Love Is In The Air For LotRO

Female Beorning Face Tattoo

This week I re-installed LotRO. LotRO is receiving love from the bloggers this week on the heels of a new update and a ninth anniversary celebration.

When LotRO originally went F2P, I was disgusted at the cash shop tactic takeover of the game and interface. Now it’s the norm (unfortunately) and I hardly even notice.

Last week I was playing Ms. Pacman, the new SEGA release on Steam. I made fourth place on the leaderboards and started thinking: I could be playing an outdated MMO for the millionth time, and it would be more fun, and have a better story.

I had to buy the Beorning class and try it. A few years ago, I argued in the official forums for a tribal race, including face tattoos. Turbine provided them! I love my Beorning. I love her grunting she-bear attitude.

There is a wee deal-breaker: a rage mechanic.  For some reason, this mechanic frustrates me.  I quit trying to play Bear druid in WoW because of this.

So I’m playing a Warden. Today I watched some of the six-hour anniversary livestream from a few days ago, which was entertaining, offering a lot of candid dev interviews.

One highlight was the assertion that we will surely see the gates of Mordor within the next year. At least the black gates.

Another highlight was Edgecase’s emphatic assertion that Burglars were in a bad place, and they were a “high priority”.

I’ve never seen an MMO class more abandoned by the players. There are ten classes in LotRO, and about 1.5% of players are currently playing Burglars at cap at any given time, i.e. two players on Landroval.

This is what happens when you ignore a problem for so long, like updating your server software, which as of yesterday was super glitchy, rubber-bandy, and the worst ever. Today the servers are better, so maybe they fixed some issues.

A few years ago the Turbine organization was crass greed (to me), and now they are more like cute, clever, small-handed hobbits, underdogs. The livestream was nice.

Some players today are only now reaching the original conclusion of pure greed, of course, while others are just now discovering LotRO. For the latter, I’m trying to update my Newbie Guide To LotRO as I go along.  The guide still sees 10-20 views per day.

Gaming Stocks

This last week was a brutal week for corporate earnings in the U.S.. Google, Apple, and Microsoft all fell on their faces.

I sold $MSFT at break-even. I tried to buy Sony at chart support, but was forced out immediately when the Bank of Japan held fast on their policy, causing the Yen to skyrocket, and $SNE to break support.

The dollar is plunging, sending every Uncle Joe piling into spiking gold and silver prices. I rode that for a short while, but good grief people.

High Yen puts pressure on exports and revenue in Yen denomination. I guess. So I might be watching the Yen for another Sony entry point, or I might just forget getting into Sony before E3.

Sony is also now under some pressure as an iPhone sensor supplier, like all iPhone suppliers, after Apple’s disappointment, not to mention the work stoppage for the recent earthquake. So I was thinking buy the bad news, but I was too early. Now it looks like the U.S. markets could roll over, dragging down others with it.

With Sony’s supposed PS4.5, Playstation VR, and Sony’s VR games in the pipeline, which were heralded by the Gamestop CEO as something special, this is looking like Sony’s year to push forward after some recent impressive PS numbers.

Nintendo also mentioned this week a new console-type product for possible spring 2017 release, but that still seems to leave Sony in command of the hardware holidays.

Missing Artifact: Sense Of Accomplishment

Rift Comment

Tonight I was researching a return to Rift. Right away I would want to spend $35 to buy the new Ascended Soul pack, which only contains one soul I want for my mage.

So that’s one skill tree for $35. Trion hasn’t ever broken up the packs, since that would be less moneys.

Speaking of money, I noticed you can also buy artifacts now in Rift. Just click a button and spend your store credits for spin-the-wheel to get an artifact you’re missing. What a deal.

What I’m missing is any desire to hunt artifacts ever again, which has been one of my main activities and enjoyments, and the main reason to have a patron account.

I’m also missing any interest in returning to Rift, which looks like it’s going the same way as LotRO, just throwing shiny things out and trying to hook a few fish. And forcing players to use the cash shop (source of the comment in the image) for things that previously didn’t need a cash shop.

It’s nice they are finally doing something about the poor game engine performance, which sort of doomed them from day one, and made their advertised challenge to WoW into a non-starter. WoW actually looked and ran better at higher FPS than Rift’s lowest settings on my old computer.

This week I’m playing some Saint’s Row 2, but it’s really hard to look at. Last night I played a mini-game where I prostituted myself in the public restroom, getting guys off for money. That’s a new one.

I really like the hispanic voice-over of Rebecca Sanabria for the main character in Saint’s Row 2. I like the respect system. And of course, the playable female main character. F**k you, Rockstar.

I just wish Saint’s Row 2 wasn’t the Morrowind of the Saint’s Row games. While the production values were gorgeous with The Third and IV, the franchise sort of lost its soul. Who wanted an alien invasion and outer space?

Unlike Rift, Saint’s Row was a legitimate rival and contender against the thousand pound gorilla in the genre – the GTA franchise.  Like Rift, questionable creative design leadership squandered the opportunity.

