Friday, 22 June 2012

SWTOR: Ravanel on Nightmare Lands

Shouldn't that be "Ravanel in the Nightmare Lands"? Nope. Nightmare Lands is a server name in Star Wars, and specifically, it is the server I was told to transfer to from Frostclaw. It is also a great name, because the Nightmare lands are situated on the Wookie planet Kashyyyk (I love those three 'y's'), which was one of my favorite planets in the game Knights of the Old Republic. Am I not a bit late with tranferring? Hasn't everyone done that already? Nope again. I got an e-mail just a few days ago telling me that I was "available for transfer", so they apparently organized a second wave of server transfers. Now the good thing was that I was already feeling like a veteran at server transfers because I had been reading so much about it on other blogs. So we quite professionally ran off to quickly create some placeholder characters on our new server to assure our names weren't taken. I was really happy when I found mine were all still available. I really can't imagine what I would've done if "Ravanel" would've been taken: it's my most used character name that feels the most like 'me'. My boyfriend was less lucky, I think he had to rename two of his nine characters, but I guess that could've been a lot worse.

When I transferred Ravanel and had to pick a legacy name, I found that Griffon was already taken. All workable options, such as Griffin, Gryphon etc were also already taken. So I had to settle for "Gryffin". It sounds as if I really didn't know how to spell "Griffon", aargh. I'm Griffon, not Gryffin!

I suppose I'll get used to it... Eventually... At least there was still some kind of same-looking name available.

When transferred, I felt like a little girl who walks into a big town for the first time of her life. There were so many people on! I might also have felt a bit lost because my friends have stopped playing SWTOR, including most of my old kinnies from LotRO who tried out the game for a while. My boyfriend and I are almost level 50 now and already have a guild in mind to apply to. I hope we find a good home soon, because playing on your own in an MMO feels a bit lonely. I also can't wait to explore end-game! Exciting times are ahead.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Gosh - it's a tablet!

I got a tablet for my birthday! I feel so spoiled. I've always been a bit annoyed by scans of drawings ending up with a bad quality, no matter how good your scanner is. Black-in-white is okay, I guess, but it becomes a problem as soon as any drawings include colours. They just never get it right. So of course I was jealous when I saw what others (like Xhii from Roll one hundred) made on their computer, and not only because they're just amazing at drawing stuff (which they are). With a tablet, you are able to draw on a touchscreen with a fake pencil, and everything you draw ends up right on your screen.

I'm not really sure why I got this present. I didn't really ask for it, nor do I think I'm 'good enough' to use it. I'm not a designer, I just draw for the fun of it. I really must have sounded very enthusiastic about it in the past. Either way, the thing was there, so it had to be tried out. So I drew something random that turned out to be the girl with the giraffe neck above. No, don't ask me about the neck. It was not intentional. I was just trying to find out how the damn thing worked!

The first thing I found out, was that the line quality was very poor in the usual program I use for adjusting pictures (GIMP). It did look great in Photoshop, though, but I had never used that program before. So I had to try out two new things at a time.

Techy nerd stuff

What I liked:
  • Written and drawn lines by pen look great. You don't really have to do anything for it. It only looks great in Photoshop, though, it looks terrible in GIMP.
  • Changing between writing and erasing is quick and works really well. You can just turn your pencil around to switch between the two. In Photoshop it even saves the size of your pencil versus your eraser so you don't have to change that manually each time.
  • Layers in Photoshop work very intuitive. Just felt it made sense. Apart from me starting to draw in the background instead of opening a new layer first. Lets not talk about that!

What I didn't like:
  • Mostly never-have-been-using Photoshop stuff, like:
    • If I want to draw a line, I don't get to see a "preview line" as you do in GIMP, so it's impossible to create parallel lines.
    • I don't know how to select an already existing colour within the drawing you already have opened - pretty crucial for doing anything that involves colour (this is easy in GIMP).
    • I can't find a "bucket fill" tool (also easy in GIMP).
    • Searching the internet for specific tools doesn't get me any further.
  • Trying to draw without looking at my hand feels like needing a third brain half that I lack. It's just so damn hard! It's like: "Hey, congratulations with your new tablet. You know what, you'll get a free time travel trip with it, how does that sound? Use it and you'll be torpedoed back ten years in the past and can draw with the skill you had back then. Have fun!" Aargh.
  • The pen pressure (how thick/dark your line gets) is done very well, and it's a marvel of science that it works at all, but doing the same thing on real paper is still so much easier. On the picture on top of this post, the left sketch in turquoise was actually the easiest to draw. As soon as I tried to make it 'perfect' it was starting to get hard, and I had to use tools to get it to work.


