Friday, 26 April 2013

LOTRO: Six-year anniversary

I logged in the other day to check out LotRO's sixth anniversary event and saw that I had received two neat little packages in my inventory: one with a range of fireworks and one with the Festive Azure Steed which is given to all five-year subscribers. If you remember, I just missed out on that one last year. I also got the gold leaf portrait, which I think is the prettiest of the anniversary portraits. Yay!

When I logged in, there was this huge quest icon dangling in my screen that I just clicked to get rid of. I was instantly ported to Bree, where I ran into the familiar crowd of pyromaniacs trying to set Bree afire. The fireworks were as beautiful as ever. Despite all the light, it was still too dark to properly admire the new horse, so I had to wait until dawn to get the picture of waving 'queen Ravanel' above.

Riding through Bree, I found the anniversary event to be pretty much the same as last year. I must confess that I was strangely relieved that there were no new outfits or horses to go for. This is probably because I remember how many tokens you had to collect for those the previous years (I'm very grind-intolerant), and how much I disliked the envelope quest. There is a war-steed appearance of the anniversary horse, but if everything goes well I'll get that at next year's anniversary. I rather wait a year than grind or buy it now.

       Anniversary outfit         

The 6-year anniversary festival ends at May 6th (extended by six days). This was the anniversary for me, I hope you enjoy yours!

Monday, 22 April 2013

LOTRO: Auto-attacking the content to death

Getting ready for some raging

After losing myself to one of my rare rants when playing the Bells of Dale for the first time, I found out I'm not the only one who is baffled by Turbine's urge to make content easier and easier. I stumbled upon this video by Jureon (who happens to also play on my server), who must've been really bored, because he recorded his captain soloing the first trash pull (two signature dwarves) of Iorbar's Peak T1 (a 3-man instance) with auto-attacks using his buff stick. I know it's tier 1 and the mobs are not supposed to hit hard, but I mean... seriously.

At the end there he gets a bit nervous and kites for a few seconds, but at that point it really doesn't matter that much anymore.

So what's next? Anyone else got some videos? What about a burgler soloing the Webs of the Scuttledells? Or - just for nostalgia's sake - Bogbereth soloed by the sabertooth tiger?

Monday, 15 April 2013

SWTOR: Makeb exploration

I really liked Makeb - I'm not so sure our characters did.

I finally got to drag my boyfriend on to Makeb, to explore the new world and storyline. I'm sure he calls it 'girlfriend aggro'. Lots of "oooh" and "aaah" was following, and of course I couldn't keep my finger away from the PrntScr button.

Beware, loads of pictures to come!

Governor, now senator, Saresh came all the way over from Taris to give us a pep talk. Was she chased off Taris eventually by the Imps? I don't remember exactly. Either way, we had to go to the planet right away to help out the inhabitants who got suppressed by invading Hutts (try not to visualize this).

I liked Makeb's towns, with fancy looking buildings with round curves, small alleys and loads of plants.

I even liked its nature more though, about which more below.

A planet ain't a planet without some proper nerfs.

I don't know about you, but I really like the looks of this planet. The towns look very classy

The landscape is a funny mix, but it looks great. The trees remind me of Africa, the rocks of the prehistoric river eroded rocks of Australia. Not that I've been in any of those places myself, mind you.

And then the wildlife: a ridiculous combination of jungle and prehistoric animals. There are giant toxic frogs (picture to the right), dinosaurs and...
...giant walking sticks - do I need to tell more?

Story spoiler: while we were helping out the locals, we found that there was a lot of seismic activity in the area. Illegal mining activities of the Hutts was pushing the planet towards total destruction with rapid speed. It turned out that there was nothing to stop it, and we had to organize planet-wide evacuation.

It was cool to play our characters together again. Somehow, having them stranded on level 50 for a year and mostly doing raids made me forget how pretty they are and what their voices sound like. There are barely any cutscenes with interaction when you're level capped and only raiding.

I, the oh-so-diplomatic sage, got to give an inspiring speech in front of the soon-to-be homeless people of Makeb. The message was basically "Sorry about your whole planet collapsing, but at least you will live" and even so they clapped. Crazy people.

Tiger got to go nuts on a bunch of evil droids. You know that amazing feeling when you force push an enemy off a cliff or bridge? Now imagine the same with a whole army of droids...

 Good Hutt, bad Hutt

How do you tell? Well, good Hutts wear fancy body art and might just be the male option for Makeb flirting. (Mmm, inter-non-humanoid-racial same-sex relationships, now that would be something, Bioware!)

So this is what Fox News all exploded about.

Tiger wanted to go all the way on the 'gay planet' and romanced the cute research girl (above, and in the middle of the previous picture). Just when they finally got to kiss, the suppress-the-hood circlet bugged out and behooded Tiger, resulting in the most underwhelming kiss ever. You can't even make out any gender.

