Monthly Archives: June 2010

KiaSA Top Tips for APB

For new players to All Points Bulletin, a quick guide from pre-launch:

  • Voice is broadcast by default; either go into the VoIP section of the Audio options to change it to push to talk, or if you’re wearing a headset be vewy, vewy quiet when sneaking up on wabbits (and enemy players) or they’ll hear you.  Or take advantage, by saying very loudly “I’M JUST GOING TO GO UP THESE STAIRS HERE AT THE FRONT OF THE BUILDING”, then sneak off up a ladder round the back.
  • You show up as a red triangle on enemy radar (and vice versa) when either sprinting or in a vehicle.
  • APB is very much like making love to a beautiful woman (© Swiss Toni), it’s better in a group. Pull up the group window (“U” by default) to find one (a group, that is; beautiful women are currently unavailable via in-game mechanisms).
  • When riding as a passenger in a car, press forward or back (“W/”S”) to lean out of the window and shoot at stuff. Don’t press “F”, unless you want to get out.
  • If there are four of you in a car, the two on the passenger side need to be very careful firing directly ahead or behind, or there will very soon be three in the car. If someone leaning out of the opposite side of the car happens to shoot you, they probably meant it.
  • To add your own music to the game, pull up the music player (default “P”), select “Import”, and navigate to the folder containing the MP3s. You can also toggle between having your music playing all the time, or just in cars.
  • Setting up a playlist containing only the theme from The Professionals to play whenever you get into a car instantly makes the game 42.7% more awesome
  • Pick a gun to suit your style; out of the tutorial you can buy the OCA-EW submachine gun for close-in work, or the Obeya rifle if you prefer longer range shots.  (Speak to a contact to buy weapons, vehicles and upgrades.)  Alternatively, choose the one that best matches your shoes.
  • If an enemy group are holed up around an objective, charging directly towards their waiting guns generally doesn’t work as well as taking a bit of time to scope the area and look for unexpected approaches or overlooking sniper positions. If your clan is closely modelled on the Crimean War era Light Brigade, though, go for it, it’ll make a great poem.

Thought for the day.

In the general case, people don’t complain that <insert competitive sport or board game of choice> is boring because it always involves playing the same scenario with the same rules over and over and over.

So why do a vast number of commentators feel that a PvP game such as All Points Bulletin having a repetitive mission structure is a design flaw?

APB certainly has its flaws, but this is not one of them. Could it be improved by adding new mission content? Obviously yes, but then football could be improved if they secretly added a minefield one week, maybe changed the ball for an angry wolverine the next; it doesn’t mean that football is fundamentally flawed when the organisers choose to leave the framework the same and let the players create the content instead.


The United(Really?) Kingdom is suffering a modest spell of hot weather at the moment, and as with the snow it seems that we are utterly unable as a populace to deal with any variation in temperature away from Mildly Inclement degrees Celsius; if no rain is seen for more than a few days mothers will begin clutching their children tightly to themselves as they peer fearfully out of their curtained windows, old folk cross their chests and sit on their porches waiting for the end of all things, and men begin to gather in groups in the street and stand stalwartly staring towards the sun, arms clamped in at the sides, fists clenched, humming God Save the Queen through gritted teeth set into defiant perspiring faces.

In order to help my British MMO brethren through this difficult time of pleasant weather, I thought I’d drop a few tips on how to cope in a language that will be familiar to us all.

The big yellow thing in the sky is called Sun, he’s the current end-game raid boss for this expansion, or ‘season’ as regular raiders of the outside world call it.

Sun gives off a massive AoE DoT aura that turns you pink and makes your skin fall off. This aura is a bit backwards because it affects everywhere outside of the dark dank dungeons we generally inhabit of an evening.

To counter Sun’s aura there’s a special Sun Screen buff that you can apply, it’s gained by using a cream every couple of hours or so. The buff doesn’t stack; attempts to apply multiple buffs will simply make you look like a noob when you go outside. The cream can be picked up from most vendors at your local village or town.

