Me and the Redshirt.

January 29, 2010 at 9:37 am | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Whenever I’ve settled down to write any particular post recently, a phrase keeps popping into my head;

I want Star Trek Online to be a fantastic game.

The reason I’ve not been able to go any further is because I’ve been having trouble going any further without adding a whole load of negativity hiding behind a big fat “But”.

I don’t want to be negative.  There are plenty of people on the intarnet more than ready to dance on Star Trek Online’s grave without even requiring its birth, and I’ve no need to try and score points by joining them.

MMO gaming is my favourite style of game, and I really hate it when a game is released and is rubbish.  So that’s why I want Star Trek Online to be a fantastic game.  I’m also impatient.  I want to play a game at release, not in 6 months to a year’s time.  Good at launch means a solid base of players to play with, rather than enjoying a ghost town when it’s finally deemed to be worth the money.

It’s also the fact that more good games on the market is good for us in so many different ways.  More choice, more fun.

Then there’s that license.  Whilst Star Trek will never be Star Wars for me, it’s still an important and treasured part of my childhood, and therefore upbringing as a geek.  At the very least, the tropes and clichés that Star Trek created have provided entertainment through many, many years.

Yes, Mr Redshirt, that’s you.  You and your colleagues the annoyingly fluffy but fast breeding alien pet, aliens that look like a pasta based dish, and swirly things in space have given me much joy through the decades.  And you automatically make me take more interest in the game than the current crop of soon-to-be released games.

Yet I haven’t preordered Star Trek Online, and I’ve no intentions of caving in at the last minute.  If Aion taught me anything, it’s that I’m going to wait until a game is released and I’ve had the opportunity to at least see what’s happening with the game and its community before I part with my money.  And yes, I’m sure Aion has a great community, but it just wasn’t for me, and a little more patience would have saved me the cost of that discovery.

This means that Star Trek Online will have to do more than look all alluring, with its shiny ships and massive range of customisation options.

Especially when Cryptic seem to be doing their level best to really annoy and disappoint any players that are in or around Champions Online.  Yes, Champions Online and Star Trek Online are different entities, but behind both is Cryptic, and they make the decisions.

I’m doing my level best to be optimistic about the launch of Star Trek Online, but it’s really hard when Cryptic seem to positively *want* to make me save my money.  How can this be?  Surely it’s their job to make me want to hand over my money?

I don’t want to spend money on a gamble, especially if it’s just going to make me feel bad and stupid at wasting money that could be spent on bills.  Or just saved.

Of course, if Star Trek Online *is* a fantastic game, then it will still be a fantastic game a month after launch.  At which point, I’ll have no qualms joining everyone else, and being a bit behind.  It’s not like I’m a sprint-leveller anyway.

If Star Trek Online isn’t fantastic (or in the worst-case scenario; Stinks of Bad), I won’t be surprised.  There are so many warnings that it’s hard to be anything but ready for disappointment.  Yet I shall remain optimistic, even if it’s unfounded optimism.  Because Star Trek deserves a fantastic game.



Now we are 65

January 27, 2010 at 10:56 am | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Yes, I’ve finally made it to level 65 with Minstrel Hawley.  It’s meant the end of a frenzied couple of days where real life conspired to get in the way of levelling that last few boxes of xp, but hey, my real life is great right now, so there are no complaints from me.

The big question is what next for me in Lord of the Rings Online?

Of course, this ties in to me pondering about the nature of hitting maximum level, or “end game” as most people rational people call it.

I’ve not had a character at maximum level in Lord of the Rings Online for an appreciable length of time.  Due to various issues Hawley was level 60 for about a fortnight before Siege of Mirkwood came out, and that wasn’t really enough time to start working on radiance gear, and what-have-you.

But there should be some time now before the next level raise, so that leaves me with… what?

I have an ambivalent attitude to levelling.  Because we all play at differing speeds, it’s rare that I get to group up with friends at any other level than maximum.  So I want to get the levelling out of the way as fast as possible, so I can get to the hot group action (oo-er Missus!).

Yet I also miss it when it’s not there.  It’s one of the reasons why levelling is so prevalent in MMO gaming; collecting levels is something that keeps us coming back to play.  Just as there’s a holy trinity of class design in most MMOs, there’s the holy trinity of MMO Gaming; cash, skills and experience points.  Anything we do whilst levelling feeds one or more of that trinity.

Cash builds up, as a sort of score for how well we’re doing at a particular level.  Skills are all the cool things our characters get to do, that make us glad we chose the class we did.  And experience points are a way of seeing our progression through the game, a way of showing distance travelled.

But once we’re at maximum level, one third of the trilogy waves a cheery farewell, and it’s gone.  What do we do to replace that?

I suppose that’s why there is so much palaver about this whole “endgame” concept.

Well, thankfully there’s plenty for me to do to keep me occupied, and off the streets.

Despite my dreams of the “Spoil the fun; Make me maximum level” big red button for alts, I do enjoy playing alts, and look forward to levelling them.  Thanks to the power of micro-transactions, I’ve got those extra two character slots, and that means I’ve got one character of each class.  Okay, the Burglar is a lowly level 7 and the Champion is only slightly further along, but that’s a lot of characters I can be levelling.

Poor Herewerd had been at level 52 for what seemed like forever, so I’ve been giving most of the love to him; Eregion’s quests should mean only a short few levels before I have to take him into Moria’s dark and twisty maze, and skirmishes will help alleviate the perma-lost feelings.

