Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Aaahhh CHOO

Lauren has had a cold for the last few days.

Now I have one too!

I signed on this morning, so everyone at Acton Job Centre will have a cold by tomorrow!

Nothing like spreading the love!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Hull - The Forgotten City

Here is the full 30 minute BBC Documentary:


If you want this on DVD let me know.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

James on the Box

I have extracted James' bit from last night's documentary.  Encoding the full programme is a job for overnight.

The excerpt is here:

Monday, July 23, 2007

Friday = Me Day

Well last week was not the best, but still life moves onward.  Having pulled my finger out job hunting, I decided to have a bit of a "Me Day" on Friday (last chance to have to some fun that requires spending money).  I met up with an old friend (Tom) for lunch and whilst heading home got stranded, due to the local flooding which closed Shepherd's Bush down.

I decided to wait the water out in the cinema and went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Having read the book a few years ago and finding it the worst of the 6 so far (purely because it was all over the shop) I wasn't holding out much hope of an improvement over Goblet of Fire (my favourite of the films), but I was pleasantly surprised.  The book has been cut to ribbons and the plot that remains moves along quite fast and the action plays out well.

Not as good as GoF, but definitely worth a watch.  8/10.

After that I found that the water had receded enough for me to get home, which I duly did.

Given Serena's success on Wednesday and that we hadn't defrosted anything, I decided to order all of Serena's favourites from the local Chinese Takeaway.  The food was great and arrived spot on 7 pm as requested.  Unfortunately Serena got held up with a couple of major disasters at work and didn't get to eat hers until 10.30 pm!

Whilst waiting for Serena I watched Poseidon on Sky.  I thought that would be awful, and it wasn't!  Still only 6/10!  The original is way, way better!

Friday, July 13, 2007

LOTRO – Monster Play

Last weekend Serena and I posted a rather unusual screenshot of our “ugly” characters. These characters form part of an interesting and very addictive part of LOTRO, called Monster Play.
Whilst you can Dual with other players, there is no true Player v Player combat (PvP) in LOTRO as all player characters are “Good”. However to make Levels 45-50 a bit more challenging for players, the monsters in the “Ettenmoors” zone include some controlled by players.

You can play as a Wolf, Spider, Orc, Uruk War Leader or Uruk Archer and you automatically start at Level 50! You need no equipment beyond food and potions (which you have to buy or quest for), and you start out classed as a “swarm” level character – i.e. weaker than a regular level 50 monster, giving heroes a bit of a chance! As a monster you get bullied from pillar to post by the local Elite bad guys and by completing quests (such as clearing out some pesky hobbit farmers) you earn destiny point (sort of like XP and money combined) which you can spend on improving your character. You can improve your combat abilities or improve your looks! i.e. All swarm level Orcs look the same (they just have different names – chosen by you), but if you spend destiny points you can change your physique, armour appearance etc (none of which makes you any harder to kill). If you choose to spend your destiny points on improving your skills you will slowly move from “swarm” to “normal” and finally to “signature” (a lower class of elite monster) and your icons will change colour accordingly (the game colour codes monsters based on how tough they are).

Your Monster character (you can have 5 per server – one of each type) keeps its skills from session to session, so if you choose to just play your Orc, you have the potential to produce a very nasty signature monster for hunting Elves and the other Free Peoples.
Here is a brief run down of how our first Monster play session ran.

Starting out in the roughest looking log fort you have ever seen and surrounded by trolls and some really angry Uruk leaders (like the War Tyrant in the pictured) we are quickly roped into food gathering – slug meat! After dispatching some particularly huge slugs we are then sent off on some scouting missions (designed to make you explore the map) which once completed grants you the ability to fast travel back to the starting fort and the “Servant of Angmar” title. You have to start that quest from scratch if you die though – failure is not an option! This makes it challenging as you have the potential to die a lot early on, especially if jumped by a Fellowship of level 50 players.

