Archive for the ‘Lord of the Rings Online’ Tag

If You Give Me A Free Option, I’ll Take It   1 comment

Star Trek Online, Bathroom, Refresher

We are gamers. As gamers, overcoming challenges is kind of our primary thing. Any challenge, especially in the digital space, will be conquered. Speed runs through games where the developers want us to take our time? It’ll be done. Collect every single little collectible? Oh, definitely. Playing every single race/character combination? Of course. Replaying a game multiple time just to see every single possible ending? Par for the course. So if you dangle a carrot in front of us, and then tell us that, oh hey, there’s a way to acquire this carrot just by playing the game? Well bring it on.

The problem is, though, that we are in the Age of Free to Play. On one side you have the staunch Old Guard, banging on their drum of subscription, singing that one monthly fee gives them every single thing in the game and that the only advantage comes from your own drive, the challenges are badges of pride. On the other, you have the New Blood, those born into microtransactions, those that will flit from game to game wherever the crowd of public opinion takes them. “Everyone is playing this latest indie craze?! Then I have to play it, too!” To them, a subscription just doesn’t make sense. Why pay monthly for a game that they’ll be done with in a week? The market is changing to new demands, and so tries to cater to both.  But both sides have heavy influence. The Old Guard brings with it disposable income. The New Blood, their ample numbers and time. Their mixture brought about Free To Play.

Guild Wars 2, Plant Dragons

Dragons, dragons everywhere!


Though personally  I will wander from game to game and I do not find value in time-based subscriptions, my playstyle is steadfast that of the Old Guard. As such, I find myself torn whenever these MMOs offer ways of attaining store items through in-game methods. Neverwinter, Guild Wars 2, and Star Trek Online, for example, have ways of exchanging in-game acquired currency for store points. Wildstar and EvE Online have methods of exchanging in-game currency for subscription time. Lord of the Rings Online gives you store currency for performing achievements, and many other examples.

If you give me a method of playing your game for free, well then buy-gum I’m going to do so, not because I’m cheap, but just because the challenge was thrown down. For example, over the past two months, Star Trek Online has given away two Tier 6 ships, the Breen Sarr Theln Carrier and the Kobali Samsar Cruiser, with just quick daily mission requirements to get each, though you could use Lobi, the consolation lockbox credit, to buy them as well. For the Carrier, it was 25 days of the winter event foot race; for the cruiser, the anniversary mission and 15 days of Omega fragment hunting. I have prevailed and have both of the ships in my inventory! Challenge completed! But man, that much logging in, for those quick little events? The fun wore off quickly. So I have the ships, still in their boxes, and no desire to open them. The events burned me out.

If not for STO’s Lifetime subscription, I honestly probably wouldn’t even be playing. I would want to get everything for free by grinding for it, exchanging dilithium for store credits, just because the option is there. But that option is such a long grind that it numbs me to the game itself. It numbs me even with my lifetime!

This is why I haven’t put that much time in Neverwinter. Get a fantastic steed by just exchanging gems for store points, and grind ages for the gems, a never ending grind. Same with Lord of the Rings Online. I found myself in the early levels waiting and fighting other players for mosquito spawns just to complete a slayer challenge for store points. It’s not fun, but give me the option and playing any other way feels like cheating, and I pride myself on not cheating.

Neverwinter, Gelatinous Cube

Come at me, cube!


This is where being caught in the middle of the Old Guard and New Blood really sucks.  The Old Guard would just stick with one game, pay their sub and be happy. Grinds don’t bother them so much as it’s like other games don’t even exist, and their sub covers a lot of ground. The New Blood is cool with the little cheats. They get really upset at nerfs, they’re cool with the exploits that allow them to grind experience much faster than they should, the easy build guides, the experience boosters, all because they’re just moving on to another game soon anyway.

It’s a harsh realization when the games you enjoy playing have stopped catering to your specific playstyle. You feel like it’s passing you by. But then they offer another challenge, with a mighty fine carrot dangling on the end of the string again…

They know us so well.


Top 5 Favorite Video Game Music Compositions, A BattleBards Inspiration   4 comments

Show of hands, how many of you actually listen to the music in the games you play? Hmmm… wow, that’s more than I was expecting. If you’re not, though, you should really start as video game music is already it’s own artform with known and highly sought after composers like Jeremy Soule, main composer of the Elder Scrolls and Guild Wars series. No longer are we in the age of simple MIDI compositions, but full orchestrations take center stage. This is a good thing. A very good thing.

