Thursday 23 May 2013

SWTOR: Dear tauntaun

Can I ride you? Please? I know you're Untamed and all, but wouldn't it be fun, if only for a short while? I promise to be a good jedi.

I found a sort of acceptable red-and-gold unhooded outfit for Haradwen (thanks, dye system!) - which she is not wearing here because it was not Hoth weather resistant - so I resumed leveling her and ended up on Hoth. I still believe there ought to be a quest involving riding a tauntaun there. Each time I see one I can't think of anything else. I cannot help it, Hoth simply isn't complete without one!

Saturday 18 May 2013

LOTRO: Winter in Wildermore

The past few months I've been playing SWTOR as my main game. The only thing in LotRO that interested me was raiding, which didn't happen too often because of lack of signups. The Erebor raid hasn't been received with as much enthusiasm as we all had hoped, but that's another story. The point is that I had only been playing my lore-master, not my other characters, and the only thing I did with her was raiding occasionally. And as a result, the world of Middle-earth has slowly become strange to me.

I think this has happened to everyone who has ceased to play a game very actively, after being absorbed by that world for a long time. When I logged in, everything felt familiar, yet strange. My first impression was that of annoyance, having to spend the points on all my legendary items and warsteed, plus having confusing alerts all over my screen. On the positive side, I finally managed to get Tiger to log into LotRO with me. He took his champion Fingolwë to explore the lands of Wildermore, the new area that was released earlier this week.

Once you have seen SWTOR questing, you might say it's hard to get into questing in any older games. In SWTOR the quests are all fully voiced and appear in cutscenes, much like in any modern single-player game (like in Mass Effect or Assassins Creed, to name a few well-known games). This makes gameplay very engaging. In LotRO, quest givers still present you with the old-fashioned box of written text above their heads. 

Still, I liked Wildermore. One might need to take a bit more time to get into LotRO, the movement and combat feels slow, but once you've slowed down yourself and take the time to look at your surroundings, it's worth it. I experienced a strong sense of nostalgia riding through Middle-earth again. Its amazing landscape designers did their jobs well once more. The air looks thick with cold, giving a very realistic feeling.

Of course Tiger started crying when we had to swim to a deserted island at the other side of the lake, but I just had to smile at the memory of the lake in Evendim ("Everswim") which took ten full minutes to swim over. It took Turbine three years to invent boats to take you over with just a loading screen. Oh, nostalgia. The lake in Wildermore wasn't actually that bad, and luckily it didn't freeze us to death (as in Forochel) either. We did experience an "is this safe?" moment before jumping in.

I got a strong Skyrim-feeling when I approached the meadhall of Wildermore's major town. The designers must have looked at that game for inspiration, I cannot imagine else.

If there's anything about Wildermore that I don't like, it's the design of the large icicles and the monster that's roaming the area. The villain looks cartoony, as if he walked out of World of Warcraft, and the icicles have a strange pointy shape. I guess they're intended to not look as if they belong there, and they succeed in that, but the style does break my immersion into Middle-earth a bit.

The absurdness of the picture below makes me giggle a bit and feel bad about it at the same time. I guess it's not so much fun if your guard buddy is instantly frozen right next to you, but it's a strange sight.

Story-wise the mini expansion follows the trend of a more serious LotRO, with the damage of Saruman shown all around you. No more delivering mail for curious hobbits, but helping out in the real fights, there where it matters. 

Many heroes fall in front of our eyes, but we need to continue and give hope to these people. Though this sounds very grave, the conversations and questlines have a cute flavour to them, especially compared to the realism of SWTOR. There is a certain scent of romanticism in this game, in the way the world is perceived. Perhaps this is why so many enjoy it. 

"Winter in Wildermore", it could just have been Turbine's title of this update.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

SWTOR: Cathar troubles

 Cathar pack in action

Yesterday was a stressing day. There was new content up in both LotRO and SWTOR, and I couldn't play them both at the same time! I decided to log into SWTOR first. Tiger and I had both been longing to roll a Cathar scoundrel (Cathar being the new race released with this update), so we went to create a character. But what should it look like?

Warning: many Cathar pictures incoming. Perhaps it will give some inspiration for creating your own Cathar.

Cathar inspiration

There were some Cathar NPCs in the game already before the expansion:

The motherly fugitive Cathar on Ord Mantell, stealing medicine to tend to the children.