Next was a few quick missions to poison the local river, in an attempt to drive out the local hobbit farmers (they are the toughest farmers I have ever seen!) and gathering stones from troll statues (caused when the trolls got caught in the sun) to help reinforce the various forts.
Whilst doing the latter, we came across two men (players) and we ran away like girls whilst shouting for reinforcements! Reinforcements arrived and now grouped up with a Spider, a Wolf and a second Orc and War Leader, the men sensibly fled from us on their four foots (horses).
We decided there was strength in numbers, so we cleared out a pesky Free People guard post (collecting Elf Ears and Dwarf Feet trophies for our superiors) before moving on to the Elven lumber camp. There we managed to surprise a mixed group of men and elves and I killed my first Elf hunter (1st kill towards improving my PvP rank – which appears military style before your name). The rest fled. We pursued and I slowly closed in on a pesky dwarf minstrel as he ran before me. Suddenly he tripped on a bush and I was on him… A quick “hamstring” and he could only limp, but continued to retreat as I reigned down blows on him… Then I was very suddenly dead!!! The dwarf had managed to retreat back to the safety of an Elf town and the local guards had turned me into a pin cushion! To make matters worse I never even spotted one! Damn those Elf scum!

With no more players to hunt we decided that more direct action was needed, so we invaded the local hobbit village and did a bit of pillaging (no rape though – their sheep were too ugly!).
Having clocked up 2,000 destiny points we decided to go back to hand in our trophies. The first four skills are 500 points each at tier 1, so Uthak and Athalak both trained up in all four, ready for their next session! We are now better armoured and better armed (but disappointingly still classed as swarm).

What surprised me the most about Monster play was how much fun it was being bad (or rather how much fun Serena had being bad!). Because you die a lot you don’t get the same emotional attachment for your character and you actually have a small inner cheer when you are killed by a “good” player. However the inner cheer became a roar when I nailed the Elf! I even laughed when I was massacred by the Elven guards, as it felt completely right! It all comes back to the atmosphere of the game being well balanced!

There are a few other things to note:
Your destiny points are global, so if you spend a while earning loads, you can create a new monster and spend them on him straight away. You can also spend destiny points on your normal player character, but they only give temporary improvements (such as helping you run faster or gain bonus XP). Some player character quests and achievements also grant a destiny point rewards which you can use on your monsters!

Finally, there is one more twist in the pipeline for LOTRO called “session play”.
The idea behind session play is for those times when you want to do something completely different. You will get given a “character” that will disappear when you log out and that character will have a mission. Completing the mission will grant destiny points for your pool and possibly unique items for your other characters to use (to be decided).
The main difference though is what those characters are… For example, you may be a Chicken! The mind boggles!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

LOTRO – Crafting and Gathering

Serena and I have managed a couple of good sessions recently on LOTRO and I think we will be cancelling our WoW subscriptions in favour of LOTRO.

If any of you do decide to come and check LOTRO out we are playing on the [EN] Gilrain server.
I created a Hobbit Burglar called Fleur and she is now level 11. She made it to 10 without dying, earning the title “The Undefeated” and then promptly died! I hope that I can keep one of my characters alive right the way through to earn the top level title in that set!

Anyway, Fleur has restored the Shire postal service and is the bane of wolves. She has also started a sideline in wolf-hide leather armour, although the crafting market in LOTRO is dead.

Crafting & Gathering

Each can character can pick a single crafting vocation. This grants them one or two gathering skills and one or two crafting skills – three skills total. Generally one of the gathering skills will support one of the crafting skills (e.g. Prospecting and Metalsmith) and the third skill will be unsupported (so you are reliant on someone else’s components or you can harvest resources that you don’t need).

There are three gathering skills (Prospecting for Ore, Forester for Wood and Farming for Food) of which the first two work in the standard fashion for an MMO, and the latter is pretty unique. Each gives you the ability to track the relevant “node”, with farmers getting the ability to track wild plants. To harvest a node you need the relevant skill and tool, however anyone can harvest wild plants and that doesn’t require a tool (but only farmers can track the nodes).