There is even a new podcast, recently started, called Battle Bards that showcases the music of our favorite MMOs in a roundtable discussion. The podcast is hosted by the quartet of Steph from MMO Gamer Chick, Syl from MMO Gypsy, Dodge from A Casual Stroll to Mordor, and Justin from Massively and Bio Break (and since I’m link-dropping, Tesh from TishToshTesh did the artwork).  I listened to the pilot episode, and it is fantastic and I highly recommend it. Especially if you’re a music aficionado like myself.

So, in honor of the Battle Bards newly minted podcast, here are my top five favorite video game musical compositions of all time. In order of simply how awesome they are.

#5 – Guild Wars – Lakeside County – Jeremy Soule

When I first started playing Guild Wars, it was as a quick break from the game I (and everyone and their mother) was addicted to, World of Warcraft. Because of my addiction, I never gave Guild Wars a fair shake and have always been disappointed that I never really played through the storyline. From what I can see of Guild Wars 2, the story from Guild Wars 1 seems superior, so it’s even more of a shame. Anyway, after the introduction and the stroll into town, the first zone you visit is Lakeside County in Ascalon. I could listen to this music over and over again, and frequently did. The beauty of the landscape, the autumn foilage slowly falling off the trees, the picturesque sky and valleys, and then this hauntingly beautiful flowing melody that didn’t quite fill you with hope of a new adventure, but set the tone of “everything is not what it seems”. Perfect foreshadowing for the trials to come.

#4 – Lord of the Rings Online – Shire Hills 03844 – Chance Thomas(?)

When I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy back in 7th grade, it was my first real foray into medieval-style fantasy fiction and the writings of JRR Tolkien was one of the best places to start. The culture presented of the Hobbits was instantly likable as one of curiosity and adventure. Whether that adventure was a full fellowship or just an adventure down the river to visit a neighbor, Hobbits, to me, always represented movement, motion, and progress. Even shoes held them back, they were always on the move. Why do you think they needed so many meals? For being such small creatures, their metabolism was through the roof and adventure was the way to burn off all those calories. They were the beginning of something much larger than themselves (as everything was much larger than they were), and this song with its upbeat guitars, light drum, and clapping gives the feeling of that forward movement. The song revolves around a single theme, but is intertwined periodically with other melodic phrases and joined by many other lines, like all the different sights to see and friends to meet while traveling down the road.

#3 – Skyrim – Main Theme – Jeremy Soule

I won’t lie. I played the EFF out of Skyrim. I didn’t stop playing because I grew tired of the game, I stopped playing because at level 65 I RAN OUT OF STUFF TO DO! I had completed every faction’s quests, the main storyline was done, and aside from grinding every skill up to 100 I was already maxed out in my favorites. Some guard would want to tell me about an old injury or something, but really there was nothing left to do. However, the theme song makes it sound like there’s always something to do. It’s got that grand, majestic feel with the chanting and horns that makes you feel like shouting from the tops of the mountains.

It starts out like a thunderstorm, bass drums and chants, and then slowly gathers steam until you’re in the thick of it. The horns pick up the main theme, and then take it over. The vocals pick up like thrums of lightning, then crescendo like gathering bursts of wind. A slight break, with a falsetto line leads into a joining of the chorus with the horns into the heart of the piece. After a couple more crescendos, the song lightens and ends on a clear and crisp note just like the storm having finally passed. With Skyrim being a land of harsh climate, both politically and physically, creating the music around a coming storm just ties it all together nicely.

#2 – Ultima IX – Stones – David “Iolo” Watson

I know I’ve been posting a lot about Ultima lately, but what can I say, it’s a big part of my own gaming history. And if there’s one song that would represent that history, it’s Stones. Encountered in the game sometimes at random, it was always a song that made me stop in my tracks. Say what you will about Ultima IX (and it’s all justified), but this is hands down my favorite version of Stones yet. Starting with that slow lute and then being picked up by the flute, it presents a haunting melody that feels very melancholy. And then, suddenly, there’s a burst of hope. The song lightens and the skies part. However, just as quick as they part, the melancholy comes back in the final strains of the piece.  It’s like saying “yes, there are times when you will be down but remember there is always a ray of hope to lift your spirits”. Even if, in the end, you’re still sad, that ray of hope has a way of melting it away if only for a small time.