Sun’s second phase is to apply an Overheat debuff to those who remain hidden inside thinking to avoid the DoT aura. Players can counter this by removing armour and submersing themselves in any nearby expanses of water. Be warned though, the AoE DoT aura is still in effect in the second phase and the longer a player stays in the water the quicker the Sun Screen buff wears off. Players will need to carefully balance between the AoE DoT and Overheat to make it through to phase three.

Note: Players should drink regularly at all times in order to replenish fluids lost through the perspiration mechanic that was introduced with patch 1.4.7, which as far as we can tell was only introduced to give the players busy work. Be aware that certain drinks will draw aggro from various insect class mobs, some of whom have a nasty poison attack.

In phase three a siren will sound and any players smart enough to think of filling a bath with cold water to survive phase two will be drawn outside to a nearby ice cream van. This phase forces all players out into Sun’s AoE DoT and is a test of group cooperation as the players queue for their frozen monosodium glutamate on a stick. Useful resist gear for this phase includes the knotted handkerchief headpiece, which is generally considered best-in-slot for fire resistance of this type. A string vest and shorts that are too tight around the crotch are generally best for chest and legs, although embarrassingly over-tight Speedos are an acceptable alternative – these items all look like bikini pieces on female avatars, of course. Sandals and flip flops are the best footwear – WARNING do not be tempted to equip white socks at the same time as sandals; although it might seem that the sock’s partial defence bonus to sun block would be useful in these situations, you will draw such considerable aggro from other PCs that it will far outweigh any benefits the socks might provide.

Note: At any time a BBQ event can be initiated by the leader of your party. This event provides considerable resistances to both Overheat and Ice Cream Van Nearby, but will require everyone to take on Sun’s AoE DoT. Be warned that you need a leader with a skill of at least 375 in cooking to be in charge of the BBQ: for every fifty skill points below 375 they are there’s a 10% chance that the leader will serve poisoned food which will debuff players for several days afterwards; it does provide lots of opportunity to practise using the Sprint to Toilet skill however, and is one of the few ways to gain the Both Ends At Once! achievement.

Those players who thought ahead and made their way to the beach in order to be near an expanse of water for phase two will now be punished by the developer for their foresight and ingenuity and suffer a Sand debuff that reduces the effectiveness of ice cream and BBQ food by fifty percent. They will also be attacked by sea gulls at random. And it will rain. Serves them right for daring to enjoy themselves in an MMO.

So long as you have one good wife you are sure to have a spiritual harem.

My gaming relationship has transitioned from the traditional simple life — a fairly solid marriage to Lord of the Rings Online while at the same time maintaining a once per week dalliance with my mistress Dungeons and Dragons Online — to a more complicated affair where I maintain a harem of MMOs from which I pick and choose as my desire fancies. The trouble is, with so many delights on offer, it quickly becomes a meta-game of time management, a frantic plate-spinning affair in order to keep as many characters up to speed as possible, and as such the spectre of burnout looms large. As in a foreign restaurant, sometimes a sampling of multitudinous delicacies can lead to new discoveries of piquant flavours and sensations, new insights into how various unexpected combinations can complement one another, and where one set of dishes can show an otherwise unfavourable set of alternative dishes in a new and favourable light, making them more palatable.


And sometimes you get snail Tandoori with chamomile ice cream.

I’m not sure how my current gaming infidelity will resolve itself, primarily because this week marks the start of my descent into wanton lasciviousness. Update 5 of DDO is to be released this week, and with it comes the introduction of guild levels and rewards which may well tempt me into playing for more than the modestly casual one night a week to which I had been restricting myself up until now. In addition to the guild update, the Monk class prestige enhancements are also released with Update 5, and this will allow me to take my Monk/Rogue build and add the Ninja Spy enhancement for some short-sword-waving merriment. My Monk is built around a theme rather than the ideal aim of hyper-munchkined end game raid DPS, so I’ll be taking both of the Ninja Spy enhancements from the Monk line, and the first Assassin enhancement from the Rogue line, thus allowing me to take the level 20 prestige class – Ang Lee Martial Arts Cliché.

