Tol Barad: the attackers’ lament

Let’s start with a few caveats. I’ve only done about 20 of these Tol Barad battles, and I’m no PvP expert; I’m barely even a PvP noob. On top of that, my situational awareness in visual effect-heavy PvP is diabolically bad — I’m working on that, but I’m easily visually overwhelmed.

All that being said, I’ve been reading up on Tol Barad and I’ve reached a few conclusions of my own. This post is partly to set out those conclusions for  review and partly to get feedback from the more experienced PvP types out there, because I really would like to work out if it’s possible to win Tol Barad through strategy, or if it mostly comes down to waiting for the defending team to be bad enough to permit a win.

For those unfamiliar with Tol Barad, this is a much better introduction than I could provide, though it may be a little dated. I gather there may be some TB changes in the works, but I haven’t actually done any research on that yet — so this post is based on the situation as I know it and as it seems to be right now. Listos version for those who don’t like links:

1. The zone is contested and never starts off neutral. The team currently in possession defends, and the opposing team attacks. Maximum team size is 80 (2 raid groups). I’m not sure what the minimum team size is currently because that’s been tweaked a bit since December, but I’ve never seen less than a mostly-full raid.

2. There are three capture points, arranged as the points of a triangle around a central non-contested location (Baradin Keep). The attackers have to hold all three at once to get a win. The defenders need to retain only one at the end of the countdown timers to win.

3. The initial battle timer is 15 minutes, but this can be extended in 5-minute batches by destroying 1-3 defending siege towers. The siege towers can be destroyed by using siege engines positioned at various points around the map, which have to be driven up to the towers. Those same siege engines can also be driven around the map for other purposes, though they can’t really do much other than be really bulky and have lots of hit points. Note that as far as I know, the siege towers serve no purpose whatsoever other than to give an extra 5 minutes when they’re destroyed. They don’t help the defense and they don’t hinder the offense.

4. The attackers always respawn near the capture point where they died, at one of the three triangle points. The defenders always respawn at Baradin Keep, right in the middle of the map and equidistant from all the capture points.

5. At the beginning of the battle, the attackers spawn on a bridge leading into the zone proper, which is a little to the left of the top point of the capture-point triangle — which means that that particular capture-point becomes the obvious first point of attack (and has been in every attacking battle I’ve been in so far).

So that’s the basic setup. From what I’ve seen, attacking strategy seems to be to grab the first point as fast as possible, which doesn’t usually take long, and then to always move clockwise around to the next capture point. Defenders are occasionally left at the first taken flag, but usually not enough to put up a creditable defense. Zerging is the most prevalent strategy on both sides, but it seems to work a lot better for the defenders than it does for the attackers.

My observations and possible strategy ideas are as follows. Please feel free to destroy them and improve on them, bearing in mind my opening caveats.

I. Fight at the flags. Flag/capture-point possession begins to shift as soon as there are opposing-team bodies around the flag. There’s no need to kill anyone or clear the area around the flag before possession can start changing (which if memory serves, was a requirement in Warhammer scenarios like Nordenwatch). If those defending a flag have 10 bodies there and you bring 30, and even if those 10 mount a heroic defense, possession will immediately begin to shift towards those with greater numbers.

The obvious conclusion here is that being near the flag is actually more important than killing the opposition, other than as a means to reduce the number of opposing bodies at the flag. The corollary to that is that fighting away from the flag is strategically unhelpful. And yes, luring people away from flags is a common tactic — from what I’ve seen of late, the Horde appear to understand this flag mechanic while the Alliance (my team) doesn’t.

II. Intelligence is crucial. In just about every battle I’ve been in, I’ve seen the Horde leave corpses at the capture points so they can keep an eye on what’s going on. I’m not sure we’re doing the same thing, and I’m starting to think we should be. Of course, being a corpse isn’t really that glamorous and the instant reflex is usually to respawn so you can rejoin the battle as fast as possible. I have a feeling it would also be useful to have scouts on the roads, but that might be a) dangerous for the scouts and b) spreading the team too thin. The attackers tend to get spread pretty thin around all three bases as it is.

