Thursday, 29 August 2013

Sims 3: Supergranny

Afternoon, broad daylight. Mr shineypants just entered the apartment and took a vacuum XL out of his pocket (let's say it was his pocket, really) and started absorbing the mirror (yes the mirror, apparently the PC wasn't hot enough for him, or the mouse pad with skulls scared him off). 

Now I thought I was well prepared for any kind of intruder with my aggressive cat (of which the tooltip read that it would catch any burglar) and my brave granny (of which the tooltip read that she would fight any burglar). However, Lady didn't have any interactions available with the burglar, whereas she usually can at least sniff a person she hasn't met before, and Granny had a moment of instant senility and was just staring at him in disgust, unable to do anything.

A quick search through the internet taught me that this has happened to other people before, and it's probably a bug. Because it was pissing me off, I went back to the latest save game and tried again.

This time it took three whole days before a burglar visited the 11th floor, and it wasn't some shineypants from the next century, but your regular classic burglar. He was called Blake. Blake didn't get past the hallway or Granny ran to him, the two circling around each other (appropriate music) and deeply staring into one another's eyes.

Things became a bit disturbing when the text "Blake thinks Vanessa is okay." turned up, while Granny got a positive moodlet from being "near an attractive Sim". Soon there was nothing to be seen besides a lot of dust and stars in the hallway.

I'm not sure how she did it and if she played it by the rules, but Granny totally won the fight and Blake dived into the elevator to get away. I hope he's going to take some time to rethink his life, because he was just totally owned by a granny like a boss. In her pajamas, that is.

Sadly, no exciting romances were initiated as the fight left a negative affection rate with Vanessa. Perhaps this is a good thing, as a relationship of this kind could prove a bit too adventurous. For Blake, that is.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

SWTOR: Just heal to full

By Melyn from the Bastion

So the new sorcerer representative went to the devs and got three answers to his questions. Yay! ...right?

Here's a quick recap:

1. Defensive Cooldowns (PvP/PvE)

"The biggest problem the sorcerer faces is one of survivability. Currently the sorcerer takes the most damage by a sizable margin, one that is noticeable in raids and PvP (our guess is around 20%). While we have some tools that assist in keeping us alive, they are insufficient and inferior when compared to other classes. (...) So with all this in mind, do you think that this very obvious disparity between sorcerers/sages and every other class’ defensive cooldowns are fair?"

"There may be a little room for improvement here, though comparing a Sorcerer to a Marauder or Sniper is not exactly a fair comparison. The fact is, Marauders and Snipers cannot heal themselves to full. Sure, you cannot deal damage while you are healing, but knowing when to heal or when to deal damage is part of playing a Sorcerer. (...) As a Sorcerer, you must play defensively and make them pay for trying to kill you."

TL;DR: Sorcerers should heal themselves in between the DPSing to make up for taking more damage.

It is interesting how the devs don't think having to stop DPSing to heal yourself doesn't give your class a disadvantage over others such as snipers/slingers and marauders/sentinels in a raid, who can just keep DPSing with their defensive cooldowns up. Especially considering that these other classes already generally score higher on DPS without either healing themselves in raids (cause yeah, nobody actually does that). Why would you then bring a sorc to your raid?

It is also interesting how the devs only seem to have considered DPS sorcs in their answer, while this problem is even more apparent for healing sorcs, in PvP specifically. Healing sorcerers/sages are too squishy to survive arenas, but more about that in this post.

2. Spec Shutdown (PvP)

"A big problem we face as sorcerer/sage is that our specs (all of them) are very easily shut down. For example; madness and its dots are too easily cleansed, corruption has far too many casted abilities and is extremely prone to interrupts, and lightning falls victim to severe LoS. Thundering blast and AoE heals being the biggest offenders. The other classes/specs we compete with on the battlefield have some sort of protection against a lot of what might be detrimental to their jobs. (...) Given the current state of PvP, is it intended for our class to be so easy to shut down?"

"It is not intended for Sorcerers to be easier to stop because they can heal while specialized to DPS or vice versa; however, the ability to heal is considered to be part of a Sorcerer’s overall survivability. (...) Sorcerer’s are an “easy to play, hard to master” class, in that most of their abilities are rather straight-forward and easily understood, but getting the most out of those abilities may require a higher skill level than many players are comfortable with."

TL;DR: Learn to play. Also, something unrelated about being able to heal.

While I think sorcs aren't in a terrible spot in PvP DPS wise, the representative does make valid points regarding the ability to cleanse DoTs and interrupt channels (also for healing!) in PvP. It's mind-boggling how the dev just ignores the whole point about DPS and heals being shut down and instead babbles something about survivability and learn to play.

3. Force Management (PvP/PvE) 

"In the current state of PvP and soon to be 4v4s it is going to become a challenge for Corruption and Madness sorcerers to maintain force. In long, drawn out fights which we can expect to see in 4v4, madness and corruption will likely run into force issues. As corruption and it’s fairly easy spec to shut down, it will become increasingly difficult as the fights drag on to keep yourself alive and your teammates (most likely the tank). As you start to fall behind in force trying to keep some of your cast’s instant, it will not be optimal to start sacrificing your health. (...) Is there any plan to add some force management abilities/talents/mechanics to our corruption and madness trees? (...)"