Farmers can plant seeds in fields and harvest the crop (takes about 10 seconds to grow). The harvest will produce two qualities of food items, one of which the farmer can recycle into seeds and the other which they can combine into a bushel of for use by a cook. e.g. You buy 5 Yellow Onion seeds, some water and some fertiliser from the local supplier. You plant a “Field of Yellow Onions”. You harvest the field and get 3 poor Yellow Onions and 3 Moderate Yellow Onions. The former you convert to 3 Yellow Onion Seeds and the latter you combine into a Bushel of Yellow Onions, which cooks can make into soup. Each refinement step gives you crafting XP and you progress up the skill tree as normal.

Once you get to certain level of crafting skill you unlock the next tier of recipes (some are given free and some need to be bought). You now have two XP bars for crafting – one for each tier. If you continue making the Tier 1 onions then you progress towards Tier 1 mastery, and an improved chance of getting a critical success (for farming this means a bumper harvest). If you make Tier 2 cabbages then you progress towards unlocking Tier 3 etc. Each Tier unlocked gives you a new title, e.g. Apprentice Farmer for unlocking Tier 2.

You only gain Crafting XP by processing your harvested items; you don’t get XP from actually harvesting. Harvesting never fails (unless interrupted) and the yield will vary depending on luck (I don’t seem to be getting a higher yield at higher skill levels).

Some crafting needs mob dropped items rather than harvested items, of which the most obvious is Tailoring. This requires heavily on Hides, which anyone can loot from nearly every ”Beast” they kill (about 50% drop rate). Hides are then processed by Foresters for use in Light and Medium armours. Hides are also used by other crafters, such as for the construction of weapon hilts, shield covers and metal armour padding and currently it seems to vary randomly between the professions as to whether the recipe needs “boiled” (processed) leather or hides. At Tier 1 you need 20 Light Hides to make one piece of Medium Armour (20 Light Hides processed to 10 Light Boiled Leather; 2 Light Boiled Leather to make 1 Light Leather Pad; 2 LBL to make 1 Light Leather Strap; and finally 2 LBL + 2 LLP + 2 LLS to make a piece of armour. The Forrester gets 10 x 6 XP and the Tailor gets 5 x 8 XP). At level 11 I can farm Level 6 wolves for hides, and it takes me 10-15 minutes to get 20 light hides for one piece of armour. So to deliberately farm enough hides for a full set of Tier 1 medium armour would take Fleur about 60-90 minutes and would grant about 3,000 adventure XP, 360 Tier 1 Foresting XP and 240 Tier 1 Tailoring XP. That would unlock Tier 2 on both Foresting and Tailoring, and give a small step towards mastery. It would also yield about 10-20 silver worth of vendor trash loot and cause about 10 silver worth of equipment damage! (However I already have 3 quest loot items that are better than the armour I can make at Tier 1, so the exercise wouldn’t happen).

There is no player market for the goods you can craft though. Not at the low levels anyway. Quest rewards so far have pretty much covered off most of the equipment upgrades I need, and they are either clearly better or only slightly worse than the items I can craft – especially where weapons are concerned. There is one exception. I made Serena’s archer a bow. That bow is away ahead of anything we have found either in a shop or as quest loot. I made a second and tried to sell it on the Auction House and it failed to sell though… Most people make their own. Also money is very tight! At level 10 I got four new skills with a total cost to buy of nearly 40 silver. I had 20 silver in my pockets! Fortunately I had masses of untreated rowan (Tier 1 wood) which sells to vendor for 40 copper (1 silver = 100 copper) per branch, and I could afford my upgrades at the expense of my crafting.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Facebook - more comments

Jase and I have finally succumbed to signing up for Facebook (as you can see from his previous post). It's mainly populated by folk at least a decade younger than us, but since a lot of our friends and family are rubbish at keeping in touch except electronically I (at least) figured it was time to add another way to communicate with them.

Actually, since joining it's been quite hilarious as I have been catching up all manner of old friends and acquaintances whom I'd lost contact with. So I would encourage those of you who haven't yet signed on to check it out, as it is fun (but be warned; it will also eat up your spare time if you get into it...perfect for slackers everywhere!)

