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LoTRO: what have you done!

Back in November, a new expansion was released for Lord of the Rings Online; Helm’s Deep. Great. There’s nothing like a new expansion, full of new content with a raised maximum level, fresh material and everything.  You may not have played for a while, you might have exhausted the previous content, gone on to other things, taken a break, but now, tally ho, you’re ready to jump in resume afresh.

But…..but….but…..when you load up the game and once more take up your dagger/bow/spear or whatever, not only do you find you have to re-allocate the points to your legendary weapons; this happens everytime, but you half your skills have disappeared!

After a few moments panic as you try and work out what’s happened and what’s missing, you discover a Traits Tree. A Traits Tree with points to spend and it looks like some of your missing skills are embedded in there. You spend points, and build up your skills that way; very similar to building a character in Rift or masteries in League of Legends.

Well this is all fine. However it’s an immense change from how LoTRO originally managed skills, basically you just got them, and there is the thing. Such changes are fine if you’ve been constantly playing the game, reading developer notes and keeping track on the forums. This is not the way many people play MMOs these days when there are so many other games and other MMOs out there. They play, get to max level, finish the content and then go, as I’ve said. They only return when new material comes out and if the learning curve to access that new material is too high, well they may never end up returning at all.

It’s taken me a long time to manage to sit down and respec my Guardian, work out exactly what I want to do. Once started it was alright but I felt his build was not the same as it was and I don’t know how he will play any more, some of my favourite skills seem to have gone. I’m going to have to get used to that. I’m also not sure how his legendary weapons will fit since many of them have legacies tailored to specific skills that he may not have any more.

One of the reasons I’m keeping on is my kinship, I have plenty of incentive to continue there. But I can’t help thinking that when MMOs make changes like this which I don’t see as necessary or particularly benefiting a game, that they risk loosing a fair percentage of their players who either aren’t in kinships or who now have a more casual involvement in the game.

A Return to Lord of the Rings Online; cobwebs are swept

I’ve recently made more of a return to Lord of the Rings Online and have been slowly but surely making my way up through the levels with Lhach, my elven guardian. He is now level 73.

It’s been strange coming back. Since I last played properly there have been a couple of expansions, Rise of Isengard (yes it has been that long) and Riders of Rohan which introduced mounted combat (you get your war steed at level 75; 2 more levels to go for Lhach) and raised the level cap to 85.

They’ve also re-worked the legendary weapon system, changed some of the stat mechanics and names and tweaked a few skills and traits. All of which has left me a little bewildered. It’s not unusual for such changes to be made but normally they’re announced and explained in numerous patch notes, FAQs and developer interviews. Having been away from the game to a greater extent, has meant I’ve missed all of that. I play Lhach as a bit of a min/maxer; I like to make sure that all his equipment maximises his skills. I’ve spent ages trying out different combinations to get the best values. Now I’m very aware that he’s not optimised. A couple of hours in his vault with notes to hand will have to take place at some point.

Cobwebs on patch notes

State of game in Berath’s head

It all goes to show how much you need to know to play the average MMO, much of which MMO players take for granted. We had a thread about it on my kinship forum. There were comments about the complexity of the legendary item system and working out how stats build and fit together however there was an interesting post from someone who had just managed to get her husband to play, and he is a total non-gamer, it was this post that started the discussion off. So far, in her words (thanks Jesriel):

– he can only either walk/run or steer, he always runs into walls and doesn’t get out again.
– to move, steer and fight at the same time is totally impossible
– to move, steer and fight with skills in a sensible order is outright miraculous (her words). And he has only 4 of them so far
– his camera does the weirdest things. Like showing his char directly from above or below, or zooming into 1st person view.
– he doesn’t use skills. Only the one on shortcut 1 occasionally, and the concept of skill cooldowns, focus and other dependencies is absolutely alien to him.
– when he’s lost, he has no idea how to use the map and the minimap and that they essentially show the same thing. Not with all the symbols and colourful circles and arrows and stuff.
– when he has the choice between different quest rewards, he chooses the one with the nicer name.

And he is a very bright guy with a background in physics and mathematics and is a senior program developer

It’s funny how easy it is to forget, how hard gaming can be to someone completely new to the experience.

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; a poem, yes!

To celebrate the new LoTRO expansion, I think we’re all due a new poem, and to my excitement, we have a new poet. Rhiannon (Berath’s Brain Burps official poet-in-resident), has briefly stepped aside to allow a newcomer to experience the adulation and adoration of the readership, regularly accorded to those artistes published on Berath’s Brain Burps; Rhiannon herself, arbitrary, Tommy the Cat, Ripsaw.

So, here, let’s wave our feathers in the air for Jonsong, of the Kin, and now official Visiting Poet to Berath’s Brain Burps.

