It was the first Saturday night of the newly Free-(ish)-to-Play Lord of the Rings Online and it wasn’t so bad.
At least not on Firefoot, our server of choice, and something of a low population server to start with.
Sure, there was some lag in and around Bree. Some of those with short memories were crying on OOC that there has never been lag in Bree before, but I could tell them different. Oh, there used to be plenty of lag in Bree on a Saturday night back in 2007.
And there was that annoying “find the zone line” behavior where you suddenly stop and cannot move while resources load. You can spot other people hitting the line by their running-in-place behavior.
Still, it did seem prudent to get out of Bree proper when we could.
When I arrived Garfinkle and Enaldie were already in game. They said that Earl wouldn’t be able to make it, but they were outside the Bree gate playing around the the LOTRO music system. It was going to be an evening of music and skirmishes for our short group:
- Roderigo – levl 25 human Burglar
- Garfinkel – level 26 elf Minstrel
- Enaldie – level 26 elf Rune Keeper
When Garfinkle said they were playing with the LOTRO music system, I thought he meant the original music interface that allowed you to play an instrument through your keyboard.
But when I got out to them, they were playing a very good version of House of the Rising Sun using the ABC music interface.
The ABC interface allows you to load up a midi-like file and play it through your instrument in-game.
I vaguely remember this being introduced into the game, but I never really looked into it. But watching them play, I had to join in. I was sent off to The Fat Lute, a site devoted to the ABC music system in LOTRO, where there are thousands of songs that have been transcribed into the ABC file format. Go take a look.
While I was checking out the site, Garfinkel played the threatened promised Scotland the Brave on his bagpipes.
There is a surprising amount of traditional bagpipe music on The Fat Lute. The only downfall is that you cannot march while you play the pipes.
I figured out a bit of what was going on with the music, but needed to run back into Bree to purchase an instrument. We decided to hit the skirmish system first before braving the lag-prone capital of Breeland.
We headed over to the skirmish camp, which was right across the road, and found out that we could not do the tutorial as a fellowship. You cannot even be in a fellowship. You have to go alone.
Well, not alone. The first thing they teach you about in the skirmish tutorial is how to summon a companion, a soldier who will fight for you and who looks a lot like Anderson Cooper.
Anderson Cooper was the third theme of the night, after music and skirmishes. He is all over Middle-earth it seems. He’s in the Prancing Pony. He’s running the skirmish camp. He’s your soldier in a skirmish. And I think he’s even hanging out in the Forsaken Inn.
So we broke our fellowship and went into the tutorial on our own.
As usual, the guiding NPC, who looks like Anderson Cooper wearing a fake beard, had some ailment that kept him out of the battle.
But the Anderson Cooper clone was eager to go. The second thing they teach you is that if Anderson Cooper dies, you can just call out another one. There certainly seem to be enough about. I wonder what CNN thinks about this.
We made it through the two tutorials mostly unscathed.
Garfinkel was defeated a couple of times… but he’s with the band.
We then got ourselves back in a fellowship and took on the skirmish at Amon Sul… also known as Weathertop, where Candaith was hold up.
Things started out okay, with us and the Anderson Cooper triplets running around while Candaith did most of the work with his bow. Tough talker that Candaith.
However, once we got to the final wave, things fell apart badly. We were defeated soundly, as we were on our last visit to Weathertop. It is not a good location for us so far.
We thought we might try it again in easy mode, maybe set the skirmish to “solo” and go in, but the interface doesn’t let you skimp like that. If you have three people, you have to choose a small fellowship.
The interface did not bode well for future skirmishes though. The choice for group size is solo, duo, small fellowship (trio), fellowship (six), and raid (more than I’ll ever see). However, as a group of four, it seems like small fellowship will be out and we’ll have to face the six player level of content.
We’ve done that before. It doesn’t work.
With that bit of down news, we decided to go back to music.
We set up just outside of the skirmish camp and started to go through the song list over at The Fat Lute.
We found a few decent multi-part pieces. We would each take a part and equip the appropriate instrument. In a fellowship you can append the word “sync” to your play command, then you can all start off together and play the different parts like… well… a real band.
So we got out there in the best Nairobi Trio spirit and played.
We were alternately impressed and laughing out loud.
The three part version of Rhiannon was really good.
The music from the Star Wars cantina band was both good and hilarious.
And some pieces were just over the top, trying to do to much, losing the song in the flood of music bad. But even those were fun and worth a laugh.
When Garfinkel gets to a high enough level, he is going to have to teach Roderigo the Theorbo skill. That is a Middle-earth bass and it has an amazingly good sound. In fact, all of the instruments sound very good.
Our spirits thus revived, we decided to try out another skirmish. This time it was the defense of Gondomon.
We did much better. Nobody was defeated. Well, Anderson Cooper went down left and right, but you can always re-summon him. After our victory, we started to check out the vendors who sell things for skirmish marks. I was glad to see that they sell different looks for your soldier. It got a bit confusing with the same guy running around thrice.
After that, we played around with music some more. The whole LOTRO music system is pretty amazing.
It is, in fact, one of the real differentiators for the game. I do not know of another MMO that has anything similar.
LOTRO, it has something special.
Now the question for next week… if Earl is back, do we continue in the Lone Lands, work on skirmishes, or try some of the four part music pieces?