"We currently have no plans to add any extra Force management abilities, skills, or mechanics to Corruption or Madness. (...) In PvP, healers should not be able to keep everyone alive either because too much damage is being done (...) within a short timeframe – not because they are running out of resources. If this is not the case for a well-played Corruption Sorcerer, then we will make necessary adjustments when it becomes more apparent."

"The Critical Rating stat is currently adjusted to a level that grants a critical chance with which we are not completely satisfied, and this means that some specializations lacking a built-in auto-crit are at a disadvantage (...). We will be working to rectify this issue with the Critical Rating stat in the future, and that should alleviate some issues (...)."

This reply is actually answering the question, makes sense and even gives the impression the devs understood what was asked. An unicum!

I'm happy to hear that something will be done about the crit stat being broken at level cap, even though it doesn't sound like it's going to be anywhere near in the future. As a healing (corruption) sorcerer force management in PvP is indeed challenging and I believe arenas won't prove survivable (but again, more about that in this post). In PvE my highest annoyance is that consumption (skill to get force back) costs a global cooldown, in PvP it is that it is dangerous to use. Try gaining some force back while there are two marauders jumping on you in an arena... you'll just run out of health.

Heal to full

Save the last one, the devs weren't exactly taking any of the questions seriously. In fact, it seemed as if they didn't understand them at all and answered with different topics. The hard-to-master comment is especially cynical since the devs have recently shown they could do with some learn-to-play themselves (they got annihilated by players over and over in arenas on the public test server).

So over the past weekend, the dev's ignorance rapidly developed into a micro-meme, complete with guild and numerous character renames (of which one in my guild). The devs have reacted that players should "deal with it" and respect them. Seems to me like that didn't work the other way around in the first place.

But hey, what do I know, I should probably first L2H2F*...

* Learn to Heal to Full

Monday, 26 August 2013

Sims 3: Two wild girls in a boring town

Rakuno's hilarious posts about his Sims 3 household following the Immortal Dynasty challenge made me want to play the Sims again and try a challenge myself. And so I did, but I started with a normal little household without challenge, because it was years ago I last played it and I needed some catching up first.

I was immediately absorbed into the game and didn't do much else than play the Sims 3 this weekend. Tiger surprised me with four (!) Sims expansions (I only had the vanilla version) that were on sale. He is such a sweetheart! (There, now it's official.)

Meet my two teen girls: Delilah (left) and Elaine (right) McKay running to school. My deep plan was to play around with two rogue party girls, living together. But the game didn't allow me to start a household without a grown up, so I got them Granny (aka Vanessa McKay) who will hopefully die of old age soon so they're left alone after all.

Hey, that's not heartless, that's Sims tactics. You need a certain amount of craziness to spend your time bossing around imaginary characters in the first place.

Besides, I bought Granny a cat to have someone to talk to. See how nice of a God-like creature I am? Following her dream to become a master chef, her day and night rhythm isn't exactly compatible with that of the girls. They mostly get remembered of her existence by the leftovers she leaves for them in the fridge. *picks away tear*

The girls live in Riverview town and Delilah decided to follow in my footsteps and started a blog. It's called "A wild girl in a boring town". She already has over 100 followers or something now. I obviously should've called my blog like that instead!

She did not know that her blog title would be outdated very soon, though...

For Tiger gave me the Late Night expansion pack and the girls moved from their Riverview rustic house to the big city for MOAR PARTY!!! However, this caused some frustration because their new apartment was on the 11th floor and there was no garden for Vanessa and Elaine to go nuts on their gardening skillz. Elaine went all rebellious and now leaves tags all over the city.

What I forgot that it's so much fun to design a house!

I totally stressed out when I saw how small the new apartment was for three people to live in, but it was actually a nice challenge that ended up looking quite well.

It's easy to overlook what exactly the house looks like in reality if you're viewing it from above all the time. Making screenshots makes me realize what's still missing. The top picture: cushions on the chairs and something to cheer up that wall.

When I move into a new house in real life, I should definitely recreate it in the Sims first and try out the paint on the wall. I might just end up with a less crazily coloured house than I'm living in right now.

I can't do else than be happy with my teen Sims, though. Even though they are party girls, as soon as they're done with school they start doing their homework. They're as hardcore as to just go sit down outside school on the pavement and do it right there if I don't watch out (I rather let them do it together at home so they pick up some social as well, though). If only real people would be this motivated (starting with, for instance, me)!

I've been playing way too much Sims lately. I hope it's going to be a source of inspiration: some real-life homework would actually be in order.

Friday, 23 August 2013

LOTRO: I see dead people

Okay, so my LotRO posts lately seem to be all death-related, but it's not all my fault, really!

