It’s been way too long since my last soundtracks roundup! For this fifth episode, I’m doing something a little different, namely introducing my 10 favorite tunes to play in LOTRO, on the harp or lute. And yes, if you follow twitter you may already have seen this – so this is for all my non-avian readers.
I’m a big fan of LOTRO’s ingame music feature; alas, unfortunately I am no fan at all of 90% of the player created music I get to hear in Bree or during questing in Middle Earth. Many songs picked by players are either out of tune and/or rhythm, or then they are simply misplaced in a fantasy themed game. No, I do not want to hear Lady Gaga’s latest hit when stopping in the Prancing Pony! I’m frankly surprised that playing on an RP server is no protection from this type of acoustic abuse.
Naturally, original LOTRO tunes aside, it’s either videogame or film soundtrack that works best for your musical performance. As the required .abc/.txt files for LOTRO are midi based, that is limiting your song choices. It certainly helps being a retro VG music nut like myself when browsing available tunes online. I’ve also attempted my own conversions with the Midi Converter but it’s not nearly as simple as it looks to get good results (generally classic/piano version midis work better). There are only a handful of libraries online, such as the Songbook of Laurelin (great for band pieces and folklore), Lotro ABC and the resurrected but unfinished Fat Lute.
My current solo favorites can all be downloaded at Lotro ABC for your convenience. With the exception of Ultima, they are all from classic console JRPGs, mostly composed by the unsurpassed Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu. All of my picks play extremely well in LOTRO and fall under the general category of “pensive and quiet tunes”. I regularly attract a crowd playing these in the Prancing Pony, so I happily share them with anyone desperate to find beautiful tunes that work well with barding in LOTRO. Enjoy my picks and spread the love! Let me know if you have similar recommendations and a merry weekend to all of you!
My time is currently divided between different games, namely LOTRO, GW2 and Minecraft, which warrants this mixed topic today. While my MC enthusiasm went through a big time revival this past weekend, my LOTRO journey is somewhat stagnant as I fight (and struggle) my way through the early 40ies with the Loremaster – an interesting class I am still enjoying a great deal. As for Guild Wars 2…well, let’s say that relationship has somewhat cooled down of late.
Of midlevel grinds and music in LOTRO
I currently find myself stuck in the dilemma of preferring a musical performance in Bree over returning to my quest hub in the Misty Mountains. While progress was smooth on the Loremaster for the first 30 levels or so, things started getting sluggish in Trollshaws which is a beautiful map with wonderful music, but also features highly annoying ravines to navigate and badly paced quests. To add salt to the wound, you don’t get any swift travel to Rivendell before level 40 which pretty much cured me of caring about any of House Elrond’s or Bilbo’s riddle quests. There’s only so many times I can bear riding through the Bruinen and up those hills.
I’ve been told by LOTRO veterans that it’s the mid-levels that really get to you, so I guess that’s what’s happening at the moment. I really want to experience the Moria that Spinks is talking about though and reach the improved gameplay of Rohan which is supposedly a much better compromise between oldschool fedex grind and what we call adventuring in 2013. Still, the next 10 levels will be a drag and require numerous visits to the Prancing Pony (I have established quite a nice track list by now!) in an attempt to restore my sanity.
What needs to be pointed out again at this point: the music feature in LOTRO is the best thing ever! As the Ancient Gaming Noob justly asks, why do not all MMORPGs copy this already? Hellou? There are three great LOTRO features I expect all future games to have at release: player instruments, immersive sound effects and player housing!
My home, my castle
Coming down with the GW2 blues
I’ve mentioned being cranky about the pace at which ArenaNet are fixing some long overdue technicalities. While there is finally armor preview for the market place (and such a revolution it is), you still cannot search your own armor class there – and before you ask, NO you still can’t take screenshots in first person view! I get asked about this a lot when tweeting screenshots; what I do is make my character lie down and pick camera angles accordingly.
However, the small details aren’t really my biggest concern, annoying as they may be. Well-elaborated on by Bhagpuss, there’s a gradual change happening in GW2 that has announced itself some time ago and that’s slowly redirecting the game towards the textbook, endgame gear-grind we know by heart. For someone who was inspired by an open world, non-grind premise, someone who isn’t into farming dungeons, the crafting grind or alting, for someone like me basically, it gets increasingly difficult to find a purpose in Tyria. There is only so much exploration you can do and as I continuously fail to join lasting guilds, running dungeons or fractals with strangers isn’t something I choose to spend time on (as I would not be running them for gear primarily).
What this really shows us is that more open world games also need sandbox elements and tools in the long term – which are sadly missing completely. If ANet added only a few features that LOTRO has for example, that would make a world of difference to me personally. Alas, all I can do at this point is wait for the Living Story to continue, hoping it will evolve into the significant content Wooden Potatoes is referring to. Maybe I should consider guesting?
A Castle in Minecraft
Over a year ago, I burned myself out on Minecraft spending enormous amounts of time on learning everything there was to learn and building a huge fantasy castle up in the sky. Mostly, building that huge castle, really. And how could you not create your dream place in a game that offers that much freedom?
