Friday, September 28, 2007
When I solo in this game and fight "at level" mobs, I find myself finishing off their last bit of life in melee. Hunters in LotRO wear medium armor and have some decent attacks. Pluck isn't super squishy, but he can't go toe to toe with multiple bad guys for too long. My favorite melee attack animation is where Pluck slashes his opponent with an arrow and then shoots them with it.
My main in World of Warcraft was a hunter. I miss my kitty cat pet from that game. Hunter's in WOW are ideal for solo players. The pet tanks while you shoot from a distance. If the pet dies or you get aggro, just Feign Death to shed aggro. Unless I group up in a fellowship, Pluck doesn't have a meat shield protecting him. Instead, I have to plan out fights more carefully. For example, hunters in LotRO can stand still before a battle to gain focus, which lets me use more powerful attacks. (I assume Pluck will gain more skills that require Focus at higher levels.) If he moves after gaining focus, he loses it. I need to start the battle in the right location and know when and where to lay a trap if I'm facing a group of monsters.
I have mixed feelings about no ammo in LotRO. On one hand the game is simplified because I don't have to waste bag space or remember to restock before leaving town. Less time spent micro-managing my inventory means more time adventuring and exploring. On the other hand the game feels less realistic, and finding better quality ammo was fun (in the achiever's sense of the word).
I've been in fellowships about a third of my time in game, which is the perfect percentage for me. I ran one instance with two other hunters and a burglar. The poor burglar didn't have much to do. The PUG had obviously played MMOs before. We stayed close together and focused our artillery to drop mobs fast. The typical skills for playing a ranged DPS class in a group apply to LotRO as well. For example, pulling, trapping, avoiding cc'd mobs, and managing aggro. Overall I find group play in LotRO fun.
My plan is to play Pluck up to level 15, and then roll a minstrel. For the Horde! Er... I mean... for the Shire!
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Since I'd updated my drivers twice (once from Windows, then from nVidida) the driver rollback option was out. Instead, I found an install file for the original video drivers I had on the computer. After uninstalling the new and reinstalling the old, I am back in Lord of the Rings Online. I won't pretend to be technical enough to understand why, but my FPS actually increased by five over what it was originally. /shrug
P.S. Check out Random Ogre Thoughts. Good rants on a variety of MMO related topics. His post on Quality struck a chord with me. Another post to read is his What Do I Want in a MMO? He commented with the idea of rolling back my drivers, which put me on the path that led to the solution. So thanks!
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
I won't bore you with the details about my troubles activating the new version of MS Money on my Vista box. Or rant about how Microsoft removed and changed the features I depended upon. I've been using the same version of Money for about seven years...yes, it's a case of teaching old dogs new tricks.
But my troubles with MS Money are just annoyances. Little nothings that a couple hours of hardwork didn't fix up. My chief worry is Lord of the Rings Online.
I posted before about having to fiddle with the graphic settings to get a compromise between performance and and appearance. I tested my frames per second (FPS) with FRAPS and I was seeing 25 FPS in the wilds but less in the bigger towns. Not smooth, some stuttering... but acceptable.
The new PC easily beats the recommended system requirements except for the video card (but still above the required level). I want to upgrade to a better card so I can play LotRO with the graphic options cranked up on high. The game is gorgeous with high quality graphics. So I've been researching what card would give me the best bang for my buck in the $150 - $200 price range. Keep in mind this is just me dreaming... I can wait a few months. Or so I thought.
Last night I ran the Windows Update. No critical updates. Whew. Oh, but look, updates to my video card drivers. Sure, why not? I thought in my naivety that with updated drivers I might squeeze a couple more FPS out of the game. Hah. My FPS plummeted to about 8 and textures weren't rendering. The game went all Matrix on me with weird white images and black terrain with shifting color patterns. Very trippy.
I tried a few other 3D games and they looked and ran fine. FPS was 30+. WTF, Turbine.