OK, see you all in cyberspace!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Coming soon...

A change in our home email addresses...
I feel a need to control spam better and our blueyonder domain is under threat, so I will be sorting out new email addresses for the Ayers household over the next week or so.
I suspect in my case this will include ditching my current hotmail address, which is 99.9% spam and 0.1% something important that I miss!

Quick Update

Serena and I finally got round to updating our Facebook entries and sent out a load of invites to any of you who may be interested in social networking!

I found an old friend (Lisa) and have linked her blog... like Serena and I she is enjoying parenthood!

I also found a few people I can't say I really want to get in touch with... I will just ignore them if they try and contact me!

As previously quoted in my tag line... technology let me down again! Serena's Mum's PC has died. Good and proper death too (sounds like a hard disk failure). I have 3 choices...
1/ A trip to Edinburgh.
2/ Find a random repairer for them.
3/ Buy Maggie & Peter a laptop and worry about the old machine later.

I think the last option is favourite at the moment since they come down to see Lauren very frequently! It doesn't need to be high spec as they are purely interested in Email and Web access. I don't think there will be much on Maggie's old machine that needed saving a I backed up her photos to CD just before Easter and her home email was mainly spam! Probably just a few lost email addresses.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

LOTRO - Letting off Steam

Meet the Uglees!


Serena's the one on the right (if you can't tell!).

One tasty elf player already under our belts!

Friday, July 06, 2007

LOTRO - A Screenshot

Here is my Burglar Fleur standing in a field of Daisies!

This was taken in Normal detail. 

LOTRO Screenshot

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Next... Channel 4

Apart from various lifestyle programmes the following are available:

Codex (Tempting)
Win my Wage

Quiz Contestant?

Hidden away in the comments below, Gareth and I have agreed to share an interest in appearing on a TV quiz. If you fancy joining us then let me know?

At the moment the BBC are not recruiting any Quiz Teams but are looking for individuals to appear as follows:

BBC1's Saturday night quiz 1 VERSUS 100 is back! Are you a Quiz Whizz? Are you ready to pit your wits against others to win big money? THEN WE WANT YOU! For more details email: 1v100-3@endemoluk.com

Do you have an uncanny ability to read people? Are you intuitive and enthusiastic? Would you like to appear on a brand new game show and be in with a chance of winning a big cash prize?
If you answered "yes" and are over 18 then call: 09011 133 344 Or email your name and contact details to:

Talent TV are seeking people who fall into any one of the following categories to take part in the next National IQ Test on August 27.
Former reality show contestant; Surname of Robinson; Surname of Wallace; Removal Man; Surgeon; Clairvoyant.
If you fit into any of the above categories and would like to represent your group on television, you can download an application form from the
Talent TV website.

A general email address for contestants enquiries for BBC ONLY entertainment programmes is: entertainmentcontestants@bbc.co.uk.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

MMOs - Why Me?

NB I have typed this up in Word first and have just hit 3 pages of Arial 12… I hope you have time for a bit of a read!

Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMOs) seem to split the gaming community in three. You either love them, hate them or don’t understand them.

For those who fall into the latter category I thought I would have a stab at explaining what appeals so much about MMOs to me.

To address this I need to travel back in time to the 1980s and give you my perspective on the evolution of the MMO!

At school James and I both owned Atari STs and he introduced me to a game called Dungeon Master. Since the concept of multiplayer gaming didn’t really exist at that time (outside of sports/beat-em up games), we used to play together, with me on the mouse and him on the keyboard, in a kind of shared control co-op style! Hence the game took on a social aspect.

Around the same time a game called Gauntlet appeared in the arcades which was the first true multiplayer roleplaying computer game (in my eyes). Four people got to stand shoulder to shoulder playing a Wizard, Elf, Valkyrie and Warrior and if they didn’t cooperate they were going to waste their hard earned pennies! If you gave me the choice of one old style arcade game to have in my “Games Room” I would still pick a Gauntlet II machine (with Starblade a close second).

