It was a week.

Here are Matthew McAndrews’ comics for the week:

Matthew McAndrews’s Modem Problems #390 – Drivers Ed – September 24th, 2007

Matthew McAndrews’s Modem Problems #391 – History – September 27th, 2007

Like the title says… it was a week. Nothing special, really.

My Health: My back is better. Mhari is better. It’s cooling off so we are sleeping a little better.

Eve Online: One of my characters completed one of her level V skills, and went and bought another skill for 3.6M ISK. Next is learning Electronics to V so I can learn Cloaking. Another week or so of training. Other than the little bit of time on line to change skills, I just haven’t been up to being in game on this one. On Monday and Thursday when I would normally play around 9pm, I just look at the computer and decide I would rather get sleep… and climb into bed, instead. The time slot is what is keeping me from playing more than anything else. Well, that and just not really caring about the game, really.

Lord of the Rings Online: Didn’t do a lot here, either. It’s strange. I thought my account should have run out of it’s free 30 days by now. No word from anyone on winning any thing. And I haven’t seen any charges on the credit card I used for authorizing access. I can live with out without this game. It’s wonderful to play as a change of pace. And it’s a fantasticly well designed game. All the best from all the other MMOs out there… and the LOTR license. *shrug*

Second Life: Popped in as a couple of my characters for a few minutes each. Nothing new to report. Even my favorite designers haven’t really released anything new. Faded Lotus group ‘blew up’ again. Likely for good this time. At least as any form of location other than a little store. And they are going to cease production on some of their wares that catered to some of the fringe groups. *shrug* I will miss some of the good people. A couple of them are still there and I chatted with one of them a little.

City of Heroes/Villains: Not even a lot to report here. The final day of the encore Invasions was on this past weekend (or was it Monday?). And things are getting back to normal. They are starting to do some of the warm up Hype for Issue 11 and the speculation on it is running wild. It looks like it’s going to involve at least one timeline alteration… Makes me wonder if they are going to actually allow that to affect the actual game world. It would require the villain side tutorial to change, a lot of changes in the Rogue Isles, and lesser changes, so far, on the Hero side of things. We’ll have to see. I don’t expect any of the changes to hit until November or later…

So… that’s it. See? It was just a week.

Weak week…

Here are Matt’s comics for the week:

Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems #388 – R.O.T.C. – September 17th, 2007

Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems #389 – Science Lab – September 20th, 2007

My Health
Well, Mhari and I have our own new pains and issues. Nothing too serious. But not something for public consumption. Otherwise we’re doing rather well. She had her birthday on Tuesday, and we had a nice dinner at Claim Jumpers. Other than for our aches and pains, we are doing quite good.

Eve Online: Nothing much to report here. I didn’t touch it much. Just enough to check on skills and make sure I am training them.

Lord of the Rings Online: I played a little of this. I have my Guardian up to level 15 and I tried out a Champion a little. It appears that the Champion is one of the most played characters in the game. Something about it being able to handle damage well and dish it out, too. The two-weapon style of fighting is kinda nice. They seem to have a lot of skills that are affected by defeating enemies and also that do area-effect damage. Might be interesting, but I don’t know. Not sure how much I will explore it. I’m more interested in seeing where I can take my Guardian than re-playing through with a different character. Almost done with my free month… I think it is up any day now. Not sure.

City of Heroes/Villains: Mhari got her second Mastermind to level 50 during the invasions on Monday. So now she’s working on her third one. On Wednesday I got Knight of Power to level 35. I think only one more of Knight’s angels needs to get to 35 before we go to the Rikti War Zone. Once that happens I plan to take the whole team there and do those missions as a team. At least once. Other than that, it’s continue with Purple Moose, who is trying to get to 35. And maybe work a little on Glacial Leopard. Over with the Low Level folks on Mon/Thur, we are all at level 14 now, of the ‘original 3’.

