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Played through complete Volume 1
19 December 2013
It's been quite some time since I completed the original Epic story of the Shadow of Angmar release of Lord of the Rings online. It was then that I defeated Mordorith and was introduced to Sara Oakenheart.

Though I don't want to spoil too much on how the Volume 1 ends, I did record the last 2 bosses I had to defeat.

The first boss I had to defeat was Mordrambor, the new King of Angmar and he who I've been pursuing for already quite some time (in the game that is ). He managed to get the ring Narchuil from the hand of Narmeleth (AKA Sara Oakenheart). After having defeated Mordambor, Narmeleth picked up the ring Narchuil and destroys.

Next up I have to defeat Mordorith and get it all over with. Wait a second, Mordorith..? Didn't I kill him already 18 months ago at the end of the original Epic story..? Nope, I didn't. I defeated him but he got away, like Sara Oakenheart did at that scene. This time I have to correct my error and rid the world of him for good!

Of course, a false King wouldn't be a false King if he didn't put tricks into his fight. First off, I'm fighting not him but his illusion Secondly, he's constantly tried to trick Narmaleth into returning to his side by showing her images of her father (who died earlier on in the story).
In the end it was not me who kills Mordorith, but it's Narmaleth who strikes the (extremely easy) killing blow. And I gotta say, that it kinda is an anti-climax to the story. I expected something more epic at the end from my side, but WTF were they thinking? One simple blow by a sword and Narmaleth kills Mordorith with her last dieing breath...

Now that I've played through the whole first volume of the Epic story it's time for me to pick up where I left on the rest of the story, and that's not that much further. If I remember correclty, I'm only one book past the exit of Moria and there's still a lot to be done. But at least now I'll have more challenging opponents to face, with their level around that of mine...

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Cash shop in a cash shop..?
13 December 2013
I know, Lord of the Rings online is a Free2Play title, and the developer (Turbine/Warner Bros) do need to make some money to keep the servers and development going. In most cases this means that a cash shop is the main means to lure player into buying small stuff (for real money obviously), and that's totally okay with me.

Well, okay as long as the stuff sold is NOT game breaking. In the case of Lord of the Rings online, it's a bit dubious if the sold stuff is game breaking since it's mainly a PvE game and there's only one PvP area. And the PvP area is where the game breaking stuff takes part. But well, I don't care since I don't give a rat's ass about the PvP in Lord of the Rings online.

The whole game-breaking items sold in the cash shop there, there's an other thing that's bothering me. Lord of the Rings online allows you to buy Mithril coins (at a rate of 10:1) from the cash shop and you can use for various things. You can pay 1 coin to instantly travel to a quest location (mostly an NPC you have to talk to), extend certain sheets on your character (talent tree in the pucture below), or even buy stuff that used to be in the cash shop in the past. There's even a full cosmetic shop in Bree (on Boar square) where you can exchange your Mithril coins for (bound?) cosmetic outfits.

 photo lotroclient2013-12-1308-03-14-68_zps174b2a16.jpg photo lotroclient2013-12-1308-04-14-95_zps5ed0f156.jpg

Lets take a look at the right shot for a second... 10 Mithril coins for the Riding Characteristic. If my memory serves me right, this trait used to be 75 (or 95?) Turbine Points in the past through the cash shop (or you're a VIP and you can do the quest at level 20). This means that the trait has risen in price by either 33% or 5%, but you're paying more than you used to.

The same goes for the cosmetic outfits in the shop in Bree. I've seen outfits of up to 100 Mithril coins This would imply that those outfits used to be 1.000 Turbine Points in the past? Well, if memory serves me correct again, the most expensive outfit was 1.295 Turbine Points, but that did include a horse as well (which was around 700 Turbine Points back then).

It's clear that Turbine/Warner Bros are using the Mithril coins to charge players more for stuff that was relatively cheap in the past. But there's probably an other reason behind the Mithril coins as well. Lord of the Rings online still has a lot of active players who used to have a life-time subscription (like I do), and they do het 500 Turbine Points a month. A lot of players used to stack those points for a couple of months (me included) to buy something big later on (expansions). It's clear that Turbine just doesn't make money from those life-time subscription players (or not enough), and using Mithril coins and inflating prices is a way to let the life-time subscribers use up their Turbine Points and probably buy even more to gain more Mithril coins...

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Progressing through the 1st book
07 December 2013
It's been a while since I wrote about Lord of the Rings online, but when playing only a couple of hours a day (sometimes not even an hour a day ), there's not much to tell...

