Category Archives: kinships

A TF2 Grand Finale and a LoTRO Christmas Party.

Had a fully fun packed evening yesterday.

It started with my kinship’s online Yule Party. We have one every year (obviously). To mitigate our geeky sadness, we actually have a real life one too, or at least those local to London. We meet in a pub in for an afternoon drinking session; this year, finishing off in a local Indian restaurant. Pleasant.

Anyhow, to allow the spreading of Yuletide cheer amongst all the kinship, we have our online party, hosted by the Officers in our kinhouse; the Stoop in the hobbit homestead in the Shire. This year one of the kin would be performing a poem, a quiz was planned then two raffles with fireworks afterwards. And, as is traditional we,the Officers, would be wearing identical and ridiculous outfits, this year a white cloak, an unflattering green trouser suit effort and a rather peculiar red and white checked tassled hat (Turbine cannot design hats).


This conveniently and coincidentally leads me to the other part of my evening, TF2. Originally the evening had been free and I’d been looking forward to an evening of just LoTRO frolics.

But no, Thursday evening turned out to be the date of the Season 10 ETF2L Grand Finale between Infused.Tt and Epsilon eSports. The readership may recall, assuming they’ve been reading that long and that their memories have held out sufficiently, that these were the same two teams that met in the final at i43 in August. This is because there are only two teams that play TF2 in the Premiere Division. No. I lie. I am funny. Really there are eight(ish), counting drops. It just turned out that, again, these were the teams that made it through.

Anyhow, this was happening, and it was a fair bet that with these teams and at this level, there’d be some excellent play plus the game Casters were known to be good. So, both laptops came out. The VanillaTV Stream went on one plus the chat channel, on the other I booted up LoTRO and partied.

And the party was good; and as for TF2, three maps were played. On the first, cp_Badlands, it initially looked as if Infused were heading for a steamrolling, but they managed to pull themselves back in a fantastic comeback (simultaneous to the Stream crashing and the screen going black for everyone) and eventually won 4-3 with a Golden Cap. Game-on. Epsilon took the next map, cp_snakewater 0-5, so it was on to the third, cp_gullywash. Again this was tightly fought,…until, until, until during the dying moments of the last match, Epsilon brought on two Heavies, or so I’m told. My Internet chose this moment to disconnect. When I returned, the TF2 world was in turmoil. Only one Heavy is allowed in comp play. So was it cheating? Was it all part of a desperate plot (not sure by whom)? Did Heavy no.2 have chance move or shoot; if he didn’t he sort of didn’t count. How much damage did Heavy no.1 do/take; if it was the same as a scout, well he sort of was one then. It was obvious the League admins couldn’t make an immediate decision, tapes would have to be scrutinised and either the final result upheld or an additional Golden Cap played.

Edit: at time of posting, it looks like the result has been upheld and Epsilon are the winners. Whatever, there was good play from both sides and either team would have been a worthy winner.

Comp vs Pro vs Pub in Team Fortress 2: You suck noob

Awww, Team Fortress is truly a home from home for a MMO player. In LoTRO, WoW, Everquest and so on, how many hours have we all spent debating hardcore vs casual, raider vs non-raider, solo player vs grouper in forums and within our guilds? Happy, happy times. Well in Team Fortress 2 we have the pub player vs the comp player or pub vs comp instead. Easiest way of looking at it; comp player = hardcore raider.

There is this idea that the competitive player (one who plays in a team in competitions and is competitively ranked) is humourless, elitist and treats the game like work. Who wants that eh? The pub player (one who plays on public servers that anyone can join), however, lacks discipline and commitment and basically can’t play very well. What a noob. It’s all so familiar.

Of course this ignores the fact that comp players (the pros earn money) were all pub players once and many happily play on pub servers. I know this. I’ve seen them. It also forgets that many pub players also dip in and out of competitive play and are part of more casual competitive clan teams that at the same time practice and are pretty dedicated to the game. The clan community server I’ve landed on is run by a clan like this; oh yes to be clear, clan = guild = kinship, more-or-less. You join a clan and get to wear their Tag.

It doesn’t help, that by and large, competitive play is 6v6; the main classes being scout, demoman, medic and soldier, with class limits, 1 medic, 1 demoman – this is held as being the most effective and flexible make-up. The other classes only make appearances as needed. So, the charge is that comp players can’t play the other classes and therefore don’t play TF2 as it is meant to be played, with all 9 classes present. Well, I’ve never seen a rule book saying how TF2 is meant to be played. But it is a flaw that 5 classes are generally not included so if someone loves playing pyro, say, it means that they need to change  if they want to go comp.

In response, the Highlander format has been introduced. This is 9v9 with every class represented, once; yes, Highlander – there can be only One.  Since I tend to play pyro and engineer, I like this.