Another addition to the gaming gynécée is APB, whose head start begins this week, and of which both myself and m’colleague are intending to partake, along with whoever else cares to join us; it’s all very casual, a sort of modest gaming gangbang really, what with APB only being able to handle four people in a group at a time, the poor dear. There’s also at least one beta that I’m hoping to dabble with in the coming weeks, specifically to determine whether the genre of game that is being introduced to MMO mechanics is even viable; in terms of the harem this is quite possibly tantamount to adding some form of farm yard animal in order to see whether it spices things up a bit more or, as is more likely, just ends up tainting the whole experience with the overpowering odour of manure.

Lord of the Rings Online continues to entertain, and I can’t see myself leaving the lands of Middle Earth any time soon, but it will suffer a loss of attention as I reduce the hours I dedicate to it in order to make room for all of the newcomers. Finally, Warhammer Online is currently slated as the new game to be played on Monday nights as a response to the ‘breakdown’ of the fellowship, so I’ve been pottering around in there, trying to remember how things work and steeling myself for the inevitable PvP conflict. Much like APB, I’m playing WAR in order to have fun with friends: the PvP element is something that I’m able to tolerate in order to achieve this aim but I can’t see it as ever being something that I’d get fanatical about, I’m just not a competitive person.

All of which would be fine if it wasn’t for the fact that Valve has just recently dumped a massive summer sale on us via their Steam service. Exquisite games are now on offer for less money than even a modest person might spend on snacks in a day, and if my MMO gaming menagerie is a harem, then my Steam collection is a bawdy Western brothel, where anything goes: as long as it’s cheap and cheerful, I’ll take it. So now I have two competing camps of games vying for my free time, with cat-fights breaking out left and right as the MMOs pull hair and scratch at the mouthy uncouth single player upstarts, but although the MMOs are complicated and glamorous and can entertain a person for hours at a time, there’s something appealing about a quick and dirty thirty minute play around in the Steam room.

In conclusion: I really should stop watching Desperate Housewives.

Entertainment is Ennui.

Spinks wrote a piece lamenting the gradual erosion of the stealth role in MMOs. My comment arrived late and somewhat out of sorts, like a drunk arguing a point with a stranger – the original duellist in the debate having long since left the scene. And as my comment staggered its way drunkenly towards a point it bumped into a different topic entirely, spilling that topic’s pint, and thus the two of them ended-up rolling ineffectually on the floor of the bar struggling to hump a submission out of one another over a subject the substance of which had long been forgotten, while the stranger, in all probability, looked on in quiet befuddlement.

My comment was thus:

Wardens get to stealth a little bit too, but shhh, otherwise the You Know Who will come and get us.

I think I’ve used that stealth ability once or twice so far in my levelling career, and primarily it’s been to avoid fights that I’m really not in the mood for, for example when I’m needing to find a safe spot and log off quickly.

I think the Resolve All Problems Through Combat nature of MMOs definitely is one reason why stealth has been deprecated over the years.

I think the primary reason, however, is simply impatience on the part of the modern player. There are plenty of opportunities in DDO, for example, where a stealthed character could sneak ahead, scout the area, take out a few enemies and disarm any traps before returning to the group, but you’ll find that most groups outside of the role-playing crowd will just barrel through regardless and simply tank the traps and extra mobs and heal through it. Nobody wants to stop playing while one person carries on playing ‘solo in a group’.

It’ll be interesting to see how SW:TOR manages to deal with this, not just in combat, but also in the quest conversation system, because making players wait for other players has generally devolved into being a no-no among MMO developers.

Personally I think it’s a sad thing, because it’s another pillar of play that has been removed to streamline the experience, but at the expense of weakening the foundation of The Group as an entity in MMOs, reducing it yet further towards the rudimentary collection of players trying to get through unsoloable content as quickly as possible for the greater loot rewards.

Stealth no longer fits into MMOs because role-playing no longer fits in to MMOs; I think we’re also witnessing the gradual extinction of danger in MMOs, at which point there comes a time when you have to ask ‘what reason is there to hide from an enemy that I have no cause to fear?’

Back in the days of Everquest players would wait around for hours with other players, camping a mob in the hope that they could all work together to achieve a small but potentially significant goal. These days you’re lucky if you can get a group to wait while the healer drinks to regain their mana.

MMOs develop as a reflection of our modern society.

Bigger, Faster, Better.

Rude, Impersonal, Soulless.

