Category Archives: Lord of the Rings Online

Tinnudir and Annuminas

Tinnudir is the hub of Evendim, the central point from which most of the tale of the zone is told.  Oatbarton, Dwaling, and High King’s Crossing lead you into the Evendim, but Tinnudir is where you are set up for the long haul.

Annuminas feels legendary

Tinnudir isn’t much of a place even.  It lacks the pastoral charm of Oatbarton and the overwrought epic nature of High King’s Crossing.  Esteldin is sprawling compared to it, Ost Guruth feels like a fort when set against it.  Tinnudir is barely a place at all, some minor wreckage in a zone filled with the epic structures of the kingdom of Arnor.  It is just so much dirt and a few broken walls.

Tinnudir at night

It has all the requisite NPCs you need to hand, a task board if you feel you need to work on your standings (you won’t), a stable, a dock, and the usual crafting stations and skirmish camp off on the periphery.  While you’ll speak to many NPCs about quests, Orchalwe… whom I call “Ollie” in my head… is the main focus.  He sends you thither and yon around the zone.

Evendim as a zone

If you do every quest… and for maybe the first time ever I gritted my teeth, determined to do every last quest I could… you will pay a visit to nearly every acre, trod on every island, go up on  every hill and down into every dale before you’re done.

In the past I have always done everything to the east of Tinnudir, and all the islands, but I am generally getting so far ahead of the leveling curve by doing that that I tend to skip the Eavespires at the north end of the lake and the swathe of quests that lead down the western side to where the wood-trolls live.

This time I did the whole thing, even stopping at the wood-trolls long enough to make some headway on one of the dwarf racial deeds.

Advancing enmity of the trolls

I spent a few nights working my way around the zone, playing for an hour or two tops on any given night.

I even made it over to the blue lady and her corner of the zone.

Show respects

She is a bit out of the way and doing her quests require some swimming, something that will be familiar to anybody who did the zone in the early days before boat travel was added.

The number of places you are sent off to visit and the plethora of quests that await you make it feel like you’ll be there for a long, long time.  But, in the end, you don’t really travel that far… except to go to and fro with Gwindeth… and the quests go by quickly enough.

Soon enough I was on the boat to Men Erain, the way of the kings, where the tombs of the kings of Arnor lay.  Arriving there is the sign that the end phase of the zone is nearly at hand.  There is a series of quests to run there that send you in and around the tombs as well as way up into the hills behind, far enough that you can look over the peaks and see the bridge and the way back to Oatbarton.  Meanwhile you’re practically hanging over Annuminas, slaying the inevitable tomb robbers.

Fighting on a slope

At one of the peaks your quest objective is simply to use the /look emote to see what you can see about the state of the tomb robber infestation.

Looking out and reporting

But even that long trek takes less time than you think it will.  And soon you’re done with Men Erain and are back at Tinnudir speaking to Orchalwe again.  But this time he isn’t going to simply send you off on another task.  This time you’re to meet up with him in Annuminas, the final area of the zone.

Annuminas Map

Annuminas was the capital of Arnor, and while it lays in ruin it is still an amazing site.  In a way it is crazy that Turbine spent the time to create this area, something that is barely a footnote in the books most of us have read.  But it is really the highlight of the zone, the payoff for tracking about after the various and sundry foes.  Here the forces of Angmar congregate.

I spent a mithril coin to take a swift travel trip to the camp of the Wardens of Annuminas within the city just to avoid picking up too much along the way.  The camp is spare, though still arguably nicer than Tinnudir.

The Wardens camp in Annuminas

It doesn’t have all the amenities, but there is a task board and vendors and a few quest givers standing about the place.  But you really only need to speak with Orchalwe.  Once you start with him he joins you as an ally in your exploration of the old capital city.

Standing with Orchalwe

WoW has had quest givers like this, ones that accompany you along the way, letting you turn in quests and pick up new ones as you go.  I’m not sure who had the idea first.  But I haven’t had a quest giver quite like Orchalwe anywhere else.

In Annuminas you have a few larger scale quests and Orchalwe has some specific tasks for you to open with.  But the real adventure is the exploration of the city as, in each district or area Orchalwe will pop a quest for you.  But you only get the quests if you get to the right places.  So I always make an effort to get into every nook and cranny.

Some areas of the zone are fairly challenging, featuring groups of signature mobs.  Orchalwe assists you, and throws some heals in battle that can keep you going, but I rolled in there at level 38 which is a bit behind the curve, so there were some tight fights.

Orchalwe providing vital intel

However, I was fairly lucky during my explorations.  While by this point I was well behind the main pack of players, many of whom were already lingering about at level 50, I still managed to run into fellow travelers along the way at key points, forming ad hoc fellowships of need in order to tackle challenging objectives.  A level 45 bard showed up to assist me with the one small fellowship quest I needed to tackle.

I actually reached the point where Orchalwe was done.  I had achieved his over-arching objective and could have dismissed him and headed back to the camp.  But I knew from memory that I still had four or five of his location based quests left to do, so I dragged him along as I sought them out.

I didn’t really need those quests.  I had long since finished the final quest count deed and I had hit the kinship level of faction with the Wardens of Annuminas Men Erain.  I even had the advanced slayer deed for invaders from Angmar done.  But I really wanted to get in and see and do every last quest.  Given how long it had been since I had run through the zone last and the small likelihood that I was going to be doing it in this depth again anytime soon, I felt I had best treat this like it might be my last visit.  You never know what the future might bring.

And when I the control points had all been take and I finally got to that last boss on Tyl Annun and defeated him, I dismissed Orchalwe and made my way back to the camp, done with Annumiunas in just an evenings play.

From there Orchalwe says to meet him back in Tinnudir, which he pretty much has to say since he’s going to be there when you get back anyway.  From there it was a final quest turn in with him.  Then I hit the faction vendor to make sure and pick up the mount from them.

Then my quest log had tasks pointing me at Rivendell and the Trollshaws.  I was still shy of 40, which you need in order to take the stable mount to Rivendell, so I went to the Trollshaws.  I left behind me quite a few deeds left undone.  The numbers needed for the slayer deeds start to add up, sitting at 270 total kills needed for some.  I had no problem hitting that number with the ubiquitous tomb robbers and the invaders from Angmar, but others I let be.  I got all the titles and basic deeds, but the advanced deeds I’ll leave for another time.

