Thursday, February 25, 2010

Different Strokes

Now that I have been playing Lotro for a while and even though my highest toon is only 23, I am better placed to make some comments on how I find Lotro and EQ2 different.

Firstly, there’s the difference in appearance. It’s something I have mentioned before when talking about toon appearance. As a rule of thumb I personally feel that the player toons in EQ2 are much more customisable to get to the look you want. Especially after so many years of tweaking and new clothing/armour being available through various outlets in EQ2 (broker, station marketplace, crafted, rewards etc). On top of that I feel the EQ2 toons are more ‘realistic’ in the way they move and their proportions and detail.

However, even though the toons in EQ2 are graphically better I feel, the restrictions of what you can do with them kind of offset that. For example, have you tried sitting in a chair properly in EQ2. You can’t. What about lying down? [you lie down in EQ2 every time a mob gets a little too scary – Ed] Nope, in EQ2 you can’t. Unless you’re dead that is. But you can in Lotro. That leads me on to the emotes. These are by and away in a different league to those in EQ2. Can you do a handstand in EQ2? Smoke a pipe? There is so many more I would pretty much make this post in to an emote post if I started listing them. OK, so the fact you can do those things with your toon in Lotro doesn’t mean you can adventure anymore effectively, but it does mean you can immerse yourself more. By no means are the toons in Lotro bad. In fact they are very good, but not in the same league graphically as EQ2 and also when considering customisations that are available.

So, aside from the graphics and features of your toon, what about the scenery? In my opinion, Lotro kind of kicks EQ2s butt. Again, EQ2 scenery is fine and in the most part well thought out. But it really does not hold the dramatic effects that the scenery in Lotro seems to. It is generally more ‘lush’ in Lotro and attention to detail is much more apparent. Another thing worth mentioning is the fact that on my lowly computer hunk of junk I can run Lotro at higher settings than on EQ2 meaning I can get a much better visualisation of what I am involved in with Lotro. Whereas in EQ2 when grouped or raiding I pretty much have to switch to extreme performance mode just to stop the jerkyness. In Lotro, those graphics are hiked up and it runs smooth [like Galaxy chocolate – Ed].

What else is different? I mean here, what makes a difference? Gosh. Where do I begin? I think I should start with the things that seem lacking in Lotro that I really began to detest in EQ2. Equipment envy. In Lotro, there seems to be very little. Yes, at top tier there are apparently some restrictions on having certain armour types to cope with content. However, this is nowhere near EQ2s requirements at top tier. Not necessarily required by the game, but damn it’s required by the player base. You see, I was having this conversation with Jahf last night. In EQ2, yes you can actually get by not too bad with some equipment, but the requirements of the players are high. It seems that once someone has seen a DPSer do say, 12k dps, then every one of those classes must do the same or they suck at their class. Don’t have your myth? Don’t have Tier3 armour. ‘Then don’t group with me’, seems to be quite a common attitude.

What I am trying to say, [and making a pretty good hash of it – Ed] is that in EQ2 the pressure to get all the top notch equipment and be at top tier yourself is pretty intense. If you want to have no problem grouping or progressing and experiencing content. In Lotro however, this seems to be a secondary requirement after, surprisingly, enjoying the game. I much prefer it that way. The pressure to progress is nowhere near as massive. As an example, Ema is currently trying to get as much time online in EQ2 as she can. The reason? So she does not fall behind in the crazy race to 90th level. Already her friends have powered ahead in the rush to be able to enjoy end game content. You see, in Lotro, that part feels different. The emphasis would be on enjoying the journey from the last tier and in to the new one. Of course there are some hardcores in Lotro, but it certainly does not seem to be the norm. It really does alleviate the pressure to rush that you seem to get in EQ2.

Content. How does that match up? This is one of the areas I am yet a little unqualified to answer. With half a dozen level 80 toons in EQ2, I pretty much had experienced everything the game had to offer content wise (up until this latest expansion of course). In Lotro I haven’t progressed past level 23. There are a few things I can comment on though. The content in EQ2 seems to have a bit more broader scope. That may be down to the simple fact that it has been out for so long. I don’t know. But in EQ2 there are so many more dungeons and instances than in Lotro. But, here’s the but. Lotro content (so far) has really managed to grab me without all of the frippery of a hundred dungeons. I got to thinking why that was and I think it’s an amalgamation of things. The quests seem more immersive in Lotro. Of course there is the normal, ‘go here and kill this’ kind of quest, but usually there is a reason. Then, linked in with that you have to main ongoing plot line where you actually get to assist in it. You meet the main players (Gandalf, Aragorn etc) and interact with them. Then there is the way you can go about completing the quests. What I mean by this is, in EQ2 for example you pick up The Stein of Moggok HQ. You have to travel back and forth from Freeport to Feerrott several times. It takes but a few seconds. Bells, ports, druid rings. It’s easy. You hop on your local easyquest airline and off you go. In Lotro the travelling is part of the experience. Not something to be ‘hopped’ over with all haste. It really does remind me of the old original days of EQ1 in that respect [What? You spent 2 real life days trying to get out of the sea in Lotro too? – Ed].