III. Defend the captured points. Obvious as it is, this is the really hard part. The attackers have to keep moving because they have to take the other capture points. The defenders, in theory, could use about 80% of their forces to just zerg from one capture point to the next and make sure the attackers can never hold all three at once. This is pretty much what actually happens in the matches I’ve seen, both as an attacker and (less frequently!) as a defender.

The question here is, how many do you leave at a flag? Leaving a handful is pointless unless you can rapidly reinforce them, and “rapid” just doesn’t seem to be possible in TB. Comms aren’t easy, and most of the time nobody listens because 75% of what gets said in raid and general chat is either conflicting or just plain bad advice. Leaving 10-15 lets you defend a flag for a little while but generally doesn’t work when the opposing side brings 20-25. Leaving 20-25 of your own leaves you too short to effectively attack the other capture points, especially if they’re well-defended.

IV. Communications. I’m only including this because it should be, but I don’t see this being affectable. There are too many people shouting too many different things in chat, and the good comms gets drowned out by the crap. Good communications would be an invaluable tool for victory, but I just don’t see it happening.

V. Kill priorities. I have a feeling that if the attackers could decide on kill priorities they might have a better chance. Instead, battles tend to be incredibly chaotic — which of course is the nature of PvP. My own priorities as a hunter are to hunter’s mark any healers I can spot and then take out any of the softer targets I can see. I think I’m going to start sending my pet in to bug casting classes, especially healing casting classes (i.e. priests).

VI. Better use of AOE annoyances. This is almost certainly skewed by my many deaths, but it seems to me that the Horde knows how to use their ground-based AOEs to better effect than Alliance does. It took me several matches to realise I should be putting down traps ALL the time, because even if they’re only a minor annoyance, local skirmishes can actually hinge on such minor annoyances. I’m not sure what all the other classes can do but if the Horde can do it I’m pretty sure we have the means to as well.

VII. Go counter-clockwise — that’ll totally fox ‘em! Okay, I’m (mostly) joking on this one. But you never know. As it stands, everyone knows the general direction of battle is clockwise, and I’m not sure that’s really a strategy. I’ll grant that it’s a start — people need to have a basic idea of where they should be going, but that only seems to work for a few minutes. Once the capture points have changed hands a few times, the attacking forces are scattered between them, and the clock has counted down a few minutes, it all seems to devolve into even greater chaos. People will holler for reinforcements in chat for their own beleaguered area, and the match turns into instant-reaction rather than overall tactics. This probably goes back to Communications, and since I don’t think it’s possible to effectively communicate and have people actually listen, this may be insurmountable.

VIII. The towers are irrelevant — or are they? I welcome clarification on this point. Right now, as far as I can tell the towers do nothing for either side other than prolong the agony for the attackers. If that’s true, then there’s absolutely no need to pay any attention to them. From what I’ve seen, if the attackers can’t win in 15 minutes they won’t win in 30 — in fact, extra time seems to work entirely to the benefit of the defenders.

IX. If VIII is true, use the siege engines for other purposes and use them a lot. Those siege engines are slow, but they’re BIG and they have quite a lot of hit points. I noticed as a defender (only the attackers can use them) that they’re a real distraction when someone drives them right onto the flag and just bimbles around there, getting in the way, until the engine finally gets destroyed. Maybe I’m just easily visually distracted, but it seems to me that we could and should make use of those engines to add a bit of chaos and force the flag-stickers to move around. If nothing else, while the defenders are ganging up on me in a siege engine, my buddies have a chance to gang up on them.

That’s about it. I’ve noticed a few other things but they mostly pertain to my own character and how I still suck at PvP. For instance, Warden’s Vigil is a horrible place to fight at when you’re ranged. There are stairs with corners on the way up to the flag (outdoors but still), which impedes line-of-sight, and the damned flag itself impedes LOS — which means that I can see my opponent perfectly clearly, but I can’t bloody fire at them because of LOS issues. I need to figure out my own positioning up there so I can be more effective both as an attacker and as a defender. As a result, I’ve noticed that I’ve been avoiding Warden’s Vigil like the plague if I possibly can, which isn’t much help to my team if that’s where I should be.