Questing with Tiger in northwestern Wildermore. All of a sudden we are surrounded by dead people, ghosts of those who have passed in this land due to the terrible winter ad orc attacks. I really hope we are able to help the people of Wildermore for real soon, because the body count is getting quite high. With the death of each new NPC I forget the name of the previous one. This probably makes me a bad player, but there's just a bit too many for me to remember them all.

The quests go slow and are frankly quite boring (kill x this, collect x that) and there are a lot of them in Wildermore. So we slowly continue finishing one location a Saturday. Talk about immersion: at this pace it really feels as if the winter will never end.

I was a bit shocked when I caught myself red handed while thinking that this was a beautiful scenery. The moonlight drawing the shadows of the trees on the snow made me catch my breath. Then I remembered that I was looking at the fresh grave of a young warrior surrounded by dead orcs, giving the presence of my raven a morbid taste. And I thought: when something terrible turns into something beautiful we can't help but stop and look with fascination.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Pokémon: Into the Unown

Recommended listening to get in the mood: Ruins of Alph tune.

So this is me catching pokémon! I'm super awesome because I apparently have blue hair in ponytails (hey, it was either a dude with a cap or a girl with blue hair - easy choice, right?). The maniacal laugh is what you get when you've spent too much time looking for Unowns - or listening at the tune posted above, for that matter. It has nothing to do with me being unable to draw healthy looking human beings, believe me. *cough*

Unowns, I say? Yes, those are them pokémon vaguely resembling letters, introduced with 'Generation II' (using the proper nerd word here). They are all called identically "Unown", but as many different appearances exist, I thought it was time to catch all different looking ones, and see if something special happens (if you already know, please don't tell me, I'd like no spoilers!). These are the ones I've caught so far:


Catching Unown is actually pretty boring, because you run into the wrong ones you already have all the time. Also, I need to check the paper lying next to my bed at each Unown encounter to check whether I've already caught this particular version. Nevertheless, I will prevail! I'm looking for Unown each evening when there's some downtime, so I'm bound to get the collection complete one day.

What happens then... that's for another post.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

SWTOR: Jawas don't enjoy the bounty hunter event

I think this is the best part of the bounty hunter event. Have you run into these little jawas yet?

They're in the bounty hunter event area of the fleet, though it seems they themselves have no clue where the hell they are. Presumably that's their ship out there, because one of them continuously bonks his little fists on the window, as if he wants to say: "I want out!" It's the cutest thing I've seen in ages.

For the rest, I'm not very impressed by the bounty hunter event (I mean, "bounty contract week", totally!). This is partly because there are no rewards that appeal to me*, probably because I don't play a high level bounty hunter myself: the armour is clunky, the weapons don't fit my characters. There's a hat with scarf that looks good and a funny bow caster, but I can't think of any of my characters that could wear them.

For the most part it's because the event itself isn't that interesting, though. There's one bounty hunter questline per involved planet, but the quests are very generic and grindy. The cutscenes feign uniqueness, but the fact that you have to repeat the same action over and over again makes them all feel the same. I have yet to collect my fifth data thingy so I can try the next 'tier', but I'm doing it slowly in between things. I'm not grinding the shit out of this event.

These are the things I do like:
  • You can get your informants to talk either by torturing them with an interrogation droid (dark side points) or by giving them a cocktail to feed them drunk (light side points) - thought that was a pretty creative idea
  • If you don't want to kill your bounty, you can freeze them in carbonite - looks pretty cool to have that carbonite thing floating behind you.
  • There's a floating cocktail 'pet' ("drink server probe"), perhaps something for mistress Fárah? Shame you have to have Legend reputation to be able to buy it.

How have you been enjoying the event so far?

* There's a good overview of all rewards of the event on

Monday, 19 August 2013

LOTRO: Requiem?

My friend Rakuno spoke some wise words in his latest post:
In the MMORPG side [as compared to single-player games, red.] things are more complicated. You see, to me the fun with a MMORPG is dependent on two factors: the game itself and the people I play it with. If one of the two is lacking I quickly lose my desire to play it. Usually what happens is that the first one will become the problem for me. The game just loses its magic, becoming dull and uninteresting. Then I just keep playing because of the people I met there and eventually even that isn't enough to compensate for the game's faults.
When I read this, it struck me that he had hit the nail on its head, and I realized that this was exactly what happened to me in LotRO. I had always thought that I would stay in Middle-earth forever, so much in love was I with the game, my first MMO, when it was launched in 2007.

Over the last couple of years, I started to become increasingly annoyed by the extreme marketing strategies of Turbine with its Store. Then I started to lose interest in the repetitive nature of the quests and the increased grind needed to gear up your character the best. At this point, I was just logging in to raid with my kinship and didn't do anything else. Eventually, the new raids didn't turn out to be much fun and our raiding group somehow lost the lust to decipher the new challenges. We've now arrived at the end of the quote.

The social factor of MMOs is both amazing and terrible. I love to have fun with friends in-game, but I hate dragging myself into a game I don't enjoy anymore as much as I hate not doing so and feeling bad about not being there for my friends. There is no easy solution. An MMO you used to love is like an ex-boyfriend: its pretty tough to find the right relationship.

