Monthly Archives: May 2007

We pause this blog…

…to bring you this important news story:

I’m trying not to do the ‘linky, linky, editorial, I’m just going to point you to stuff’ thing here, but anyone who’s interested in developments in MMOs should go to the WAR Production Video Podcast page and watch WAR Production Video Podcast #7

For me this is great, because it’s the sort of thing I’d be banging-on about if I had a suitable soap box, like, say a blog…

Anyway, the PR department (can you call Paul Barnett a department?) definitely understand about all things ‘bear paw'; hopefully the implementation team will be assiduous in their execution of the ideas.

Here’s hoping! And if not, the Inferno awaits…

We now return you to the irregularly scheduled ramblings of an English loon.

A perfect image

My new graphics card turned up, so I had a great time fitting that last night. The little plastic clip on the motherboard holding the previous graphics card in place was tucked under the heatsink of the X800XL, making it rather fun to try and release, but a bit of deft knife-work did the trick (remember, kids, always wave cutlery around your PC case when fitting new bits, what could possibly go wrong?) With the 8800GTS fitted, I was just doing the last minute checks (new card fitted, check, all screws removed during the fitting process screwed back in (ideally but not necessarily where they came from originally), check, all cutlery taken out of the case, check), and was on the verge of powering the system back up when I thought… “power, power, that rings a bell… oh yes! The graphics card needs power!” You might be wondering how I missed that, as I carefully followed the detailed, step-by-step instructions for fitting the new card. Well, as it turned out, the detailed step-by-step instructions were a somewhat generic pamphlet, obviously included in every graphics card from that manufacturer (and several others, probably), which included such pearls of wisdom as “insert the graphics card into the appropriate slot (AGP or PCI-E)”, “if the graphics card requires power, plug cable in” (picture of several different types of plug that may or may not be needed by your card). I suppose I should be thankful the company specialised in graphics cards, if they made a variety of PC components it might have been more generic still. “Fit the component into the PC case in the appropriate place. Use appropriate connectors. Enjoy your new component!”

Anyway, rooting around the case to find the PCI-E connector from the power supply, the realisation slowly dawned that… it didn’t have a PCI-E connector (the X800XL hadn’t needed one). Cue much swearing, wondering whether an 8 pin EPS connector (whatever that is) would fit into a 6 pin PCI-E slot (I figured the chances were good, especially with a suitable amount of brute force), and searching for the bits that came with the power supply in case there was an adapter there. Fortunately, the graphics card came with an adapter, so with a bit of tinkering, turning the spaghetti mess of wiring in the case into an even spaghetti-er mess, power was connected, and away we went! Miraculously, it all seemed to work as well. Fingers crossed, touch wood, clutching horseshoe etc.

Graphics-wise, it’s… nice and all. Framerates were up with the same settings as before, and I could crank up some extra levels of detail without everything shuddering to a halt; the previous card wasn’t totally obsolete, though, so it’s not going from “Super Low Quality” at 640×480 to “AIEEE MY EYES!” at 1680 x 1050. It’s a bit like getting an epic weapon in WoW, it’s an upgrade, you’re doing more damage, but it’s not like you can suddenly take on three elites at once and smite them all in a couple of blows. In MMOs, the “oooh, pretty landscape!” effect wears off the 17th time you’re running from Bree to the North Downs, and combat involves more squinting at health bars and cooldown timers than admiring flecks of realistically rendered spittle from the Warg trying to bite your legs. Still! I’m ready for DirectX 10 and Vista, when it becomes unavoidable, and there might be a bit of scope for tinkering with drivers n’ stuff.

What I’m really pleased with is actually the overall noise of the system. Like I mentioned, the PC sits in the living room, where whining fans would get pretty annoying (so I steer clear of official game message boards, *badum tish*). In the previous setup, with a passive graphics card, the only fans were the CPU cooler and the case exhaust. This worked reasonably well, but the case fan had to be set to a fairly high speed as it was the only outlet for all the heat produced by the graphics card (and everything else). The 8800GTS is a chunky card that takes up two slots, using one of them to exhaust heat directly out of the case, and it varies its fan speed depending on the load on the card. The net result is that I can maintain the same temperatures as before with the main case fan at a lower speed, and the graphics card fan is barely audible when the system’s idle (and it doesn’t even spin up too loudly while gaming). So that’s nice.

