Thursday, May 31, 2012

NBI: Nearing the end


Time's going faster than I thought. I was just about to publish a "learning challenge" for Ambermist as actuality caught up with me and I was already supposed to write another, unexpected challenge, ominously described as The Final Challenge. So I dropped the other post and got right on it. It struck me that this was her hardest challenge so far, as the assignment was this: "Find three blogs that participated in the NBI, introduce me to each, and give me at least one reason you like each blog."

Three blogs you should not miss

Okay, I admit that finding three NBI blogs wasn't that hard. After all, Syp just posted 111 of them (yup, I counted them). The real challenge was of course to select just three of them. So here I present to you:

Image Heavy: even though she writes mostly about a game that I don't play myself (World of Warcraft), Clumsygrrrl keeps catching my attention with her humorous, smooth writing and her original insights. Both text and images make this into a cheerful blog that you should keep an eye on.

Shards of Imagination: no overflow of images here, but plain, good old fashioned text. And that is exactly what Rakuno is good at. He can write about pretty much anything, but always manages to voice his thoughts and opinions in his very own and pleasant way. Lean back and take the time to read some of his posts. It's worth it.

Hipstalotro: the description "me and my smartphone wandering through Middle-earth's coolest places" made me giggle the first time I saw it. Honestly, who takes on the idea of posting "polaroid" pictures taken in Lord of the Rings Online? Accompanied by humorous captions, this is the perfect picture blog to check on a daily basis.

Cheating

Okay, and while you're at it, I reckon you're not bored yet and want more blogs to check out. Or actually, to be honest with you, I'm just looking for an excuse to present you some other good newbie blogs that I've actively been following. After all, everybody else did it, so then it's okay, right?

The NBI has been overwhelming and I sincerely hope that many blogs will make it through and keep being active. I'm also sure that I've missed many good blogs, as there were just too many to keep up with them all. The ones that I've been following (and it's been more than mentioned in this post) are all found in my MMO blogroll. Let me know if I've missed your favorite!


Edit: my initial thought was to only feature newbie blogs in this post, but my chaotic blogroll containing both newbies and sponsors set me up! (I haven't really been keeping track of who's a newbie or not, since I just enjoy reading blogs no matter what category they fall in.) I'll keep it like this, though, the blogs mentioned totally deserve their spot.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

LOTRO: Elf captain of Mirkwood


This is going to be an interesting post, because it is as much a fashion post as it is a plea for elf captains. Above you see captain Ravenwyn looking over the Mirkwood forest, contemplating the challenges that lie ahead of her. She is a female human captain, but today she dresses up as an elf captain and thinks about what could have been...

...because, even though Ost Galadh is crowded by elf captain NPCs that quarrel about what offensive strategy to follow until your ears are sore, players are not able to pick an elf as race for their captain. The only option for a player wanting to play a captain is the human race. Okay, I see how hobbit captains are perhaps not what I want to encounter running around. Dwarf captains? They might have been there, but I can understand it's a less suitable choice, as dwarves usually don't form armies and fight in great battles. But elf captains? There were numerous notable elf captains in the history of Middle-earth, and there still are today, during the siege of Mirkwood. These are two legendary elf captains that you might have heard of:

Fingolfin

When the boats were burned after the sad events of the first kinslaying and there was no safe way of crossing the water to Middle-earth, Fingolfin decided to lead his people over the Helcaraxë, the icecap that formed the only connection between Aman and Middle-earth, instead. It was a terrible journey, during which many elves perished, but they made it in the end because of Fingolfin's determination. Many battles against Angband were won under his leadership, and he became a legend among his own people. He ruled as a high king over Hithlum, keeping the lands safe for almost four hundred years. In the end, he rode against Morgoth himself, enraged of all the slaughter that was caused during a sudden outbreak of Angband forces. He died in an epic duel with Morgorth, injuring him greatly. Morgorth limped ever after.

Glorfindel

He lived in Gondolin under Turgon, high king of the Noldor, and was chief of the House of the Golden Flower. When Gondolin was attacked, he accomplished many brave deeds leading his house, but the fall of Gondolin was inevitable. He dueled with a Balrog to hold off enemy forces to buy the last surviving Gondolindhrim time to escape using a secret passage. They fought long, and Glorfindel defeated the beast, but in the end perished as well. When his spirit arrived at the Hall of Mandos, he was re-embodied by the Valar for his loyalty and noble deeds. He was sent back to Middle-earth to aid against Sauron and was granted great powers, almost equal to the maiar themselves. After his return he without doubt continued to influence the events during the War of the Ring greatly, but we are told little of his deeds during this time.

I don't seriously believe they will ever introduce elf captains to LotRO, even if only to avoid the granted enrage of some players ("why wasn't I able to pick an elf captain when I started playing five years ago?") - but I do think that's a shame. In the meanwhile, the only thing I can do is dressing up as an elf captain from time to time, using the outfit featured in this article. I like how it makes you blend in with the elves in Mirkwood. It is also one of the few outfits I find fitting with the Blue Roan Steed, which was available during the Spring Festival of 2010 and 2011 (I think you can still buy it in the Store). Even though it's a congregation of many pieces, it feels like one set: an elf captain set.


