Monday, 30 September 2013

SWTOR: The Corellia run

I got this shot when I was hunting for datacrons with Tiger's slinger Lyell. Somehow I really like it. My twi'lek is just walking away on this strange tilted platform, but seems to hesitate when good-looking Lyell comes running towards her from the opposite side. "Wait!"

There's this tension as if a story is just about to unfold. Or probably that's just my overactive imagination.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Sims 3: Elaine's outfits

When a Sim grows into another life phase, the computer makes up random new outfits and - much to my dismay - saves it over the existing ones. When Elaine grew up to be a young adult, I thought it was time to give her a proper look. All her time tagging walls and making ground murals got her more interested in art and she slowly lost interest in skulls, roses and working in the deep night on the graveyard (she came home with a terrified moodlet each day, and street art turned out to be more rewarding anyway). So it was time to rip the rose out of her hair and get some serious outfits going.

Purple, black and bright green

As with all in-game fashion, I invested a ridiculous amount of time to come up with all the outfits, so I thought I could just as well post them here. Maybe it can be a source of inspiration or amusement. Enjoy!

Elaineportrait Elaine Elaine 3

F.l.t.r.: 1) Tiger hates this outfit with a passion. So much actually, that I he kept bugging me with negative comments for the whole Saturday. Without going into specifics, I do like the bit of odd combination now and then. I guess it's refreshing that I'm not the only one having such a passion over outfits for a change. 2) This is what I imagine Elaine wearing on a cold rainy day when she's inside. Cosy-looking but a tad rebellious on second glance with the purple boots and fingerless gloves. 3) An artsy outfit for a visit to the museum.

Elaineportrait Elaine Elaine

F.l.t.r.: 4) A formal outfit that could also work for a normal day. 5) A hip outfit that could work for both formal and normal days. This might actually be my favorite of the group. 6) A chique dress suitable for a gala. My least favorite of all outfits, but will work for those occasions.

Delilah Delilah Delilah

F.l.t.r. 7) Sports outfit. Elaine seems to be a fan of Brazil. 8) Hip pajamas. If you stare at these long enough you'll get dizzy and fall over without any effort on your side. 9) Cute bikini slightly outside of the colour palette.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

NBI: Start your own gaming blog

Ever read Ravalation and thought: hey, I could do that as well? Well, maybe not, but for me that was exactly what I thought when I read the blog of another gamer and blogger, Lothirieth, over a year ago. I decided to give it a try, and here I am. 

Making a start with blogging is hard. You might feel insecure about what you write, or irrelevant because nobody knows you're out there yet - I know I did. But if you've ever considered starting a gaming-related blog, or have one you don't feel is quite finished, this is your chance. Starting October 1st, the second Newbie Blogger Initiative (NBI) will start off, giving newbie gaming bloggers all over the blogosphere a great headstart.

This year's hotspots:
  • NBI Headquarters: this brand new website is a portal to the NBI community with news and some good advice articles to get you started. 
  • Register at the NBI forum and write a post in the Newbie Blogger Check-in so people will know where to find your blog. This is the place where you can freely ask any questions and will get answers from experienced bloggers.
  • This time there's going to be extras with challenges, events and mentors - I'm certainly excited to see where this is all heading.

For me this is going to be a special time because I participated as a newbie last year, and now I'll be a sponsor! So hopefully I picked up enough to be of some use in this.

Hopefully see you there during the NBI 2 event!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

SWTOR: A preliminary look into arenas

In about a week, the PvP update will be released and arenas will be added to the game. So I thought now would be the right time give you a look into what to expect (and totally not because I've been slacking with finishing this post of course! *cough*).

You all know my great sorrow after the news that 8vs8 ranked warzones are going to be removed from the game, but I'm a positive girl, so I tried to cheer myself up by investigating their replacement: 4vs4 arenas. So for the first time in my life, I copied my characters to the public test server (PTS) and tried some out. This is what I experienced:

Epic dramatic background music would've been appropriate. My apologies for the lack thereof.

Sorcs & sages in arenas

After I got stomped several times on healing sage Ravanel I swapped to healing sorcerer Fárah instead - she has way better PvP gear so that has to count for something, right? RIGHT?

To clarify, I'm talking about healing sorcs here, my main spec and the one I use in ranked. 