Jonsong has not written a poem about the new expansion.  Instead, he has produced a poem about the last big expansion, the Mines of Moria from a while back; generally thought to be one of the best expansions of any MMO. But that is of no matter to Berath’s Brain Burps. Berath’s Brain Burps prides itself on rarely being at the forefront of anything.

Now all you need do is make yourselves a brew and  enjoy:

“Oh Moria! Oh Moria!

Oh Moria! Oh Moria!

You make me such a worrier!

With windy stairs and stairs so tall

I see a ledge then oops, I fall!


Oh Moria! Oh Moria!

I am not a warrior!

Can you install a lift or two?

A Stennah to the  dwarven loo?


Oh Moria! Oh Moria!

All dwarves rise in euphoria

But then I think- catheter bound

Is this the Waterworks I’ve found?


Oh Moria! Oh Moria!

Is this phantasmagoria?

I jump down a well and then I see

I died and then forgot to pee


Oh Moria! Oh Moria!

You make me such a worrier!

A mistress harsh and vengeful still

As I stare at my repair bill…

Wandering back to Middle Earth

So Rise of Isengard has now been released, the latest expansion for Lord of the Rings Online. And I’ve wandered back to LoTRO.

I’d logged on a couple of times earlier in the week, pre-release for some late night roaming. I wonder if there’s a word for the feeling  you get, returning to a MMO after a long break and exploring familiar places that take you right back? It struck me once again what a beautiful place LoTRO is especially compared to the brashness of WoW.

I haven’t many impressions of the new expansion yet, I haven’t had time to play much. I didn’t even manage to connect to the server on Monday, the day of release. A lot of people in the kin had similar problems. On the Tuesday, I managed to connect and patch and began the first chapters of the new Book, having a brief look at the first new area. The first quest was interesting, giving you a choice leading to a potential moral dilemma. Possibly an attempt to continue to give a little more depth to quests given, though I did hear grumbling in kinchat, apparently at some point turnips need to be collected.

The level cap is now 75, an increase of 10 levels. And for the first time since my early days, I don’t feel a rush or pressure to reach it. Much of this is because, as I’ve written before, I am no longer focussed on Raiding and any accompanying end-game instances. The drive has gone; and I don’t really want it to return. As a result, I feel I can go properly at my own pace and truly enjoy the journey and the work that has gone in to the design of the game.

Goodbye to all that: farewell to Raiding?

Well the last time I signed up for a Raid was Sunday 29th May (which also happened to be my birthday). Since then, I’ve barely logged into LOTRO either. This last will change. The next LoTRO expansion is due out in September, Rise of Isengard. This will involve a level increase, new areas to explore, new quests (personalised quest phasing) and an overhaul of class skills and traits. There will be new Crafting recipes and the virtue cap will be raised from 10 to 12.

It sounds promising, so once more I’ll be treading the lands of Middle Earth.

But, I doubt I’ll be Raiding again.

And me, so much of a Raider. As was.

It’s partly the baggage Raiding now brings for me. In our kinship there seems to have been so many misunderstandings, unpleasantness and resentments associated with Raiding (and I know that it’s not just our kinship that’s experienced this about Raiding). As such, it’s now an activity I don’t really want to involve myself with anymore.

And the Raiding itself;  it’s a change in my preferred play style since starting Team Fortress 2. I now find the Raids static. You more or less know exactly what will happen  when and where, which mobs will spawn and what they will do, often all following a very similar formula. And in this, every Raid member has a part to play. The skill of mastering a Raid is for everyone to work out, learn and play those parts perfectly. But it’s like being the living part of a machine, a giant puzzle game.

In Team Fortress, of course, you’re playing against other people which immediately makes it more dynamic and unpredictable. And it’s this which I find so refreshing, a new sort of challenge; you need to constantly try to outplay and out think other players. It would be the same with other non-PvE on-line multiplayers, it’s the same with the PvP, or Monster play, in LOTRO which I used to play and enjoyed but stopped because it was never developed as much as it could be within the game. Different.

So this is where I’m at. Farewell to Raiding but there will be time instead, spent exploring, role playing, questing and socialising; the kin has a number of new members who I barely know and older kinmates with whom I ‘ve not spoken for a while.

It feels good.

Team Fortress 2 goes Free to Play


So, Team Fortress 2 is go Free to Play, as part of the Uber Update today (said to be the biggest, most ambitious update in all of TF2 history)

I could be lazy and just cut and paste this from when LoTRO was going f2p. But I won’t, other than just saying we had no flood of members coming to us after f2p and noticed very little difference, just a few ex-members with lapsed subscriptions drifting back.