Progression. In EQ2 as I have already said, it seems that progression is more the name of the game than in Lotro. In Lotro it seems that progression comes as a side order to the main dish of simply enjoying being there. I know this is only how I feel about it and cannot obviously comment on behalf of others, but I get the feeling that quite a few feel the same. It is a lot more common to witness players indulging in non progressional activities in Lotro than it is in EQ2.

So what else? Well there is of course the excellent player music system in Lotro. It really does make a difference. It is little tweaks like that that in my eyes assist with the immersion so much more than the grind. As well as the music there is the great player events held at various times each year, but both games tend to have those. I cannot comment on which feels better as I have not yet experienced one of these in Lotro, so I can’t tell you if Frostfell is better or worse than its counterpart.

I have rambled on too much; I think I’m going to leave it there. My conclusion? At this moment in time I am enjoying Lotro more than I have enjoyed EQ2 for some time. Is it because I am fresh and a change is as good as a rest, as they say? Or simply that for me Lotro is better? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that EQ2 is still an absolutely stunning game and I will always love it and would recommend it to anyone. But in Lotro, I am finding an immersion that feels different and at this current stage, I am enjoying more.

Be well.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

That, is Weathertop!

Not been online too much recently. For gaming or blogging. Dreaded work is pilling on the pressure like Browns cabinet of fear. Things are a little strained and of course with that comes less free time for me. Which is not good because I usually write my blog entries during breaks or lunch, but I haven’t had one of those for quite a while [OMG, you’re a robot. I knew it! – Ed].

Last night however, I did manage to get online for some Lotro fun with my Bro. We only played for about 2 hours or so, but as ever it was great to catch up with him and to hang out. He joined me on Renwick [isn’t that the bug eating dude out of Dracula? – Ed] his 24th Minstrel this time, as I seem to be outlevelling Ghryff. Not by much at all, but enough I guess to make it difficult for him to catch up.

Caedluuf hit 23 last night after some fun in the Lone-Lands. A completely new area for me. I hadn’t really been out of Breeland for the last 15 levels or so, and as such it was a nice change. Damn long journey though. Luckily a friendly Ranger, Saeradan let me use one of his horses to his friends camp just at the base of Weathertop. Yes, Weathertop! There, me and Renwick-Bro completed some quests for the nice Ranger , Candaith I think his name was. He had us running all over the place killing orcs and boss orcs and a few annoying little birdies. I managed to find Candaiths bow that had been stolen by orcs too. Luckily he gave me his old spare bow which was a huge amount better than what I was wielding, so that was nice. I’m liking these Rangers who are helping me complete the main plot storyline quests. They’re most helpful and not surly at all!

On the EQ2 side of things my good buddy Jahf has given me a key for the expansion, which I am most grateful for. Thanks mate, you’re a scholar and a gentleman. Now I just have to work out which of my accounts to pop it onto. Probably going to be Adurj as that account has some other toons on that I don’t mind playing at all. No rush though as I don’t intend to join the EQ2 fun for about a month. I like to let expansions ‘settle in’ for EQ2. One of the main reasons is the cost of everything when a new expansion opens up. I only have limited time and as such cannot afford to waste time harvesting for those rares for Expert skills. If I leave it a month or so, then those rares will have hopefully dropped from the current 20plat price tag. Also, it means that most people will have some sort of idea what they are doing and I can be a leech tapping off their knowledge. I know that’s a little strange as most like to experience the new stuff all for themselves and not learn it off others. I’m like that too, but spare time kind of makes the hard slog a bit tough.

I must admit at the moment with the fun I am having on Lotro, the only thing I currently miss about EQ2 are the people there. That alone is worth jumping in to the new expansion and hooking up to adventure with me ole buddies. So when I do come back, those who know me...expect to be pestered  :)

Until then..

Be well.

That, is Weathertop!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The rain in Spain..

