Category Archives: YouTube

Josh Strife Hayes Plays Lord of the Rings Online

Josh Strife Hayes first came to my attention for his videos about New World, which was then going through the many problems… and poorly considered fixes… that seemed to plague its opening wave of popularity.  In particular, his What Went Wrong? video, which chronicled the timeline of the game and the problems and responses was a real eye opener.

It was enough to get me to click “subscribe” and keep an eye on his other videos.

Among his videos is a long running series called Worst MMO Ever, where he attempts to play a wide range of titles allegedly in search of the titular worst of the genre.  I have watched a few of the entries in that series, and they are generally pretty fair and charitable, as opposed to being a quest to tear down every title he plays.

Still, I was a bit nervous when I saw Lord of the Rings Online come up as the focus of a recent video in the series.  Something to spoil the 15th anniversary?

The fifteen year celebration

This was because my own relationship with the game is somewhat mixed.  There is a lot in LOTRO to like and even love.  There is a reason I still care about the game despite having spent 99% of my play time in the base game and Moria, and I feel keenly the failings of the game despite my investment… or because of it, take your pick.

So it was with a bit of trepidation that I went into watching the video.

Here’s the thing… I really liked it.

He has a very upbeat approach to titles and he took a lot of time to recognize, up front, how much charm the game has and how good some of its early player experiences are and how the story isn’t strictly in the mold of the genre.  There were aspects of the early game he mentioned that I had forgotten about.

I mean, sure, it does dig into some of the issues… things like the responsiveness of the UI… but people have been harping on that since 2007.

And I felt for him and how lost he was when he used the free level boost he got.  It is definitely not something for new players without high level friends around to help guide them.  My one level boost, back when it sent you into Rohan, was pretty much a disaster, a character dead ended and never to be played again.

But it was still a good look at the early game and a lot of the pluses that it has going for it overall.  It made me want to go back and roll up a new character and enjoy the early game.

In the end, clearly not the worst MMO ever.

On The EVE of Fanfest

Tomorrow is the big day.  Everything is in place.  The fans have all arrived in Iceland.  The schedule has been published.  Things will start happening soon enough.

EVE Fanfest 2022 Schedule

There are a lot of things going on at Fanfest, presentations from both CCP and players, roundtables, the crazy CCP Games Games, and the big party at the end of the event.

But the make or break is likely to come at 12:00 UTC, when the 90 minute EVE Online Keynote address is slated to begin.  There is pressure on CCP right now.  They are raising the cost to play the game and, in return, as a reward or justification, we have been led to believe that we will be witnessing what might be the biggest content update CCP has ever announced for EVE Online.

I have speculated as to some possibilities, but those of us looking in from the outside won’t really know until Hilmar or CCP Burger or whoever gets up to speak for the game tells us what it is about.

And it is making me a bit nervous for the game.  I have been hard on CCP over the last year or more, though not without justification to my mind.  They grabbed on to an economic philosophy back at the end of 2020 that seemed to seek to punish the player base and make everything more difficult and expensive, all in the name of some distant future vision for the game.  But the reality of business is that tomorrow doesn’t matter if you screw up too much today.

So the pressure is on.  I hope they have something big to announce, because I am afraid of the backlash if they don’t.  Overall I want the game to succeed.

This week also sees the 19th anniversary of the launch of the game, with is celebrated with Capsuleer Day, and event with login rewards, in-game content, and the usual round of other activities.

Celebrating 19 years

The event was also covered in the latest video from The Scope, the in-game news service that reports from within New Eden.

Also mentioned in the video are rising tensions between the Caldari State and the Gallente Federation over the disputed Intaki system.

Now I wonder if this is the lead-in to some new story line content in the game.  Could this pertain to the big announcement?  We shall see tomorrow at 12:00 UTC I suppose.

Or maybe you will see.  That will be at about 5am local time for me, so I am pretty sure I will still be asleep.

Reflecting on Lost Ark

Well, Lost Ark was certainly a flavor of the month.  Or two months I suppose, as half of my recorded play time in February and March was invested in it.  But so far for April it has pretty much fallen off of my list.

Welcome to Lost Ark

In fact, when a hint of a suggestion came up to play something else… like Valheim… there was not a single protest from our group.  A couple of other titles were suggested (though Valheim won out quickly), but nobody said they wanted to get just a little bit further or run another dungeon or stick around for the great big siege of Luterra.   Lost Ark was kicked to the curb with little ceremony or regret.

Was Lost Ark a bad game then?

I don’t think so.

It did suffer from some of the free to play issues, a primary one being that it was both easy to get into and easy to leave.  Not having to buy a box or have a subscription took away the sunk cost fallacy that can keep some people playing other titles  (I think EVE Online is largely sustained by that these days.) so it is easy to walk away from.