The concept of competitive multiplayer gaming (i.e. Death Match) on the PC appeared in the early 90s and really took off with Doom. Doom went on to be the baseline for all games of this ilk from Quake to Half Life to Battlefield 1942.

However in the background to all of this fragtastic revolution a silent group of computer nerds were mudding!

Multi User Dungeons (MUDs) were text based games which evolved out of the really old text based roleplaying games like “The Hobbit” that existed on the BBC Model B and similar platforms. They were the first persistent world games where people could interact either cooperatively or uncooperatively! I’ll never forget the first time that I killed a “Beastly Fido”! MUDs weren’t the first MMOs though, as they missed out on the first M (Massive). You played MUDs over a Unix based Telnet client which for me meant staring at a green screen dumb terminal in the basement of Appleton Tower. MUDding was good fun and if you could find like minded people who had similar free time to you then the social aspect was also there – Nick, Serena and I used to MUD on Tuesday nights and do AD&D roleplaying on Friday nights (to which James and Balint were also invited). The AD&D was still more fun than the MUDding though as the effort of reading the small text and typing to survive took the edge off the gaming experience.

Roll forward a few more years (we now have the Internet in a form that you might recognise) and Baldur’s Gate was released on the PC. This followed a game called Diablo which had started to get a cult following as being a possible “online RPG” but it was so badly hacked by cheaters that it was a waste of time in my book.

Baldur’s Gate was a simple principal - AD&D brought to a PC. You had a party of up to six characters and in theory you could either play all six yourself of hook up with a few friends and they could take command of some of your henchmen.

Those of you that remember Windows 95 may recall that it wasn’t exactly the king when it came to networking and so these multiplayer sessions usually turned into a bit of a mess as people disconnected and reconnected at regular intervals. Having said that, the greatest LAN party I ever threw saw six PCs setup around our living room with a different person controlling one character each. Pradeep was on hand by this stage to troubleshoot networking problems (he taught me a lot) and so we completed the spin off from BG “Tales of the Sword Coast” in one fun gaming session. Finally multiplayer gaming was approaching a level where it rivalled pen and paper roleplaying.

Now roll forward a few more months… Nick came to visit and brought round the install disks for a game called EverQuest (EQ). I let him install it as he had been going on about it for weeks on email… Unfortunately the game needed to patch itself after the install, which was a several megabyte download. We are still in the days of 28k modems, so that took most of the afternoon – we went to the cinema! That night he showed me round Qeynos and I was blown away by the 3D environments of this persistent world, full of strange likeminded gamers from round the planet.

Since Nick had two accounts he loaned me one and I played a bit of EQ over the next few weeks. I can’t say I got on very well with the game – it was almost too complicated – you couldn’t save (something alien to most RPG gamers – but it really makes you care about your character in the same way that we really cared about our AD&D characters) and by myself this meant that it was just no fun.

Nick and I agreed to meet up online and we played together – suddenly things were fun again. I didn’t feel lost as I had someone more experience there to help out and we could chat about other things whilst we casually thinned out the Gnoll population in Blackburrow.

Roll forward again. I had just upgraded my 56k modem to a ½ meg broadband connection and the speed was just ridiculously fast. Pradeep was living with us and also playing EQ. Soon Alex also joined us in EQ (James came and went) and along with Bob and Jackie (two Americans Nick had met online) the six of us would spend long weekends glued to our monitors and slowly ridding the world of Norrath of evil.

That was both the high point and low point of MMOs for me. When you get six likeminded people together in a group in an MMO and have time to play both regularly and for at least a couple of hours straight each time then the game is extremely rewarding. Of course that is where the downside comes in – that reward is very addictive. Nick was clearly hooked and both Pradeep and I became addicted too. This was not good – all three of us suffered because of this addiction and it took Pradeep and I a long time to realise and beat it.

