LOTRO

LOTRO: Toxic Squirrel…Oops Sequel!

LOL – this is a great post from my LOTRO mate Tsuhelm – the gif makes me feel weirdly sick 😀

tsuhelm

LOTROTOXIC

‘You’re toxic I’m slipping under
With a taste of a poison paradise
I’m addicted to you
Don’t you know that you’re toxic
And I love what you do
Don’t you know that you’re toxic’ 
Britney Spears – Toxic

Listen HERE (if you really want…)

I wrapped up the toxic pond sampling quests… I really want to know why so many spirits were just hanging around…maybe queuing up for tickets for a Down Among the Dead Men concert?

Who has been pissing

So who was polluting the ponds?

Dance to Britney

Well now I have to go and find out: Further Upstream

And some old screenies of earlier on in Angmar…

04Stone of Clucath Tsukuld finds a rock!

Illuminated The dark airs of Angmar has given Tsukuld a lovely, ‘healthy’ glow!

Tsukuld also continued the Epic Quests in Angmar completing Book VI, VII and starting book VIII.

As always they send you on trips around ME as if there…

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MMOs and the weirdness of raiding…

I’ve been chewing over this post for a couple of months now, ever since I undertook my first dungeons runs in Guild Wars 2 earlier this year but I’ve been meaning to write something about raiding since I began to tag along with raids in LOTRO back in 2011. Now there are huge differences between those two games but there is also a striking similarity, at least for me, and that is that I find raiding not only profoundly boring but also confusing in its stylistic switch from the rest of the gameplay.

GW2 is probably the best example of this. The game itself is anything but boring with the heart and soul of it engineered to allow you to play pretty much alone whilst giving you something to do all the time. Wherever you are you are never more than a few minutes from an event chain and you are encouraged to use the various weapon and profession skills to complete them. As an engineer I know I have certain rifle skills that work well with turret skills and I need to use both, as well as constant movement and healing, to win the fight and this feels right, it feels like the game Arenanet designed. But when it comes to raiding it all changes.

From a position of knowing your skills and understanding how to dance around an enemy in order to survive, you are thrust into a game mode where all you have to do is stack, i.e. all stand on exactly the same spot and mash attack, heal & rez skills, and that is mind-numbingly dull. Not only is the game play style dull, but what it does to your experience of the world is criminal! Do you know what I see of most fights in raids? A firework display of particle effects centered on a strange multi-limbed beast and nothing else – none of the amazing wotk the devs have put into the area because we are all stood in a crush hitting and healing and checking out emails on your phone instead of concentrating on the fight.

I would love to experience more of the dungeons and areas built by Arenanet but not stood in a clump. I want to use the skills I’ve learnt in the game, not be forced to play a whack-a-mole. I want to take the awesome moves I pull fighting a group of Tamini Centaurs and apply them to fighting a dungeon boss so that when I bring it down I look awesome, not like a strange mutant-blob-thing!

Sigh. Maybe I’m missing something obvious but for the life of me I can’t think what it is. Raiding is boring.

Life in Tyria: Legendaries are another miss, just like in LOTRO.

OK, let me start this by stating two things:1) GW2 legendaries are *not* as bad as LOTRO’s clusterhump system, and 2) I don’t actually own a legendary in GW2 so have never used one but I still think they suck and here is why.

1) It’s grindy, complex and frigging expensive to make one. I just haven’t the time or the money to do it so owning such a weapon (and armour should it ever be added) will be out of my reach. Given that the next level down, Ascended, seems to be just as much of a ballache to craft it looks like my gear progression in GW2 stops at Exotic and this strikes me as a damn shame.

2) They are as ugly as hell. Jebus H Pressley but the GW2 devs like to design some tacky, spiky shit. True, this is purely subjective but the fact remains there are almost no legendary weapons I’d want to be seen with anyway. Hell, look at Orcrist from The Hobbit, it doesn’t look like they were bought in a Blackpool £1 shop does it? Here, let me demonstrate.

Orcrist - how lovely, almost as if created by talented craftspeople/elves.

Orcrist – how lovely, almost as if created by talented craftspeople/elves.

A fugly sword bought from a cheap kid's toys shop and made with no love or care.

A fugly sword bought from a cheap kid’s toys shop for £1.99.

Some weird looking legendary sword from GW2 - it makes my eyes sad.