Lost Ark was fun in its way.  It was both kind of silly and frenetic while being built around an overwrought and somewhat ponderous story line.  It looks good, it plays well, and has a lot of things going on, but at times it edges towards almost being a parody of an MMORPG.

Some of that is the seriousness of the story fighting with some of the dialog, which can be very silly.  The NPCs in the game are very chatty, and the reads the voice actors gave for some of the lines are unintentionally funny.

My favorite vendor in Pridehome… he tells me this every time I walk by

Some of them are just silly on their own, while others, the reading just makes it so.

You really have to hear this guy say it

And then there are the odd standouts.  While most NPCs have just one line they repeat over and over, there are a few with more than one, including the woman in the tavern in Pridehome, who has a series of things to say, all related to getting drunk.

She has the most varied dialog in town

But the mechanics are also on board with the idea of parody.  You are a very powerful character in the early game, and might be swinging a weapon literally longer than you are tall.  Combat often revolves around you taking on waves of mobs that you dispatch with moves that rain down destruction.

I kept posting the Carbot Animations videos about the game because they were so spot on.  But that was largely because they didn’t have to exaggerate very much beyond actual game play to him the sweet spot of comedy.

The fourth installment remained on that curve.

 

As I have noted, the brilliance of these videos is that if you have played through the content being covered, you identify with what is happening, it clicks with you and you see the absurdity of it, and this latest video is no exception.

Again, not a bad game, but not really a game for our group either.

Part of the problem was that, as a game, it is one of those titles that takes longer as a group than solo.  At least the run up to level 50 does.  So our progress was plodding and the content that was really playable as a group was somewhat irregular.

I know that changes after level 50, that group content becomes primary, and perhaps the best plan would have been to have everybody get to 50 on their own and group up there.  But I don’t think all of us were invested enough to make that run, and it is not a trivial trip as the game throws a lot of new things at you along the way like boats and your stronghold and the whole crafting system.

If you’re invested, that is all great.  If you’re just on your way to 50, not so much.

So Lost Ark is in our rear view mirror for now.  Again, not a bad game, just not the game for us at the moment.  It does have a lot going for it, and a lot of people still play it, so I am not knocking it.  We’ll see if I get back to it at some future date.

Carbot Goes to the Morai Ruins in Lost Ark

I know, last week I wrote that I was not going to become a Carbot fan site, and yet here we are again with another Sunday post to celebrate a Carbot Animations video.  But come on, not only is it about Lost Ark, but it is about the Morai Ruins, which I have done a few times at this point, including a run with the instance group.  I have to at least say SOMETHING about it.  I am not made of stone.

So here it is.

 

Once again, I do identify with my own relationship with Armen the plot vehicle in this video, though his entrance into the final fight was a bit more dramatic in the actual dungeon.

He came in like some sort of wrecking thingy

It really is one of the stand out dungeons in the run up to 50, but it does still fall into the mass slaughter mode that the game seems to thrive on.  If wiping out waves of foes with a big AOE attack isn’t your thing, this might not be the game for you.

I do wish the video had gone into some of the other things in the dungeon, though I only say that because I think I have now done all the deed therein, including finding all of the mokoko seeds.  Always have to find those mokoko seeds.

And, of course, the berserker at the end trying on his dainty new earrings, his loot reward, was a chuckle as well.

Anyway, Carbot carries on getting at the essence of things.  For those not playing Lost Ark, there is also an Elden Ring series running as well.

Carbot and Story in Lost Ark

I am not trying to become a Carbot Animations fan site, but then they put up another video in their Lost Ark series that hits things on the nose again and here comes another post about it.

Welcome to Lost Ark

I know Mailvaltar already posted this, but I just feel the need to stick it here as well because it covers both how I often play… hitting G to get through to the damn quest… as well as how the game itself plays at times.  I mentioned in my Friday post how we were running back and forth passing messages between NPCs that were standing within comfortable distance to make themselves fully understood by slightly raising their voices.

Which isn’t to say I am down on the game.  Not yet.  I still find the frenetic combat fun and I have played along with enough alts that the story is started to stick even though I keep bypassing so much dialog.

Carbot Kicks Off a Lost Ark Series

Last Sunday I had a shot post about Carbot’s Trying Lost Ark video.

Shortly thereafter, there was a video up on the site announcing that Carbot would be doing a Lost Ark series.

The video opening

The announcement video runs for 27 minutes and demonstrates/commemorates a barrier you need to break through in the Mount Zagoras zone in order to collect three of the mokoko seeds hidden in the zone, something that can take as long as the video with a group. (More about that barrier here.)

And so, yesterday, episode one of the Lost Ark series landed.