       Outfit of the elf captain      

  • Runemaker's Hat (rune-keeper Barad Guldur hat piece)
  • Malledhrim Pauldrons of the Awakened (crafted supreme (tier 6) Mirkwood-style shoulders) - grey
  • Strong Dunlending Battle Armour (crafted Westfold (tier 7) Dunland chest piece) - grey
  • Officer's Gloves (crafted supreme (tier 6) Lothlórien-style gloves) - grey
  • Shoes of the Stone-student (lore-master Moria former no-radiance set) - grey

In the meanwhile, my captain keeps contemplating about her future, hoping for true elf captains to come...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

SWTOR: A short advice

This is why you play SWTOR with drivers installed on your computer.

Twi'lek on my laptop:


Same poor twi'lek on my boyfriend's computer without drivers:


After an hour of handing in quests at eyeless zombies (they were kind and thankful zombies, it has to be said, but still), my boyfriend was very eager to install all proper drivers on his computer. This means I'm able to play Star Wars on his pc again when I don't have the laptop, hurray!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

SWTOR: Beautiful Voss and a screenie spree


It's been a while since I last played Star Wars and that was not because I was tired of it - somehow I got totally absorbed into Lord of the Rings Online and (while my boyfriend was rebuilding his pc) Mass Effect. Yesterday evening I returned to SWTOR, though, and tried to gain support from the planet Voss. I've been level 45 for so long now and it is time to get those last five levels done. I now even got the padawan I dreamed of - Nadia Grell (see Companion roulette), so what was I waiting for? The first thing that struck me was that the planet is so beautiful!

I'm usually more positive about the details and the strong realistic feeling of LotRO's landscapes, but for SWTOR, Voss wasn't too bad. I tend to get a bit depressed from all the space ships and electronics, so a quiet planet with a lot of nature was a welcome change. Voss' flora displays all autumn colours and its sky features a beautiful nearby planet, even visible during the day (not that there is such a thing as night in SWTOR - sigh). Even the people inhabiting Voss looked beautiful with their dark blue-with-yellow face paint (picture to the right). Or is that their skins natural colour? It's a mystery to me, and probably to the rest of the universe as well.

So what happens when a picture addict like me gets set loose in an environment like this, happened here too: I went on a screenshot spree. And while the landscape looked great, I tend to get bored by pictures of landscapes only. I want people to stand in it to get interesting pictures. And what did I find out? It is freaking hard to get nice screenshots of moving people in SWTOR! For one, it's near to impossible to get any action screenshots in which I myself was involved, because I'd always see floating numbers and selection circles. I try to avoid these elements as much as possible in my pictures, as they make the images look less realistic. Accomplishing that requires a lot of patience and fast reflexes. I found it was much easier to make screenshots of my boyfriend fighting things than making them of myself. The uncontrollable companions that jump from left to right certainly don't make it much easier. Below the only okay-ish picture I took including myself, and I had just finished casting a spell. I will certainly practice more on this in the future.


Tips for taking screenshots in SWTOR: 
  • Preferences --> Nameplates: untick all the boxes that enable floating names (yourself, other players, enemies, companions etc). I also have "Always Show Health Bar" unticked, but I'm not sure if that influences anything (didn't see a difference when switching it back on and off).
  • Preferences --> Flytext: untick "Flytext Enabled", the first box under General. You now won't see any floating damage or healing numbers. You can easily switch this back on after your session by clicking the box.
  • Preferences --> Controls: tick "Deselect target upon Clicking on Terrain" under General. You can now click the environment around you to select nothing or, if you're not going to be on the picture yourself, select yourself (F1 by default). This way you don't get to see any floating names. If you've set up everything as above, you should also not automatically select your foes anymore when hit by an attack.
  • Alt + Z: use this to hide all UI elements. This gives a much nicer effect! Just click Alt + Z again if you want to return to seeing what's going on.
  • Composition: think about the angle you want to use and who or what your picture will be featuring. Scroll to zoom in or out to get the result you want.
I realize that there are loads of people out there who don't care about seeing floating numbers or actually like seeing their character's name floating above their heads all the time. It's just a matter of taste. I almost wish I'd like floating stuff myself, as it's so much easier. If you're a crazy perfectionist like me, though, the above tips are the way to go!

So, boyfriend (if you're reading this): sorry for you getting almost killed all the time last night, but here is the reason:




I don't know about you, but doesn't that just make you want to play a jedi guardian? It certainly does for me, and I'm not even that much into melee classes.

A typical result is that I admire the Voss landscape so much, but ended up taking the most screenshots in caves instead! Time to run out, to the beautiful landscape out there that always looks greener than it does on this side...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

ME 3: What's better than one Krogan? Ten thousand Krogan!


And what's worse than yet another Mass Effect post? No post at all. Mass Effect 3 is going on and on and I don't have enough time to keep up here with the events that happen in-game. So I'll write another post and it will be a lovely thing to do, as it will be about my two all-time favorite characters: Urdnot Wrex and Mordin Solus. I do have to give out an alert, though: the following will be a huge spoiler if you haven't played Mass Effect 3 and are planning to do so in the future.

We saw how Wrex turned from a mercenary outlaw to a leader of his clan on Tuchanka. Even better, he became a leader with a vision, wanting to stop the Krogan to fight each other and work together instead. With so little fertile Krogan females, he understood that it is better to share than to kill each other, ending up with less Krogan all the way. Who knows, the example of the Normandy with its cooperating races and the knowledge of the Reapers lurking in dark space might have inspired him. The other Krogan are not all so enthusiastic about Wrex' new ideas, but he seems to be making some progress when you visit him in Mass Effect 2.

