Dark Souls Character Loss

You might be wondering why I’ve been playing WoW and/or LotRO instead of continuing my re-plays and re-re-plays and re-re-re-plays of Dark Souls 1, 2, and 3, the greatest three games in the history of the universe. (Not to be hyperbolic or anything.)

It’s because I setup and moved to a new gaming PC. Guess what? You can’t move your characters from one installation to another with the PC version of Dark Souls 2 and 3. So all my plentiful characters remained on my old PC, which is kind of a bummer. (I was able to copy my Dark Souls 1 characters though.)

In truth, it won’t take that long to run through the games again, but it’s something I wasn’t counting on. I was planning to record blind playthroughs of Dark Souls 3 DLC when they come out (allegedly the first, Ashes of Ariandel, is coming in October), but before I can do that, I need to build up some new characters.

And before I do that, I need to setup my microphone and audio gear in the new house. I tried to record some Doom with my old USB headset but it sounds too awful to meet my rigorous audio quality standards.

WoW Invasion Level Tally

WoW leveling tallies from the Invasion events so far: Mage from 73 to 87. Warlock from 50 to 60. Priest from 34 to 52. Druid from 23 to 32. My goal is to get the Priest and Druid to 60 before the end of the event. That will give me three choices from which to pick my two level boosts (one to 90 and one to 100). (My understanding is that if you boost from 60 it will also boost your professions too.)

(In truth it will almost certainly be Warlock and Priest, because I don’t like the Druid class that much. On paper it’s awesome but I don’t like the look of any of the shape-shifted forms.)

It seemed like the experience gains were about right to me over the weekend. However it’s definitely on a curve: The higher your character level, the less experience you get per Invasion, and thus the slower the leveling.

I got noticably more XP from participating instead of AFKing, with bigger mobs generally giving more experience than littler mobs. Also it seemed like all you had to do was tag a mob to get the full experience from it. Many times I came up late to groups killing the big skull-mobs, threw in a hit or two at the very end, and still got a bunch of experience from it. (I was never in a group so I don’t know if that affects XP gains.)

I’ve long since lost interest in opening any of those Legion chests. The chests fill up my inventory and when I run out of space I put them in the bank. My assumption is that if I wait until I get to level 100 to open them, they’ll have ilevel 700 gear in them. Maybe that’s wrong. I guess I’ll find out in the coming years if these characters ever get to 100. (Of course, I’m sure the first quests in Legion will also have ilevel 700 gear so it doesn’t matter either way.)

I have to admit to having a lot of fun with the whole Invasion process this past weekend. I spent more time playing than I intended to, and cancelled some boring chores because of it. It just seems like time disappears when you’re "into" WoW. One minute it’s morning, then the next minute it’s afternoon and raining and too late to mow.

Maybe "fun" isn’t the right word exactly. Maybe "comfort" is a better description for the feeling from playing WoW lately. These kinds of large-scale group events where you can participate anonymously are especially comforting to me in a way that dungeons aren’t. They are easy and predictable and I know exactly what to do. That’s really an attractive prospect at a time when everything in real life seems nerve-wracking and chaotic. (EG. My house is now covered with boxes and I have no idea where any of my possessions are, and the task of finding and organizing them is completely overwhelming.)

The problem that I’ve always had with WoW, though, is that it tends to become repetitious or unrewarding too quickly. It’s too easy to see behind the curtain, where it’s revealed that nothing fundamentally new awaits you no matter where you go or what you do. Let’s hope Legion will be different.

P.S. It’s amusing to participate in these events sub-level 60, and especially sub-level 40. Everyone else takes off to fly to the next boss, leaving you in the dust to hoof it on your roughly-turtle-speed ground mount, hoping to even reach the next boss before everybody else kills it. There’s always a few stragglers putt-putting away along the ground, having to go around obstacles instead of over them, straining and hoping to keep up with the cool kids, looking somehow vaguely embarrassed about their slowness.

LotRO Volume I, Book 10, or A Lot Of Running

I’m continuing to make slow progress on seeing the rest of LotRO*. Since I was on a roll, I’m continuing with the Volume I Book 10 epic story over in Evendim (rather than returning to Moria).