We’re becoming spiritually poor in our MMOs as we are in real life. The rat race mentality is fully entrenched: you must be superior to the next person, richer, better equipped, more achievements, otherwise you are one of life’s losers. You must constantly be proving your worth in some way, chasing the carrot, running faster on the wheel that takes you nowhere, otherwise you are, by definition, worthless. It is a grating horrible attitude that pervades real life, but to translate that into entertainment? That’s just sad.

MMOs are quickly becoming un-games. They are already big business, not just for the developers, but for the gold farmers, the information database websites, the levelling guide sites, the merchandisers. They are less and less about having fun, and more and more about status, wealth and achievement. Players of PvP MMOs generally sneer down at the Carebear players of their PvE counterparts, and yet there’s easily as much competition in PvE MMOs as there is in PvP MMOs, but in PvE MMOs the rules are changeable and ambiguous, and the competition is bitter and more personal; in PvE it’s about destroying the person behind the screen, not the persona within it. PvP MMOs are harmless, generally giving the vindictively frustrated an outlet without their having to interact with the real world, a bit like the role blow-up sex dolls serve for the sexually frustrated. It is PvE MMOs which hide the truly psychotic and malicious.

I wonder if we need a cleansing of the MMO temple, but how would we set about doing this as a society when MMOs always reflect our world in their worlds, and thus we will always see our societies reflected in their society. Our society is geared for survival, for survival of the individual and survival of the human race, but if you’re one of life’s pessimists, as I am, you see very little chance in that society for the survival of the soul. The fact that even our community-based entertainment cannot exist without, as a general rule, devolving into competition, a survival of the ruthless and the fanatical, where he who runs the treadmill fastest wins, removes another layer of doubt for me about the future we face as a people.

“There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always–do not forget this, Winston–always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face–for ever.”
            — George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Have I Got MMOnews For You

Host: This week, teams, news that China is set to crack down on unwholesome content in games, with the Ministry of Culture “aiming to stop any content that advocates pornography, cults, superstitions, gambling and violence being seen in any game that is targeting Chinese teenagers under the age of 18.”

Zoso: Bioware are reported to be working on an acceptable version of Dragon Age, in which you persuade the Darkspawn that violent conflict is engineered by the bourgeoisie as a method of keeping the proletariat repressed, convince them to join with the people of Ferelden in peaceful agricultural collectivisation, then retire to your party camp for a stimulating debate on Marxism-Leninism. Rumours of a “Hot Coffee”-esque mode, in which Zevran makes mildly salacious comments on the shapeliness of the Warden’s ankles, are hotly denied.

Melmoth: Rockstar Games gave up on attempts to bring their Grand Theft Auto series to China when their initial attempt to remove all offensive content left nothing but the main character standing in an empty field holding a small stick. The Chinese government rejected the game, however, on the grounds that the stick might be construed as an offensive weapon and the field was too open and might encourage desires for greater freedom.

Zoso: After the difficulty in getting Wrath of the Lich King released in China, Blizzard are confident that the next expansion, Land Of The Superstitious Cult of Violently Pornographic Gamblers, will have no such issues.

Host: Goodnight!

Studio lights dim, theme tune plays.

Reviewlet: Dragon Age Origins – Awakenings

I bought Dragon Age: Origins – Awakenings when it first came out a few months back, played for a couple of hours and… just stopped. I think I was a bit Bioware-d out from thoroughly playing through Dragon Age itself and Mass Effect 2 in fairly short order, and Awakenings didn’t ram a crochet hook of pure stimulation up one nostril and yank my brain out through the medium of excitement alone. The icon was sitting on my desktop filed under “must get back to at some point”, and after the Grand Theft Auto IV expansions with their interminable conversations that you have no control over I though it would be nice to actually pick what I got to say for once, fired it back up, got hooked in this time, and played it pretty solidly through to the end.

[The rest of this post has been rated as “Mild” by the British Board Of Possible Spoiler Warnings. No big twists will be revealed, but if you want to know absolutely nothing at all about any aspect of the game, look away now.]

