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!