But that’s not to say that Hawley will be ignored; Minstrels are still more than useful to a group, whether that’s for skirmishes, instances or raiding.  I might not be the sort that runs daily quests, or completes the quests within a zone, but there’s still the Books that need sorting.  Sometimes I hate those Books…

Beyond that, there are the skirmishes, of which I think I’m slowly beginning to get the hang of.  I love the way that I can log on to an alt and jump into a solo skirmish when I fancy a change, without having to remember what quests I’m supposed to be doing, or where I should be going.  Yes, it’s casual, but sometimes that’s how I want my alts to be.  And I’m not bored of any of them yet, which is nice.

I’m also seeing about getting some radiance gear.  I currently have enough to get Minstrel Hawley in to see The Watcher, and after that there’s Dol Guldur, and finding out if it really is as challenging as Turbine claims it is.


Hunters. A Bit Dangerous.

January 26, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Hunters are a bit dangerous.

I know, it’s not exactly a newsflash.  And there’s plenty of places on the intarnet for those who really want some news.

At *M*M*O*S*H* Crimebase, there is just unfounded opinion.

And this unfounded opinion thinks Hunters are a bit dangerous.  I’ve come to this conclusion after playing my little Hunter through some skirmishes, and he’s quite frankly eaten the Siege of Gondamon alive.  A few times.

Herrol the Hunter is level 33 at the moment, and I’ve always felt like the early to late 30s are a sweet spot for Lord of the Rings characters.  They’re just coming into some lovely skills, the power level is high, and the mobs aren’t getting as many hit points or nasty abilities that they do at later levels.

That’s my impression anyway, but playing Herrol (yeah, I seem to have a thing for character names beginning with an “H”.  Go figure) is a lovely change from playing Hawley.

For a start, I can use a bottle of Fire Oil, and see all my bow attack icons change to a funky burny aspect.  And having a protector soldier (currently named Lukki, as he’s a dwarf) who is surprisingly able to tank more often than not, means I can kick back and throw out some shapes in the church of damage.

The damage…  I’m pretty sure that despite being half Hawley’s level, Herrol is already kicking out more doom-based pain.  I’m not complaining, just envious.


Bad Hawley’s Sword Halls of Dol Guldur Casebook

January 20, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Posted in General | 2 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

The Caveat: Bad Hawley loves the intarnet because it is filled with crunchy information.  This is not one of those places; for finely detailed crunch-based tactics, you are invited to look elsewhere.  Here, there is but opinion formed of direct experience.

First, a brief introduction:  The Sword Halls of Dol Guldur is part of the Tower of Dol Guldur.

Second, a slightly more verbose introduction:  The Sword Halls of Dol Guldur is a single room instance designed for a small fellowship (3 persons).  In concept, the heroes enter the auditorium where a Nazgul orders three of its champions into combat.  This Casebook will look at the non-Challenge form of the instance, where each champion is part of a separate phase.

As a minstrel, it is possible to succeed comfortably in the Sword Halls at level 64, and with what can be considered “average to low” gear and equipment.  Having level 65 companions helps a great deal, especially if one of them is of a tanking persuasion.  Remember, without adequate protection from your enemies, you are only so much jam.

As there will be many references to The Sword Halls of Dol Guldur within this casebook (this being a casebook about The Sword Halls of Dol Guldur) I shall be using a shortened form of the correct name.  Therefore “the Sword Halls” shall be standing in for “The Sword Halls of Dol Guldur”  for the remainder of this casebook.  Cooler kids might use the acronym “SH”, but Bad Hawley hates acronyms.  Hates them!  (Bad Hawley is also not a cool kid.  And that makes him cry.)

There are five phases to the Sword Halls, and each is separate and distinct.  Between each phase there is a short pause during which it is wise to gather one’s breath, check that everything is still where it should be (potions, quickslot icons, nads) and prepare for the next phase.

Phase the First:  The Wait.
Upon entering the Sword Halls you will find a short ramp leading up to the arena.  The arena itself is bare (apart from such requisite furniture as piles of bones and other detritus) and a Nazgul looming over you and your companions.

Now, you might feel that there would be no challenge to a phase named “The Wait”, but there are in fact two challenges to face.  The first challenge is to ignore the Brazier, or “Clicky Thing” at the other side of the arena, for this is a trap.

At first, nothing seems to happen.  To the extent that it might not seem unreasonable to think that clicking on the Clicky Thing will start the instance.  Do Not Do This.  Clicking on the Clicky Thing will engage Hard Mode, which could be A Bad Thing™.  As you might not wish to engage Hard Mode, it is a good idea to ensure no-one steps too close to the Clicky Thing, so as to avoid any inadvertent clicking errors.

The second challenge is to use the time effectively.  You might find that having a sip of tea helps to occupy the time, but remember your role.  You are an Minstrel, and it is your job to ensure that the morale of your companions is never depleted.

Now, the average player might feel that Morale is merely a thin and shallow method used to hide a standard hit points/healing mechanic, but to the true Minstrel, party morale is more than a simple numbers game.  Use Phase the First to not just drink tea, but remind your comrades of how valuable and appreciated they are.  If necessary, lie about their abilities, and their importance to the group.  Remember, high morale is better than low morale.

Phase the Second: Urcheron.

Phase the Second sets the template for all bar one of the remaining phases, and it is well to bear this in mind.

It begins with a group of general underlings, who are similar in nature to the warm-up acts as seen in modern vaudeville theatres.  As such, they have the abilities of the Main Act but are not particularly developed, so they are a minor nuisance so long as you and your companions are aware, and not falling asleep at the keyboard.