#1 – Civilization IV – Baba Yetu – Christopher Tin

Trivia Time! What was the first piece of music made for a video game to ever be nominated for and win a Grammy? You’re looking at it. I can’t say enough good things about Baba Yetu that I’m not even sure where to start. The Civilization series of games is all about building an empire to stand the test of time from humble beginnings and this song shows that by just not letting up on the hope and majesty, constantly building on itself over and over again until your goosebumps find goosebumps of their own. And just when you think it can’t build any more, it smooths out and ends on the main theme that puts that extra faith in humanity’s future. Plus, the fact that the song is the Lord’s Prayer in Swahili just adds that extra spark of faith that wraps the entire thing together into just an amazing piece. Christopher Tin ended up winning a Grammy for this song, and although I don’t agree with those that pick the winners of the Grammys usually, I couldn’t help but applaud their choice here. Simply amazing.

And now, thanks to making this list, I’ll now have these songs stuck in my head for the rest of the week.

// Ocho

PS – There could be a lot worse songs to have stuck there…

PPS – Think I missed any, please post them in the comments!

Watching Boss and Dungeon Videos [Rant]   10 comments

Alright, MMOs. I have a small bone to pick with you. Why is it deemed absolutely necessary by the playerbase at large to have to watch videos of a dungeon or other encounter before you can attempt it? Seriously, where is the fun of pure discovery? Of being able to figure a puzzle out on your own?

I’m not a fan of strategy guides, either. If I’m going to use one, it’s only going to be after I’ve got far enough in the game to where it doesn’t make a difference and to satisfy my completionist itch. But reading it beforehand or watching all of these videos BEFORE you do an encounter? Isn’t that just plain cheating?

“Hey, look! We beat the boss by doing exactly what this video told me to do! We also beat it by using this exact skill build somebody else figured out!” … Are we just playing games for other people, now? You let somebody else do 90% of the work, and then you perform your role like an automaton. Really, there is no self-accomplishment in that. Is there no pride in figuring out a tricky puzzle yourself?

When you go to the movies, do you have to first read every spoiler about it you can? When you read a book, do you just skip right to the ending? Why does it feel like nobody likes spoilers, but everybody still wants them. How essentially having the game played for you is fun doesn’t make any sense to me.

The only points I will concede is that it saves time. Also, since probably everyone else in your group has cheated and watched every video, too, you’re at a social disadvantage and will stumble over your feet while everyone else is acting like a pro, mimicking what others have done before them.

So, fine. I get it, and to not look like a fool, I’ll watch the stupid videos to appease the gaming elite. It just really irks me that this laziness is the social norm and these games are designed that not following these mores hurts not just you, but your team as well.

My solution: A solo version of a dungeon. Don’t give great loot for it’s completion, or really give a huge incentive, but allow people to use it to see the story and practice the mechanics of encounters without having to resort to these out-of-game videos. Since loot is pretty much the only real reason players run dungeons to begin with, why not give an option to those who just want to see the story? So, for example, a dungeon can have a “solo” mode, a “regular” mode, and then whatever “hard” or “epic” difficulties you want after that. I’d have no problems running a dungeon on solo a few times to learn the encounters, and if I get a few random drops and some experience along the way, all the better! I could still make some character progress and be even more ready for the group encounters. But more important, I’d feel like I’d accomplished it myself, instead of just having it handed to me by a video or guide.

Have faith that your players aren’t lazy and actually enjoy a challenge, and you will see returns on it.

\\ Ocho

P.S. – To it’s credit, the only MMO this really doesn’t apply to is Dungeons and Dragons Online. They already have this system in place. I don’t know if it’s in 100% of their dungeons, though, but it’s a great idea that I feel could do the rest of the genre a big service.

Rock Out – Favorite Game Music and Music to Rock Out To   2 comments

Do you know of Baba Yetu by Christopher Tin? If you don’t, stop reading and go and listen to it now. That, my friend, is the first piece of music specifically made for a video game to ever win a Grammy, and although I don’t agree with the Grammy committee on some of their decisions, that is easily one of the most inspiring pieces of music out there. Well done, Grammy people.

As I’m sure Syp would agree with me, a good musical score is one of the big reasons you keep coming back to a particular game. Stones, a simple song from the Ultima series, for example, I find myself whistling from time to time. It’s stuck with me after all this time even though I haven’t played an Ultima game for years. Still, I want to periodically head back, possibly just to hear it again. It holds such emotion and such feeling, I can’t help but remember it fondly. Or even the music of The Shire in Lord of the Rings Online conveys a peace and serenity that’s perfectly matched to the zone, making it, in my opinion, one of the greatest zones in any game out there. It’s no coincidence that the background music plays a big part in that. And who could forget the strains when you first exit Ascalon City into Lakeside County in Guild Wars? It holds a sweet and yet somber fall melody, as if to gently foreshadow coming events. Awesome and amazing, all of them, I highly suggest a listen or two or ten.

… Then there’s the other side of the spectrum.

