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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.

The Secret World: my favourite game I’m not playing

It’s always been that I’ve got far too many games than I can actually play. Most of the time, I’m happy just having them; one day I’ll play them, I will. However, some I really really want to get seriously into. The Secret World is one of these.

I’ve posted about it before. It’s a modern-day based horror investigative mmo from Funcom. It came out using a subscription model but now it’s gone buy2play, you buy it and then can play for free, paying for extra content and downloads with offers and free points for subscribers.

Anyhow, with my love of horror, Lovecraft and the slipstream, getting the game was a bit of a no-brainer.

But am I playing it as much as I’d. No. I’m still fighting zombies in the first zone and experimenting with my character build.  I like the way it’s done in TSM,  you can slot different skills and become healer, dps, tank or a mix according to taste or necessity on what’s called a skill wheel.

It’s frustrating. Not only is there the game content itself, but Funcom seem to be experimenting with different sorts of metagaming. In December there was an alternate reality game ( ARG) that was set in and around the Secret World called the End of Days, focussing on the predicted end of the World on December 21st. If you opted in you could visit strange websites, receive unsettling phones calls and be sent obscure e-mails. Players got together to decipher the meanings of all these on the official forum.

Now Funcom is experimenting with Twitter, the Twitterverse Experiment. Various NPCs have their own twitter feeds which interact with players, sparking new missions and mysteries within the game in partnership with gamers themselves.  It sounds closer to actual roleplaying than any other mmorpg has managed since the likes of Ultima Online and the original Star Wars Galaxies.

It reminds me of an obscure Lovecraftian roleplaying game: De Profundis that I have but haven’t run yet run (do you see a theme here). Here, two or more people communicate purely through letter-writing or other form of communication. You can be yourself, you can be anybody, you can choose your time period. Together, you build up an atmosphere and a story and shape a game world between you all. Interesting.

But anyhow, it doesn’t get me playing TSW. I’m reading the forums, I’m looking at character builds, I’m watching fanmade videos, I’ve thought about which cabals to join. It’s totally my favourite game. When I play it.

The Secret World: Iphigenia takes a bow

Well I’ve gone ahead and bought The Secret World; this weekend was early access. It’s due to launch officially tomorrow. I’ve decided to stay with the Templar faction, though I imagine I’ll have characters in all three (Templar, Dragon, Illuminati).

I’m on Arcadia. This is the official role-playing server, it’s nice to have one designated right at the start with no lobbying needed from players. Currently there are seven, including one German and one French. There are plans to open more if needed. Arcadia was originally going to be called Faerie. I suppose that Funcom decided Faerie didn’t have the right ‘ring’ to it. It would’ve been fine with me, it would’ve made the server less attractive to non-roleplayers bothered by a name like that as they randomly decided which to pick; putting off the numpty-brigade as one of my LoTRO kinmates put it.

 I don’t see TSW as becoming a big hitter in the world of mmos, not with there being so much choice in games these days, many of them f2p,  and with the forthcoming, far higher profile, launch of Guild Wars 2. I sort of hope that  TSW is aiming to make-do with a smaller, more niche, player base. That way it stands a better chance of surviving but it still needs cash coming in, may be more as a result. It’s had to lower it’s monthly subscription cost…£11.49  from £12.99, but this is still more than WoW at £8.99 ( I think) and it has a shop as well, normally a feature of f2p games, to bring in money. It’s not really a cheap game.

The launch seemed to go without a hitch, however those with older 32 bit operating systems found they had a lot of trouble running the game, experiencing numerous memory crashes (not an issue in beta). After originally suggesting only that people upgrade, Funcom are now saying that they’re working on the issue. As far as I know, they’ve been prompt at providing refunds to those affected.

So, Iphigenia Bell, hasn’t left the London starter zone yet. I’m exploring it much more than I did in beta, meeting npcs who reveal backstory as you speak to them. Previously, I’ve mentioned the various lore clues that you pick up as you play. There are Templar lore clues, here, which you find as you wander, an incentive to look around which I like.

I visited the local pub and found some nice role-playing going on; a couple of men, who had obviously just met, were wondering whether or not to chat up the npc barmaid, who happened to be a fairy; at a nearby table, some other people were complaining about the choice of beer,very authentic. Good stuff.

And have I said I love the modern day setting?  In a kitchen, I came across a Rastafarian npc, clearing the table with a fag hanging out of his mouth. Fantastic. I am so tired of the cod-medieval.

The Secret World: yay or nay

The other weekend I took a peak into The Secret World, during one of their last betas before launch. The game has interested me for a while with it’s modern day setting, hints at Lovecraftian mystery and puzzle-solving aspects that actually require real-world investigation. However, I haven’t been sure whether or not I wanted to invest in it.

I decided to start in the Templar faction. I liked the idea of starting in London, my home town, and the serious self-righteous idealism of them felt comfortable to me. I played through the Templar starter zone and spent a few hours in Kingsmouth, one of the quest areas.

So, conclusions; largely in comparison with LoTRO which is the mmo I know best, and bearing in mind TSW is still in Beta.

Graphics – alright, though not as beautiful as LoTRO can be. I was playing on Ultra-high settings. The World itself is rather static however with groups of NPCs just standing and little movement round about. There was a bus which annoyed me. It was a no. 36 bus and had the correct route on the destination board; it runs from Camberwell to Victoria, I catch it sometimes to get from work to my Monday tabletop gaming group. They’d used a Routemaster, withdrawn from the route in 2005, rather than the modern Volvo-built design but that was forgiveable; Routemasters are more symbolic of London. However, they’d got the bus, totally empty, lights off, parked at the side of the road, not even at a bus stop. I have never ever ever seen a bus like that, ever. Every time I saw it, it felt so wrong. It jarred totally. The tentacles and the gateway to an interdimensional world in the underground station were fine.

