It’s a new day with so much to play!

Steam sales. Yes, we have all done it over these past few days – I know you have and so have I. Steam has been rather awesome for a while but the direction the platform has taken of late is fabulous from my humble end-user perspective; easy browsing (too easy!), purchasing and gifting games to folk on your friendlist, automatic updates, trailers and demos all in one spot, public wishlists and screenshot galleries….and now with the new big picture portal I have even re-plugged a gamepad to my PC. I used to think that XBOX live showed the rest of the console world how online is done properly – the same can be said for Steam and PC gaming. As somebody who has always looked forward to multiplatform, digital gaming instead of dusty boxes piling up on my attic, I am very pleased with this new era. That doesn’t even touch on the fact that with Steam I feel more like I’m paying my money to the right people, aka developers.

What this platform does so well is what amazon, youtube and similar sharing, networking and self-publishing sites have done for a while: check out what others are playing, read your buddies’ recommendations, browse similar titles, genres and special bundles. Before you know it, you own so many games you don’t know where to start! Which brings me to the inevitable topic of excess. I guess it fits our overall lifestyle in the western world that we now increasingly “nibble” at our games, try more of them but finish less. I don’t know if this is good or bad; I remember how I saved up my allowance as a child to afford a new SNES RPG, playing it to death for weeks. Games were more expensive then, too.

Today, I might finish one game out of three. Does that mean I enjoy myself less? I am not so sure. With more choice and variety, I actually get to keep my enjoyment level fairly high. I have the flexibility to switch to something else when the same level or riddle frustrate or bore me. At the same time, avoiding frustration all the time is to avoid that feeling of epic win; of being victorious over tedious obstacles. That is an old discussion we know so well from MMO design too. Still, do we all need to play games in the same way? Do we take pleasure from the same type of “win”?

A Trip back to Middle-Earth

After thoroughly enjoying the new Hobbit movie in cinema, hands down the biggest fun I’ve had over the Christmas holidays (during which I was ill with a nasty flu, yay) was with Lego Lord of the Rings. Yeah, that surprised me too! Being my first Lego title due to popular bias, the huge care, love for detail and humor that has gone into bringing the movie trilogy to life with Lego characters is simply stunning. Lego LOTR is straightforward gameplay fun, sticking very closely to the beautiful settings and script of Peter Jackson’s films, while surprising you with creative ideas and funny details around every corner. I finished the whole storyline in about 15 hours, after which I had discovered only 30% of the entire world and open world mode got unlocked. The fully explorable map of Middle-Earth is packed with more secrets, puzzles and playable characters to recruit (75 in total!). That last one was a neat flashback of the fun I’ve had with an old RPG called Genso Suikoden. What else can I say, if you’re at all into Tolkien’s world and the LOTR movies, forget your lego bias and give this game a try!

As if that wasn’t enough Tolkien for a week, I finally decided to put my money where my mouth is and give Lord of the Rings Online a try. It’s one of maybe three MMOs I’ve been meaning to play forever (together with Vanguard and FF14) but different issues kept me from it. One of them was probably timing; when LOTRO came out I was still deeply into WoW. Way too much about this new title looked similar to WoW’s approach at first sight, for example the questing system. I am also not actually a die-hard Tolkien fan. Anyways, by now I can say that no MMO I’ve ever tried was actually “just like WoW” (the way some people claim): Allods is not like WoW, Rift is not WoW and LOTRO too is not WoW. They just share basic features like all MMOs have to.

After a few hours of gameplay (and rerolling on Laurelin EU RP server), I decided to upgrade my account to VIP status for three months and give this game a fair chance. I am still taking in newbie impressions, so suffice to say that LOTRO already managed to surprise me. I am loving the oldschool feel of this MMO both in setting and gameplay approach. I struggle with the combat quite a bit and have a feeling this isn’t the game’s strong suit. Questing is very linear and a rather uneventful fetch&delivery routine so far. The world on the other hand is absolutely massive (travel gets a new meaning) and lives from its community – which is really what I’m interested in with LOTRO. There is something very soothing about playing my Loremaster, dabbling at crafts and hobbies, stopping at inns and listening to music being played by real players. At this point I should also apologize for having called this game ugly in the past: I don’t know what Turbine have done since launch but on my current PC with max settings LOTRO, dated as it may be, is still a beautiful game with lots of nice details for today’s standards (click image to expand!) –

As you can tell from above screenshot, I am currently parked in Bree and undecided where to go next. So far all general chat on my server is very quiet. I don’t know if Kinships are a must in LOTRO from the get-go (tips welcome) or whether I am missing something. Hopefully I will find more chances to interact soon. I look forward to explore more of this world. LOTRO is not exactly the most self-explanatory or beginner friendly of MMOs in many respects (which does not have to be a bad thing).

