Friday, March 23, 2018

A Job Tailor Made for Stephen Colbert

Yes, really.

I'm not talking about his current job as host of The Late Show, but rather his Tolkien geek status.*

You see, according to a recent Destructoid article, there's a Tolkien Loremaster on staff at Standing Stone Games to make sure they remain true to LOTR and The Hobbit. That Loremaster also consults with some academics on Tolkien as well as investigates Medieval and Dark Age source material to help round out the work on LOTRO. If that doesn't sound like a job perfectly suited for Stephen, I don't know what does.

I knew that Blizz had a resident Loremaster on WoW Lore, but I was unaware of Standing Stone having a resident Tolkien Geek in-house. Okay, they're all likely Tolkien Geeks to some degree, but the knowledge that there's an official Loremaster position was news to me. But this makes all kind of sense, given the amount of work that went into the storyline behind LOTRO. LOTRO was definitely not a "throw it on the wall and maybe it'll stick" philosophy that some MMOs I've played have; the game is so well done that there are parts to LOTRO that you'd swear were part of Tolkien's world that were actually made up for the game.

Like most of the North Downs, for instance.
In LOTR, North Downs consisted of The Greenway
and the ruins of Fornost. And that was it.
So here's to Standing Stone for putting forth real effort to make LOTRO appealing to your resident Tolkien geek.

*I thought I was a Tolkien geek, but Stephen outgeeks me by a long shot. My Tolkien knowledge ends at Unfinished Tales, as I simply could not get into the books of notes and early versions of the Middle-earth stories collectively titled The History of Middle-earth. My brother-in-law, however, has read them all and he also rereads The Hobbit and LOTR annually.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Twenty Years in the Making

I was going to write about something else, but I saw this come across my newsfeed today (courtesy of

Dungeons and Dragons had its Biggest Sales Year Since 1997

It took me a few moments to digest those words.

D&D had a better year in 2017 than when 3e was released in 2000? Better than before Wizards of the Coast bought TSR?


That's quite an accomplishment.

I'm sure that the success of Stranger Things hasn't hurt, and the interest in watching people play D&D on Twitch.TV (such as Geek and Sundry's Critical Role) has helped too. But maybe the fact that it's twenty years later means the gamers grew up, had kids, and now their kids are playing too.


For all the new (and returning) players, welcome to the world of RPGs! Pull up a seat and tell us about your character. I'll get you a drink: beer, wine, or the D&D staple Mountain Dew?* Sorry, I don't have any Nutter Butters around the house --one of the mini-Reds has a peanut allergy-- but I'm sure if you bring some snacks that'll do. (Even fruit or veggies.)

*Nowadays, it's Diet Dew for me, thanks. Or coffee.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Fiddling Away

The oldest Mini-Red is home for Spring Break this week, and she had one request of me: that I put a mention about the newest LOTRO instrument in the blog.

So, this is for you, kiddo.

Meet the Fiddle:


Yes, they have a fiddle coming out soon as a playable instrument for LOTRO. My oldest is excited, but mainly because she really hopes they come out with an oboe sometime after the fiddle.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

When You Thought Things Couldn't get Stranger....

...apparently the 80's are back in a big way.

People trying to make sense of the rise of mass shootings in the U.S. has found a convenient scapegoat:  violent video games.

Just like with the Satanic Panic blaming D&D, Heavy Metal, and other assorted items for the decline in Western Civilization*, some people are blaming violent video games for the steady stream of gun violence in the U.S.

From what I can tell, the list of video game publishers in the President's Summit on Violent Video Games are there just as a punching bag. Unless, of course, Rockstar is hoping to get a boost in sales due to being labeled the "bad boy of the video games industry".

I guess we'll have to defend our hobby from this crap for the foreseeable future.

*Or that goths were to blame for the Columbine shooting in 1999.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Quick Wednesday Post

Okay, I laughed. For some reason I thought of the tons of Kitties I've seen over the years in Warsong Gulch.

A Return to Normalcy: More Pugging in SWTOR

It definitely felt weird looking at the large block of free time the other night* and thinking to myself "I could actually run more a couple of flashpoints tonight!"

I've been playing that Jedi Shadow I'd originally started on Red Eclipse (pre-merge) and is now on Darth Malgus (post merge), and since she is at the end of Chapter 1 I figured she's at the perfect point to run some low-mid level flashpoints.**, so I queued up for several and got in without much fuss.

You have to understand that when the following is the case:

  • I queued as DPS
  • It's about 3 AM server time in Europe
  • I specified about 4-5 flashpoints in my queue

that typically I'd have to wait about 15-30 minutes before something popped. However, I got into a flashpoint within 5 minutes at the most. I should know, because I figured I could get some chores done while waiting but I nearly got caught missing the flashpoints because I was AFK when they popped.

But really, that was the worst thing that happened through the entire evening.