Don’t really feel like talking about anything else. I have ‘BuddyCon’ to go to this weekend. It’s a pen & paper role-playing ‘convention’ that I and my RPG buddies do up each year. It’s not a ‘real’ convention, but rather a ‘one weekend a year’ where the greater gathering of people who have gamed together over the years come together for games the whole weekend. The only other time of the year some of us see each other is at DunDraCon in February. So it’s a ‘big thing’ for us. I’m looking forward to hanging out with my friends. They are all good people. And almost all of them are MMO players, too.

So… off I go, to get through the work day part of Friday so I can go ‘hang out with the guys’ tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

Okay, so it’s been a week…

(Looks like the Firefox incompatibility has been dealt with – Yay!)

And I could have done without it and been just as happy, I think.

Here are Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems strips for the week:

Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems #386 – 09-11-21 – September 11th, 2007

Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems #387 – Reading Is Fundamental – September 13th, 2007

So, on with the week…

Personal Health:
It was a week. I didn’t feel very good on Monday, but made it through. Then Tuesday rolled around and I called a ‘time out’ and called in sick to work. The day mostly in bed and not doing much of anything seems to have done the trick. Wednesday was slow to start, but like with Monday, I made it through. And the rest of the week has been fine other than back pains that likely have more to do with my fall the other week than anything else. Dr. James will see to that this coming Sunday, so I should be fine.

MMO Stuff

Everquest 2:
I hopped on the game for a little last weekend. Mostly it was so that my friend Ron B. could show me the quality of the graphics on his high-end machine with it’s card that is one step above mine. Looked good. We showed off each other’s homes and the like. Made me sort of want to go back to playing it again. If I could play it with friends again. Ray P., Eric Z, Chad and Ron all play it to one degree or another, over on a server different from the one I played on. Maybe Whyaylooh and I will do a character transfer of our characters over there to be with friends again. We’ll see. I have chosen to pay for another month of Station Access while we try to decide.

Lord of the Rings Online:
I’ve been playing this on and off. I’m sort of liking it. I think I want to play it some more. Still need to try out the game from some different perspectives and see if I like the game any better or worse from other modes of play. I know that to some degree I have found that the other players are often quite rude. There are mobs in the game, just like there are in other MMOs, that can not be Solo’d even if you are 3 levels above them. These require at least a group, or more like 4-6 levels above the mob, to defeat them. There’s one of these, a Warg I can’t spell the name of, that has taken me out three times so far. So it is time to gain another level before trying him again.

The other aspect of the game I have encountered is the ‘more quests than you could ever do before they grow stale’ effect. There are so many quests I can accept at my current level of 13 in the Shire/Bree/Stadle area of the game, that most of them turn Green long before I can get to them all. I’m not sure whether to feel like this is good design or not. It -does- keep me from worrying about my actual levelling… except for the quests marked as Fellowship quests, like that Warg I mentioned. Those are meant to be taken by a group. But I am playing on here without any friends to play with, so any Fellowships are ‘pick up groups’ where all the members are sort of forced to work together because alone none of us can take the mob(s). Again… good design? Likely. But for someone like myself who sometimes prefers to solo, not so good. Of course, it’s an MMO, what am I doing solo’ing it?

Eve Online:
All I did here, this week, was sign in long enough to change skills. I really wanted to do other things with my time than waste it here. LOTRO is new, and COH/V always calls to me.

City of Heroes/Villains:
As always, things are fun here. Showed off the Dark-Star base to Ron B, as he hadn’t gotten on since I worked it over. Then Monday was another session of Heroes with Professor Thrill and his ‘students/companions’. This time there were five of us: Omega Thrill (RP), Jandre (Mhari), Pale Phoenix (Zafel), Asii (Nightwind), and Professor Thrill (me). Scrapper, Controller, Peacebringer, Scrapper and Warshade, respectively. It was rather fun, though we had a LOT of mobs on the mission with 5 people. Made me discuss doing Task Forces, but getting this team together enough to do that sort of thing might be difficult.