So, comp vs pro vs pub….as usual in these matters, pretty blurred divisions. Or at least that’s how I see it, coming new to the game. Basically play how you want to play and enjoy it.

The video shows a Clan team from my pub server competing at i42 (big LAN held this Easter) against INFUSED.Tt, a comp team who later went on to win the whole competition. And on their way to briefly capture the middle capture point. So claiming a moral victory overall.

The last sentence in the video isn’t actually true.

(courtesy of TommytheCat)

LoTRO and odds and bobs

Life in LoTRO is still a little slow. We managed to get a Raid group together (23 of us) and killed Thorog. We did it on the second run through and it was pretty straightforward, but most of us really just wanted the title and the chance for a lot of the kin to raid together. We also returned to Barad Guldur for the first time since before Christmas. Numbers have been an issue with this Raid recently, both due to the nature of the Raid and a bit of kin/raid politics unfortunately.

We have had a lot of that recently which has included some lengthy and sometimes heated forum discussions. But hopefully people have now reminded themselves that, whatever their individual preferences, helping fellow kinmates is good. And it’s not to say that these sorts of intra-kin debates are bad. I think it is always good to challenge and review whether it is about the election of officers, a new kinleader; much of the discussion was relating to how the election, nor non-election of kin officials, or just about general transparency and involvement of the membership.

Anyhow, it was Barad Guldur on Friday and we managed to get our rusty and creaking selves through the first two bosses so it is back to the LT on Sunday.  It was nice to be raiding again.

Apart from that, a fair few of the kin have been entertaining themselves outside of LoTRO. As I said, life in LoTRO is pretty slow. We need our next injection of new content. There has been a slight fear that we might find ourselves splintering off into other games. We have an Away team in WoW at the moment and many people have been exploring Rift (the new mmo still in Beta but due out in March). However, in these games, people are sticking together and there is a desire to explore these games with other kinmates so I think we are holding together. And there is the advantage that most of us are lifetime members of LoTRO, so whatever happens, at some point or other, people will return.

And what have I been doing, well the bits of Raiding that we’ve managed and WoW. WoW is impressive in it’s scale, the quests are amusing and manage to be different and the instances plentiful but somehow I haven’t fallen for it. I play weekly, a group of us are levelling up through the instances and that’s really enough for me though I will try PvP. I’m not quite sure what hasn’t grabbed me, I’m not big on the cartoon graphics, I don’t need the humour (I hate comedy and laughing), I find the user interface a bit clumsy; is it just that it is not LOTRO? One of the reasons perhaps why I want to try Rift.

And still Team Fortress 2 which I love. At the moment:

Day no play Team Fortress = Bad day

Day play Team Fortress = Good Day

Life is really as simple as that.

European Free to Play launch date during Week off!

Well there’s a coincidence, European F2P is going to start on 2nd Tuesday which happens to be when I’ve booked a week off from work (and it looks like the servers will be taken down at 1 am UK time; overnight – nice). 

And probably also when I’ve finally managed to install the Beta; note to self, when downloading overnight don’t leave computer set to sleep-mode after 30 mins. It’s hard work being Berath sometimes. I’m actually only doing it for the 500 Turbine Points which I might not get anyway as the trial has actually finished. In fact I don’t even know if the torrent I found will still be up when I get back to my desktop.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see what happens on Tuesday. 

We’ve vaguely talked about how it will influence the kinship. Not in the ‘we’ll be flooded with oiks’ sort of way, more the in the ‘we’ll have more transient members’ way. People who join, are keen but never get round to subscribing and eventually just drift off. We have always had our share of people who pass through, every kinship does no problem, but will we get more? Will it be unsettling? We  don’t want to impose a ‘we’ll ignore you until you start paying’  regime. But at the same time there is a limit to the number of times you can be friendly and inclusive to new members who then disappear.

It may be a non-issue. Any new people attracted by F2P may want to form their own kinships. They may not want to join kinships for old crusties around since the start. Or of course we may find ourselves continuing to attract people who intend to stay and stay until life and circumstances call them away to other kinships, other games or real life (what’s that?).

Raiding Crazy

It’s all gone a bit manic on the Raiding front this week in the kinship.  We’ve been to the Rift twice, the Watcher twice, Dar Nurbugud and Barad Guldur. Which makes six Raid Runs since Sunday and it’s only Thursday when I’m writing this.

I don’t think anyone has been to all six but I think a few have managed four or five. And all largely unintentionally. It was just sort of scheduled, we gave in to the excitement and found ourselves swept along.