And so it was off to the Trollshaws, a zone that is always a bit problematic for me, to get level 40 and continue the epic story line.

The $200 LOTRO Legacy Edition

The team at SSG are looking for a Christmas bonus I guess.  Yesterday I posted about the Dungeons & Dragons Online 2 Year Season Pass limited offer and before that post could even go live SSG was out with a LOTRO version of the plan.

Available for a limited time

The LOTRO version, called the LOTRO Legacy Bundle, is different at least.  To start with, it costs $100 less and it isn’t limited to 1,000 units.

The deal is sort of the same as the DDO version, being wrapped up in a stretch of VIP game time.  However, the LOTRO deal is only for a year, and the price baseline for a year of LOTRO VIP is $99.99.

In the case of LOTRO, it gets you all of the quest packs, raids, and skirmishes that come with the expansions to the game… essentially all of the content of each expansion.

With that, $200 isn’t a horrible price point.  Knock off the price for a year of VIP and you only have to make up $100 in order to break even.

To go and buy the base package for all of the expansions today it would cost you $149.96.  The prices listed on the LOTRO site are:

Mordor            $39.99
Helm's Deep       $39.99
Riders of Rohan   $19.99
Rise of Isengard  $19.99
Siege of Mirkwood $9.99
Mines of Moria    $19.99

Siege of Mirkwood is expensive even at that price, but I might be a bit biased there.

In addition, you get all of the quest packs from the base game, something that comes with VIP status in any case, if I recall right.  That might be handy if you don’t want to keep paying for the VIP level access after the year runs down.

Unfortunately I cannot check the in-game store to see if the pricing is different because I own all of those, so they do not show up as options for me.

You don’t get any of the bonus items that came with any of the expansions, save for the Crystal of Remembrance that came with legendary version of Riders of Rohan.

In addition to that you get a pile of extras thrown in:

  • Premium Wallet (Account wide)
  • 250 Mithril Coins
  • Riding Skill
  • 5 vitality stat tome pickers
  • 10 skill and slayer deed boosts
  • 10 Reputation supply
  • A Fleet-Footed Goat
  • A Mount Picker (gets you 1 of 4 mounts)
  • Housing Pack

The wallet has changed enough over the years, and I got the premium one as part of some pre-order deal way back when, that I can’t tell you what that really means to an average player, even after reading the wiki.

Mithril coins are useful though, as is the riding skill.  Stat tomes boost your character, the boosters ease up a bit of grind, and a mount is always good.  The only thing I would discount would be the housing stuff, housing in LOTRO being such a waste in my opinion.

So one could argue that for your $199.99 LOTRO Legacy Bundle you end up with more than $250 worth of stuff.  Actual, tangible stuff, a VIP subscription and content.  That seems to make it a more substantial deal that the DDO Season Pass.

If, of course, you have not purchased any of these items already.  And therein lies the rub.

I actually own all of the expansions… and the base game… so of that estimate $149.96 in value, none of it applies to me.  And the fluff is not worth anywhere close to the extra $100… and I already have a lifetime subscription so even VIP access doesn’t get me anything.

But somewhere I am sure there is somebody who can commit to the game for a year… another problem for me… and who hasn’t purchased all the expansions.  If you stopped after Siege of Mirkwood you still come out a bit ahead on pricing using this to pick up all the content after that.

Anyway, as with the DDO Season Pass, this is a limited time offer, though the time limited is less constrained.  You have until the 16th to pick this up, while DDO side of the house is trying to rush you into buying by the 10th.  That, and the lack of an artificial 1,000 unit limit, makes me believe that SSG has a little more confidence in the LOTRO Legacy Bundle.

Also on about this:

Reviewing my 2018 Predictions

Here we are in December, the new year is looming, and it is time to get to those inevitable end of year housekeeping and review posts that I plague you with every holiday season.

Being a regular event there are past versions of this sort of thing available if you care to see how this sort of thing tends to go.

As is usually the case, the start of the year comes around and I take the opportunity every January 1st to write out a post seemingly designed to make me look foolish.  Seriously, if anybody accuses me of not being able to admit I am wrong I just have to direct them to this series of review posts.

Anyway, as usual, back at the start of the year I posted 27 predictions, plus a bonus prediction, and then went on with my usual nonsense.  Now it is time to grade my folly.

As usual, each question is worth 10 points.  Multi-part questions are split up by segment.  Partial credit is available if I am close but not quite on the nose.  So here we go.

1 – Blizzard will ship the Battle for Azeroth expansion for World of Warcraft on August 28th of this year.  10 points if I am right, minus 2 points for each week I am off for a partial credit calculation.

A nice, cleanly defined and measurable prediction.  I am bad at making those, so let’s just enjoy this one for a moment.  Ahhh.  I was two weeks off the mark, so it is 6 out of 10 points.

2 – WoW Classic – We will have a lot of details by the end of the year and you’ll be able to sign up for closed beta, but there won’t be a lot of emphasis on it to the disappointment of many.  But Blizzard is canny and won’t want to distract from the Battle for Azeroth launch.  Expect a major WoW Classic panel at BlizzCon with lots of details of things we can expect to try in 2019.

A little more subjective, but BlizzCon told the tale.  We got a detailed look at how serious Blizzard was about this whole project, including a chance to play two of the early zones.  The latter is going to pass for closed beta in my prediction.  And we got a launch… season.  Summer 2019 will see WoW Classic launch.  Going to give myself 10 out of 10 for this one.

3 – With plans for a real WoW Classic unambiguously in motion, expect Blizzard to serve notice on any emulator hosting enough players to run the Deadmines that legal action will commence if they do not shut down and promise to stay that way.  That was cute and all when Blizz said it couldn’t be done, but with actual money on the line Blizz will be more like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.

And now we’re into the subjective.  Yes, in 2018 Blizzard spent time going after WoW emulators.  But did it stoop to the level of Blizz kicking over every Vanilla WoW sandcastle on the beach?  I don’t know, because small servers don’t make the news, only big ones do.  Meanwhile emulators like Kronos and Demon Souls are still up and running and declaring that the presence of WoW Classic won’t stop them.  So much for the theory that these servers are only around because there is no official alternative.   Anyway, I think I get 0 points for this one.