Gaming Stocks

Today I took a 12% profit in Blizzard’s stock with the U.S. stock market perilously close to a record high, and companies reporting dismal results to start off earnings season. I plan to buy Sony at an opportune moment between now and E3, and buy back into Blizzard as soon as it sells off significantly, for any reason.

The GAMR ETF is basically soaring, but so are overall markets, so that doesn’t mean so much. The volume seems to be picking up. When the U.S. market swoons again, I might look into a GAMR long term position, especially if I miss a big up move in Blizzard.

That seems unlikely (which, along with the overall irrationally exuberant market, is the other half of my urge to take profits), but it’s really hard to say how well Blizzard is doing in Asia.

This last quarter was supposedly a stronger, more upbeat quarter in Asia than the one previously. I say “supposedly” because you can’t trust the Chinese government, who just happens to have a huge stake in its own stock market.

Anyway, Blizzard could easily surprise on an Asia basis, and probably will since the kitty is almost always wrong to sell stocks. I don’t really care at the moment. I’m really, really tired. For a few nights, I just want to play a game.

Liquidating Position In FFXIV

ffxiv characterYolari the Miqo’te reached level 50 this week in Final Fantasy XIV. She had a great time adventuring through Eorzea as a Summoner, but now she’s XP-blocked.

Square Enix is making me buy all xpacs through Steam now (as discussed in a prior post), and I’m not paying $40 since the xpac is on sale everywhere except Steam (i.e. $25 at Best Buy). I’ve checked into Steam 3x per week for the last month or so.

No luck. Cancelled sub. I’m ready for a break anyway.

Syp at Biobreak is also taking a break and wrote a fine critique today that I agree with, so this kitty can react and riff off his ideas. (It’s only fair.)

The strength of FFXIV is the story, but I agree it takes too long for the characters to feel human, and therefore to become likable, and therefore for drama to get going because you care, and therefore for tension to raise its seductive head.

Tension happens from conflict (or frustrated romance) between characters, when characters deeply want to kill each other, have sex, or both. Is every single one of these NPCs single? Are Biggs and Wedge even gay?

Maybe it’s a Japanese cultural difference. Maybe Japanese high schools aren’t filled with pranks, squabbles, jealousy, name-calling, face-slapping, and unbridled lust. Syp said he has a deep sense of these characters’ motivations, but for me they fell short up to the point of the level 47-48 story.

On the other hand, I agree on the cutscenes. In the last week, I’ve groaned with impatience during scenes, clicking the popup boxes quickly, wishing the plot would move forward to something interesting. This really isn’t me.

And of course, when I finally broke down and skipped part of a long scene, I skipped two important plot twists, and I didn’t know what my ‘companions’ where talking about in the next scene.

In the same scene, a lot of story tension was lost (Minfilia was rescued in an excellent and fun quest sequence), and I was called upon to embark on a grand campaign to save the world.

If no one I care about is in imminent danger of being pillaged, raped, kidnapped again, or burned at the stake, then talk to the paw, OK? Apparently Thancred is possessed by evil, but he’s expendable, I say! Let’s suit up in bikinis and enjoy the beach.

Yolari the Miqo’te is a special character with an amazing look and style, and cute emotes. I’ll miss her, and I’ll want to return soon when I’m in the mood for more JRPG, and when I have more time and energy to save the world, and when I can pay the going price for Heavensward plus sub.

I ended up completing all dungeons up to level 50, 175 story quests, and my cross classes for Summoner, in a little under two months. Dungeons were the best way to have fun and make progress. I skipped optional side quests, intending to save them for another class later.

I’m inspired right now by the hubbub over the transgender character controversy in the new Baldur’s Gate expansion. I might try BG:EE again, and try not to get murdered by bears and brigands over and over. We’ll see. The fun of gaming stops when it’s tooth and nail torture.

I’m not quite ‘out of the woods’ with my real life problems either. As always, I’m making progress with my personal RPG project. I posted a few new art pieces on my DeviantArt page.

Happy gaming, and may the goddess bless your adventures, whatever they may be.

Olivia Munn Does Psylocke, PureFunds Does A Video Game ETF

I’ve been a fan of Olivia Munn since Attack Of The Show on the G4 channel years ago, so I’m thrilled to see her playing as an anti-heroine in X-Men Apocalypse, scheduled to release in theaters on May 27th.

X-Men is the only superhero series I really watch. It’s no coincidence that X-Men (despite the manly title) has the best portrayal of women heroes.

I’m not a Jennifer Lawrence fan, but she molds well to Mystique. Sophie Turner seems strange as Jean Grey/Phoenix. Where is the fierce independence? The fire? I guess she is supposed to change, but Famke Janssen is a forbidding follow.

I really hope Olivia Munn somehow steals the show. She’s headlining on Stephen Colbert this Thursday night.

GAMR: A New Gaming ETF

The kitty asked, and now it’s a reality. I’ve been watching closely to see if the U.S. stock market rally dies in a fire, or manages to break out of the confining downtrend line like China, which loosened margin restrictions last week, as if actively wanting to encourage another bubble.

Another mini-investment point is approaching, either way it goes.

The PureFunds Video Game Tech ETF has a ticker symbol of GAMR. The GAMR ETF gives you investment exposure to companies like Square-Enix, NCSoft, Konami, and Glu Mobile, as well as the usual suspects.