Well, it’s been raining hard here now for about 3 days. It’s relentless. Floods everywhere, traffic jams, angry people. I swear that when it rains in Spain [it falls mainly on the plain? – Ed] it is very similar to the U.K when it snows. The place seems to come to a standstill. Not surprising really though. They understandably don’t have that much rain here and so treat it the same way the U.K treats snow fall, which is with kind of a lethargy until it happens then someone has to hit the ‘oh crap’ button.

So, all the rain has killed my motorbike. It was sat out the back of work all day yesterday in the pouring rain and it seems that water has got in to the immobiliser and now the old girl won’t start.

Wow! I get half way through moaning about how the bike won’t work, go outside and bam! She works first time. Very strange, I guess the moisture must have dried out. Now I just have to find out how the water got in and I’m laughing.

Few good sessions on Lotro recently and I have learnt a fair bit too. Little but important things. Things that confuse the heck out of you when you start a new MMORPG. Like what the abbreviated chat means. In EQ2 I know when someone shouts “LFM, ToMC, T3/myth min” what they are talking about. But when someone shouts in Lotro “5/6 GB EM LRM” I was kind of lost. Luckily my Bro clued me in on all of this. I know I won’t know all of the initials of the instances as I won’t come across most of them until later, but things like ‘EM’ I do need to know about. EM = Easy Mode, which basically refers to the grading of the instance. You can do a HM (Hard Mode) version, but understandably it’s much harder but the loot tables are much better. Of the course the extra challenge is fun too.

A few other little niggly things got sorted this last few nights also. Like how to use the auction house, how to use an outfitter, mounts and a few other things. Basic knowledge that will help me a load later on. With any MMO I feel it’s important to learn this stuff as soon as you can. That way it’s much easier to become immersed in the game instead of feeling like an outsider who has no clue about what’s going on [Really? You don’t feel like an outsider all the time? Strange – Ed].

So I downloaded EQ”s new expansion, Sentinel’s Fate for Ema last night and she spent pretty much all evening exploring and having fun. To quote “It’s fun you’d like it. The areas aren’t dingy and depressing like in TSO. Quite a lot of questing though and running around”. Sounds like SF might be a more attractive expansion to me than TSO. I know it’s shallow, but I just can’t get along with the TSO zones. They are so gloomy and depressing. I have enough of that crap looking at the real world. That’s one of the reasons I so love d RoK. The wide open spaces, light and airy not oppressive at all. Even Skyfire had some colour to break up the gloomy grey.

Anyhow, I’ll be checking SF out this weekend probably, so I’ll let you know what I think. I’ll probably only activate one of my EQ2 accounts and I am still deciding which of those that will be. For easy soloing I think Voltaan the Bruiser, but Adurj is by far the best kitted out and will more than likely be needed much more later on. I’m still undecided. On top of that I intend to play Lotro a fair bit this weekend too. A lot to fit in!

Blogs from me might be a bit sparse over the next few weeks. Work pressure is taking up a huge amount of my time as it always does this time of year. So time is limited for me to sit around chatting ;)

Until next time,

Be well.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Viggo's here!

I finally got round to grabbing a few photos of Viggo, our new Heinz 57 doggy. He's mainly German Shepherd, possibly crossed with a Rottweiller..possibly. I have no idea really. The vet tells me he is going to be 'muy grandes' whatever breeds he is. So without further's Viggo!

Viggo and the 'Hi-5'

Viggo and his tough blanky

Here's Viggo!

Hope you like the pics.  As for more normal stuff, I have still been spending quite a bit of time on Lotro. I've been clearing my quest journal in an attempt to avoid the problem I have in EQ2 on pretty much all of my toons, where I seem to always have to delete old quests to be able to pick up more. I guess in EQ2 I'm known amongst the NPCs as someone who takes a while to get a job done.  So anyhow, it's been questing fun for most of the time. 

I did hook with my Bro again last night though and we headed for the first time (for me) in to the Barrow Downs. I met Tom Bombadil and Gandalf. Although Gandalf was in the Prancing Pony, not the Barrow Downs. Together, Ghryff and I completed the first chapter of the main story line which culminated in completing my very first Lotro instance, 'The Great Barrow'. We did the easy mode one, that's meant for about 3 fellowship members and didn't seem to struggle at all. The last part of the special instance (linked to the story line) we got to see the Witch King giving out some orders and kick some Barrow Wight butt. My Bro then taught me how to play a duet using the in game music system. We had a banjo duel and even if I do say so myself, I think I pretty much nailed it. All in all, a jolly splendid evening.