This was all a bit more complicated than I had hoped, so I'll need some outside sources to help me understand these tools, and then especially how to use different sorts of lines and colours. Luckily I found a blog called Idrawdigital, with some interesting posts, such as:
If you have any other tips or know of helpful websites, please let me know. It's hard to find a place to start.

This is my Wacom bamboo tablet, by the way (picture not by myself). It looks amazing with my silver iMac! -------------------------------------->

On a more positive note: it will be quite a while before I get anything done that doesn't make your eyes bleed, so don't worry, the next few posts of the coming half year will be all about LotRO and SWTOR again!

Monday, 18 June 2012

ME 3: Shepard, Geth and Quarians

Mass Effect. So much fun to play, but so hard to write blog posts about. There are many things to talk about, but I also feel that I shouldn't spoil too much for people who haven't played it (this far) yet - a conflicting combination. One thing that urges me to post about Mass Effect after all are the nice character pictures you can take. The game has beautiful colours, scenery and portraits from time to time. I think the shot of badass-looking Shepard & co above contains all three!

This time some shots of my time at and around Rannoch, homeworld of the Quarians. I had been both dreading and looking forward to this moment. Looking forward because there has been a distinct lack of Tali in Mass Effect 3 thus far, and dreading because I had a feeling the absence of both the Geth and Quarians in the war against the Reapers was not just a coincidence. A who has to clean up the mess? Right. Shepard.


Artificial lifeforms: evil, risky or lovely?

One of the largest revelations of Mass Effect 2 was that the main force of the Geth were never aggressive towards "organics", but that it were in fact the Reapers who convinced a splinter group of the Geth to believe otherwise. But how to tell this to the Quarians, who's total nomad culture encircles around their past exile by the Geth and their idea of the conscious AI as an dangerous and evil entity?

The Geth form a prelude to some of the bigger pictures behind Mass Effect, initiating questions like: Can artificial intelligent beings be considered lifeforms of themselves? And if so: 

Are Artificial Intelligent lifeforms destructive against organic lifeforms by nature?

These are not new questions, but themes that have already been explored through a lot of mediums. I'm sure you're familiar with the countless movies that answer the above question with "yes" (especially the ones involving the destruction of Earth). I can also see parallels between the Matrix and Mass Effect's Reapers harvesting alien life cycles. There are, however, also thoughtful movies that answer the question with "no", and one I came to think of is A.I. by Steven Spielberg. This excellent movie tells the story of a young boy who turns out to be an A.I. and gets abandoned by his human 'parents'. The inevitable question: who is more human, the little boy or 'real' people?

Mass Effect lets you decide on your own what your views on this are, although they do give you certain leads in the form of EDI, your ship's A.I. who develops an identity, and Legion (picture above), the highly developed Geth that can operate on itself (unlike most other Geth) and can follow you into combat. I choose the more positive approach, so my Shepard believes that organic and artificial lifeforms can co-exist, as long as they respects each other as a living being. 

Happy ending

Thus on Rannoch, I established a peace between the Geth and the Quarians, and the Quarians were able to set foot on their homeworld for the first time in centuries. In my opinion, the Quarians were extremely lucky that the Geth were less frightful and more forgiving than themselves, as the Geth already consciously neglected several opportunities to destroy the Quarians altogether. It also struck me as quite painful that there were Quarians defending the first Geth in the Morning War. So many missed chances, it could all have been so much less painful... 

Of course, the way I describe all this must make it sound all very simple and straightforward, but it actually feels very intuitive and realistic in-game. It was a really cool theme and I'm happy to have brought it to a good end.

And wow, I've never seen Tali so happy! The picture above also shows one of the rare moments that even Shepard actually looks happy - previous attempts to smiling looked more like grinning while enduring dental pains. They just set foot to Rannoch and are daydreaming about the Quarians building it up again. Could you think of a happier ending to this story? I certainly cannot.

I sincerely wonder if there even are people who keep being anti-Geth in their first playthrough and choose to eliminate them. Let me know if you did, because that would be fascinating to hear about.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

SWTOR: Overly attached companion, part II

In retrospect, I think this says it all:

From: Star Trek: The Original Series, Season 1: "Arena".