Some weird looking legendary sword from GW2 that makes my eyes sad.

So given that I will never be able to get a legendary weapon in GW2 and if I ever did I’d never want to be seen with one, why am I moaning about it in this post, beyond something to post & moan about I mean? Well just because I don’t want to be seen with a legendary weapon that looks like it was made by my seven year old and coloured in by my 4 year old doesn’t mean I don’t want a legendary weapon. Let me explain something about the way I play my games, from SL to LOTRO to GW2.

I carefully design the look of my characters. Now this may come as a little bit of a shock to some of you, but I think long-term readers and old friends who know me well and have played along side me in SL will know that I always find a look and then I stick to it. HeadBurro Antfarm went through a few trials before I hit on the half-gazelle skin in urban clothing and ethnic jewellery. Hell, just finding that backpack was a huge undertaking that I still remember fondly. In LOTRO I dressed all my guys in what I considered to be appropriate gear – the hobbits in Bounder’s garb, the human warrior in armour but with a backpack fit for the scholar he was, the dwarf and elf in similarly suitable ethnic & profession gear. None of them have been showy or ostentatious, none have gone in for garish colours or effects, weapons have been suitable for the lore & professions, armour has been muted and, as far as possible, realistic in nature.

And then I come to GW2. Oh boy. Someone in Arenanet has a spike fetish. Someone likes huge shoulderpads. Someone dreams of bling. Just look at this unholy monstrosity!

Jesus. H. Christ.

Jesus. H. Christ.

Who in the name of all that is holy would wear that? It would be fuck all use in a fight and if she as much as coughed her tits would pop out. And how is she going to get in to any tavern with that stupid hat on and those mahoooosive shoulder… things strapped to her? And curly toes? Jesus.

Look, I can live in a world where this shit exists but is it too much to ask for some of the armour and weapons at the top of the tree not to look like the vomit pattern of a caffeine & red bull riddled mentalist?

Oh, what’s that you say? There’s a Transmutation system? I can give this amazing stuff the look of my boring looking armour and we are all happy? Hardly. That costs money in GW2 and at about a quid a pop which could make transmuting all your armour and weapons cost you upwards of ten British pounds every time you upgrade them en masse. Call me odd if you like but the thought of paying multiples of monies just to keep the look of my character the same somehow doesn’t appeal.

Now my understanding, without ever having owned or used one, is that these legendary weapons are not a huge stat boost. Arenanet, wisely in my opinion, veers away from sudden and huge jumps in the power of gear and instead makes the changes small but relies on the ‘improved’ looks they design to entice players in for the bigger, brighter shiny. As I think we have discovered this won’t work on me and given that the power uppage is small why do I want one?

Because I do. Because it’s a game genre about, among other things, continually improving your gear.Part of the fantasy (and scifi and spy and etc…) genre is the finding of the bigger, better weapon and playing an MMO RPG should be no different. I’m not dashing all over Tyria helping people out for the good of my health you know, I want a reward. Several rewards. I want a legendary weapon. I just don’t want the ones Arenanet are offering.

So what is the answer? What is it I want? Well dear reader, I’ll tell you that in another post soon…

World building, part 2: This town, is coming like a ghost town…

In my last world building post I talked about, amongst other things, better weather & seasonal effects to make the world seem more alive and changeable. Well in this post I want to move from the macro back down the scale and look at towns, cities and other settlements because it’s not just the world that needs to come alive for me but the place I call home too.

My first ever experience of an online, populated city was Nova Albion in Second Life. I rezzed nearish and wandered on down where I was grabbed by the lure of free Linden Dollars in a camping spot (this was before I realised how damaging camping spots are to online worlds, sucking up computing resources for no benefit to the environment). Once I broke free of the camping chair I began to explore the city and was amazed that such a place could exist – it was a city built by and populated by the players, a deal of who I could see around me! Now it was sometime before I realised that vast majority of players were in one or two locations within the city and the rest of it was a well-tended wasteland so at the time this was a hugely exciting to me.

Nova Albion, Second Life's first city...

Nova Albion, Second Life’s first city…

My next experience was of Bree in LOTRO and I still remember riding through the gates and down the cobbled road from Combe for the first time. It was night and I was following a more experience player in my first few hours of playing and I can still feel the excitement swelling inside me, something akin to the first time after passing my driving test my Dad had me follow him onto the motorway – pure nervous adrenaline as I moved from one world to another, it was amazing.