Comments? (Helpful) suggestions? Observations of your own? I’d love to hear them. I’ve been enjoying Tol Barad for the last week or so that I’ve been playing it, but a string of defeats has left me frustrated and wondering if it’s even worth bothering with. If I can improve, if we as an attacking team can improve enough to have a chance of winning, that’s one thing. However, if it mostly comes down to waiting for the defenders to be crap — then I probably can’t be bothered to take part. That’s not fighting, that’s just gambling, and I don’t gamble.

Blogging: the Chinese whipsaw effect?

Sometimes I love the blogosphere: it binds us together, it enables us to share and circulate ideas, and it allows us to have far-reaching and far-branching debates about all manner of gaming things under the sun.

Sometimes I loathe the blogosphere, for exactly the same reasons.

So as I read the various posts and discussions spawned by Eric of Elder Game’s original post — including my own (Eric link at top, everyone else at the end of the post) — I end up wondering: do we actually read each other, or do we just use each other as opportunities to bang on our own drums, grind our own axes, and stand on our own soapboxes?

I’m bemused and almost irked enough by it to be doing one of these petty, self-justifying set-the-record-straight posts, which in itself irritates me even further. (Doesn’t help that I’ve only had one cup of coffee, come to think of it.*) On the bright side it’s the weekend and nobody reads blog posts over the weekend, so I can mutter quietly and mostly to myself in my corner.

Record–straightening #1. I never said classes were better than not-classes. I said Eric said skill-based is hard, and I agreed with him based on my personal gaming experience. Actually, I do believe I said once or twice that classless is very rewarding, but it’s a lot more work — granted that my only “development” experience of that is for tabletop games, but while I didn’t mess about with million-dollar budgets, I do have some idea of the relative amount of work-time required between managing a classless, skill-based campaign and managing the opposite.

(For those who like this kind of thing underpinned by “evidence,” the tabletop game I ran for the longest time — about 8 years — was Ars Magica, which is pretty much a skill-based game with incredibly messy and open-ended rules, at least the ruleset we used, which was mostly 3rd ed with a smattering of 2nd, 4th and house rules.)

Once again. In a purely theoretical sense I still don’t see what’s so contentious about “skill-based is harder to design and balance than class-based” — I really don’t. As an extremely general statement, it seems pretty straightforward to me. Given the perils of speaking for others at this stage, I won’t — but I certainly never said that just because something is more difficult to design, nobody should bother with it.

Record-straightening #2. I never made any comments about easy/hard and choice/not-choice. Other people’s drums. Sure, I have stuff to say about those things, but I didn’t say them in that post.

I’m still boggling at how this has, once again, become a debate about easy-mode versus iron-man Mr. Real Player, even in terms of development. If you like structure, you’re a sheeple. If you like to be able to screw up your character without hope of recovery, you’re a brave pioneer forging ahead into the wilds of game adventure.

Yeah, whatever.

Yes, I’m paraphrasing rather inaccurately. I felt it was my turn.

I’m definitely starting to think it would be useful for the gaming community as a whole to lose the “if it made me want to chew my arms off, it was BETTER” elitist attitude we’re dragging around with us whether we notice it or not. There are arguments to be made for both simplicity and complexity and they’re a great deal more, um, complicated than simply saying one is better than the other, which is a pretty meaningless assertion without context, actually.

I’m done griping now. Move along. Nothing to see here, classy or otherwise.

~

* Please. No advice on how I should quit drinking so much coffee if it makes me that grumpy. Can’t a person even use hyperbole on her site anymore without being adviced-at? I’m really just grumpy by nature and coffee has nothing to do with it. Now get off my damn lawn!

Cheeseburgers have cheese in them

Here’s something I’ve never understood about the internet opinionating. It used to happen on the old mailing lists and bulletin boards, it used to happen on forums, now it happens on blog and article comments. Person A writes “ABCDE”, very reasonable and pretty straightforward stuff, and person B lets off with a diatribe out of nowhere.