Personally, I think it's a shame that there are no same-sex relationships possible with companions and that the only option is a flirt with a Makeb NPC, but at least it's a step in the right direction. I do wonder if there's also something for our male players on the planet: who do they get to flirt with?

Here our characters look really cool looking out of the window while flying off into the distance, having saved all the people of Makeb. It's almost Mass Effect. Oh we're such heroes! Wait, what's that holocall?

Totally not an anti-climax

So after we flew away being heroes, we got this holocall from the high commander of the army, saying: "Hey again guys, after you left the planet suddenly started stabilizing again, so we can go back! Only now there are these mercenaries popping out of nowhere that are demolishing our villages. It would be great if you'd come back and help us kill them on a daily basis." 


What the hell? Where are those mercenaries coming from, all of a sudden? Who hired them? How did they know that the planet wasn't falling apart after all earlier than us? What made the planet stop from destabilizing   all of a sudden when our experts calculated there was nothing to stop it? What does the Empire have to do with all this? Did the Empire somehow delude us by creating the seismic activity to chase us away from the planet?

At least all these questions make me want to try out the daily quests to see if I can find an answer. It also makes that I want to get Fárah, my highest level Imp, up to 50 to see what happens when you do the Imperial storyline. Hopefully either of those will give some answers, otherwise my in-game life feels, you know, even more pointless than usual.

Disclaimer: Tiger only 'allowed' me to post these pictures of our characters if I would clarify that unify colours didn't work properly in the cutscenes: he really hates the turquoise leg pieces on Rheiya. Bugging hoods, turquoise legs and yellow oven mitts, ah well. And then I'm supposed to be the one who freaks out over cosmetics!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

SWTOR: One million

Just a short post to tell you that I made it: I did one million healing in a warzone!

It was in an Ancient Hypergate (Voidstar would've been another suitable candidate). Tiger was guarding me a lot and we were nearly impossible to kill together. The first two rounds consisted of just insane constant fighting in the middle. It was hard work, but a lot of fun!

The question is what my next goal is going to be. Two million? This seems impossible at the moment, but perhaps it's possible in ranked warzones. However, I've never played ranked before and my guild doesn't have a team. It is said it's super tough, so I'm not planning on trying it anytime soon. However, I'm almost level 55 now and unranked level 55 is close. I wonder what that will bring.

This was our Hypergate, with many thanks to Tiger (Rheiya) and my friend Telperíon for the protection.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

SWTOR: PvP'ing on my sage

Yesterday was the first day of Makeb! So did I run to my ship for some first class disaster tourism and giant slugs? I did not. It all comes down to boyfriend aggro.

Yup, boyfriend aggro. I'm sure you've all heard of 'wife aggro' or 'girlfriend aggro', but 'boyfriend aggro' certainly exists as well. While I wanted to go to the new planet to check out what's new, Tiger just wanted to PvP.

"Makeb's out and you want to PVP?!"

"Yes, Makeb is full of quests." *looks disgusted* "Besides, we can do lowbie PvP on our level 50's now."

"But but.. there's a whole new story, surely you want to check that out?"

"We can PvP and I'll play my guardian. I will guard you always and nobody will be able to take you down!"

His eyes were just twinkling with PvP so much that I understood there wouldn't be much point trying to get him to do something else. And secretly, I was also a bit curious at what it would be like to PvP on my sage. She hit level 50 before we tried lowbie PvP and I only healed in PvE on her. Of course I do have some PvP healing experience from my sorcerer Fárah. But Ravanel is wearing full Dreadguard with the best augments and everything. Surely that had to count for something?

The results were hilarious.

Ridiculous healing in Voidstar. Tiger was playing his sage Adelynn because Belaselle promised to guard me.

Some observations:
  • Numbers overall have gone up so much! It's of course because everything gets scaled up to level 50 or higher, but it's funny when you're used to lowbie PvP as it used to be. Before the expansion, getting over 400k damage was already ridiculously high, and now people are getting 600k without effort. And look at that healing. My next goal is 1 million!
  • Fighting feels so much quicker. Inductions are shorter (alacrity has been buffed) and people deal more damage. Playing warzones has a different feeling to it, they are over before you realize. It's something to get used to, but I like it so far.
  • Of course we lost this Voidstar because of some the high damage of the other team and some people not calling out when their door got attacked. Some things never change.

Healing on Ravanel in PvP was fun. She's just so much better than Fárah! I will play some warzones while leveling up to 55. I just hope I won't level too quickly.

