Friday, 21 April 2017

Drawing diary: March

Star Wars: the Old Republic launched a new update (including a long expected new operation boss) and Lord of the Rings Online started off its tenth anniversary event this week, so what am I going to write about? Neither, apparently. I have plenty to say about SWTOR's 5.2, but I want to take the time to write it all down. You can expect a post early next week, and of course I'll talk about it on Corellian Run Radio Saturday. With all that's happening, I still need to set foot in LOTRO to try out the anniversary event, but that should happen somewhere next week as well.

Meanwhile, my drawing diary of March is way overdue, so I'll write that instead. I usually try to write these entries at the start of the month, but back then the Developer Appreciation Week (DAW) took up all of my time. I also may just have put this diary off because there was so much to scan. I made so much!

Friday, 14 April 2017

Fashion Friday: Egg hunter's outfit

It's Easter this weekend, and I'm already looking forward to our egg hunt. Okay, okay, I'm grown up... but what's wrong with some fun? I've been looking for eggs with my family since I was old enough to identify one, so it's a nostalgia thing for me. Also, if I'd be a hobbit I'd still be a tween, so... totally legit.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

DAW 2017 wrap up

It's been a few days since the eighth annual Developer Appreciation Week (DAW) ended, so it's time for the wrap up post!

This year, a total of nine different blogs participated, writing a stunning total of 22 dev appreciating posts! The devs of the MMO Star Wars: the Old Republic (SWTOR) had the most dedicated to them, with three entries. Others receiving multiple messages of commendation were the LOTRO dev team, Daybreak Game Company and Concerned Ape of Stardew Valley. New this year were players thanking devs on Twitter with the hashtag #DAW8, spreading some extra dev positivity.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Managing a ten year old MMO: thumbs up to the LOTRO devs

I've never written so much for Developer Appreciation Week (DAW) before: one post a day. I don't know, I think I just finally found the right format for this thing. When I thought of developers to thank beforehand, I came up with eight, more than I had time for! So I'm saving one for next year (which one will have to stay a secret a bit longer).

Note that this is the last day of DAW 2017, a bonus day (as I was late with the announcement post). I will write a wrap up post with everyone's contributions later this week. If you are too curious to wait until then, you can already check some out in the comment section of the introduction post or on Twitter.

This last DAW entry is dedicated to the developers of Lord of the Rings Online. I know, I've featured them in previous years (read To the people making the sun go up and The things I love about LOTRO), but if you read my DAW 2017 introduction post...
"Have you ever been so critical about a game that you read back that post later and gasped? As in, you start wondering if any dev addressed would jump off a cliff after reading it?"
Well, let's just keep it at that I have opinionated LOTRO posts that would qualify.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Love for the SWTOR Stream Dream Team

Yesterday, a SWTOR developer stream reminded me of the need for a Developer Appreciation Week once again. For those who don't know: Star Wars: the Old Republic is about to release a major update (5.2) coming Tuesday, adding an operation boss after two years without a new raid. I was expecting news about that and indeed we did, but the team also revealed another cool new feature coming with 5.2: a renewed galaxy map. Right now, you can only access the galaxy map when you're on your ship. But with 5.2 you can use it from everywhere to travel, as long as you've unlocked a legacy perk. The map also looks very slick now and it is easier to locate planets. I was really happy with this quality of life addition.

However, Twitch chat wouldn't be Twitch chat if people would use it to complain. When Eric and Charles said they were working on tweaking class balance but it was delayed, people felt the need to complain about one dev working on class balance being on maternity leave. At this point, the developers felt obliged to state that no, there was not just one dev working on class balance, it was a team effort; they had just mentioned the maternity leave on other media to congratulate their collegue.

Friday, 7 April 2017

All the feels of Life Is Strange: how a video game helped me cope with life

So this is another post in which I come out as a lover of non MMOs. This one is dedicated to Dontnod Entertainment, the French game studio that developed Life Is Strange.