Thought for the day.

MMO concepts that were turned down:

  • Carebear Wars.
  • Pirate Outlaws Online.
  • World of Hobbycraft.
  • High School Clique!
  • City of Agoraphobics.
  • Grind until you Die: Life as a Worker Ant.
  • Lord of the Dance Online.
  • Dark Age of Crufts.
  • Age of Plato: Symposium Adventures.
  • Grind until you Die II: Journey of the Spawning Salmon.
  • The Chronicles of Spelling Using Punctuation.
  • SpermQuest: The Fertilising.

The Shores of the Acheron: Swing low, sweet aggro.

Along the shores of the Inferno we can witness the multitudinous annoyances of MMO life, played out for all eternity to those who chase the banner of The Perfect Grind. As your guide, it will be my unashamed pleasure to highlight some of the more popular thematic annoyances as we continue our tour. Let us begin, then, with a topic most appropriate for such a place: Low level mob aggro.

Outside the entrance to the king’s palace.

Helen: “Ulfar! At last!”.

Ulfar the Mighty: (Slightly out of breath) “Sorry I’m late everyone, I had a bit of trouble on the way in”.

Samantha: “Ulfar, is there a small squirrel chewing on your arm?”

Ulfar the Mighty: “What? Oh, this. No, it’s the latest in adventuring fashion. It’s, uh… I… Oh who am I kidding. Excuse me ladies, I just need to run in a straight line for four hundred yards to get rid of it”.

Runs off.

Comes running back, with five small animals all hanging from various limbs and appendages, all of them gnawing away in a furious and yet fruitless fashion.

Ulfar the Mighty: “Be right back”.

Four hours later…

Helen: “Where the devil has Ulfar got to? We’re supposed to be getting a quest from the king and the royal party is almost over.”

A mound of forty or so writhing animals from around the countryside shuffles into the room, shifts around a bit and mumbles something unintelligible before collapsing in a heap on the floor.

In many MMOs mobs that are far below your character’s level will still aggro. Admittedly it may be that the games will implement an aggro range, such that higher level mobs will aggro when you step foot on the same continent as them, and the vastly lower level mobs will require you to get fairly close to them before you get their attention, but invariably you will get close enough, and you will get their attention. And that’s about all you’ll get. They don’t do enough damage to threaten your character, although it’s just enough that if you’re suddenly jumped by a suitably tough mob you will be disadvantaged. They don’t give any XP because they’re just too low in level, or if they do give XP it will be of any value you like as long as it falls between one and three. They don’t drop any loot worth writing home about, in fact half the time it’s just junk that will fill precious bag space, although just for added aggravation they will all drop the animal part you needed for that quest fifteen levels ago which you had to spend four hours grinding away for. Some of them will drop two, even if that part in question is, say, a nose…

The fact that these mobs can hit you at all is a total insult to your heroicalness. You’re standing around in your armour of wonderment with its plus five bonus to Glinting Sexily in Sunlight, and suddenly a guinea pig sneak attacks you and starts doing annoying but negligible damage. This is a standard guinea pig mind you, not one of those dire, aged guinea pigs of yore, that would roam the frozen wastes of Niflheim and lay waste to entire villages with their mournful squeals, and who could only be appeased with a giant peanut from Yggdrasil. So there it is, this standard run of the mill guinea pig doing damage to you with its species’ centuries-evolved ability to find weak spots in chain mail, and you have two options: fight or running away, because the feisty little fellow certainly isn’t going anywhere, he’s made the catch of his life and he’s going to take you down, one hit point per hour until he is victorious and has avenged his entire family, who you killed five months ago for their noses. Your first choice will be, in all likelihood, to smite the foolish little critter, but unfortunately this will take an alarming amount of time. For a mob so far below you in levels it takes a surprising number of strikes to defeat it, as it dodges and parries blows that have felled demons. If that was the only fight you had in a day it wouldn’t be so bad, but within five seconds of having defeated the mob, his brother will turn up and launch himself at you with wild abandon, possibly with a yell of “Freedom from nasal tyranny!” as he does so. Five minutes and three hundred guinea pig corpses later, you decide that running away would be the least frustrating option, besides, you need to empty your bags of all these sodding guinea pig noses.