And we’re doing pretty well too. We’ve never actually managed to get the Watcher on farm status though we’ve now downed him twice. Having been on both runs this week, I feel that we are almost there now, in varying raid group make-ups including alts and brand new raiders. The times we have run DN have gone well as well with a similar mix; as I’ve written before, we are now using DN as an opportunity for those who haven’t experienced the Raid before, to enjoy it and raiding.

Barad Guldur is still proving a challenge, the least of which is getting enough people together to run it. We have just enough to run it twice a week most times but it is touch and go. It only needs one person to have an unexpected daughter’s birthday party (the party unexpected not the daughter nor the daughter’s birthday) or to go on holiday, and the raid is in danger. We are now having to rely on alts much of the time, particularly minstrel alts. Much of it can be put down to BG being a difficult, uncompromising Raid which doesn’t equate to fun for many people. The design and layout also leave much to be desired, for instance I think there are too many, too similar trash mobs (though I find the Boss fights interesting and enjoy the gauntlet at the start still, though I wish it didn’t respawn). All in all, it does put a lot of pressure on a Raid group I think.

But despite this, we are now working on Hard Mode for both Durchest and the Twins. For Durchest we are using three tanks (two guardians, one warden) standing in front, one holding aggro. We’ve managed HM once with Durchest using this technique. I went last week when we weren’t successful but I’m afraid all I can remember is my nose being shoved in Durchest’s groin, squashed in with the other two tanks, and being vaguely aware of the captain pulling torches in a funny order, oh yes and catching fire. I may remember more after this week when we go again.

We’ve made it up to the Lieutenant as well. But so far have died fairly soon after he dismounts from the Fell beast though we are now surviving long enough to be able to try to work out what seems to be happening and to consider tactics.

I’ll write more as we get further and I’ll be getting a poem together about it too for everyone to think about and enjoy. I’m just finishing my Durchest one, then I will be working on a Twins haiku. Lots for you all to look forward to I think.

Quiet days

Things are still pretty quiet in LOTRO. Activity is low as people wait for The Next Big Thing. I think it is always hard keeping up momentum during these times in a MMO. New, lower level members, busy levelling up help; we have a few, but even their enthusiasm risks waning if they are consistently logging on and the kin is almost empty.

Raiding is one thing that keeps people logging on. Many kin members turn up just for the weekly raid and not much else; maybe just to do a bit of crafting or to check their post. For this reason, no matter how painful,  those raids need to keep on happening. Otherwise people will start to lose the habit of logging on, start to drift away and be lost.

So, currently, we are having a bit of a drive to keep things active. We have a successful late night group..this regularly meets to do any instance/activity that the members feel like, often people put forward suggestions and the group works through them. From this, we have just started an earlier evening version for two evenings a week. People are emerging and expressing interest.

The truth seems to be, that in any kinship, there always seems to be fewer people that organise events than want to participate. I think this is a truth of any activity actually. Those people that organise may complain and want things to be different, but ultimately, they either go ahead and do, or nothing happens. I tend to be a bit of an organiser. I’ve found the simplest thing is to simply organise things I want to do and enjoy doing. One of the reasons I was selected as an officer was because I organised loads of activities, but it was all stuff that I needed/wanted to do as I levelled. So really it was all self-interest! It is also fortunate that I enjoy taking/going with new people through old content.

The Great kinship Easter chocolate swap

Currently things are a little quiet in the kinship; people are levelling alts, running the odd instance or doing the occasional skirmish.  Others are trying out other games and other MMO’s.  Fairly common I’d reckon, in  an established kinship where most people have been playing the game for a fair while and there has not been much content released recently; Mirkwood was small and Book 3 short. We’re all mostly biding our time.

But, there is something exciting going on! Something of great import to and that has been occupying many of the kinship minds. Yes, it’s The Great kinship Easter chocolate swap!

At Christmas we had a sweet swap; like a secret santa, people didn’t know who they were sending to nor who they got sweets from though it often could be worked out especially when the sender signed the card. This was so successful we decided to have a chocolate one at Easter, since chocolate is probably one of the most deeply discussed issues in the kinship, probably on a par with raiding.

Arbs organised the Christmas swap, and is playing Supreme Secret Easter Bunny this time, organising who is sending to whom.

I have a parcel waiting for me in the post office that I’m sure will be full of chocolate. I have sent my package off, full of chocolatey goodness.

It’s all good.

Kinship computer curse

My kinship has been cursed. Over the past couple of months, we have had nine kinship computers crash and burn. Die. Nine. Something is not right.

The last to go was mine. It died late on Sunday evening. I switched it off at the end of the evening. I then remembered I needed to check something and switched it on again. And I got a Missing or corrupt hal.dll error message. Just. like. that. What was all that about, eh? The computer before went on the Sunday morning. It was fine on Saturday evening. Then, it was not. Just a power light. Flashing on. And then off.