After the underlings, Urcheron will arrive.  Urcheron has three noticeable attacks, and all of them are about as much fun as doing star-jumps in hedgehog-skin underpants.

All three are fire attacks, but two of them are simple enough.  One is an AOE instant attack, the second opens a big burny portal under the chosen victim.  As one cannot be avoided (victims are hit or not) and the second relies upon parents to hammer home the vital information; FIRE BAD! to their children, there is no need to go into these attacks further.

The third attack is most annoying, and one that requires special attention.  It is a flame attack that must be seen to be fully understood, but could be likened unto a snake made of fire.  This snake will slither upon the floor, heading towards the object of it’s anger.  And, just like all fire, this fire is BAD.  Do not let it be bad, for you or your comrades.

The best way of dealing with this attack is to move, and keep moving.  Both this attack and the portal of fire are presaged by Urcheron crouching down, and becoming surrounded by an orange icon.  This is not Urcheron suddenly suffering from an irritable bowel, so beware.  If you see this, be prepared to move, and be smart about it.

However, the attack only lasts a number of seconds, and it is easy to outrun.  As a minstrel, there are a number of tactics that will help when dealing with the effects of this attack:

Firstly, try not to stand next to Urcheron.  You might be tempted to help out on the old dps front by whacking him/her/it with your dobber of choice.  This is not necessarily a good thing, as you will have less time with which to vacate the area.  Let the creeping fire take it’s time getting to you,

Secondly, try running in an arc, so as to keep range between you and the fire, but remain within healing range of your tank.  Remember, they may well need healing as soon as it is safe for you to stop running.

Thirdly, try using a Heal-Over-Time ability on your tank such as Soliloquy of Spirit as you set off running.  It will help keep your tank on their feet during the period of the attack.  At the least, it will take the edge off any pain they might take during your jaunt.

Fourthly, there are three of you in the auditorium, so keep checking that the creeping fire is creeping after you, rather than a colleague.  Getting this wrong and accidentally running *into* the fire will make you look like a chump, and your comrades may well call you a “Thicky”.

The key with this fight is to not make your life harder by needing to heal yourself as well as the other members of your fellowship.  Urcheron *will* fall, it might just take a little while.

Phase the Third:  Carchrien.
Carchrien is one of the Morroval, which means that she is a bat-winged screecher that is only happy when ripping out your spleen.

Her warm-up act are morroval, so be prepared for stun attacks, and being buffeted by small numbers of bats.

Whilst I cannot guarantee that each Champion of Shadow enters on a timer (in my experience, Urcheron and Durkar have both appeared a few seconds after their last little henchman has died) Carchrien always seems to arrive with one or two of her henchmen standing.  At this time it is unknown whether Carchrien is a bit of a cheat, a bit unsporting, or is running late for another appointment and was hoping we wouldn’t mind an early entrance.

Whichever it is, the fact remains that you will have to deal with Carchrien at the same time as one or two henchmen.  Usually, as a minstrel you might well be in the grand melee, but it is advisable to not get too carried away.

Firstly, there is no respite to regain used power before the entrance of Carchrien.
Secondly, it is worth keeping some distance between you and she, due to her attacks.

Now there are two attacks that you will need to be aware of, and overcome.  One is a standard stun attack, the other is a timed summon.

The stun attack is simple enough to overcome, and is more of a hindrance than anything else.  The important point is to ensure that your comrades are either topped up enough to survive your momentary inactivity, or to ensure you are in good enough communication to advise them to drink healing potions if they are not.

The timed summon is slightly more of an issue.  In this attack, Carchrien summons a swarm of bats, which will (in my experience) attack you.  This is most probably because, as the healer, you are the member of the fellowship with the most attractive flavour to a recently summoned bat.

The attack will mean that you will not be able to cast anything with an induction time; any attempts will most likely be interrupted.  Instant-cast abilities may also be used.  There is no point attempting Song Of Soothing, neither will engaging the bats in combat; they have too many hit points to kill quickly, and will disappear after a few seconds anyway.

If on good enough morale, it is possible to weather the attacks of the bats.  A tank with a handy taunt can also help, so in this instance it is useful to be relatively close to your tank.  The important thing is not to panic, but to calmly assess the situation, and if necessary use an instant heal or drink a healing potion if the situation seems dire.  Running around shouting “Bats!  BATS!” will only make you appear to be a loon, and make your comrades wonder if the moon is full this evening.

Phase the Fourth:  Durkar.
As usual, you will find that Durkar is presaged by his warm-up act.  However, similar to Urcheron and unlike Carchrien, you should find that the mooks will be dust underfoot by the time Durkar arrives.

Whilst Durkar seems most physically imposing, the poor chap is possibly the easiest to defeat.  With a good enough tank, he isn’t even particularly harsh when it comes to healing requirements or power usage.  This may well be a trap; the temptation to “speed things up a bit” by using war speech is high, but will leave you with very little power all to quickly.

Due to the nature of Durkar’s attack, you will be pleased to note that it is possible to stand next to a pillar for the duration of the combat.  It is a lovely pillar, and nicely patterned.  Try and avoid wearing green, though, as you may find yourself clashing against it.

Durkar appears to throw out some Area Of Effect damage as part of his normal attacks, so should be tanked a short distance away from your pillar.  During his special attack, he will run from wherever he is being tanked to the centre of the auditorium, and perform what can only be called; “a boogie”.  At the culmination of this “boogie”, preset lines of force will shoot along the ground.

You should, however, be safe at your pillar.

As is the way with such fights, patience and professionalism are the key.