The Imperial Cathar on Makeb (winning the first prize in the cuteness contest, male division).

The Cathar jedi master on Tython, whom you deliver the Fleshraider baby.
(Same appearance as the Taris rebel leader on Imp side.)

Out of these three, I really liked the appearance of the third. I thought the female Cathar looks nice too, but was a bit too skinny. So I decided to try and make a male Cathar and get those nice manes. It would be my first male character.

Creation options

It seems that the manes of the NPC weren't available, though. So I went with what looked the most like it (I don't really like the 'bald' Cathar - Aric Jorgan syndrome), and then there still was lots to choose (with creation codes):

2-2-11-2-1-2-10-2-6-1     &     2-2-5-4-4-3-2-2-2-10

2-2-11-10-2-2-1-2-7-1     &     2-2-11-2-2-2-1-2-6-1

Eventually, I went with the last one because it looked the most like a lion (I called him Liony). While leveling up to level 4, I found him less and less appealing, though. I wasn't sure why I didn't like him at first, because I really did like the face. I think it's because it didn't fit well above the smuggler jacket. It would look much better above a jedi robe, but I hardly need yet another jedi.

So I deleted poor Liony and started over, this time with a female (because the other male hairstyles were all too short for my taste):

2-7-11-2-2-3-3-6-1     &     2-7-11-2-2-10-3-6-1

I made many more than just these two, but these were the ones I had the most trouble choosing between. It became the second one, also called Liony.

Meanwhile, Ord Mantell was crawling with Cathar, which was a funny experience. I played a bit together with Tiger and his friend. We ran into this NPC soldier noob.

"The Cathar are aliens, sort of cat-people that lived nearby."

Oh really? Would you recognize one when it would stand in front of you? Or say, THREE of them?!
Not the same NPC noob, but this was pretty much our appearance in front of the previous one.

This is Tiger's Cathar. By far the character that fits his nickname the best, I think.

I'm still not sure about my Cathar. I think her breasts look a bit too big in the smuggler's jacket (they all do in body type 2). They have the correct size in body type 1, but then you get the anorexia body with it. And I don't really want a super skinny Cathar. And sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't have picked the other female face after all.

The winner:

I was really hoping to just make a nice Cathar and have fun with it, but I don't feel totally happy with mine yet. I guess I'll see if I will stick to it or not.

Which one do you like most?

May be continued...

Friday 10 May 2013

NBI: One year and a week later

It's been a year since the Newbie Blogger Initiative (NBI) and this has hardly gone unnoticed - many former newbies (like me) or sponsors have written posts to commemorate the event. The first posts where already at the start of May, so I'm a bit late to the party. On the other hand, this means that I can wrap up what other bloggers have written about this subject.

Present state

I have the luxury of being lazy, because others have already done the hard work and counted the numbers. Of 111 blogs, 28 (over 25%) are still active (thanks, Ocho!).* This is not bad, considering that the average blog apparently has the "livespan of a fruitfly", with 60-80% of all new blogs stranding within just one month.

So why was the NBI so successful? It might be all those fantastic guides that experienced 'sponsors' wrote us. It might be the energy that goes around when multiple bloggers are talking en masse about the same subject. Or it might be the welcoming community that gave us newbie bloggers a great head start with the feeling that we were valued members of a group.

Ocho speaks about "my fellow NBI brethren" in his post, and I thought that was actually a cool thing to say. True brethren do of course need a mark to strengthen their relationship, so I crafted us our own badge. It's all yours! Show it off on your blog somewhere, or of course, laugh in my face at my inferior drawing skills. Do with it whatever you like.

I for one loved the NBI and the amazing blogs that emerged with it. I've learned many things and it was good to look back to for a moment. See you around, my fellow brethren. To many years to come!

Click here for a larger image.

Others about NBI's anniversary

Let me know if a post escaped my attention and I'll update the list.

Avatars of Steel: Virtual Party to celebrate the original Newbie Blogger's Initiative
Casual Aggro: The Newbie Blogger Initiative - 1 Year Later
Healing the Masses: Newbie Blogger Initiative Info and Guides
I Have Touched the Sky: NBI: Retrospective
World's End Tavern: Newbie Blogger Initiative: One year later
The Ancient Gaming Noob: New Blogger Initiative a Year Later - Who Survived?

Edit: The badge is there for any NBI participant (newbie or sponsor) to use. Rowan made a cool version for sponsors specifically.