I don't want to part with virtual Middle-earth totally, so I log in to the game each Saturday morning, when most MMO players are still in bed. No obligations or anything. Just me, Tiger and our horses in a world to discover.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

SWTOR: No more ranked warzones?!

Somebody please kill this Hutt already.

The last few days, people around me have been buzzing with disbelief, sadness and anger at the news that ranked warzones are going to be removed from the game with update 2.4. Assistant designer Alex Modny wrote on his developer blog:
"A smelly part of those Tauntaun guts is that for Game Update 2.4 we are removing 8v8 Warzones from the Ranked Queue. We are sad to see it go but the truth is that because of many factors not enough people played them and we didn’t support them well enough, so they are going away for now. Getting eight friends together and hoping another eight people are doing the same at the exact same time AND your two teams were equally matched was a nightmare for the players."
No ranked anymore? So what will competitive PvPers have to do then? I quote:
"Right now, the Warzone maps we have in the queue focus on full team, objective based combat with a series of goals needing to be accomplished for the team to win. In 2.4 we are introducing Arenas, a Last Team Standing Warzone in which players have only one goal: to eliminate all players on the opposing team. That’s it. No planting bombs, capturing points, just a team of four versus your team of four in a battle royale to determine the victor."
Ranked players will just have to play deathmatch instead of spending their time on silly things like objectives.

Now there are just so many reasons I feel this is wrong. I'll name a few:

1) Arenas don't equal Ranked

Once more, Alex Modny:
"The same amount of attention to team strategy and coordination will be required in high level Warzone Arena play so right now we want to focus on Warzone Arenas for the current Ranked matches."
This is a promise I don't believe the devs can keep.

Remember that Huttball where the enemy team obliterated your DPS but somehow lost with 6-0? Right, that was because they were playing team deathmatch in the middle and not objectives. I'm sure everyone playing warzones remembers a similar event and this is exactly the reason why Alex is wrong. Killing players of the other team has always been an objective in current ranked, but it is an objective that has to be balanced with other objectives, such as scoring a goal, defending, or capturing a node. This requires a high level of awareness of what is going on and a prioritization of the team effort over yourself. With deathmatches having no objectives and only four players it sure may be easier to form teams, but it will certainly be a different form of gameplay (dare I say, perhaps a more casual one?).

It is mind-boggling that the developers seem to think that arenas can replace ranked. The two sorts obviously have completely different objectives and a completely different team dynamic.

2) Don't fix it...

While the developers might believe the current ranked warzones are broken, I think the fact that people are enjoying them proves that they are not. Scour the official forum, and you'll find loads of useful and less-useful ideas from the community to improve ranked warzones. These threads should not be interpreted as an indication of them being broken, but as a sign of people truly caring. Just like others write down ideas about their class, operations or gameplay balance. Look at the zeal and passion the community has displayed since day one when it comes to crucial topics such as nerfing operatives, yet the little buggers are still around (nerf operatives!). Why should ranked warzones be treated differently?

In my opinion, the ranked warzones function well and are great matches to play. As with all high skill level requiring gameplay, it has a limited player base. How many guilds per server are progressing in Nightmare mode operations? The fact that there aren't many doesn't mean Nightmare mode should be removed all together. This is a problem many MMOs face. Challenging content may be played by a minority, but this doesn't mean you should only listen to the masses and reduce your game to a Farmville skill level.

Removing something that people enjoy is not a way to fix it. Sure, more people playing ranked would be great, but I think I speak for many as I say we'd much much much rather keep ranked warzones as they are than not being able to play them at all.

3) Breaking up communities

Not enough people queuing to being able to constantly fight ranked warzones whenever you want is not the problem the devs apparently want us to believe. Motivated players have looked for ways to circumvent this problem, by communicating about when to queue against other teams. Wait, so people are communicating with each other instead of just using the queuing system anonymously, and this is considered a bad thing? Yup, seems so.

Let me look at my own server, the Red Eclipse, as an example. Despite officially being a PvE server (!), it has its own forum with a thriving PvP section, where people post when and with whom to queue for ranked, together with the occasional organization of ranked kickball events (wherein players of different teams mix up together for fun). An in-game chat channel for ranked PvP was created to communicate as well as an IRC channel for cross-faction communication. One player was as generous as to gave out voice chat details or anyone needing communication for ranked. Ranked players often drop down to other group's voice chat to discuss the ranked scene on a friendly base and fill in spots on other teams when needed.

Ranked warzones as they are now don't limit our gaming experience, they enhance it in ways Bioware did not foresee. The ranked scene feels more like a community than I've ever encountered in SWTOR before, and then I'm not even remotely as much involved as many others.

4) Recent events 

With the introduction of paid server transfers about a month ago, many players from the ranked guilds of my servers transferred to the Tomb of Freedon Nadd to play against other guilds of high skill. It was often a difficult decision, as players left non-ranked friends behind. I can imagine that finding out those thousands of cartel coins were spent on something that won't exist anymore within a few months leaves a sour taste.