Gandalf at The Prancing Pony

Caedluff and Ghryff heading back into Bree

Be well.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A bit of competition

Stargrace over at has come up with a great competiton. You should head there and check it out and take the opportunity to have a gander at the other great content Stargrace gives us.

The contest is quite simple. You have to email Stargrace with a description/story/some form of text about your favourite EQ2 memory and include a screenshot.  There are hardly any restrictions on content, but if you are interested you really should head over there and get up to speed with the rules.

Here is my submission. It is a post that I have used before when I was writing my Revenants blog. I decided to reuse it as it encompasses some of the most favourite things about EQ2 (roleplaying and the people I hang with online) and some great memories. Best of all it is about my wifes toon and she is quite obviously my fave person. So lot's of faves in there, and a good bit of nostalgia for me too.

Emarald Green…lean, mean, healing machine!

Emarald Green

After complaining about the cold of Terens Grasp, our intrepid reporter Shadowraethe this time headed out to the more relaxed atmosphere of The Blood Haze Inn, West Freeport to meet Emarald Green. Shadowraethe has known Emarald for many years, helping and advising the young Arasai in her journeys throughout Norrath. Over to Shadowraethe….

The last time I ever entered The Blood Haze Inn was a memorable one. Drawn there to challenge the Vengeance Seeker Shahlai Vah’Khan, the results were not a pretty sight and poor old Broll had some cleaning up to do that day. But today, I visited for much more pleasant reasons. I met up with my good friend Emarald Green – Warden of Neriak, to find out what makes the cute young Arasai tick.

I began with greetings. It’s always best don’t you think? Amongst friends or even enemies, there is nothing that screams ‘good breeding’ like manners. Ema’ was in fine spirits she always seems so bubbly that little one. I suppose it is a direct result of her young age. It may be that in all our years as friends we have adopted the role of ‘big’ and ‘little’ sisters and as such I can’t help but want to look after this small fragile creature.

Although knowing some of her history, I thought I would get an insight as to how Ema saw her short, but distinguished past…

“Oh, I’m so glad you asked me Shadow, and it’s great to see you! We hardly get time to talk anymore nowadays. I guess it all began in Neriak. I do find it hard recalling my exact origins though. I’m not sure why, but my earliest memories seem to flit around at the back of my head, and I can’t ever ever catch them *giggling*. I do know that I can’t find my parents. Well, I wouldn’t know where to start. I don’t think I’ve ever met them. I seem to remember some trouble in Neriak too, but I can’t quite put my wing on it. I do have memories of at a very very young age having to glide away to safety as quick as I could, even though I don’t know why. I must have been very young at the time. Maybe only a few years old. Anyway, I remember escaping Neriak and heading out in to Nektulos Forest alone.”

Emaralds bubbly demeanour took on an introspective tone and became quiet as she discussed this with me. I couldn’t help but feel sad and sorry for her..

“Yeah, I escaped, but I don’t know why. I was all alone and I remember being very scared. The noises of the forest petrified me. They seemed different to those of Darklight Woods. At one point I had to cross a wide river and I had never swam before. I never did reach the other side. The next thing I remember I was lying in a dark copse. I didn’t even know if I was still in Nektulos Forest. I was hungry though, very hungry I can remember that!”

I knew of her shaded past, but I was curious. There was a time from her escape from Neriak to her time where Emarald came to Freeport and we first met, that was, well…. blank. I was intrigued to know of her early years and how she survived. I watched as Emarald drifted off in to her memories. They must have been pleasant. I have never seen the young bubbly creature look so serene as she was reminiscing about her informative years.

“It surprised me as much as it’s going to surprise you. Like I said, I woke up, confused and a little dazed, and my wings were still wet through. Obviously all other thought apart from food left me and I crawled on my hands and knees trying to find my strength. It was then that I felt a nudge from behind and turned to see the blood red eyes of a wolf. I can’t tell you how scared I was when I realised that instead of looking for food, I was about to become dinner. I curled up in my sleep ball and wrapped my wings as tight as I could around me. I knew it wouldn’t help. I was extremely young, but I knew my end when I saw it. I stayed like that for what seemed like an eternity, but when I finally felt nothing, I unfolded my wings and there right in front of me was a big lump of meat. Just left there. *laughing* It was all covered in dirt and fur, but that didn’t bother me, I tucked right in!”
So, I wondered how long she stayed with her unusual companion and how she came to be there.