Panic ensues. Stupid me. Lesson learned. Don't get my hardware drivers from Microsoft. Go to the hardware company's site to get my drivers. I jumped over to nVidia's site and installed the latest drivers for my card. The game doesn't have that weird hallucinogen look but I'm stuck at 15 FPS. And that's after ratcheting down the quality settings.
I want to play this game, but I can't at 15 FPS. I'll look for a solution tonight. I hope there is one besides upgrading my video card. We just had our house painted, so I'm tapped and I avoid buying with credit cards. No way I can justify buying on credit for a game. I'd hate to shelf LotRO, but I may have to do that until I can save for an upgrade.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Yes, old news to every other gamer on the intrawebs. I'm showing up way late for this party, but LotRO is what I'm playing so LotRO is what I'm blogging.
When it comes to the number of quests available to the player at once, RPGs range from one quest to many quests. Diablo 2 was linear. You had one quest followed by another and another and another (except for a couple minor side quests). World of Warcraft's quest log started at 20 and expanded to 25 in the Burning Crusade. LotRO ups the ante to 40. What's next?
The advantage of one quest at a time is that your character IS at the center of a world-changing story. No collecting bits of woodland creatures to make Farmer Bob's stew. But I find those "big story" games too restrictive. I felt boxed in when I played Titan Quest. Like I was being led around. I want to explore a world and select from many available quests. I want to make the choices for my character.
At the other end of the spectrum are games with almost too many quests. I'm overwhelmed by the number of quests Pluck has collected in the Shire in such a short time. A 40 quest limit strikes me as exteme. I hit the quest limit in WOW a few times, but only because I hadn't cleared out the old gray stuff. How am I going to manage 40 active quests? I'll have to hold planning sessions before I play LotRO.
Then it hit me... I don't need to fill my quest log. What I have is more freedom. I can take on as many or as few quests as I feel comfortable. Tonight I'm going to try something new. Instead of grabbing every quest possible, I will take two to four at a time and focus on completing them. Not very efficient, but a self-imposed slower pace is a good thing. I don't want to fall in to my old bad habits again.
The title of the post? I have a soft spot for LOLCATS. A guilty pleasure. Avril doesn't understand it. I'm a loser, baby.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Friday night I tucked the kids into bed and logged on for the first time. I created a hobbit hunter named Pluck on Landroval server. (Say 'hi' if you're in the Shire). Half way through the Intro newb zone, I was in a fellowship with some good people. I had three new friends on my list within one hour of starting a new game. That was a first for me. We completed the final instance and chatted for a bit in the Shire. Pluck collected a few quests and started exploring. Not to sound like a rube, but I was actually smiling while I was playing.
LotRO's graphics are simply beautiful, but I see what people meant when they wrote about the choppiness. The game looks freaking amazing if I have the quality cranked up... and stand in an out of the way place and don't move. Sigh. Add a bigger, better graphics card to my wish list. I spent a good 15 minutes playing with the advanced settings before I found a good compromise between appearance and performance.
So how long will that smile on my face last? One month, three months, nine months? I don't know. I don't care. I'm having fun now.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
When I walked in the door, there was a box from Amazon.com on the table. The game was delivered eight days early.
Original plan was a few more LotRO prep posts. Meh. Close enough.
Plan B instead...
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
When I was a youngster I roleplayed in a few different gaming groups. One D&D group was heavy on the roleplaying, another D&D group was mixed light roleplaying and hack-n-slash, and the Car Wars group was all about the game mechanics and blowing up stuff. My characters ranged from pious clerics to drunken hooligans.
More recently I played Neverwinter Nights. I loved the community created mods. I joined a few RP groups online, but had a mixed bag kind of experience. Adventuring was fun, but the features to support roleplay felt clunky when compared to the flexibility of roleplaying in person.
I never roleplayed in World of Warcraft. Well. Not true. I'd drop into character for a moment or two. But more for a spot of humor than anything else. WOW doesn't feel like a RP game to me. Maybe if I ever went back, I'd give it shot for something different.
Since I'm not sure about roleplaying in LotRO, I'll put it on the back burner until I feel comfortable with the game. No point rushing it. RP will happen when it happens. I should, however, roll my toons on a RP server, so I can RP some time in the future.