So what happened? Even on my properly geared sorc we got stomped and stomped. I recorded those matches on video and watched them back, but I couldn't see any significant mistakes I made. Sorc healers everywhere notice how they are now getting enough heals off in warzones and fail to keep the group alive.

Right now, healing sorcerers aren't viable in arenas against a group of similar skill with an operative healer. The same counts for mercenary healers.

Why? Because class balance issues present in 8vs8 warzones get exacerbated and become very significant in 4vs4 where pressure is high and the only objective is to kill the others. Remember:
1) Defensive cooldowns: these are non-existent apart from Force Barrier, which use doesn't allow you to do anything else (= rest of the team dies)
2) Spec shutdown: Interrupt Healing Trance/Innervate and there's only the slow Deliverance/Dark Infusion or the force insufficient Benevolence/Dark Heal left. Provided you get them off. The AoE heal Salvation/Revivivication is a hotspot that people need to fysicially stand in, making themselves vulnerable to smashers.
3) Force management: It's inevitable to run out of force after a while. With constant pressure on you, it's suicidal to use Noble Sacrifice/Consumption to get force back (it damages your health).

Wait, doesn't this list sound somewhat familiar?

So, what happens to Heal 2 Full, line of sight and let them pay for trying to kill you? Well, I guess you can heal to full if you're line of sighting and healing yourself. However, the rest of the team will die in the meanwhile.

Operatives do have defensive cooldowns (Dodge and Shield Probe) and they can keep on healing when they are up. If they would need to line of sight, they can have HoTs on the rest of their team that will still heal them.

A glance into the crystal ball

Now all of this is of course officially 'subject to change'. However, I think the three recent dev answers to exactly the sorc problems mentioned here aren't exactly a source of great hope (they basically told us to live with these problems and learn to play). We can expect no class updates within the coming months.

What what are my options?
  • Keep playing healing sorc: you probably can get away with this in regular warzones when playing against a team with less experience, however it won't be viable in ranked.
  • Switch to DPS sorc: even though these are squishy as well, they can still deal okay damage. I'll never be as good on a DPS class as I am on healer, though.
  • Roll an operative: this is basically what every ranked healing sorc on my server is doing. I'll need to level Yuniper up all the way from level 18 onwards, and I'm not sure if I like operative heals as much as sorc.
  • Play a DPS class: the highest one I'm not utterly crap at is a sniper, but she's level 20 or so still. I doubt I'll be able to play her on ranked quality though.

So what does the ball predict?

First, the servers will be overflown with scoundrel/operative healers, since the other healing classes are way behind. Guardian/juggernauts are also preferable to shadows/assassins in arenas, so we might see a bit more of them as well.

As free-to-play players will get unlimited access to warzones, we'll find a higher amount of casual players in our warzones who are unfamiliar with the mechanics. Arenas will be mixed with the other warzones - there will be no option to pick whether you want to play them or not when you queue. This might encourage people to play deathmatch in other warzones as well (as opposed to following objectives).

The 'base group' for an arena will consist of:
  • guardian/juggernaut tank
  • scoundrel/operative healer 
  • 2x DPS class

However, players on the PTS have already been experimenting with other group compositions that might be fun to try out.

Alternative group compositions

"Super Dong Cleave"

Source: (AioriBFZ' twitch stream)

To the left a regular team (voice chat is theirs), to the right the "Super Dong Cleave" team.

This setup revolves around having 3 or 4 DPS vanguards/powertechs spamming loads of AoE damage. Will work until groups learn to position themselves so that they are never grouped up (although they will be pulled into the AoE now and then).

Madness sorcs

Source: (mudclot's twitch stream, start from 3:40)

This group stacks Madness sorcs, heavily depending on DoTs. Without healing sorcs in the opposite team (as a result of the aforementioned) or due to the sheer number of DoTs players are getting attached to themselves, damage output is pretty crazy.


Knowing that I won't be able to play my favorite class in ranked greatly diminishes my initial curiosity/careful enthusiasm for arenas. In addition, I don't think arenas are 'for me'. For as far as you're able to make any objective opinion after getting stomped over and over, I thought the lack of objectives and constant killing made the gameplay plainly boring. The experience strangely enough reminded me a bit of shooter games, which I really don't enjoy playing. 