“ I don’t know how I got there..silly big sis! I stayed for a few years at least though. It wasn’t a pack of Wolves or anything. There seemed to be only three of them, well four including me. I guess we were all outcasts. We looked after each other. They would go out and hunt and bring back food and I would clean and tidy our…errr, nest? Well, one day they didn’t come back. It got dark and I was getting worried. The fear of being alone again was indescribable. Then I hear something and saw the two smaller Wolves dragging the older large one ‘Greysnout’ back. He wasn’t moving. He had a huge gouge out of his throat and he was dead.”
Ema began to get upset so we finished our drinks and ordered another before continuing..

“I’m sorry . Where was I? Oh…yes. Well they brought old Greysnout in and just laid him down. We were all hungry but we forgot about that in our sadness. I remember falling, laying my head so it was resting on Greysnouts chest. I was crying and as I fell asleep I started praying in my head. I don’t know who to. Just anyone who would listen. My grief was so huge that I think it clouds my memory about this, but.. I may have fallen asleep while praying for old Grey but I recall seeing, walking through the woods towards us, a bright green glowing Nymph type creature. It didn’t stop, or pass us by…it just came up to me, with my head resting on old Grey. Now, I can recall this clear as an Antonican morning…she asked me ‘You miss your friend?’. ‘Of course!’ I answered sobbing. ‘You have it in you. Did you know?’ she murmured at me. I didn’t have a clue what the strange thing was talking about and I told her that. She just leaned in toward me and whispered in my ear and I’ll never forget this, ‘You have suffered young Arasai. Your time of suffering is over. You now hold nature and it’s powers within you. You shall be Nature’s Warden. I give this power freely to you along with my spirit. You are Emarald Green’. Strange huh? Well, I woke up, I’m not sure how long later, and there was old Greysnout rolling around playing with Hooktail. I couldn’t believe it. What I couldn’t believe more was when I reached out to tickle old Grey..I saw my hand and then the rest of me, and I was bright green.”
I was saddened by Emas story and wanted to move her thoughts on to brighter times. Thoughts of her past were making me feel protective of her. So, I asked about her new family here in Freeport, and how she came to be here.

“Sadly old Greysnout did eventually die naturally, and it was tough for us in the forest. So I went out journeying to find us shelter and a home. It brought me to Freeport. Although I didn’t find a new home for all of us, I now have a safe place where Hooktail and ClipEar can play and hunt. I visit them most days still. *giggling* You know what happened anyway Shadow when I came to Freeport, it was you who bumped in to me outside the gates. You were all terrifying on your big horse with that huge beast Demon thingy standing behind you. I was so scared. Then you spoke to me and you were so kind. Do you remember what you said to me Shadow?. *giggling* You said ‘My my! What do we have here then? You are a little green thing. You look new here. Would you like me to show you the city?’, you even had that big beast pick me up and carry me around if you remember?”
 Of course I did remember, and I recall why I felt sorry for Emarald and decided to help her..but that story is for another day. I wanted to know what Emarald thought of the rest of our group.

“Heh, so where to start. Errrm, My best friend I think is ranger Ddrow. I trust him so much and he is always helping me. Then there is Konador. He’s our warrior and he makes me feel safe. It’s strange really, we hardly ever talk but I respect him and follow his orders, but he respects me hugely…because of my…err, mending magicks? I guess we have a mutual silent respect. *giggles* then there’s Dal…Daltieri. He’s so funny. He treats me like my age…young and fun! We have such fun together! Then there’s Ysabella. She’s a fae. We argue…a lot. I think she’s great, but something between us seems…strange. Maybe it’s our heritage, but we do argue. Constantly. Mostly because she starts it.. *giggle* and maybe because we are both very mischievous…. Then there’s you Shadow. You’re like my big sister. You know how I feel about you. I guess that’s about it for our gang. There’s that strange Assassin lady, what’s her name? Vah’Khan? Well she’s nasty and she scares me…she hardly ever speaks..did you know that? Well, not to me”
 Obviously with the new lands of Kunark having being recently discovered, I was wondering if Ema had ever been there and what she thought of the place.

“ *clasping hands together* Oh, I love it there! It’s so so pretty. Don’t you think it’s quite a bit scary though Shadow? I love the scenery and well, you know what I’m like around woods and the like. I never travel there though without an escort. It’s just too dangerous. Ddrow takes me there to hunt quite a bit. We’ve been running around the Fens of Nathsar recently. Now that’s really really scary, but I like it….errr, apart from the Swamp there. It’s kinda whiffy smelly…eww”
 Finishing our drinks I wanted to ask Ema one more question. Her powers to heal are probably one of her most defining features (apart from the fact she’s green – Ed), yet she had only skirted around using them on her wolf friend. So what does she make of her powers?