4 – Heroes of the Storm will continue to follow the Diablo III toward the dormant part of the Blizzard franchise locker room. More changes won’t revitalize it, but it will make enough money for Blizz to keep making new heroes through 2018.

We didn’t hear much about Heroes of the Storm, aside from some new heroes.  High Inquisitor Whitemane was a good addition, along with another at BlizzCon.  BlizzCon showed that Blizzard was still working on a plan to “fix” the game, but it still remains far behind League of Legends and DOTA 2 in popularity.  Still, Blizzard is persisting, so call it 5 points for the heroes, but zero points for the dormant part.

6 – Won’t ship list – The following titles won’t ship, go live, leave early access, progress beyond alpha, or otherwise leave the criticism deflection zone and actually face the live market, 2 points each:

  • Star Citizen
  • Crowfall
  • Camelot Unchained
  • Pantheon
  • CCP Project Nova

Well, there were clearly a few gimmes on that list.  I have to get some points somewhere.  We did get some news on some of those, but not all of it was great.  Still, none shipped, so 10 points.

7 – Shroud of the Avatar will make the leap to live status, will leave early access and such, and be fully available for sale without caveat or restriction… and sales won’t take off because most everybody who was interested has already bought in.  Instead it will need an active, constantly updated, and heavily promoted cash shop to keep going.  Govern yourself accordingly.

Wow, even I am surprised at how on the nose this one was.  I mean, it happened.  Shroud of the Avatar had its live launch on Steam.  And then not much happened, except for laying off some of the development staff, backing away from their Euro publisher, and declining numbers on Steam.  But there were a updates and, as expected, focus on the cash shop specials.  Seems about dead on.  10 points.

8 – No legal changes to lootboxes, pay to win, or pseudo gambling.  This is a Gevlon inspired prediction, where he said:

“Mark my word: one year from now, it’ll be illegal to sell anything random or powerful and it’ll be also illegal to not disclose major gaming concepts like how the matchmaker works.”

I’m taking the opposite position.  I’ll leave out the matchmaker part, mostly because that seems nonsensical to predict… not to mention he was wrong about it with League of Legends… and stick with just the “random or powerful” part of that.  If I can buy a random lootbox come December 1st of 2018 with the promise of a useful, non-cosmetic item, that will be 10 points for me.

By my stated criteria I get the full 10 points.  That a person in Belgium cannot is outside the parameters of the prediction.  Betting against Gevlon is generally a wise move.

9 – Nintendo and GameFreak will announce a remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl for the 3DS.  Come on, you know how badly we want this!  Dooooo eeeeet!

Nope.  In fact, even as I wrote that prediction GameFreak had already washed its hands of the 3DS platform, so there will be no more Pokemon on Nintendo handhelds.  This makes me sad.  (No, the Switch is not a handheld.)  0 points.

10 – In a retro focused year, Nintendo will also announce Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire for the 3DS Virtual Console.

Again, the 3DS is dead as far as Pokemon goes, and pretty much as far as any new titles go.  Nintendo wants everybody on the Switch and has abandoned the DS/3DS installed base.  0 points.

11 – The Nintendo Switch will get its own Virtual Console store in 2018, and one of the early test items will be versions of the above mentioned Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire in order to test the waters. We will get that announcement before we hear anything about a new, current generation core Pokemon RPG on the Switch.

There will be no Virtual Console for the Switch, and the lingering Virtual Console for the WiiU and 3DS platforms is slated to be turned off soon.  Nintendo has really turned against me.  0 points.

12 – Pokemon Go will finally get a head to head battle mode along with a friends list, though it will be segregated by platform, so iOS and Android shall not mix.  No trading of Pokemon however and the incentives to battle, aside from pride of winning, will be kept minuscule out of fears of abuse.

Well, we got a friends list.  That is worth 2 points I think.  I was pretty much wrong on everything else, even though we got a hint that head-to-head might be coming.

13 – Microsoft/Mojang will announce end of updates/new features for Minecraft –  Java Edition in favor of ongoing support for the unified edition that works across mobile, console, and Windows 10 which, coincidentally, is also the edition where they make money selling skins and such.  Basically, maintenance mode and a push to get people to go where the money is.

Nope.  Much to my surprise, Microsoft has kept Minecraft – Java Edition live and up to date.  0 points.

14 – Daybreak will finally announce a new product, a small-ish group/co-op RPG thing that will feel like something of a new coat of paint on Just Survive, but will be fantasy and based in Norrath because that is the only IP they have that has some draw and lacks a licensing fee.

*crickets*

I guess predicting anything new from Daybreak was optimistic at best.  0 points.

15 – PlanetSide 2 and Just Survive will clearly be in maintenance mode by the end of the year, with staff being pulled off to work on the above new title.  The problem will be distinguishing maintenance mode from whatever mode they are in now.  Daybreak will just have to tell us.

I am going to claim half credit on this one because Just Survive was clearly in maintenance mode for some time frame in 2018… before Daybreak shut it down.  The problem is that, with Daybreak, you can only recognize maintenance mode retroactively, after the axe comes down.  So PlanetSide 2 exists as sort of Schroedinger’s MMO, where we cannot tell if it is supported or drifting untended because silence is Daybreak’s default mode.  It did get a new map, but there hasn’t been a lot else.  So I could possibly claim PS2 was in maintenance mode, which is why I am being greedy and claiming half credit for Just Survive5 points.

16 – EverQuest and EverQuest II will get their annual autumnal expansions.  The EverQuest team will follow the lead of their younger sibling and return to a Planes of Power theme.

17 – On the EverQuest II side of the house the focus will be a surprising return to a desert theme along the lines of Desert of Flames, flying freaking carpets and all.

I am lumping these two together because they are examples of bad prediction writing.  There are four measurable elements here, each worth five points.  The first two are whether or not EverQuest and EverQuest II will get their annual expansions, while the second two are the themes of those expansions.

For the first two, I get full credit, 10 points, as both got an expansion.

As for themes, I was only half right there.  EverQuest II did not return to the Desert of Flames, however EverQuest did move back to the elemental planes again, so 5 points on that.

All together, 15 points total.

