, sure, but that comes from those fears. I do what I can to face these fears in the context of games and I feel that it helps somewhat. The other day I was playing LOTRO and running a quest that took me into the Misty Mountains (a place I have NO right to be in at level 33). I was scared out of my mind, but I kept moving. I didn’t know what was ahead, I didn’t want to die and have to run out there all over again, and I didn’t want to lose progress. I pressed on, hoping I wouldn’t get screwed over by a level 43 Warg (or whatever was there). I eventually finished the quest, but my hands were shaking.

I guess you could call me a coward. I’m working on it though, slowly but surely. I also love it when things come easily to me and I don’t like to beat myself up just because I’m focusing on the easy stuff. I have a friend who refused to call Diablo II finished until he’d defeated it on the highest difficulty setting. I beat it on two of the three settings and considered it a win. I don’t understand making things hard on yourself when you’re trying to have a good time. Why wouldn’t you try to swing everything in your favor when playing games? Why wouldn’t you approach a quest at a slightly higher level with good equipment if you could? Why wouldn’t you do everything possible to ensure victory the first time around? Why would you do something that you feel you’re going to screw up at over and over again? I suppose I give up too early, but I just don’t see why I need to stress myself out over the failure that I know is coming. Occasionally I can pull a win out of a near loss, but it really scares the crap out of me.

So, I have these fears and I’m working with them and around them as best I can. I suppose that’s all anyone can really do or expect from anyone else.

Until next time, relax a bit!

– Elorfin

P.S. “But he had hardly felt the absurdity of those things, on the one hand, and the necessity of those others, on the other (for it is rare that the feeling of absurdity is not followed by the feeling of necessity), when he felt the absurdity of those things of which he had just felt the necessity (for it is rare that the feeling of necessity is not followed by the feeling of absurdity).” – Samuel Beckett, Watt