Phase the Fifth:  The Divvy.
Should you be victorious, you will find that the Nazgul will fly off in a huff, and your fellowship is left in the auditorium with three chests.

There is no warm-up act per se, but you might wish to initiate some cheering and congratulations to your comrades (even if they do not necessarily deserve it.  This is not the time to be churlish).  After that, looting the chests is your final challenge.  Whichever method of distribution your fellowship settles on, do not forget to loot each chest, as there is a lovely, shiny Medallion in each one for a total of three medallions for each member of the fellowship.


You are not the damage.

In a six person instance, your lack of damaging abilities will not be readily apparent to any other member of the group.  After all, there will most likely be at least two members of the group who are playing high damage output characters.
In a three person instance, your lack of damage will become obvious.  This is not to say that you will be an inhibitor of success, but that your talents lie elsewhere.  Remember this, and that the fights will take a little longer.

Yours is a slower, but surer route.

Conserve your power.
Power is healing.  Healing is power.  It is a simple mantra, but one worth repeating at every opportunity.  The Sword Halls is, at times, about weathering the slings and arrows directed at your power.  There are long fights, with little opportunity to replenish your power, and the chances are slim that there will be a Burglar there for handy power-replenishing conjunctions, or a Lore-master with their power-providing goodness.

Fellowship’s Heart.
It is a good idea to keep Fellowship’s Heart handy, for those moments where you need a large amount of healing to all the members of your fellowship.  I have found it to be of use against Urcheron and Carchrien, but so far have not needed it against Durkar.  So if in doubt, use it earlier rather than later.  It will also make you look big and clever.


Bad Hawley’s How To Hael Primer

January 15, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Posted in General | 5 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Prompted by Spinks’ claims that she Can’t Heal Stupidity and Syp’s further breaking of the Healer Mafia Code of Silence, *M*M*O*S*H* is proud to present:

Bad Hawley’s How To Hael Primer

There’s a lot of talk about healing in MMOs on the intarnet, but most of it deals with the crunchy stuff.  What class to take, what talents to spec, what gear to get, and what numbers you need to aim for in order to get to where you want to be.

The best thing about that information is that because it’s out there, I don’t have to learn scary maths to figure out what it all means.  Besides, crunchy stuff isn’t what Bad Hawley’s How To Hael Primer is about.  This is about the social aspect of being a healer, the arcane art of which can take a lifetime to master.

These are the collected insights of a jaded, bitter and slightly effete old man, who really should find another hobby…

You are the drummer.

Apparently, the drummer is the butt of all band-related jokes.  One day soon there will be MMO-related gags, at which point we’ll get “How many healers does it take to change a lightbulb?” and sundry other commentaries which we shall file under “Humour”.  Whilst wearing a fixed smile.

Yes, *YOU* are the drummer.  The Tank is the front-man, shouting for everyone to follow his lead.  DPS are the guitarists, twanging away with as much noise as they can.  You’re the guy at the back that no-one really notices, but without you to provide the the beat, they’re just making a raucous cacophony.

You may feel that this is an unfair analogy, but, in the words of the Great Philosopher; “Sucks to be you, don’t it?”  Get used to it, because you’ll never get recognition for what you do, you’ll just get shouted at for getting it wrong.  And most likely called a “Thicky”, or something similar.

Drummers, we Healers salute you as brothers.  And sisters.

It’s not a lifestyle choice.
You are not Doctor Kildare.  (Younger readers may wish to substitute; “You are not George Clooney’s character in that ER programme” for “You are not Doctor Kildare”).  Your leet healing skillz are not going to help you alleviate world suffering, they will not bring succour to the needy, and they are most certainly not going to find the cure for cancer.

Feel free to remind the rest of the group of this fact, if they seem to forget it because they want to go instancing, and they “just  need a healer”.  Just like they’re not psychotic axe murderers, you are not a living saint.  This means you can choose to do other things than be at their beck and call whenever their oh-so-special armour isn’t enough to keep them alive.  Playing hard to get will make them appreciate you for whom you are.

After all, be easy, and no-one will respect you.  They won’t even call in the morning.  “Just need a healer” indeed!

Managing aggro.
Sometimes, you’ll be healing, sometimes you’ll be watching as a monsty that’s three times your size attempts to turn you into so much jam.

Yes, you shall have drawn aggro.  Usually this comes from two situations.

Firstly, you’ve managed to pour so much healing into the tank that you’ve managed to gain more aggro than he has.  Take a moment to reflect on how cool your skill at healing is, and hopefully in that time the tank will have regained the attention of afore-mentioned beastie.  Before someone has to scoop you into a Jar marked “Raspberry”.

Second is a poorly-timed Add.  Always be aware that *all* Adds hide in the shadows (usually stood next to a ninja), and only decide to join in the fight as you’re firing off that lovely group heal.  Yes, the one that makes you look really cool, and heals everyone for a bajillion hit points.

You might be wondering how best to deal with this.  You might find that your command of language might well diminish to the point where only one word is still in your vocabulary.  Do not follow the advice of Mr Amygdala.  “Flee” is a bad word in this situation (anyone who thought that one word was not “Flee”, but was a rude and bad word is naughty, and should probably not play a healer).

Think about how you got into your current situation (face full of monsty), and think about why it’s just not your fault (tank/add).  Now, you need to ensure that the situation does not deteriorate.  And it will, if you are not careful.  If it does, it *is* your fault, dear reader.

Point the First: Do not move.  If you move, the tank cannot do his job, and get the monsty back into its rightful place; hitting them, not you.  Forming a conga-line of pain does not impress anyone.  So don’t do it.  Stand still, take your lumps, emerge a stronger individual.  If you *must* move, move slowly towards the tank, taking the monsty with you.