Roll forward again. Serena and I are married, we have been to Australia, Pradeep and I are pretty much “clean” in that our addiction to EQ is under control (the need has gone) and the second generation of MMOs start to appear. Star Wars Galaxies comes and after reservations about a Sci-Fi MMO both Serena and I are spellbound by it – EQ is forgotten (almost). Over time SWG is seriously killed off by Lucasarts and EQ2 appears – we all jump ship and to be honest feel let down by EQ2 – some of the magic is gone.

At this stage Serena and I decided that MMOs were just too demanding on our lives, so we cancelled all our subscriptions and returned to doing other things. We still played games together – that was a habit that was too hard to break. BG had been followed by BG2 and a pair of Icewind Dale games, straight from the same mold. They were dutifully dispatched to the “Done” tray as Serena and I Duo’d them (and occasionally Trio’d with Pradeep). Next was Neverwinter Nights (NWN), which took the BG game and threw vastly improved graphics at it – again that got the LAN party treatment and was assigned a big “Done”.

Now this is where I hit a problem. Serena was generally more busy than me (she also sleeps a lot more than me), so I was often left to entertain myself. EQ had spoiled me – I missed the social interaction that went along with the gaming experience. Sure games like Morrowind and Oblivion were astoundingly pretty and had the style of gameplay I liked, but I was still playing alone. I would occasionally jump online with whatever online shooter was flavour of the month, but again there was no real connection with my team mates, as a game lasted no more than 10 – 15 minutes.

Hence I was seduced into World of Warcraft (WoW). Alex was already there and so I knew a fair amount about the game and finally I felt like I had come home. WoW is much more straight forward than EQ ever was (EQ had a massive learning curve that put most people off) and is structured in such a way that both hard core and casual gamers can get gratification from it at a level that keeps them interested. Graphically WoW is also a bit different from the other MMOs. Blizzard haven’t tried to be high end on the pretty, pretty front and in doing so have allowed gamers with less than top whack PCs to still get the most out of their systems and enjoy the full WoW experience.

WoW isn’t perfect though. If you have time to play regularly then you can find a good guild and the social aspect is there for you on a plate. If your playing times are more irregular then you are stuck with the companionship of strangers whose short term goals happen to match yours. As you would expect this can be a real hit and miss affair. You could get a 12 year old with no social skills or a 40 year old with no social skills! (Yes there are plenty of 30 somethings with social skills out there too).

So what now? WoW is fun, but the slightly cartoony graphics have prevented me getting too emotive with the game. I reckon LOTRO looks much nicer (which comes at a price as far as your PCs specs are concerned) and from my brief introduction I am already getting drawn into the storyline a lot more and care for my local community! I still miss the social aspects of MMOs from the old days – it is just not feasible for me to commit the time needed to play regularly with anybody though, so I am stuck with the companionship of strangers.

If you analyse the cost of an MMO (as most people object to paying a monthly subscription) I reckon Serena and I together spend about £300 a year on them – that covers off two subscriptions and two copies of an expansion pack or new game. Apart from a few highlights there aren’t really many other games that we buy, so at the most out collective spend is about £200 each on games. I reckon that compared to console games that works out pretty good value for money!

So why do I still do it? MMOs are designed to provide variety – I can play with Serena, I can play with Strangers, I can play by myself, I can fight, I can craft, I can explore, I can sit and chat, I can fight against the computer or I can pit my wits / “leet skills” against other players! – all in one game. OK so I can’t leap into my spaceship to check on my Spacefuel factories (but that is whole different genre) and I both understand and accept that! I can’t keep buying the latest game and play it through anymore. I just haven’t got the time (I only finished Half Life 2 a couple of months ago). I would rather invest my time (and money) into one game that keeps growing and evolving.

A Challenge. (Not really!)
Gareth – describe what you want to get out of a computer game and how much time you have to get that and I’ll try and tell you whether you will get that from an MMO or another type of game.

I've got a Bad Feeling about this...