Can there be anything more heroic than a full-armour-plated warrior running in a straight line with a train of small furry animals chasing behind them, some of which are crippled from previous battles and others so old they’re in wheelchairs?

Thank you MMO developer for immersing me in this game, for convincing me that grinding away on your carefully crafted world will enable me to improve in power to the point that I’m known throughout the lands, cherubs sing my praises, cathedrals are built in my honour, demons cower at the mention of my name and small furry animals with only three legs will still make me run like a schoolgirl to get away from them. You don’t read fantasy stories where the adventurers are travelling from one town to another, and at some point a wolf jumps out and attacks, and then a bird, and then another wolf, and a pack of rabid guinea pigs and another wolf, and a giant bear and a sabre-tooth duck. And even if you did, you wouldn’t get a description of how the adventurers bravely ran away (Sir Robin, I’m looking at you) with all this wildlife trailing after them across the countryside. If someone wrote a fantasy book based on an MMO, it would be five hundred pages long, of which one hundred pages are just detailing the adventurers fighting off an endless stream of crap animals on their way between towns.

One hundred pages would describe the adventurers trying to form a group with the right class/race mix. Hmmm, The Book of the MMO, I like it. Coming to an Inferno near you soon!

The annoyance factor of low level mob aggro is so high that eventually you think ‘sod it’ and turn around and shout “Come on then you irritating bastards!” at which point you realise that all the crap mobs have stopped chasing you, and you’re left facing the elite Fel Koala of Grungmar who promptly pokes you a new ar… well, you get the idea. If you look carefully before you begin your corpse run, you’ll see all the low level mobs snickering from behind a nearby tree, flicking V signs and thumbing their noses at you. Those that still have noses.

And let’s not forget the joy of the gathering profession in an MMO. If you think you’re safe now that you’re gathering in an area that you’ve out-levelled, guess again, there are more ways to defeat an adventurer than mere combat. Try to mine that ore and the mob attacks, and even though they’re so low in level that they’re effectively vegetation they’ll still manage to get a hit in and interrupt you so you can’t finish the task. So off you run, because killing them is too tedious, and just as you break their aggro range one of their friends, who was waiting for you, picks up the chase. So you run back in the other direction, past the ore that you note someone else is now mining, and pickup the original mob and two more of his friends as you go. Eventually you give up, turn around to fight them… and there’s the Fel Koala of Grungmar, wearing an evil smile and punching his fist into the palm of his other hand.

And there was nothing more to tell

Ho hum… nothing very much to talk about from this past week, I’m afraid. A bit of Lord of the Rings Online, mooching around the Lone-Lands; enjoyable enough, but not terribly anecdote-worthy.

About the most exciting event (for me, at least, it’s not going to get me very far on the after dinner speaking circuit) was deciding it’s time to upgrade my two year old graphics card, an ATI X800XL. As my PC sits in the living room, I’ve tried to make it as quiet as possible (Silent PC Review is a handy place for that), and the X800XL is a passive card with no fan, just a hulking great heatsink on it. Ideally, I was looking out for a passive replacement, but it seems that most of the totally passive cards available don’t offer a huge benefit over the X800XL in terms of performance. Fortunately the Silent PC forums suggest that the stock cooler on the 8800GTS series of cards is actually pretty quiet, and at under £200 they’re pretty reasonable for a high-end card, so one of those should be turning up tomorrow. I’ll see if that’s enough to get the graphics sliders up from “Medium” to “Engage Graphics Mode: EXTREME!” at a sane frame-rate…