Point the Second: Alert your team to the fact that you are taking the pain.  This is not the time for rudeness, as a little forethought can pay dividends: A macro wherein your character states, for example; “Ouch!  Ow!  Oooh!  The pain stops me from healing you all!” is only a click away in the heat of the moment.  If you are using some form of voice communication, always use a calm tone, and express yourself clearly; Mr Mumbly will not get his message across.  Do not forget to state the name of your character.  “Hawley getting ouchy” is such an example, and has been used to good effect a number of times.  Pro tip: You might want to exchange the name “Hawley” for one that pertains to your character.

Point the Third: Do not heal yourself.  Every self-heal adds to the trouble the tank will have in peeling that monsty off you.  Just like a plaster, it hurts less if they can rip it off you quickly.  Remember, self-healing is what Healing Potions are for.  If you feel the need to do something, try using one of the aggro-reducing abilities you have been provided with.  Or whistle.  One should only self heal if the alternative is taking an early dirt-nap.

If there is a second healer in the group, they should be looking to heal you in your moment of need.  Just as you should heal them in their moment of need.  In these situations, being clever is better than panicking, and running around.  That works for chickens.  It will not work for you.

Remember, panic instills panic.  A true healer sails through the carnage as a stately ship does the ocean calm.  Or the nearest thing to it.

Aversion Therapy.
Sometimes, a member of the group may not be fully au fait with the aggro mechanic of their chosen game.  This is usually a lack of knowledge, and one that is easily remedied with a few short instructions.

Some players, however, are wilfully ignorant, and will have decided that their quest for ever higher damage numbers is more important than any “mere” method for determining whom should take lots of pain.

Do not think of these people as “Fellow Players”.  Think of them as “Assassin!” because all they wish to do is kill you.

It is simple.  They draw aggro from the tank, because they care only about their positioning in some pedestrian thing called a DPS Meter.  As they have drawn aggro, they are taking damage, and you must heal them.  As you heal them, you are drawing aggro, until the point when you are, inevitably, drawing aggro.

Then the monster comes and turns you into jam.

Do not become the jam.

Denial of healing is one popularly ascribed method for dealing with such assassins, but this will make you out to be “an jerk”.  The idea here is not to survive the encounter, but to ensure that the assassin is changed in his ways.  And no-one ever takes the advice of “an jerk”.

Aversion Therapy is the answer.  I should recommend starting at 25%.  This means that when the assassin has lost 25% health, you should heal him.  And not before.  25% is enough for them to know that they have taken some pain, and that they should do something (that is not take more pain) about it.  If they do not do something about it, raise the level to 50%.

Usually, a comment will be made by the assassin at that point.  Remind them of the machinations of the Aggro Mechanic, and that you would rather devote your energies to keeping the tank alive.  At this point the assassin should realise that you shall not fall for their wily attempts to turn you into jam.  If they continue in their nefarious ways, raise the level to 75%.

After that, let them burn.  You did your best, and not all souls are for saving.  Some must be examples for the rest.

Talking in class.
Sometimes, instruction will be required.  Usually the raid or group leader shall tell everyone what they should do in the forthcoming set-piece battle, and they shall do so in their best stentorian tones.

It is not particularly required that you be aware of the smallest minutae of each boss fight of each instance and raid in your chosen MMO.  No.  Only a madman would wish to know such a vast and bewildering amount of knowledge.

It is merely enough to know where you should stand, and who and what you should be healing.  For this, your fellow healers will have a better idea than the group or raid leader.  Talk to them; that is what private channels are for.

Make friends with your fellow healers.  They are not your competition, they are brothers and sisters in your struggle against the lemming-like nature of the rest of the group.  Chat to them, swap favoured recipes, and inform them of your favourite chocolate.  These are the things that will see you through the bad times, and these are the people who will keep you standing in the bad aggro times.

Love your Pillar.
At many times in your healing career, you will ask where you need to stand in order to fulfil your healing obligations.  “Over there”, someone will tell you, handily forgetting that the ability to point is of particular use in such a situation.

“Where?” may well be your request for clarification.

“There, by the pillar”, will be the clarifying statement.

Do not feel that being sent to the pillar is an obscure punishment, or that you are not cool enough to stand with everyone else in their rabble at the front.  The pillar is *yours*.  No-one else gets a pillar.

Get used to your pillar.  Learn to love it.  It is, after all, yours.  When that archer Add decides to turn you into a coat-rack or similar receptacle for their arrows, you can use your pillar as cover.  If someone must come to you and they are unsure of where you are due to a confused melee, “By the pillar” is a highly useful set of directions.

The pillar is your friend.  Love your pillar.

Lag is your co-pilot.
You may well notice, if you have attended sporting events as a spectator, that in a team sport, the “Last Man” will usually end up on the floor when the other team has scored a point.  The goalkeeper in Football (or “Soccer”, as colonials usually refer to it), the last tackler in a game of Rugby or American Football, all end up prone upon the floor whilst their comrades look dejected, and their opponents celebrate.

This is because they have just failed.  However, rather than look as if they are slackers, they have elected to fall upon the ground, in the hope that someone will think they are injured, and give them sympathy.  “You did your best”, and other appropriate platitudes.

MMO players will want someone to blame when their character dies.  Their first port of call will be you.  Yes, you.  They will not care that you have carried them through the last 3 encounters, that you have kept all of the group bar them alive through that fight.  No, they will want their pound of *your* flesh.  And then an abject apology, and then to send you the bill for their repair costs.