18 – The deal with Tencent to bring H1Z1 to China will fall apart when PlayerUnknown’s Battleground makes it there first and sews up the battle royale market.  Best case, H1Z1 will launch and fold in a few months, worst case it won’t even get the chance.

I haven’t heard a thing about H1Z1 in China.  Jace Hall had a lot to say in August, but China was not on the list.  It isn’t clear why H1Z1 didn’t go to China, just that it did not.  Going to claim 8 points for that.

19 – EVE Fanfest 2018 in Iceland will be a smash, celebrating as it will the 15th birthday of the launch of EVE Online.  However, one of the announcements will be that there will be no EVE Vegas going forward and that their plans for Four Fan Fests around the world in 2019 will be scrapped as will Fan Fest 2019, though the latter will be because they’re remodeling the Harpa.  I am not adopting the Massively OP outlook that EVE Online itself is mordibund because most of the community team got the axe, but without them who else is going to do these events?

I was kind of down on CCP after the big layoffs and retrenchment.  The four fanfests plan still seems to be in motion and EVE Vegas is still a thing.  It just looks like CCP Guard and CCP Falcon are going to be very, very busy. 0 Points.

20 – EVE Online itself will continue to move forward more slowly than planned.  The end of player owned starbases and null sec stations won’t come to pass until after the traditional CCP July/August vacation season.  Focus before then will be tuning Alphas some more, The Agency, and special events.

This would seem like a really spot-on prediction if CCP hadn’t done the Alpha clone thing before I wrote it.  I expected more.  Also, the null sec stations thing happened in June.  But there was continued focus on The Agency.  I get 1 point for that!

21 – After going up in 2017, the PCU will begin to trend down again, with the average over the next 12 months dipping down to 30K.  Not drastic, but it will keep the “EVE is dying” fan club active and have CCP looking around for short term changes to boost the player base.

Seems close enough.  The average line through 2018 over at EVE Offline, as of this writing, shows the number at 31K.

The average online user count for 2018

That looks like I am dipping a little into December 2017, but even if I push it all the way to March the number doesn’t change.

Going to give myself 7 points and reaffirm that EVE is dying just like the rest of us.

22 – EVE Fanfest 2018 will see a revised vision statement about future plans for EVE Online.  Gone will be talk of player built gates and new space.  There is already too much space in New Eden for the current player base.  Instead the new vision will seek to revitalize NPC null sec regions like Venal and the Great Wildlands with a much more aggressive NPC population defending those systems rather than just letting players pass.  Details will be high level, but CCP will hint that this is a test run for plans they are considering for Jove space as some sort of high end, raid-like experiment.

Well, I don’t think anybody is talking about new space.  We did, however, get player built star gates.  They were just replacements for jump bridges, not portals to new space.  And the rest was not anywhere close either.  0 points.

23 – In EVE Online the CSM 13 elections will see a bump in non-null sec representation, with four seats going to such candidates.  The return of Mike Azariah will help get out the non-null vote.  The six null-sec seats will be two Imperium (Aryth & Innominate), one Brave, one TEST, one PL/PH/NCDot, and one GotG.

HAHAHAHAHA… no.  If anything it went the other way, with only two non-null sec seats in the end and five Imperium members winning seats.  Also, nobody from Brave or TEST.  I cannot find a loophole here to even give myself a single point  0 points.

24 – Project Aurora, CCPs mobile game made in cooperation with… um… whoever that was at EVE Vegas… will ship in the second half of the year and… will do better than Dust 514.  It will do okay, people will download it and play it, it will get a core following and make some money, but it won’t be covering the bills or paying for an expanded community team.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.  And Project Aurora became EVE Echoes and is being made by NetEase, the same Chinese company that is making Diablo Immortal0 points here.

25 – We won’t hear much about the alleged new project that CCP recently posted job listings about, aside from the fact that they have partnered with somebody else to do the heavy lifting. A year from now EVE Online will still be all CCP really has, but people will still be yelling at CCP for a) spending money on anything besides EVE Online and b) gambling the whole company’s future on just EVE Online.

I guess we heard about new product and projects, so it is hard to claim any points here, but then again some of what we heard, like the plans for Project Nova, got turned back after Vegas.  I have to go with 0 points on this.

26 – No 64-bit client for EVE Online in 2018.  The captain’s quarters wasn’t all that was holding them back, it was just the easiest to dispose of.

Okay, at least this one was spot-on, even if it was pretty much a gimme.  10 points.

27 – Standing Stone is running out of content for Lord of the Rings Online.  Between Mordor and the Grey Havens there is really only a couple of weddings, the walk home, the scourging of the Shire, and trying to clean up the mess.  No expansions, no big changes to the landscape, just a few updates with some of the more militant mopping up tasks in areas of Middle-earth they have already mapped out.  We won’t be walking Frodo to the Grey Havens in 2018, but it will be on the horizon.

SSG actually surprised me on this, pulling some content and an increase in the level cap out of their hat.  It wasn’t sold as an expansion, so I suppose I and right on that front, but that isn’t much to hang my hat on.  I’m going to take 1 point for that.

Double Extra Credit Bonus Prediction: CCP will announce they are merging with, or being acquired by, another studio before the end of 2018.

For something of a random-ass guess… I mean we knew CCP was being shopped around, but actually finding a buyer was never going to be simple… I am surprised I got this bonus round prediction.  But it happened, Pearl Abyss bought CCP.  So I guess 20 points for me.

Score

All of that adds up to 120 points, including the bonus question, out of 270, giving me a 44% score.  As usual, it is a failing grade, but it was still better than the 25% score I managed last year.

Anyway, I do this every year less to be right and more to make myself think about the future and the possible paths it may take.

And now I have to consider what I will predict for 2019… besides more of the same.  That tends to be the most consistently correct prediction of all.

Through the Shire to Evendim

Having discharged my epic story line duties in Esteldin, I was free to follow the two quests inviting me to come to Evendim.

A zone with its own set of legends

One of the odd things about Evendim as a zone is that it isn’t exactly all within Evendim.

The Evendim experience itself is, in its way, very much a post-WoW designed zone that sends you from one quest hub to another, advancing you through the story of the zone.  But Evendim starts in Oatbarton, which is part of The Shire and all that implies.