Winning or losing a warzone will depend strongly on what class composition you have and are up against. From what people have tried out on the PTS, either the basic team or stacking classes is a win. There's a fat chance people will want to play it safe by taking the jugg x op x DPS composition. I think this is a shame, as I believe class diversity is something that makes warzones more fun. Everyone playing the same classes is just (excuse me for saying it again) boring.

That said, we can't be sure how big the influence of arenas will be since there are still the old warzones mixed in the regular warzone queue. Also, regular warzones will be less affected than ranked ones. I do look forward to trying Dong Cleave for giggles with my vanguard, and I just hope I'll discover the (hopefully existing) charm of arenas when the time is there.

With many thanks to Tiger for keeping me up to date with all the arena streams posted.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Sims 3: Life in a penthouse

Granny is getting quite old by now, and after having become a three-star celebrity master chef and earned quite a bit, I thought I would grant her her wish to move to a penthouse. Elaine helped to bring some cash in by tagging some walls for the municipality (my guess is that they decided they rather give out commissions to her than have to deal with the stuff all over town being out of control) and after three days of hard work (Delilah even asked her blog followers for more donations, but this only brought 30 simoleons more to the table) they had gathered enough.

The new house! It has two floors and almost twice the space of the previous flat. Finally no bunk bed anymore now the girls are growing up. However, there was no place for granny's bed as a result, so she'll have to sleep on the balcony for the last days of her life.

The household actually made some money back by selling the old kitchen equipment, as that of the penthouse was already very good. The furniture was very depressingly dark brown, though, so I replaced it and made a new design. Fluo green is the new red, I suppose. Oh, and there's some lilac in the girl's room as well, to keep things a bit happy. Elaine is out of luck: no skull design in the new house, but I think she's getting over that phase a bit.

The most epic thing was installing a bubble bath on the balcony. My Sims run out there to skinny dip all the time. It gets better at night.

Now it was just time to wait and see grandma drop dead and get rid of the bed on the balcony. However, granny didn't seem to want to die. Even though her aging bar was totally filled, the Grim Reaper refused to pay the house a visit. I guess even for Sims death comes unexpected.

Oops, now it was already time for the eldest of the two, Elaine, to grow up into a young adult! She got a special birthday dress and all her schoolmates were invited. I think she tried very hard not to mind the shrimp she got as a birthday present (being a vegetarian).

And I had to spend an hour sorting out new outfits for Elaine, because the computer gave her a horrendous-looking makeover. But the drama had already occurred: one teenager already grew up, so my whole party-teenagers-living-together-without-elder idea has failed. What will happen next? Will granny survive Delilah growing up as well? Find out in the next Sims post.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Pokémon: Hated by all

You know that feeling? You're walking through a cave and then... *groan*.

So there are also pokémon I don't like. Many, actually. Today's post is an exception in that I actually drew a pokémon that annoys the hell out of me. You know the one, imagine you're walking through a cave (any cave, I don't think there are any without it)...

Apart from annoying, Zubat is also quite ugly. But if anything stopped me from ever leveling one, it's its evolution Golbat, which is remarkably even more ugly. I usually just catch both forms for my collection and never look back.

However, now Tiger told me that there is another evolution, Crobat. He showed me a picture and I grudgingly had to admit that it looks pretty awesome. So now I need to take a deep breath and level a Golbat. The positive side is that I potentially don't have to level it more than one level. It just needs to like me.

Pokémon start to like you if you drag them around large distances within a pokéball in your bag (no way). Since I don't want to be physically close to Golbat for that long, I'm going for the alternative, bribery haircuts. While I myself procrastinate going to the barber until I really can't comb through my hair anymore because it's so dead, pokémon apparently really like going to the barber, and in turn start to like their trainer more for being so kind as to take them there. The fact that many of them (Golbat included) don't really have any hair doesn't matter, the mere imaginative thought of being at the barber already makes them superhappy. I'll spam the hell out of these 'haircuts' and will try to acquire a Crobat this way. You'll hear about the result in another post.

Last but not least, I found this comic that made me laugh so hard:

See? It's not just me!

Apart from this particular comic being hilarious, I thought it was pretty cool that Jall writes on his site that he started drawing pokémon just to experiment with how to use a tablet. You know, basically like I'm doing now with this pokémon article series. So who knows, there might still be hope for me. Maybe. If I'm lucky!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

SWTOR: Defying gravity

Some people are cool, others are just waaay cooler. Sanju Pyne thinks he's the man after BSOCK with Yuniper on Balmorra. He just forgets one tiny detail...