We can’t think what’s causing it. One of our minstrels did admit to falling over a hobbit in the raid earlier that Sunday evening. Maybe every time one of our hobbits is kicked,  a kinship computer dies, in this case taking two out (sod timelines, this is obviously something operating way time and space). Or perhaps it’s something more. Remember Terminator eh? Poltergeist..I know that was a television set but hey…

Whatever, there is general panic. People are considering removing their computers from the kinship. Others are refusing to open the relevant forum threads in case the trigger lurks there. Someone’s in the process of buying a new one, so what does it matter if the curse hits his old one he laughs. The Fool! Does he not realise that the curse will lie in wait until his new shininess is all plugged in and then strike.

What can we do? Oh my!

This is just the start.....

This is just the start.....

Carry On Raid Juggling

No,  sorry, not a post about high jinks and innuendo-filled fun as I recount  saucy goings on behind kinship Raid scheduling; nudge nudge (just google Carry On films if you’re fortunate enough not to know what I’m talking about). Instead, it’s an update on my kinship Raid juggling act.

Well, even though I stated it wouldn’t be, the good old Turtle seems to have disappeared but seems to have been replaced by a 12-man skirmish. Makes sense; raid-sized, anyone can join, can be scaled if need be and has the additional advantage 0f bosses requiring corruption removal with various debuffs to watch.  But the Watcher is still plugging away. We seem to have gathered a determined little group together. It is still a bit touch and go from week to week if it happens as we only just have enough, but we all want to get him down. We know the stages, we just need to get everything just right.

We’re still having a go with both Dol Guldur (referred to by some as Barad Guldur) and Dar Narbugud. Dol Guldur is going strong as expected.  Dar Narbugud is struggling a little.  After running each on different days, I have now scheduled both to run in parallel on the same days (Fri/Sun)…crazy but true!

There is a bit of logic here rather than just a desire for self-punishment. Most kin members only want to raid 2 days a week. On any one week someone going to Dol Guldur, may only be allocated a place on one of the two runs. Therefore on the run they’re not going to Dol Guldur, they can go to Dar Narbugud. Simple.

However due to availability, the need for class balance,  etc it’s sort of working out like that but not quite. Last week we managed to get both going on the Friday; 24 raiders in TeamSpeak, but fell a couple short for Dar Narbugud on Sunday. As a result, we’re looking into forming a Raiding Alliance for Dar Narbugud. We’ve found a likely kinship of dedicated players but too small to raid. They went with us on a few trips to the Rift, we’ve partied together; I seem to remember some dancing on a table in the kinship house….  We’ve various stuff to sort out around how it’s going to work for everyone but it looks good for us both.

Grouping and Tales to be told

Monday evenings are my tabletop gaming evenings. Tonight half the group couldn’t make it. So the rest of us got to talking. Now all three of us play LOTRO, one is a kinmate. Therefore it wasn’t surprising that conversation turned to LOTRO and before long my captain friend was telling me all about when he and my champion friend were trying to duo this boss but my champ friend kept madly kiting not listening to a word he was being told about captain heals whilst my captain friend ran desperately trying to get a hit in; like something from the Keystone cops. It all ended in defeat but it made an excellent story, both of them giving it some.

At which point my champion friend remarked, ‘And that is what grouping and MMOs are all about. How many really memorable incidents do you remember when you’ve been solo, how many stories can you tell?’

And yes. Thinking back I can remember things that have happened during solo play that have been funny, that I could tell a story about, but, as I noted in my top LOTRO moments of 2009, the real biggies have all involved other people.

Now,  I’m a passionate advocate of solo play. It enables people who don’t have much time to dip in and out and enjoy content. You can play at your own pace and do what you want, when you want, go where you want. Sometimes all I want to do is potter about on my own.

But, ultimately, I’m coming to the conclusion that solo play in LOTRO for me, most of the time, is dull. Oh, some of the solo instances are fun but then they were designed for solo play. But the majority of the main quests, if you haven’t the focus of levelling up or similar, on their own do not have the same impact or draw as quests in single-player games such as Fallout 3 which I’ve just started to play. And so, I’m asking myself, why bother soloing these quests in LOTRO when I could be doing more interesting quests in a single-player game.

And in fact I’ve ground to a halt on both my level 65 characters. They’re both nearing the end of Book 9 and have skirmishes to do. I could log on now and do them, and finish some quests. But I can’t get motivated. My guardian with his herbalist is not half the fun as my guardian and a kinmate/s. And I don’t really want to kill yet more orcs.

I want to create stories. Tales to tell with friends about friends. So, maybe I’ll stick a post on the kin forum, but without that, for the moment, it’ll wait.

'And then, one after another, we all fell off....'