Wrex likes war, but he does not seek to overflow the whole galaxy with Krogan, even if there would be a cure for the genophage. He has learned from the past. Besides, Wrex is my all-time favorite Mass Effect character, with his awesome sturdy and hilarious comments. I wrote about the complications of curing the genophage (Ode to Wrex, under "Krogan with brains") before, but have always been secretly hoping there would be an opportunity to cure it anyway. I was disappointed in Mass Effect 2, but it seems my hopes were finally fulfilled in Mass Effect 3!

Mordin Solus was able to save one Krogan female test subject that his former student worked on (much to his displease when he found out). I've always been really curious as to what female Krogan would be like, but I was pleasantly surprised. They look like Krogan, but are still feminine (picture to the right). Their voices are heavy, but still feminine as well. And on top of that, they're strong, like their male counterparts, but they're also wise. The one that Mordin saved was an awesome character, with a "we women will save the galaxy"-attitude. She started traveling Tuchanka, advocating the Krogan to stop fighting and work together instead.

Anyway, Mordin was able to extract a cure from the female Krogan, which had to be spread out over Tuchanka by adding it to some sort of huge device, and of course everything ended with a lot of running, jumping, things collapsing and an epic matron threshermaw vs Reaper battle. Unfortunately, it also ended with Mordin dying, which made me sad. My brilliant funny talkative scientist! I guess it makes it a bit less worse knowing Mordin wanted to do it himself, finishing his life's work in the right way. He also was very old for Salarian standards. This made me deal with his loss, otherwise I would have been so depressed!

Overall, this was an epic mission. Tomorrow I'll write about SWTOR again, I promise!

Monday, May 21, 2012

ME 3: Present in a box


It's pretty frustrating, but my boyfriend wanted to upgrade his pc with some new hardware, and now he's reinstalling everything on it. Sure, the result might be grand, but this means that I'm not able to log into SWTOR or LOTRO until it's all done! I usually shamelessly hop to his computer to take screenshots from LOTRO for this blog (his graphics are way better), and I can't run SWTOR on my own computer. I can't post anything about those games right now, so I guess I'll have to expose you to more Mass Effect talk.

Not that that is bad: Mass Effect 3 is very exciting! Now the Reapers are attacking Earth, it feels like everything you do is urgent. I keep facepalming at how different races fail to understand that it's crucial to work together. Luckily I'm making some progress there, and people seem to understand the need better when the threat becomes worse. I just hope we're still in time.

What's in the box?

So what are we staring at on the picture above? It was one of the coolest moments of Mass Effect 3 so far: finding a living Prothean on Eden Prime. He was hibernating in a special survival pod until we woke him up. Thousands of years ago, when the Protheans realized they could not win their war to the Reapers, they decided that they would hibernate, arising with an army when the next cycle would start and the Reapers would have retreated. Sadly enough for them, the Protheans did not have enough power to maintain or reactivate themselves after so many years: they were dependent on species of the future to find them. Then, they would arise with their whole army and seize power over the galaxy of that cycle.

They didn't know that the Reapers would find many of their chambers, and destroy them. Of that whole frozen army, only one Prothean remained: the one we found, called Javik, who embodied the concept of "vengeance" to his people. I must say I was a bit disappointed in our Prothean only being a fighter and a warrior. He's not able to help us create our superweapon at all. Javik does have a great personality, though. He remembers every race he encounters from what they looked like 50,000 years ago, and it is not much of a surprise that he feels superior to them. His remarks are priceless. It's also funny to see how much this freshly awoken Prothean differs from how Liara imagined him. Having studied all known aspects of Prothean life, Liara thought they would fit her own ideals: intelligent scientists that would do everything to stop the Reaper threat. Instead, the Protheans turned out to have had a martial culture, steering an empire that oppressed many alien races. It's cute to see her struggle with this and funny to hear Javik complain about what silly questions the "Liara-Asari" keeps posing him.


Shepard's boyfriends

Speaking of which, I started a relationship with Liara now. In Mass Effect 1, I accidentally ended up with Kaidan. Yes, accidentally. That guy just really talks you into things. I recall something happening as follows:
- Kaidan: "Why do you ask all these things?"
- Shepard conversation option: 
1) Interested in how Kaidan is doing (I read this as: you're a nice guy) 
2) I ask this to the whole crew (I thought that sounded a bit harsh)
- Shepard choosing option 1: "I'm interested in you." (whaaat? that's not what I meant!)

Then in Mass Effect 2, he's apparently happy to see me, but doesn't trust me because I work with Cerberus and I didn't contact him to tell him about it (err, you were on a secret mission, so I wasn't able to track you down, in case you don't remember?) and he walks away angrily from you. After you've killed the Collectors and everything, you see him again in Mass Effect 3 and he STILL doesn't trust you. Seriously, that guy has trusting issues. He doesn't even give me time to explain myself, he just keeps doubting me. That guy just needs a psychologist, not me. I've totally had it with him.