Stop them, and with ultimate force.

/say Lag.

That is all.  Preempt their unfair moaning, if possible.  In an inhospitable group, you might want to prime them with the question:

/say Is anyone else getting random, weird lag today?

It’s all in the timing.
It’s not enough to know what to cast when healing, but also when to cast.  If it’s a big heal, it will usually have a long induction time.  Start casting it early, especially if the tank is about to take a lot of pain for an extended amount of time.  A long induction can always be cancelled, even at the last minute, so you have nothing to lose by starting to cast early.

Be aware that sometimes you’ll need to spam the same heal again and again.  Get used to the rhythm required to cast it as fast as possible; you’ll need it.

Similarly, if your MMO of choice allows it, have the next healing target ready to go as soon as your last heal has cast.  Shaving off seconds, and parts of seconds, can be the difference between success and failure.

Triage.  It’s not just a place in Bermuda where ships disappear.

At times it will all go wrong.  This is a good thing, as this will remind everyone else in the group of how useful you are, and how they would all be jam were it not for your skilful play, and delightful presence.

When it goes wrong, someone will need to decide who lives, and who gets scooped up into the jar marked “Raspberry”.

That someone is you.

First of all, protect yourself.  Without you, everyone else dies.  Unless you have figured out a way to continue healing whilst smeared all over the floor.

Secondly, protect your tank.  Yes, your tank.  He keeps you alive, you keep him alive.  By extension, the two of you will keep everyone else alive.

Thirdly, keep any other healers alive.  Their backup healing will help you in your moment of glory.

Fourthly, keep the fellow players who are your friends alive.  They are your friends, after all.

Anyone else, and that usually means that annoying bloke who plays the ranged dps, may die.  Tanks and healers can finish a fight really slowly, so dps get to be the bottom of the triage pile.  Sucks to be them, don’t it?

Be.  Ruthless.

Do not let the gnashing and wailing of dps players distract you from your mission.  The group is about more than them.  In these moments, it’s your ruthlessness that will save everyone.  So save them now, rez the dps later.

You are the hammer that knocks the nail in.
Never forget that you are the one that keeps everyone else standing.  Never be afraid to let your group know that.  It is by your actions that victory is won, and by theirs that it is lost.

Take that attitude with you; that attitude is what separates us from the monsties, after all is said and done.


Random musings and ponderings

January 14, 2010 at 7:06 am | Posted in General | 3 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

I’ve had a couple of ponders over the last couple of days, regarding the nature of MMO gaming, and whilst there is absolutely no common thread to this post, it’s currently the way my brain is working…  Enjoy the ramble for what it is…

A friend pointed me in the direction of Evemon the other night, and I am slowly trying to get my head around it.  It seems an invaluable aid to figuring out what you need to do in order to do the thing you want, with a minimum of pain and hassle.

It made me wonder, because it was the first step towards meta-gaming in Eve Online.  I don’t mean meta-gaming in its rather perjorative “lie blatantly to everyone, especially your mates” way, but using outside resources to help me in game.  And whilst I’ve done that in the past with things such as Carbonite Quest and hunting through WowHead whilst playing World of Warcraft, this feels like a real step up.

For a start, using a quest helper and a website to find easy and quick ways of completing a quest is one thing; this is recommending a route through character advancement to a specific end.  It feels like the difference between getting a self-help book out of the library, and hiring a lifestyle guru.

I’m not knocking it; it’s a sizeable and impressive piece of work, and it shines a powerful light into the impenetrable-seeming skill and equipment tangle that is one of Eve Online’s wonderful and glorious strengths.  Once you can learn to find your way through it, that is.

I’ve also been playing some Left 4 Dead 2.  Now it’s not an MMO, so I don’t want to talk about it overmuch, but it does make me wonder about what it does, when compared to MMO gaming.

Left 4 Dead 2 (or L4D2, as all the cool kids are calling it) has a movie-styled storyline, through various campaigns that are themed by their environs.  Each campaign is made up of shorter journeys, from one safe house to another.  Studded around these journeys are specific set-piece events, which make the game more than just killing zombies to while away the journey from Safe-House A to Safe-House B.

I’m pretty sure that you’ve seen the connection between Left 4 Dead 2 and MMO gaming.  Yes, it’s instanced dungeons, on the simplest scale.

There’s no gating, no equipment requirements, and the gameplay doesn’t require anyone to dance the hokey-cokey, or similar arcane shenanigans in order to succeed.

It even does away with classes.  It appears that in the world of the apocalypse, all toons are equal.

It has distilled grouped instancing to the core elements; a lobby area to assemble, a method of selecting the instance of choice, and then off you go, managing your resources as you strive to overcome the challenges in the instance.

There may not be the standard boss fight, but there are enough set pieces and special zombie types to make a definate climax to sequences of action, and especially to the end of a compaign.

Is this one way that MMOs might develop?  If the persistent world gets in the way of casual play, then get rid of it…  The lobby/action style of play allows us to play whatever we want, without having to worry about any sort of time delay.  And the episodic nature means we can drop in and out, where we want to or need to.  The choice to not have “bound” equipment or character classes allows entry to any of the instances, with neither gear snobbery nor gating.  And you’ll never have to wait for the healer…

It’s extreme, and it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but could games go there?  DnD Online went some of the way, and I don’t know enough about Guild Wars but I believe that it too has some similar system.  And yes, Left 4 Dead 2 is a first person shooter, but it would be easy enough to have some non-level-based system of combat skills to replace the first persons shootiness.