Here’s an example. Call me a literary critic (since I’m trained to be one), but I think Syp hits the parental nail on the gaming head. It’s rather poetic and it’s incredibly sincere, and for my money you can’t ask for much more in a blog post. Course, I don’t expect every single “gaming journalism” blog post I read to be a review of GT4 or SuperMario In Your Pants, The Sequel.

And here’s the rather mystifying “omg you left hair in the sink, I’m moving back to my mother’s!” comment. Um, what?

It’s not, mind you, that I have anything against readers being fickle bastards and altering what they like from week to week. I’m exactly like that myself.  I just don’t understand the causality in this case, even though I’ve seen it happen a million times over the years.

Person A: “Cheeseburgers have cheese in them.”

Person B: “OMG you are SO full of cheese! I can’t believe I ever read anything you wrote! How can you claim to be a legitimate emailer / poster / blogger / journalist / carbon-based lifeform?! I’m off to a blog about real Limburger!”

/blink

It’s happened to me a few times on MMORPG.com lately, too, though to be bluntly honest I try not to read the comments over there, or at least only through slitted, somewhat glazed, unjudgemental eyes. But okay, I do read them. And occasionally I’ll get an “OMG you’re full of shit! This is SO inaccurate! You are a tool of the MMOlitary RPGdustrial combine! You call this game journalism?!”

Actually, no. That’s why this blog’s subtitle is MMO musings and commentary and that’s why the MMORPG gig is marked as perspectives. Pure opinion. No facts implied or advertised. Bias inherent and admitted. What’s so difficult to grasp about that?

I should know better, but I still boggle at the gap between what we write and what people read.* God knows that’s caused a lot of online drama over the years, especially if you count game chat as a medium. There’s already a gap between what you think and what you say, and then between what you say and what people hear, simply in normal conversation — but add non-physicality and a wholly typed medium and you’ve got a recipe for misunderstanding that makes me wonder how we manage to communicate online at all.

Even so… even knowing that what one says and what is understood are never quite going to match up, I still have to wonder at the strange gap between “Cheeseburgers have cheese in them” and “That’s it, I’m outta here.”

Yay for freedom of speech and blog-reading choices!

~

* Or indeed between what person A says or does and what person B hears or expects. There’s a reason two of the most-used tags on this blog are “design” and  “expectations”. Maybe I should move on to marriage advice too. (And the first person who calls me Dr. Ysh will have a contract taken out on them. Just sayin’.)

Frustrating /= hardcore. Hardcore /= more worthy.

Poll? What Poll? Oh all right, that Poll where I promised enlightenment in a day or two. Well, you should be happy I didn’t just promise enlightenment, take your money and deliver bubkes — I see adverts for that all the time on TV. You may be unenlightened, but at least you’re not broke.

Where was I?

Ah yes, the playstyle poll. I had a sudden thought, a couple of weeks ago, that it’s not really the games we play that are hardcore or not — we are. Because as far as I can tell, “hardcore” for a game tends to mean “has a crap interface, lots of bugs, and systems that aren’t that well designed”. That’s not hardcore — that’s just low quality.

But death penalties! Item wear! Not getting your first pair of shoes till you’re level 20 and having to go see the quest givers uphill in the snow both ways, twice a day! That’s hardcore! Eh… I suppose. Here’s my contention though: it’s not just how the systems are designed, it’s how the players approach the systems. And I’m far more interested in how we categorise ourselves than in how we categorise the games, because at the end of the day it’s our personal playstyle that determines whether we stick with a game or not. An MMO can be cocaine-in-a-can without the unfortunate addictive side effects, but it won’t do it any good if it doesn’t gel with the players’ playstyles.

So it seems fully 3 1/3 out of every 10 people I know are hardcore; I’d like to know which third, but we may not be that well acquainted. To me, hardcore means that someone is willing to put up with an entirely unreasonable amount of frustration thrown at them by a game, for whatever the reward may be. Hardcore means someone who not only accepts crap interfaces, lots of bugs, and badly-designed systems, but rather revels in them because it paints them as more dedicated than everyone else. Hardcore means…

Yes, all right, I’m being unfair. That’s actually Elitist Hardcore, a player type for which I have very little time because I outgrew that kind of Alpha dog posturing years ago and I really don’t need to see who can pee further to determine who is more important in the greater scheme of things. To be equitable, however, I also don’t much like the Whiny Casual type — you know, the people who loudly demand every damn thing that’s available in a game without their even having to log on. At least show up for class, you lazy bastards!