SWTOR: Overly attached companion

For those of you for which the title doesn't ring a bell: you might want to check out Reddit (warning: high risk on addictive side-effects). Anyway, perhaps I really have too much imagination, but I nearly got a heart attack when I saw Qyzen grinning at me like this!

I'm not overly fond of Qyzen and usually refer to him as my 'green monster'. He just keeps on talking about points and kills... it was fun at first, but he soon started to bore me to death. When finishing the Tython storyline on my jedi consular (soon-to-be shadow) Delanee, Qyzen suddenly became overly attached:

"I will follow, Herald. Wherever needed. Scorekeeper has shown path: to serve her Herald."

At this point, I always get a strong urge to say "No, thanks!", but no, all I get to choose between is:
  • You do me honor, Qyzen.
  • Then, thank you.
  • I like the sound of this.

... and it always ends the same, with me running around with a green monster troddling behind me. Sigh.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

LOTRO: My hideous appearance

When I logged in the other day in the festival area, a distinct lack of festival NPC's caught my eye. I had missed the last day of the festival, aargh! I almost had enough tokens to get the beautiful new festival dress when I logged off the evening before, but now I'll have to wait another year to get it. I'm absolutely terrible at remembering such things as festival dates. Sigh.

Fashion show

I didn't know much to do as there was no raid planned and not many people on, so I logged my warg to check something out that I had initially missed: the creeps had also gotten cosmetics with the Anniversary Festival, in the form of special skins! Here some I tried out:

From left to right: Black Moria Uruk Appearance (Blackarrow), Shak-hai Smith Appearance (Blackarrow), Corpulent Orc Appearance (Reaver) and Drake masked Gangling Appearance (Defiler). Click here for a larger image. I might add more pictures later.

How does it work?

Depending on how old your account is, you get a certain amount of Tokens of Dedication:
  • less than a year: no tokens
  • 1-2 years: 1 token
  • 3-4 years: 2 tokens
  • 5 years: 3 tokens
There is a skin available for 1 token and one for 2 tokens. My account is 4 years old, so that meant I could choose between either the cheap or the more expensive skin, but I could not get them both. I got my boyfriend to roll a creep, try a skin, and then reroll the same class to try the other skin. He doesn't play his creeps seriously anyway, so he had not done anything on them yet and didn't care to delete and recreate. The result was a great fashion show of which the mannequins would cause Charles Worth to turn in his grave.

Creepy names

Somehow I'm a lore-addict on freep side, but as soon as I'm on creep side I don't really care anymore (sorry, creeps!). Sure, you can name your creep something terrifying in Black Speech, but I'm fine too with horrible puns. Thus I created a spider called "Ravenomous" and eventually settled for the dark purple skin (picture below) because it looked, well, more er... 'venomous' than the other. Also, I've already seen a lot of people run around with the pretty epic hairy one (picture above), and it's a bit boring to look the same as everyone else.

Creeping around

After doing the introduction quests on my new spider (sweet commendations!), I spent the rest of the evening sneaking around in a warg pack with my tribe mates. It was great fun! I'm rank 3 and still feel extremely squishy, but it's not as bad as it used to be. Not sure if my rank 0 boyfriend warg agrees, but let's keep it at that. It's funny how being stealthed is still bugged: instead of half look-through we are all totally look-through, even while in the same fellowship. We therefore marked each other so we could at least know where everyone was. I love sneaking around in a group, it's so much fun, especially when chatting on Vent! 

I choose the Twisted Warg skin from the Tower of Orthanc Acid trash (picture below, left warg) - gosh those things totally freak me out when I'm raiding! It's getting better now we don't wipe on every trash pull anymore, but those three yellow staring eyes are still pretty creepy. Below my boyfriend and I at our most common spot of residence (sigh) yesterday: see how totally disgusting I look! Why oh why didn't I take that beautiful tiger-like skin my boyfriend took? I guess I hope everyone is as much of a whimp as I am. I myself would certainly totally freak out if I would get sneaked upon by a warg looking like myself.

Monday, 11 June 2012

SWTOR: We are the Voss. We are right.

Last time, I wrote about how beautiful Voss was and how much I enjoyed running around there. I was thrilled by the setup of the planet: the Republic and the Empire quarreling to get the support of the Voss, a people with a mysterious, closed culture that prefer to stick to themselves. It is said that Voss prophets are always right and their whole culture is based upon this belief. Voss will walk to their death without hesitation if a prophet would tell them this would save more lives in the future. Even the Republic diplomats and the Jedi you speak to seem to believe the Voss can foretell the future. Being connected to the force, it is indeed possible they receive such foretelling visions, albeit in another form than the Jedi do. Are Voss indeed always right? This mystery fed my imagination and made me curious as to what was going to happen on this planet. This smelled like an opportunity for an exciting storyline.

Several levels further (my sage Ravanel is now level 48) I'm disappointed. This could have been an exciting story: can the Voss misinterpret their visions, like the Jedi council sometimes does? And if so, is this covered up to ensure the continuation of the Voss culture with their blind belief in their prophets? If the Voss would indeed always be right, how come their life is not perfect? And why are they so self centered? Instead, the air of superiority and blindstaring when speaking to the Voss ("I have seen this, so it must be true") is starting to annoy me. There were some unorthodox quests, such as one wherein you participate in a Voss ritual and walk through a vision (picture to the right). This could've been an interesting test full of puzzles, but instead it was just more creatures to kill. Voss turned out to be more of the same, most quests involving planting/deactivating devices, killing dangerous adversaries and mostly many, many mobs. None of the above questions were answered in the storyline: so far Voss has only proved to be yet another planet on which I have to spread goodwill for the Republic. When I started playing Star Wars, I was very impressed by the storylines, the voice acting and the nice closeup shots. However, the longer I play it, the more I recognize the same questing patterns repeated over and over. Slowly the questing experience is turning into a grind.

Perhaps I shouldn't think about this too much. Perhaps I should just level like everyone else, mindlessly killing mobs on a steady pace and spacebarring through conversations. The real question is: to what cause? Okay, that might have sounded too depressing, especially for me. I still like this game and its world, I'm just a bit done with leveling. I really hope I'll find some fun when I reach end-game. We shall see soon.

Friday, 8 June 2012

LOTRO: A week full of raiding

New recurring topic

This is the first post of (hopefully) a range of posts concerning end-game in Lord of the Rings Online. I've been wanting to write about my raiding adventures for some time now, but I could never find the right format to do so. To be honest, I'm scared that I'll bore you to death with it. I'm targeting for a raiding news post (can be long, can be short) each one or two weeks on Thursdays, as that's when the locks have reset - so you'll know when to avoid this blog at all costs read up!

What you cannot expect:
Nice high quality screenshots of Tower of Orthanc. I have to put my graphics on medium in order not to lag in raids, so you end up with a quality such as of the picture above. If I'm doing something involving fog or waterfalls (Acid, Shadow, Saruman - sigh), I might even need to put my settings on (very) low. Also, perhaps contrary to expectations, I'm not the "Sorry to wipe your raid, but I got these amazing screenies!" type of girl. Much to the unconsious delight of my fellow raiders.

What you can expect:
Long, boring summaries of raiding events. Okay, I'll try to keep it to a limit. I am aware of my inability to write short, to-the-point posts, though. If I really get out of hand, feel free to let me know. That counts for any advice, actually: I'm always happy to hear what you'd like to see.

Three chicks awaiting a Saruman slaughter. 

This week's raiding news

This is good as any week to start off, and in fact, the past week was an insane raiding week for me. Just to be clear: I don't raid this much each week! Here we go:

Thursday - Acid T2
A great start of the raiding week by actually making Acid T2 for the first time. I was on rune-keeper, killing a troll with my boyfriend on champion. The other troll add was being done by another RL couple, also on rune-keeper and champion, which I thought was fun. We failed the challenge, though, because some people got caught in the acid shower (sigh), but I'm still feeling happy we made it. Such a difference from the end of March. It wasn't even that hard in the end. It was extra fun because we are the first of my server I know of who did it without stacking burglars (we only had one), although I guess that tells more about the size of my server.

Friday - Draigoch, Fire & Ice T2
First I brought my captain to a Draigoch run with friends, and she could get the last piece of her set, the head piece. Extra healing from Healing mark, hurray! In the evening I did Fire & Ice with my kinship, which was smooth as always.

Saturday - Lightning T2
I usually don't raid in the weekends, but this time my boyfriend and I promised to help out a befriended kinship. They have cleared all of the Tower of Orthanc on T1 but not anything on T2 yet. The first two trash pulls went remarkably well, but the third one was a horror. They had never come that far, though, so people were really fanatic and wanted to complete it. Two and a half hour later (it was getting 2am) we finally gave up and were going to take one last go. So we made some fun, popped some useless cooldown skills (racial skills, Dunland clicky + shout "For Honour, Duty and Love!") and ran in... and made it right away! It was brilliant, but sadly enough we found out that aggro swapping between warden and champion on the boss was not doable (there were no guardians available). I heard later that "For Honour, Duty and Love!" made it into the kinship message of the day.

Sunday - Shadow T2
We had some good tries on Shadow T2 challenge following a new strategy. We didn't make it yet, but the new strategy seems to work out well since DPS was very high. Even with my DPS'ing on rune-keeper. This was promising and much fun.

Monday - Nothing
Can you believe it? Nothing! We were supposed to go Saruman with the befriended kinship of Saturday, but the login server failures destroyed that idea. As my friend said: "Saruman gets to live one more day..."

Tuesday - Saruman T1
My boyfriend and I completed Saruman with the kinship of Saturday. I took my captain and it was great to have the deed done on her. I'll now really have to start thinking about which ToO and which Ettenmoors pieces I'm going to get on her (I'm aiming for three pieces of each).

Wednesday - Saruman T2/1
And we fought Saruman again! This time with my own kinship and I was on my own old lore-master. First some T2 tries in which we got further than ever, which was very cool. I love the coordination and concentration involved in this fight. I also love dazing stuff, so I'm totally at my spot here. The only downside is that my computer lags horribly whenever we get a frost environmental phase. When it became late, we completed T1 to get people sorted on alts.

Well, that certainly was a hell of a raiding week. It won't be that much each week, I promise! Hopefully I'll find some more time for non-raiding stuff and SWTOR the coming week.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

LOTRO: Riders of Rohan legendary edition

After yesterday's announcement of the Riders of Rohan pre-order launch, the LOTRO forums were overflowed with people who were... 'displeased' by the promised sixth bag only available through the legendary pack and the high price of this pack. I must admit it fed my... 'disappointment' towards the Store as well, as it all smells much like a "barter wallet déja-vu". Either way, it seems like Turbine has reacted on the reception of their offer by releasing information about the "pack-exclusive" items in the Store after all. The previous enigmatic "they may or they may not be available through the Store in the future" has been replaced by the statement that indeed nearly all items will be available through the Store in September:
  • Rohan Expansion Content (including the quests of the region): 4295 TP
  • Rohirrim Skinned Soldier on Landscape: 295 TP
  • 6th Inventory Bag (Account-wide): 995 TP
  • Crystal of Remembrance: 995 TP
  • The Outriders Token: 495 TP

To buy the legendary edition or not?

So the legendary edition is pretty expensive ($70), and many things can also be bought through the Store separately if you have the patience to wait until September. Is it still worth buying the legendary edition?

This is what the legendary edition seems to offer "exclusively" compared to the other pre-order editions:
  • Complete cosmetic Rohirrim armour set
  • This is nice, but I'm not overly enthusiastic on the looks of all pieces, so I think I can live without it (picture to the right). The more I look at it, the more it reminds me of the teenage ninja turtles. I got the previous cosmetic set when I pre-ordered the Rise of Isengard expansion (picture on top of this article), but I don't really wear that set much at all anymore. This is typically a thing that's a cool present, but the shinyness wears off with time.
  • 6th Bag
  • If you buy the legendary edition you get it right away, but you can also buy it from the Store in September for 995 TP (account-wide).
  • Crystal of Remembrance
  • Adds one extra major legacy to your weapon. How do you mean, Pay to Win? Sigh. This is a nice extra thing, but it's not like "I really need this, lets spend $70 on it!" I'm actually pretty much settled on the amount of majors on my legendary items. If you wait until September, you will be able to buy it from the Store for 995 TP. Not that I'm going to do that.
  • Exclusive Rohan Content
  • It isn't explained exactly what this means, but I've heard of two things:
    1. Horse session play, an introduction to mounted combat. There are apparently some horse session teaser quests that can only be played if you get the legendary edition. It is a chain that grants you a deed if you complete it. The quests have a cooldown of one day and the deed apparently asks you to complete 60.
    2. Favour of the Mearas horse skill, whatever it may do. I also remember reading something about having 3 horse "traits" available instead of the usual 2, so "horse skill" might be the same as the mentioned "horse trait". We don't really know how important these traits/skills are and what they really do. I think I'm probably able to live without it, as content has proven not to be particularly hard and I'm not feeling any urge yet to grind out stuff for my mount and make it perfect.
I've established that I personally can live without the cosmetic armour, crystal and bag - if I won't buy the legendary edition, I'll buy the bag for TP in September. The big question mark is the last point, the "exclusive Rohan content". It's not really clear what this content exactly is, nor how important it is overall.

Now if I'd have a big RL wallet, I wouldn't hesitate and buy the legendary edition to just get everything and be rid of all the decisions. However, I do not have a big wallet. I'll spend some time thinking about it and hope that more information about the "exclusive content" and the Riders of Rohan expansion itself will be released.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

LOTRO: Pre-ordering Riders of Rohan

Today the pre-ordering of Riders of Rohan started. I already saw someone on a pre-ordered steed when I briefly logged in this morning! We have until September 5th to get it and show off our beautiful horses (everyone who pre-orders gets one, regardless of the version you pick). In the meanwhile, we can drool at a video that certainly does get me excited:

As always, A Casual Stroll to Mordor posted an excellent article presenting the content and the different pre-order options. I won't talk much more about that, as it's as complete as it can be, but invite you to read it here: Riders of Rohan Pre-Order Options Announced.

Initial thoughts

Mounted combat
I have no idea what this is going to be like, and I think I'll keep away from reading spoilers or whispers on this subject. I like a good surprise now and then. I do think it looks pretty nice and "real" in the trailer and it's very cool lore-wise. The question is if it will really be so much fun to play. When you play your normal character on the floor you have many skills to choose from: all classes are developed to suit a reasonably complicated gameplay. What skills will you have when you are riding a horse? I doubt if it will be as many and diverse as when playing your normal character. Sure, you can increase the abilities of your mount and such (I sense another grind), but I cannot help but make comparisons with skirmishes being released. Back then, skirmishes were announced as "revolutionary" and "each skirmish is different and gives a whole new experience!". I think most people think that skirmishes are actually much alike and are therefore wary when thinking of mounted combat. Nevertheless, mounted combat makes me very curious and I'm looking forward to see what it's going to be like. We don't know how it's going to work yet, but it's potentially something really cool.
Nearly 3x Moria
Apparently, the landscape is going to be almost three times the size of Moria. A new (or, renewed) direction if we look at the previous level cap-raising expansions. Mirkwood (cap raise from level 60 to 65) was miniscule, which was also the most-heard complaint about it (apart from people disliking the dark and depressing). Moria was brilliant, but there wasn't much development afterwards apart from Lothlórien, and people were expecting something more grand. The recent Rise of Isengard expansion (cap raise from 65 to 75) was of course a major change in gameplay, apart from the cap raise also because of the de facto removal of stat caps ("SoA-style"). The expansion was enthusiastically announced with "it has three maps!", but the actual area covered by those map wasn't that large at all, and players see through that. It looks like they got the message now and have developed a large area to explore. I hope it will be as well-designed and interesting as Moria. This certainly is exciting!

Level cap raised to 85
It always feels good to be able to level, but I actually have mixed feelings about this. I barely have brought my three raiding characters to the current level cap and am still gearing them up. I see around me that most people with a life outside LotRO lacking a leveling fetish often only have one or two characters at level cap as it is. Also, Rise of Isengard end-game content is challenging enough to keep me busy. No one has completed the whole of the Tower of Orthanc on T2 on my server and time is running out. I hope we don't end up in the same situation as during Ost Dunhoth, when only one kinship of my server was completing the total of the raid on T2 on a regular basis. I was very happy to be in that kin and was there when we took down Gortheron T2 challenge mode. It was a great experience and a dear memory, but I'd rather have that everyone would've had the time to enjoy the feeling of having a raid under control. Perhaps I'm getting a bit off-topic now and it's more about end-game (T2) difficulty being raised compared to pre-Ost Dunhoth. Anyway, I'm sure the quest lovers among us will enjoy the coming ten levels.

There's another reason I get excited by this announcement, and that is for purely selfish lore reasons. Rohan has always been one of my favorite parts of the Lord of the Rings saga. In game I've build my captain (featured in the pictures of this article) around a Rohirrim background: as daughter of a stable-master in Edoras she saw the Mearas and the heroes of her people herself and dreamed of becoming a horse rider. Stubborn as she was, she rode northwards to prove herself as a captain. Since she first explored the neighbourhood of Archet, her biography reads "She hopes to someday return to Rohan" and it seems her hopes are coming true. Meeting with the Rohirrim at the Gap of Rohan and in the Great River area was already cool, but the prospect of actually going deep into Rohan is really exciting.


I'm not sure which version I'll pick myself yet. The only version that gives you the sixth bag (the thing that all die-hard LotRO players will be going for) is the so called "Legendary Edition", but 70 dollars is pretty expensive and I don't have that money at the ready. Sly as always, Turbine doesn't say anything about if this bag will be available through the Store in the future. One thing is certain: if it is going to be in the Store, it will not be before September. I personally feel that the sixth bag is something that should've been offered to everyone at this point in the game, or at least should not have been there on the most expensive version only: there's been so many expansions and armour sets that everyone has been collecting. I'm hardly surprised by the situation, though, as the barter wallet debate is still fresh in my mind. I'll think a bit longer until I know which version to go for, but if you want to go ahead, this is where you can get it:

The website also contains some nice pictures and wallpapers. Enjoy!

Monday, 4 June 2012

LOTRO: Locked inside a virtual world

The picture at the bottom of this article might not be the typical nice Rav picture you're used to. But then again, I usually don't work on my pictures when I'm on the Windows side of my computer (I do everything apart from gaming on my Mac), and I only had Paint at my disposal here. I had never used Paint before, what a horrible program that is! I want my GIMP back. Okay, log over to your Mac then, you say. But there's the point: I don't dare to log out of LotRO at the moment. 

On the picture below you see my captain Ravenwyn. She's alone, very alone. In my kin there's usually 10-20 people online at this time of the evening, but now there's just three. All thanks to the login servers being down at prime time. The whole server feels dead. I had planned on helping some friends in Tower of Orthanc tonight, as they were in desperate need of a captain, but only a handful people managed to log in. The raid leaders also couldn't log in, so we had to call it off. Soon after I was invited by a friend to another raid. They had started before the login servers went down, but lost two people that crashed and couldn't get back in. Sadly it turned out I couldn't help them, as I had inherited an acid lock from someone the other day. So I spent the evening as I imagine most people did: waiting on each other, half of the people being locked outside of the game, the other half "locked in" because they didn't dare to log out.

Login server problems have been haunting LotRO the whole day. First time was this noon. I logged on to craft some stuff and was alerted by some friends not to log off. As soon as you quit the game or logged off to log another character, you wouldn't be able to get back in. 

Problems like this are luckily not something usual for LotRO. I imagine any sort of end-game becoming impossible and people getting really annoyed if that would have been the case. I'm sure they'll fix this, but it's just been a funny night. Turbine currently says the usual thing that they "know of the problem and are working on it", but nothing about what really is going on. I just hope they fix this soon.

Update: the servers got back online again at 11 pm, after being offline for over two hours. I did some Isengard three-mans on my captain to make up for the boring waiting. Only one more to go now to complete that quest!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

NBI: In the head of a newbie

Last time you saw me thinking about other blogs, but this time it's the turn of my own little blog. Yup, I am aware that the NBI is over, but I felt I wanted to give a short summary of what the month May was all about. Or wait, skip the 'short' part, it's not exactly one of my strong points... Anyway. A lot of different people participated in the NBI, ranging from oldschool dinosaurs to freshly hatched butterflies. I thought it might be interesting to tell what all the fuss was like for a newbie like me.

What I first thought blogging was:

Blogging? That's like people who post random stuff on the internet that nobody reads.  Mostly about baby pictures/raising a family, RL fashion or house decorations. Boring stuff.

Yes, that's really what I thought blogging was all about. So what happened? I was just innocently browsing the official lotro forums, especially the lore-master section, when I saw a link in someone's signature that I'd seen several times before. I'm a curious girl and I had seen this person posting pretty sane things on the forums, so I checked it out. It brought me to Lothirieth's Wandering through Middle-earth blog and this was an eye-opener for me. It was fun to read: all personal stories about what happens to a girl like me playing Lord of the Rings, and it suddenly struck me. I could do this too!

What I then thought blogging was:

Lothirieth's blog got me so enthusiastic that I started my own. I scrolled through my LotRO screenshots, noticed there were an awful lot of them, and started setting up my layout. It was all pretty exciting, but also a bit scary. So I was pretty terrified when I showed my blog to someone else for the first time, and the victim was my good friend Wynnie. This is point where she could've laughed out loudly at me and y'all would've been spared a lot of reading terror. Instead, she said it was fun, and she started her own blog, Wynniekin's Adventures, so we could keep track of each others adventures (as we're not in the same kinship anymore). Still, at this point I believed that blogging meant this:

You write some articles you like, and if someone likes them, they'll click the "follow" button. In exchange, you follow blogs you like yourself.

That's all there is to it, right? I continued some weeks, looking for blogs with the same interests as I. Blogger doesn't have a good search engine within itself, though (or at least, I haven't been able to find it), so I kept ending up at Star Wars or Tolkien related blogs - fun blogs, and I still follow some of them, but not writing about online gaming at all. And then the NBI stormed in...

What I now think blogging is:

Suddenly, I found there were way more bloggers out there that wrote exactly about what interested me. I had just been unable to find them so far. Also, there were apparently loads of ways to read, address and appreciate blogs, such as RSS feeds, guest posts, reblogging... It wasn't easy to get a grip of everything. For instance: I spent two weeks getting my RSS feed to work. *traumatized* Everyone was really helpful, though, which was great! I also gave each blog that interested me a place in the MMO blogroll in the sidebar to the right and am following these actively. Apart from the newbie blogs that I mentioned yesterday, I also found several great sponsor blogs that I started following (yup, I'm a real stalker now), of which Rowan's I Have Touched the Sky and Xhii's Roll one hundred are my favorite. And that is what the NBI mostly meant for me: discovering that there are loads of blogs out there, that formed some kind of community.

I found out that 111 newbies is a bit too much to keep track of. Matticus suggested in Syp's wrapup thread to make a list with a better overview, sorted by game. I tried doing this, but soon found that this is a lot more complicated than it sounds. Many blogs don't focus on a single game, but write about several, like I do myself. While it is in my case pretty obvious about which games I write (at least, I hope the buttons and tabs give a clear idea), it is often not for others. On top of that, many people are of the 'gaming butterfly' type. They're not loyal to one or two games, but hop from game to game. Blogs are amazingly diverse, and it's damn hard to label them. Nevertheless, I gave it a try for the two MMO's that I play: LotRO and SWTOR. I should've done this ages ago, as I found out there are some I've missed! I searched through all 111 and selected these on the criteria that they have active and a reasonable amount of content on the subject. Make sure to check them out if you like these games yourself.

Newbie blogs in 2012 sorted by game

The Adventures of Danania, Supergirl of Lorien
Beyond Reproach
Brazokie's Blog Space 
Glimpses from Middle-earth
The Horn & Ivory Gates
Landroval Style
Lotro Cinna
Lotro Family of Flosin Nightsong
Middle-earth Initiative
MMO Juggler
Newbie Hobbit
Real Adventures In Fake Worlds
Windy Acres Ranch
Wynnie goes Free to Play
Wynniekins' Adventures

The Altoholic
Conveniently placed exhaust port
SWTOR from scratch.

I sense a distinct lack of SWTOR blogs. If you're looking for a target niche, this might be the place to start!

Finally, I'd ask you to check out the Gaming Blog Nexus (and especially so if you write a MMO blog yourself): a congregation of NBI blogs. You can easily sign up by sending an e-mail to Roger and get added to the feed.

A final farewell the NBI that is, not to this blog! Many bloggers wrote posts featuring blogs they liked to celebrate the fruits of the NBI. I was really surprised when I found that people had been featuring Ravalation as well. I'm probably breaking some sort of unwritten blogger rule of humbleness here, but whatever. This is what some of them wrote:

Real Adventures in Fake Worlds: "Currently covering Lotro, Swtor, and Mass Effect, which are wonderful choices, this blog is full of beautiful screenshots and entertaining commentary. Her appreciation of these games really comes through in her writing."

Shards of Imagination: "If I had to describe Ravalation in a few words it would be “a feast to the eyes”. Not only her posts are filled with beautiful screenshots (some times with her own drawings too!) but it is all accompanied with very interesting text too. It is like a combo of pure bliss! Right now Ravanel is writing about Lord of the Rings Online, Mass Effect and Star Wars: The Old Republic. I highly recommend her blog to anyone interested in any of those games."

I also got selected for Syp's NBI Awards in the category "Best newish blogger", which was sweet. There's no way I'm going to win that over those librarians, but feel free to vote if you like this blog.

I even got mentioned in I Rez Therefore I Am in Awesome Lookin' New Blogs: "Ravalation has a beautiful masthead image that sets the tone, a great menu bar that runs thru that image and lets me select a particular virtual world if I like, and then scrolls down thru a series of nicely laid out and illustrated posts. All that and a great content-filled sidebar including a “Wordle of the week!”

All these nice words just made me blush so much. Every blogger that I've met has been very helpful and nice. The NBI might be over, but this blog isn't yet. I got to know some very great blogs and people. Thanks for all your support, it encouraged me and I'm certainly determined to keep writing!