Typical Tuesday. villain side time. Mostly Black Maria (Mhari), FullDark (Zefel) and Commander Kitty (me) doing things. We didn’t manage to team up with Broulin (Whyaylooh) that I remember. And I might have played Purple Moose for some of that. I really am not clear. I was ill and only sort of kinda there.
An invasion day. So while we did get ‘Knight and the Angels’ together, we did a bit more Invasion fighting than missions. Gathered were Knight of Power (me), Katiri (Mhari), Kattrianna (Nightwind), Snowslide (Zefel) and Omega Thrill (RP). Omega Thrill gained two levels that night, and got his invasion accolade. It was fun.
Hero time again. Professor Thrill, Jandre and Omega Thrill went out and beat on Council, Crey and Vazolok. Lots of Quantum equipped folk in the missions. More than a single Keldian really is normal for. And more than one Void in the night. But it was, once again, quite fun. Whyaylooh attempted to join us, but was having connection troubles trying to get to the Guardian server.

I expect tonight to be our usual villain night. And I believe at least one of the days of the weekend is an Invasion Encore day.

I’ve been doing some thinking about all that CoX play. It’s feeling often like people are waiting on me before they will get together and go do something on the game. Especially for this new Mon/Thur play. Yeah, I’m the instigator of doing our play on CoX on those evenings, now that we are not getting together for EQOA. But my INTENT for the time is to make it less structured than seems to be expected. I don’t want people waiting for me before they can go have fun. My intent with these sessions is that they be LOW stress and LOW obligation. No one is to be REQUIRED to play. Not even me.

Part of what was draging the EQOA sessions down was the fact that circumstances could often cause the group not to all be on the game in time to play. And due to that, the others would stand around doing nothing while waiting for the missing player. The nature of EQOA made it that if we were missing someone, we either wouldn’t be ABLE to move on to the next quest (especially if it was the healer or the tank) or didn’t want to get too far ahead of the other player in XP and out level them. Having a group of mixed level in EQOA could sometimes cause real issues when trying to do quests. There were ways around the issues, but they were a little annoying to have to do. Hense the issue of standing around waiting.

When I formed up our new CoX group, my goal was to avoid that. CoX has a well designed system that doesn’t require that you have a specific character type to complete missions. Or even a specific number of players (except for the rare mission, or the task/strike forces, which do require a specific number). Yes, it can be harder to do with fewer, sometimes. Or without a healing powered character. But it is not impossible. And when there are fewer players, the missions adjust to adapt to roughly the same challenge level.

So, all that being said, there should NEVER be a need to stand around and wait for a specific player to get their character on. And the out leveling issue is taken care of by the Side kicking system and the Exemplar system. The first allows a lower level character to be mentored up to a level below a higher-level character. And the other allows a higher level character to reduce their effective level down to that of a lower level character. This balances things well. So… again, no need to stand around and wait! But they are. For me. Grrrrr!

But enough of my angst.

That’s all for this week. Work is work. Life is life. Sinkholes are sinkholes that cut off water to your work building and cause you to go home early. It all works out and life continues. The Sinkhole was yesterday. Today is Friday. I called in and it says that the water is back on and to come in to work. So off I go. Have a great weekend folks! I will post again in a week.

Life moves along…

First of all, let me say that I HATE losing the ability to make the post here on Windows Live’s spaces through Firefox. That is my prefered browser when on a strange system. I may give up echoing my posts here if this continues…

Another week and another posting. Here are Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems strips for the week:

Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems #384 – It’s Spooky In Here – September 3rd, 2007

Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems #385 – A VERY Bad Idea – September 6th, 2007

Okay, so here’s what’s happened this past week in my life…

On Wednesday I had a fall. It was up one step onto cement. I scraped my wrist and knee and jolted myself something fierce. I was shaken for a few hours, as any fall will do, and I am sore from it still. But I am okay. Just scared myself and Mhari. It’s never fun to be reminded that one isn’t as spry as one once was. I just thank all the powers that be that nothing worse came of it than scrapes and aches.