Musings on 2013

Looking at my full Steam library and having recently resigned from a job that has drained all my energy, creativity and joy in life for the past few months, my wishes for 2013 are very humble: to do more of what I enjoy, to be more me again. Odd how that always seems to be such a difficult task.
I hope to find a more fulfilling (or at least less soul-destroying) work place soon and I look forward to having more time for writing again, gaming and other new projects – one of which may very well be a collaborative gaming&geek culture blog in the German speaking hemisphere (something that is still very under-represented compared to English sites and communities).

I have always wished to turn my different passions into a living, at least a part time gig, and I feel geek culture deserves more serious voices here in the heart of Europe. You may think mainstream media are conservative over in the UK or US still but when it comes to gaming, art and entertainment, both younger and older audiences around here don’t have many places to turn to and platforms to share in, unless they speak English. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while anyway and tackling blogging in my mother tongue would assist me in professionalizing it where I’m living. I’ve had people tell me about monetizing and different options before, but so far I never felt this was the way to go for this little blog here.

This turned out to be a very editorial post, which I guess is warranted after a quiet December and in presence of the new year that is 2013. These artificial boundaries we create for time have their upside in symbolism. I like a blank page before me, I always have. And with that I wish all of you a belated, very happy new year, filled with time and opportunity to be yourself and do the things that matter to you most. Now I have some catching up to do on my blogroll!

P.S. If nothing else, you should absolutely check out the current, amazing indie bundle up on Steam! It doesn’t get much better than this!

22 comments

  1. I have tried to get into LoTRO recently but I think I’m just too late to the party. The highest I managed was about level 12 or so and by then I was completely bored stiff of the quests being offered up. That and as you say combat just feels a bit off. The community would be the one thing I did find to be positive, everyone seems to be helpful.

    I’m actually beginning to think Guild Wars 2 has turned me into a one game man…… hmmm cant have that, I’ll maybe have to buy The Secret World when its next on sale

    1. Heh, I am lvl 12 now myself ;) considering I played AoC (which I would seriously compare in terms of overall rating) for over 6 months, the 3-months LOTRO sub should do fine. I hope. I am curious though what people are “doing all the time” in this game. it’s very slow paced and I’ve yet to discover ways to join others. either way, this is a bit of a journey back into more oldschool for me right now and exploring new maps.

      GW2 has had a serious impact on me too; I really have problems not moving during combat in Lotro. that feature, together with the shared nodes/loot and cross-server chatting is what I miss in most MMOs out there since playing GW2. I just wished ANet tackled some of the still serious polish and balancing issues in the game by now…I said it for a while and it’s starting to turn me off big time. it’s like they always have great ideas but never fully deliver them (see dungeons, wvw, events, combat).

      TSW is free to play now, no?

    2. Nope changed to b2p like guildwars 2.

      I hear ya on the polish side of things, would kill for a dungeon finder. Still despite the flaws its got its hooks in me and is pretty much my New MMO home :)

    3. Ahh, gotcha. :) B2P certainly works for TSW too.

      And better LFG (at least a bloody global channel) is highly overdue in GW2 indeed!

  2. I may be out of touch as I haven’t played much since the summer, but the RP community is especially active in the Shire on Laurelin. I suspect guilds do a lot in their own kin-houses and out of the way places as well though.

    Good luck with the blogging venture! When I was still studying German I could find very little as you say actually written in that language – OnlineWelten is about all I can remember and that was more generically about gaming.

    1. I figured as much. I chose the server because it seems to be the most active RP one on the EU side, so there’s gotta be stuff going on I’m not aware of! :) I have to look into kinships…I just don’t feel at ease joining guilds in MMOs I don’t know how long am gonna play.

      And thanks! :) yes, there’s is very little – it’s a cultural thing, too.

  3. Yes, we have all done it over these past few days – I know you have and so have I.

    Whenever I read things like that, I expect someone to show up at my house and take away my gamer card for not being a Steam user at all. ;)

    I can only second the recommendation to “overcome your LEGO bias”. A friend got me to try the LEGO Harry Potter games, and they were very good co-op fun too.

    Looking forward to seeing that German gaming blog!