Some are building monuments, others jotting down notes

In most MMOGs, we (or “I” at any rate) can spend an inordinate amount of time on “character builds”, deciding which skills/abilities/powers to select in order to smite our foes or assist our comrades in new and interesting ways. Lengthy forum guides, spreadsheets and third party planning programmes abound to help you choose between the combat or assassination talent trees for your World of Warcraft Rogue, or determine which power pools would be best for your City of Heroes Blaster, or in Dungeons and Dragons Online whether to pick an Elf for the racial bonuses then splash a level or two of fighter for the weapon proficiencies and bonus feats as opposed to picking a human for the extra skill points and working up to a prestige class (via a couple of levels in Ranger for two weapon fighting, of course, plus a couple of Exotic Weapon feats…)

In Lord of the Rings Online, this isn’t really the case. As in WoW, you automatically gain abilities on levelling up (so long as you have enough sacks of cash to pay off the extortionist… sorry, I mean class trainer); your main decisions in customising your character comes with your choice of equipment and traits. Equipment, as ever, is a case of grabbing the biggest, shiniest stuff you can find with the most bonuses, and while traits allow you to accentuate certain aspects of your character, they’re not really something to spend hours deliberating over. By level 40, you’re selecting five class traits (which have the biggest effect on a “build”) out of a choice fifteen or so, whereas at the same level in WoW you’d be assigning 31 points between many talents in three different trees, and in CoH picking 20 powers from a selection of 18 primary and secondary powers, plus up to four pools of up to four powers each (and then assigning enhancement slots to those powers).

As well as there being fewer choices, there’s no dependence with LotRO traits, you can slot any traits you have available in any order. In WoW, you have to have spent a certain number of points at one level of a tree before you can move on to the next; in CoH, you can only select the third level power of a pool if you have the first or second level power (and the fourth only if you have two of the first three); DDO has feats like Whirlwind Attack that require you to possess other feats before they can be selected. In all those cases, some level of forward thinking is needed if you want a certain talent/power/feat at a certain time, and it’s quite easy as, say, a WoW Mage, spend a few points here and there in useful looking talents in all three available trees, then realise in later levels you’re missing out on the really juicy stuff deeper down that you can only get by focusing in one area.

To remedy such mistakes, or just change things around, there’s often a respecification (“respec“) process to change your choices, involving varying degrees of pain. WoW lets you reassign your talent points whenever you want, but it costs progressively more money each time, and you have to start from scratch assigning the points (so it costs as much to reassign a single point from one talent to another as it does to completely alter your build). CoH allows you to run a trial once every ten levels or so, with the option of a respec as a reward if you succeed, though again you have to re-do all your decisions from the start, and once you’ve had your three respecs you’re out of luck (apart from the general free respecs handed out now and again… and veteran reward respecs for subscribing to the game for so long… they’re pretty good about it, really). To change your LotRO traits, you just need to have a chat with your local minstrel, and though it costs a bit of silver (what doesn’t in Middle Earth?), you can slot and unslot any trait at a whim.

So: comparatively few choices, no prerequisites for slotting traits, and respecs at will. Good thing, or bad thing? I’m… not entirely sure at the moment. It’s certainly liberating, running around without a power-selection worry in the world, but might it pale eventually and hurt the longevity?

Simple twist of fate

In Lord of the Rings Online, you can improve your character by equipping traits. Virtue traits (Charity, Honour, Valour, Helping Old Hobbits Across The Road etc.) are acquired through exploration, completing quests, and wiping out vast swathes of orcs/goblins/insects/undead/similar plagues upon the land, so in the general run of things I’d acquired several of these with varying effects, and had more-or-less picked at random which to use.

In a bid to not run out of power after about ten seconds fighting, I thought I’d take a moment to look a bit closer at the improvements offered by the various traits, which meant trying to weigh up the benefits of +1.1 Power Regeneration (Non-Combat), -0.5% Magic Vulnerability and +2 Agility against +0.7 Power Regeneration (Non-Combat), -0.5% Wound Resistance and -0.25% Ranged Vulnerability. Is 0.5% good? Is 1.1 enough to make a noticeable difference compared to 0.7? Is Might better than Agility? And where does Fate fit in? It was a bit like reading food labels; “0.02 milligrams of sodium… sodium explodes in water; do I need 0.02 milligrams of that?”