We’re actually all hardcore to some extent or another — we’re just not all hardcore about the same things. I was quite willing to log on at stupidly antisocial hours and spend more stupidly antisocial hours looking for that lovely-jubbly cat I got last week; to me, that’s hardcore, because I’m willing to change my real life schedule around in order to obtain a bunch of pixels in a game. (By that definition, incidentally, the young would tend to be far more hardcore, because they have more time available and can give a game a far higher priority than we ageing responsible types can.) I’m not hardcore about getting items, doing dungeons, or doing that raiding thing, for a number of reasons we don’t need to get into right now — point is, I’m not willing to prioritise those things ahead of other pursuits, so that makes me not-hardcore in that domain. I can harvest nodes allllll day — that’s hardcore harvesting right there, and most of the time I’m pretty hardcore on crafting too. Being the first to discover new content? Meh, not so much; not hardcore.

Death penalties and item wear and all those so-called “hardcore” game mechanics, they’re not hardcore; not inherently, anyway. I don’t consider myself hardcore and I never had any problems with Asheron’s Call’s death penalty system, which included xp penalties and corpse runs. (Okay, at 2 in the morning on a school night I did kind of have problems with them, but anyone with an actual life would.) Neither did I mind EQ2’s death penalty system, back when it actually had one. What I do mind are systems that penalise me either randomly (BLAM! You’re dead, hahaha isn’t that funny? — and fortunately I can’t actually name any games that do that right now) — or that penalise me excessively for hitting the wrong key. If I hit 0 and I should have hit 9 in the course of a normal fight, and suddenly I find myself at the lifestone with a 3 hour corpse run, that’s excessive.

Systems that are designed to add an element of caution and the idea of nothing being permanent or free (e.g. item decay) aren’t hardcore in and of themselves. When they’re well done, they add depth and a level of immersion that is entirely lacking in games that don’t use them. Actions having consequences is a good thing, even in MMOs. I expect a little extra work when I die; I expect my gear to slowly degrade over time (even though these days, the primary purpose of item decay is as a money sink and not as an immersion-booster). When they’re badly done, however, they’re just a pain in the ass. When they’re done as a way for the designers to say “Nyah nyah, we’re so much more hardcore than you, you noob!”, they’re a gigantic pain in the ass. Yes, I’m exaggerating and no, I don’t think devs sit in their cubicles being all Dr. Evil all day, but there are hardcore devs just as there are hardcore players — just sayin’.

It’s all about the proportions. Penalties in moderation I’m fine with — they actually enhance my gaming experience, when they’re done right. Outrageous penalties, or penalties that get applied because I inhaled when I should have exhaled — I’m not hardcore enough for that. I’ve never liked arbitrary effects, in real life or in games, and when they’re designed into games I’ll usually just get up and walk out, because they’re not arbitrary, they’re designed to frustrate me, and that’s not something I’m willing to pay money for.

Just to get the odd comment kicked off, here’s a very biased summary list. (They can also stand in for actual comments. No posting on my part means a sharp drop in the amount of commenting, and that’s something I miss more than I realised I would!)

1. If you’re not hardcore, it means you want everything for nothing.

2. If you’re hardcore, it means you EARN what you’ve got — by extension, if you’re not hardcore, you’re a scabbing moocher and just got lucky.

3. If you’re hardcore, it means you live in your mom’s basement, that she dresses you funny, and that you still don’t believe women — sorry, chicks — actually play games.

4. If you’re (elitist) hardcore, you’re somehow better than everyone else because you’re willing to put up with a sadistic amount of frustration without exercising your human right to free choice and walking away — that’s kind of like enjoying hazing. Basically, it’s putting up with bullying and saying thank you sir may I have another! But hey, YMMV.