Liara, on the contrary, became more awesome by the day. I think she has one of the strongest character progressions of all companions. She was this really cute naive scientist in Mass Effect 1, but grows to be a wise Shadow Broker. She can still be cute from time to time, but I guess my Shepard likes that. When I told her in the Citadel I wanted to be more than friends she reacted in her old shy but happy way and gave me a small kiss. I'm usually not into character romances (I don't enjoy watching kissing and sex scenes), but I think this one is the cutest I've seen so far.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

ME 3: Fish defying the laws of physics


(Did you notice how I resisted writing "fishics: there? Good, uh?) So I'm back on the Normandy now and I'm handling my new appearance quite well. I guess all the Reapers and Cerberus terrorists got me distracted from important matters such as my haircut and the shape of my eyebrows. I must admit that I did succumb to plastic surgery (read: save editor) to get rid of those horrific pink lips of ME 3. Red suits me better. I fit in well now and feel at home again. I even managed to get some of my old fish back in my cabin's aquarium, and I picked up some new ones at the Citadel. The jellyfish are my favorite!

Now I've noticed something fishy (sorry!) about my fish, though. It happened for the first time when Liara visited my cabin for a pep talk. You'd think the screenshot above is just a nice picture of Liara, right? Check again, specifically left of Liara's face. Yes, that's a fish spying on us! At first I thought I was dreaming, but apparently my fish get bored by their aquarium now and then and decide to leave, defying the laws of physics as if it's nothing. Apparently they preferably float freely through my cabin when I'm not watching (picture below). I'm certain they didn't used to do this before. What happened during those six weeks when I was grounded on Earth? Did someone upgrade them with Reaper technology? Did Cerberus equip them with implants so they can gather intel on me during my mission? There's a lot of creepy stuff out there in the universe, but the creepiest of all lives in my cabin!

Friday, May 18, 2012

How Rav came into being

It feels a bit early to write about my main characters for such a young blog as this, but I guess you'll all have to blame Ambermist from Tastes Like Battle Chicken for setting up the blogger challenge of this week: the Week 3 Challenge: What's My Main Again?. I already promised to write about the challenge of week 2 and failed miserably, so you see, I simply had no choice this week!

My name

I've always been writing stories and one that I wrote when I was still a kid was a fantasy story with a protagonist called Ravanel. It wasn't a very good story and I abandoned it after 30 pages or so, but I liked the name and remembered it. When I started playing my first MMO, LotRO, I didn't want to use my real name for my character and picked Ravanel. The lore-master class reminded me of my story's character, so it fit well. 

Rav or Rava?

If you've followed this blog even only a bit, you're probably already sick of lore-masters, as Ravanel pops up everywhere, both on screenshots and in so-called lore-master talk. After all these years, I still play her as my main character and I love the class to bits. I won't speak more of that here, though: I think my recent post Should you play a lore-master? covered that subject well enough. Ravanel was my only character in LotRO for over two years, and it didn't take long until I was known as "Rav" to my friends. My kinship started an alliance with another kin in the Moria days, and somehow people from that other kin started calling me "Rava" instead. I don't mind either way: it's even sort of handy to identify people sending tells from alts I don't recognize. A friend persuaded me to keep the name of my first alt similar to my main character and thus it was that several "Ravs" came into being: Ravalinde, Ravenwyn, Ravereth...

----------->
I'm attached enough to my characters to spend 60 minutes drawing the image to the right (depicting jedi sage Ravanel)

Part of me

I've read several interesting posts of other people following Ambermist's third challenge, and most of them seem to put something of themselves in their characters. I'm no exception. My characters called Ravanel always resemble myself the most: their appearance is much like me (as far as that's possible in MMOs) and their personality resembles what I like to do most:
  • For lore-master Ravanel (LotRO) that is being curious, exploring and wanting to learn everything: she is a scholar from the First Age who is curious about the past of her people and other cultures she encountered and saw evolve during her life. In real life, I'm an archaeology student who is just like this if anything covers the middle ages. My lore-master has the most developed lore of all my characters. You can even read an intentionally slick love story of Ravanel and Fingolwë written by my boyfriend.
  • For jedi sage Ravanel (SWTOR) it is also being a scholar, but she covers a different topic: the study of wild plants and learning about the nature around her ("Biochem") - one of my big passions in real life (I love wild plants!). Archaeology was no option for her, as that craft annoys the hell out of me in SWTOR. Archaeology means studying objects, remains, traces etc from people in the past in order to learn what life was like in those days. 'Archaeology' in SWTOR is studying crystals. Crystals are naturally formed and don't involve people in any way. It has nothing to do with archaeology at all! Failures like this can really annoy me in SWTOR. I try to look over it and think of the craft as Geology, because that's what it actually is.
  • Other characters ("alts", if you like to call them that) reflect other pieces of my personality. An example: I have a character called Haradwen in both MMOs I currently play, and they reflect my favorite sport: sword-fighting (yup, I practice medieval sword-fighting in real life). They are fierce characters with a temper: a champion in LotRO and a jedi sentinel in SWTOR.
I'm not so naive as to think that people will actually recognize these character traits in-game (which is probably a good thing), but it's fun for me to imagine that my toons all have their own character. I don't play on role-play servers, but my best in-game friends know the stories of my characters and how I like to play them. Creating my own stories for characters just add an extra layer to my gaming experience and is much fun!

How do you play your characters? Do they reflect yourself so much as well?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

LOTRO: Update 7: first impression


I logged in on Monday evening after Shadows of the Past had been going live and wanted to try some of the new instances. Unfortunately, I logged on far too late, so most people in my kin were already doing things. I could find four others who were up for trying things out, so we went in with a group consisting of a warden, minstrel, captain, champion and lore-master. 