Evendim as a zone

First, Oatbarton isn’t a major stable master destination.  If you want to take what I consider the “correct” way there, you have to travel to Michel Delving first.  Then, from there, you either ride (or walk) up to the Greenfields and the road north through there that leads to Oatbarton.

Or, if you happen to have all of the stable master routes in The Shire already, or if you don’t mind spending a Mithril coin or three to get them, then you go from Michel Delving to Hobbiton, Hobbiton to Brockenborings, and from Brockenborings on up to Oatbarton.

The route to Oatbarton

I chose to ride the route on my own since, in addition to being cheap, I was also still looking to catch up on apprentice level crafting materials and a week or so into the life of the server The Shire seemed pretty dead.  My progress to Oatbarton was slow due to many harvesting side trips, but I did arrive there eventually.

When I say that Oatbarton is part of The Shire, it is not just because it looks like The Shire and because hobbits live there.  Slaying wolves or goblins there count towards deeds from The Shire and the task board quests increase your reputation with the Mathom Society, the key Shire faction.

The quests though, those do not count towards your quest deed total for The Shire.  But they are very Shire-like quests that send you about to round up sheep, milk cows, churn butter, light lamps, put up scarecrows, and collect mis-laid farm implements, all in the maze of paths, hedgerows, and little fields that make up much of the settlement.

Your allies in the Shire can be… odd

I have to admit, though I sometimes scoff and the non-stop series of murder for hire quests that make up the content of MMORPGs, there is a simplicity to that sort of thing.  But I can take a break from that for a while to help some silly hobbits order their lives.

Encouraging pipe weed use? That’ll cost you with the ESRB

One wonders how they get along when I’m not around… or if they depend on bribing gullible passers-by with their dusty old mathoms to get their work done as a matter of course.

And, sure enough, the return to slaughter comes soon enough.  While in Oatbarton it is mostly limited to the local pests… and some wolves… when you move along to Dwaling and the glass blowers camp the killing gets stepped up a notch.  Not that there aren’t other things to do, like collecting sand for the glass blowers.  But to color their glass they need bits and pieces of the local fauna.

Why here for a glass blowing camp?

Then there is the matter of Dwaling itself, taken over by ruffians.  Nobody says you have to go kill them wholesale.  You’re only asked to serve them notice of eviction, giving the hobbits plausible deniability I am sure.  But the ruffians are all hostile and attack on sight, so what did you think was going to happen?  Murder by bureaucratic pretense.  Even with the goblin camp up the hill they never tell you specifically to kill anybody.  But they goblins aren’t going to hand over those documents and let you set fire to their concoctions just because you say “pretty please?”

Well, I didn’t run out there with my sword and shield and plumed chapeau simply to look cool.  Death to those who get in the way of due process.

It isn’t until you get to High King’s Crossing that you start in with the rangers and their faction, the Wardens of Annuminas.

The High King’s Crossing Bridge

That is seriously the most overwrought bridge I can recall from anywhere in Middle-earth.  I cannot help but imagine the engineer looking at the specifications for it and pointing out exactly how many bridges could be built out of all the decoration that goes on it.  And then there is how much the bridge will have to be reinforced to handle the load.  In the end, the actual, useful bridge part of the structure is just the little arc across the river at the front, the with path leading away.

But all that extra space gives the rangers as place to set up camp.  They all pointedly avoid looking up the king’s robes though.

It is from that camp that quests move more into the vein of the zone, where making safe the relics Numenor and securing the monuments of the Kingdom of Arnor are high on the agenda.  That and swimming.  Even with the boat service on the main lake you still end up swimming… in my case wearing a full suit of heavy armor and holding a sword and shield… across various stretches of water.

The theme of tombs and tomb robbers kicks off in a big way, and it is these buildings that represent the Arnor that make the zone so memorable.  It also explains why the kingdom really fell; too many public works projects.  There is a big city, an elaborate tomb for every king, and all of those defense works.

Deeds have also kicked over into full Evendim mode, though the counts required are up quite a bit from the Lone Lands.  It doesn’t matter so much when it comes to tomb robbers, you’ll probably slay all 270 you need for the basic and advanced deed just doing the main quest line.  The zone is rife with them, to the point that you have to wonder how they feed themselves.

Other mobs… there are some you’re going to have to spend some time hunting to get the advanced deed completed.  I’m looking at you Limrafn.  They are weak, non-aggro spirits floating about and you need 150 of them.  I hear hanging out in Barandalf in the evening is the way to get them and salamanders knocked out.

High King’s crossing doesn’t last too long though.  Once you get through the quest chain there… which includes a chance to climb up and stand on the king’s head, a task I enjoy probably more than I should… you are sent off to Tinnudir.  That is the heart and hub of most of the rest of the zone.  It has vendors, crafting, full service stable access to all major points, and a bank NPC for storing away all the drops you want to save for later.  It is from there that the real zone begins for me.

Drunk During the War of the Ring

One of my concerns for the whole LOTRO Legendary server plan was the lack of differentiation between it and the standard live servers.  The whole, “Why should I bother?” question is completely legitimate if you can’t come up with much.

There was legitimate doubt here

This was not helped by SSG’s really bad sharing of information about the server.  Items that could have been selling points before hand, like the slower leveling pace or restored quests or the actual launch date more than two days ahead of time, ended up being things we had to discover on our own.  It was a tragic mis-use of a FAQ, the FAQ itself seemingly formulated to discourage people.

Some things I had hoped would not show up, like daily hobbit presents, were there.  But I figured that might be the end of it, that we could all settle in and focus on the task at hand, defeating Sauron and the forces of Mordor before all of Middle-earth sank into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted magic.

And then I logged in to find that the Fall Festival was upon us, complete with an invite to come to The Shire to take part.

Hey, Evendim quests

Well, I figured I would at least use the magic travel map to get it out of my chronically full bag and maybe give somebody an ear full about this all being a distraction we could do without. Also, I didn’t think extra experience from events would be desirable.  So I clicked it and it sent me off to the party tree.

Don’t you people know there is a war on?

I was standing around trying to look indignant when a local hobbit suggested that I couldn’t drink six beers in just a minute.  My dwarven pride was stung by the implication, so I showed him, only to find that wasn’t all there was to the challenged.  Soon I was riding about the shire, from inn to inn, to drink beer along with a motley crew of fellow travelers.