There’s a very big difference between putting in a reasonable amount of time for a reasonable reward, and putting in a stupid amount of time for that same reward. In that sense I overdo things when I harvest all day in games. In that sense, some raid encounters that are designed to be as punishing as possible are just stupid. Ironically, it’s possible Blizzard are starting to understand this; from what I’m hearing and reading about Cataclysm dungeons, you have to actually pay attention to what you’re doing, but if you do, it’s very much more rewarding than it used to be. Good.

Why I blog (and other things)

Actually, it’s why Harbinger Zero blogs, but he may as well have been channeling me — and a number of other bloggers I know — when he wrote it. Here’s a snippet; clicky the linky if you want to read the rest.

HZero is a blogging site dedicated to bringing you insights into the world of MMORPG’s from someone who has been playing them for a long time now.   Sometimes those insights are my own, sometimes they belong to another.  Most of the time, its a blending of those two things.

HZero is a site dedicated to bringing you my opinion.  Not yours.  You are welcome to post up with an agree or disagree and why.

Apart from the fact that I have zero interest in doing interviews (sorry!), Mr H-Z pretty much took those words right out of my mouth.

I’ve only been blogging a couple of years, which isn’t much in real time but is probably a geological epoch in Internet years. I started blogging because… well, because a bunch of people in Casualties of War were blogging and I didn’t want to stand out from the crowd; also, it seemed like fun, I’d had a bloglike (like a roguelike only more bloggish) over at LiveJournal for a while, it seemed like fun, and I like to write. I’ve got opinions and I don’t mind sharing them and I really don’t give a shit whether people think they’re worth sharing or not — which is the beauty of this newfangled intarwebs. I can post what I please, how I please, at whom I please: if other people like it, that’s like extra bananas, but if they don’t I can still do it and at least please myself. Eeexcellent.

Apparently I am now an eleeeeeeeet! blogger, too. I hadn’t actually thought about that when I commented on HZero’s post, though in hindsight it does seem somewhat disingenuous — and the reason I’m mentioning it now is not to really ram home how freaking leet I am, but rather to point out that leetness, at least in the blogging world, seems to be a case of either excellent self-promotion (which I lack) or sheer unadulterated luck (which apparently I don’t lack). Content doesn’t hurt either.

The Massively Top-10 Blogs nod I still don’t understand, because there are dozens of worthier blogs out there — except that presumably my style pleasethed (it’s a word) the author. If you don’t care about someone’s blogging voice then you won’t get this, but one of the main reasons I read Righteous Orbs is not because they’re orb-like or righteous, but because Tamarind can ramble even more than me and that’s saying something. I may write walls of text (not so much lately), but Tam writes Great Walls Of Fucking China text and you’ll LIKE it! And I really do like it. Doesn’t matter what the RO crew (is two people a crew?) is talking about — they could be describing the curative properties of the Toadswallop herb — it’ll be entertaining. So yeah, voice and writing style matter, and I suspect that’s why I have most of the readers I do have. Certainly not for my incisive insights of my up-to-the-second news content.

As for the MMORPG gig — I’m still half-convinced that’s JoBildo’s way of getting back at me for some sin I don’t even remember. I’ll give you back your pants, I promise! The fact that Monsieur Jennings had a column there (which I miss) in no way influenced my decision — oh and while we’re talking about him, there’s a blogging style I enjoy right there, and there’s content, so it’s like a double dose of blogging goodness on every post.

I’m still rather on the fence about the value of said gig, though the fact that it’s paying for my game subs probably doesn’t hurt, and the people involved are lovely. Props to the Amazing Picture-Finding Person! And that MMORPG crowd… it’s a different place out there, whole different set of people, passing faces I don’t really know and am not always sure I want to know. It’s more akin to posting on one of the Great Old Forums (you know, the ones with tentacles — FoH, F13, etc.) than it is to posting on this blog, so in that sense it makes for an interesting contrast. We’ll see. (Which is Texan for “HELL no!” by the way, and English for “I think you’re full of shit but I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt.” As in, this epicurean delicacy sort of tastes like vinegar mixed with poo but if you tell me it’s a treat for the tastebuds I shall try it one more time and we’ll see.)