Ditto I suspect with TF2. There have been a few concerns expressed; a possible increase in hackers and cheaters but Valve have said they’ll be putting in extra precautions, and maybe they’ll be more people causing offence on servers. This last may mean the server Admins may have a little more work in the short-term, kicking and banning. But overall it will bring new people to the game and allow more people to try it out.

And in the same way that Turbine gave people who had bought lifetime memberships in LoTRO, VIP status and free monthly points to spend in the store, Valve has given anyone who has spent money in TF2, including buying the game – I’m glad that counts, a premium account. This gives access to more backpack space, access to rare and cosmetic items as random drops, and full trading and crafting abilities. There is also a Proof of Purchase hat.

If you are on a f2p account and you spend any money within the game, you get upgraded to a premium account. But you don’t get the hat.

Proof of Purchase hat

Hot off the Press: on my community clan server we’ve already had a shiny new player accuse one of the clan members of hacking.

Hot off the Press 2: someone has already created a mod that automatically kicks non-premium players

A rest, a poem, a song

I think it’s time for another poem, courtesy of Rhiannon (Berath’s Brain Burp’s official poet-in-residence). Today she has chosen a subject close to her heart, the LoTRO minstrel. In fact even more than that, she has chosen to write about herself! And her singing, which I’ve never had the pleasure of.

Now, I’m aware that this Blog may have picked up the odd (probably very odd) Team Fortress 2 player recently and they may be a little lost. So for their benefit, let me explain, the LoTRO minstrel heals so is basically the Medic.  Minstrels heal by playing instruments and singing, whereas the Medic heals by pointing a huge raygun at his patient and shooting them with what is more-or-less a giant laser beam. This is a not quite the same, but not as really makes any difference. So when Rhiannon writes ‘minstrel’ in her poem, you can replace it by ‘medic’.

You could also sing it with a german accent.

(Originally entitled, Rhiannon…… by Fleetwood Mac)

Rhiannon sings like a cat in a fight
And wouldn’t you love to gag her?
Screams aloud like a pig in flight,
When will the fight be over?

All your life you’ve never heard a minstrel
Who couldn’t sing.
Would you stay if she promised you silence?
Is murder a sin?

She is like a bat in the dark
Shrieking through the darkness
She runs about like headless chick
And when the fight is hopeless

All your life you’ve never heard a minstrel
Who couldn’t sing.
Would you stay if she promised you silence?
Is murder a sin?
Is murder a sin?


She sings like a cat in a fight
But you wouldn’t want to be without her.
She may scream like a pig in flight,
But deep down, you love her.

All your life you’ve never heard a minstrel
Who couldn’t sing.
Would you stay if she promised you silence?
But will you ever win?  Will you ever win?


The Same




Our move to the States

So the countdown starts.

On June 1st LoTRO moves over to Turbine and we all become American; no Green Cards needed. In my earlier post, I expressed the concern that roleplaying won’t be supported after the move, but we have been assured that Laurelin will remain intact, roleplaying and all.

That’s good.

But, at the present time, I have no idea what will happen on 1st. We’ve been told we need to migrate our accounts. How? What will happen if I don’t on June 1st? The odds are very very high that I won’t. Even while I’m writing this, I can only just keep the concept in my head. I’m sort of vaguely hoping that I’ll just log on sometime next week and see this:

Turbine. YES or No. Click

Middle-earth moves to the US

So, from June 1st, Turbine will be taking over the entire operation of LoTRO. Well, well, but what could it mean?

There is slight concern within my kinship. We’ve already checked that our lifetime memberships will be honoured; they will be. But it sounds like we’ll have to all transfer our own accounts over ourselves, I’m not sure how that will work, will it be straightforward? I hope so. And I hope we don’t lose numbers in the process.

It seems that servers will be transferred over ‘as is’, without change, so after June 1st we should just be able to log on and nothing will be different. Except lag? Will lag be an issue? A kinmate said he plays on the Turbine DDO servers and hasn’t had any difficulties, maybe it will be alright. And what about Laurelin, so far Turbine have not specifically supported roleplaying servers. Will this mean that the restrictions on naming and so forth will be relaxed and the server lose it’s identity.

There is a little bit of cheer, surely this move means that Turbine feels it’s worthwhile acquiring the EU population and it helps assure the game’s future. I’m not so sure, organisations usually consolidate when times are bad, and this sounds like a consolidation. But then again, consolidation as a survival function can be a sensible move and in this way, assure the game’s future. And we may get the benefit of services such as My-LOTRO and a more direct link to the developers.

Whatever, it’s going to happen; we have to wait and see. But it’s a shame for Codemasters, we’ve always had the feeling that they’ve done their best by Europe and certainly their Community Officers on the forum will be missed.