Modern no 36 Bus

no. 36 bus in The Secret World


Real world no. 36 Routemaster..look lights, people, driver!

Character creation –  Choices for clothes and appearance are fairly limited. I didn’t like that you could only wear short skirts. You can’t change body size or height. Apparently there will  more more choice after launch.

Skills – it took me a while to work this out properly, but it seems flexible though all looked to be combat based. Each weapon has a particular focus e.g. the hammer is linked to survivability, so if you want a tanking build, you’ll select that and gradually find that the associated skills you build up, have a tanking aspect. You can equip any weapon, so as long as you have the action and skill points gained during play, you can have a number of builds. One thing I was less keen on, the skills are arranged in tiers, and you need to get all the skills in one tier before you can move to the next. This meant that I ended up spending points in skills I didn’t really want.

Levelling – there were no levels as such. You just gain points to put in skills. However, I noticed in chat that people, when forming groups, were asking for QL4 healers etc. This turned out to mean Quality Level of items. As you completed quests you were awarded higher QL, more powerful items.

Classes – in theory there are no pure classes, due to the flexibility of the skill system. However people were still asking for tanks, healers and dps. I couldn’t tell if it was just a case of old habits dying hard, or if classes were needed in this way. It might be, that in a premade group, there might be more flexibility and a greater ability to experiment with mixes of skills and roles.

Quests – I could only do a sample but they seemed fun and interesting, largely because of the setting I think. You select a main quest line and then a number of sub-quests which you can pick up as you move around. A fair number seemed to involve investigating and find things out; one involved finding out the number of a hymn and inputing it into a keypad to get a message. There are also scraps of lore which you find lying round which you can build up to provide more backstory. I’d say all this definately showed promise.

Crafting – there is a crafting system which allows you to create weapons and  items but I didn’t have chance to explore it.

All in all, I enjoyed it. It seemed different enough to keep my interest and has potential I think. I’m not sure if it will prove a ‘stayer’, it seems impossible to guess MMO shelflife these days, look at SWTOR, but I think it’ll be fun however long it lasts.

So, The Secret World: yay or nay

Conclusion: yay

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.

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

Rift and my faerie

Whilst LoTRO is going through it’s content-lite phase, in the rare moments when I’ve not been playing Team Fortress, I’ve been playing in the, relatively new, MMO, Rift.

A lot of people have already blogged about Rift and have said some useful stuff. As you all know, I am incapable of ever writing anything of any relevance so I won’t tell you anything that might help you play the game, I’ll tell you instead of about my chav faerie, Petal.

Because she’s ace.

My character in Rift is a Defiant cleric with justicar/shaman/druid souls. Petal comes with the druid. At first I thought she was just rather sweet but then I noticed something. I’d be crossing a field full of shambling undead, on my way to peaceably harvest some rat tails for a local NPC vendor. Petal would be flittering behind me. Note, behind me. Then, from in front, shambling undead, runs straight past me, to Petal.

There was no way I could have aggro’d them, well if I had they would have gone for me. But yes, I’d turn around and there’d she be, seriously handing it to shambling undead, taking it down with a quick one, two. My only conclusion, Petal, from behind me, giving a bit of  the old ‘you’re going home in a St John’s ambulance’, ‘come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’, shambling undead falls for it, getting a bit riled, goes for the kill, gets taken down.

Petal, dyed blond hair piled high and pulled tightly back, ity bity skirt, rules.

Apart from that, what does Petal do? Well she heals. After the fight. I’ve just managed to scrape through alive. I’m standing there. Petal throws some leaves over me, they do a bit of healing. Thanks Petal, could have done with that during the fight. Petal ‘s not bovvered.

Petal 'wot you lookin at?'

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.

Berathiela; a new musical interlude and about time too!

Well, Rhiannon (Berath’s Brain Burps’ official poet-in-residence) has put pen to paper once more and produced another composition. And a corker it is too.  About my LOTRO elven hunter, Berathiela but please note, Berathiela does not pull aggro. Let me say again for those asleep at the back; BERATHIELA DOES NOT PULL AGGRO. Thank you. Instead, Rhiannon is taking licence of the most poetic kind and talking amusing generalisations.

As you will see, this composition has been written with a popular song in mind. So find some friends, grab a tamborine and all large it to:

(Originally titled Cecilia and performed by those loveable 60’s/70’s pop poppets, Simon and Garfunkel.)

Berathiela, you’re breaking my mez!
You’re grabbing my aggro completely!
Oh, Berathiela! I’m down on my knees.
I’m asking you please, not that bow.

Berathiela, you’re breaking my mez!
You’re grabbing my aggro completely!
Oh, Berathiela! I’m down on my knees.
I’m asking you please, not that bow.
Not that bow!

She’s a hunter is our dear Berathiela,
And a hunter is my doom.
I went up to tank that mob
When I turned it around
It had run for the crowd.

Berathiela, you’re breaking my mez!
You’re grabbing my aggro completely!
Oh, Berathiela! I’m down on my knees.
I’m asking you please, not that bow.
Not that bow

Oh, tarnation! She’s at it again!
I fall on the floor and I’m gasping!
Resuscitation!  I’m running again,
Hunters kill tanks by exertion.