Bree, so small yet so oddly important...

Bree, so small yet so oddly important…

My most recent experience has been in GW2 where I fell truly, madly, deeply in love with Divinity’s Reach (such a bloody beautiful name, too). The levels! the architecture! The housing! The scale! Oh my gods I was blown away! It is still the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen in a game but do you know how many times I go there and explore it? Never. I teleport to the bank and teleport back out to the game. I teleport to the Maiden’s Whisper for RP and teleport out again. If I crafted I’d teleport to the crafting station and then out to the game again. The is no reason for me to wander around the city and therefore it could be three or four small rooms and I’d still get the same benefits and that is a crying shame.

Divinity's Reach - full of places you can never reach or explore...

Divinity’s Reach – full of places you can never reach or explore…

Do you know what Nova Albion, Bree & Divinity’s Reach have in common? They are deserts. Wastelands. Ghost towns. People hurry from location to location in an entirely perfunctory manner to get between locations such as bank to auction house or auction house to crafting station in order to complete a necessary task related to the furthering of a step within the game. Taking a helicopter’s eye view of the city over 24 hours you’d see players whizzing back and forth between a small number of locations using the same routes whilst the rest of the city simply lies dormant.

So what to do about this sorry state of affairs, I hear (or at I imagine I hear) you ask?

That’s a good question I have no easy answers to but here’s what I’d like to see in online cities, things I feel would brathe some life into them and make them worth not just visiting again but actually playing in:

  • Player housing throughout. True this was the case in SL and cities there were still deserted but none of these ideas are meant to happen in isolation. I think player housing is important because not only does it give players a reason to be in the city but it also makes them invested in the city. All of the amazing buildings in Divinity’s Reach are unusable with only the occasional one open, but even these are museum displays that can’t be played or interacted with. True there is the home instance of Selma but it’s just that, an instance; a private bubble of the city created for and inhabited by only you – and where is the fun in that? Let players live in the city and make it their own.
  • Events throughout the city all the time. Give the players a reason to be in the city other than crafting, banking or redecorating their house. Player guilds like LOTRO’s Lonley Mountain Band prove that if you put an event on people will come so put events on! Allow players to put events on! For the love of all that is holy, breathe some life into the place and get people dancing! Random small celebrations should happen, Weekly markets with special items, Parades that wind their through the city streets. All night parties right outside your window. Holy days of celebration to the various six Gods. And why not have dungeons in the city? Why not have quests and dynamic events happen there?
  • Let crafters own shops. Let players own a shop that you can visit and where you can buy their goods, whether those have been made or found. True these items could also be sold on the trading post but why not between people? Slap a 15% sales tax on and the gold sink remains. And if the player is out playing then let them hire an NPC to man the shop for them (an even bigger gold sink).
  • Whilst on the subject of NPCs, make them real. Don’t have them standing around waiting to be clicked on but have them wandering the neighbourhood. Have them going in and out of buildings and doing stuff other than waiting. Like exploring a city, listening to NPCs talking is fun the first time but then never again. Hell there is a conversation between two ministers about the Centaur problem going on right now that was going on word for word when I started over a year ago. Why? That conversation hasn’t moved on so it gives the impression neither has the world. NPCs should seem like they really live and work in the city otherwise the city seems like a theme park exhibit.
  • Let the city change at night. Traders should close shop and go home, NPCs should wander off to their families or the pub, parties should start, Seraph patrols increase, curfews enforced, drunken fights break out, arrests made. In short the city should act like a real city and be different at night as it is in the day.

Of course, a lot of this goes for *all* the settlements in the world. All of them need real day & night cycles with NPCs that do more than stand around like idiots awaiting an instruction to sit. Players should be free to live in the countryside if city life is not for them. Merchant caravans should allows player-traders to join them. The whole bloody world should feel more interactive and real and alive and a lot less like a game where you can’t play with all of the pieces.

This is exciting as my home instances gets...

This is exciting as my home instances gets…

World building, part 1: Being British, it’s all about the weather…

I had planned this post to be part of a much larger post directed at my dissatisfaction with GW2 and other MMOs but as I drafted and redrafted it in my head it kept changing, its focus shifting and realigning, until I just decided to open a New Post box and see what happened.