Story-wise, “solid” is probably a fair description; as I said, it didn’t grab me instantly, but in the right frame of mind it’s engaging enough, and there are some interesting revelations about the Darkspawn as you go. In many ways it’s a slightly cut down version of the original, after a brief introduction there’s A City Bit, A Forest Bit, A Spooky Fade Bit and A Dwarf City Bit that you can choose to visit with some interlinking quests, with a Big Final Battle once you’ve completed the other areas. Each segment is quite neat in its own right, and none drag on too long.

Companion-wise only Oghren comes with you from the main game, and hardly develops past Obnoxious Drunk, I never really cared much for him. A couple of new party members are soon available: Anders the Mage who looks and sounds a lot like Alistair in a dress, and Nathanial Howe, son of Arl Howe, who starts off a bit Inigo Montoya (“you killed my father, prepare to die”), but can be conscripted into the party, and I don’t think it would be a massive shock to reveal he can gradually soften to you over time through the right conversation options. Three more are available over the course of the game, a total of six not making quite such a mockery of going adventuring with a party of four while a massive entourage of slackers just hang around the camp. There are no romance options, though, a bit of flirting with Anders was as much as my female Warden could manage, despite there being a perfect rom-com setup with Nathanial (“His father killed her father! She killed his father! Now he’s out to kill her, but through a whacky bunch of hijinks they end up having to save the world together; while looking for Darkspawn, they found each other…”)

Mechanically there’s quite a bit of new stuff to play with. The level cap is raised, with new spells, talents, abilities and specialisations to pick from as you go; where Mass Effect 2 cut right down on the number of activated abilities, by the end of Awakenings my Rogue must have had around 30 icons on the hotbar for assorted attacks, buffs and skills, and few types of health and stamina potion from the inventory (stamina potions being a welcome addition for non-mage classes, who’d previously fling themselves upon opponents using a wide range of devastating moves, get knackered in about seven second flat, and spend the next couple of minutes panting and occasionally auto-attacking). It teeters gently on the edge of being a bit too much, especially for mages, but with the ability to pause in combat you can always spend a while hunting through the spellbook for that situationally useful ability you’re fairly sure you have somewhere.

I scarcely bothered with the crafting options in the original game, finding or buying potions and ignoring traps entirely; Awakenings adds Runecrafting, and a bit of extra weapon damage never hurts (or always hurts, more to the point) so I thought I’d give it a bit of a try. Very broadly, two runes of the same type can be combined into one more powerful rune, and a vendor sells unlimited quantities of the lowest level runes, so to get a level X rune you buy 2X rubbish runes, a stack of consumable-type-stuff, and click away. It’s not a bad system, but each rune takes up one inventory slot, so even if you totally clear your inventory (a difficult task for a compulsive pack rat, even with the storage chest provided) you can only cram in enough raw materials for a couple of the most powerful runes at a time. This wouldn’t be a major problem apart from the fact that I trained one of my party up in Runecrafting instead of learning it myself, and the rune vendor is in your keep, the equivalent of the party camp from the original game where all your companions hang around between questing. As you’re not actually in a party in the keep you can only use your own skills, which meant crafting consisted of buying a load of stuff from the vendor, leaving the keep to form up a party including the runecrafter, standing just outside the door of the keep actually making the runes, running out of ingredients, going back into the keep (disbanding the party) to buy more from the vendor, leaving the keep again… I could’ve respecced my character to learn Runecrafting (official respec books are another addition to Awakenings, though plenty of mods allowed you to do it in the original), then re-respecced afterwards to drop it for more useful talents, but that seemed like a fair bit of hassle as well. Nice idea, perhaps a bit of a MMOG-y timesink, so after creating a couple of uber-runes for my favourite sword I decided to skip the 1% benefit of making a bunch more.

Speaking of crafting, another minor annoyance: Wade the Blacksmith turns up again, and can make powerful weapons and armour from certain rare things you find in your journey. A piece of Heartwood, for example, Wade could turn into a bow or a shield with just a flawless ruby, a bit of catgut, and some oil. Great! I’d found catgut and oil earlier (through the traditional RPG hero method of taking everything you ever see that’s not nailed down), except somehow, either through my own carelessness or a glitch, they didn’t seem to be in my inventory or storage chest; maybe I’d got rid of them while trying to clear space for the runes. Still, something as common as oil, that must be lying around all over the place; store rooms at the castle, merchants are bound to sell it, maybe just pop along to the nearest coast line and scoop some up from a spill… but no. No, apparently oil is just as rare as the living heart of a sapient tree, and there’s only one flask of it in the entire world.