In digging around, I found a splendid guide that lists the virtues, the benefits they give, and where they can be obtained, so I’ve picked out a few with increased power regeneration, maximum power, Will and/or Fate to hopefully give a bit more staying power in combat (as it were). As virtues stack (e.g. completing both the Lore of the Cardolan and Places of the Old Forest traits gives two ranks of Wisdom), I also set out on a trek to complete some of the exploration traits for a further boost; although I’d covered a fair amount of Bree-land in general questing, there were a couple of ruins I hadn’t yet visited, and some distant corners of the Barrow Downs and Old Forest (helpfully shown on the maps at The Brasse). I’m still not really sure whether Disease Resistance is more desirable than a reduction in Ranged Vulnerability, though…

A monstrous weekend.

I managed to get some time in Lord of the Rings Online over the weekend, in-between DIY adventures: accursed plumbing epic quest line! Although I think I gained a level in Avoiding Unexpected Jets of Water, which is nice.

The odometer on my dwarf minstrel ticked over to twenty two and I received a nice aura – Tale of Heroism – which buffs the Will and Fate stats for the fellowship. What’s more this is as handy for my minstrel as much as anyone, although Zoso’s captain with their not insignificant power problems will probably appreciate it too. I say ‘received’ the aura, but in Lord of the Rings Online what this of course means is that I crawl grovelling on my belly to the trainer and give them all of my worldly possessions. They then taunt me with the skill training manual by waving it just above head height, making me jump for it; occasionally they will throw it to another trainer and back, both of them laughing at me until finally one of them drops it, and then as I scrabble around on the floor trying to pick it up, they take turns hitting you with a big stick.

Ok, I’m clearly exaggerating there. They don’t have sticks, they just kick you a bit.

And pour honey over you.

And then cover you in feathers.

Having trained, I took my honey-glazed chicken dwarf to the Barrow Downs with the aim of trying to get a group into the Great Barrows; my dwarf has a whole plethora of quests to perform in this instance and I wanted to have a look in the place whilst trying to get my hands on some shiny quest rewards. I also wanted to make some money to replace my dwindling cash reserves post training extortion. This, as it turns out, was a Bad Plan. The Great Barrows is a fun instance, very atmospheric with some good dungeon-crawling events which I won’t spoil here, but I think it is fair to say that it warrants a group that is at the very least at the level of the quests there, the highest of which is level twenty four. After the usual pickup group shenanigans at the start, with everyone charging in with cries of “Baruk Khazad” and so on resounding in the cavern, I waited for all of five seconds inside the entrance before a train of party members, with an even bigger train of angry looking elite spiders chasing them, came charging back up the tunnel and dived out of the instance. Then, of course, the nature of the pickup group swings the other way, and crazy words like ‘tactics’ and ‘patience’ are bandied about, and it takes time for people to look these words up and understand their meaning, and then tactics are discussed. When I say ‘discussed’, I do of course mean the pickup group definition of ‘discuss’ which reads:

dis·cuss /d?'sk?s/ Pronunciation[di-skuhs]
verb (used with object)
1. to shout really loudly at other people until they are swayed to your point of view;
call people names until they either leave or ignore you, esp. with respect to them
learning to play, or being a noob.
2. to consider a particular topic in speaking or writing. Usually at volume, or in ALL CAPS.
3. Rare. To explore a problem with reasoned arguments.

See also: Bitching. Aggravating arse-wits. Humanity (doomed).

Approximately five hours later, the group had formulated the genius plan of the hunters laying traps, the guardian pulling aggro and everyone hitting things with sharp metal objects, and apparently my minstrel was tasked with the responsibility of healing. I know! A healing class. Healing. These were unique minds at work, that much was clear. We made fair progress after that, as most pickup groups do, until we encountered the first really tough part of the instance with a couple of really rather well health-endowed boss mobs. Try as we might – and we might have tried ‘as we might’ more than we might have. Or something. It was late and I was inebriated – we couldn’t defeat them, and with my character’s paper doll showing two items of equipment as being broken and the rest as severely damaged I decided to call it a night, much to the relief of everyone else who were obviously in the ‘We shall not be beaten!’ mode of instance running, where you know you can’t win, but you keep beating your head against the wall in some sort of strange noble ritual of fruitless endeavour, until someone decides to quit and then you can blame all your failure on them “We would have beaten it if we’d had just one more try”.