At the same time, the ranked scene at the Red Eclipse got to know new players who felt they could give ranked a try as the remaining teams to play against consisted of ranked 'noobs' as well. Many guilds tried to assemble a team, sometimes even a cross-guild team, resulting in the revival of ranked on the server. Ranked may not be as sophisticated as on the Tomb of Freedon Nadd, but it's a lot of fun nevertheless.

My point is that it takes a lot of effort and time to build a ranked team. Removing ranked warzones as they are is pretty much a blow in the face for all the players who took that effort.

5) Personal

I have not written about it before, but I've recently gotten into ranked on the Red Eclipse. This summer our Rep guild went into temporarily hibernation (many people were on holiday) and Tiger and I joined a wonderful Imp guild that had many PvP enthusiastic players. Tiger ended up becoming PvP Officer, assembling a ranked team for our guild (I'm the team's sorc healer, Tiger takes care of the operative heals). Topics on our guild's forum were opened about ranked PvP specs and gear. We spent the last month working our arses of to gear up and get some team experience. Even though no one had played ranked before, we have been doing pretty okay, and it's been amazing fun.

I can safely say that ranked is one of the things that hugely motivates me to play SWTOR right now.


I'm not against change, but I think it's a great shame that perfectly well designed gameplay like this is thrown out of the window. Ranked is already there and there is no good reason not to let it stay, Arenas and Ranked can just coexist. Removing Ranked is a totally unnecessary move that will deprive a lot of players of the thing they like doing the most. Whether you play ranked yourself or not, if you agree, please sign this petition on the forum. I'm not getting my hopes up, but you never know. Let the devs hear what you think!


Ranked warzones should not be removed, so get off your lazy arse and sign the petition here.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Pokémon: 8-bit nostalgia

There's something that I should tell you. I hope that it doesn't hurt our relationship badly, but I just can't keep it a secret anymore... I like pokémon.*

As I was off for holiday (aka meditational trip) with my brother and parents, I jested to my brother that he should bring his Game Boy, so we could sit at the back at the car for good ol' times sake and play the the 8-bit sound tunes loudly in my parent's ears (we have a weird sense of nostalgia). For the record, my brother and I are grown-ups now (at least, officially).

So we actually did that, and we ended up playing a lot of Pokémon that holiday. I started a new playthrough of Pokémon Crystal and it's now the game I play in the evenings while waiting for Tiger to come to bed - cause that totally doesn't take long at all (blasted addictive MMOs).

I always used to pick Chikorita as a starter pokémon because I'm a sucker for grass pokémon, but I decided to go for Cyndaquil for a change. It already evolved into a Quilava as we speak.


As I cannot make in-game screenshots in Pokémon, I thought it was a good time to dust off my Bamboo and practice some drawing. My personal challenge is to draw a pokémon for each post I write about the game. Since my photoshop skillz are not very sophisticated (read: non-existent) I don't know how to make colours fade and overlap into each other, so this explains the Quilava above. In a way, the simple design does have its charm, I think.

Out of the three forms (Cyndaquil - Quilava - Typhlosion) I think Quilava might be my favorite, so cute!

*Not the TV-series, I guess I was always too old for that, but I always used to love the games.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

KOTOR 2: Haunted by a magician

Lightsabers are okay, olé olé /random

I haven't written about it in a while, but I'm still playing Knights of the Old Republic 2 from time to time. After initially getting the creeps from Bao-dur's voice, his presence has internalized and I can live with him now. I even got to teach him some jedi tricks and we talk about our time in the Mandalorian Wars on a friendly base. All is well. 

However, I now got a new stalker after me who claimed his own room at my ship: historian Mical. I have only endured him because he was in desperate shape and needed fashion advice. Like, badly.

Yeah, that's him (the right one). It's probably just me having an overly active imagination, but each time I see him I have to think of magician Hans Klok (left) and I just get the shivers. I know, Mical doesn't do the hair that well. So the first thing I tried to do was to find him a barber, but I couldn't find any. Can you believe it? Nar Shaddaa, the underworld trading planet, and there is not a single barber. I did run into an overflow of droid shops, by the way. (I am restraining myself very badly now into not saying something about things I was looking for.)

If you don't know Hans Klok, this video should bring you up to speed.

Meanwhile, the situation was getting more dire by the minute. We had to fight whole armies of bounty hunters and all I could think about was Hans Klok. Needless to say, my concentration wasn't too high, resulting in the capture of my character!

Impersonation of a fallen jedi. Note how I did fall down in style (new robes).

What a worthless jedi I am, getting drugged and captured by a bounty hunter that I trusted just because she had cute feminine looks. I should have seen through that!

We talked a bit on the ship and Mical finally saw the light, exchanged his pink suit for my old jedi robe (a bit of a hierarchy there should be), his vibroswords for a lightsaber. Following the path of Bao-dur, he was robbed of his particularities and creepiness and turned into yet another jedi.