I’m glad that I went and subscribed to the game, because I noticed that I was missing out on rest experience. Hopefully that will speed up the leveling curve a little bit. (But I still finished all of Book 10 without reaching level 54.)

Story-wise, most of Book 10 revolves around finding a palantir stolen by … um … you know, that evil woman whose name starts with an A that I can’t remember and don’t feel like looking up. For reasons I can’t remember, I was told to capture a henchman of hers who I will call Mortimer (because I don’t remember his actual name but I’m pretty sure it starts with "Mort"). It was suspiciously easy to capture him, but nobody else seemed concerned about that. Anyway he was held in a cell in a tower in the middle of Evendim which incidentally takes a loooong time to reach indoors on foot. I then spent quite a few quests gathering intelligence from him (which he was suspiciously willing to divulge) and running around the world stopping bad things from happening based on his advice. Not surprisingly, it turns out that Mortimer was playing everyone for fools, but regardless, in the end I managed to get the palantir away from the evil clutches of … that woman whose name starts with an A. Some other prominent NPC whose name I’ve also forgotten (he was at the top of the right-hand stairs, as opposed to the left-hand stairs) distracted her while I ran away with it. I don’t know what happened to him.

These quests in Book 10 illustrate perfectly one of the biggest flaws in LotRO. It goes something like this: Person A says, "You need to go see Person B." Person B then says, "Talk to Person C about that." Person C says, "Okay, now deliver this message to Person B." Person B says, "Oh I see, take this response back to Person C." Person C says, "I understand, but let’s ask Person A about this." Person A says, "I agree with C. Take this news back to Person B." Person B says, "I’m glad we all agree. While you were gone, Person C went off somewhere. Tell Person A about it." Person A says, "Oh my! This is terrible news! Go ask Person B for help." Person B says, "I will help you! Let’s go through this instance." And so on and so on. And of course, Persons A, B, and C are in entirely different, far-flung parts of the world. If it weren’t for the Mithril Coins letting you skip some of the travel time, it would be maddening. (Also being a Hunter helps a lot, too, due to the travel skills.)

Overall it was reasonably enjoyable, although it’s odd that so much of this level 50 quest chain takes place in this level 35-40ish zone. Most of the mobs in Evendim are gray and inactive for me. I thought that all of the Volume I story was part of the initial LotRO launch, but after a bit of research, I see that Evendim was not released until somewhat after the initial launch. I am guessing that Volume I, Book 9 and beyond was new content meant for all the people who had reached endgame the day after launch.

Oh my, the wikis are telling me that I have to get through Volume I Books 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 before I can resume Volume II in Moria. Yikes! Well, at least I’ll be well ahead of the leveling curve by the time I get back underground.

* I’ll stop saying "before it closes down" so my relentless pessimism won’t scare anyone.

Legion Ordered

I went ahead and ordered Legion. Why not? I had fun with the last expansion. For a little while, at least. And a level 100 boost is worth a fair chunk of change to me, considering it normally takes me years to get to the level cap in WoW. (Although I confess I have yet to use the level 90 boost I got in the last expansion.)

My second-highest level character in WoW is a Gnome Mage at, now, level 77, thanks to a handful of Invasions. This was also one of my original characters from back in 2006. I hear the experience gain from Invasions has gone down so I guess I won’t quite get the free ride to 100 that I’d hoped for. Still, I picked up four levels a lot faster than I would have through questing. And as it turns out, maybe fast leveling isn’t such a blessing for this character.

While playing this Mage over the last few days, I remembered that my professions were Enchanting and Tailoring, which was cool because I could simply disenchant all the extra gear filling up my inventory from the Invasions. (Oddly, none of the Mage gear I got from the Invasions was better than what I’d previously obtained from dungeons.) Unfortunately I kept getting the dreaded message, "Your enchanting skill isn’t high enough." Then I came face to face with the reality of what a royal pain it is to level the Enchanting profession and keep it roughly at the same level as the gear you get.