No Legolas and Gimili jokes, they aren’t together in my timeline yet

After a couple of runs I was re-introduced to the LOTRO drunken effects, which blurs and distorts the world around you.

Unlike real life, speech is not distorted

The drunk effects only got worse as I made it further along in the trial.

So very drunk now

That second level of drunkeness doesn’t look as bad at a glance, but there is literally two images of everything and they are moving back and forth and in and out all the time.  It is a very good simulation of distortion… though my memories of college and being that drunk are not so sepia toned.

The last stretch was hard… it turns out the wavy, transparent beer in your vision is the real one, not the more solid looking one… but I made it through to the end and was granted another title.

I have more aliases than Fletch

Then I had to sober up to get back to the business at hand.  I suppose a short vacation from critical tasks was okay.  But when I logged in the next day I was greeted with this at the top of my quest tracker.

Hobnanigans?

Hobnanigans? Chicken polo?  Now?  Don’t these people know there is a war on?

Side Trip to Esteldin

After getting to the far corner of the Lone Lands I was really ready to head to Evendim.  But Evendim was a later addition to the game, coming in a few months after launch and, as such, is bypassed by the epic story line.  Instead, after the Lone Lands, the epic story line sends you to the North Downs and the ranger stronghold of Esteldin.

But is it a legendary story line?

I have somewhat mixed feelings about the North Downs.  It is another sprawling zone that ought to set you up pretty well from the mid-20s through the low 30s in levels.  But, as with a lot of places in the game, the pacing of the quests can be odd at time, holding you around until you feel like you might be a couple levels too high and then suddenly putting you neck deep in a quest or two a few levels beyond you.  It also overlaps a lot with the Lone Lands, so if you do one zone all the way through you’re into the end level range of the other.

Esteldin also has the infamy of being the final resting place of the first fellowship, the inaugural run at the game at launch by the instance group.  We ran out of steam amongst the rangers, never to return… at least not to that server.  Our Kinship, Fianna, got swallowed up in the server merges and when I go back to look at my characters their bags are full and they are comically under-geared.  But, in a not uncommon lack originality, my main at the time was also a dwarf guardian named Nomu.

In the land where shadows lie… about their location

On the other hand, the zone has its place, introduces you to some interesting locations, and adjoins Angmar, which comes into play later on.  Esteldin also has a crafting hall with a banker in the room, which is handy, as well as being the location of superior workbenches, which you used to need for crafting beyond a certain tier.  Like tin, that has changed along the way. And there is, of course, the cursed shopping cart in Othrikar, the tale of which I told some time back.

But that is all ancient history.  It is sufficient to say that, if you’re going to follow the epic story line, then you are going to have to go to Esteldin and speak with Halbarad.  Volume I, Book 3 starts in Ost Guruth in the Lone Lands when Frideric the Elder sends you back to Candaith who, in turn, sends you to Esteldin.

Esteldin marked on the map

Despite its importance in the grand scheme of the war, Esteldin for some reason isn’t well marked on the map of the North Downs, getting no more than a stable master’s notation on the map.  I guess the rangers are trying to keep a low profile.

Fortunately, Esteldin is the main travel point for the North Downs, so you can buy a swift travel there from other key points, such as Bree.  It just costs a mithril coin, and I had some to spare, so off I went.

Once there I found Halbarad in his own little building towards the back of the settlement.  However, it is one of those “locked unless you have the right quest” sorts of places to keep you from running into multiple copies of him. (Oddly, that was something I was worried about way back when LOTRO was still just some promises and possible screen shots.  I guess Turbine had a solution.)  Since I forgot to take a selfie with him, the view from outside his door will have to do.  His guard at least intones the same message every time you show up.

Oh, I have more than a suspicion

The quest log was a dead give away.  Halbarad, or just Hal to his friends, pretty much has a all of Volume I, Book 3 to himself.  The forward sends you to meet him and chapters 1 through 6 are all based on tasks he sets you to.  There are actually three branches to this series, one each for men, dwarves, and elves, and he gives the starters for each of them to you at the same time, so you can go about them how you like.

For men you are off to Trestlebridge.  There you are to help defend the bridge from orcs.  However, I also had my level 30 guardian class quest to do, which also involves defending the bridge.  One of them takes place at night at a barricade on the bridge while the other takes place during the day and involves fighting before the bridge to keep any orcs from reaching it.

I can’t actually say for sure which was which.  Guardian problems I suppose.  But I have to wonder if the fight before the bridge was a success… which it was on the second try, because I remembered too late that there is an orc that comes up the side to get past you if you fight too far forward, and if an orc touches the bridge you fail… then how did we all end up on the bridge later that night fighting at the barricade.

That was a success, and from there I went off to Othrikar, of the shopping cart tale linked above, to assist the dwarves.  The task there was to find Dori… seriously, the quest is called “Find Dori,” and it is all that I could wish for that somebody at Turbine would have just named it “Finding Dori” instead just to annoy Disney… and get him out safely.  And escort quest.

He was out in the middle of the Dourhands in a mobile cage that looks just like the one from the ruffian camp outside of Bree.

Dori’s cage and spawn point

I had to wait a while because somebody was already escorting Dori and it is one of those rides that can only accommodate a single group at a time.  I passed the time slaying the local Dourhands, there being another enmity deed related to them on the books for me.

Eventually it was mine turn on the Dori escort ride and, as expected, Dori can’t just get the hell out of the middle of the hostile camp.  It seems that the Dourhands took some gems he had on him so first we had to go find those.  At least, unlike Pengail in the Lone Lands, Dori knew where to look, picking up his bag of gems on the first try rather than having to rummage through the ruins.

Gems in hand, we had to fight our way out of the place, walking straight into each and every Dourhand group possible.  Plus the quest itself spawns a group to get you every now and then along the way, as if the whole area already filled with Dourhands wasn’t enough.  Even outside the walls of the Dourhand base, with tall grass for cover and plenty of room to go around, Dori walked straight into the nearest bunch of tents.

Dori who cannot bear to miss anybody on his way out

Let’s just say I got that Dourhands deed done before we were free and clear.