Assimilation complete.

Monday, 12 August 2013

SWTOR: I love wampas! (And tauntauns, for that matter)

 I thought tauntauns were nice... (+100 social points if you get the reference.)

Why? Well, because they're white and furry, and because they reward me with tauntaun domestication data pads and... because they drop CRAFTING MATS. Seriously, my sage has been parked on Hoth for the past few days and it's epic.

Okay, maybe the gameplay of running around a deep frozen planet in search of tauntauns for 2-3 hours isn't that intriguing (not to say grindy), but I thought it wasn't too bad. I would just check the three nests in the Clabburn Tundra area*, switch instance, check them again and then continue with whatever chore I was doing in the house. As an extra boon people tend to leave dead wampas behind, allowing me to get loads of tier 6 and 9 biochem mats. 

I quite liked to roam around Hoth, looking for hidden nests with my binoculars. I found many places that I hadn't been to before and even did some GSI stuff (which I find far more frustrating than the tauntauns, if I'm honest).

And apparently, tauntauns can do amazing low kicks (see picture).

I currently have enough data to buy a tauntaun, but now the real difficulty arises...

Who gets the tauntaun?

Ravanel portrait Fárah portrait Xialin portrait
Haradwen portrait Y-u'no portrait Ravalyn portrait

Of course it's all about fashion. I cannot choose between the mountain and the tundra tauntaun, so the only solution is to get both. 

Ravalyn was the first character that came to my mind, because she is a jedi knight, like Luke Skywalker, and because she wears a brown outfit (Bastila Shan's Tunic) that would fit well with the mountain tauntaun. She also doesn't have a speeder yet that I like. Is it a bit ridiculous though to give a tauntaun to a level 16 alt?

Ridiculous or not, I did it anyway. Rawr!

That still leaves the tundra tauntaun to decide about, though. As Ravalyn spends most of her time in warzones, I'd like to give the other to a character of higher character that I play more regularly in the outside world. The options:
  • Sage Ravanel: already has a perfect greenish speeder that I got for my birthday from my Imp's guild leader. 
  • Sorcerer Fárah: would never 'lower herself to riding a furry animal' (her words). 
  • Slinger Y-u'no: uses the complimentary speeder I got when a friend subscribed which I like, yet a tauntaun would fit with her tauntlet pet.
  • Sentinel Haradwen: uses a gold-with-red speeder that matches her outfit. 
  • Vanguard Xialin: should get the white-with-turquoise-accents Light Rank 5 speeder to match her outfit. And that's all the characters I can see myself playing on a regular basis.
I can't decide, help me! Who did you get a tauntaun for?

How to get a tauntaun

You can either buy one for credits or collect the required tauntaun data yourself. As for guides, there's of course one on Dulfy. If you're thinking about buying your tauntaun instead of collecting, I advise keeping an eye on Hoth's general chat (at least, for as long as tauntauns are still 'hot'). With people competing over the same economical market, data prices occasionally drop down to less than 50% of the vendor price.

Tauntaun mount. Soft, cute, cuddly and no exhaust fumes. What more to wish for?

* These nests in this area are not so far away from each other, so that's why I picked them. 

Friday, 9 August 2013

SWTOR/LOTRO: Where are all the children?

You're my second best friend!

I was running with my low level shadow through Coruscant a bit (have been doing some all-stealth baby lowbie warzones with some friends lately, very much fun - but another story), when I ran into the most creepy NPC in Star Wars history. No, it's not Darth Malgus or the Dread Masters. You're bound to run into this one when you visit Coruscant for your story quest and stare at her: the creepy kid (with the missing brother). There's just so much wrong. Her head has the shape of that of a baby, very round with huge eyes (even too large for a baby). Her body shape is that of sixteen year old girl or older. Her language is that of a much younger girl, say, around ten. Her voice is that of a grown-up woman that tries really hard to sound like what she thinks a little girl sounds like ("Thank you so much! You're my second best friend!"). This mix of ages (zero, ten and sixteen year) makes my hair stand upright each time I have to speak to her. I'm sure of it, this is an alien infiltrating humanity in the shape of an animated doll! Feels more natural to me than the probability that this really is a kid.

What's it with MMOs and neglecting children? Apart from the failed example above, I can't remember to have spoken to or even seen any children in SWTOR. Any at all! Maybe there are some around on Tython as part of the scenery, I dunno. Hell, the only baby I've seen was a flesh raider baby. Come to think of it, the same situation used to apply to LotRO.

Children in LotRO

I remember the time when there were no children in LotRO either. It was strange when you think about it. Realistically, there should be loads running about if you imagine a town like Bree. Someone among the designers must have thought about this at a certain point as well. I think it was with the Dunland expansion (the Rise of Isengard) that we got our first children. In LotRO, children are more or less a miniature version of adults (but without breasts, do I need to tell?). This works better than the creepy kid in SWTOR. In Rohan we even got to play some typical children games (Rohan-style), including tagging and hide-and-seek. I remember getting realistically laughed at by the parents by playing a children's game as a grown-up afterwards. I always thought those quests were cute.

