Daily Archives: October 10, 2006

Longest Podcast Lead-in Ever

I actually have no statistics to back up that headline, but I love superlatives, so it stays.

I queued up Massively Online Gamer episode #36 after getting in the car this morning and headed out.

The show, as always, began with music.

I went through the drive-through mail drop off at the post office, through three major intersections, up the onramp onto highway 87, into traffic and got as far as the Curtner exit when I realized I was still listening to music.  I looked at the iPod.  12 minutes had elapsed.

I skipped ahead a bit.  And then some more.  And then even more.

As far as I can tell, nobody says a word in episode #36 until the 22nd minute.  And the words don’t get coherent for another minute after that.

If you have a podcast with a 22 minute musical lead-in, there ought to be a warning associated with it.

Not that I am down on the music.  The fact that I got through to the 12th minute shows I was into it.  The problem is, the only time during my day that I can really concentrate on spoken audio, such as a podcast or an audio book, is during my drive to and from work.  That time is valuable and I part with it grudgingly.  In fact, I will make an excuse to drive places alone rather than share a ride with somebody, just to expand that listening time.


Music I can listen to while I work.  The music enjoying part of my mind seems to be reasonably independent from the part of my mind that tells my fingers what to type in email replies to the constant stream of request from corporate HQ.  Even music with lyrics.

Something like a podcast on the other hand, especially something like a gaming podcast (and this was something like a gaming podcast), requires that my brain write data to the same bit of memory that is also used to do almost anything I am involved with at work.  So either I mentally tune out the audio or stop working.  Neither is desirable in the long run.

Enough griping. 

High points of the show for me, which I didn’t get to until my drive home from work:

First, talking about Vanguard and making comparisons to its vastness vis a vis the original, early days EverQuest.  Excellent observation from the EQ side of things.  I am always looking for ways to express how EQ felt on day one, when everything was new, so I can include them in my seemingly never to be finished EverQuest Nostalgia Tour series of articles.  Plus, now I have to find somebody in the Vanguard beta so I can look over their shoulder.  Or not.  No, definitely not.  Vanguard sounds like one of those games you might just have to play on day one just to experience it and to have been there.

Second, humming “The Girl From Ipanema.”  But only because I hummed along.  No, worse, I hummed ahead.

Third, the whole Darkfall thread up to and including what I will refer to as the “Darkfall Challenge.”  This was extra special since I had listened to Brent at Virgin Worlds cover the same Darkfall material in his own style only the day before.  Somebody’s homework should be to compare and contrast these two reports on the same game. 

Just not me, please.

LOTRO: Pointy Ears and Monster Play

I have spent some more time looking through the Lord of the Rings Online site and I am starting to soften a bit on the whole idea.

This is primarily because of the screen shots.  They look very good.  More importantly, they look very  appropriate to the theme or flavor of Middle Earth.  And I did not see a single elf with dramatically pointy ears, though in the one elf picture I can recall, the elf had long hair, so the pointy ears might have been hidden.  

This has put to rest a recurring nightmare I have where Lord of the Rings Online ends up with the look and feel of the 1970’s animated film version of the story. (To understand the true horror of the animated movie, read this review.)

On the other hand, the whole “Monster Play” thing has me rolling my eyes.  The game is attempting to place itself in the narrative of the books, which is a big mistake in my opinion, but that is what they have chosen.  If they think it is a good idea, then they should stick with it!  “Monster Play” is not sticking with it.  At no point in the books did any member of the fellowship express a desire to switch sides and make chutney out of their co-belligerents in the interest of scratching a “competitive itch.”

To me, it sound like one of two ideas has taken hold at Turbine:

1. We need some end-game content to keep people who blow through the game paying while we get the first expansion out.

2. Nobody will play an MMO unless it has PVP.

I think it is most likely the second, but it could be both ideas at play. (Yes, I suppose it might not be either idea, but I cannot complete the logical fallacy of attacking somebody over words I put in their mouth if I go and admit that, now can I?)

On the bright side, it does sound like this will be optional content.  To get to it in your normal persona you have to take a “subway” to get to the area where the monster player characters are “largely confined.” (So you could say that LOTRO is at least pro-public transit.  And I like the phrase “largely confined,” since it brings up the mental image of a monster prison break!)

Anyway, you can get what the devs actually said about “Monster Play” and other issues from the House of Commons log on Stratics.

So I check the LOTRO site once in a while and then daydream about the Middle Earth MMO I really want but will likely never see.

[After I wrote this, I decided to double check the LOTRO site more thoroughly and, sure enough, there is an elf in there with big bat-like pointy ears.  Gah!  Well, the scenery is still nice.]

The Deadmines – Round 2

We made our second run at the Deadmines on Saturday. We had a group of four again, just not the same four. Our warrior from last week had more pressing things to deal with that night, but another friend had his warlock up to the right level to join us. To accommodate this change, our priest switched over to his paladin alt (I am not the only alt-monger) so we had a tank. Our group looked like this as we started out:

Level 15 Warlock
Level 18 Paladin
Level 20 Mage
Level 20 Rogue (me)

Our mage and I had hit 20 over the intervening time, so we had a few new abilities. My best add at 20 was poison. I had a stack of crippling poison and a stack of deadly poison on hand when we started.