Storm on Methedras
We set up a tier 1 raid mode and went in with five. Apparently we had to go up the mountain with some rangers to stop Gwyllion, the evil old woman of the mountain. We were attacked by funny horned snow trolls, lights and ghosts (an unusual combination in skirmishes), but for the rest it was just another offensive skirmish, in which you had to open gates and survive waves in order to continue. We got to the end fight, were you had to defeat four giant gwiber and protect Saeradan. To be honest, I still don't really have a clue of the fight mechanics. There were some lights and small gwiber as adds at a certain point, I think, but it was all hard to see as the giant gwiber were really blocking my view. Even with five it didn't pose much of a problem, though. It seemed to be a matter of getting them down fast enough in order not to get overrun. Yesterday (Tuesday) I did it again, but failed halfway because we got a gwiber in anti-exploit.

Tips and thoughts:
  • We did not open any gates ourselves, as we were warned by kinnies that this could cause the skirmish to bug out. Instead, we waited for the NPCs to open the gates for us after claiming each banner.
  • In the final fight we tanked the largest gwiber with his back to the group, as he does an AoE firebreath attack. Note that another gwiber (we called him the "acid gwiber") reflects damage.
  • Lore-masters with AoE wound removal (trait Proof Against All Ills) seem to be useful: we encountered groupwide double wounds in the last gwiber fight that hurt a lot.
  • Negative effects on NPCs can currently not be cured (I'm fairly sure we used to be able to). It doesn't work with curing skills such as Knowledge of Cures, nor with salves. Saeradan will need a lot of healing due to the stacks of wounds he might get.
  • The encounter uruk Garzog had some sort of -80% and sometimes even a -100% incoming damage buff. We tried to move him to certain places and try if killing mobs in his vicinity had any effect on him, but failed to find out what his mechanic was. In the end we just turtled him down while fighting other mob groups. He didn't seem to harm us much.
  • My graphics card didn't like Storm on Methedras. There's this horrible snow storm (much like there used to be in Helegrod in the giants part) that made me lag out even with my graphics on low. People with good graphic cards don't have this problem.
Overall: I'm not extremely impressed, as this seems just another easy skirmish but with different surroundings. It's fun for now, as it's something new to do and I haven't figured out all mechanics yet. An advantage of this skirmish is that it gives easy marks in a short time period. It took us about 10-15 minutes to do this in raid mode and I think it gave us about 200 marks.

Picture below: the location of the Methedras skirmish on the map


Fornost
We also gave Fornost a try, but only had time for one wing. Having completed the whole thing on-level apparently doesn't count, because now with the revamp you have to do each wing in order to open the next one up, much like in Helegrod. This caused us to start with the so called "Water wing". My first impression was that they weren't happy with the former down-to-earth look of the place. You now go in there at night under a blue starry sky, giving everything a strange but colourful glow. We killed some uruks and... there she was: Sara Oakheart! Alright, alright, we'll help you escape, but only because you got a shiny quest ring above  your head. We all actually feel the urge to kill you instead, but it's not allowed. Luckily escorting Oakheart only took some short moments. There was also the old familiar "search through skeletons" quest, which now counted fellowship-wide (win) and there were enough to complete the quest in one go (another win). It used to be such a pain to complete it! So far so good.

We were less happy when we got to the boss room. They changed the place a bit, so there were several platforms with water in between them. The challenge was not to touch the water, and of course the boss was flying all over the place, so we had to follow him. There were pebbles in between the platforms, but we failed right away as someone jumped wrong. After we failed the challenge anyway we practiced some jumping, but it was a real pain. Some spots on pebbles near the edges look solid, but you fall into the water if you step there anyway. You do have to jump from near the edges, though, as you otherwise can't jump far enough. It really seemed impossible to do this correctly, as it just looked buggy. We restarted the fight and instead ranged him down, which took a looong time with only a warden, a lore-master and a champion as "ranged DPS". I must've had the most 'fun' task of the lot. I don't want to think of that poor captain who was just waiting until his Battle-shout was off cooldown all the time and could only spam Words of Courage in between. Luckily there were some adds from time to time to keep us awake.

Overall: the quests are much better this way, but the boss challenge was a nuisance. I don't think I'll be ever doing that again, unless someone needs it for the deed. I need to see the other wings of Fornost before I can say something about Fornost overall.


Buggy
There seem to be a lot of bugs. I found several by just playing for one night. I'm not sure if all of these are actually bugs, as some are just from heard-say and they're not all in the known issues list. Here's a short scramble:
  • I'm invisible! At least, when I use Light of the Rising Dawn and Cracked Earth (lore-master bug)
  • Negative effects on NPCs cannot be cured (as already mentioned earlier)
  • Opening gates in Storm on Methedras can bug out the skirmish (heard from kinnies)
  • Rune-keepers have been bugging out on Lightning wing in ToO again, being unable to use any skills. Reports sound like the all too familiar old rune-keeper bug that can break characters and the game around you (heard from lotro-wiki friend)
  • The hunter ToO Faron 3-set bonus is broken. It only resets Rain of Arrows and not Split Shot (heard from lotro-wiki friend)
Why can't they just properly test an update like this before releasing it? They had Bullroarer running so they must have known of most of them, but they still released it like this. I don't think a lot of people were expecting update 7 already, at least I didn't, so they surely could've waited a bit and fix things first. Then again, they might have wanted to implement it now in order to not having to do it at the same time as the spring festival (when will they do that anyway, I wonder, it's almost summer).