“Eh? Powers? Oh, my mending magicks *giggles*. Yeah, I can’t quite believe I can do those things still. It amazes me really, but ever since that time I have had the ability to do it and it just keeps getting stronger every day. Konador tells me that I’m probably one of the most efficient and proficient healers he has ever met. Don’t really know what those big words mean, but it sounded good. Anyway, that’s me really. That’s what I ‘m all about, my magick mending. Being so young and with my mending magicks being so strong, I seem to get a lot of respect from my friends.”
 It seemed strange watching the young Emarald skipping off as we parted in West Freeport. Standing outside the Inn, waving farewell to my friend, I watched as she moved between a skip and a glide with the occasional spin before leaving through the gates, and her young age seems more apparent than ever. It’s a world away from the calm, powerful Arasai Healer I have seen her be when taking care of her friends in battle.

Quite a remarkable creature. Emarald Green.

Be well.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Rossi, fastest? Of course...

Here are the results from Sessions 2 and 3 from the last two days of pre-season testing at Sepang. I must say that I'm rather chuffed Rossi has stayed sharp in the off season. Spies looks very promising too. Although truth be told, I want to see Colin as number one in the Yamaha satelite team again this season. Great sessions guys!

Sessions 2 & 3 ~ Sepang pre-season test 2010

Rossi in action @ Sepang. Courtesy of

Be well.

The Lotro difference

It’s been a while since I have blogged. A few reasons really. Work has been an, erm challenge, shall we say recently, I have been spending more time playing Lotro than writing about it, and finally because we have a new family puppy. The last two reasons have been a huge amount of fun. Little Viggo the German Shepherd cross (I have no idea what he is crossed with) started off as timid little thing. Oh, how initial impressions at the animal shelter can be so wrong. After getting settled in at home Viggo has decided his reasons for existence are to eat slippers and devote his time to a nice bit of chaotic bounding. Not that I mind. For one, it’s Emas slippers he has commandeered and for two he’s sooooo cute! I’ll get some photos sorted and show you.[O..M..G! Aww, has da iccul puppy turned big ‘Durjy in to a silly softee?...spanner – Ed].

As for Lotro, I hooked up with my Bro again on Friday night and after catching him up to Caedluuf on quests (which only took 15 mins or so) we then carried on questing pretty much all evening. We had decided to do a few side quests but pretty much we carried on with the main storyline quests. That is one thing I am starting to really really love about Lotro. The plot line that carries you through the game and the fun interactions you have along the way. The way it works as far as I am aware, is this. When you start the game the Fellowship are just starting out. In fact I am not sure Frodo has even left The Shire when you begin. As you continue through the normal starter areas the plot carries on with you getting involved in side plots that either run parallel to the main Fellowship story or assist it in some way.

Currently for Caedluuf and Ghryff (my Bros Loremaster) the plot surrounds this ranger fellow, Amdir and the fact that he is important to the Fellowship and assisting us goodies, but unfortunately right at the start of the plot lines (way back in the first half an hour of game play) he gets stabbed with a Nazgul blade. Not a very nice thing to happen but fear not, poor ole Amdir has been saved several times by Gryff and I. Recently however, poor ole Amdir is not so poor anymore and has started to turn in to one of ‘them’. With the help of other Rangers Gryff and I have been tracking down Amdir to help him, or indeed to stop him from keep bloody running away so we can help him.

Amdir the (former) Ranger gets a makeover

Unfortunately things progressed to where during some investigations in to the Blackwolds and a little bit of help from Constable Underhill (A Hobbit based in Combe) Gryff and I witnessed Amdir changing into some form of shade, possibly a ‘mini’ Nazgul. Anyhow we were forced to kill him after stumbling on a ritual to turn him involving a group of Black Riders. Whilst watching the ritual we were subjected to the great fear effect that you seem to get every time you come across one of the more powerful minions of the Dark Lord.

Aragorn at The Prancing Pony

Later we headed back to Bree to update quests and take some afks, when we popped in to the Prancing Pony to see Aragorn in one of the back rooms (more main plot line stuff). It was great seeing Aragorn in game, even if it was a short meeting. Like I say, that’s one of the things I have come to love about Lotro, the ability to interact with the ‘main’ plot.