World Building part 1. I had no idea that was going to pop out of my fingertips when I started but now I think it’s perfect because the lack of immersion that leads to my feeling of disconnection & dissatisfaction with GW2 is not unique to that game and, in some respects, not the fault of that or any game. So here is my first post in a new series about what I want, desperately in many cases, to see in a game world. They are in no real order – my thinking isn’t always that joined up – but I’m sure common themes will pop up here and there. So, where to start. Well, seeing as I’m British, why not with the weather…

Give me more weather: I want a world where the only choices are not sun or rain (with snow at Xmas), I want weather that goes beyond the binary and into the realms of patterns and even seasons and I want them all to have an impact on the world. Let the rain pool up and cause flooding. Give me hail that damages buildings, lightning storms that start forest fires, heat waves that result in a terrible droughts and mass-herd deaths Give me meteor impacts and plagues of killer locusts! I want ship-sinking typhoons and village-erasing twisters! And what is so wrong with a good old fashioned earthquake? GIVE ME MORE THAN SUN AND RAIN! *pant pant pant*… Actually, earthquakes aren’t weather are they? But they do lead me on to my next point quite nicely.

Why is the land always the same? OK, here in the UK I’m lucky enough to live in a stable & prosperous place and the land hardly every changes. Except it does. all the time. Fields that have been there since my dad was a kid are being turned into housing estates, new railways are wiping villages off the map and cities are eating up towns all the time. The land changes, except in MMOs where, like the seasons and the weather, it’s always the same. A path through the hills and out to the coast that is never blocked by a flood or a landslide is just the same as a corridor in a FPS. I want people (both players and non-players) and the weather (see above) and seasons (below) to change the landscape. Don’t tell me it’s a living world when most of it is pickled in aspic!

And whilst I’m on the topic of seasons, can we please add some? I know that to see a Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter cycle roll past means you are a year older and it is clear that your character is not, but if I can suspend my disbelief that the Simpsons have been the same age for 25 years I can do the same in a game, trust me. The fact you include a day/night cycle indicates there is a passage of time and my head has yet to explode from the fact day after day cycles round and yet nothing seems to change. Put seasons in, make them run in the same way as your day & night time frame (roughly 4 to 6 times faster than normal) and the world will see to be fresh and living instead of some weird West World theme park stuck on one setting forever. And ever. And ever.

I’ll take a break there but in my next post I want to move on to the people in these worlds and the lives they often don’t but really should live. And some stuff about night time as well. Oh god, the night time in games sucks.

One last point before I hit publish and end my lunch break, please don’t imagine I’m having a pop at GW2 or LOTRO or Second Life. I’m simply putting forward my wishlist and no one game is more guilt than another of failing to live up to my vastly inflated sense of expectations. There are probably some very good technical reasons why some of the things I want can’t be done, but that doesn’t stop me wanting them. I have a similar problem with Miranda Kerr and Karlie Kloss.

Another sunny day... how dull.

Another sunny day… how dull.

What a Burro’s playing – March 2014 update

It’s been a few months since I last wrote one of these posts but the last couple of weeks have seen a surprising change in my gaming that has awoken an old worry of mine that I’m going to poke at again and see if I can’t answer it once and for all in my next post (spoilers: I don’t think I can).

Right now:

Guild Wars 2: As amazing as it seems, I’ve become slightly, but only slightly, addicted to this again. I only really got into it after I agreed to download it again for my son who, like me, has grown a little bored of nothing but Minecraft to play. True I have also had Left 4 Dead, but that’s a little on the mature side for him so I re-installed GW2 and watched him play for a bit and suddenly I felt the old familiar urge to run about brutally solving the often minor issues of total strangers for pretty much worthless rewards and BANG! I was hooked again. This re-start coincidentally happened to coincide with the total destruction of Lion’s Arch and man alive was that fun! True it’s a zerg-fest but I don’t mind zerging too much – at least I can hide my incompetence in the crowd 😀

Recently:

MCPE: Update 0.8.0 was great! Minecarts were added along with some nice farming changes & graphical updates and the whole thing felt brilliantly fresh and fun again. I had a blast in Termite Canyon and really only stopped because I played the arse out of it. I’m waiting for 0.9,0 which will, if the tweets coming out of Mojang are right, be another great update that adds even more fun. We are while off Realms yet I think and that’s a shame because that’s exactly what I’d need to make this my ‘go to’ game again

Pioneer Spacesim: In my desperation to play Elite Dangerous I downloaded this free Elite Frontier mod and tried it out with my new Hotas X flight stick & throttle. The results were, to say the least, underwhelming and I shan’t be playing it again. Ever.