Unrelated observation: I was excited to read in the patch notes that the eagle's in-combat power buff had been scaled to level. I logged in on my lore-master to find out it's now.... 84. 84 instead of 60, as if people are going to pick the eagle now because of that slight increase. *Sigh*.

Summary
I know that loads of people are like "oh a new update, and it's really cool!" etc etc, but I'm not sold that easily. It's fun to have some new content, sure, and I still need to figure out how things work, which is always fun. The overall difficulty seems to be pretty low, though, as it was no problem at all to clear Fornost T2 and Storm on Methedras set as raid skirmish T1 with only five people. And that at our first try, with me as a leader, which is also a big handicap! In my experience, the first time is always harder than later attempts, as you are not sure about what to expect. If it's this easy already at start, it might all just be a total faceroll after a few weeks. I might be wrong on my conclusions though, as the rest of Fornost may still end up being game-breakingly spectacular (you never know). I'm not overly impressed by what I've seen so far, but it's nice to have new content anyway. It will certainly keep me busy for a while.

Monday, May 14, 2012

ME 3: Creating a character


Why is it so hard to pick your character's appearance? I always need about one hour to get it working, and sometimes even then I'm not satisfied and delete my character after all. Same for Mass Effect 3. My imported Mass Effect 2 character looked horrible in Mass Effect 3, so I really had to change some things around. Luckily there were new hairstyles to help me. Hairstyles! One of the things that really makes or breaks a character for me.

I never was really fond of my old hairstyle, but it was the best I could find at the time. There were even some long hairstyle mods for Mass Effect 3, which I enthusiastically imported. They really changed my character's look too much though - it made her look too cute. Shepard of course isn't cute, she is badass and sturdy. It would be nice to let her look at least a bit beautiful though - after all, you do have to look at her all the time. The following three looks were the options the character creation panel could come up with:


This one is basically my old hairstyle in Mass Effect 1 and 2. I never have been fond of it, though, and it looks a bit old fashioned.


Another option, perhaps a bit more ladylike. It reminds me of Dr. Chakwas. I guess it looks great on the doctor, but I'm not so sure about myself.


This was the last hairstyle  I found fitting. It looks more cool than the previous ones. I think I'll stick with this one for now. I'm still not totally satisfied with her general appearance, though. What do you think?

One thing about Mass Effect is that the characters in the game actually look a lot better than on the creation panel. This is a good thing, as I otherwise probably would have run off in despair. An example of my current character ("option 3") to the right. Looks a lot better, right? I might be able to live with this, if I can get used to her. 

I honestly don't understand myself why I care so much about game appearances. In real life, I usually don't even look in the mirror. If I travel by public transport, more often than not I'm combing my hair in the bus because I just plain forgot to do it in the morning. And that's not because I have this hair that doesn't need care - on the contrary, I have this really long hair that I'll never get apart if I skip combing it. I guess I'm just illogical, as Mr. Spock would say.

After spending far too much time at the character panel, I got to play (well, I got my boyfriend to play for me). It started amazingly scary with Earth getting attacked by a lot of Reapers, whoa! It made the "I told you so, do you now finally believe me?" feeling a lot less fun. Okay, I might have anticipated on the Reapers not being much fun. Earth was looking pretty bad, what a horror! Had I really not been doing anything at all in these past six months to prepare us for this? We knew they were on their way and that I was only able to slow them down by blowing up that Mass relay. I guess not, I had been grounded all the time to keep those Batarians happy. A few things really shone in the tutorial, while I was escaping Earth (you'd almost think I'm a coward!):
  • Biotics now look really cool!  I'm not really sure what they changed, but each time I cast a power, it looks great, much more realistic than before.
  • Movement is very dynamic. Sliding over crates, jumping over gaps... all just made everything much more realistic.
  • The whole thing feels like as if you're in a movie. Debris falls just before your feet, a building collapses as you run past it. There are much more cutscenes when things are happening. I'm not sure if it will stay like this, but Mass Effect 3 makes a much more realistic experience than the previous games.
  • I think I used the word "realistic" a bit too much in the past sentences! I think you get the idea now!
I guess I'll just have to play further to see what happens. The whole story is pretty scary, though! Hopefully I'll get used to my new character appearance soon as well.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

LOTRO: Best advertisement ever


Back when LotRO Europe was transferred from Codemasters to Turbine and our servers had just crossed the ocean, I remember an occasion when my boyfriend was standing in the kitchen and I was just starting up the game. He jokingly said something along the lines of "Imagine seeing an add saying "buy LotRO, now available from Walmart!"" I looked at my screen, turned pale and said "errr... you better check this out..."

We sat behind the screen giggling at the offer. Okay, let's buy a larger pack, that's always cheaper, right? ...right? Not in America!

1000 TP for 10 dollar!
Buy 60% more for 200% of the price! 

Err, wait... typical American business strategy? I sort of thought it was a mistake, but even after almost a year I still see this loading screen from time to time. I can only assume this offer is presented as intended. We all know the cliche of 'Americans being stupid', but surely even if this would be true, they would be able to make this calculation.

What do you think? Is Turbine incredibly stupid or just absolutely devious?

Friday, May 11, 2012

ME 2: The highlights


I haven't written about Mass Effect for quite a while, but that doesn't mean I haven't been playing it. On the contrary, I've played loads of it, especially back when my internet connection was broken. I have collected all companions and was ready to start the final mission: to exterminate the Collectors. I promise I'll make up for my lack of Mass Effect posts by writing a massive one right now. Get ready for impact. Needless to say: if you haven't played Mass Effect 2 at all, this will be quite a spoiler.

