Entering Moria for the First Time

Lord of the Rings Online, fishing, The Shire, LotRO

My video card was dying. I would start up a graphics intensive game, and seconds later I would experience a full system crash. Looking through all the trackers at my disposal, the common thread was the failure of the video card drivers. I mean, that’s where most crashes come from, simply the miscommunication between the software and the hardware. Driver refreshes weren’t working, either. The card itself was physically dying. But I still wasn’t absolutely sold on the video card, as the card failing could’ve been a cascade from the motherboard to the processor, both of which are getting up in age at this point. So, I needed a program that would be intensive on the processor, but not on the video card to really test it out. Lord of the Rings Online immediately popped to mind.

It’s not like LotRO is a visually unappealing game, it very much is, but the game’s architecture relies more on your processing power. Sure enough, where Elder Scrolls Online or Secret World Legends would crash within seconds, Lord of the Rings Online stayed up. Yup, it was definitely the video card. Which is fine. The fix ended up needing a new card, a new system case, and a new power supply, so while I was waiting to get all that together, I had LotRO.

Lord of the Rings Online, LotRO, Trollshaws, trolls

Oh hey! I remember these fellas!

Early September, the Summer event was in mid-swing. I had a Dwarven Rune-keeper in the mid-30’s (my highest level to date that I started in April of 2017), and my long-time spreadsheet had the information I needed on the character to quickly pick up right where I left off. My want for this character, though, was to play through all of the main story and finally to get the whole LotRO experience (without the grouping and raids, of course, because that’s how I roll).

I finished up the Lone-Lands (ugh), and then headed up to Evendim. But it quickly dawned on me that Evendim was not part of the original game. It was an expansion added well after launch, and to get the LotRO experience, that would take completing zones and content in order. Tricky to find, but I found this list of Patch updates.

Switching to the Trollshaws, my philosophy was simple: Complete as many quests in a new zone as possible before moving on (skipping fellowship quests), complete any story in the zone, complete Deeds that would help my Rune-keeper’s primary traits (wisdom, loyalty, idealism, confidence, and empathy), keep up with crafting, complete Faction Reputations in the zone, and to not over-level a zone using the Stone of the Tortoise, a pocket item that would cancel experience gains. Tortoise is apt, as every time I told my plan to others, they mostly digitally shook their heads wondering why I just wasn’t rushing to end game. That’s just not my style.

Lord of the Rings Online, LotRO, Angmar, towers

Not too many quests take place in these towers, but man are they a nice set-piece to screenshot.

From the Trollshaws to the Misty Mountains, then on to Angmar, I was making slow progress. Then, at 51 (I gave myself a one level buffer for harder quests), I stopped experience entirely. From Angmar, then started the second half story of Volume 1. Through the icy wastes of Forochel and finally on to Eregion.

Finally, just last night I completed Eregion, finished the Prelude Volume 2: Book 1 quests, picked up my first Legendary Item, and stepped through Durin’s Gate and into Moria for the first time. Armed with my traits in the 8-9 range, a couple goat steeds, and a brand new Legendary Item (oddly worse than the weapon I currently have), I’m ready to put my Tortoise Stone aside and start leveling to 60.

Lord of the Rings Online, LotRO, Moria, stairs

Where do these stairs go? They go… up?

Since Moria launched in February of 2009 I’m only, what, 10 years behind? I’m cool with that.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

// Ocho

Top 5 Favorite Video Game Music Compositions, A BattleBards Inspiration

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!

Gametime! The Baconing and Star Trek Online

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

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.

GameTime! Max Payne, Lord of the Rings Online, and Cell Phone Gaming

This is a new segment I’m working on. Essentially, it’ll just be a quick update about what I, as a casual gamer, am currently playing. It won’t always be MMOs, and it won’t always be the latest and greatest game, but hopefully you get a kick out of it. I call it GameTime.

Well, last night I decided to throw in a game I haven’t played in ages, a game that is well in my Top 5 of shooters: Max Payne. The original. When I first rolled through Max Payne, it had already been out for a while, but the story and the grittiness just blew me away. To this day, the drug-fueled hallucination level is by far one of the most disturbing levels I’ve ever played in any game. Right behind Bioshock, Max Payne is my second favorite shooter of all time. I had some issues getting the sound to work right, as I was playing through Steam, but a quick Google search and sketchy download and I was good to go.