Left 4 Dead 2: Ahhhhh, what can I say about this game that I haven’t already said. It’s just amazing fun. I’m not as good as I was 5 years ago when I could do the levels on Expert (with the right team, of course) but I can hold my own in Advanced even with a basic PUG. Cold Stream is still a bloody nightmare though ;-D

Past:

Second Life: Nope. I didn’t even make it back for the memorial of my mate Os. I thought I would but missed it and then found, whilst sad I missed seeing Sal, Ilia, Enjah, Holo, Mari, Tak and my other friends that I was relived I didn’t have to struggle with the experience of logging in, lagging out and seeing nothing but grey blocks. Lately (by which I mean the last couple of days or so) I have found myself missing this world a little but I don’t think it’s been enough of a pull to tempt me back. Not yet, anyway.

LOTRO: It must be the GW2 effect but I’ve been missing this world too. Not enough to actually go back into the nasty grind-fest that it is, but still missing it a little. Maybe one day someone will make a less grindy, more explorable Middle Earth and then I can finally be the Gondorian explorer I’ve always wanted to be.

Survivalcraft: Christ no! No way! The last few updates have moved further and further away from fun game play and more into the realms of boring twaddle. There is now a bow you have to load each time to fire by dragging an arrow from your inventory to the bow. This is a game with limited inventory space, non-stacking arrows and a ranged combat system that is, in a word, shit. My life is too short too waste it on non-fun things. 

Borderlands 2: This is a strange one. I just stopped. Don’t really know why. I just stopped and I don’t think I even noticed. I do that a lot with long story driven games. Thief (all of them). Walking Dead. LA Noire. Never finished any of them. What a waste.

Ingress: Nah, I’ve totally lost the plot here. I’m not a social gamer and you reallllly need to be for this to work. Oh, and I need the app space too much 🙂

Carmageddon: Not even the boy is playing this one now – it’s ok but just limited.

Future:

Elite Dangerous: Still the big dawg on the horizon, I’m looking forward to this more and more with each Alpha update I watch on youtube. It just looks amazing! The flight is smooth, the combat challenging, the visuals drop dead gorgeous. Oh man this is the game I want right now! This is the game I’d turn the shed into a cockpit for and end up on the local news in the “And finally…” humorous nutjob section.

What are you playing right now? let me know in the comments below.

Games… What’s in and what’s out in the Burro household.

This is a filler post, I’ll not lie to you. I have a post about Elite half done and I can’t seem to finish it and that led me to thinking about what I’m playing, and not playing, at the moment.

Past:

Second Life: Nope, I can honestly say that I never even think about this game now. Sometimes I wonder what kept me in there for so long but then I remember all the fun I had in Murray and with the TSMGO guys and in Kahruvel and the answer is obvious 🙂

LOTRO: Holy crap no! This game I don’t mids in the slightest. Nasty grindy thing.

Guild Wars 2: I haven’t played this since November now and I don’t really miss it which is still a source of some surprise to me.

Minecraft Pocket Edition: The last update (0.7.0) didn’t really do it for me so I haven’t picked this up again. I might do once Realms goes active but that rather depends on how much server access costs.

Survivalcraft: Nothing is really grabbing me about this any more. The last update didn’t float my boat and the upcoming one isn’t making me tingle either. Maybe it’s something I’ll come back to, but I’m not so sure given my track record for leaving games and not looking back.

Present:

Borderlands 2: Oh boy, I’m loving this game. Nuff said. Apart from Handsome Jack is amazing and Claptrap’s bistro dubstep is brilliant. wub wub wub wub.

Ingress: Silly escapist fun, I’m enjoying this more than I thought I would ever have done but it really makes me wish for a fuel cell battery in my phone 😉

Carmageddon: I bloody loved this on the PC many moons ago and now I have a version of it on my tablet. A riot of bad taste 😀

Future:

Elite Dangerous: Now this is the biggie I’m looking forward to, but more of that in a future post…

What are you playing right now? Leave a comment below. Or don’t, it’s OK either way, I’ll still love ya 😉