The ETF is doing very well so far, but the daily trading volume is tiny. The expense ratio is also enormous, but that somewhat goes hand in hand with international exposure. I’m not sure how to approach this.

I noticed the ETF incorporates Microsoft and NVidia in only token amounts, which seems like a bad idea. Does anyone have solid knowledge of new, low-volume ETFs? I’ve researched this before, but struggled to understand the implications.

The PureFunds HACK ETF (Cybersecurity) seems to have a solid following and volume now, more than when it started. Will the video game ETF build up the same way? Is it a good idea to get in early? This kitty just isn’t sure, but I’m here to report the news, so there you go.

Happy Easter, and happy joystick-fiddling. I’m currently a level 44 Miqo’te Summoner in FFXIV. I reluctantly subscribed for one month past my free period. It’s more grinding than I really have time for.

More Reading:

Olivia Munn explains why she loves Psylocke.

Never Buy An MMO On Steam

ffxiv screenshot
This has always been my rule, to avoid issues. Two days ago I broke the rule and bought FFXIV:ARR on Steam. This stupid kitty is already paying the price.

Today I bought the expansion (Heavensward) on the SE website, and they refuse to register the key they gave me. I have to buy the expansion and all subsequent expansions on Steam now, apparently, or re-purchase the main game.

This might be my first real problem with a game purchase, unless you count Daikatana (nearly unplayable), or the original (nearly unplayable) launch of FFXIV, for which I paid full price. Congratulations, Square Enix.

I went to FFXIV this week because I finished Skyrim plus Dawnguard. I’d planned to try Elder Scrolls Online again, since they are adding nameplates and making grouping “less painful“, among other things.

(The wording of the Massively article title is appropriate.) So I cleared 55GB of space on my SSD to install ESO, and 55GB was not enough. I’d totally forgotten about the 100% voice-over.

A 100% voiced MMO is like watching a badly lip-synced animated movie based on a book that was never published. It just can’t get the lore and characters across. Elder Scrolls has the in-game books, but they are mostly disconnected anecdotes.

If no connections are made or reinforced in the player’s mind (building on what he or she already knows) then an opportunity is lost. Imagine a novel that stops and tells little stories on the side periodically about random people elsewhere in the setting.

It’s going to be hard to read, even if lusty Argonian maids are involved.

Even the most silly side quest can strongly develop the characterization of a place, a race, or a character. All content should tie into the main stories or characters somehow, some way, just like in a well-crafted novel.

I’m having fun with FFXIV:ARR so far. It’s quirky, creative, story-based, and greatly improved. I can play any classes and jobs on one character. They have nameplates. They have a functional Auction House.

FFXIV originally launched with a far worse auction system than Elder Scrolls, but the (replacement) devs had the sense to fix the issue, instead of stating that they will never, ever add a real auction house (Elder Scrolls).

Despite repeated player crying, begging, and quitting since launch. I’ve seen a few players say they won’t come back unless there is an auction house. That’s just one of the tick boxes for this kitty.

Skyrim/Dawnguard Writer’s Reaction

I really enjoyed Skyrim after installing the right mods. Dawnguard was a very impressive DLC. My overall impression of Skyrim was that I wished the companions were fewer and better, and the story was more about my character and choices. Dawnguard nailed all of that.

The character of Serana was excellent in her role as a vampire storyline sidekick. This is a really effective plot device, also used to great effect in LotRO with Nona (and then abandoned, inexplicably.)

Serana’s comments and banter add great flavor, although she sounds too sweet and mild. This is surprising because the voice actress, Laura Bailey, also does Jaina Proudmoore in WoW. Jaina’s more commanding, arrogant tone that would have been more appropriate for a vampire princess hundreds of years old.

The transformation of the player character into a vampire, the childe of Serana (the option I chose at the end after taking Castle Volkihar) also has a silly zero seriousness.

“Oh, you want me to make you a vampire? Ok, if you’re sure! Get ready!”

It was the same as getting married in Skyrim. Maybe the devs were targeting the lowest common denominator, which is apparently a ten year old playing a Nintendo game. In both cases, some sort of meditative ritual quest wouldn’t have killed them to implement. Maybe their enormous pantheon became the problem.

Another observation is that Skyrim overall focuses heavily on the vampires, werewolves, rogue, Daedra, and werewolf factions, while neglecting the good and light factions. I really enjoyed the spiritual path quests in Morrowind (Tribunal, Imperial Cult). Maybe I somehow missed the Skyrim priest and paladin-themed quest lines.

Skyrim as a whole was a scene of universal violence and corruption, with everyone trying to kill everyone else. The moral grey areas are fertile ground for great writing, but the darkest shadow can only be found by contrast with the brightest light. I kept waiting for the titular “Dawnguard” to flesh out and ascend to greatness and holiness.

You get new skills, a new and powerful transformational form, and new combat modes for being a vampire, but you get nothing for being a Dawnguard. The imbalance is awkward.

I’ll probably play ESO when I transfer my backup hard drive to my main PC, something I’ve been putting off for a year. For now the kitty will see what FFIV brings.


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