Yes, dear. Of course, dear.

At the end of that unsuccessful run, with little loot and no quests completed I returned to the town of Bree and found an NPC vendor who could repair my equipment. The bill: one hundred and forty four silver. Bear in mind that the most money I’ve had at any one time was about two hundred and thirty silver and you can see why going in to the Great Barrows, or any other instance in LotRO, is a Bad Thing if you’re below level, in a pickup group, or like me, both at the same time.

In other adventuring news, I decided to grab the quest line for the Bone Man in the Barrow Downs – the area outside of the Instance of Costly Repairs – which requires you to speak to a ghost who haunts Bree and is only available during the game’s night time. This meant I had a few hours to kill before the ghost would be available for interviews and requests to “do that walking through walls thing you do. Awwww, go on”, and I didn’t fancy adventuring on the minstrel in the mean time, at which point I remembered the Monster Play aspect of the game.

Monster play is a great way for someone like myself, with a hideous case of alt-itus, to play a different character without totally ruining my chances of ever getting a main character above level five. You find your local neighbourhood Fel Scrying Pool, there’s one near Mud Gate in Bree, and use it. On your first time, you are presented with a choice of five level fifty servants of Angmar to play, you pick one, name it and you’re flung headlong into the service of Sauron as part of a garrison in the Ettenmoors. In both normal and monster play your characters earn destiny points for performing certain feats of daring-do, and these are shared in a pool between all characters on both sides of the game. Once you’ve spent the points they’re removed from the pool and you’ll have to earn some more. In the normal game they can be used to buy temporary buffs, but in Monster Play they’re used to improve your character. I created an Orc Reaver, a melee machine who looks a bit like me after a bad days DIY, and I upgraded him with the numerous destiny points I had received from levelling my various characters in the normal game before I finally decided on the minstrel. This allowed me to purchase a trait which improved his appearance, giving him a bit more armour and some cool looking weapons – you don’t get items for your monster character like you do in the normal game, so this appearance trait changes just that, the appearance – and then I purchased a new skill and some other passive traits which boosted the character’s damage, armour and avoidance abilities.

Basically you then get a huge number of quests that require you to either go out and slaughter, well everything really, and collect items from dead NPCs such as hobbit toes, or to collect general items such as fragments of troll stone from sun-struck trolls (they really should put on a higher factor sun cream) that are dotted around the landscape. Many of these quests are repeatable and will earn you more destiny points among other things, which you can then use to improve your character and take on tougher quests. Interestingly, to ‘level-up’ you have to take part in the PvP that Monster Play is really all about; killing other player characters from the free people of Middle Earth will earn you points that will eventually lead to your character gaining a rank. Once you’ve gained a new rank, further traits and abilities become open to your character for you to purchase such as advanced appearance traits that make you look even more fearful, thus reflecting your improved power.

An interesting interaction between Monster Play and the normal game is that of the shared Destiny Points pool: it may well be that to go raiding the tougher instances in the game you’ll want to buy some buffs with Destiny Points. If you don’t have enough points, you can dive in to Monster Play questing for a bit where all quests generally give out Destiny Points, and then switch back to normal play and buy your buffs. Encouraging players to try different parts of the game like this is quite a nice idea and it will be interesting to see if the interaction makes a noticeable difference to player participation in PvP. Already on the server that I play on there is a strong community on the monster side of the game, with some people having undertaken nothing but Monster Play since their normal character reached level ten, which is required for a player to participate.