There are many praising words about originality and beauty that befit Life Is Strange. But for me, the game stands out because it helped me through a difficult period of my life. I've been meaning to write about it for a while now, but never managed because it's an emotional thing (although I did mention the game in my Steam Awards article). It's now more than a year since I played, so I will give it a try.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Standing firm in the wake of progress: a tribute to Standing Stone Games

Somewhere during the course of 2016, news reached me that Turbine was transitioning into a 'mobile game studio'. For us, the fans, this came out of nowhere and didn't make much sense: after all, thusfar the studio had been working on MMOs. It sounded ominous for the many Turbine developers that were working on MMOs such as the one I've been playing for almost ten years now: Lord of the Rings Online. After the short announcement, things went on as usual and the worried feeling retreated into the back of my mind.

Fast forward a couple of months (December 2016) and we hear that the developers that worked on LOTRO and Dungeons and Dragons Online for Turbine are starting their own 'indie game studio': Standing Stone Games. The gaming community is blindsided: nobody saw this coming. Some people preach doom and gloom, others regard it as a liberation from the shackles of the 'evil' corporate Turbine. Myself? Somewhere in the middle. I don't believe Turbine is evil; that's a product of gamers having the tendency to blame unpopular decisions on corporate greed.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The heart and soul of Stardew Valley

As this year's DAW initiator, it's about time to post a developer appreciating post of my own. Seriously, mere hours after I posted the DAW announcement, people had already written and published their contributions. Some people are even writing one DAW post a day. Teach me, senpai!

Meanwhile, I am having start up problems with this post. Which all by itself already proves I don't do this enough. (Serenading developers, I mean.) Gotta up that blogging APM! I may have to settle for less perfectly balanced pieces of art and just hit that publish button. And I should definitely spend less time contemplating whether this or that dev needs my appreciation more. I'm just gonna hug them all.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Developer Appreciation Week 2017

Have you ever been so critical about a game that you read back that post later and gasped? As in, you start wondering if any dev addressed would jump off a cliff after reading it? Fear not, this week you have the chance to atone for your sins, for it is Developer Appreciation Week!

Developer what?! Yes, you read it right, dev appreciation week. This week you're going to lay down that pitchfork and dig up the lyre to go serenade some devs. Or at least I hope you do, after you've read this post.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Fashion Friday: Herald of the moon moth

It's been a while since I posted an in-game outfit. "Fashion Friday" I used to call these posts, as there isn't always a 5 Fandom Friday topic that fits my blog and it is nice to have something relaxing going on the last day for the working week. I'll take the occasion to pick up where I left and share my latest spring look in Lord of the Rings Online.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Favourite SWTOR droids

It's Friday, so sit back and enjoy another blog post for 5 Fandom Friday! This week's topic was actually submitted by me, because there are just so many awesome neglected droids out there asking for our attention. In this blog post, we're going into space to look at my five favourite droids from the MMO Star Wars: the Old Republic (SWTOR). But if that's not your cup of tea: fear not, because I'll be sharing my five favourite non-SWTOR droids at the end in a bonus paragraph. Just make sure to only watch the videos if you've already played SWTOR or don't care about being spoiled.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

When MMO love is complicated. The ambiguous relationship of a seasoned raider with LOTRO

I have an ambiguous relationship with Lord of the Rings Online: I seem to be part of an eternal cycle of embracing and rejecting the game. On the one hand, virtual Middle Earth calls to me, always. I love immersing myself in its gorgeous landscapes and if there's something new, I want to check it out. On the other hand, it's hard for me (as a seasoned MMO progression raider) to ignore fundamental flaws in its combat system. For reasons already stated elsewhere, the gameplay simply isn't what it used to be.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Green inspired screenshots from virtual Middle-earth

The Shire

It's Five Fandom Friday, and that means another geeky post! This week's topic was the Green Photo Challenge, and the participants were stimulated to share 5 green inspired photos in honour of St. Patrick's Day. In what is by now Ravalation tradition, I decided to go with screenshots instead, and Lord of the Rings Online was the first game that came to my mind.