Lets start by saying that whoever took hold of my account has really made it a mess. The 12K Turbine Points I used to have when I laid LotRo to rest over a year ago for a while has been ravaged big-time. If the account wasn't hacked, I would have had about 18K TP by now (I get 500TP a month because of the line-time account), but when I got my account back, there was only about 6K TP left I'm not gonna bother Turbine about that though since the amount of TP left was enough to buy the Helm's Deep expansion, and I'm not a real spender on TP anyway

I also noted that a lot of my resources were gone. That's all but lots of ores. The new character that the account thief made (a human archer - the lamer's choice by default ) was a jeweler, and had the crafting skill maxed out. I dare to bet maxed out also with the use of my TP

But lets leave that human archer and the account thief in general for what they are and return to my own character...

I left off a year ago still busy on the newly added chapters of the original first story. Well, busy... I just got started on Book 9 The last two weeks I've been busy following that story and on the search for Sara Oakenheart and later on her ring. It seems that Sara Oakenheart is not a nice hobbit as I thought she was when I met her at the end of Book 8. Instead she's one of the original nine-ring bearers and she is using the image of poor old Sara Oakenheart to disguise herself.

The new books have brought my travels up to now (I've just started with book 13, of 15 total) from Angmar to Evendim. Then from Evendim to the Trollshaws, and back again to Evendim. Now with the start of book 13 I've left Evendim and went north to Forochel, where I have to win the trust of the people there before they can (rather will) help me on the search of Sara Oakenhart's broken ring...

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Back on the roads of Middle-Earth
23 November 2013
I know, I said earlier this year that I would not play MMORPGs anymore, but as I said more than once as well, certain MMORPGs keep pulling... Lord of the Rings online is one of them. The story as it's told is just great, but sadly there's too much story for your character to chew on and too little time (or rather, you level way too fast ).

Anyway, with the release of the Helm's Deep expansion I figured to start playing again and see if I could make it there. But before I can get there, there's enough other stuff for me to do. Most importantly, get the newly implemented skill-tree to work and reassign points to my legendary weapons.
 photo lotroclient2013-11-2106-30-36-01_zps4de1f1d4.jpg

I always hate it when stuff is reset and I have to reassign the points all over again. I know, it's for the best because when game mechanics change, some stuff you have (as certain traits in legendary weapons) might become obsolete and thus you need to reassign the stuff...

Then there's the epic story of the game. It's huge and takes pretty long to work through (at least for me as professional slacker ). I was already proud of having completed the original 1st back back then, but there were 4 more chapters added (if I remember correctly) to it before the Mines of Moria was released. Funny thing is that I was still busy on those new chapters when I already went through the whole book of Mines of Moria At least now I have something to complete and looking forward to to complete. Though the journey might be boring at times (these chapters are level 50 and I'm 63 already), the story is well done as most of the stories in LotRo.

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Helm's Deep is here!
20 November 2013
WOW! What the Fellowship took about 15 months or so took Turbine 6 1/2 years. The journey to Helm's Deep...

I haven't been looking at my LotRo account for over a year, and it seems that in the mean time someone hi-jacked it. Yes, you hear it right, my account was inaccessible for me, but thanks to good Turbine service I have it back again (and set a much more difficult to guess password ). But with Helm's Deep around I might be going back to Middle-Earth and see how that'll look.

I hope that Helm's Deep will include the White City as well, but I fear that will be added in the next expansion. But at least, after Riders of Rohan (content that I still have to fully play as well ) the story will get interesting again. Also because Book II of the original story has always been my bane. With Helm's Deep, the end of Book II is near and the story will get 'interesting' again.

Also, with Helm's Deep, I do have to update the Gambit Helper 2 again. But since I'm too busy with other programming 'duties', I won't expand it anymore as I wanted back in the days, but I will only keep it up-to-date for the current releases.

Right now my LotRo client is updating and I really can't wait to set foot again in the (once) awesome MMO. But before I go there, I gotta tell that I will not play LotRo as fanatically as other MMOs I played in the past (Lineage II comes to mind). I will play LotRo like I play most other computer games, for a couple of hours a week, along side the other ones and my current programming 'duties'

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I've kinda had it with Turbine [follow up]
28 January 2013
After yesterday's rant about Turbine's customer support, I decided to eMail them about the ticket. The language was not as kind )even a bit sarcastic) as I usually use towards customer support...

I'm still waiting for you to handle my ticket... It's been 2 weeks already and all requested information was given in the ticket when I've made it. Please turn off that automated reply-machine of yours and actually look at a ticket before a silly eMail like this is sent. I did included all information in the original ticket so now remove my creditcard details from my account ...please...

To my surprise I had an almost instant reply fro Turbine's customer support:

Thank you for your inquiry.  

I am happy to confirm that I have removed your credit card from the account as requested.  

I certainly apologize for any inconvenience caused by the system generated automatic response. These are sent upon submission of a ticket based on the request type that you enter. Many of these responses are helpful in resolving issues, and they do also state to reply if you are still experiencing difficulties.  

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please respond to this email and I will be happy to assist you.

Did the customer support representative acknowledge the automated respond system and that there's no human interaction (in this case) before there has been a follow up from the customer..? Kinda odd that Turbine works this way, instead of looking at a ticket first and then send a request for additional information. At least the creditcard has been removed

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I've kinda had it with Turbine
26 January 2013
Have I been spoiled by the good customer service I've had with NCSoft (back when Lineage II was still subscription based), TRION who'd even help trial accounts to the best efforts and gamersFirst who're a Free2Play publisher (of Fallen Earth) and respond within two days..? It looks like I am, or...

As you might know, I have a life-time subscription for Lord of the Rings online. Though  I'm not an active paying subscriber, I did pay a lot back then (*LOL* 125 at the 2-year anniversary with CodeMasters) and have a VIP status. I did buy all expansions of LOTRo, which means I'm still an actual paying customer. For that i'd like to have some quality customer service as well. Guess it's too much to ask

Today it's been 2 weeks ago since I've sent Turbine a support ticket to remove my creditrcard details from my account. I've ordered the creditcard to be canceled because most publishers already accept iDeal (Dutch direct banking payment) and PayPal is an official EU bank as well, so they can direct debit my bank account when I give a payment order.

Yes, two weeks since... And nothing but the confirmation that the ticket has been received and it's asking for some relevant details (which I only see now - they always send a standard acknowledgement eMail and I never bother to read them...). Details I've added upfront already and I'm asked to re-enter them again in a follow-up ticket. Here's the eMail Turbine sent me:
Thank you for contacting Turbine Customer Support. This automated email has been sent to let you know that we have received your support request and to also forward some relevant information based on the support request details you selected:

We are always willing to remove the credit card details from an account, however we do require specific verification from the credit card holder in order to make this change. The credit card holder must be the one contacting us in regards to this either via email or phone. We are available at 1-855-WBGAMES (924-2637), or 1-781-407-4020, Monday through Friday from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm Eastern, and Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 noon to 9:00 pm Eastern. Alternately the card holder may open a new inquiry here.)

If you are the card holder please respond to this email with the following included in your reply:
- The username that you want the card removed from
- The last 4 digits of the credit card on file
- The name of the credit card holder
- The billing address
- Request to remove the credit card from the account

Upon verification of this information, we are happy to assist you further. (Additional note: If you would like to gift game access to another person's account, we do not recommend adding your card to their account. Please see this forum post for gift suggestions instead.) If you need further assistance or have questions or concerns please reply to this email to update your ticket status.

Special Notes:
- If you do not reply at all it is assumed that the issue was resolved and no further action will be taken.
- If you received this response in error please reply to this email as soon as possible indicating this.

Lastly, when replying to this email please do not modify or change the "subject" line of the reply message.

WTF are they thinking? When I've made the ticket it was clearly stated that I had to enter that information in the ticket already. So why ask again for those details? And even better, why the automated message and not even one customer support representative is not actually looking at the ticket?

It looks like Turbine is relying on an automated customer service response system and have taken out the human factor entirely. So much for being a paying customer and hoping for some good support from a correctly submitted ticket. Perhaps I should follow that link in the eMail, but I'm afraid that when I'm opening the ticket on the link they've included I'll get the same eMail once again...

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GambitHelper 2 - development update
13 November 2012
It's been over a week since I last wrote about my progress with GambitHelper 2. Reason being is that I've been rather busy in RL and have been playing Dungeons & Dragons online if I had some time to spend behind my PC...

But the last 2 days I've had some time to work on GambitHelper 2 again, and I have some good and some bad news...

Let me start with the good news. The new .TGA resource files are all done now. It's been a lot of work to make the new ones, and I'm glad it's done now. There is one problem though - players with good eyes might see some lines between the different gambits. That aside, the resource directory now holds 259 files and has increased a bit in size (702Kb now vs 483Kb before), I think I did a good job keeping the total size as low as possible...

The bad news on the other hand is that I now have to start scripting the new .TGA resource files into the actual plugin. As said before, I have some ideas on how to do it, but I'm not sure if it'll work out the way I want. More bad news is that I don't have overly much time right now, and am pretty tired lately, resulting in early bed-times... I do hope that I can make the time needed to get the scripting done this week.

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GambitHelper 2 - upcoming changes
05 November 2012
I've posted about the upcoming version of the GambitHelper 2 plugin 2 weeks ago, and now I can tell more and where I am with the development...

I'll start with the resources (.TGA pictures) problem I spoke about. I have solved it partly already. I used to have 2 sets of .TGA files for the gambit descriptions (small 18px and big 24 px), and with a simple and sweet trick, I managed to ditch the big ones. That's a 50% savior in (slack) space!

Then the other problem I spoke about - 4 stances which would mean 4 full sets of gambit descriptions. When I made a full list of what the gambits fo in the 4 stances, I noticed that some gambits have the same result with different stances. The morale drain gambits for instance are all the same regardless of the stance you're in. But also other gambits have similar results in different stances. This made me think on how to use this and I came up with a simple and nifty trick.
Since all same results conform to the no stance, I figured to made a main set for the no-stance stance (hmm, sounds weird ). When any of the other stances has the same result, the no-stance .TGA file will be used. When I look at the excel sheet that I made I estimate that I can save about 30% of space this way.
Only problem now is how to implement it in the LUA code, but I have it worked out in rough lines already in my head. Now hope that it's not too hard to make real coded lines from these rough lines

I'm also fully redoing all the .TGA files for the stances, so that they all have a uniform look. With Zantuxx (previous developer) and me messing around with the .TGA files, there were a couple of differently used formats to display the results of the gambits. Now with the new uniform format, they'll all look the same way, making it easier for the player to see what the gambit actually does.
As a result of this uniform look, I also made a 'template' file in GIMP holding all the text-fields, colors and font-size I use. Now it's simply a click on the (un)hide button to toggle one and then just edit the actual text. This saves me lots of time creating all those .TGA files and (more importantly), when I have to make a correction (I'm only human, and it's said that to error is human ) or gambits are changed in their use, I can easily modify them.

The only down-side of this whole overhaul I'm doing is that it's extremely time consuming. I'm already 2 days *AHUM - 3 hours total* working on the new files and am half-way so far.

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The morale drain gambits
02 November 2012
The warden in the Lord of the Rings online has a couple of speciel gambits that allow him to drain morale from his opponents. One comes already on a rather low level (26): Fierce Resolve and two others on higher levels (60 and 72). Though the amount of morale drained is not high, it is an area of effect drain, which allows you to drain multiple monsters at once. But there was something funny with the morale drain gambits...

 photo lotroclient2012032419264034_zps20d20659.jpeg

To start, the morale drain was a buff on the warden and a debuff on the opponent. This always puzzled me. Why give the warden the buff, and (more important), when the opponent died, the morale drain kept on going till the timer was expired.
The second thing that was fun (and being exploited a lot, even by me) was that you could drain your opponents multiple times. I managed to fight large groups of regular monsters and stayed alive draining them 3 or more times each. Of course, the buff-list had it's limits and after around 25-30 buffs total, the morale drain would no longer be applied.

These two main issues made the warden class rather overpowered. Remember me saying early this year upon my return that update 6  would make the warden more survivable? Well, Turbine finally figured out their created exploits and corrected them with Riders of Rohan. Oddly enough, there's not a word about these corrections...

The two issues I described above have been totally redone the correct way. The 1st one now no longer gives the warden the buff that raises morale, but instead the opponent has the debuff. I figure that as long as you're in combat and the morale drain is active on the opponent you'll keep gaining morale (I made a movie fighting a rare epic monster and that's indeed correct).
Then the issue with stacking drains on an opponent. That's been redone as well, and now there can only be one morale drain on your opponent (once again, the movie I made with that rare epic monster showed it to me). Down side though is that there's no way to read your opponent's debuffs (like the buff-bars does for your character), so you really do need to keep an eye on your opponent's buffs/debuffs to make a new morale drain possible.

One major thing that bothers me on this new approach is that you can not tell if all opponents did get the morale drain debuff or resisted it. In the 'old times' you could see from the amount of buffs you have how many opponents did get drained...

In all, I think Turbine did a good job on correcting the old exploits that were there with the morale drain, but on the other hand, it's for the warden harder to see if and how long the morale drain will stick. Perhaps that's something for a plug-in to be made in the future..?

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