With the arsenal of new abilities I never had too much trouble in combat; I have a suspicion this might be from turning the difficulty down to “Easy” when I made a bit of a start at a second play-through of Origins to get a different ending, and not changing it after installing Awakenings. Even the bigger beasties like dragons went down fairly easily with a bit of pausing and health potion use, I can’t remember having to reload due to party death at all, so it was quite nice as a casual wander around Amaranthine with occasional widespread slaughter. Towards the end of the game I had to choose a party for what I thought would be Something Quite Important But Not The Big Final Battle, picked three characters who volunteered, and was plunged into what turned out to be The Actual Final Ultimate Battle of Finality with three rogues (including me) and a mage. Not really the optimal composition, but they still managed to defeat everything without great difficulty.

All in all, if you liked Dragon Age: Origins, Awakenings is another satisfying dollop of Darkspawn-slaying fun.

Where does she get those wonderful toys?

My Warden’s single-handed maniacal dismantling of the forces of Sauron continues apace. Where apace should be read as ‘at a pace’; that pace being whatever my spare time allows in between real life and other MMOs. Still, despite infrequent play sessions, my valkyrie shield-maiden wannabe has reached level fifty six, and picked up yet another ability that I need to cram into my already hectic martial schedule. That’s the American sorority girl ‘need’, incidentally, as in “Oh! I so need to use that!”, rather than it being some form of mandatory requirement to my character’s combat functionality. That’s the most joyous thing to me about the Warden at the moment: the depth and breadth of choice in how to play the class. The Warden has an almost daunting arsenal of attacks at their disposal, and when you see the sheer number of gambits that they can perform and the varying effects each has, it can be quite intimidating. I find, however, that it’s tremendously liberating. If I’m facing a large group of mobs do I want to pop my defences first and then build some self-heals? Do I just rely on my basic level of defence and dish out some damage over time attacks first, to whittle the enemy numbers down more quickly? Do I want to play with my AoE fear that will mitigate some damage by causing enemies to occasionally pause their attack temporarily, and more importantly is just jolly good fun to use – it’s heartening to watch a gabble of goblins surrounding your character but cowering in fear at your presence. Every combat can be different if the Warden chooses it to be so, it’s a class that I feel really tries to buck the trend of a set ideal rotation of abilities that you line up on your hotbar and macro into obscurity; the mechanics of the Warden class encourages the player to experiment, and more often than not it rewards that experimentation with some quite extraordinary feats of combat.

Thus the Warden treads precariously along the tightrope of overpoweredness, performing a delicate balancing act between survivability and damage output, a fundamental issue with tanking classes in a lot of MMOs, where too great a damage output or too high a survivability means that the developers create a class that is a nigh-unstoppable killing machine. Once such a criminally overpowered class is created the only recourse is for someone to climb to the top of the developer’s building in the dead of night, shine a searchlight signal at the clouds, and wait for Nerfbatman to answer the call. It does, however make the player feel like a hero: I no longer look at a camp of orcs and wonder how I can make my way meekly around it, tiptoeing furtively like some husband coming late to bed and hoping not to wake his wife’s wrath, no, I make my way directly to my destination, and as camps of orcs break on the bow of my shield, graveyards lie in my wake. It’s that sort of heroic feeling, in fact, where you picture camps of orcs getting meekly out of the Warden’s way, straw huts and barrels tiptoeing quickly around corners, into caves and off of cliffs if necessary to avoid the wrath of the hate-shouting venom-eyed warrior queen.