LOTRO is my go-to game when I want to immerse myself in beautiful landscapes. Even though it's a pretty old MMO by now that has been overtaken graphics wise by new games, there's something about its landscapes that makes it feel more lively and 'real' than any game world I've visited. Perhaps it's the beautiful skies and weather mechanics. Or I'm just biased because I'm a huge Tolkien fan. Either way, here are five pretty green screenies from virtual Middle-earth.

Monday, 13 March 2017

The solution to command crate schematic OCD

Disintegrate all the things!*

I have a confession to make: I suffer from command crate OCD. You know those schematics that drop from command crates? Well, I want to collect them all. And because they typically drop on a character with a different crafting profession that they're meant for, I kept logging over and over to check my alts before I decided to claim or disintegrate them. It was starting to drive me crazy.

I was probably in the process of complaining about it when Conrad showed me a spreadsheet he made of all the armor schematics that drop from command crates. It was brilliant! I quickly got to work and added tabs for cybernetics, relics and weapons, so the document truly covered all schematics that can drop from the crates. Then I filled it with X's of the schematics I already had and pinned the document to my taskbar. No more relogging to alts when opening command crates!

I'm sharing the empty file here with you, just in the off chance that you suffer from command crate OCD as well and want to make your life easier.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Drawing diary: February

This Drawing diary is not what you're used to: I decided to try something different and did some abstract painting. So you've been warned!

It all started when I stumbled upon Tara Leaver's post How to make a simple abstractified painting. In it was an extremely helpful video that showed how Tara sets up her abstract paintings. I loved this. It happens quite often that I see an artist post something cool and inspiring and I just don't get how they did it. Seeing someone actually go through the whole process is priceless.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Three months of Galactic Command from the perspective of an endgame raider

It's been over three months since the highly controversial Galactic Command system was introduced to Star Wars: the Old Republic. When it was first announced, I thought I could live with a bit more grind in the game (SWTOR was very light on grind compared to any MMO I've played) and I could see how it would benefit a larger part of the populace (namely it would give people who don't raid the chance to get gear). It was also hard to imagine how much grind there would actually be. So even though it was clear to me that Galactic Command would be a step back for me personally (as an endgame raider), I gave the system the benefit of the doubt. I was wrong.

Monday, 6 March 2017

LOTRO housing updates: a review

Lord of the Rings Online received two updates to player housing in 2016. A few weeks ago, February 2017, it received a third. I didn't write about the changes to the housing system before, but they're quite good and much celebrated in the community. So it's about time for a full review.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Geeky expressions only my friends understand (and now you will, too)

For most these will just be some random words, 
but members of Asylum will recognize them immediately

The latest 5 Fandom Friday was about "geeky expressions that only my friends understand". I suggested the topic myself, so I definitely wanted to participate, even if the flu kept me from writing anything on the appropriate day (last Friday). 

I don't really talk "geeky" in everyday life, but when I'm at my gaming laptop, I definitely do. Not only am I fluent in "MMO language" (read: Lost in translation: Why my friends don't understand me when I talk about MMOs), I also use specific phrases that don't make a lot of sense to anyone (not even other MMO players) but my friends. 