Maybe you folks who’ve been playing for years and now have 50 bajillion gold stockpiled don’t remember how difficult it was. For your amusement, when I started a few days ago I had about 200 gold on this Mage. Let’s just say you can’t buy very much at the Auction House with 200 gold. Even the most meager of trade skill supplies are 1 or 2 gold each. Even if I’d had millions of gold, a lot of the materials weren’t there anyway. So I had to find most of my Enchantment materials the hard (ie. slow) way.

It’s a pain, but I have to say it was quite a bit of fun soloing my way through TBC dungeons (in the 60-70 range) farming materials for enchanting and tailoring. (I even skipped a bunch of Invasions.) Most of my experience with the Mage over the years has been that it’s slow, squishy, and underpowered, but when you’re over-leveled, invincible, and can 1-shot every mob on the run, it’s really fun. :) I pretty much just Arcane Blasted everything in sight, including bosses.

Getting to the right dungeons took a while though. I realize this is probably whining, but it sure takes a long time to get around the world in WoW. Since they are now implementing Rift Zone events so well, it would be nice if they could also install a Rift Porticulum in every zone too. Or maybe the dwarves could get off their butts and expand the subway system beyond just Stormwind and Ironforge. They’ve had plenty of time now to dig an underwater tunnel from the Eastern Kingdoms to Kalimdor too.

Speaking of Rift, next I’ll be spending more money on pre-ordering Rift’s Starfall Prophecy so I can get all the sneaky pre-order benefits that require you to order early. It’s an expensive time to be an MMORPG player.

Legion Pre-Expansion Invasions Are Fun

I had fun with the WoW Zone Events aka. Invasions over the weekend.

But first, the biggest news from my weekend was that I finally moved all my furniture from the old rental house into my new house. I achieved my goal of picking the hottest day of the entire year to move. I believe it was upwards of 95 degrees Farenheit with a heat index of 105. (Google tells me that’s 35 and 40.5 Celsius, but that doesn’t sound nearly hot enough to me.) The temperature reading inside the old house was 92 by the time we left. Since I am not currently dead, I must have stayed sufficiently hydrated.

But enough about that. I re-subbed to WoW on Friday night because I kept reading about these pre-expansion Invasions. They sounded a lot like Rift Zone Events, which are pretty fun, so I thought it was worth $15 to check them out. I logged in to find that my talents were reset and I had no idea how to play my 100 Hunter anymore. This is not surprising, because it happens basically every time I log in after being away for a while.

I’m no expert but this time it seems like they’ve really pared down the number of rotation keys, because now I think I’m down to three abilities with Beast Mastery. I’m probably doing it wrong though. (I routinely forgot to summon my pet, so that’s how good I am at playing the Hunter right now. Not that it matters, because you can almost auto-attack everything and still succeed in WoW.)

Friday night I went through the Broken Shores quest thingy, which was kind of cool I guess. I literally had no idea who any of the characters were in that story so I had zero personal investment in it. I must be the worst WoW lore consumer in the world because I kept seeing all these people doing these heroic things and I kept asking myself, "Am I supposed to know or care who this is?" The answer must obviously be yes, but I sure didn’t. The only name I actually recognized was Sylvannas, but it took me quite a while to remember where I knew that name from. (From the early levels of playing my Undead Warlock ages ago.) Perhaps they should have put a refresher course in one of those cut scenes at the beginning for people like me who only pop into WoW for a month or two every couple of years.

Side gripe: I found it kind of annoying that the cut scenes were in a lower resolution than the actual game video.

Later I learned that most of those names in that Broken Shore event were found in my Garrison, which explains why I didn’t recognize them, since I stopped playing WoW about the time I finished my Garrison. I hadn’t even built a Shipyard. Strangely, when I looked around my Garrison, it seemed like there were quite a few more people there than when I last left it. It looked like a thriving metropolis. I guess it expanded while I was gone.