According to the official LotRO Lorebook:
Although all servers are technically considered roleplay (RP) servers, Landroval has been long-considered as the "unofficial" roleplay server, so a larger proportion of actual roleplayers and even RP-oriented guilds can be found on Landroval.
So. There we have it. The only RP server. Simple decision then. I will create my characters on the Landroval server.
I hope the name "Harry Balz" is available. That was the name of my barbarian character when I was 14-years-old. Obviously joking.
Quick links to the LotRO prep series:
LotRO Prep - Intro
LotRO Prep - Race and Class Combos
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
My plan is to start with a class that is simple to play, so I can focus on learning the game controls and mechanics. Later I will start alts so I can experience each race's starting zone and try out different classes. Over time one of these characters will hook me (hopefully) and become my main.
If you've played LotRO before, I encourage you to comment with your advice on what you'd recommend as good race/class combos for me. I know first hand that how a company describes a class in their marketing materials can be radically different than how the class is implemented in the game.
[Sorry in advance if this post rambles...I went home sick, drank much cold medicine, and just woke up from a 3 hour nap.]
If this were any other RPG and I had the same choices for race, I would start a human or elf. But this is LotRO, so I'm starting a hobbit. Simple choice really. The Tookish side of me wants to explore the Shire and roam its borders.
I'm also interested in playing a dwarf. I love Tolkien's portrayal of Durin's folk in the Hobbit. They have a rich history of hardship, greed, and revenge. I'm curious how Turbine interpreted this in an MMO.
This is so unlike me. I don't play short races like halfings, gnomes, dwarves, kender, or whatever. But in LotRO my first two choices are hobbits and dwarves. Go figure.
My choices for race in order.
Over many years of playing RPGs I gravitate towards a few basic types of characters:
- Ranged DPS (Sorcerer in Diablo 2, Mage/Hunter in WOW)
- Healer (Cleric in D&D, Priest in WOW)
- Pets (Necromancer in Diablo 2, Hunter in WOW)
- Melee DPS Hybrid (Jedi Sentinel in KotOR, Fighter/Cleric Hybrid in Neverwinter Nights)
- Ranged DPS: Hunter
- Healer: Minstrel
- Pets: Loremaster
- Melee DPS Hybrid: Captain
- Hobbit - Hunter
- Dwarf - Minstel
- Elf - Loremaster
- Man - Captain
Quick links to the LotRO prep series:
LotRO Prep - Intro
LotRO Prep - Roleplay and Servers
Monday, September 17, 2007
And about the blog name... Big Daddy Gamer was not my first choice for the blog name. Or choices two through twelve. I toyed with the idea of starting a blog for a few months, but did zero planning. Then one day it just sort of happened, but I couldn't find a good name. I tried name after name and quickly became frustrated. It felt like naming a character in World of Warcraft. My vision for the blog was commentary about gaming from a personal point of view and finding a balance between games and life (especially being a dad with two kids).
For a while when my daughter was three, she called me "Big Daddy." I tried to convice Avril that she should call me that too, but she refused for some weird reason. I'd get a kick out of my wife calling me Big Daddy. Maybe I rolled low on my Persuasion skill check or maybe the DC was too high. I'm rambling.
Let's just leave it at this: I panicked and tried picking something related to the blog's theme and so here we are with Big Daddy Gamer.
Also, check out the podcast Shut Up! We're Talking #9. I listened to it for the first time this morning at work. Good stuff. Reminds me of NPR but all about MMOs and gaming.
Over the next week I'll explore several more prep related topics, including server selection, race/class combos, and to RP or not. If I didn't blog, I'd be scribbling notes on scrap paper as I try to sort through the random thoughts. Instead I'll drop them in this public space. I encourage anyone reading my blog who has played LotRO, to comment with advice or point me to online resources.
Here is a quick summary of what I've done to prepare for LotRO so far. You may notice two things: 1) Link is a Tolkien fan boy, 2) while Link wants you to believe he is organized, he really isn't, and 3) I'm a dork for referring to myself in the third person. Things I've done so far:
- Read the Hobbit and the Fellowship of the Rings. Again. I honestly cannot count the number of times I've read the Hobbit and the Rings since I was teen.