Monday, 20 February 2017

The power of memories: a quest for the essence of MMOs

 Last week, I was chatting to my friend Rakuno. He was reminiscing why he was going through this "long, weird streak of burning out on MMOs": "after playing MMOs for a while it kind of feels like the road is the same no matter the game", he said. And he has a point. Other than artistic, visual differences and varying lore settings, all MMOs boil down to the same formula: gather experience (level up), gather gear, gather currency... maybe fight some challenging bosses, craft stuff, dress up or decorate your house. There is no definite end goal, no satisfying "You WIN!" button at the end; in fact, there is no end, there are seemingly always more things to do. Indeed, MMOs would be shitty, grindy RPGs, if not for that single defining element: the other people with whom you share this virtual world.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Drawing diary: January

After finally having finished my new year's card design I didn't have to think about what my next drawing project would be, because Kay of My Open Sketchbook had it all covered. Kay namely came up with a 30 Day botanical drawing challenge, and because I love plants, the decision to participate was easily made.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Artificial versus designed difficulty: a critique on SWTOR's master mode story design

I'm usually not your typical "armchair game designer", as some bloggers jokingly call themselves: I like (or don't like) games as they are and don't have any pretensions of coming up with an original design of my own. However, a discussion I had the other day with Conrad about the newly released master mode (in addition to the available story and veteran mode) for the Knights of the Fallen Empire and Knights of the Eternal Throne story in Star Wars: the Old Republic made me think about difficulty design in MMOs.

If you've been listening to Corellian Run Radio last Saturday (and if you're a SWTOR player who is interested in the latest content, I totally recommend the show), you have already heard some critique on the way the difficulty of story chapters is increased between veteran and master mode.* Let me be clear: I'm not saying that master mode is too difficult; what I'm saying is that it's a shame the difficulty is not increased by adding new mechanics, but by simply increasing stats. In other words: by increasing the artificial difficulty.

I didn't have much time to explore this game design term much in CRR's podcast episode, so I am taking the opportunity to do so here, as well as sharing some ideas to improve the experience of master mode chapters. I will try to do so in a way that makes this article relevant for MMO gamers that don't play SWTOR as well, but feel free to ask me anything in the comment section if things aren't clear. Disclaimer: the amount of nerd is strong with this one, so I won't blame you if you happen to fall asleep halfway (though I appreciate it if you wouldn't snore in the comment section).

Friday, 3 February 2017

My to be read pile

This week's Five Fandom Friday topic is - once more - not about gaming: it is about reading. I used to fill my hours reading anything I could get my hands on as a child. At school, we had weekly tasks, and each week I finished them as fast as I could, so I could spend half of Thursday and the whole of Friday reading. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that at university and since I now need to read so much professionally, I don't feel like reading for fun so much anymore. And now there is gaming, too, to distract me. 

Fandom Friday seemed like a good opportunity to look at what books I have laying around that I want to read this year. Turns out it's a very diverse company! I love reading in my native language (Dutch) as well, but somehow I don't have any Dutch books waiting for me at the moment.

Monday, 30 January 2017

LOTRO changes I'd love to see in 2017

In the beginning of the year, I wrote a post called SWTOR changes I'd love to see in 2017. What about the other MMO I play, though, Lord of the Rings Online? At first I decided against writing such a post, because I am sure (contrary to SWTOR) none of my suggestions would see the light of day and that's a depressing thought. But then I read LOTRO Legendarium: My LOTRO wishlist for 2017 on Massively OP and it was so radically different from my own list that I decided to go with it after all.

The Massively OP article suggests some nice quality of life changes, such as a virtue and currency overhaul, that would make life easier for the everyday player. Some proposals will definitely be addressed this year: Standing Stone Games has already revealed that the developers are discussing where to go with the story after Mordor, claiming it's a new beginning for player characters rather than an ending. We also know that player character models will get attention (hopefully with new hairstyles becoming available). However, no pressing gameplay matters were addressed.

In this article, I will feature things I'd love to see changed in LOTRO that are of vital importance to me as an endgame group player. I'm going to keep it simple and restrict myself to three. You are warned: they are absolutely unsexy and not easy to sell to the playerbase (as in "hey guys, look what we're working on now!") - hence I'm not believing they'll ever happen. However, I cannot overstate the impact these three changes would make.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Who is Tyth? The War for Iokath and the Old Gods: SWTOR raid boss speculation

After having focused on storytelling since Knights of the Fallen Empire, the call of SWTOR players for multiplayer content (the "MMO part of SWTOR") in Star Wars: the Old Republic has become stronger and stronger. While the Knights expansions have attracted new players that were looking for a KOTOR experience, many old time players - endgame oriented ones in particular - have left the game in search for new multiplayer challenges. It is this MMO focused playerbase that the SWTOR dev team addresses with their latest announcement: SWTOR will release a new raid this year.