The Shades perform in The Prancing Pony

Something else strange occurred in the Prancing Pony. About 5 minutes before we went in there I went on an afk for about 5 mins to return to Gryff playing his lute and knocking out some really great tunes (more on Lotros music in a post to come). When I returned I asked him how come he had developed some musical skill [Didn’t your Bro used to be a drummer in a band? – Ed] and he went on to explain the in game music system and how players can create real music for the enjoyment of others in game. Bro went on to tell me (pretty much as we were running up toward the Prancing Pony) about a guild who have a band called The Shades and that they actually put on concerts playing their in game instruments. Apparently most of the music is written by Achazia and you can see her Youtube page here. They are so popular that even the GMs turn up to their amazing concerts. I thought this was such a cool idea and just another one of the many things that sets Lotro apart from other MMOs. Anyhow, literally seconds later we popped back into The Prancing Pony to speak to Barliman (NPC) there, and lo and behold, The Shades are putting an impromptu concert on. The Shades were lined up, strumming and blowing their little hearts out. The crowd wasn’t so massive (probably about 20 to 30 people) but that’s not too bad for an impromptu thing. The numbers didn’t matter to me though. It was just another reason why I have begun to enjoy Lotro so much. That little something different.

Be well.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

MotoGP: Season draws closer..

MotoGP 2010 Calendar

It is about this time of year I start to get a little restless where following my favourite sport is concerned. The winter testing has started with the teams heading to Sepang to thrash out the winter cobwebs. Wednesday 3rd February saw the test riders only on track, but today the racers jump on their metal steeds to see if they have consumed too much vino over the holiday season and to see what changes have been made to their bikes. The first test is always an eye opener and there is usually an unexpected performance from one of the riders. The new season should be fun, there are some hot new regs, most controversial of which is definitely the new ruling restricting the amount of engines and technology available to the teams throughout the season> There's a lot of unhappy team bosses, mechanics and Riders out there concerned about that rule!

On top of that Team Yamaha have unveiled the 2010 livery for their bikes. There's a piccy below. They look pretty damn good huh? Can't wait to see them in action at Qatar!

2010 Fiat Yamaha MotoGP livery

To finish off the wonderful anticipation of the upcoming season, have had a fun little interview with Valentino Rossi which I have 'borrowed' and can be found below.  I notice when Vale was asked about heading to F1 this time he didn't seem so convincing that he wouldn't end up there. Usually when asked his stock answer is "if I move to 4 wheels, it will be rallying". Seems like he may be changing his tune. Now, apparently it is just 'difficult' to see himself in F1. Guess we'll see. If I have my way he would head to F1, kick all their arses and shame a returning Schumacher, then head to the World Rally Championship the season after and kick Loebs butt, then head back to MotoGP just to show the young whippersnappers who's still boss. Anyhow, here's Vale and don't forget to check out for all your two wheel goodness.

What have you been doing during the off-season? How much training and how much holidaying?

It’s been split 50/50 between holidaying and training. The training during the winter is different compared to the summer, but it’s best not to stop training – it makes it more difficult to restart if you do stop.

How do you prepare for a new season? Is it more important to work on your fitness these days?

The physical preparation is very important for MotoGP, because you need power and resistance for the 45 minutes of the race, so I train at the gym as usual but at the same time I also try to train with the bike, or motocross or supermotard so as not to lose the feeling with the throttle or the brake.

At almost 31 years of age, do you think you’re still improving as a racer, or do you think you have reached the peak of your talents?

On February 16 I will be 31 years old! If you think you are at the top you have a big problem, because you always need to improve your style and speed, and try to adapt to the new bike, new tyres and new regulations and try to be that little bit faster than the year before.

Who do you think will be tougher to beat this season – Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner or Dani Pedrosa? Why?

It’s very difficult to understand who will be the main rival in 2010, because Jorge, Stoner and Pedrosa have all demonstrated in the past that they’re able to win Championships, are fast in all conditions at every track, and throughout the season. We also need to wait to see what level the bikes are at in 2010, but I think all three riders will be very difficult to beat.

You have made no secret of the fact that you’re not happy about the new engine rule restricting the amount of engines that can be used in a season. How would you change it if you could?

I think it will be a difficult rule or everybody because only six engines for one season is not enough – it’s very tight. If we had eight, or ten, it would be easier and less risky. But this is the rule, so all the manufacturers have to adapt to this rule, and also all the riders have to pay attention and try to save the engines throughout the end of the season.