The flashpoints were quick, clean, and even the "all DPS" flashpoint (Athiss) was easily handled by my team. I'll freely admit that while I requested DPS, I geared as a tank, because in an all-DPS flashpoint you're going to potentially be called upon to be either a tank or a healer in a moment's notice. Besides, I had enough tanking gear in my inventory courtesy of previous flashpoint runs, so I was covered just enough to not feel like a noob wearing PvE gear into a Battleground.***

While the lack of drama and wipes were the best part of the evening, I found myself in several flashpoints with a couple of the same people. I wasn't so thrilled about one (who kept saying "whatever, bb" when someone would say something to her), but the other was a really good DPS and pinch healer Smuggler. When we were down to just two of us on the last boss of one of the Hammer Station runs, she took out the last boss pretty much by herself while I "tanked".****

I'd have to go back to Wrath era WoW, when I used to get up at 6 AM to play for an hour before getting the (then) little mini-Reds ready for elementary school or preschool, to when I got to know most of the regular instance runners on a server. It was oddly comforting, knowing that the same people who worked so well together were still around, running the same instances. Perhaps it is better to think of the early morning crew as essentially a mini-guild, held together by the common goal of getting an instance completed.

I never got that sense of camaraderie when I ran BGs in WoW, because a) I no longer logged in early in the mornings, b) there were the server don't-call-them mergers that brought a larger pool of players together than before, and c) in the 40x40 BGs that I preferred the fights were so big that you rarely got the chance to know people to the same degree. I wondered once whether the 40-man BGs approached the scale of fight that you had in the old 40-man raids, but I concluded that wasn't the case because you could kind of putz around in  Mists-era Alterac Valley and not be missed at all, but everybody (and I do mean everybody) had a role to play in AQ40; people noticed if you weren't pulling your own weight.

Still, it's nice to find some regulars to run with from time to time. I'm not planning on joining a guild, since my free time is pretty imaginary most days, but it's nice to have that guild-esque feel to some in-game activity.

Without all the drama.

*Courtesy of the Olympics, my wife was glued to the television and let me have free rein of the desktop.

**With the leveling adjustments done in flashpoints these days, the concept of low-mid level range flashpoints doesn't exist. However, I'll always think of the Hammer Station through the Boarding Party / Maelstrom Prison (and Imp equivalent) level flashpoints as low-mid level.

***If you've ever been in that situation, you understand. Personally, that's why I would run the WoW 40-man BGs until I got a reasonable amount of PvP gear, because one person isn't typically going to make a difference in a 40-man run of Alterac Valley. Typically, anyway.

****There was only so much damage mitigation you can do when you're specced DPS as a Jedi Shadow, and I was tanking pretty much from the beginning of the fight when the "tank" died early in the fight before one of us could reach the healing station. I died with just a 1/8 of the boss' health remaining, and the Smuggler was able to take out that last bit before the next round of adds spawned.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

And People Wonder Why MicroTransactions are a Thing

In Polygon's article on the 9th about Activision Blizzard's record breaking annual profits from 2016, three things stood out:

  • Overwatch has an installed player base of 25 million, becoming the largest intellectual property by Blizzard (yes, that includes WoW).
  • The profits by Activision Blizzard (4.87 billion dollars) were the largest in their company's history.
  • $3.6 billion of the overall revenue from Activision Blizzard came from in-game content, such as lootboxes and WoW pets.
Activision Blizzard pretty much confirmed that Overwatch is now Blizzard's cash cow, and will likely get the lion's share of development going forward.

However, these lines from the Polygon article really caught my attention:

Games like Overwatch and World of Warcraft, along with the Call of Duty franchise, played a big part in raising Activision Blizzard’s digital revenue for the year. The company said that it pulled in a record $3.6 billion of revenue from in-game content, up 125 percent year-over-year (excluding King, the figure was still up 30 percent). That includes sales of items such as Overwatch loot boxes, Call of Duty supply drops and World of Warcraft pets.

Think about it. Activision Blizzard pulled down $3.6 BILLION from the "despised" in-game content such as loot boxes.

Is there really any surprise that everybody else is doing it?

Sure, legislatures are trying to restrict these loot boxes*, but Activision Blizzard isn't about to let that sort of pure profit vanish without a fight. And neither will EA or a lot of other, smaller companies that rely upon look boxes and cash stores to prop up their bottom lines. (Such as a TON of MMOs, not to mention social media centric games.)

Right now, if I were a betting man, I'd say that there will be a big kerfuffle by legislatures, but in the end nothing will get done. There's too much money on the side of the game companies (and investors) for any potential restrictions to last without immense political will. I wish that weren't the case, but I think loot boxes are here to stay until people stop buying them. And good luck with that, I suppose.

*Thanks to Syl for the article from the state of Hawaii's own attempts at the same.