And now for a short WoW update, mostly because I have some screenies to share. Eloise is now within spitting distance of level 80, and if you’d told me a month ago that this would be the case, I’d have laughed in your face. What me, level?! But here it is, and here I am, with a less badass but more kickass bow and a totally kickass pet who really shouldn’t be hungry as often as he is given that he is a damned ghost! (Yes, yes, I have the right talents, plz don’t talent-build me. This is hyperbole and yes, I have plenty of feeding fish too.) Speaking of pets, I still haven’t named him. Been using the names of Romantic Poets for my cat pets — don’t ask, it makes sense to me, all right? — but… I’m not sure. All the good ones I already used. I guess I could phase over to neo-romanticism but isn’t that getting just a little obscure, even for me? Oh well. In the meantime, it remains Spirit Beast the Uninspired.

The journey has been a lot of fun and I’m not done yet! Some pix.

Eloise always gets her man - or, I wish they all could be Ashenvale-a men

My old gryphon reminded me of someone, I just wasn’t quite sure who. And the crowd goes wild!

The Grizzly Hills… not for the faint of heart or weak of bladder. Lines around the block I tell ya!

If those goblins had a player guild, I would totally join in. Awesomesauce in name form!

And finally, goat-punting — all the fun of gnome-punting and none of those pesky lawsuits and mechanical-ninjas breaking into your house at night!

 

A grand old MMO tradition

I don’t know about the rest of you young whippersnappers, but there’s something Mort and I seem to do in every MMO we play.

At least once, we take a couple of ridiculously under-levelled characters and run them from SafeLands01 through StupidDangerousZones 03, 04 and 08 to end up at Place-You-Don’t-Really-Need-To-Visit-Yet.

In LOTRO, we ran a level 15 (Mort’s RK and scholar) and a level 19 (my hunter) from the warm comforts of the Shire and Bree all the way to Rivendell. For one thing, we’d never done it before nor ever seen Imladris in game – which made it worth doing in and of itself. For another, Mort needed to join the Scholar’s Guild and that’s where it is.

Before you wonder why a center of Elven learning is in BFE-turn-right-past-the-Trollshaws, I should point out that Timbuktu was once a great centre of learning. No, really. But do you know where it is? (No bonus points for smartypants.)

And finally, to quote George Mallory: because it’s there.

The run through the Lone Lands was… eh, a little brown, a little sere, a little jiggy as we avoided the odd crebain-type and orc-type. Nothing much to write home about. Past the Last Bridge and into the Trollshaws, which marked the edge of anything either of us had previously experienced, and we thought we were doing pretty well. That was before we almost ran smack into the wandering elite Stone Troll.

We avoided him, as well as the wolves and worms and bears, oh my! We made it to the ford over the Bruinen basically unscathed, at which point I was thinking “Pfft, what’s the big deal about running to Rivendell anyway?”

That was before we started climbing the far slope.

We — well, mostly Heloyse, who was in the lead and had a bit more health than the weedy Rune-Keeper — spent the next 10 minutes running from one aggro to the next. Sickle-flies, boars, bears, wolves, bats, bees, barracudas — the entire world was about 6 inches away from Helo’s backside, snapping at her heels and wearing her down one bite at a time. This was the point at which I was screaming “Don’t heal! Don’t heal! You’ll get aggro!” to the spousal unit faithfully running along behind, interspersed with Muttley mutterings about how if I’d only waited just a little longer I wouldn’t be putting Helo’s “Undying” title in jeopardy. (You get that by reaching level 20 without dying. During the run, Heloyse was level 19.75 or something.)

Sadly I didn’t have any time to take pictures of the conga-line of drooling, slavering and buzzing monstrosities that chased us all the way up the eastern bank of the Bruinen. Suffice to say that when they finally dropped off — just as we came into view of two burly and oh-so-welcome high-level guards apparently randomly posted on the road — we really felt as though we’d run the gauntlet.