    1. Haha! well, I was a bit of a late bloomer to Steam myself (and to twitter); I have “app fatigue” like that, I am always skeptical or too lazy to install or try new software or services. but in these two cases I am really happy I changed my mind! Steam is amazing and you would love it, is all I can say! :) it just minimizes all effort that usually goes “around” gaming and allows you to actually play games with most ease. and I personally like having everything in one spot!

      I am now also playing the Lego HP games, just started yesterday! I miss the voice-overs, but otherwise am having lots of fun right now! :D

      Thank you! I am definitely excited about the blog project (oddly enough also scared to write in German again lol!).

    2. I’m with Shintar on wishing you luck in your German blog! I’ll use Google Translate to follow along, so don’t be surprised to see some English in the comments!

    3. Haha, wonderful! =) I am already feeling the pressure!
      but really, for now this is an idea just coming to life. it will take some time to work it out together with conspirators before the page design can even begin. I have 2 months to go in my current job of doom too (and a part time job to pay the bills to find), so it will be a few months minimum. but ofc I will write about it here if anything gets concrete. cheers guys! :)

  4. I believe my characters in EU LotRO are on Laurelin. It was one of the RP servers. While many people there were nice, I met some of the most offensive individuals I have ever run up against in MMOs there and it was, in the end, the community that led me to give up playing LotRO, although the game itself had something to do with it, it must be said. By the 40s the quest grind was enough to make me want to gnaw my hands off.

    I do drop back in occasionally (although not often, as evidenced by me not being entirely sure of the name of my own server) but it’s a game for pottering around in not trying to progress seriously. Life is too short.

    1. I read on the LOTRO forums that some players prefer the RP on Landroval instead of Laurelin, because the latter community is supposedly somewhat elitist. I can’t judge that yet as I am currently struggling to meet anyone. would you say kinships are a must right away?

      I hear ya on the pottering and I agree. questing and combat are not my thing in LOTRO either, they’re insanely boring to say the least…but this is more of a wayback machine for me anyway. I like exploring the maps and thank god I have a horse for that!

    1. Hehe…well, it sure is better than I thought. I wouldn’t recommend the character design and customization in this game, but the maps and towns really have a charm of their own. I also like the open space in LOTRO and the color palette is so warm. it has its very own flair this game does.

  5. I tried out LOTRO about 10 months ago and rolled a Hobbit Burglar, and hated it. I decided, like you, to give it another try, this time as an Elf Ranger and I love it. The way the story is tied into the books is awesome, and the world is really beautiful and fun to explore. I will still keep my main game SWTOR but LOTRO has definatly become my play around for the hell of it game.

    1. I like that description! :) I first rolled an elven hunter in LOTRO and almost dropped it right there – luckily, I decided to roll a human LM after that. starter areas have such a huge impact on first impressions and I really disliked the elven one. The story quests really are good fun so far.

  6. As the game indicates at the character selection phase, the Loremaster is an advanced class. You’re obviously experienced enough to deal with that but you should expect somewhat slower growth and some hairy situations. I got a Loremaster, a Champion and a Burglar into Moria and the Loremaster was far and away the most challenging.

    I did like LOTRO. The quest hubs function well and there is more space to run around in than any other game I’ve played. If you do get tired of questing you can jump into solo, or group, skirmshes for some instant action that. I forget what level skirmishes atart at.

    The storyline quests are very enjoyable and, once you’ve completed the first couple of ‘books’, tell a very moving story that I think you would enjoy.

    That said, after a while the travel really gets irritating, some map locations and the quest associated with them are damn near impossible at level when solo and the in-game map is useless.

    Have fun!

    Mike.

    1. I have a hand for picking the harder classes it seems…
      skirmishes are something I need to look into; I noticed the camps and NPCs but I have yet to learn how to join one. that would definitely be interesting.

      and yes, travel is brutal in this game. :) I love the space, but without a mount and additional waypoints it would be quite the torture.

    1. Believe me I want to. :)
      the past few months have shown me a lot about myself and where I need to go professionally….I’ve always known but never taken it seriously enough. self-doubts are such destructive forces.
      well, turns out I cannot do the average corporate job even if I try really hard. it is no option anymore – I just hope I get through the next 2 months relatively sane (contractual notice).

      After that, I will take the necessary steps to integrate regular writing and publishing in my life. the new project is very exciting and of course I intend to keep RM and see where that goes. being a ‘meta blog’ on gaming and MMOs, I think it’s already nice if I can keep up my 2 posts a week at the very least. I think if the quality is consistent (which I always aspired to) readers stick with you no matter your posting schedule. reminds me – I’d also like to read more from you again this year! :P

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