Monday, October 22, 2012

Riders of Rohan pre-review

The 15th was the release of Riders of Rohan, Turbine's newest expansion to Lotro. While it is a bit early for a review, it might be interesting to give some first thoughts for those still doubting on whether or not the expansion is worth it. Once I've done all of the content and experienced endgame, I'll be writing a big review.

After waiting for the patch to complete and then a long time at Examine Data in the patcher, I finally found myself logged into my lvl75 captain and ready to explore the new content.

The first new thing I noticed not even being in Rohan yet (not even being in the game yet!) is the new character selection music. It's not bad at all, but I'd have preferred it to be slightly less "epic" and like every other mmo out there. Anyway, that's not why I'm here, I gotta check out Rohan.

mandatory picture of the Argonath
There's 2 ways to get into Rohan (through the epic and through the intro quest) and on this character, I decided I'd follow the epic. Ported to my milestone in Stangard (new icon) and rode north to lothlorien.
One thing I noted during the new epic is that phasing seems to be used more than ever. There are also quite a few interesting session plays, having you witness key points in the story.

Now Rohan isn't all about the epic, that's free anyway. The biggest changes are open tapping, mounted combat and the location of Rohan itself.

Open tapping
Immediately when you enter Rohan and select a mob, you'll be informed that it uses the open tapping system. This boils down to that if you even damage the enemy in the slightest form, you'll get rewarded for it. No need to form a party or wait turns for killing a mob.
While travelling the lands of Rohan, I've seen (and had benefit) from this system quite a lot. Waiting together for a boss to respawn and then just attack him both instead of queueing, killing mobs together on the fly,...
Overall, it seems like a good system (in the short while I played), though I can see why it could be abused.

Mounted combat

Once you get your mount (you'll reach the location from either of the starting points) after doing the rather big    questline for it, you'll notice that it's different than normal mounts. A warsteed handles kinda differently from normal steeds. A good comparison is that of a car. You have acceleration rate, max speed and have speed affecting your turns. You can even drift if you want.

The warsteed tutorial does a good job explaining stuff. First thing I did though was toggling the slowdown upon release option. That really makes a big difference. Fighting enemies on your horse is unlike anything in the game and is great.

The only downside is that it feels a little easy and needs getting used to.


Warbands are a group of mobs and a boss riding through the fields of Rohan. They'll be noted with a red arrow on your minimap. Some can be soloed, others are for raid groups. The quests are daily and give boxes (like presents) that contain some random reward. Got a few marks and 5 ore myself but I've heard someone got a horse skin from one.


The main attraction may seem like it is mounted combat, but Rohan itself certainly deserves the spotlight. It is open, yet not so open as you may expect. There's forests, open plains, ridges and fast currents. The villages and settlement might seem like they come straight out of Skyrim, but that's just how the style is in the books as well. (And there could be worse comparisons than Skyrim.)


There are a lot of awesome quest lines in Rohan (at least those I have done). Playing games with kids has to be one of my favorites. The pop-up quests (where you locally accept/complete the quest) are nice as well, offering some quick rewards. Some of the storylines get as awesome as the epic story.


This may not seem like much, but autoloot has to be one of the best things in Rohan. If you ever needed to get to a corpse (as ranged or with one of those fleeing mobs) you'll know it's sometimes impossible to do so without getting agro. This feature also saves a lot of time, especially for ranged classes.

-overflow bag:
This combined with the above is heaven. It's like 50 extra bag slots for free. What it does is this: Every item you pick up after filling your inventory gets put here, where it'll disappear after a 1h timer. This means you can save a lot of space with trophies, crafting ingredients and li's getting stored here until you can make your way to a vault/store/taskboard.


The music by Chance Thomas is great. There're some earwurms among the pieces and thanks to the music change (music won't just get cut off anymore) you get to listen to larger parts of them. The only (personal) gripe I have is the reuse of Tom Bombadil's theme, which I'd rather keep with Tom just so he can have his own track.


What I've seen of Rohan entices me to explore more of it. The new systems are definitely a nice addition though they might need a bit tweaking here and there.
Of course, there's still a large part of Rohan I need to explore (in particular Hytbold, the endgame content) and later we'll also get the instances included in the expansion. Rohan will probably get a high score.

Forth Eorlingas!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How to get past Examining data (since RoR)

The Rohan launch hasn't been the smoothest in history (and not the worst).
A lot of people had trouble getting in game, since the launcher would get stuck at examining programs.

Some people suggested it was the update servers getting overloaded and while this seems plausible it isn't what was really wrong!

Finally, some attentive users found out that one of the .dat files was the cause and removing it would get it to update and get past the dreadful message.

Here's what to do:

1) Go to wherever you installed lotro (c:\program files\Turbine\The lord of the rings online for most) look at the files and try to find a .jnrl file

2) Create a temp folder and put in the jnrl file and the .dat file of slightly the same name.

3) Open the launcher and check if it gets past Examining data and start updating!
If this isn't the case, try removing every .dat file to the temp folder and put them back one by one (checking the launcher in between) until you find the offending file.

4) If you have a previous install somewhere, you can copy the old version of the .dat file to the main folder. This'll cut down on the download size.

5) If you get done, grats and have fun in rohan!

(On a sidenote, my offending file was client_highres_aux_1.dat)

Added part

It seems this doesn't fix it for all people, so here are some more things you can try. I know it gets annyoing if you're on limited connection/dl cap (I am as well). This might also work for people getting the 102 error.