- Ordered the game from Amazon. I was picking up a wireless adapter this weekend and (some how) found myself in the software section. Looks like the local store has dropped their prices too. D'oh. At least I'll have the special edition, whatever that means.
- Set up a second gaming PC. Avril and her friends are busy in Second Life building what appears to be a mall next to a mansion next to a dance club next to an island paradise. Trying to share computer time would have put a strain on the marriage. Now we can both play on the same nights and both not play on the same nights. Wink, wink. Those of you have been married 10+ years like us know what that means. That's right... catch up on missed sleep. Zing.
- Upgraded the pipes connecting us to the Internet. Going from DSL to Verizon FiOS was like going from dial-up to DSL. Well worth the extra $10 a month.
- Set up my gaming area in the loft. This part I am not as thrilled about. The desk is not a computer desk, so the keyboard and mouse sit too high. The monitor (as I mentioned before) is old and small. The chair is hard wood, but I added a cushion so my butt no longer goes numb. However, I like being up in the loft. Avril is nearby over the ledge, so we can chat but have a degree of privacy. I tend to pick my nose a lot when I game... I kid, I kid.
LotRO Prep - Race and Class Combos
LotRO Prep - Roleplay and Servers
Sunday, September 16, 2007
What 3 MMORPG mistakes will you never make again? At first it seems like a simple game or perhaps an outlet for some creative thinking to create humor among those who understand commonalities in MMORPG’s. When you look deeper and really think for a moment you can actually discover that this question can cause you to think back and evaluate your play style, your experiences in MMORPG’s, and how much you have grown since you first began playing.
I posted a little mini-series on why I left World of Warcraft, so I can draw from those lessons learned.
What 3 MMO mistakes do I hope to avoid?
Focus on leveling fast. Towards the end of my time in WOW, I cared more about leveling as quickly and efficiently as possible instead of enjoying the content. I'm not talking about running an alt through Stranglethorn Vale for the seventh time. I was ignoring good content in new zones. People talk about how great the new Blood Elf and Dranei zones were... I wouldn't know... they were a blur to me. I hate to admit this but I had a detailed spreadsheet where I tracked my progress.
Try to be a raider. I don't have that kind of time, patience, or masochistic desire. Maybe skill too. Doesn't matter. I learned the hard way that raiding and me do not mix. A big, casual guild would be ideal for me. I love the small group stuff. I love difficult fights. I love joking around with friends. Not so much the killer attunements and mat farming and rep grinding and guild drama and waiting for the main tank to log in and...
Stick with doomed PUGs. I think of myself as a good guy. The kind of person that will stand by friends and family through all sorts of rough weather. But why do I put up with obnoxious, rude, and/or stupid strangers when running 5-man dungeons? My game time is limited. I need to balance being a good, helpful person with fulfilling my enjoyment needs. I should figure out guidelines for how to spot a doomed PUG and when to ditch it.
Friday, September 14, 2007
I am annoyed. Very. I downloaded once and installed. Tried to run. No dice. Checked firewall. Ran as administrator. Uninstalled. Installed again. No luck.
Ryzom has support info on their boards here that I hope will get me back in the game. UAC is good (I think) but so incredibly freaking annoying.
One more try to get Ryzom running on my Vista box. I'd like to be playing games now, not troubleshooting tech issues.
Update: The tech support article in their forums fixed my problem. I could log in and play Mumbles again. Note to self, check the support web site before installing software on Vista. Gawd, I love this high speed internet connection. Avril is playing online and I downloaded the game (again) in a fraction of the time.