Ravanel giving the Wrong Example (for a responsible hero)

What would a game be like if it would've been totally made up by children? Or by elderly people? If you think about it, the games we play really are a reflection of their makers. On top of that, young children don't belong to the target audience of MMO developers. They also serve as a moral compass of some sort. Put children in a warzone and your MMO might all of a sudden not feel so happy and playful anymore. The presence of children in Rohirric towns threatened by the orcs of Saruman may unconsciously add to a sense of urge. These are families, the kind of people we heroes ought to protect!

If you think about it, how many children play around in your favourite MMO?

This said, being a sucker for immersive worlds with a high amount of realism, I plead for more (NPC) children!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

SWTOR: Through the looking glass

One day we tried to proceed an operation at the point we left the day before through our raid locks. But then stuff got warped. Some people got their vitals set to zero while still running around on the fleet, only to get kicked from the servers a few minutes afterwards. They got the everlasting loading screen on the character if they tried to get back in, while other characters were fine. At first we thought the servers were crashing once again, but we soon found out it was only us, so something must've gone wrong with the raid locks.

Me, I ended up here when I tried to enter. I could turn to look around, but I could not move. It was clear to me that I was not supposed to be here, wherever 'here' was. This endless chessboard, is this the grid the fleet is built upon? And are those 3D models of other ships in the fleet? I could not recognize them, but then again, the whole happening was pretty mysterious.

We were unable to proceed the raid that night, but I did get to experience one of the most surreal surroundings in SWTOR.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

SWTOR: How not to do the Czerka flashpoints

Was anyone else reminded of a Mass Effect DLC here?

Yay, new flashpoints released! Tigers sentinel just hit 55 and two friends we like to PvP with were available, so this seemed as good a moment as any. Okay, I was babysitting a sentinel in crafted gear and a fully partisan geared sage and a shadow tank, but accuracy is for the weak. Besides, it's not about gear but about skill, right. So what could possibly go wrong?

Stop chuckling at the oven mitts. I wear my mitts with pride.

Okay, apparently it can go wrong like this. A lot.

The first boss was a bit painful. With a bit of bad luck, the shadow tank's health would be brought back to 20% with one hit. With a bit more back luck, I would be pulled into the middle at the same time and had to heal and run at the same time (which doesn't really work). We're talking try 4 now. After what seemed like an age we hit the enrage timer (yes he has one) and I could finally persuade Tiger to relog to his properly geared sage. It's not really fair as that fight seems to favor ranged DPS a bit, but after that the first boss was a piece of cake. An annoying piece of cake though.

Why do all the bosses have to pull us in / knock us unconscious all the time? Gaaaaaaaaah.

Yay, bioanalysis on bosses is back! (Doesn't work in Scum & Villany.)

Meanwhile, guildies were talking to each other on guild chat how the flashpoints were a bit easy.

Ah well, at least we were having a hardcore time trying to figure out the boss mechanics while people were dropping like flies. We didn't even wipe on every boss, sometimes we figured them out in time. I needed to heal like mad. It was a challenge with the feeling of a proper 'hardmode', with the word in its old fashioned meaning. I shouldn't complain, as challenging content is what players say they are looking for all the time. And we did make it in the end.

Yet I do feel I should do this again with PvE geared people soon, just to ensure for myself that I'm not an ultimate crap healer!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

SWTOR: Playing vanguard

Quite a while ago, I wrote how I started a trooper just so I could wear the White Scalene Armour set in Fashion victim. I thought it was time to show you how that turned out.

Since back then, I've transformed Xialin into a DPS vanguard and played her frantically until the class got hit by the nerfbat. I was lucky that the Gree set got altered so that I could equip it on level 10 instead of 45, although this did remove some of my urge to level her fast. After the DPS nerf, I focused on leveling up my sorcerer for a while instead.

Recently, I've picked my vanguard up again. I swapped from the Assault Specialist tree to the Tactics one and I'm absolutely loving it. It's a bit less mindless, but still mindless enough to just enjoy playing around in some lowbie warzones as a break in between endgame PvE and PvP. I even still end up at the top of the scoreboard damagewise now and then, although I'm sure this is more due to ending up with terrible DPS players in pug warzones than due to me being epic. It doesn't matter, at least vanguard still seems viable in lowbie warzones.

Even the trooper storyline was much better than I anticipated. [Mild spoiler alert.] The whole army thing has a realistic feeling to it, with enough grey areas (whereas soldiers are usually encouraged to think in black and white). I especially liked the ending on Ord Mantell (didn't see that one coming) and the rest of chapter 1. Chapter 2 is less exciting so far, but I'm still enjoying it. 

Xialin hasn't forgotten Jorgan's belittling attitude when they first met on Ord Mantell (she's a bit of the unforgiving type). Payback time involves 'epic sunglasses'.