Finally, there were the elves down in Meluinen to deal with.  Once there I found that they had the straightforward decency to just want an orc named Drukordh over in Nan Wathren killed.  Straight up murder for hire again, something I understand.

Granted, he was a tough orc, so I needed a special elf stone to do the deed.  But I had to activate the elf stone at one location, then kill Drukordh somewhere else… like not even in line of sight or just around the corner, but a few blocks down the road and all the while the quest guide will only point to the activation spot for the elf stone.  Eventually I got that figured out, though it was a good thing that the elf stone buff lasts for a bit, or I would have likely arrived at the right place after it had faded.

That out of the way I made my way back to turn that in, spotting a familiar name on my way out.

We meet again…

Syp was again AFK or not talking to me or both.  We seem to be on the same trajectory, the main difference seeming to be how much delay there is between our actions in Middle-earth and our posting about said actions.

From there it was back to Halbarad to report that the cast of second tier mucky mucks were committed as delegates without speaking parts to the council of Elrond out in Rivendell.

Along the way I managed to avoid picking up any… well… at least not too many… additional quests.  I had to do the lynxes and bears because I figured if I was going to walk through a field of them to get to Dori then I might as well get the hides for crafting along the way as well.  But mostly I stayed away since I didn’t want to get too far ahead in experience before I made it to my next destination, Evendim.

November in Review

The Site

This month I started putting links to posts here on Facebook manually.  I’m not sure why.  Probably because I still manually post them to the Blaugust Discord channel as well, and once I am doing that why not do another site?

My posts used to get posted to the Wilhelm Arcturus timeline on Facebook automatically.  Then Facebook blocked the automatic posting of links to timelines a few months back in an effort to look responsive to people claiming that the company was in some way responsible the results of the 2016 election.  Hiring a firm to promote George Soros conspiracy theories is fine it seems, but random individuals feeding their work into their own timeline is a threat to democracy.

Honestly, after writing that last sentence I am wondering again why I even have an account there.  I don’t believe they influenced the election at all, because in my experience most people make their decision first and then rationalize it after the fact with cherry-picked data.  (See Gevlon for an extreme example.)  But that doesn’t mean Facebook isn’t a loathsome company run by an ongoing PR nightmare of a CEO.  So I might not even be there tomorrow.  It isn’t like Facebook generates any significant traffic.  Posting links this month did increase traffic… actually doubled it… but double means about 60 referrals.  I get more than that when somebody popular (i.e. not me) shares one of my links there, so I am back to not being sure if it is worth the effort.

In other, less dramatic news, the blog hit another minor milestone, crossing the 5 million page view mark.  I think the last such milestone I noted was 1 million page views back in March 2010.  So 4 million since then.

Milestone of a sort

5 million page views is probably what a popular site gets in a day, if not an hour, but it seems like a big number for my little blog.

The site is also coming up on 5,000 posts.  So, on average, each post has over 1,000 page views.  In reality, most people land on the main URL and read from there or hit one of about 30 posts that have anywhere from 10K to 65K views.  About 10% of posts have 1,000 page views or more.

The visitors number on that graphic is a bit deceptive.  WordPress.com didn’t start counting visitors until the end of December 2012.  However, 2011 and 2012 were the peak years of the blog.  Since then popularity of the blog began to fall off in 2013, the visitors entry only represents a “past my prime” sort of number.

Still, April 13, 2013 remains the most popular day ever on the blog.  Looking at the post for that day, my theory about there being an inverse relationship between effort and popularity seems to be confirmed.

Finally, and perhaps unsurprisingly, posts related to Lord of the Rings Online saw a bit of a surge this month, as the most viewed posts section below indicates.

One Year Ago

It was BlizzCon.  Blizzard, while pretty much ignoring the Diablo franchise, did announce the next World of Warcraft expansion, Battle for Azeroth, as well as WoW Classic.  There was much discussion after BlizzCon wrapped up.  I brought up a list of things that would likely be different in WoW Classic compared to live.

Actually in WoW I was into Suramar and my class hall campaign, timewalking in Northrend, and picking up again with pet battles.  The WoW thirteenth anniversary event was timely as it gave a boost to faction gains, something I was working on to unlock flying.  Also, as predicted, I failed to get the headless horseman’s mount yet againThis is fine.

In EVE Online we were off on what would become a nearly year long deployment to the north of New Eden.  I was worried about these upcoming Alpha clone skill injectors.  CCP also had a screen shot contest.  And I did a write up about the Neocom II app for iOS and only got a few material facts wrong.

I was trying to get my copy of ZMud 7.21 up and working again.  This comes up every so often.

I had to get ZMud going so I could finish up my post about the Elemental Glades in TorilMUD.

EverQuest II became a teenager, turning 13.  For its birthday it got the Planes of Prophecy expansion.

In Minecraft I was touring our world looking at some of the epic structures.

There was some crazy talk out of EA.  And that was before the Star Wars: Battlefront II fiasco started to boil over, with Disney stepping in to check EA.

Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon launched, marking the end of new Pokemon titles for the Nintendo handheld line.

And a video on YouTube ended up prompting a long discussion about how much it costs to make a video game.

Five Years Ago

TorilMUD, measured through its lineage via Sojourn MUD, hit the 20 year mark.  So I was playing that before there was any sort of Warcraft.

Time was running out on Warhammer Online, but they were going to give people a last chance to see the place… for free.  A pity I couldn’t get my account to work.

There was a scathing quote of the day about what “social gaming” had come to mean.

The Tears of Veeshan expansion launched in EverQuest II while we said farewell to EverQuest: Macintosh Edition.  Meanwhile, EverQuest veteran Aradune was back in play talking about a new MMO he had planned.

As for SOE, they were also being called out for selling Founder’s Packs for EverQuest Next or Landmark or whatever.  I was also wondering about the alleged new combat might imply that latency was no longer an issue.

The Rubicon expansion for EVE Online went live, complete with lots of stats.  The update did not save us from the node crash at E-YJ8G.  Big fleet battles, with thousand of drones in play, were taxing the servers beyond their limits.  Meanwhile, there was the Long Guy Fawkes Day… another node crash, but only after 6 hours of crushing TiDi… and we were headed back to Curse again.

EVE Online community site EVE Bloggers found a new home at last.