Other than that and my reactions to the heatwave(s) and the cloud of smoke from the fires in my part of the state and how that plays havoc with my alergies… I’m doing quite well, really. I can’t really complain too much.

Everquest Online Adventures: Well… it has happened. On Labor Day we got together and finished the last of the Level 47 side quests. Then we stood around Grimm’s little hut out in the middle of nowhere and asked each other ‘Now what?’. We knew that we were going to be quitting the game come the 24th of September. Did we really want to keep playing? If we continued it would mean doing quests we would never get to the end of in the time we had left, or just mucking about killing mobs at random mindlessly for no good reason other than maybe getting to Level 51 before the 24th. We thought it over while mucking about killing mobs at random mindlessly for no good reason and decided to just drop the game. We would move the team that wanted to go to City of Heroes since we all are playing there anyways. And that was it. Goodbye EQOA.

Eve Online: My characters are slowly moving along. Learning things while I don’t play. I’ve done a few missions here and there. But nothing really to speak of. Whyaylooh and I did a couple of missions on Monday to good effect. But really we are finding what Why and I already knew about this game. It’s just grinding, really. Sure, it’s not for XP or Skill Points. The game doesn’t have XP. And the skill points can be earned even while not actively playing the game, so long as one signs in to change what you are learning from time to time. Instead the game has ‘money’, called ISK. ISK is the XP-line item in the game. You earn it for kills, you earn it for missions getting completed. And you spend it on improving your character’s skills (Those skills you can learn you have to buy books to get started on them), equipment and whatnot.

As I told one Noriko once, getting money as the reward for things was too much like real life to me. Though I sure wish I could learn new skills while I sleep in the manner the characters do.

I am going to play the game some more. Yes, I do enjoy it from time to time. Sometimes more than other times. I love flying through space. I am thinking once I get my skills up on a character to be able to survive some of the more dangerous parts of space that I am going to fly off in some random direction and see what I find. That’s what I really want to do in the game. It’s something I can’t do in real life. Just GO and look to see what’s past the next nebula.

City of Heroes/Villains: This is sort of where the news is… and in things mentioned below this section. Replacing the EQOA time Arpiean, Mhari and I, with the occasional guest-star of Whyaylooh and possibly others, have started playing heroes on Guardian server. Arpiean chose to play is Broadsword/Invunderbility Scrapper, Omega Thrill, who is level 10, rather than start a new character. So Mhari pulled out Jandre, her level 10 Mind Control/Empathy Controller. So, I looked over my level 10’s on the server, and decided that I would play Professor Thrill, my Warshade, level 10. And off we go!

For Arpiean this will be his first hero he will focus on, I believe, and definately his first Scrapper. He’s been playing villians mostly for the last month or so since I bought him the Good vs. Evil edition when I knew we would be ending EQOA soon. For Mhari, her character is her first controller/healer. It’s a different experience as she’s only played Masterminds, Tanks, Scrappers and Blasters before. For me, this is my first Warshade. And I have wanted to see where I can go with it. I plan to have FUN. And not let silly things like defeat stop me!

And that focus on Fun got me thinking again of why I keep sticking with CoX when I seem sometimes to change MMOs so much. It’s that Fun factor. In almost every other MMO I have played, to play as a group properly you almost HAVE to have the right mix of characters. Usually it’s a Healer, a Tank, a Melee Master and a Nuker. In The EQ games this is Druid/Cleric/Shaman + Fighter/Paladin/Shadow Knight + Rogue/Ranger/Monk + Mage/Enchanter/Summoner/etc. In other games it’s usually the same. Sure, you CAN play solo or outside that mix. Sometimes to great effect. But you almost ALWAYS -need- at least one Healer, one Melee (preferably a Tank-type) and one Nuker/Mage.