And from instances, to raids..?


Stuff I have learned (since the end of the world)

January 9, 2010 at 10:20 am | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Syp posted some really useful advice for starting Fallen Earthers, and seeing as I’m such a slacker, I thought I’d copy him and throw my own advice out.  It’s ok, he’s my Fallen Earth Ennabler…

Rather than come up with hard and fast numbers and suchlike (because places such as GlobalTech Atlas have already come up with far better crunchy advice than I’ll ever be able to) I thought I’d go for more of an approach style of advice.

First and foremost: Take your time.
As MMOs get older, they seem to create an aura, a belief, that “The Game Only Starts At 60”.  I say 60, because that’s what the oft repeated phrase was in Everquest when I started playing.  And of course, it became the phrase in World of Warcraft before The Burning Crusade, when suddenly “”The Game Only Starts At 70”.  Every game has that accusation levelled at it, and every game will.
I’m sure there are many reasons for it, but it seems that more and more, levelling is seen as something to race through to get to the much vaunted “End Game”.
Games don’t *have* to be like that, and Fallen Earth is proof.
There’s a lot to learn, and if you’re willing to put that time in, then you’ll have a ball.

I’m going to compare with World of Warcraft here.  Not because I think World of Warcraft is Bad And Wrong™, but because it’s a frame of reference that is common to most MMO players.

In World of Warcraft, fabulously established as it is, there are plenty of systems designed to help a player level as fast as possible.  Savagely carving up the xp requirement, the weird and arcane thing of gifting levels to a mate, to things like the random dungeon match-maker allow players to level up really, really fast.

This isn’t a bad thing; Blizzard want to allow players to get involved in “The Fun”, and that usually means “The Latest Expansion”.  Plus, no-one wants to spend time gaming by themselves in a ghost zone.  It’s also good for alt players like me, so I’m not complaining.

In Fallen Earth you get a fancy, polished, instance-tutorial where you get to find out a little of what’s going on, and you get to start your characters story.  Then you get out of your own little instance and into the world, where there’s a less polished, less action-movie oriented tutorial, where you get more of an idea of what it will be like to play the game.

Then, you’re on your own.  And it’s a pretty steep learning curve, if you decide to have a go at everything.  What got me through is a lot of experimentation, sitting and reading tool-tips, and keeping one eye on the Help channel.  And I feel better for it; I’m still no expert, but it was so rewarding.  And I’ve not powered my way through levels; if anything, they’ve popped up when I’ve least expected them, and I feel like I’m being awarded levels for learning stuff.

Sector 1 isn’t a ghost zone yet, so there’s plenty of company, and plenty to do.  And plenty of time before everyone else is level 45 and laughing at me for being such a slow leveller.

Have a go at everything.
Go on, have a go at everything.  There’s crafting of so many different types, shooting, beating stuff up, missions, gambling, resource gathering, and so much wonderful exploration that to limit yourself to just one thing seems crazy.  So have a go at it all, see what you enjoy, and keep doing it.  If you don’t like something, don’t do it.  You’ll find that someone else does, and you can play swapsies for what you need.

It’s part of taking your time, but I felt it deserved it’s own bit.  So far, I’ve been levelling all my crafting skills, picking up 90% of what I walk near (and sometimes divert to) and running missions for cash and giggles.  I’ve been using pistols and melee weapons, raising my armour skills (as much for fashion reasons as anything else) and moving through the world.

Guns for show, knives for a pro.
Yay, one of the classic quotes there.  I use pistols, because I am most certainly not a pro.  Combat is something that most MMO players aren’t used to, which is an FPS interface where the game works out, by rolling it’s little electronic dice, whether you’ve hit what your targeting reticle is over, and how much damage you’ve done.  It’s not my favourite style of combat, and I wasn’t a huge fan of it in Deus Ex (which is what it reminds me of most) but hey, it could be worse.  A lot worse.
Melee weapons are great for saving cash, but also for saving your butt when you’re out in the wilds, and you hear that “dead man’s click” signalling the end of your ammo.  They’re also kind of fun and funky to carry around; carrying a not-Stanley knife around really made me giggle in the worst sort of way…  Right now I have a meat hook and a crowbar…

Find out what you want to concentrate on by using all the starter weapons you get provided with.  Not only have Icarus been generous in the supply, but they’re generous with the ammunition too.  Try them all, find out what you like.

Don’t be afraid to spend Action Points.
I think I was level 3 when I finally realised that there was no point in hoarding my Action Points, and that thoughts of a Min-Max character were pretty silly.  I don’t know the game well enough to Min-Max the points, but the fact that there are no respecs doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ll spend them all wrong.

I have a vision of what I want my character to do.  So I’ll spend points that help that vision, and also allow me to do anything cool that I like.  And rather than spend my playing time constantly fretting that I’ve spent points in the wrong places, I shall spend them and have fun with the skills and abilities I do have.

By all means, use the character creator on GlobalTech Atlas, I highly recommend it.  But don’t worry that you’ll have a naff character, as I’m pretty sure they’ll ALL be valid.  It seems to be that sort of game.

Plus, my character is growing organically as he’s moving around the world and discovering more and more of it, and that is just so cool!  Rather than follow a pre-determined path, he’s following his own, and that’s just one of Fallen Earth’s many attractions.

This is a game that rewards the inquisitive, the curious and the patient, and that’s such a breath of fresh air after games that just want us to rush through content to get to “the end”.


Still overdue at the library…

January 8, 2010 at 8:13 am | Posted in General | 3 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Books.  Yes, we’re back to Minstrel Hawley’s epic saga of Epic Book quest completion.