Monday, 16 September 2013

LOTRO: Should you pre-order Helm's Deep?

In Helm's Deep, even hobbits can be fearsome

I was startled by the announcement that LotRO's newest expansion, Helm's Deep, will be released November 18th. With the Beta only started a few weeks ago, I was hoping the devs would take some extra time to polish the new expansion. Especially since I sometimes get the feeling that Helm's Deep will make or break the game.

Dooooom and stuff

As an active LotRO player since the game's launching year, 2007, I can say that the in-game world of my server Gilrain hasn't been as quiet as it is now. The autumn days of the Mirkwood expansion was the last time I experienced something like this, but then Free-to-play managed to save the game from its difficult situation by attracting many new players. Nowadays, I'm not only bothered by the 'Snowbourn movers' (people moving to that higher populated EU server) and the silence in the world of Middle-earth, but also by the online silence in the blogosphere. Over the last year, I've noticed a massive decrease in active LotRO fan blogs, not to mention its largest, A Casual Stroll To Mordor, changing its title into Casually Strolling Through MMOs. I don't want to be overly negative here, but let's just say Helm's Deep better be darn good.

Anyway, if you haven't seen it yet, here's the official Helm's Deep video:

I personally had to giggle a bit at the "Batman style" voice over and music combined with the kinda cute old style LotRO design there. Oh oh, trailer designers...


Now as some of you might know, I've lately been playing LotRO on a casual basis only. Hence where my question last year was what I was expecting of Riders of Rohan and whether to pre-order the expensive legendary edition or the cheaper version of the expansion, I now find myself torn by the question if I should buy Helm's Deep at all.

Okay, let me clarify here, this doesn't solely have to do with the prices (which are once again very steep). The pre-order options are more or less the same as they were with the Riders of Rohan, with similar prices for a legendary and a basic edition ($59.99/€53,99/£44.99 and $39.99/€35,99/£29.99 respectively). There's a good analysis here on CSTM that I'll point to rather than just replicate the content of the editions here. It suffices to say that the fluff mostly consists of the Amour of the Hammerhand and the Steed of the Hammerhand of which you see the pictures in this post.

My hesitation to pre-order has to do with how much of a Turbine fangirl I am (not so much one).

There will be content that I will certainly enjoy: I'm sure the landscape will be beautiful once again, there will be new quests and a good epic story line. The developers have never let us down there. But do I want to spend so much money just for that? There is something else that has been bothering me.

End game

With Riders of Rohan, we got a raid cluster that felt like a skirmish to me. Sure, it had challenges, but the total absence of any trash mobs and the fact that you just got ported to another place right in front of the boss without any common 'main dungeon' for all three instances made it not feel like real raid for me. Somehow (and I still don't completely understand why) the Erebor raids weren't engaging for me and it was the same for a large part of my raiding kinship, which became less active as a result. This is extra sad because my kinship is one of the main raiding kinships of my server since the days of Moria, with many server first take-downs.

To my fear, Turbine has declared that Helm's Deep's end game content will consist of 'Big Battles', which sound like huge skirmishes to me. In addition there will be far stretching class changes. While I like good changes, the devs' talent for buggy content makes me very weary. Generally, I get the impression that Turbine has looked at where most money comes from, concluded that it is from casual players, and is now taking the game in that direction. Which is fine if you're a casual player, but for me as an end game player this diminishes my interest in LotRO.

Should you pre-order Helm's Deep?

When thinking about all this I realized that there were so many different things to consider.

And then, oh dear, I got a creative attack and had to abuse my Bamboo tablet once more. So here is your very own Horse of Wisdom to determine whether or not to buy Helm's Deep:

Now I'm sure not even this Mearas steed is perfect, but I'm still very much curious as to what decision you ended up with. Me, it was "No, but consider buying with release". Even though that pre-order armour looks so darn sexy (and that on a hobbit).

Although the direction LotRO is heading might not be very pleasant for me personally, I do still feel curious as to find out what Helm's Deep will be like. I might spend my hoard of Turbine Points on the expansion rather than real money. If I'm unlucky and end game and class changes disappoint, I will at least be able to complete the epic story and explore the new landscape.