* Others have come up with slightly diferent numbers, depending on the criteria used to define an 'active' blog. Calculations range from 28-40% still active.

Tuesday 7 May 2013

SWTOR: Hooded frustration

I actually found a robe that's red AND gold, win! However, it was unmoddable and had a hood.

I can be such a pussy when it comes to outfits. Often, when I create a character, I already have in mind what colours or type of armour (robes, cloaks or trousers) I want them to wear. No different from Haradwen. In LotRO, Haradwen is a warrioress from Far Harad (hence her dark skin), and she wears the red and gold of her people, as Tolkien described. When I recreated her in SWTOR, I had the same Haradwen in mind, so she was going to be a dark-skinned sentinel, with a red glow in her hair and red lips. Since I thought it would be cool if she'd be a Miraluka - being blind but jumping into fights nevertheless, slashing around with her lightsabers, guided by the force and such - I got her a red with green/yellowish veil as well. In fifty levels, I was bound to find something red to fit with it, right? Turns out I was wrong.

Little Red Hood

Haradwen is now level 35, and there's only one red outfit she's found so far (top picture). That outfit was from somewhere in the twenties and isn't moddable, so the stats are totally crap. It also had another unwelcome feature: it was hooded. I didn't know it at the time of character's creation, but I learned soon enough that almost all sentinel outfits have hoods, and while it doesn't look too bad on the picture above, from behind it looks as if you're controlling a barbapappa. Besides, I really love Haradwen's hair and it keeps nagging me that I cannot see it. Frustration!

Here another outfit I found, this time moddable and, even though not being red, it at least fitted Haradwen's veil. Still hooded, though, and I really dislike the shape of the armour below (not on the picture).

Force the hood down

I was so happy when I found a post by Njessi from Hawtpants of the Republic called Hats and Hoodies Redux. It taught me that it was possible to suppress the hood of armour pieces if one would wear certain headgear. A search through the GTN resulted in a whole list of sentinel-proof head pieces that would get rid of my hood and weren't some sort of hair-devouring cap themselves. I will also post some light and heavy armour versions here, as people playing other classes might have run into the same problem.


Adaptive armour:
  • Devout Overseer's Headgear (galactic command)
  • Requisitioned Pummeler's Headgear MK-3 (brown)
  • Tribal Hermit's Headgear (galactic command, tier 3)
Light armour:
  • Consular's headgear (requires consular or knight)
Medium armour:
  • Ablative Plasteel Headgear (white)
  • Ancient Ardent Blade's Headgear (brown)
  • [Prototype] Fervent Battle Headgear (white)
  • [Prototype] Primeval Ardent Blade's Headgear (silver)
  • Laminoid Battle Headgear (silver, but with parts that cover the cheeks)
  • QorWorks Nea-leather Helm MKII
Heavy armour:
  • Reinforced Chanlon Headgear
  • Jedi Battlelord's Headgear (visor covering eyes)
  • Elder Paragon's Headgear (visor covering eyes)
  • Reinforced Mullinine Headgear
Note that this gear looks different on the Imperial side; it typically has the breathing mask cosmetic.


Edit (Dec 2016): Up until recently, Imperial characters had to rely on chin holders / breathing masks (think: Darth Malgus) rather than circlets. However, there are now some options available.

Adaptive armour:

TOR Fashion has a list with hood down gear including breathing masks and visors: Tor Fashion: Unobtrusive and Hide Hood filter.

I picked the Ablative Plasteel Headgear for Haradwen. It looked all fine from afar on the preview window, but when I put on my piece...


... instead of her beautiful veil there were some sort of really ugly black sunglasses! Apparently, you're not allowed to wear a headpiece and a veil at the same time - and it seems they didn't develop any eyes underneath. The suppress-the-hood items work fine on any other species, but if you're a Miraluka you're screwed. (And yes, the sunglasses stayed after I left my ski vacation on Alderaan.)

No, devs, this is what I want my Miraluka to look like. With her own veil and with her own beautiful hair!

I really love the sentinel, it's an amazing class to play and very fun to level. So far I do really get put off by looking ugly, though. Haradwen was my second character I made and I'm sure she would have hit level 55 by now if I could just find her something proper to wear. Secretly, I'm still hoping dear Bioware will implement one of the following:
  1. give us that hood-down button everyone has been asking for since day one. But if this would solve too many problems in one go for your style, I would also already be super happy with:
  2. instead of the sunglasses, just show the veil when suppressing the hood with a head piece; 
  3. offer social head gear that suppresses hoods and have the cosmetic of the different Miraluka veils; 
  4. introduce more moddable sentinel chest pieces without hoods. In facts, stop offering unmoddable gear altogether. Nobody uses that leveling stuff if they got a half-decent set of moddable gear.
I don't really care, please just let me wear something nice on my sentinel!