The Warden exacerbates the image of being overpowered because their survivability is based upon a mixture of both the traditional defences such as block, evade and parry, and the fact that they can heal themselves with a number of heal-over-time and life-tap abilities. Combine this with the fact that they have a modest group heal that is used regularly because, in addition to the heal component, it also transfers threat from other fellowship members to the Warden, and as evidenced by a number of Doc Holiday’s posts that show the parse for big instance fights, the Warden is actually a pretty decent healer considering they’re a tank. Healing is the better form of survivability over mitigation in my opinion, because bad luck on the dice can mean that all the mitigation in the world is for nought, a string of unlucky blows can cause a tank that relies solely on mitigation to falter, where a tank that is constantly healing themselves has a chance to undo such a situation and reset the equilibrium of the fight in their favour. Of course in a fellowship situation the mitigation tank is king because the standard formation will always have a dedicated healer at hand, but when it comes to playing in a very small group or solo, the Warden is not a king, they are, quite simply, a god.

There’s a well known quote among the Warden community, “I’m a Warden. I AM a small fellowship” which is a perfect description of the Warden and why they constantly run the dangerous gauntlet of Turbine City’s shady streets, always looking over their shoulder, expecting at any moment to see a dark silhouette swooping out of the night sky and finding themselves face to face with the Nerfbatman. The Warden has mitigation, they have considerable healing, and they can do enough damage to get them through a fight. They’re no damage machine, indeed their damage is nowhere near the scale of their healing and mitigation, but could you imagine if it were? The entire game of LotRO would be reduced to each new player creating a Warden, waltzing their way blithely through the Black Gate and punching Sauron so hard that it winded Chuck Norris. Yet still the Warden’s damage is plentiful enough that they can reduce enemies to gently smouldering piles of ash whilst keeping themselves alive, this is managed through the fact that several of the Warden’s heals are actually life-taps, transferring health from nearby enemies to the Warden; in addition, the gambit building abilities of spear, shield and fist are actually attacks in their own right, which do a small amount of damage that, over time, quickly adds up. It’s a lovely synergy: as the Warden goes through their routine of keeping themselves alive, they’re simultaneously working to take down the enemy.

The Warden is a good tank, perhaps not preferred over the Guardian for end-game raiding instances in many cases, where mitigation plays its trump card over self-healing in being able to deal with alpha strikes with comparative ease, but it’s certainly not a pariah among the game’s raiding community, and yet the astonishing thing to me is that Turbine have taken the concept of the tank, the archetypal sluggish, low damage, barely soloable class, and twisted it into one of the best solo classes in the game, and quite possibly the best class I’ve ever played in an MMO.

Our static Monday night group has decided to take a break from LotRO, defeated not by the forces of Sauron, but by the tedious, bone idle, miserably and incomprehensibly inefficient quest givers of the free people of Middle Earth. A general lack of interest in the raiding treadmill left our last hope of buxom content – fabulous full fleshy excitement that one could grab handfuls of and hang on to – with the Volume 2 Book quests, a hope that was dashed as we quickly settled back into the routine of being Middle Earth’s most gullible whipping boys. For me, at least, life in Middle Earth will continue thanks to the joy that is the Warden; I’ve been taking on challenges that I wouldn’t have even dared consider on either my Captain or my Champion, and I’m exploring and discovering places that I hadn’t found, or dared to tread, on my previous two trips through the game’s one to sixty five content. I just need to watch over my shoulder though, because although I’ve managed to solo even-level elite mobs with relative ease, there’s always the danger that I’ll attract the attention of the darkest knight of Middle Earth, more powerful and more feared than all nine Ringwraiths combined, my biggest fear, every player’s worst nightmare: the goddamn Nerfbatman.

Dickens on Public Quests

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.” – Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield

“Public quest designed for nine players, number participating five, result misery. Public quest designed for three players, number participating nineteen, result a different kind of misery. Public quest designed for six, number participating six, result happiness. Until someone else wins the loot roll.” – Nanettenewman the Black Orc in WAR

Thought for the day

There’s a shiny trailer out for Warhammer 40K Online including the famous strapline “In the future, there is only war”. Amongst myriad online shooters and strategy games that offer little apart from never-ending conflict, isn’t one of the things that sets MMOGs apart the fact that they offer options apart from war?

Still, I suppose the alternative wasn’t so catchy: “In the future, there is only war. And crafting. In the future, there is only war and crafting. And an almost fanatical devotion to cosmetic hats. In the future, there is… I’ll come in again.”