Many thanks to my friend Ger from Gilrain for offering his services as a handsome hobbit-mannequin-in-armour.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Pokémon: Lapras

Recommended listening: Surf theme.

I admit that this isn't my best drawing and I made it rather quickly, but nevertheless, my newest water pokémon issssss... Lapras!

I have a terrible problem with water pokémon. There are simply too many nice ones of them, so I never manage to pick one. I usually level one up, evolve it, then switch it for another one I like etc. This counts for grass type pokémon as well, by the way. This way I keep leveling new pokémon over and over.

But I managed to catch this Lapras on a Monday (which is the only day it appears in the game, in some backwater cave) and decided to stick with it for a bit. In the TV series, Lapras apparently functions as a ferry, carrying loads of people over the water. As I was busy surfing along the Whirl Islands, I thought it was appropriate to use him (it even shows a Lapras icon by default if you're surfing).

Why Lapras? 1) Both ice and water type, therefore being less weak towards plant type 2) Gentle, soft and cute ( 2) of course being the most important)!

More grave dilemmas and water pokémon to follow in my next pokémon post.

Monday, 9 September 2013

LOTRO: Popular among goats

I continued to explore Wildermore with Tiger the other day. We found the Dunlending girl Nona in a cave, where she was taking care of wounded Rohirrim she rescued. I really like the love story of her and Horn, and I so hope it's going to end up well between those two! It is the main motivation for me to complete the Wildermore quests. We also had to bring some tame goats to refugees hiding in caves. Because we were questing with two we got double the amount: a whole army of goats running after us (bottom picture). Two didn't want to leave after handing the quest in and followed us for the rest of the day. It was kinda cute, I've never had a goat pet before.

I am still bothered by the fact that I'm only enjoying LotRO in a casual manner. After Wildermore, there will be nothing that attracts me to the game as it is. There are so many things wrong with LotRO that I occasionally fear that it is beyond repair and then I wonder why this bothers me so much. It is only a game, is it not? But then again, it was my first MMO and it bewitched me as soon as I set foot in Middle-earth. This is the game where I made my first online friends, where I learned how to raid and fell in love with the lovely class that is the lore-master. And last but not least, it is where I met the amazing Tiger, with whom I continue to explore many other games.

Wildermore might be the only thing left for me before Helm's Deep, but at least I got this romantic picture (top one) of Tiger and me, the moon and the (photobombing?) pet goats. I was pleasantly surprised when I checked my screenshots folder, because it's possibly the best picture I have of Fingolwë and Ravanel (or Tiger and I) together.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

SWTOR: Busy, small and furry

University life is busier than ever this first week of the new college year, so that's why I've been a little quiet this week. As far as I can see my homework load fluctuate through the week, I'll probably have to settle for posts at the start and the end of the week, say Monday and Thursday/Friday.

For the rest, meet Treek, my new ewok companion! I know, I know, it took me like a month to scrape together that 1 mil required, but I refuse to grind for things, even if it's just money. After I hired her, I spent some Cartel points to unlock her for all my characters and then I couldn't resist to get some customizations as well. I really adore this one with the eye patch for Y-u'no's Treek. She works amazingly well, tanking for me as well as giving herself some small heals now and then. Follows me around a bit less like a loyal dog, too (read: Corso).

I think Treek's animations look hilarious. She leaps into battle using makeshift wings and heals herself with cute green bubbles.

Now I just need to find out what gifts she likes, so I can find out more about that strange ewok history of her.

Monday, 2 September 2013

SWTOR: Obviously a guild picture

The Imperial guild I'm in has been having a group picture in TfB on their website for a long while, but there were quite some people on there who I didn't know and probably weren't even in the game anymore. It was time for a new one! I'd never done a planned guild picture before, but they put an event on the calender and everything, so I thought it was pretty cool and attended. Weeks of thinking about the locations had preceded this.

The top picture was taken at the Elysium on Alderaan (you need to pick up a quest that unlocks a speeder to get there), the bottom on top of a building on Korriban (we had to pull people up there). Can you find my sorcerer Fárah on the pictures?

Anyway, our official guild photographer probably took better pictures (I would need to change the game files so I can zoom out further - keep forgetting about that), but they're still on their way. For now I'll have to do with these. I'm still not sure which setting is the best one.

What's the best group picture of your guild?