Travel Notes

Traveling has an interesting blend of options in LOTRO. No big new ideas, but a synthesis of them. Options include

  • Walking. Slow, but maybe not as slow as it seems. Though it might be affected by how fast your computer is, which would suck.
  • Swift horse between starting cities. At 1s, this is the best travel deal in the game. Use it, leverage it, exploit it. For many levels, for several toons, I bound in Bree and would use this to go “home”.
  • Other swift horses. These are often level limited (must be level 30, etc.) and seem quite expensive (35s). But somehow, when you get to that level, they don’t seem so expensive any more.
  • Stablemaster routes to places you’ve been before. The cheapest of these is 5s. For a long time I avoided these because 5s was a lot. It isn’t now. These are faster than a personal horse, and give you the opportunity to visit the little elves room while you are transported.
  • Port to racial city. Men go to Bree, Hobbits to Michel Delving, Dwarves to Thorin’s Hall, and Elves to Rivendell. Yes, Rivendell. The other three are pretty much equivalent because of the cheap fast travel between the starting cities.
  • A horse. Costs a gold plus, and you must be level 35 and complete a couple quests first. It seems expensive, but right about that level you seem to start pulling in a lot more money. I scrimped and saved for it, and two weeks after I bought it, I had made the money back. These are a nice option.
  • Port to house. This requires a travel ration, available for 2s at the Supplier. Not terribly useful as a transport option, but it could be worse. I think Bree is best in terms of pure location. The elf housing is the worst. It takes me 7 minutes to walk into Michel Delving and hit the AH from my house. Bree takes more like 5 minutes. Still, it was handy for certain things. I would port to house, sell, AH, repair, maybe do some crafting, distribute stuff to alts, and then map back to my quest hub.
  • Port to kinship house. Requires a travel ration. Yes, if your kinship has a house, you get a port to it, too. I don’t use it a lot, but it can come in handy.
  • Summoning horn. Requires 2 travel rations, I think. Takes you to a dungeon. Can be very handy to let you go into town via map, sell, repair and then get summoned back. You just have to have one person stay at the dungeon.
  • Captain summoning. Not sure what level they get it, but it also requires a travel ration.
  • Hunter routes and campfires. Hunters have fixed routes that they can use to teleport their group to, and they can bind any one campfire in the game and port to it as well. This requires a travel ration or two.

The art people at Turbine really really know how to make terrain. It looks beautiful, and it makes things seem much farther apart than they really are. I’m constantly amazed at how they manipulate my perception of distance. There are so many times I find myself thinking of a 5 minute walk as an heroic undertaking.

Mudflats, Hun?

Tipa’s been having fun in LOTRO. I was surprised, were you surprised? She complains about one thing though:

I switched Ettie to Historian when I took a look at the Auction House and found absolutely nothing I could afford for dyes. There were very, very few on the market and almost all of them sold for far more than 100 silver.

Mudflation has clearly taken hold in LotRO. When I played before, the Auction House had plenty of items for characters of all levels, a nice selection, but now even the first thing a crafter might make to skill up is being sold on the Auction House for many, many times more than it’s worth.

Boy did you get that right. I’ll tell you why this is, too. Putting an item up for sale costs you money up front, and more money when it sells. I feel this is a very bad idea. My favorite off-line selling system is (no surprise here) Everquest 2′s. EQ has bazaar selling, but you have to stay logged in, but its still second best.

The problem with auctions is that you can’t just toss up stuff and leave it there for a while. Stuff that maybe doesn’t have a big market, but someone would find useful.

Third favorite is WoW’s AH. There, at least if you didn’t sell something, it didn’t cost you anything. So you might toss it right back up. There’s always stuff out there for lower levels, some of it pretty reasonable in price.

The upfront charge for AH chases people away, and I think that’s a very bad thing. I’ve had some luck selling dyes, but my wife hasn’t, and now she doesn’t want to put any up for sale, because her money is tight, and she doesn’t want to lose more if they don’t sell. See how that works?