It wasn’t until Sunday that I got to experience my first Zone Event aka. Invasion. In short, they are fun. (I hate to be a smug sarcastic bastard about it, but seriously, if you like the gameplay in these WoW Invasions, you might want to check out Rift.) I picked up a bunch of item level 700 welfare epics for my Hunter (previously I think I was somewhere around item level 580-something). In typical WoW fashion, the events are really easy, except for when you get killed for no apparent reason. But since the Invasions typically take place right on top of a graveyard, it’s no big deal.

Then I discovered the true purpose of the Invasions: Leveling alts. I spent a little time playing my Mage (73) and Warlock (43), participating in one or two events each, trying to figure out how the new specializations and rotations work. Again, I feel like everything was simplified. It’s like they really, really want you to play one specific way with these updated specializations. Any skills that deviate from the baseline are gone entirely. Also am I crazy or can I switch between the 3 specializations at will now? I think you used to have to pick only 2 of the 3. Maybe I should, like, you know, read the patch notes.

At any rate I give the Pre-Expansion Invasions a thumbs-up. For me, they’re going to be a nice way to grab some levels for my alts without having to resort to dungeons or questing. I like doing group events without having to know or care who I’m playing with. Actually I wish they would make these Invasions a permanent addition to WoW because they were my favorite things to do in Rift. Unfortunately Rift’s population is too low to sustain the zone events everywhere now, but even in these dark days WoW still has a comparatively huge population to support something like that.

Doom Impressions

I bought Doom when it was half off on Steam a while back and have been playing it here and there. I’m not quite sure what to make of it.

On the positive side, it’s a beautiful game, and it runs beautifully on my new gaming PC. It’s suitably fast and violent and hard on Ultra Violence. The chainsaw had me giggling like a kid when I found it. (Remember how the world thought the original Doom was over-the-top gruesome? Pretty funny to think about now.)

On the bad side, Doom has annoyingly long load times. This is a trend that I don’t like in newer generation games. I want to double-click the icon on the desktop and be playing in less than 30 seconds. Doom takes minutes to load up (on my new PC!), which makes me not want to click on that icon. Not to mention how long it takes between dying and respawning, a process that is supposed to be instantaneous in these kinds of games.

A game called Doom from id carries with it a certain expectation, and that expectation is running and gunning. But I feel like it strays too far from those roots. There will be 10 minutes of exciting shooter gameplay when you enter a new area, but it’s often followed by 10 or 20 minutes of trying to puzzle out where to go next or fiddling with weapon mods or worst of all, listening to 5 minutes of exposition from some unknown persona on an intercom. That’s not a component of shooters that I find enjoyable. It’s the, you know, shooting that’s the enjoyable part.

I’ve only played a few hours so maybe I’m missing something. (I wouldn’t expect a Doom-style game to be super hard to figure out though.)

Regardless, I’m still having an overall positive experience and plan to finish it.

LotRO – Back to Angmar and Evendim

In my continuing quest to see all of LotRO before it (possibly) shuts down, my Hunter reached level 53 over the weekend. You wouldn’t think gaining a single level would be cause for celebration, but in LotRO it kind of is.

I don’t know if I’ve ever written this, but I feel like LotRO is one of the last of the "old school" generation of MMORPGs. By which I mean the generation of MMORPGs where the world is actually massive (ie. it takes a long time to run from one side to the other). (That, by the way, is what I’ve always thought the "massive" in MMORPG meant–not the number of players, but the size of the world.)

I don’t remember offhand when LotRO came out, but I think it was around 2007. I do remember that Warhammer Online came out in 2008, and I distinctly remember feeling like the world size in WAR was pretty small, and most every MMORPG that’s been released since then is the same. Rift, GW2, Aeon, TERA. None of those games felt particularly massive to me.

The other "old school" feature that still carries on in LotRO is, of course, the incredibly slow leveling curve. In a modern MMORPG, I seem to average gaining about one level per day toward the end of the leveling curve. (A "day" for me is an hour or two, if I’m lucky.) Even in one of the slower games like FFXIV. Yet in LotRO, days and days and days go by before I gain a single level. In Moria, whole zones come and go without any discernible movement of the XP bar. It can drive you crazy if you keep looking down there to see how much progress you’re making.