And I then look at City of Heroes. Yes, to some extent you need a healing type. And it is very useful to have a tanking type that can hold the attention of all the enemy and be able to handle all that attention. But nearly every archtype in the game CAN solo. Some better than others. But all CAN do it. They can go from level 1 to level 50 alone. And that can be Fun. In fact it is very empowering to be able to do it. But take TWO people… NO MATTER their archtypes or powers… and they WILL be able to get through the whole level 1 to 50 together. Make that 3 on up to a full team, and the fun piles on once the group of people learn to work together well. And again… it doesn’t matter what archtypes or powers.

Again, just like the other MMOs, there are mixes that will do better. And different people and play styles make different mixes work differently. But it is that MIX, that endless way that you all can work together. And the fact that all these people can be true individuals, not cookie cutter copies of the other characters out there, where the nature of the player can shine through… THAT is what makes it truely FUN.

Lord of the Rings Online: Yes, I did it. Frys had it on sale and I picked up a copy. I am in my free month of play and taking a look at this game. I wanted to see what they did with it, how it drives, what it looks like, and find out if it was any good. Would it be able to overcome my distaste for the world, and instead work with my like of the movies. Could it take a ‘honored’ world and make it into something other people could play in and enjoy without dishonoring the source? Well.. I will let others decide the honor part of it. Remember, I don’t really like the LOTR world. I am mostly sick of it, really. So I am coming into this view (review?) of this game with bias against it.

First of all, installing the game was a bit of a task, like with most MMOs. This game takes slightly over 1 DvD (as it comes on 2 DvDs) of space. It claims to require 7 GBs of your hard drive with 10 GBs recommended. And then it has to do it’s update (again, like all MMOs installed from the retail pack after any length of time after launch)… the update took more than an hour. Not sure exactly, as I went and did other things while waiting. Unlike other games with long downloads, they don’t display anything other than the progress bars…

Character creation is simple. You have a choice of Men (human), Dwarf, Hobbit or Elf. No surprise. You can play male or female of any of those but Dwarf. There are no female Dwarves. (Isn’t there some long discussions out there about this regarding tolkien… also regarding the proper spelling of the plural of Dwarf?) They have what is the usual (in the post-CoH MMO world) interface for adjusting how your character looks in some ways. Though no where near as complete as what CoH does. But then fantasy games aren’t about flashy costumes like superheroes.

Classes of characters are Champion (This is a Offensive-Focused Melee Combat Class, with some moderate Tanking ability and agro-control), Guardian (This is the traditional Tank/Fighter. He is a Melee Combat Class with focus on holding agro on himself and withstanding the amount of damage coming in), Captain (Interesting Melee Combat Class character with the powers to inspire/Buff others that are teamed with them. It’s sort of a mix of traditional Paladin and a pet-class), Burgler (Traditional Thief/Rogue sort, a Melee Combat Class with stealth and things having to do with fooling or decieving the enemy), Hunter (This is a Nuker/Ranged Combat Class that isn’t bad at Melee Combat but EXCELLS at ranged combat), Minstrel (This character type best resembles the Healers of other MMOs, but with music as the focus. Comes across sort of like a Spellsinger would. Lots of group buffs, heals, and the like), and lastly, but not least, the Lore-Master (The Magic User/Nuker of the game. They are also a ‘pet’ class, and they have some ‘status’ heals (anti-posison and anti-disease).)

I have only played a Guardian Human to level 11 so far, and a Minstrel Dwarf to level 8. Toyed with an Elf Lore-Master and a Hobbit Hunter. I need to explore things some more before having a true feel. The Guardian is a pleasent tank to play. The User Interface is easy to learn, and typical of modern MMOs. So far there have not been any surprises in the way the game plays. It has a lot to thank CoH, EQ2 and WoW for in the way it’s Quests are set up. It has the WoW-like hovering symbol over NPC heads when they have a quest for you. (In the form of a Ring, of course.) The quests are interesting and often split up into easy to complete sub-parts. And if you collect all you can find in an area before going out to do the chores, you will almost always have plenty to do so that leveling up becomes secondary to completing quests. Which is always the better system of play in my mind. It hides the grinding. Kill ‘X’ number of ‘Whatevers’ exist, but not so many that it’s all you are doing. And the collect ‘X’ number of ‘item’ quests don’t always take you to monster filled areas. And you are NOT fighting rats to death. Though you WILL fight a LOT of spiders, boars and bandits.