As for myself, I’ve made tons of stuff while leveling up that would be decent leveling gear. Last summer I managed to sell some on the AH, but there are so few people leveling right now, putting things on the AH would likely just cost me money. This is what we call market failure.

To make things worse, the posting fee depends on the length of time and on the item itself (in some mysterious way). It’s as if the Turbine people are trying to discourage some things from being posted. I think someone had the bright idea that a high posting fee would encourage lower prices. They were wrong.

I say that they need to get rid of the AH posting fee in LOTRO. I’m ok with them taking a cut when you actually sell something. I would prefer a system more like EQ2, but that would be a huge change, and probably too costly to develop now. But at least it would allow more people to post things that might sell at the lower levels.

Palm Heel on Flash’s Brow

When we last left Flash, he was scratching his chin and wondering why EQ2 crashed immediately on launch. Flash managed to figure out the Vista permissions issue, but thanks anyway for the tip, Joshua.

Flash, in a fit of exasperation, decided he needed to reload the game from DVD. There was just one little itsy bitsy snag. Flash has been getting the digital download versions of expansions (Flash has had trouble finding it expansions in the store, especially on the first day of launch, which we know is mandatory for an important journalist and chronicler of the game like Flash, right?).

Sigh. I’m going to have to go buy another copy of the game, thought Flash. And I’ll have to make another trip to Fry’s. Flash went, endured it, managed not to get distracted by all the shiny electronics and games, and returned home DVD in hand. Flash popped them into the new computer and it began installing, while Flash went off to drive his daughter somewhere.

When he returned home, the install was nearly done, and then a dialog popped up. Would Flash like to install DirectX 9(whatever subversion)?

At this point Flash applied his right carpals to his frontal bone in a percussive manner.

Vista doesn’t come with DX9? Really? Who knew? Besides everybody, I mean.

Anyway, it all works now, and it works really well, I might add. There is something a bit odd going on with the Station Launcher, it’s leaving a blank white rectangle on top of my lower right screen when its on. Ah well, it’s only a beta. But the game looks good, and runs very well. I can now go back into my guildhall without crashing! And man do I zone fast!

Oh, and as for the question about .NET 1.1, that’s what LOTRO requires. It doesn’t work with the new shiny up-to-date version, not as far as I can tell. I did a reinstall of LOTRO too, but fortunately I had the DVDs for that already. The download after surprised me by only lasting 20-30 minutes instead of the horrific 4 hour monster that we got when they released their new expansion.

LOTRO then offered me the opportunity to use DX10, so I tried it. It didn’t work so well. I started a new Dwarf Runekeeper and was running around near Thorin’s Gates and Hall. There are areas where the shadowing/shading on the ground is having problems, maybe with blending? Not so good, I’m going back to DX9.

Jonesing for Norrath

For about a month, I’ve been unable to go into my guilds guildhall. I discovered this when I my client crashed inside the guildhall with an “out of memory” error, and any attempt to log back in was met with an immediate crash.

I was able to get my characters out using another computer. I could have just got a memory upgrade, but I was due for an upgrade, so I eventually ordered a new computer.

It came yesterday, so yesterday evening I took it out of the packing, hooked it up, and commenced to copy all my files and applications over via Microsoft’s Easy Transfer.

Of course, that took all evening and all night going over the network.

No matter, thinks I, now I have all my games already there and ready to go, right?

Right?

My new computer has Vista. I know, I know, but it’s at Service Pack 1 now, I figured most of the problems had been ironed out, and getting XP Pro was more money. Yes, I’m kind of a tightwad.

World of Warcraft more or less worked. It had to download a few patches, but otherwise no big problems.

The LOTRO launcher insisted that I have a particular version of .NET installed. At least I didn’t encounter the issues that one gets with a 64-bit OS. That looks like a real nightmare, since .NET 1.1 doesn’t support it until .NET 1.1 SP1. But you have to install .NET 1.1 before .NET 1.1 SP1. Joy! There is a hack to make it work, though.