As an endgame fuelled gamer, I am thrilled by this news. It means that the year has barely started and my number one wish of SWTOR changes I'd love to see this year has already come true! Even better news is that we won't have to wait until the end of the year. You can listen to everything the developers had to say about the upcoming content at their January 26th devstream.

Of course I don't want any stone left unturned, so in this post I will get you up to date with the news, and then I will share some of the suspicions I have about the bosses we may come to fight in this upcoming raid.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Drawing diary: December

It's time for the first Drawing Diary entry of 2017! I know it's the new year and all, but for this one we will briefly travel back in time to the final weeks of 2016. Drawing in December revolved all about that one thing I had to make: the new year's card (dun dun dun). After all, I promised you guys I would send you one if you signed up for my card swap! Unfortunately, that horrible thing happened that typically occurs when you ' have to' do something rather than just do it for fun without pressure: I suffered from a creative block - I had no idea what I wanted to put on my card. Eventually, I forced myself to sit down and draw all the nerdy creatures that I encountered in 2016.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Films I'm excited for in 2017

I was happily typing away at my newest drawing diary, when I found out that the 5 Fandom Fridays are back! I used to love these, because they offer a different perspective to what I usually write about. So I dropped the drawing diary (you'll get that Monday) for this post about films. I know is not gaming, but who doesn't like movies? Here are five films (and some bonus ones) I'm excited for in 2017.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Lost in translation: why my friends don't understand me when I talk about MMOs

Ravanel (LOTRO) is trying to figure out what Y-u'no (SWTOR) means with "carbonite" and "credits"

In Geek anthropology: geek language, Pepi Valderrama of DePepi: Geek Anthropology investigates how we use specialized language (think of memes and inside jokes) to communicate with fellow geeks. At the end of her post, she asks: "What words do you use with your geek friends that non-geeks wouldn't understand?" Well, I know quite a few! I thought, and this article with examples from MMO gamer culture was born.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Thoughts on the Fractured exploit

Now killing gold star mobs for fast command experience is nerfed, doing solo ranked PvP and the uprising Fractured is the newest trend among CXP farmers. If you're on the fleet you'll constantly see people advertising for the latter. However, tread carefully if you're planning on taking advantage of the Fractured uprising's length: some pugs are using an exploit to speed it up even more.

Monday, 9 January 2017

SWTOR changes I'd love to see in 2017

In my last post I looked back at 2016. In this one, I want to look forward. What better to fantasize about than my favourite MMO, Star Wars: the Old Republic? I saw Rachel's post SWTOR - A look back at my 2016 wishlist and my 2017 wishlist and I loved it - so I decided to go with my own version of the 10 things I'd love to see in SWTOR in 2017 (more or less in order of importance). Mind you, this is not intended as a list of demands addressed at the devs, but rather as an interesting thought experiment. Here they are.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Rav's Review of the Year 2016

A lot of bloggers have been writing about their past year and their new gaming goals and I love reading those posts! I wanted to join in the fun and do something similar, but I'm not one for gaming goals: planning how to have fun makes my hobby feel like a job. But then I read Kay's post Bye-bye, 2016 and discovered the Review of the year tag by Princess Deia (how could I have missed a blog with such a title?!). I liked it so much that I decided to do my own version! So here is my year reviewed in her nine categories. Warning: there is little gaming involved; this is mostly an off-topic personal reflection of 2016. There are plenty of geeky and nerdy elements, but you're safe from the mushrooms. Promise.

Alright, here we go.