BlizzCon rolled around and I was speculating about what they might announce.  The actual big news generated much excitement for WoW players with the Warlords of Draenor announcement, though few thought it would take a year for them to ship it.  There was a silly moment where they declared something impossible.

I was already back and binging on the WoW, but the rest of the instance group came back as well after the announcement… and we basically did what we should have done a few years back, we got out the old group and picked up where we left off.

I was dropping bombs in War Thunder.

I wondered why we couldn’t just turn off achievements.

There was also a moment of Apple II nostalgia.

I was having problems with the LOTRO patcher… again.

And, after having read Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire at its 20th anniversary, I got around to reading the other two books in the series.  The title of that post is a spoiler.

Ten Years Ago

We were all excited about expansions.

For EverQuest II, there was The Shadow Odyssey that showed up around the four year anniversary and which gave us the bear mount.  If you bought retail you also got the pewter bear which went on to feature in so many Tipa cartoons and my own parody thereof.

In EVE Online, the Quantum Rise expansion was available, granting those of us in New Eden certificates, among other things.

While it wasn’t out yet, Turbine was warming people up for the Mines of Moria expansion for Lord of the Rings Online.  It sounded great.  It just took me forever to get there.  At least I got the T-shirt… erm… the cloak.

And then there was a little thing called Wrath of the Lich King.  Yeah, that.  Sort of a big deal for some, setting sales records at the time.

The instance group did its last Outland instance (well, the last one at level) and then began poking our noses into Northrend to start the grand tour of the new expansion.  We even got into the first instance.  We also took a shot at the Headless Horseman.  To this day I still don’t have his mount.

On the flip side, Warhammer Online passed from regular play rotation.  We left, never to return.

Finally, I was keeping the nostalgia ball rolling with a look back at how information used to be regarded back in the days of MUDs, a notable MUD NPC, hitting level cap in TorilMUD, a question about Anarchy Online, and a hazy recollection of a GEnie game called Stellar Warrior.

Twenty Years Ago

In a trifecta month, Half-Life, StarCraft: Brood War, and Starsiege: Tribes all launched.

Most Viewed Posts in November

  1. Who is My Middle-earth Main Anyway?
  2. Finding Evendim
  3. Crafting Again in Middle-earth
  4. LOTRO and the Legendary Server Idea
  5. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  6. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  7. Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest
  8. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  9. Home From EVE Vegas 2018
  10. Burn Jita 2018 Aftermath
  11. Gamigo Buys then Guts Trion Worlds
  12. Why Fan Expectations for Blizzard are Hopeless

Search Terms of the Month

lotro anor server queue
[Don’t get me started]

lotro anor vs ithil population
[Going to say sun > moon]

blizzard stock
[ACTI, and it is down]

everquest 3?
[Nope]

apps people pay 99 cents for
[Crappy ones?]

arti kata1- a lot of gold for killing 2- the daily reward for watching 6000 videos is increased all in all that a day is offered 3- energy is not wasted 4- rapid level increase 5- increased inventory size to 2 billion)) 6- vip included 2
[I don’t even know how that gets you here]

EVE Online

Kind of a quiet month for me in New Eden.  We did have the Onslaught expansion and two Monthly Economic reports show up, so I didn’t lack for things to post about.  But I only went on a couple of fleet ops and, while I was resolved to run more Abyssal deadspace sites with my high sec alt, I never really got around to it.  Mostly I was tending skill queues and writing about the theoretical rather than the actual.

EverQuest II

My latest dalliance with EverQuest II seems to have come to an end.  I cannot jump between more than a couple of games.  I like to be able to focus and get into a game.  I enjoyed my time, but the game does have a rather jarring transition between content that interrupted what was otherwise a smooth run.  At least I spent a bunch of my Station Cash.  That should make Daybreak happy, or at least somebody in accounting.

Lord of the Rings Online

The LOTRO Legendary server was the flavor of the month for November.  Despite being bad at promoting it and reticent to declare an actual launch date… and the whole thing being rather shy on things to distinguish it from the normal live servers… it was quite a success.  After past optimism on the server front as Turbine, SSG went safe and stuck to a single server, opting to open a second only after the first was well and truly overrun with players.

Being back in Middle-earth has been fun, though that is easy to say when I am still in the midst of content I know and enjoy.  I might even make it to 50 before they unlock the Mines of Moria expansion.  But I have my doubts as to whether there is anything they can do to make anything after Moria fun.

Pokemon Go

This remains the one game my wife and I play together.  I just wish it would let you change teams, as she is Instinct and I am Mystic.  I would pay for a team change token.  But being on different teams hasn’t stopped us from going out to do research tasks and knock down gyms that are help by team Valor.

Level: 34 (+0)
Pokedex status: 371 (+8) caught, 391 (+16) seen
Pokemon I want: Rhyperior, the Rhydon evolution, but I need about 80 candies
Current buddy: Eevee, for the special research task

World of Warcraft

I did managed to hit level cap.  120 wasn’t all that hard, I just fell off the horse when distracted by other things.  I was a bit sullen at yet again being denied the Headless Horseman’s mount, but I did get on and do a bit for the WoW 14th anniversary event.  But by the time Pilgrim’s Bounty showed up I was heavily invested in LOTRO, so my time in Azeroth had tapered off quite a bit.

Coming Up

A new year is in the offing, which means those standard end-of-the-year posts.  There are predictions to review, highs and lows to chart, my January gaming plan to go over, and whatever else I write about every December.  Maybe I’ll pick my books of the year or examine what it was I played in 2018.

The usual holiday events will no doubt be in full force in games soon enough, along with a Steam Winter Sale.  Neither stirs much excitement in me at the moment.

EverQuest will get its 25th expansion next month.  I am sure that will be a moment of note.

And I will have wrapped up the TAGN FML league for a while.  I am going to take winter and spring off from that with a plan to return again for another summer blockbuster season.

As for play time, it seems likely that the LOTRO Legendary server thing will keep my attention.  I am currently working on how to make a LOTROmon joke as a post because, not only do your characters never die (they merely lose morale and are defeated, which seems akin to how Pokemon faint), but the servers are named Anor and Ithil, Sindarin for sun and moon, which were the names of the last real Pokemon games from Nintendo and Game Freak.  I think if I could find a sleeping Snorlax analogy I’d be set.