Haradwen's saviour?

I'm really looking forward to the dyes announced to be introduced with update 2.1. There are some things about the system that sound very promising:
  • Dyes can be used on the first or the secondary colour of an armor piece. So there are loads of combinations possible.
  • There will be 48 different dyes
  • The system doesn't exclusively focus on the Cartel market, 20 dyes are craftable (by Artifice crafters).
My hope's with the dye system. I already bought a trash unhooded robe that I can dye red as soon as the patch hits. I don't really like its looks, but it might be good enough for me to get back to leveling my sentinel.

Thursday 2 May 2013

SWTOR: It's hooded and it bites (but not if you're a cute little twi'lek)

I almost never plan to create a new character. Usually it's an impulse, with alarmingly often a cosmetic outfit as reason. This time, the reason was the new PvP bracket: a friend wanted to come along with our lowbie Imp PvP, but his Imp character wasn't high level enough (level 30+). The plan was to play some lowbie-lowbie PvP (level 10-29) with him to speed up his leveling. But I didn't have any low level Imp character to PvP with. And thus my third Imp character, sith warrior Waseme, was born.

I've been told by the internet that 'Waseme' means 'let them talk', so she was bound to be a bit snarky. I soon decided to make this character (nr. 11) my first pure dark side character. As as some of you might know, this was bound to create a breeding ground to internal conflict.

 Whoever thought it was a good idea to provide Waseme with a lightsaber was wrong, very wrong.

Unsurprisingly, the sith warrior story seemed to revolve around 'kill person A for no reason, kill person B for no reason, kill person C for no particular reason'... I think you get the idea. It cost me a certain amount of psychological effort to pick the option to kill my own master, but you get used to it. At least you don't know the people you're ordered to kill personally (most of the time), which makes it easier in a twisted way. 

Besides, being totally creepy also has its advantages. When Waseme was suddenly confronted with a double team of hired guns pointing at her, her appearance certainly worked in her favour, resulting in my favourite warrior-quote so far.

"I'm going to kill you and eat you all raw!" Not kidding.

Hey, at least it worked. Never seen a group of grown-up and well-armed men run away that quickly.

It turned out to be harder to play dark side when characters around you got involved. I'm talking about Waseme's companion Vette, which I instantly loved. Vette wears a shock collar that she would like Waseme to take off. With typical Vette-humour: "Not that I don't enjoy the perpetual fear of electrocution."

I had to say no. Sith warriors are supposed to be evil, right? I mean, murdering half the galaxy and then removing your slave's shock collar just because she looks so sweet doesn't really make sense. So I was stern and said 'no'. We traveled to the next planet, exterminated some random people, business as usual. But guess what when we returned to the ship?

"Okay, hey. Sith master person of questionable temper and such?"


"I've been extra good with the behaving. Did you notice?"

Vette waits a moment, the camera zooming in on her hopeful face.

"So how about taking this shock collar off me?"

The cute little face. The despair in her big eyes. Her hopeful voice. Gaaaah. I could not do it. I could not shock her. I could not be evil!

The thought of coming back to my ship each time and Vette keeping to ask me over and over again to remove her shock collar became unbearable. I kept pressing escape to try and look for a way to talk myself out of it, but there was none. I spent two full days of just standing on my ship, staring at cute little Vette in despair (with the occasional warzone pop in between). I didn't continue with any quests on my warrior because I couldn't reach a decision. I didn't want to betray my character by not being evil, but I also couldn't shock Vette. Eventually I removed the collar, then quickly logged off.

Yes, I am WEAK. I tried to make it all make sense by releasing Vette because she was "strong" (as in strong-willed, I guess, she doesn't make for much muscle power), but it really doesn't. I told myself that Waseme was a bit like a Klingon, believing in warrior culture. This does mean a lot of violence, killing and praising the strong, but it doesn't necessarily mean beating ('shocking') the weak when there is no honour to gain. I guess this is how I'll have to play my warrior. A weakened version of a pure dark side character, but at least one I'm able to face playing.