Eventually, I got Tiger to come to Makeb with me and of course he did like it after all. I'll write about that in my next post.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

LOTRO: A tourist guide to Hytbold

I suspect most people in LotRO nowadays spend their time on the new raid and other instances. The times of grinding dailies to get armour sets is (finally?) over, and existing Hytbold allergies might have worn off. Time to look at Hytbold from another perspective: that of the curious tourist!

Not a pretty sight

This is what Hytbold looks like the first time you encounter it: not a pretty sight. That's why the clueless tourist will need this guide to show what it could look like. For a change we players can do something about the state of our environment: we can rebuild the town! Although rebuilding parts of it unlocks armour pieces for your character, my personal reason for rebuilding was lorewise. I just couldn't stand the sad sight while I knew there was something to be done about it. I was also curious at how they visualized features of the town. I will show you in this post.

Eventually I rebuilt the whole thing, even though this wasn't of any use to my characters (I already collected a lore-master set, the captain sets are underwhelming). 

The lumber mill

Rebuilding Hytbold includes the opportunity to build community shared buildings, like the lumber mill above. The mill resembles historical sawmills, such as the mill near Ashborough depicted in the late 19th century photo to the right.

(If you are interested in the construction of these mills, Sash Sawmill in the history blog Notes on the History of Randolph Country gives a great deal of information.)

Farms and windmills

Each Rohirric clan has their own area in Hytbold, a nice invention of the game designers. Every larger settlement will have had their own neighbourhoods, even though most times not as obviously divided as in Hytbold.

On the picture you see the farmsteads of the Sutcrofts, with as special feature the windmill. While water mills (initially of different types than shown before) were already built in Europe since the Roman Empire, the wind mill slowly came into use around 1000 AD. First in modest wooden forms, later in larger and more complicated forms. The mill in the Norcrofts district with has its interesting combination of wood and stone in common with the existing moulin chandelier type. The difference is, this type has the stone at the bottom and the wood at the top - a more logical solution than the mills in Hytbold, where the wood carries the much heavier stone, if you ask me. Oops.

To the right a 1967 picture of the rare moulin chandelier (source: As you can see, the stone part could take the form of a tower, although reconstructions often show a square bottom part as in Hytbold.

Behold my bane of Middle-earth: corn! This evil plant can also be found at the Hytbold farms. I propose stopping there a moment when passing by to curse in general chat.

Corn originates from Central-America, and was first brought to Europe with Columbus at the end of the 15th century. It is an exotic plant in Europe, and I was very shocked when I first saw the hobbits in the Fellowship of the Ring movie run through a field of corn. It's no secret that Tolkien based Middle-earth on the medieval period of Europe, and seeing corn is immersion-breaking for me.

This is probably just the plant nerd in me freaking out, but I get upset by these things!

Camps & Factions

Hytbold is divided into different areas, each with their own watchtowers, houses and tents for refugees. Although the people living in the camps must've gone through difficult times they make the best of it, as you see in the picture above. This cute game design was an incentive for me to do the dailies: each time I could rebuild a little more, giving more refugees a new home.

Wold banner
Sutcrofts banner
Norcrofts banner
Entwash banner
Each neighbourhood is inhabited by refugees from a different part of the Eastemnet, each with their own banner and colours. This reminds me of late medieval guilds, which often had their own place in town as well. After all, each region in the Eastemnet has their own speciality: e.g. the Norcrofts are good at farming, the Wold focus on defence and Snowbourn/the Sutcrofts on offence. I thought it was a cool choice of the developers to reflect this in this way in Hytbold.

Hytbold also features a lot of cute horses. Awww.

In the the town's main stable many rare horses are found, such as the Steed of the Minstrel, the Steed of the Eastemnet and the Steed of the Kundolar. But I mainly wanted to get this picture with the cute horse in. Again: awww.

I like the general cosy look of Hytbold, as seen above. The small white stone walls look a bit off, though. Why make those little walls like that while the rest of the town is made of wood? It gives the impression of rather a Roman than a medieval town, and the 'romantic' cultivated pink roses... hmm. I sorted of wish I had left them burned.

Daily quests

The largest attraction of Hytbold on players is its (notorious?) daily quest which is bestowed in front of the meadhall. Each player of level 84 or higher can pick up this quest, allowing them to complete a total of 5 repeatable quests in any of Rohan's major hubs. The quests reward with coins and reputation which you can then use to restore parts of the town. I actually liked these quests at the start: there are many to choose from and they have varying setups. In the end, it becomes a grind, though. You just need to do so many quests, it requires 40 days of completing the daily wrapper if you want to restore everything (15 if you want to spend real money on it). For lore fans it's definitely worth to completely rebuild the town on at least one character, though: apart from being able to see all aspects of Hytbold restored, doing so will in addition open up a quest bringing a conclusion to the stories of the towns of the Eastemnet. I thought it was pretty cool when I got there.

More in a Tourist guide to Rohan