Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Place to Call My Own

Well, it’s finally here: LotRO’s Housing update. At first I was determined not to get swept up in the whole thing. PHAIL! A kinshipmate and I went on a tour of the Shire and bought a couple Smials right next to each other. She opted for a smaller one and I got a deluxe one. She and I are two of fairly few Hobbits in the kinship and we both decided that Hobbits should live in the Shire if at all possible. The rest of the kinship is men and elves (we have very few dwarves) so they were out getting homes near Bree or in Falathorn.

Overall I am very pleased with the way they implemented housing. Once I purchased my home, it was mine and no one else could gain access except me. The first thing I did, once I figured out how, was to allow access to my kinshipmates. (When you’re near your home, you get two additional buttons on your navigation circle: one to set permissions and one to toggle to design mode.) You can allow no access (the default) right up to total access to everything including the vault and decorations if you want. I opted to give the kin visitor access. I will probably allow public visitor access at some point. You can also add specific people if you want to.

Once I had the place and the access permissions set up, I went looking for furniture. Each instance has a furniture shop in it but not all shops sell the same stuff. Also, the places people have been getting rep with have items you can purchase for your homes as well. You can tell by the statues people have in their yards what group(s) they are affiliated with. Sometimes the effect is a bit like having a statuary rummage sale on your lawn, but it’s neat to be able to show off your hard work for getting rep.

Rep items:
- Tom Bombadill music box from the Mathom House (plays the ambient music from Tom’s house in my house).
- Dwarven yard statue from Thorin’s Hall rep instance (which is too huge so it sits in my housing storage box for now)

Shire furnishings:
- A couple of scholar bookshelves for the study
- A Hobbit bed
- A couple of birch trees
- An additional fireplace for the bedroom.

- Chairs
- A long table which a cook can turn into a very nice looking breakfast table with dishes, a lit candle and food on it. (Note – this is a “special” item which requires a special item hook).

- Shire Oak Tree (why these aren’t available in the Shire, I’m not sure – it’s an awesome tree though and it’s friggin’ huge). Most of the rest of the elf furnishings look gaudy to me.

Thorin’s Gate:
- Iron chandelier
- Tall candle holder things
- Tapestries and pictures
- A little keg in a wheelbarrow for my yard.
- A mossy well for my yard
- A bunch of rugs

I used the trees to turn my rather plain lot into a wooded lot. I added the keg wagon and mossy well for lawn ornaments. I could also shuffle around things as I saw fit. I arranged one room to be my Hobbit’s bedroom complete with rug, bed, small scholar’s desk and a little fireplace. There’s no fire in the fireplace but it adds a certain charm to the room.

The other off-room became my Hobbit’s study. I have two large bookcases and a scholar’s desk covered with books in the middle. There’s a chair beside the fireplace for sitting and reading. I added a heraldry picture to the wall as well. In time, I hope to be able to add a map of Middle-earth (if one exists in-game). As an adventurer, I imagine him planning his escapades in this room and would like to fill it with items from his adventures.

The main room was tough. It’s enormous and even when using all the hooks, it looks like a vast chasm. In the center I put a large, red rug and my specially made breakfast table. Over the table hangs my chandelier. Along the sides I added a couple more pictures and some chairs and a small table I got from a housing quest. True to my roots in web design, I set things up, took them down and reset them up in different ways until I was happy with the layout of the place.

My gripes with the system are few. Every object has a name and, if you have object names turned on, it’s like walking into a floating catalog of the contents of someone’s house. As soon as I enter a house, I’ll turn the floating names off so I can take in the visuals without having text labels all over the place.

Items have a fixed orientation within their slotted areas. At one point I tried to put a chair in front of my fireplace only to find that the chair’s fixed position faces away from the fireplace. I tried changing it by removing it and adjusting the position from which I was adding the chair to the hook. No matter what I tried, it always faces away. I ended up putting a table there instead. Having a chair in front of a fireplace but facing the opposite direction looks kind of silly to me.

The table hooks don’t allow for chairs to be placed around them. My breakfast table sits openly on the floor like a buffet table rather than a place you’d actually want to sit and eat. Along with this is the fact that other furniture hooks are too far away from each other. If I wanted a number of chairs around in a circle so my friends and I could sit and talk, I can’t do it with the hooks that are there. I’m hoping there’s a special item I can get to put a set of chairs or a table and chairs in the center of the room. Something like a living room set would be neat and make it feel more like a home than a museum.

Overall, I have been enjoying setting up my house. I’m looking forward to actually using it for stuff. Parties! Woo!

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Today was my first experience raiding in The Lord of the Rings Online. My kinship has been doing weekly raids for a month or so now with some other allied kinships. I abstained at first due to level (much lower than 50 and you'll have trouble hitting the mobs). Even after I dinged 50, I didn't jump right on the bandwagon. I had been in a couple raiding kinships in WoW and figured I'd hold off.

Then it happened: one of the kinships in the raid alliance created a drama thread on the forums of my kinship about how they felt disrespected and used because we had decided to create a separate raid with more of our own members present from the two largest kinships in the alliance. The last raid we were on with them resulted in a slew of complaints to our officers (myself included) about the behavior of some of the other kinship's members. As I understand it, I was not on the raid, there was much screaming at other raid participants on vent and some loot drama that happened. The reports reminded me about everything I hated about WoW raiding. The storm settled down quickly and the other officers and I agreed to end the old alliance in favor of a new one with just the two largest kinships.