Some people don’t want and/or even like game soundtracks. They find them a waste of time, and the repetition bothers them to no end. I feel you there, too. Not all game soundtracks are winners. The music from the Barrens zone in vanilla World of Warcraft was terrible. Why did they have to include grunts when the music started? It was just an audio cue that reminded you “Oh yeah, you’ve been here long enough, it’s starting over again.” And with the size of the Barrens… you ended up hearing it a LOT.

That’s when you bring in your own music to play. Getting into PvP, for example, is always made a little more exciting when you blast some hard rock to go along with it.

To that end, I wanted to let all of you music lovers out there know of an event a good friend of mine is doing soon: This Thursday, September 13th from 7 to 10 pm, my good buddy Jersey Jim is hosting an online radio show  “Jersey Jim Makes a Scene”. Sticking with mostly the harder stuff, in his own words, you’ll find “Lots of good music and good times to come.” Great music to game to, definitely. Something to get the blood pumping. Here’s a link to his FB page, detailing the event, and here’s the site,, he’ll be broadcasting live from.

Seriously, do me a solid. Give him a listen and Like his page. If you like what you hear, let him know!

So which do you prefer? Your own or the games soundtrack? Got any of your own favorites? Let me know down in the comments!

For those about to rock, I /salute you.

\\ Ocho

P.S. – I also saw recently it was detailed where you can alter the music in Guild Wars 2 to your own playlists. Awesome, but why one would want to change the fantastic score for GW2 is beyond me.

P.P.S. – I also just discovered Gangham Style. Why didn’t anyone tell me about this sooner?!! Too much. I’m dying over here…

Paradox Sale on Steam! Pick up Magicka and Majesty for cheap!   1 comment

This weekend, from June 7th – June 10th, 2012, Steam is having a sale on titles by Paradox. If you’re not sure who Paradox is, that’s alright, it took me a second as well to remember. They don’t have a gigantic selection in their stable of games, but two titles stick out that I highly recommend: Majesty and Magicka.

Magicka straight-up is one of the most fun action titles I have ever played. It combines an ever-present satirical humor with a “discover the best combinations on your own” dynamic gameplay. The premise is that you are a wizard from from a sacred order and have to use an elemental spellcasting system to stop a big bad evil. You have eight general schools of magic: Water, Fire, Lightning, Earth, Cold, Shield, Arcane, and Life that you combine to create devastating effects.  Combine Arcane with Fire to create a burning laser beam, combine ice with earth to create a huge snowball, combine earth and shield to erect a wall of spikes surrounding you. The combinations are numerous. You also have to be a quick typist as you set up spells by typing them in with the Q,W,E,R,A,S,D, and F keys. Then on top of this, you get higher “magicks” that require a specific combination. Think you’re a fast typer? Here are a few spell combinations I wrote down for quick reference.

Thunderbolt: QFASA ; Tornado: DQFQQF ; Conflagrate: FQFFQFFQ ; Thunderstorm: QFQFASA ; Napalm: QFDWFF (Napalm is only available in the Magicka: Vietnam DLC, but it’s well worth it).

Now how do I get my rogues to stop stealing…

The other title I recommend Majesty is a fantasy, real-time strategy title with one gigantic caveat: you don’t have direct control of your units. Essentially, you build a castle, then you start building “guilds” around your castle. A warrior’s guild, a thieve’s guild, a ranger’s guild, etc. Through these guilds you hire heroes who will show up and then meander around your town. They’ll wander off on their own, find monsters to slay, and acquire gold. Well, now you have to give them something to do with this gold, so you build inns, blacksmith shops, marketplaces, and trading posts. Your heroes buy stuff and upgrade their equipment, then you collect taxes generated by the sales and put it back into your town’s infrastructure. You convince your heroes to explore and attack by placing reward flags. Want that dragon killed? Put a nice bounty on it’s head and your heroes will rush for the reward. You still have scenarios to accomplish and foes to fight off, but it adds a nice twist to the standard real-time strategy model.

Game well, my friends. Game well.

\\ Ocho

P.S. – If you are an MMO player like myself, another title recently introduced to Steam is the Lord of the Rings Online, and a Starter Pack. Although the game is accessed pretty much the same way as before, I like using Steam as a platform not only for easy screenshots, but also for the nice extras thrown your way for using Steam. The Starter Pack comes with a Noble Grey Steed, Northdowns, Evendim, and Misty Mountains quest packs, a token that gives an extra 25% experience on monster kills, and 1,000 Turbine Points on top of that. Right now, it’s still at its introductory price of $15, which isn’t a bad deal at all, especially if you’re a new or free player.