I found my Reaver to be a standard melee class, playing a bit like the champion class, with a basic attack, an AoE arc attack and a very nice finishing move which can only be used when the target is below fifty percent health and which uses all your remaining power, but it is a nice burst of damage nevertheless. There are also a couple of utility moves, I bought one which allowed my character to regain some health and at the same time gain a small boost to its damage at the expense of some of its damage mitigation when he kills an opponent, and the Reaver comes with another ability as standard which allows you to fling sand into the eyes of foes, reducing by a decent amount their chance to hit you. All-in-all it’s a nice change of pace compared to the minstrel and it should help to curb my alt-itus a bit, although the quests are quite repetitive and not too taxing. However, the PvP element requires enemy players, of which there are few of the appropriate level as of yet, so gaining ranks from PvP for the time being is either a matter of luck or waiting around endlessly, picking your sharpened teeth with your sword and twiddling the string of hobbit toes around your neck.

Yea! Heavy and a bottle of bread

Captain Zoso (similar to Captain Zep, only with less space detecting and more poking boars with a halberd) hit level 20 last night, so off I wandered to my Captain trainer. I’m getting a bit suspicious of the trainers in Lord of the Rings Online, they seem to have an uncanny knack of leaving me totally broke every two levels…
“Hello! I have just made level 20, can you train me?”
“Sure! How much money have you got?”
“How much money?”
“Um… well, I’ve been carefully hoarding my wealth, so I have about 200 silver”
“Right… well, let’s see… by a funny coincidence, I can completely train you up with a resurrection skill, the ability to wear heavy armour, and a few other bits for… 200 silver!”
“Oh. Well… actually, I only have 187 silver 12 copper after all”
“That’s all right, I’ll wait here while you go off and sell all your worldly possessions to that vendor there”

Still, being able to wear heavy armour is nice, if for nothing else than a bit of a change in appearance. So far most of the medium armour I’ve been wearing has been pretty bland, a nondescript leather shirt and trousers. There are a few nicer pieces, mostly the Elven items, but hats have been a great disappointment (for someone with a hat fetish, at least). My hopes were initially raised by the frankly magnificent musketeer-style broad brimmed hat, complete with feather plume, my Elven archer had, but other than that helmets are distinctly towards the “functional” end of the spectrum with a distinct iron-pot-on-the-head influence, while non-metallic headgear manages to span assorted comedy fancy dress genres like “the Robin Hood hat” and “the pointy wizard hat”. Heavy helms aren’t much better, but at least the armour is a bit more chunky and metallic. Not that I actually own any, mind you, this is just from using the “what would this look like?” feature while forlornly browsing the auction house to see if I can pick anything up with the four silver thirty eight copper I have left after the class training…

Notes from the boardroom.

Colin: “Norman, you’re looking glum, whatever is the matter?”

Norman: “You know, Colin, it’s these ‘player’ critters; they’re getting through our quests at an alarming rate, we need something to slow them down a bit, but we need to make it look like it’s a cunning game mechanic…”

Colin: “Hmmm, it’s a tricky one, Norman. If only… no.”

Norman: “What is it, Colin?”

Colin: “No, it would never work, we would never get away with it.”

Norman takes Colin’s hand in his and pats it gently.

Norman: “My dear, Colin, if there’s one thing we MMO developers have learned, it’s that we can make those ‘player’ mammals jump through tiny hoops of fire into pits of boiling acid if we can put enough spin on it.”

Colin: “Well… what if we made some of the mobs invisible?”

Norman: “Invisible, my dear fellow, whatever do you mean?”

Colin: “Well, I mean exactly that. Make mobs that are, in effect, and in actuality, not visible.”

Norman: “But, ‘players’ would have to run around in endless circles for hours just trying to find them! Not only that, but it might even be that they’re running around in entirely the wrong area and they’d never even know it. If we placed the not-entirely-within-the-visual-spectrum mobs in the middle of groups of plainly visible mobs, the ‘player’ things would have to fight through huge swathes of these normal mobs just for the opportunity to run around in circles to see if an invisible mob is roaming there.”

Norman and Colin laugh nervously at the silliness of it. Then they stop and look at each other.

Colin: “It wouldn’t work, would it?”

Norman: “It’s genius, Colin, we’ll get the programmers on it right away.”

Colin: “I love you, Norman.”

Norman: “Not now Colin.”

Guess who spent ages hunting for invisible mobs in Lord of the Rings Online last night.