I went to Helegrond with them last night. It was actually a lot of fun. We took down the first boss and then proceeded to take out the four bosses at the entrance (we wiped once largely because we were trying a new strategy, once we switched back to the old one people knew better we crushed them with only a couple dead). Not knowing what I was doing, I just used my main assist and hit whatever he was hitting. We ventured further in and took out the spider. As a wrap-up to the evening, we attempted the big dragon boss (Thorag?) and got owned. I actually died twice: once when I was just trying to get into position (he set fire to the bridge I was on) and once after I rezzed and rode back in on my pony.

One thing I've become a lot more familiar with in LotRO is the graphics / advanced graphics options. Most of the time, I can run it on very high. For most of the raid, I used medium. For the spider boss, which is very graphically intensive, I ran on low graphics. The changes helped quite a bit in dealing with lag issues and display problems. It's a nice touch in a game as graphically intense as LotRO to be able to switch around my settings so easily to accommodate for game conditions.

And another tip if anyone else experiences element deformities such as horizontal slices (pixels or sets of pixels which extend from the edges of objects to infinity): turn on the "synch to refresh rate" in advanced graphics. I turned it on and haven't had many problems since. It will take up more resources on your machine but it makes things look a LOT better.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ding! 50!

My Hobbit Burglar dinged 50 (max level in Lord of the Rings Online) the other day. Now I can wear the class-set gloves I got as a drop a week or so ago. Yay! I've been spending my time at 50 going back to some of the areas I hadn't explored as thoroughly as I would have liked to on my first trip through. The Trollshaws in particular is a massive zone with a lot of variety to it and lots of ruins to check out. I need to work on my traits to get up to spec. I've also been working my way through the epic book quests and taking some time to run Carn Dum and other instances with kinship mates. In-between all of the stuff listed above, I've also been roaming around in the Ettenmoors more often. As the only PvP zone in the game, it adds a bit to the excitement of questing. The problem I have with it is the PvP: like most MMOs I think the PvP in LotRO isn't all that great.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Current and Near-future state of MMOs

Tobolds had an article on his blog about the doom-casting around MMOs and how many bloggers are all pointing to the same dark morass 2008 will be for MMOs and saying “Doom! Doooooooom!” He also thought it would be interesting for some kind of counter-point discussion. Not being one to shy away from rambling on about poorly-researched subject matter, and also having been in a blogging slump lately, I considered it prime time to dust off the keyboard and dazzle my readers with my foresight, insight and overall mastery of the English language.

Then I came back to reality, and wrote this instead:

Player benefits of the current MMO slump:

1) Rather than play new, players can cross-pollinate. 2008 will be a good time for players to play other established games which they may not have considered. World of Warcraft, Everquest2, Guild Wars, Star Wars Galaxies and City of Heroes, to name a few, have been going well for a while now. Players can break away from the games they may be tiring of and try another one that has already been established for a while. Who knows? Perhaps in trying a game you dismissed at first may introduce you to a really great game.

2) An opportunity for Sleeper Hits. While most of the big-name MMOs seem to be delayed or cancelled, perhaps this is prime time for an MMO from a small name developer to leap to the front of the pack and impress people with awesome game-play / neat stories / whatever floats your boat. The industry as a whole could use some fresh blood. A company of any size could really shine if they bring something revolutionary to the table in 2008.

3) Games with room to grow. Many people love being in on the ground floor of The Next Big Thing (tm), but how about getting in on a game which is being refined. Lord of the Rings Online needs some more work with regard to combat fluidity, quests for certain levels and some other tweaks but it’s getting there. Tabula Rasa sounds like it needs more content. I imagine they’ll probably build it sometime. You could be one of the folks that got in at the ground level and, by playing and offering constructive feedback, you could help to make a good game great. People love the current polish of WoW, but seldom seem to remember the MONTHS of server problems, log in queues, inventory problems and crashes that came immediately after the launch. Tomorrow’s refined game started today as a passable, not-that-bad-but-not-that-great game.

4) Go the ^$%# outside. Another benefit of not having a lot of new gaming options: no excuse to stay cooped up inside.

All that, of course, is from the player perspective.

From the perspective of the MMO companies, I think they are engaged in a great struggle. How does one make an MMO in a post-WoW world? Whether you like the game or not, WoW pretty much defines what a release and continued development in a great game should be. I view WAR’s delay not as a failing on the part of Mythic, but perhaps a success: they’re not going to release a game that’s crap and if it is so far from being worthy that it won’t be releasable for a good long time, then it’s best to pull the plug and get to retooling it now instead of knowing that there are problems and trying to release it anyway.

I don’t remember where I read it, but one gaming insider said that no one remembers when you release something late if it’s good, but everyone remembers when you release crap too soon. I’m sure I paraphrased that badly, but the attitude of releasing worthy games is a good one. In the end, it will strengthen the genre and provide us the users with ever-widening sources of viable game play whatever our personal preferences may be.

If we have to wait for the Next Big Thing(tm) in gaming until late 2008 or 2009, that's cool by me. If the game companies are worth their salt, there should actually be a number of releases that should be quite good whenever it is that they can be released.