Last year you made more mistakes than we’ve become accustomed to seeing you make. Do you think this was to do with the level your rivals pushed you to?

In 2009 I made three mistakes in races. That’s a lot, but two of them were because I had slick tyres in wet conditions. After the mistake in Indianapolis, which was the worst of the season, we will try and do much better in 2010.

What developments have you personally asked to be made to the M1 this season?

We’ve tried to improve the M1 in two ways. Firstly the chassis: we’ve tried to improve the stability of the M1 and create better grip. The second improvement is the engine, because we need a little bit more horsepower. At the same time we need to adjust to working with six engines for 18 races. So we need a little bit more horsepower but at the same time longer life for the engine.

What’s your opinion about Ben Spies? Do you think he can be a threat to the current ‘Big Four’ as many people say he will be?

A lot of people are waiting to see Ben Spies, to see his level. He’s the world superbike champion so it will be very interesting to see him in MotoGP. I think Ben has great potential, is a good rider, and is fast and brave. But I hope he will be a little bit slower compared to me, Jorge, Stoner and Pedrosa because four of us is already a lot!

What are your thoughts about the news of 1000cc engines returning in two seasons’ time? Is that an exciting prospect that makes you want to commit to MotoGP for even longer?

It will be interesting, and I’m quite happy because I liked 1000cc in the past. Now we have to understand the rules of these new bikes and new engines, and see if it’s possible to build an engine that is fast and fun to ride like in 2006.

Following your recent Ferrari F1 test, people are asking once again if you will move to F1. What do you say about this and how do you expect Ferrari to do this year?

I completed another test with the Ferrari F1 in Barcelona, and it was great. I enjoyed it a lot and did some quite good lap times, but I think it will be very difficult to see me in F1.

What do you think about Schumacher returning to F1?

I think it will be interesting to see his speed, after three years out.

Is what Schumacher is doing something you could see yourself doing: that is, leaving MotoGP for a few years and then returning, or do you think that when you do decide to retire it will be for good?

It’s a difficult question, I don’t know. A lot of great sportspeople come back, like Michael Jordan or Lance Armstrong.

When do you expect to make a decision about your future?

I think more or less during the summer. It’s possible I’ll decide what will happen with me in 2011 then.

Can you shed any light on what you’re planning?

On my future, I haven’t decided yet.

Be Well.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Eye Candy Connection

Fantastic fun in Lotro over the weekend, and indeed last night too. Not as much time spent online as I had hoped but that was due to having fun with the family, so it’s not all bad :) Also, Emarald has reactivated her EQ2 account and as we only have one computer at the moment, and so we take it in turns. Nice and fair, but my online time has been cut in half effectively.

So, Lotro. Caedluuf is now sitting at level 12 and although I am not particularly watching the levelling, it has struck me how similar the levelling speed is to EQ2 (if you do it normally, not Blacke syrup slow stylee). Following the progression from the starter village of Archet into Combe I’m starting to get a bit more of a look at Middle earth as portrayed by this game. I have to say, I am damn impressed. Although I would say that the ability to customise your toon and the way they are represented graphically is nowhere near as good as EQ2, the scenery and the way they have planned out the world (from what I have seen so far) is quite simply amazing and offers scenery eye candy so good, to even start nipping at Lotros heels in this area, EQ2 would need to be run on absolute maximum settings. Even then I’m not sure the scenery comes close to Lotro. My brother keeps telling me that some of the later locations and scenery will blow my socks off. Well, if that’s the case and I am sure it is, I cannot wait. From what I have seen so far and the quality of design and forethought is of a very high standard indeed.

I wondered in to Bree yesterday. Not to pick any quests up or to do anything game or progression orientated. I went there because I wanted a drink in the Prancing Pony. That and I wanted to check out how they did Bree. What a great place. Little side streets, rambling what I would class ‘Tudor’ style houses, with stairs and walkways, parks to name but a few of the attractions of the large town. The way it has been put together is a real triumph and the look, feel and atmosphere of Bree is really really cool. The Prancing Pony was pretty good fun too. Not much going on in there by way of PC interaction (no roleplayers found there when I went), but it’s a nice place.

Anyhow, instead of me rambling on about how good it looks, why not take a look below at the first set of Lotro screenies I have taken. Enjoy.

Bree by Combe Gate

At the sign of The Prancing Pony
The Prancing Pony and Pipeweed

A Opinionated Local

Leafy Suburb

Ironforge Gate

The Stone Quarter

Private Garden

Until next time.
Be well.