From CoH the game gets the some of the ‘Kill so many of X and get a badge’. In LOTRO it’s get a title or a ‘trait’. Traits are a sort of alternate advancement mechanic that offers you other rewards simular to the Enhancements of City of Heroes. You go to a special NPC once you have earned a Trait and they allow you to sort of slot it in any available area. But you only have so many ‘slots’ for the traits. But you can change them around just by talking to the right NPC and spending a little money. It’s a nice character customization feature mixed with the secondary reward/acomplisment system.

There are a lot more things about LOTRO that are differences or refinements to what is becoming the MMO norm since World of Warcraft became MMO king. So far I have not seen anything really to make this game stand out. I would say that it is a VERY fine game. As good as EQ2 or WoW, easily. With a Intelectual Property that might allow it to bring in players that would otherwise have not bothered. It very much pleases on all fronts, unlike another game I tried recently… Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, which stunk.

And finally, there are the graphics. Even without my new video card, LOTRO looks VERY, very nice. And WITH the new video card it’s beautiful. Bright in the bright part of the world, and dark in the dark parts. This game succeeds in ways that I feel World of Warcraft does not even begin to compare, and Everquest II only comes close to matching. Turbine did a great job here.

Oh, one last item to mention about LOTRO… for those that like to play the dark side of the coin, and like Player vs Player play, there is something in the game for you. It’s called Monster Play. Get any one character in the normal PvE side of the game to level 10 (which is a matter of only maybe a handful of hours of play) and it unlocks Monster Play. Play any of 5 different monster types, which start out as Level 50, and go out there and have fun. Missions and PvP experiences abound. Play a lot of the Monster Play and do well with either missions or the PvP play, and you will unlock the ability to play other monsters, like Trolls. Maybe other things, too. I barely scratched the surface of this side of the game. Not my cup of tea, but it looks to be as much fun, if not more, for those interested in it, as the rest of LOTRO.

A lot of care and love has gone into the production of Lord of the Rings Online, and it really shows in the game. I think that if this game gets the population that it deserves, and both Turbine and Midway can keep it going and keep feeding development into it, it will have a long and prosperous online presence. It’s a deserving game, that shows that these people don’t just want to milk the MMO community like others do, but they actually want to provide a quality and valuable product to boot.

And I have barely scratched the surface of this game. I plan to play more while my free play goes on. And I entered one of the fan site contests for a free lifetime subscription… so we’ll see… Maybe I will be playing this for a while. Maybe not. And here I didn’t like this world… I still don’t. But I like it better than the one Blizard gave me in WoW. At least for now.

New Graphics Card: As mentioned before, I upgraded the video card in my primary gaming system. I got a Nvidia 7950 GT OC from BFG. I -love- it! City of Heroes, even during lag-worthy Invasions with huge numbers of heroes/villains blasting away, or on the skin of the Rikti Mothership while the shields are down, the framerate flows and the graphics are set on max! It’s glorious!!!! And LOTRO looks like a dream. I plan to load EQ2 at some point before my station access expires and take a look at that too… see how it improved. Maybe even reload Vanguard and see if a better card will make that lame game playable. This video card ROCKS. The only glitch I had wasn’t with the card. It was with the lame powersupply in the HP and Gateway systems I have. They only had 300 Watt Supplies. Now I have a 650 Watt in the HP and things are working great. The Gateway will get the same upgrade (or simular) soon, as well as getting upgraded to 2 GB of RAM.

ENOUGH! I am going to be late to work or something. Thanks for reading. Leave your thoughts on MMOs or whatever in comments, thanks!