I returned the Godfather to Gamefly earlier in the week, and I'm getting a kid game for my daughter next. Amazon says they'll deliver LotRO the week after next. This means a one to two week lull. What to do with myself in the meantime? I have a few options:
- Meditate nightly in preparation for my journeys in Middle Earth
- Play more of the Saga of Ryzom free trial, which I put on hold for the Godfather
- Check out my son's new Metroid Prime 3 game
- Hack and slash in Dungeon Runners (having some install issues on Vista... grr)
- Create an avatar in Second Life and go harass Avril
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Five to nine days from now I will have a shiny new LotRO DVD. Plus a little cash towards a pretty 22" widescreen LCD to replace my craptastic 15" CRT. Someday. If you'd like to make a non-tax deductive donation to the Upgrade Link's Monitor Fund, please email me ASAP. I kid, LOL. (Too many acronyms in that paragraph).
Somewhere I read about this sale but I can't remember where. I made a good faith effort to find the site, so I could link to it and give credit where it's due. But I failed. Forgive me.
P.S. I know there is a free trial available, but I'm fairly certain I'll play for more than 7 days and I don't feel like downloading three hundred thousand million gigabytes of data.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
1 part Pokemon
1 part Cthulhu
1 part joke RPG
My son received the Pokemon Junior Adventure RPG (or whatever it is called) as a birthday gift many years ago. We played it with some of his friends. Imagine DMing a weak Pokemon RPG for a handful of seven-year-olds. Amusing for an afternoon, then sent to the back of the shelf.
And then I find Pokethulu... which is based on that little RPG we played. While it's not appropriate for young kids, I laughed at its dark humor. It's worth a few minutes of your time.
A quote from the site:
Amid the sagging gables of old New England, evil lurks . . . and squirms, and scuttles, and purrs. Grownups are fleeing in terror, hiding behind the Elder Sign.
You're 10 years old. You're our last hope. Armed with a Shining Dodecahedron and the elder incantations to make it work, you capture the monsters and train them to use their power . . . But not for evil. For sport.
You've thrilled to the popular TV show. Now, you can play the game! Is your Shoplifting score good enough to sneak a page from your opponent's Pokenomicon? Is your trained Jigglypolyp powerful enough to defeat a devolved Fungal Cluster? This is the world of Pokéthulhu, and now it's yours to save – or conquer!
It gets darker and funnier in the PDF rules here. Check it out. Seriously. You're bored at work anyway.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Cool Nerd King. Really? Okay.
The math/science score surprised me. I've forgotten too much since my school days, which makes helping my son with his homework a re-learning experience. I assumed my score would be much lower. Meh.
The literature score is no surprise. I'm sure it would have been higher except the questions were slanted towards owning books instead of borrowing them from a library. Currently I am reading Fellowship of the Ring for the umpteenth time in prep for LotRO in a couple weeks.
The low awkward score again is no surprise. I joke with my wife that I am a closet geek, which she quickly counters that I'm just a regular, normal geek. Thanks, honey.
The good folks at Verizon should be (fingers crossed) at my place this Thursday to upgrade us to their fiber optimus prime Internet service and a wireless network. Meanwhile, I've been "banned" from the one computer in the house with connection to the intrawebs. Banned sounds harsh. More like Avril wants me to have the newer, nicer computer, which, coincidentally, has no Internet connection, thank you very much. Hohum.
Back on topic...
Fact 1: I have not played Dungeon Runners in a couple weeks.
Fact 2: I will not play Dungeon Runners in at least two more weeks.
Fact 3: While Dungeon Runners is interesting and fun, it ain't all that.
Conclusion: Suspend my Dungeon Runners account and save my $5 to spend on coffee now that Starbucks bumped up their prices.
When Avril was busy napping Saturday afternoon, I logged on and jumped over to NCSoft's account site to suspend Dungeon Runners. Or so I thought...
Instead, I downloaded and installed the long promised update for Dungeon Runners. Multiple characters. Member-only servers. PvP. Item linking. Something I want to check out. Guess how much time I spent in the game? If you guessed more than zero, you'd be wrong.
Hmmmm...maybe next weekend.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
How do I personally feel about beta testing games on my own time? Fuck it. Don't get me wrong, I love being a software tester. Sometimes I get that "stop talking now" look from Avril at dinner parties because I'll start ranting about defect management or the validity of simulated GPS.