The new group structure changed the dynamic of the group. Paladins can tank, but unless you are facing undead, they can only really pull by proximity, so I got to do the ranged pulls. I also got to do a bit more stealth work, going ahead to scout the mobs to pull.

Having along the warlock gave us a pet. The warlock’s voidwalker, even at level 15, came in quite handy as it was able to tank and hold an extra mob in a fight.

We did have to start off taking care of the Defias messenger and Defias traitor steps of the quest “The Defias Brotherhood” for our pally and warlock, but that did not take up much time. The messenger seemed relatively available for a Saturday night and the queue for the traitor was short.

We also benefited from it being a Saturday night in getting to the instance. We started fighting our way in when first one, then a second, level 60 with a low level in tow passed us and cleared our path.

Once in, we proceeded steadily toward the first boss fight while getting used to the dynamics of the group. Rhahk’Zor was no problem. I pulled him without his two friends easily enough. Sneed and his shredder, a fight which spanked us twice last week, went down fairly easily as well. I was a little worried at the end as our Pally was low on health after the shredder, so I laid on the aggro while he healed up, but then could not get Sneed off of me for much of the fight. He had turned back to me at the end of the fight, my healing potions were still on the cool down timer, and my toon icon had just gone red when he finally died. A bit close, but we made it.

And we remembered to loot the Gnoam Sprecklesprocket from the shredder for the quest “The Underground Assault” this time. Last time around we were a bit preoccupied with being dead to loot it.

We worked our way into the forge and after a couple of fights managed to get ourselves creamed. We were on a craftsman when we moved a little too far forward and got a proximity pull on two engineers. They were over the lip of the ramp, so our first notification was two of their mechanical buddies running into the fray, followed by the engineers mounting the ramp and opening up on us with ranged fire.

That went badly.

We all died, ran back, and vowed to be a little more careful on the whole proximity issue.

I got to do the rogue sneak stuff, stealthing around to check on mobs and pulling the singles with my throwing axes. We cleared the area pretty easily after the wipe, knocking of Gilnid then the last remainders individually. We let the triple patrol pass us, though in hindsight, we should of just knocked them off right away. We ended up having to kill them anyway and we were easily up to the job. We were just being a bit careful.

We had little issue with the patrols and stationary mobs heading down to the docks. We skipped the powder keg for the cannon, opting to have me just pick the lock instead.

By the time we got out and through the dock area and lined up for Smite, our warlock, our mage, and myself had all levelled up, so we were in good position for the fight.

The first round with Smite fell through. Mage, warlock, and rogue held back while the paladin pulled Smite, but it took us too long to target and pull/sheep his rogues. The paladin went down. With no healing and no real tank, the first try ended pretty fast.

Back to the instance, back down the path to the docks, killing a couple of respawned patrols on the way, and ready to try again.

This time, we all went up together. Smite came down and our pally took him. We sheeped one rogue and went after the other. Both rogues went down fairly quickly and we started in on Smite. The pally held aggro by keeping himself healed up. We made it through Smite’s thunder stomps at 2/3 and 1/3 health. However, at about 5% health, our paladin had used his potion and health stone and was out of mana and out of luck.

Still, we managed to bring him down that last bit. We finished off Smite!

But with no ress available, our paladin had to ghost back to the instance where he found that the first section had respawned. So the remaining three of us had to run back to that section and then fight our way through to the entrance. There was no big danger involved, but it ate up a chunk of time.

We made it back to the ramp of the Defias ship and started up. We took out the pair at the top of the ramp easily enough, but once up there, mob proximity became our bane. First we pulled a pair off to the right. After bringing them down, we started off to the left and very quickly ended up in a running fight with an add for each kill we managed. Then Cookie wandered around the corner and our number was up.

We ghosted our way back to the instance, but it was getting late. We started in at about 10pm and it was now after 1am, so we decided to call it a night. The paladin and I tried to run back to where out last fight ended to see if we could loot the mobs we did kill, but the rest of the tunnel mobs had respawned. That cut off any back-of-the-brain thought of “oh, just one more try!” No VanCleef for us.

Things I Learned

The crippling poison, with its ability to slow mobs down, is quite handy. The only time a mob ever got far enough away from us to call for help was after I let the poison drop. The deadly poison added a bit of damage, I applied it to my off-hand dagger, but did not make a huge difference in the damage totals.

I did not do as good a job at deflecting aggro this time. Granted, I was 2-3 levels ahead of the tank, and I did it on purposed a number of times, but it is still a bad habit to acquire.

Investing in subtlety seems to be paying off. No mob saw me, and I only recall one stopping and looking my way before moving on. It also means that if the tank goes down, I haven’t a hope of filling in unless the fight is almost done.

Voidwalkers make decent holding tanks if you have already used up your sheep spell on another. Even at level 15 or 16, the voidwalker held its own when asked.

Aggro radius management! The importance of it cannot be overlooked. I managed to pull in a couple of mobs by proximity and I was tied for highest level in the group.

Not reaching VanCleef means that there will be a round three. I hope we can manage it this coming Saturday.