Favorite characters

Before I finish the last part of the game, I'd like to look back at all what happened, starting with my favorite companions of Mass Effect 2. I can't just leave the game without giving them a bit of attention. Darn, it's so hard to order them!

I'll restrict myself to five, even though it'll be hard:

1. Garrus
Garrus in Mass Efect 2 is just completely badass. I remember very well that you're trying to recruit some sniper into your ranks - not a very interesting mission, I thought at first. When I came closer I got more and more respect as he  was just holding hundreds of men off on his own. Then you eventually get to him and find out it's Garrus! One of the most awesome missions, and what a lovely character.

2. Mordin
New to Mass Effect, check out the picture above (left alien, the right one is Grunt). Kleptomaniac with hilarious comments. I love how he deducts everything around him like a Salarian Sherlock Holmes. Not only hyper intelligent, but also hilariously funny.

3. Tali
Cute Tali is the first one who actually is happy to see you, which is a happy change after even that sucky Council you saved thinks you're a lunatic who's imagining Reapers. Tali has transformed from a cute young Quarian trying to prove herself, into a well-respected member of the Flotilla, totally kicking ass.

4. Kasumi/Legion
I know it's a bit unfair to put two here, but I really can't choose. Kasumi is a nice girl, with great stealth skills and absolutely awesome in her work. Legion really fascinates me and sounds like a great character - only I only just added him to my crew and barely got to know him. Hopefully this will chance in Mass Effect 3.

5. Grunt
Even if they suffer from puberty and just want to destroy everything, I simply adore Krogan. Found priceless search engine results of this one on the Shadow Broker's base.

An honourable mention goes to Joker for being my favorite non-combat character. I must've been traumatized by HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, but I was terrified by the ship's AI "EDI" at first as well. The development between EDI and Joker is priceless, though, and it ended up being my favorite conversation to observe after each mission (joined by the strong feeling of relief each time after not forgetting to feed my fish). 



Best moments

"Shepard! My friend!" Meeting Wrex was an obvious highlight of Mass Effect 2. Nothing beats meeting my all-time favorite Mass Effect character. Look how happy Wrex and Shepard are to see each other. Wait... is she blushing there?

It was really cool to see Wrex was doing the right thing for the Krogan, trying to save his species. He is so badass. I also loved the rest of the missions on the Krogan homeworld, which is for some reason called something like Tuchanka (it has three syllables, I wonder if they're able to pronounce it themselves). There was also this hilariously cute Krogan poet who tries to conquer his Asari girlfriend by writing poetry for her:

"Blue Rose of Illium, leave eternity unembraced and grapple in the glorious struggle that is us, here and now!"

"Come to me, Blue rose of Illium. Let our three hearts beat as two."

Can you imagine it, a Krogan poet? His poor girlfriend was so horrified by his cliches that she begged us to make him stop. Perhaps you must have seen it yourself in order to be able to appreciate it, but I couldn't stop laughing each time I passed by.


Liara! When I did her mission, I really thought she would end up as my last companion, as I had only one spot left. Her mission is just crazy exciting, the best of all character missions in my opinion. After two years she has evolved from a cute naive scientist to a badass woman with a terrifying goal. It was also very heartwarming to find out she actually tried to save me after Mass Effect 1. Her being my second all-time favorite Mass Effect character, I was so disappointed when it became clear she was not going to join me! Admittedly, her story's ending is perfect for her as a person, but I cannot help as to look forward to Mass Effect 3 and can only hope she'll be back there.

Another thing I love is making up bad names for teams. Teams as in the trinity of you that ventures into each mission. Behold below: "Team Biotic Bitches". I'm not particularly fond of these women (especially Jack), nor are they particularly fond of each other, but the name made me do it.


Here's another one. Can you guess the name?


Meet "Team Sexy Nerd Girls". Yes, this would be us if we were Mass Effect characters! *keeps on dreaming*


My wife is giving birth to a Collector! / Aka "The end" 

I really couldn't stop laughing when I saw the picture to the right of this baby posted by a redditor father-to-be yesterday. You really should read the reddit page it was posted on, as it contains priceless commentary. Meanwhile, I could not help but giggle all the time when fighting the very last mission on the Collector's station. I just had to think of these pictures each the time I heard quotes like "Assuming direct control." "If I must tear you apart Shepard ("mother"), I will." etc. Quite frankly, it's a wonder we made it.

The ending was really cool and I totally enjoyed the opportunity to slap Cerberus in the face. All that work I did for them, the Illusive Man ensuring me that I was allowed to do as I deemed right because I was the only one he could trust to have a chance on stopping the Collectors... and in the end it turned out he just saw me as a puppet. Well, he was wrong. No, I'm not giving a collector station full of creepy turn-biomass-into-mindless-controlled-machines technology to you! Regardless of what creepy things you'd do with it, has it even occurred to you that there are still thousands of Reapers out there - and what will they do if they realize the ship is still there? Sigh. Nevertheless, it felt great to just say "In your face!" and fly off with the Normandy.

Now it's up to Mass Effect 3 to find out what happens next!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

LOTRO: Last day of the festival


I think most people already have done what they wanted festivalwise by now, but don't forget to also barter any anniversary coins before the festival ends! You know, the ones that drop randomly from landscape creatures. Yes, you're right, I'm just writing this because I almost forgot to do so myself. Today is the last day of the festival and I expect the keepers of gifts to vanish before tomorrow. Not that the boxes usually drop such amazing stuff...