Then there’s the Everquest 2 issue. The launcher worked only well enough to tell me I needed to reload the launcher. The only launcher I found on the Station was the Station launcher (which is in beta), so I figured “WTH?” and gave it a whirl. I’ve had some “false start” downloads, where it starts a download and then does nothing at all.

If it lives up to its promise, station launcher looks pretty useful, will it download new patches and LU’s in the background the moment they are available? And what will this do to server bandwidth if everyone starts doing this?

And it seems to think that my files are not up to date. Even though I just copied them last night. Sigh. Eventually I’ll get to play on my new computer.

Double Secret Account Protection Gizmo

Alice had her WoW account hacked, her toons stripped of gear, and gold stolen from her guild’s bank. In itself, this isn’t all that unusual, but commenters mentioned the Blizzard Authenticator.

This little gizmo will fit on your keychain, and each click of the button on it will give you a 8-digit or so number that changes every few minutes. And every version of the gizmo gives a different set of numbers. So when you tell Blizzard to associate your gizmo’s serial number with your account, it will ask for both your normal password, and the gizmo’s number of the moment.

Simple password theft via keylogging or email hacking won’t work any more.

I’ve seen a gizmo like that before, in the hands of a friend who, at the time, worked for the NSA. I’m sure it has some vulnerabilities to a concerted attack, but it’s a lot better than simple password protection. The Blizzard store says it’s only available in the US. Probably that’s because it contains pretty strong encryption technology, and getting an export license for such things is tricky.

I wonder how long before SOE offers them…

Next LU Changes Tanking

A bunch of changes to the way taunts work went live today on Test.

My personal summary is that the gamedevs have decided to do something about the way tanking is done these days.

Starting primarily in Ruins of Kunark, many tanks have gone to using offensive stance while tanking. For the plate tanks, especially Guardians, they can do this because they have really good armor, and have built up their avoidance to the point where it’s nearly as good as brawlers.

It hasn’t been just about bragging rights on the parse, though. One point of damage equals one point of hate, so doing more damage helps a tank hold aggro better, which allows the rest of the team to go harder. In some cases, much harder.

SOE has decided to cut back on this, it seems. Certain hate-building skills have now been consolidated into the tanks defensive stance. For Guardians, this affects Hold The Line, which won’t exist any more outside of defensive stance. Iron Will has been merged into both offensive and defensive stance. One guesses that the boost to STA it grants will be greater in defensive stance than offensive. Finally Battle Tactics (boosting group members’ health) has been merged with Call to Arms (boosting group members’ offensive skills). One wonders if this combination allows a tradeoff between health(defense) and offensive skills(dps), or if this combination was just a cleanup.

Turning to the tank class I play regularly, Brawlers have some revamps to their Achievements that look pretty welcome. Monkey Dodge now buffs parry as well as defense skill. This plays well with the TSO gear that increases riposte chance, and is quite welcome. Many of our combat art lines have had a threat component added. Roughouse, a threat and damage melee proc, and Dodge and Strike, a buff to AGI and STR have been merged into the stances. Again, I presume they tilt the effects more to offense or defense depending on which stance. Our basic taunts have been made more effective.

Overall, taunts and detaunts can now have critical hits. Which is a very good thing. Damage, which equals hate gain, can be critted, why not taunts and detaunts? Otherwise they lose importance in hate management. Also, it says “hate gain mods will no longer affect taunt adjustments.” I’m not sure what that’s about, though.

The timing of this update suggests that it was the first game fix they turned their attention to after the release of TSO. I have been posting about this topic for nearly a year, I might have wished for it sooner, but I’m glad to see the attention now.

However, I expect a lot of unhappy people out there. I forsee some tanks who, ahem, skim through the update notes getting pasted and wondering why. And I can well imagine Guardians who have Master versions of Hold The Line and Iron Will, but Apprentice 1 versions of defensive stance scrambling madly after the very few Master of their defensive stance. Keep your sword handy.