This follows the Carbot tradition of being a simple yet insightful look into starting Lost Ark, from character creation and into Pridehome.  It feels very much like the way things go after the first couple of character creation runs.  Add in the sounds pulled straight from the game and it works very well.

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet are Coming

The announcement of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet this past weekend made me immediately ask if there is such a thing as too much Pokemon in a year?

Pokemon Scarlet & Violet

I started in an era when getting a new Pokemon title every other year was seen as a bit of a luxury.  You used to get a new title, then a combo-remake title like Crystal, Emerald, or Platinum, and then a re-roll of an older version over a few years before getting something completely new.

But in November we got Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, in January we got Pokemon Legends: Arceus, and now Nintendo has announced Pokemon Scarlet and Violet for later this year.  Given past experience, that means some point in Q4 early enough to stuff the sales channel… consoles still depend a lot on physical sales… before Christmas, so early November seems likely.

Now, there is some nuance to this I suppose.  Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl weren’t even made by Game Freak, but by another studio using their framework, so it didn’t take away from Game Freak’s time.  (This was a first, by the way.)

And Pokemon Legends: Arceus, which was made by Game Freak, is something of a departure from the core RPG line of Pokemon games, so it could be argued that it isn’t really in the same mix as the other two.

Twitter, however, seems to disagree with that.

It still has until November…

And what does that say about Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl and its lifespan as the newest game in the lineup?  That was about two months.  I still have to get the nation pokedex.

But here we are in an age of shortages and inflation (and war) and we have a bounty of Pokemon game options.  So I guess we have that going for us.

Anyway, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet are coming.

And, first, I want to say that I am not in love with that name.  Not that it is bad, but “Scarlet and Violet” just doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as “Diamond and Pearl” or “Sword and Shield.”  But it isn’t as awkward as “Black 2 and White 2” I guess, so there is that.  But it is what it is and we will live with it.

Nintendo is doing its usual routine of giving us a drip feed of information, something they will drag out through the summer to keep us all engaged.  But we did get that critical bit of initial information, the piece that we all crave, the tidbit that will start a thousand arguments online… we got the new starter Pokemon.   They are Sprigatito, Fuecoco, and Quaxly, and are apparently meant to reflect in some way the setting of the new title, which is based on Spain this time around.

The Pokemon Scarlet and Violet starting Pokemon

I got a text from my daughter, excited that there was going to be a grass type cat Pokemon.  Others dubbed him “Weed Cat” online.

I am not sure what to make of Fuecoco, aside from wondering why he has a Kraft single stuck to his chest.  Was he making a grilled cheese sandwich and lost track of it.

And then there is Quaxly.  I am good with a duck Pokemon I guess, though at first I thought he was wearing a policeman’s hat.  But on closer inspection, I guess that is his hair, a blue coif set to rival Donald Trump.  Sure, I guess.

Anyway, branding these new starters became an immediate obsession online.

How some see the choices

Fan art about the new starters is everywhere.  Again, we all love a new set of starting Pokemon, even if we are initially put off by any of them.  Fans tend to grow to love them.

And then we’ll see the horrible monster they will evolve into eventually and feel a bit betrayed.

Seriously, they do not have a good track record on that front.

There is also a trailer available, which people have been dissecting for clues.

While the announcement was a bit of a surprise to me at least, there is still plenty of time left to finish up Shining Pearl and maybe work my way through Pokemon Legends: Arceus before it arrives on the scene.

Carbot Plays Lost Ark

A short item for Sunday, a video from Carbot Animations.

The joy of Carbot is the simple animation style that somehow captures the feeling of things with a seeming minimum of detail.  And so it goes again with Lost Ark.

That is clearly the Berserker class.  I have one of my own and the ridiculously oversized sword is a giveaway.  It does indeed get dragged on the ground when running around at times.

That sword just gets dragged… also, my cat seems to be riding on it

But once the Berserker starts swinging it, it can clear the room

Time for some whirlwind

Also very much on point, the paucity of drops from mobs at times.  As I mentioned previously, xp and rewards are very much a thing from quests and bosses and not the mobs you otherwise meet.

 

EverQuest II Launches the Kael Drakkel Lore and Legend Server

The Norrath team has hit another item on their 2022 roadmap this week as they launched the new Kael Drakkel Lore & Legend server for EverQuest II.

Lore & Legend time

The theme of this server is going back to run older content.  When you create a character at the main screen, there is a new option for Lore & Legend

The one on the far right

You then go through the usual character creation process, choose Qeynos or Freeport as your home, pick a name, then launch yourself onto the Kael Drakkel server.

There you start off at level 90 in The Great Divide, the start of the 2011 expansion Destiny of Velious content, with a full set of gear and adept skills.  It is almost heady to be in that era of the game with stats and bonuses on gear in double digits and attacks that aren’t counted up in the millions of points of damage.