Running to Rivendell: not for the faint of heart, or the low of levels.

Great views though.

What I want isn’t what I wanted

The spousal unit and I were both in the Lord of the Rings Online Beta a few years ago, but we decided against getting or playing the game at launch.

Why?

I’m not really sure. It just wasn’t our thing back then; maybe the crafting wasn’t hardcore enough.

Now it is (our thing; the crafting still isn’t hardcore). Well, mine, anyway, and I’m trying to talk him into playing too on the rare occasions we both have some free time – which have been rarer than the jackalope this last month, so I think we’ve been able to log in together maybe twice so far. But the new Free to Play model makes it easy, and you don’t feel pressured to log in to get the most of your sub or trial time.

I’m subbed up though and will stay that way. There are too many useful perks to being subbed. That said, the LOTRO F2P model does seem quite well done, without too many “I can’t do this!” frustrations and without too heavy a stick beating you about the head telling you to spend money. In contrast, I get the feeling SOE pulled out their biggest stick when designing EQ2X, but since I haven’t actually tried the latter — and really don’t want to right now, they’re not in my good books — I shouldn’t comment.

The point being: tastes change. Requirements change. Free time amounts change.

In my 20s, I could spend hours and hours hanging out with my friends, shooting the shiz and fixing the ills of the world. Beer was a bonus but not obligatory.

These days, I have neither the time nor the inclination to do stuff like that very often. I have a schedule. Responsibilities. Stuff to do (rather than just talk about). And besides, it just isn’t as thrilling to talk about stuff all day when you’ve already spent 20 years talking about said stuff.

My gaming life hasn’t been all that different, though offset by about 10 years. In my first few years of MMO gaming I was perfectly content to spend hours and hours hanging out with my friends, shooting the shiz and fixing the ills of the game. And I don’t mean hanging out in the same chat channel – we actually hung out in (virtual) person. Did I mention Asheron’s Call didn’t have very advanced chat capabilities?

Those truly were halcyon days — both my 20s and my early gaming years — and part of me always looks back to those when I look for something new to play or wonder why I’m not perfectly content in what I’m currently playing. But the plain fact is, we change.

I grew (not up, necessarily). I want different things from games now, but part of me will always judge games (or social gatherings) through the lens of my early experiences. Sometimes those games don’t look right through the lens and it takes me a while to realise they might actually be fun for who I am now not who I was 10-20 years ago.

That’s it. No point as such, just the observation of something I only needed 10 years of gaming to notice.

So yeah. I’ve been working. A lot — no, let me rephrase that. A LOT. Apologies to readers old and new (hi Alarron!). I’m trying to take a few days off, though some dumbass accepted work for today (/e slaps self on back of head). I will most likely spend those days playing, not blogging — though it’s good to see that the old urge hasn’t quite abandoned me yet.

I love you guys, but there’s no way I’m going to make time for blogging when I’m getting up at 0500 and working till 1900, even if my gameroom is my office is is my blogging desk. I’ll make time to play something first. Speaking of which, it’s time for my self-prescribed game-hour.

~

Quick chars/servers update. I’m mostly on Elendilmir right now, because the queues on Landroval were too high for the spousal unit (not paying, doesn’t get to jump the line). So even though we haven’t really played as much as we’d have wanted to, it’s where I am.

Ysharros the Man-Captain (/raisebrow) is now 23, has a faster horse and better armour, and owns a deluxe house in Falathlorn. To the manor born, I tell ya.

Heloyse is the duo-with-hubby-hunter who hasn’t had much screentime yet.

And… err… I think Aethinviel (tbc) is the Lore Master I made in a fit of OMG MUST HAVE AN ALT!!! She hasn’t been played much either.

Someone actually contacted me yesterday in game, asking if I was the Stylish Corpse Ysharros — as far as I know there’s only one other person who occasionally uses the handle and she’s in the UK — and that was really flattering. I’m sure the big bloggy types get that all the time, but as far as I can recall it’s only ever happened to me once or twice. It’s pretty neat.

This many goblins!*

*I lie. It was all Elrohir. I just cut him out of the picture.