There is a chance to get cosmetic items, which is fun, I suppose, but I've already collected all of them over the past years. If you can get some of the higher tier gift boxes, you do have a chance on a relic, a sigil or even a 2nd age symbol, though. Are you more lucky than I?

I secretly was happy with the fireworks recipes I got, even though it's only from a collector's perspective. I don't really understand why one would actually use the fireworks recipes: they need an item that can only be acquired through bartering anniversary tokens (= more grinding), while you can also just buy the fireworks itself from a vendor. Am I missing something?
Whatever it is, I'm already very happy that I won't get stuck with leftover coins on each character this year, because you can just barter those for marks now. A nice improvement.

Last notification: all milestone skills are on a 25% sale today, costing 263 instead of 350 Turbine Points. I thought about it quite a while, but eventually decided not to do it, as I've heard the skill only gets bestowed on one character. It would be a different story if it would be account wide, but I'm not drowning in TP just yet.

Okay, that was it for now, it's safe to quit reading this blog and log in to go get your anniversary gifts, buy a one-year supply of fireworks or purchase your milestone skill!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

LOTRO: Should you play a lore-master?


A kinnie asked for advice on whether or not to start a lore-master today. He has been raiding on his main for years and was looking for a raiding alt. Here is a slightly altered version of what I told him. Use it to your advantage if you consider rolling one.


How is the lore-master to level? Does it take a long time solo?

This first question was right away the hardest for me to answer, as I leveled mine in Shadows of Angmar, when it was one of the slowest classes to level. Much has changed since then, as we now have a viable DPS trait line. Don't expect the lore-master to be the fastest class ever to level, but it should now be fairly quick. You are also very survivable once you know how to use your tricks. If you want to know more about leveling a lore-master, the official forums are a good place to start. There are always some threads on this topic.


Are most skills induction based?

Yes.<

How is the DPS? Can I just explode stuff?

Yes, blowing things up is what lore-masters do best, that is, if they are traited in the red line. Most of our skills deal fire damage, and some of them have utterly cool animations. Think of Ents go to War and Lightning Storm.


Strong points: Lore-masters traited down the Master of Nature's Fury ("red") line, have amazing AoE burst DPS. This is great for soloing, burning everything left and right. It's also great for raid skirmishes, certain instances and such. Sustained AoE damage is also pretty good.

Downside: Sustained lore-master single-target DPS is crap, even with reds traited. Arguably, even captains can deal more damage. Also note that traiting DPS will to a certain extent gimp your support and crowd-control skills.

In any serious raid, you will be playing as a support class (most times traited in the Ancient Master line) with limited DPS.


Are there good "oh shit"-skills?

Lore-masters have one reasonably big self heal with a five minute cooldown, but that's about it. We are squishy and are expected to plan ahead for what we do, using dazes, roots or slowing and kiting. A lore-master is a master with these tools, and if you use them correctly, there is little you cannot solo.


 

What do you like the most about the lore-master?

  • You need to use your brains.
  • For some classes, it's fine to pretty much stick to one way of traiting and repeat the same thing you're good at all the time. Not so with the lore-master. In my opinion, each (group) situation requires different traits and pets. You'll be changing these around depending on what dangers you're facing and what classes you play with. Pro-tip 1: if you're lazy and just want to repeat the same trick over and over, this is not the class for you. 
  • It's a multitasking support class.
  • Lore-masters are pretty much indispensible for any hard raid. They are the multitaskers in the group: debuffing, healing, leeching/sharing power, managing crowd-control, removing corruptions, providing stun immunity, curing wounds/diseases, bossing their pets around... and this all at the same time. This will be chaotic from time to time and you really have to be on your toes, but this is what makes the class fun for me, even after many years. Being support does have to suit you, though. Pro-tip 2: if you just want to blow things up, stick to soloing and the Ettenmoors. 
  • Crowd-control.
  • Lore-masters arguably have the best crowd-control of all classes - my eyes sparkle when asked to daze something, or even better, daze two things! I once made a list of crowd-control sorted by class and published it on the Lotro-wiki. The constant reoccurring of the LM class should speak for itself: stun (6 skills, 1 pet skill), daze (2 skills), root (2 skills), slow (2 skills) and fear (1 pet skill). The current main raid the Tower of Orthanc demands a lot of crowd-control. Pro-tip 3: if you strongly dislike crowd-control, avoid the Tower of Orthanc.
Overall, the lore-master is a lovely versatile class that won't easily bore you. I do think you have to have certain characteristics, though, in order to be able to like it.

Already playing a lore-master?

Let me know what you like about it most! Also, feel free to comment if you believe I have been incorrect anywhere. Finally, I made a compilation of lore-master animations, including the ones above (yes, I admit it, I couldn't stop taking fun lore-master screenshots, they just look so cool!). Are you able to you recognize all the animations depicted in this article?

Note: the pictures above will be counted as 1-4, counting from top to bottom. Below will continue with 5








Answers

1 Gust of Wind
2 Power return (Knowledge of the Past required)
3 Test of Will
4 Ents go to War
5 Burning Embers
6 Effect on self after using Wisdom of the Council
7 Air-lore
8 Induction of Lightning Storm
9 Lightning Storm
 Let me know what you think of the lore-master class!