Or lack of completion.

I’m level 64 and a bit.  I’d promised myself that at level 63 I would go back to Annuminuminuminuminas and complete Volume 1 Book 10.  Did I?  Hmm.  No. 

At level 63 many fine and exciting things appeared, and their seductive siren call meant that I only started feeling guilty again about the books when I hit level 64.  There are many reasons for this, but what is most likely the main reason is that I keep running away from the Book quests towards *anything* else because I’ve made them feel like a chore.

Yes, I feel like I need to grind books, rather than enjoy them.  There are very few that are mandatory for advancement through the game, and they’re only useful if you’re at the right level for the content, and I’m not even a completionist.  But somehow, I’ve decided I have to do them all, and in order.  I can be such a muppet.

Well, I was at a bit of a loose end.  I didn’t fancy skirmishing (too much of a good thing can be too much of a good thing, after all) and I was out of relaxing quests in Mirkwood.  So with my guilty conscience tapping away, I cleared the decks and went into Annuminuminuminuminas.

I’d had problems soloing Book 10 previous to the release of Siege of Mirkwood.  Largely this was due to wandering around Annuminuminuminuminas, as whilst they were all grey to me, I’ve always found that elites seem to want to eat Minstrel Hawley’s liver, no matter how grey they were.  And with the place being stuffed full of elite mobs all hungry for a slice of Fabulous Minstrel-steak, I’d die quite often there.

Add to the fact my complete ineptitude when it comes to attempting to solo anything above a champion mob (no matter the difference in levels.  I think it’s summoned adds that do me in worst) and I really am capable of finding *anything* to do other than Book quests.  Including the washing up.

One of Siege of Mirkwood’s many plus points was allowing the possibility of soloing the Volume 1 series of Epic Book quests.  This really does help me in my ocd inspired quest to complete the books, because not having to rely on other people means that I can get them done when I feel like doing them.

Now, I use the term “rely on other people”, but I’m not actually using it in the negative way that it might at first mean.  Me trying to complete group quests for something that most people did two expansions ago means dragging them away from the fun new stuff and into very old content.  There’s no gain for them, so it’s unfair of me to call on them.  I feel guilty for drawing them away from the fun.

Now, that’s no longer necessary.  So the push is on.



One of life’s constants.

January 7, 2010 at 9:17 am | Posted in General | 7 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

I got podded in Eve Online.

It was pure hubris.  I was running part of a nice mission chain, got a bit too complacent with some respawning ‘rats, and with only half an eye on the game I got my poor frigate’s armour chewed through in no time, and was floating home in Mork’s favourite ride.

It was the first time I’d been podded since I came back to Eve Online, and it was surprisingly affecting.

It was knowing that I’d have to replace both fittings and ship, as well as the fact that the mission I was on had a specific item, so I’d have to cancel the mission and retake it to continue.  Floating home in a badly lit egg is also really, really slow.  I swore a bit.  And when I say “a bit”, you might want to put “a lot” there.

So there was financial cost, time cost, and status cost.

It was more than just respawning at a graveyard, and then going on a corpse run, or hitting the repair button when weapons and armour start falling apart.

And that got me to thinking.  Eve Online’s death penalties are quite harsh for modern MMO gaming; the time it takes for a new player to put together all the ship fittings can be quite long, and the financial cost can be offset heavily with insurance, but as Eve’s method of PvP warfare is based on an economic footing, those costs will grind you down.

But are death penalties in other games worth it?

Old fart moment; There was nothing worse in Everquest than to level up, and then promptly die.  Not only did you res completely nekkid, forcing you to run the gauntlet of every mob in the zone before getting to loot your own corpse (which wasn’t a waypoint, as there was no map)  for your own equipment, but you lost xp.  So you could quite easily de-level.  And being nekkid just meant it was easier to get dedded again.

Of course, harsh though it was (especially with it being a levelling grind, as opposed to the easy levelling we have today) it made you care about dying.

Since then, death penalties seem to have lessened and lessened until it is just a time based penalty (running back to where you were questing) and a token financial cost (repair of gear).

And in PvP, you don’t even get those costs.  With most of the PvP I see nowadays being based in specific areas, there’s a minimal journey back to the action, and no gear degradation.

This, as much as anything else, makes a game easier.  Not having to keep three sets of spare gear in your bank for corpse runs (because sometimes the first two corpse runs got you ganked by the denizens of the zone), not having to worry about dropping a level because of the corpse runs, and not having to spend an hour combing the zone for your corpse really makes a game a lot more casual.

It’s got to the point where committing suicide is part of early-level fast travelling back to a quest hub.  Now if that’s not proof of death no longer having a penalty, then nothing is.

But then again, should there be a penalty for death?  After all, there’s no point arguing for heavier or lighter penalties if they’re not wanted at all.

I’m all for meaningful death penalties, but the emphasis is on the “meaningful”.

PvP means so much more in Eve Online because it has a direct influence on the world.  The economic penalties are more than just a hit against a wallet; they are a direct and valid means of waging war.  Wars in Eve are lost by those who run out of cash first.  No cash, no ship, no war.  It’s a fantastic way of determining who has won.

Could that work in other games?  Well, World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online would feel less like games of Tig between monsters, and more like wars if they actually had an opportunity to have winners and losers.  If dying meant more than just getting less points, then maybe PvP would be more of an experience?

Warhammer Online had a fantastic concept; keep dying, and the other side get to loot your big city.  It’s just a shame that it never quite took off in the way it was supposed to.



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