I stepped into Lord of the Rings Online the other night and it ended up being the last day of the 5th Anniversary celebration. I was shocked to see a whole bunch of gifts, including those for players who have been playing since the beginning. Apparantly, I’ve been playing LotRO for the past 5 years! Shocking, right? Maybe I should finally get a character to level 30… But as soon as I came on, even though I’ve been on a hiatus from LotRO, I was very warmly greeted by my guild like I was coming home. I really need to play LotRO more often. It really is one of the best MMOs out there.

Finally, as a last entry, I found myself playing lots of games on my new cell phone. I’ve never found myself to be a cell gamer, but since my new Lumia 900 Windows Phone has full integration into XBox Live, I find I’m playing more arcade style and other games on it just for that reason. Minesweeper, Sudoku, Assassin’s Creed, Fruit Ninja, Civilization Revolution, Sid Meier’s Pirates, and a bunch of other games. For a cell phone, thats a pretty great list. Now Windows Phone just needs a decent mobile MMO and I’ll be all set.

So what are YOU playing? Since you stopped by, drop a line in the comments letting me know, and as always, thanks for stopping by!

\\ Ocho

Lord of the Rings Online Mithril Edition 50% Off on Impulse – May 10th, 2012

'Get Her'. That was you plan all along? 'Get Her'?

[Just FYI: This deal occurred around the time of posting, May 10th, 2012 and has already ended. It may go on sale again in the future, but this is only about that one time deal. I still highly suggest picking it up if it does go down in price, though, as it’s well worth it.]

For all of you deal hunters, going on right now until May 15th, Impulse, GameStop’s online presence, is having a sale on the Lord of the Rings Online Mithril Edition for 50% off. That brings it down to $15.

If you have a lifetime membership to LotRO, this is worth picking up. If you are a current subscriber, this is worth picking up. If you are a Pay-as-you-go player, this is DEFINITELY worth picking up. If you live under a rock, you may want to pass. But here is why you want to get it as soon as possible:

1) Steed of the Horse-Lords Mount – A nice steed so that you don’t have to spend in-game money at a low level for your first one. You still have to spend Turbine Points to get the riding ability, but they are easy to get in-game at that level.

2) 2000 Turbine Points – 2000 TP generally costs around $25, so if for no other reason the TP alone is worth the price.

3) Trollshaws, Eregion, Mines of Moria, and Lothlorien quest packs. – If you are not paying by subscription or don’t have the lifetime account, you need to purchase Quest Packs. If you don’t have these areas, this is a great way to pick them up. Also, if you are currently paying by subscription and decide to stop, you’ll still have these quest packs.

4) Possible Glitch – VIP status for 1 day – No, really, I bought the deal, and it instantly set me as a VIP to expire the next day. If you are a free player, you know how Turbine rolls… if you want to use more traits, extra bags, currency cap, fast travel, auction slots, you must subscribe or pay for them piece by piece. However, if you do subscribe and then stop, Turbine isn’t going to pull the rug out from under you, you get to keep the individual character improvements you already have. Disclaimer: Just a word of warning, though, the 1 day VIP is a glitch and is not intended. Since it is not intended, it may not work in every instance.

The process is a little tricky. You pay for it, then a code arrives in your e-mail that you enter in Turbine’s Account page. But watch out, you have to mark it as owning a game card, but then opting to enter it in later.

So there you go. Mount, Turbine Points at a great discounted rate, quest packs, and individual character unlocks. If you play Lord of the Rings Online, you have no reason not to pick this up.

\\ Ocho

P.S. – A Casual Stroll to Mordor has a write up about this deal as well, and Goldenstar is one of my favorite bloggers, so check out her take as well.

EDIT: It has come to my attention that the 1-day VIP is indeed a glitch, and I have edited the post to reflect this. You might still get it, but it is certainly not intended. It is far from game breaking, however, and I still highly suggest picking up the Mithril Edition while you still can on sale. As I mentioned, the discounted TP alone is worth the cost.