I haven't blogged about "Last of the Time Lords" yet, but this news article couldn't wait!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Eight Percent

If you approximate the odds of winning "something" on the regular lottery to 1 in 50 then I am Mister 8%!
Why? I have played the same numbers every Saturday for the last two and a half years and have won nothing! That has an 8% probability of occurring.
If I don't win anything by the end of the year the odds will have dropped to 4.3% cumulative, although the true odds of that happening are actually about 60%!

Oh - I started watching Deal or No Deal again recently, in the run up to their 500th programme. The 500th programme was a let down as the Lady on it was the unluckiest person alive!
Last night the Guy dealt at £20,000 and ended up having the £250k in his box. Serena would have dealt at £75k and I reckoned that if I had the progression of boxes he had had, then I would have gone "F#ck it!" and actually won the £250k. I really need to get on that programme!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Lord of the Rings Online – Part 1: The Basics

Well Serena and I have solo characters at level 8 and two duos at level 6, so we are fully versed in the tutorial levels of LOTRO.
The tutorial is in two parts:
The first is solo only and guides you through the basics of movement, looting and combat. It is very scripted and involves heroes/villains you will know from the books/films. You finish that at level 2.
Then you are in one of a pair of a small instances with other players of your own race (Man and Hobbit share one and Dwarf and Elf the other). You get about 10 quests to complete and by the end things have generally gone horribly wrong! What I mean is that these instances are set in the past and despite your best efforts things go badly and everything goes to hell! You are then transported to the present day and are in with the full gamut of characters from about Lev 6 upwards. The tutorial has no tradeskilling, no guilds and there is no real need to group up.

The quicker amongst you will note that I said we had two Duos of characters. After getting LOTRO up and running on our main PC and being pleasantly surprised by the performance we got out of it, I did an install on our laptop. The game was playable on low detail and an executive decision was taken that it was more fun to play two characters together than peering over each others’ shoulders. Hence another £27 was spent in Woolworths on Saturday morning. (The game comes with the first month’s subscription free).

Very nice on Normal (not so nice on Low) and I look forward to cranking them up to Highest on a new PC. The look and feel falls back to a lot of the LotR art done down the last twenty odd years but the fantasy artists Howe and Lee. The hero characters don’t look like their film actors, but Hobbits, Dwarves and Elves follow the look and feel established in the movies. The backdrops are very well created and my only gripe is that the trees don’t fade out quite enough when you are running through the forest. Like in NWN2 you can run into a point where you get very dodgy camera angles and have to blunder around a bit before you can see your character again.
Spell and Combat effects are modest so far, but then again we don’t have any characters that can obliterate an encroaching Uruk hoard quite yet!

Our sound setup is really bad at the moment so I won’t comment on the music and environmental audio at the present. So far there has been no bad voice acting or annoying characters (yet).

Basic Concepts:
XP is XP, except that it works in a DnD fashion rather than a WoW fashion. By that I mean the XP number doesn’t reset to zero when you level. So far about 75% of my XP has come from quests.
Health is called Morale – i.e. you don’t die in combat but are cowed and forced to retreat back to town. Special events can reduce your morale – like the presence of a Ring Wraith causing Dread, or the presence of Gandalf causing Hope. “Nukes” as a concept are therefore seen as things that reduce your morale, like fear, and “Heals” are acts that bolster your courage.
Mana is called Power. All classes use power for their special abilities.
Both Morale and Power regenerate fairly quickly out of combat.
Characters also build up renown by completing Deeds. These open up special abilities or Titles. E.g. if you make it to level five without dying you get the title of “The Wary”. Completing all the Quests in an area will give you the title of “Protector of ” etc. Special abilities are things like bonus hit points or regen.