Gametime! The Baconing and Star Trek Online   Leave a comment

I love a good Steam sale. No, really, my collection is rather ridiculous. It was during one of these sales that I saw and picked up The Baconing, an indie title from Hothead Games. With a title like that, how could I not? It wasn’t until after I started playing it that I realized it was the third of a trilogy, where the first two were made by the legendary Ron Gilbert, creator of the Monkey Island series, which I also highly suggest picking up. Even without his genius, The Baconing is still a fun as heck game, and I’m now waiting for the first and second of the trilogy to go on sale so I can pick them up as well (C’mon Steam! Get on that!).

The 2D/3D effect is a killer art style.

After listening to the last STOked episode, I jumped into Star Trek Online and played a bit of the foundry. Personally, I love the Foundry. I haven’t created any missions myself (yet), but the creativity that other players come up with is amazing. The good stuff is a little tricky to find, though, so I mainly get my Foundry playlists from trusted sources, like StarbaseUGC, STOked, and finally Cryptic themselves. I’m glad that Cryptic has started promoting specific missions because then at least you know they are going to be good. For the record, I went in to play two missions specifically: ‘The Worst of Both Worlds’ and ‘Temple of Pah-Wraiths’, both made by Captain_Revo, and both are more than worth it.

Bajor never looked so… Borg-y.

Finally, I haven’t yet gone back into Lord of the Rings Online for the Spring Festival. I know, I know, I was just complaining about not having time for special events, but this one I will make. It’s on until June 11th, though, so I got plenty of time. I’m even considering starting a new character. I do like the Loremaster, but its not as up-close and personal as I prefer.

\\ Ocho

So Many Events, So Little Time   3 comments

Actually, I believe they were playing Sting...One of the best things I love about MMOs are the in-game festivals. They, more than any other aspect of the game, say ‘Hey! THIS is what makes MMOs fun’. Sure, you have raiding, guilds, and chat, which you can’t find in single player games, but everything else in MMOs can generally be found elsewhere. Quests, yup. Bosses, yup. Lore filled worlds, yup. But its the in-game events that really stand out. You won’t find a Winter Festival in Mass Effect 3, or an Anniversary Celebration in Skyrim, or a Fruit Harvest Bonanza in Pacman, but you WILL find them in MMOs. And I can’t seem to keep up with a single one of them…

Guild Wars just celebrated another huge anniversary festival, the last one before Guild Wars 2 releases. I wasn’t able to get in game for even a small amount of time. Really, I have nobody to blame but myself on this one. I love Guild Wars, but I can’t stand my Paragon. Love the long range damage dealing and crowd control… but Pants! Pants! The class needs Pants! I couldn’t stand, after a while, the fact that I was essentially slaughtering enemies, bristling with spears, while wearing a mini-skirt! Freedom of movement, long distance running, I get it. But still… no matter how epic they make them look, I still feel a virtual breeze where there shouldn’t be one.

A bit chilly today, huh?

Lord of the Rings Online is wrapping up the celebration of it’s 5th year being open, and I was only able to make it in for one night… the last one. I still did a lot, collecting envelopes, setting off fireworks, riding my new Azure steed colored in silver and navy, picking up a map or two, but I certainly wasn’t able to take full advantage of the celebration. Even though they extended it! Ah well. Next time, LotRO, next time.

Dungeons and Dragons online also had a pirate-esque festival, where you explore an island and trounce the scurvy inhabitants to steal their hard earned treasures (wait… who is the real pirate here?). I got in for a night to try this out with my standing Tuesday night DDO group, and it was a lot of fun! As a recurring event, it will most likely be back again.

Finally, Star Trek Online, though not an anniversary like Guild Wars and LotRO, was having an event I’m the most disappointed on missing out on: The Second Foundry Challenge. Star Trek Online’s Foundry is an awesome tool that lets the players generate their own stories. Some are great, some are lame, some are downright exploits, but if you have the entire universe as your playground, having player made missions is a no-brainer. In an infinite universe, there are infinite stories. So how many of the entries was I able to play? One. Just one. It was pretty good, but again, I blame myself. My gaming ADD sometimes knows no bounds. However, a new Third Foundry Challenge is starting!! If you’ve ever wanted to tell a tale based in the Star Trek universe, the game is Free to Play, and you won’t find a better opportunity.

Hopefully, I’ll get around to actually playing it this time.

\\ Ocho

P.S – Also, Star Trek Online is currently having reruns of it’s Featured Episode series that will be going on until the end of the month, and I highly suggest you give them a try. Easily the best content I’ve played in an MMO to date.


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