So you have one of two choices: You can absorb yourself in the story, admire the scenery (which still looks decent even today), and read all the NPC vinettes. Track down all the bits and pieces of quests that you’ve missed along the way. Listen to the music. Then, it’ll be a surprise when you gain a level, because you’ll be so immersed in the game that you won’t even realize you’re supposed to be gaining levels.

The other option is to watch Netflix while you play. Yeah, I mostly took the latter option. Not that there’s anything wrong with the LotRO story and all–it’s certainly one of the better games for story–but I got sucked into this show called Bloodline this past weekend.

When last I reported, I had finished all the level 52 quests in Moria and still needed more experience to reach level 53. Instead of doing skirmishes, I got sidetracked when I found a Hunter class quest in my log that required me to run all over creation and kill things to farm trophies. I did that (although I cheated after I found out you could just go to a skirmish vendor and buy the trophies you needed) and got a class trait point or something like that. I have no idea what to do with it.

Since I was in Angmar, I decided to return to the Volume I epic story where I left off around level 49, which was a particular instance in Angmar that I kept failing over and over again. It was Book VII, Chapter 8, "The Gates of Carn Dum." (No I don’t know how to do the funny caret symbol over the vowel in Dum.) I kept failing to keep Lorniel alive when those 3 stupid little whatevers sounded horns to bring in reinforcements.

Anywho, it was much easier to complete that instance at level 52. Since I was on a roll, I went on to finish Book VIII and IX, which lead me to Evendim on the trail of the mysterious Sara Oakheart. I’ve been to Evendim before, but only briefly, so it’s sort of like a new area to me. The epic quests led me to a city at war in the south that looks like some kind of continuous skirmish area. Again, something I’d never seen before, reminding me again of just how massive LotRO is. It probably would have been cool if I’d gone there at the right level.

Somewhere during this time I reached level 53. Also during this time I was amused to find that some quests led me back to talk to some Fellowship folks in Rivendell who I had previously watched leave to head south with The Ring. I guess they took a break from the trevails of the road to return to Rivendell just for me.

From here I think I will keep going and finish the Volume I epic story before I head back to Moria. LotRO is considerably easier when you’re a few levels higher than the content you’re doing. :)

Oh, and I went ahead and subscribed for 3 months, because I got tired of seeing all the things I couldn’t do.

Firefall's In Trouble?

Imagine my surprise one morning when I was listening to the MassivelyOP podcast on the way to work and heard Justin and Bree mention that Red 5 had laid off their whole studio (or something like that). I completely missed this news.

That’s the Firefall guys! Wait, I’ve played Firefall! I like Firefall!

There are basically three MMORPG-style shooters that I play, and they are Defiance, Planetside 2, and Firefall. I don’t play them often mind you, just like, once every couple of months. If that. But the icons are always out on my desktop, waiting patiently for me to click on them.

Now one of them has a questionable future.

I always kind of liked Firefall because it reminded me a bit of Tribes (the original one). It’s a pretty nice shooter, fast, responsive, easy-to-control. Not overly complicated. At least for running around shooting PvE mobs. I’ve never done any PvP in it, but let’s just assume that it’s deeply flawed and unbalanced and everyone hates it. (That’s the default Internet position on every game.)

It’s also a pretty nice-looking game, too. The progression system was kind of interesting. It was one of the first shooters I can ever remember playing that had story quests like an MMORPG. (Defiance might have been the first.)

I used "kind of" a lot up there, which kind of illustrates the basic problem with Firefall. While I think it’s generally a good game, and I had kind of a favorable response to it, I kind of never felt like playing it.

It didn’t take very long to run out of new and interesting things to experience. All of those story quests were kind of the same: Drive or run to a place and kill stuff. The thumpers were cool and made for some fun area-wide group activities (without having to join a group), but again, after a while, they were all the same.

Still, it’s a shame to think it might be shutting down. It’s one of those games that I might pop into for a short time here and there for a quick and easy shooter experience. (As opposed to something like Overwatch, which would be a hard and stressful shooter experience.)