Character Classes:
The game has seven classes which don’t quite fit the mould of other games, so I will break down the six that we have tried out (and a bit on the seventh).
Guardian – This is your bog standard Tank class. Good agro management. Good Defence. Poor Damage output. Your highest damaging attack comes from your shield bashes (certainly at level 6). Designed around sword / mace / axe and shield style of combat.
Champion – another fighter class, but this time you are focussed on damage output over defence. No much in the way of agro holding and not much in the way of multi-target attacks either. Designed around Dual-wielding or big Two-handed weapons.
Archer – the manual describes this as the “nuker” class. They are the high damage dealers. They can melee, but have crap defence – they fight like Legolas in the movies with short blades (dual wield comes at a higher level). The archers attacks become stronger the longer they have been stationary in combat, so in a group with a good tank they are lethal, whereas solo they need to rely on traps to immobilise their target. They don’t do well against multiple targets.
Lore-master – an odd mix. They can nuke a bit, they get pets and they get debuffs that look like they will grow into a proper crowd control line of spells. Kind of like the original EQ Enchanter class. However they are also quite good fighting with their staves! They can heal as well, however this is at the expense of their own health so it is not a long-term role for them.
Minstrel – a jack of all trades, they get buffs, proper heals, nukes and can melee a bit as well. I suppose that makes them the equivalent of a priest class. I expected them to be really weak solo, but Serena has had no problems with hers at all.
Captain – a really unique class that can only really be compared to Squad Leader in SWG. They can melee fairly well, but they also get event specific effects that can heal the party, damage all enemies, help everyone retreat from combat etc. They seem to be pretty group oriented as far as abilities are concerned.
Burglar – not tried this one yet, but looks like a fairly generic thief class. Probably quite hard to solo.

OK – got to fly so more to come soon.

That's me told!

I had to do a bit of family duty last night and wasn't back home from playing taxi until 22:45. Sunday night is the only time that you may be pushed to find a parking space near our house, and as feared my space was gone and there was nothing in sight in either direction. Just next to us is a small cul-de-sac called Westvale Mews, which is so small it isn't even named on Google Maps! They have a little parking bay with 12 spaces, of which 2 were occupied when I got there. I decided that I was unlikely to piss anyone off by parking there overnight and so I duely did so.

How wrong could I be?

This morning I found my car had aquired a note! I reproduce it here for your information (with spelling/punctuation as written):
PLz do not PARK in this BAY We all PAY 4 Bays in Mews. and you put me out hving your car here. If you get Towed out as we have CLAMPING. Its down to you Thank you.
Well I consider this very un-neighbourly, given that there was only one extra car parked there at 7.30 this morning.
According to my local council the Mews parking bays are included on the controlled parking zone that I pay £45 per year to allow me to park near my house (map attached):
I can't see any signs that indicate that it is a private car park and I am certain that the cars that I saw parked there, regularly park in front of my house!
There is no mention of clamping on any signs. (Although I am pretty certain that private clamping schemes are technically illegal and you can sue for criminal damage to your car).
In fact the only visible sign is one that states "Strictly No Ball Games".
I could jump to the conclusion that my car was caught playing a spot of tennis whilst I slept?
So the question is how did I respond?
Did I:
(a) Leave a snotty note on the window of the car that wasn't parked there when I arrived last night - also failing to sign it / indicate my house number?
(b) Position a nail behind said car's wheel, so that reversing resulted in a visit to the local KwikFit?
(c) Accidentally run my key down the side of said car?
(d) Do nothing apart from fume all the way to work?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

In the News

My countdown at the top of the blog has been heralding the arrival of the no smoking laws in England.  Now that it is here though, the news is dominated by other stories.

The thought that the two London car bombs were placed - one to cause fear and one to hit the crowd as it flees - is sickening to me.

Yet it was clear that those party-goers out in London were refusing to be scared away.

Following that the car bomb in Glasgow showed me too obvious things.  Firstly people in Scotland clearly saw themselves as being out of the firing line as far as terrorism was concerned and secondly, now that they are in the firing line they are even more bloody minded about not being affected by it.

The fact that members of the Glasgow public assisted a policeman in arresting one of the two "bombers" is a credit to the Scottish people, given that the stereotypical "Weegie" is portrayed as being a police hater.

Having worked in Glasgow for a number of years, none of this surprises me though.  Apart from Yorkshiremen I don't think I have come across a collective of people who are more bloody minded that the west coasters of Scotland!