If you enjoy playing the game in beta, good for you. Beta testing is important, and I am glad we have a big pool of people wanting to do it. Maybe it's become more of a marketing tool, but beta testing provides value and game quality none the less.
But I don't want to beta test. I want to read bloggers honest opinions of their experiences in beta. I want to play the game months after release. I want patches fixing the bugs and balance issues. I want server stability. I want to level in the newbie zone without lag caused by overpopulation. I just want to have fun.
I see three reasons for this beta aversion:
- Leaving work at work. I design and run tests for buggy, half-finished software all day. I log defects and verify defect fixes. When I see a bug in a game I'm playing, my mind switches to QA mode and my enjoyment fizzles.
- Limited game time. I have family obligations limiting when I can play and self-imposed guidelines on how often I will play. So when I get the time, I want to play (preferably something without technical problems).
- Patience. I don't mind waiting. Sure, I look forward to some games (see exception below) and keep an eye on their development. But I don't feel some burning desire to play the game ASAP. Avril can't understand why I'm waiting until October to start LotRO when we have a second computer already.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
When my son was in kindergarten, the Pokemon TCG was new and very popular. He watched the cartoons on TV and wanted some cards for his birthday. I bought him a starter deck and some booster packs. His friends gave him some pre-built decks and more booster packs.
We had many, many fun nights learning and playing the card game together. Not only was he improving his reading, math, and problem solving skills, but we were spending some quality father/son time together. I enjoyed playing the game and deck building too. It was my first exposure to a TCG. I have to admit I spent a few dollars more than I should have to expand his collection. We played the game for a couple years before he lost interest and moved on to other things.
Fast forward a few more years and now my daughter is starting kindergarten. A couple nights ago she asked me to teach her how to play her brother's Pokemon card game. He gave us permission to use his cards, so I rebuilt the starter decks as best as I could remember. Finding the cards was easy... I just looked for the oldest, most worn cards in his collection. Hello, Staryu. Welcome back, Machop. They've seen countless games, and now they will be played again.
My daughter is bright and had the basics of the game after a few rounds. She loves flipping coins and shuffling her deck. Amazingly enough she wins about 80% of the games. Huh. We play with the cards in our hands face up on the table. After she is more comfortable with the cards and rules, we'll play with our hands hidden and start introducing new cards.
She wants a deck with all cute pokemon. Um... okay. They're all cute compared to the zombies and goblins in the Magic TCG. At first I was thinking of building her a deck with Ponyta/Rapidash but a Jigglypuff/Bellosom deck may be better. Those fire pokemon are a tough looking bunch.
Hmmm... my son should be old enough for Magic now. Maybe I'll dig my collection out of storage this weekend.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
I played Godfather a couple nights this weekend and made capo in the Family. I have complete control over Hell's Kitchen, Little Italy, and Brooklyn, and I need to hit a compound to control all of Midtown. New Jersey is next on the list. My payday is a nice $60K a week after giving the Don his cut. I put the pile of cash from paydays and missions to good use upgrading my characters weapons and clothes. He's looking sharp in his black suit. I won't spoil the plot but I had fun RPing my character's revenge on a rival family after they wronged me. Bastards.
The new computer arrived Saturday and I set it up in the loft. No monitor or speakers came with it, so I hooked up a little, old CRT and a cheap pair of speakers. Hohum. The faster processor is nice, but I'd updgraded the hell out of the other PC. The specs aren't that much different... both have 2 GB RAM and beefy graphics cards. But the crappy monitor hurts. The quality and size of the monitor has a real impact on the experience. I'll have to save my nickels and pennies for a hot 22" widescreen flat panel.
The wireless network (or lack of one) is the issue I have to fix ASAP, or to be exact have the folks at Verizon fix for me. Currently we have Earthlink DSL plugged into the one computer, which worked great when I was the only online gamer in the house. I need to call Verizon in the next day or two and sign up for their FiOS service. They'll rewire the house with fiber optics and setup a wireless network. Even splitting the internet connection, Avril and I will have 2-3 times the speed. Beautiful. Eventually. Fingers crossed the FiOS install is quick and painless.