From there you can carry on into the Destiny of Velious content, or you can go back to older zones, at which point you will be auto-mentored down to an appropriate level for the content.  I dropped myself into Antonica and found myself at level 15.

Of course, the EQII downleveling system is a little aggressive, so you’ll be at least a bit overpowered and ready to take on most any encounter you come across.  That said, I did see my power bar move in combat, so it isn’t like the current live meta where, unless some mob has a power draining attack, you can just keep on using your combat skills forever.

The purpose of the server is to run the older content and claim achievements.  There are 1,800 achievements available on the server, so there is a race to see who can collect them all first.

Achievements also earn you earn you special tokens which you can spend at the achievements vendor.

Some more tokens for you for… overseer level 5!

I am semi-interested in this whole idea, just to go run the older content.  We’ll see if I find the time though.

There is even a trailer for the launch.

 

The server info and FAQ are available on the EverQuest II site.  Launch night saw six instances of The Great Divide zone, where you land once you join the game, indicating some interest in the idea.  We will have to see how it plays out.

Addendum:  I forgot to point out, as I generally do, that in order to play on any EverQuest or EverQuest II special server you must be a subscriber.  Free to play is for the regular live servers only.

Off to Another New World in New World

In contrast to how Lost Ark was doing on Friday, New World spent the morning trimming down its server list, merging 60 struggling low population servers into more active servers in order create a more viable experience.

Welcome to another New World

And Amazon does have a game on its hands that requires a minimum population in order to be viable.  Otherwise, crafting stations and such drop down to tier 1 and the whole thing sort of falls apart.

I will give Amazon some credit.  They did at least design well for server merges.  They knocked out the merges Friday morning and people were on their new servers and ready to go long before Lost Ark was up and running for its launch.

Of course, our server was once again on the merge list, so I was interested to see where we had landed.

If 60 is a few, what is a lot?

Our company appeared to have landed intact when I checked on Friday.  Now to see what sort of situation we would have to deal with.

Now playing on Diranda

We started on a server where the Syndicate held the center territories, then were merged into a server where the Covenant held most of the areas.  As time went by the Syndicate managed to wrest a few of the central zones from the Covenant, so we had some cheap travel.

This time around it was time to throw us in the pool with a Marauder dominated server.

Welcome to Diranda

Actually, that is pretty balanced.  I have, after a few months, come to associate Cutlass Keys with the booby prize; the group that holds it is generally in third place on the server.  But we will have to see how things shake out over time with the influx of new players.

Of course, the locals were all set to welcome us to their server.

Turn the screws as tight as they will go!

The taxes were later reduced, but that was my welcome to the server.

As long as the servers are up, stable, and they haven’t broken or lost anything as part of the merge, I suppose it doesn’t matter to much to our group where we land.  It would be nice if the instant travel was cheaper, but it doesn’t take forever to walk anywhere if you’re short on Azoth.  They are actually handing out some more free server transfer tokens today, but where would we go that was any better?

I am also probably not as invested in the game as might be were circumstances different.  Once again, the whole “one character per server” thing, which makes some sense in a PvP only title, but less in one where PvE is a major component of play, means that my one guy needs to do all the things, including staying on track with the rest of the group.  Even harvesting and crafting nets adventure experience, so I have had to lay off play at times because even working on trade skills can get you out in front of the pack.

But you do start to wonder where the game is headed and what Amazon is going to be able to do about it.  Nobody expected it to stay anywhere close to its 900K concurrent player peak at launch, but after rolling out servers and giving away free transfers to get that under control, we’re down to where 50K concurrent players is a good day.

That still isn’t a number to sniff at.  Those numbers likely put it ahead of, or in the zone with, most of the Daybreak titles, save for DC Universe Online, when it comes to MAUs.  And EVE Online is happy when it breaks 30K concurrent users these days, but still runs along.  So there is a business model to be made with that level of user engagement.

But can they hold on to those numbers and, more importantly, monetize the game to keep it viable without driving many of them away?  Daybreak numbers for even their lower population games, like EverQuest II, still include a large percentage of people paying the monthly subscription fee.

And then there are the problems.  PCRedbeard mentioned a John Strife Hayes video about the problems New World has had since launch… and watching it was somewhat staggering.

 

The funny thing about that video is that I remember most of the problems coming up, and can even remember what I was up to when some of them came up (the instance group started playing when they turned off all trade between players at one point) but the unexpected results of many of these issues and the knee-jerk fixes that Amazon applied, that was eye opening.

And the state of the game and how Amazon has seen fit to try and make it last longer seems pretty shaky.  It isn’t a lost cause, but I will be interested to see how they plan to turn this around.