I chose Elara as my first officer because she seems to have both brains and her heart at the right spot. I use her as my companion a lot because it's nice to have some heals around while you're DPSing. The Makeb reputation medic armour looks great on her! I also might have developed a weak spot for her because she gets discriminated for originating from the Empire all the time, which is pretty unfair. I think she should be admired for voluntarily making the hard decision to come over to the right side.

No idea where this weapon all of a sudden came from, but ah well.

Besides, Jorgan has no right to speak, he shouldn't have shouted so much at me on Ord Mantell. Even the old Havoc squad didn't want to take him with them, the poor sod.

I really didn't think it would happen, but Xialin is actually one of my favourite characters now.

This said, SWTOR has finished patching and it's time to try out those new flashpoints. I'm also very excited about the tauntaun mounts we're going to get. I've been fantasizing about them for such a long time now, I still can't believe they're actually there. See you soon!

Playing vanguard. Just another day of being a living target.`

What I am wearing

Monday, 5 August 2013

First glance at the Elder Scrolls Online

I watched this live stream of the Elder Scrolls Online the other day, when the beta version of the game was played in front of public for the first time. Being a fan of Skyrim, I'm really curious what this "Skyrim MMO" is going to turn into and watched the whole thing in excitement.

From the video, it didn't really become clear to me if I should think of the Elder Scrolls Online as an "Elder Scrolls MMO" or as "Elder Scrolls with a multi-player option" in terms of gameplay experience. The world looked nice enough from what I could see, Skyrim-quality but then without the mods. When I started watching the stream (14 mins into the video), the player was just using a group finder option and ported to a dungeon ("Fungal Grotta"). The dungeon was also very much in the Elder Scrolls style, including the impending darkness that I hate so much in the games, albeit realistic or not. I do hope not all 'dungeons are literally dungeons', if you get what I mean. In previous games I always got bored from exploring dark caves and tried to stay in the daylight to explore the beautiful surroundings as much as I could. But as I am a group player by nature, I'll want to play dungeons as well.

We got to see the group fight in a cave full of goblins. There were several things that came to my mind. First of all, much of what we saw was from first person perspective, the familiar Elder Scrolls look with your hands holding your weapons on the sides of your screen. I guess it's a love or hate thing. For me it's a hate thing, though. I find first person view more stressful and less visually appealing with your weapons taking a prominent spot of your screen. It has always bothered me that I have to switch loads between the two views on my elf archer Ravereth because you just need first person perspective in order to aim, but perhaps this has to do with the interface feeling a bit clunky in Skyrim on PC. I hope all gameplay is equally viable in third person view, but I'm not getting my hopes up.

 Try getting this view in reality and you'll end up with sore arms.

Other things that came to my mind was that the graphics look very much like Skyrim, but that this highly realistic environment also made it hard to distinguish friend from enemy. In Skyrim it's easy enough as you're the only real player around and basically everything around you in dark caves is evil. I guess the fact that goblins and creepy insects were being fought helped a bit in this case, but this might be a challenge and possibly an annoyance elsewhere. The developers did think about this, as mousing over an enemy gives it a red glow, indicating it's an enemy. Before you mouse over it's just a guess, though. This might just be something one needs to get used to. I must admit that I am fond of a very realistic view in games.

I'm not sure how difficult the gameplay was. Having no damage numbers float around does make fights look very immersive, but it also makes it hard to guess what exactly is going on. I guess the inner MMO player in me yearns for mental control over a situation. I had no idea I was such a control freak! I didn't see any special game mechanics apart from using an artifact at a certain point in the cave from whereon the goblins would fight for you. The fights looked pretty hank-and-spank and the combat animations weren't particularly impressive either. Sure, new hard-to-see enemies were introduced in the badly lit cave, but I must admit I got a bit bored as the video continued.

There's so many things we don't know yet. What will the class balance be like? Will mages be overpowered, as they quite frankly are in all the other Elder Scroll games? Will archers have the highest player skill requirement, having to put the most effort in fighting by zooming in and aiming? At this point, the game is of course still very much under construction. It was announced to get released in the spring of 2014.

During the stream, a live chatbox to the right showed a duality in comments. On the one hand MMO players were leaving extremely negative comments about how the game seemed 'just the same as <insert game they were currently playing> but then fantasy' (and these were the most eloquently put messages, the most were a lot shorter and less friendly of nature). The blunt nature and lack of nuance in these sort of comments make me feel ashamed of the MMO player base of which I too am part. On the other hand there were the Skyrim fans, leaving super positive exclamations of fandom. I find myself somewhere in between.

I hope the developers don't get set off by the negativity of the spoiled self-entitled brats that sadly enough seem to represent the average MMO player online. Yet I also hope they do listen to some of the critics that were given: group gameplay didn't seem that interesting to me, although it might of course be different when playing yourself. Collecting skill points to become better is good, but what is the goal? Many players hope for an MMO that will be a change from what they're used to. I hope the developers make the Elder Scrolls - MMO combination work and look very much forward to the game's release, however far away it may be.

Pictures in this article (apart from the video and the logo) are taken in Skyrim, not in the Elder Scrolls Online.