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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.

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.

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.

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.

My top LoTRO times of 2009

Alright, probably a bit later than everyone else, here are my top LoTRO moments of 2009 in no particular order (I’m always behind with the zeitgeist)

1. Getting my last crystal from the nightmare Hall of Mirrors. This ended my radiance grind that began in February and finally ended with this, in September, that finally allowed me to join the DN Raid and freed me up to start enjoying the game again. Many thanks to unwize, our burglar, and Kilrandir, one of our top notch minstrels who, at long last, helped me down that last boss. Huzzah.

2. Killing the Mistress in the DN Raid as part of a kin first. I’d never been at a kin first before so it was all doubly thrilling and it marked the completion of DN.

3. Our first real life kin meet in August. Yes, we all really exist (well some of us anyway) and now have photos on the kinship forum to prove it!

4. Connected to no. 3 in a way and not really a moment, more something on-going. It’s the way the kin seems to have moved beyond just playing in LoTRO.  We have our forum and a TS server but in 2009 we’ve started a Twitter group, started a group on Steam, had a secret Santa sweet swap and of course we have our blogs.

4. Flying to Sweden to holiday with a couple of kinmates. Over and above the kin meets (there was another at Christmas) people have been meeting up generally.

5. Finishing Volume 1 and getting my white horse for my guardian.

6. Discovering the Waterworks with a couple of kinmates. This was the first time there for all three of us. I think little beats exploring new areas with other people. The Waterworks remains one of my favourite areas of Moria (this one only just crept into 2009 but it was such a good one!).

7. Our 7 hour stint in Fornost. We did break for food.  (I’m not even sure this was last year, but again it’s a goodie so I’ve stuck it in). I really like the long multi-boss fellowship instances in S0A where you actually feel you are someplace. The only similar one since MoM is the Grand Stairs.

8. Tanking the Balrog on my guardian. This was the first time I had tanked a proper big Boss with him. Definitely had a case of pre-raid trepidation (which I still get!)

There were more good moments, but these are the ones I really remember.  Interesting to see a fair few are socially based and most of the rest relate to experiences that you can only get in a multi-player game, grouping with, helping and being helped by kinmates.

Kinships on Laurelin

Somehow I’ve ended up maintaining the list of kinships on my server on the Codemasters forum. I can’t quite remember how this happened; I suspect I volunteered. It’s the sort of thing I do. Anyhow, I’ve now generated a thread that has had over 18,000 viewings since April when I started. Well, it makes me feel popular!

To be honest, it is not as much work as people said it might be. I see a lot of kinships in-game that don’t seem to use the forum, or at least haven’t asked for inclusion on the list. Maybe they are too small, or just want to restrict their membership to a known group. Anyway it does mean that I don’t need to add to the list that often and that it is only now that I need to start to split the list up because it has grown too long for the space allowed per post. And I have the help of some of the more involved forum posters who let me know if they find a link isn’t working

I suppose that it’s not really surprising that the vast majority of kinships are mixed race. Of the kinships on the list, we’ve only  a handful of hobbit-only, man-only and dwarf-only kinships. But slightly more elf-only kinships; ah the romance of elves!

It’s nice to see that very few of the listed kinships have disappeared since the list started. There always seems to be something a little sad when a kinship ends. A couple have folded amongst hints of internal ructions, but have then been reformed; with new officers and new kin leaders.

Since it is a european server we’ve polish, greek, russian, spanish, italian and dutch speaking kinships.  There is some debate whether non-english speaking kinships should recruit or speak in their own languages on the various chat channels (and some controversy a while ago when some in-game role-playing took place not in english in the Prancing Pony). But whatever, all go on the list. Ditto kinship names. Even though Laurelin is a roleplaying server and supposed to be policed to some extent, there are some baaad kinship names. Some simply corny, others not fitting to lore; again there has been an issue with non-english kinships – does a kinship with a Spanish name, say, fit on a Tolkien roleplaying server?

A final thing, looking through the list, the one thing that really makes  kinships stand out is a lively and attractive website/forum with events and  recent postings. Statements of purpose and kin ethos and a clear path for prospective recruits help too. Makes a kinship look together. If that’s the aim!

Kinship downtime – lets roll them D10s!

My LOTRO kinship seems to be pretty active though since I’ve never been a member of a kinship or guild before, I’ve nothing to compare. We have a very active forum with posts every day on topics both in-game and out of game.  We have  started our own  kinship Wiki and have an in-game roleplayed history.

And then outside of the forum we have our bloggers, and tweeters and meet ups. I love all of this. I like the way the kin spreads out beyond the game and I’d like to see more. Maybe because I genuinely like and am interested in, the people in my kinship.

And now I have an idea!

I started roleplaying playing tabletop games. I still think that this is roleplaying in it’s optimal form; a DM/GM and players  in a room with dice and a scenario. This is why when people get too purist about role-play on our RP server, I don’t really share. Although I have expectations regarding behaviour, roleplay etc, at the same time I feel I’m compromising  the real role-playing experience by being in LOTRO because a computer game could never equal it (though have strengths of a different kind).

Anyhow, one of my favourite tabletop rp games is Call of Cthulhu, based on the 1920s horror stories of H.P. Lovecraft. I am currently running this in my Monday night gaming group and ran a CoC scenario when I met up with my kinmates in Sweden. So, thinks I, why not run a CoC game for my kinmates. On-line. To try and get that tabletop experience. Over Skype ideally since the sound quality seems to be better and it is easier for a number of people to speak at once.

I’ve found some information on my favourite Cthulhu resource web-site

Playing Call of Cthulhu on-line

This also has reportbacks from people ; apparently it works, it’s like being in your own radio play. Tabletop rp has been discussed before in the kinship. Many people used to do it but have given up as real-life has intruded. This would give them a chance to play again, and maybe introduce others to tabletop-style gaming. And it would give the kin something else to do together. I might begin with a one-off pilot, it will need to be timed around Mirkwood too, but if I do go ahead, I’ll feed back here.

Meeting kin: does it spoil immersion in MMOs?

A month or so back various members of my LOTRO kinship decided it would be fun if we all met up in real life and spent some time together. So we all headed to Cambridge, played games, ate cake and had a fine time. It wasn’t the first time I had met people from my kin. I had already met a couple of them in a trip to Sweden and met another, who lived conveniently close to me, for coffee. Funnily enough this kinmate has an almost identical name to me, varying by a mere three letters, and is in almost exactly the same career…I’m still not quite convinced that we’re not the same person.

Anyway, a while later I was telling someone about the meet-up. One of the things that they particularly wanted to know was whether, now I had seen people and met them, had my view of their in-game character had changed. Had it somehow spoiled immersion within the game?

This made me think. The person Id been talking to thought it would for him. In the end, I thought for me, it hasn’t. I think meeting in real-life has given me more of an insight to the player behind the game, what they’re like, maybe feel closer (especially in TeamSpeak when I can hear them), but in-game, no, their character has stayed a character and a separate entity. I still see the dwarf in front of me and not the person playing him (or at least not any less than I did before). I’m not sure if this is because I have been a role-player for many years and so the concept of someone being different from their character is pretty ingrained. I know that my friends in Sweden somehow expected me to be like my first elven character; tall, graceful and academic. They told me cheerfully after meeting me, that I had turned out to be exactly the thanks, though they did seem to think that this was a good thing! Anyway has the revelation that I am short, clumsy and vulgar affected their view of my in-game character, well it hasn’t seemed to..though maybe they are a bit less surprised when she falls off staircases and bridges!