A ton of time and care for details went into that little project; ever since, I wanted to make a documentary of the finished thing but never got around to it. Well, now that all public voice-angst is off the table after Monday’s post, I finally put the full castle tour on youtube and here it is, including a big GEEK ALERT –
I love how much you can do with texture packs in Minecraft. As can probably be told from the video, I am a sucker for interior design; decorating and making places cosy has always been a bit of a thing for me. Back in school as a teen I wrote a paper on why I wanted to become an interior designer. I even went to interview an interior architect for it. Of course I didn’t become a designer after all but it’s still something I revel in when given the opportunity in real life or virtual. I also noticed from many other MC fanvids on youtube that the focus often lies more on the exterior – building whole towns and planning complex, large scale structures which are often somewhat empty inside. I’m exactly the other way around.
I’m happy to finally have this place immortalized for myself and those who helped me build it (mostly chopping away at the big mountain it once was). And maybe someone out there can get some creative ideas out of it after all. Minecraft really is a goldmine when it comes to tapping a player base’s creativity and the wish to spread and share ideas. If only more MMO designers adopted some of its virtues.
P.S. If you got all WoW and other game references in this video, you are just as geeky as I am!
After the longest break since my first, very intense Minecraft spree over a year ago, it was decided last week, somewhat collectively out of the blue, that a revisit to Mojang’s prodigy was due. Truth be told, my absence from the game has had much to do with the unrestrained pace of my first encounter; I was completely and utterly hooked to MC for some weeks, spending nights in front of the PC exploring its depths (and creating my big ass castle dream). As a result, I burned out too quickly on what was still a limited game at the time, struggling with pre-release issues. Thus the last block of cobble stone set in my castle wall marked the ending of that first chapter.
But oh, have the times moved forward in Minecraft! With the arrival of the (approved) Spoutcraft client, Bukkit server mods, myriads of fan-written plugins and customization features, right down to some amazing and downloadable adventure maps, Minecraft has burst into what can only be described as (even more) baffling heights of community effort and player creativity. All the while, Mojang have kept improving and adding to the game, offering even more possibilities and freedoms to shape your unlimited, virtual space.
With great freedom comes great variety. While there are no default player classes in Minecraft, the game certainly brings out all sorts of playstyles and character types in its audience – from nutty engineers, to brave explorers, peaceful settlers and diligent carpenters. There are even MMO servers now with all the textbook MMO/RPG features you can think of, for both PVE and PVP, in a sword&sorcery, steampunk or zombie apocalypse themed world (where poisonous rain keeps falling…which you could’ve known if you actually read the tutorial).
I’ve visited a few public MMO servers and was duly impressed; after being run through a detailed starter/tutorial area, I was amazed to see item shops, teleport hubs, vendor and questgiver NPCs, PvP mini-games and more. Maybe a small detail but no less enjoyable for a soundtrack nut like myself: any designated area in Minecraft can now be attributed its own background music, hallelujah!
Public MMO servers
This is where it gets particularly interesting (and scary) because a “Minecraft MMO” can potentially offer the kind of tools and impact the current MMO market can still only dream of (known sandboxes included). It’s also where we see best how gameplay, fun and freedom trump everything else, top graphics first and foremost. The biggest woes of public MC servers right now are stability and bandwidth related, which is where big business MMO ventures will always have the upper hand.
Still, if a visit to Minecraft was highly recommended before, by now it is an absolute must! If you have any time to spare between your MMOs, RPGs and other games (and you know you do), have a look at MC! You will never install any game faster than this one.
My first omg-video documentary
Starting off on a fresh, customized server with friends, I quickly realized how behind I was on MC’s current flora and fauna, which inspired a small project called “the underwater greenhouse”. I am also still working on a much bigger scale hedge maze challenge but that’s for another time.
At completion, it struck me how I always wanted to give video commentaries with fraps another go (back when I was playing WoW my old PC was hopeless) which is how my first ever Minecraft (and for that matter first ever videogame documentary) came to be. In hindsight, I should probably have rehearsed this more…but I am a lazy person and easy to satisfy.
And yes, I am fully aware that everyone can hear my voice now. Oh noes!
Creating this video was actually so simple and fun that I am definitely doing more in the future. Maybe next time I’ll also manage to make less silly noises with my lips.
Quick Fraps how-to
Without exaggeration, making a video commentary like the one above is as easy as blogging. I was surprised how simple a tool fraps really is, with minimal setting up involved. My smartphone is more complicated than fraps! Together with a youtube account and two more, free tools, you are fully equipped to create your own gaming videologs which are lots of fun to do. And here’s how:
– Get a full version of fraps to be able to record more than 30secs videos
– Capture your ingame video (I use custom 15fps setting and record voice via headset)
– Watch this guide on using Xvid and Vdub for file compression
– Upload your compressed video to your youtube channel
Works like a charm! And you can add extras like a title pane or annotations with youtube later. I love learning new things by myself, so it’s not unlikely I’ll look into Sony Vegas or similar video enhancement software soon. So I guess that’s one more way how Minecraft can boost your creativity!