-Move the Forward folder away
-Rename the Highres dat files
-Make sure all the .dat files are in your folder. They are:

  • client_anim
  • client_cell_1
  • client_cell_2
  • client_gamelogic
  • client_general
  • client_highres (optional)
  • client_highres_aux_1 (optional)
  • client_map_1
  • client_map_2
  • client_mesh
  • client_sound
  • client_surface
Now I'm not sure about this but I think that if they're gone lotro will just download a new file for you. If it doesn't, making an empty version using notepad might help. (haven't tested this.)

-If all else fails uninstall en install :(

Friday, October 12, 2012

Alteil Resurrection

Few people might actually know this game, but I've always been kinda intrigued by Alteil. An online card game where you have actual control over your cards is rare and ones with art as good as Alteil's are even rarer. That's why I was delighted to hear that it's risen from the dead.

This is actually old news as it's been in pre-release from 7/10 (which means only people who already have an account can play right now) with the actual release coming in just less than 2 weeks.

What is Alteil?

Alteil is, as it describes itself, a story-driven online browser-base ccg. You choose a starter, play a few matches, get new cards and slightly get better and better at it.


Alteil has 4 spheres or factions, each has a level that can be raised during a match (using sp). All have a certain specialty though they can always go outside of their usual style.
These are:
-Refess (Yellow): Buffs, self-heals and sturdy units, some benefit from dawn or noon time of day.
-Lawtia (Purple): Sp-draining, graveyard manipulation, a lot of them benefit from night time.
-Gowen (Red): Straight-forward damage and rank-up (buffs that activate once you have a certain sphere lvl)
-Falkow (Blue): Crowd control, return and high speed.


Each player has access to a 3*3 field where he can place units. Using the units you summon, you have to defeat the opponent's army and take down his life points. Beware though, as doing so activates soul skills which can turn the tide of battle.


One of the biggest draws of Alteil is the art, which is drawn by a number of well-known artists of Gundam, Code Geass and other fame. While this means the style varies from card to card, it also means that each card is an artwork in its own right.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Challenging yourself: When the game is not enough

As I said in my dwarf fortress post, sometimes players have to challenge themselves. Maybe there was no clear goal from the start, or the intended goal isn't the only thing that can be achieved.
Finding additional challenges that were or weren't intended by game developers is as old as gaming itself. Even in the earliest days, people were seeing how big of a streak, speedrun or extra difficulty they could put into a game.

Game developers often provide ways to challenge a player with difficult content or a difficult boss. Sometimes though, that's not enough. You mastered every aspect of the game but feel like you want even more. Some people eventually find something else to occupy themselves with, contend themselves to waiting for the next release or just start again from scratch.
Others though, feel they should try and test their true skills at a game and seek out challenge to do that.
Often these challenges deviate from the original purpose of the game and come up with interesting strategies not even the developers could predict.

Types of challenges

There are several types of challenges you or the developer can impose upon you. I'll put them in different categories:

-Limiting: limiting challenges are challenges that (as the name says) have the player put certain limits on what features they use. For example: not using items, magic, party members, only 1 gun type (usually the weakest or most interesting),...

-No advancement: Several genres (especially rpgs, but also shooters or rts'es) have one way of advancement. Challenges like these involve the act of abstaining from any progression of the sort. This usually means your character is ridiculously weak compared to the difficulty of the content. Resulting is the player needing to devise several complicated strategies to finish (or get past) the more difficult fights.

-Speedrun: Exactly what it says on the tin. A player will rush through the game's main story as fast as possible. This usually involves skipping as much of the content as possible. In games with a big level ramp, this is almost always combined with a low-level run.

-Permadeath:  The act of removing your character/save once you die once. Done a lot in online games but also possible in offline games. A lot of people find this hard because they get attached to a character they've put a lot of time in, but others find this one of the draws. Your playstyle will evolve to be more careful, the tension is a lot bigger as the stakes are higher and the sense of achievement upon completing this challenge is immense.

-Soloing group content/superbosses: Most games have a few hidden superbosses or (in the case of online play) content that is designed for more than one player. These are usually intended by the developer.

-Physical limitations: An out-of-game challenge. You limit yourself to using a limited set of your motoric skills. Playing blind, using one hand, keyboard/mouse-only,... are examples of these challenges.

-Combination: Not really a challenge type, but you can combine any of the above types (or anything else you can think of) to form some kind of superchallenge.

Lotro tie-in

As an example, here are some ways to challenge yourself in lotro:
-reach cap while playing permadeath (highly challenging for some classes, for others not so much)
-reach cap in as fast a time as possible
-play your class while only using a limited set of your skills
-solo combat elites, masters,... (easier for some classes than other)
-solo an instance (again easier for some classes)
-only do orange or higher quests (within reason of course)
-only use mediocre or bad equipment, while not playing to the strength of your class (e.g. cappy, using sword and board, wearing no barter armour)
-only use what you find/make yourself (no trading)
-any combination of the above

Turbine has (afaik) only put 2 challenges in the game:
-Permadeath: the undying titles, reaching lvl 20 without dying (which isn't that hard).
-No advancement/Limiting: chicken play: where you get to face all the dangers of the world ... but as a lvl 1 chicken.

Also: (Warning! TvTropes link!) Tvtropes has a bunch of pages on the subject: