Happy New Year, everyone! Welcome to 2013.
I've been spending the last few days playing away at various games, mostly LOTRO, Minecraft and Blur (a really good racing game which you should check out!). However I have also started playing a new game: Towns.
Before I start talking about Towns, I want to talk first about how much I love city building games. Pharaoh was my first true PC game love. I have spent hundreds of hours playing that game since I was 10 when I got it. Pharaoh is, I would say, the epitome of city building games. I have yet to find anything that rivals it. Sure it has flaws (for example, how you need those guys in white hats to walk from the industries that need jobs to houses with unemployed people - very annoying!). Impressions Games, the company that developed Pharaoh, attempted to fix those issues with Zeus, Poseidon, Caesar IV, and eventually Emperor. These are all very good games, however nothing matches the feel of Pharaoh for whatever reason.
I am always looking for a nice new city building game to play. I can easily spend hours and hours playing them... if they are good enough of course. So with the Steam sale going on right now I decided to peruse the Simulation genre to see if I could find anything with a demo or that was pretty cheap. I found a game called Towns that had a demo and was on sale. I downloaded the demo immediately and started playing.
Towns is a very, visually, simplistic game that harkens back to a more pixelated time. The easiest way to describe the game play is this formula: Towns = Minecraft (sandbox, block building game with some RPG dungeon elements) + Dungeons of Dredmor (dungeon crawler "roguelike" with tons of different weapons to find as you go down and down deeper through the dungeon) + Settlers III (city building game that wasn't quite "click and drop" style like Pharaoh - instead you had to instruct Settlers to gather resources and tell them to build things).
You start off a game of Towns with 11 civilians. You then get them to gather resources such as food, wood, stone, etc in order to build... well, a town! But the great thing about the game is, "town" is very loosely defined... actually, it isn't defined at all. If you just want to build one big mega building/fortress with all your crafting areas, sleeping areas and market areas in one room or multiple levels, that works fine. If you want to build something that looks like a more traditional town with separate buildings for each type of craft and everyone has their own house - that's cool too!
Like the other city-building games and Minecraft, Towns is a sandbox. There is no "win scenario". You just keep going until you stop having fun. The main idea of the game though is to build up a base/town/whatever in order to draw in and support heroes. The heroes are good for your city because they will go through the dungeons underground and clear out any and all monsters - which there are quite a lot of. Not to mention, the further down in levels you go, the bigger and badder the monsters get. The hero makes it easier for your citizens to mine the dungeons for resources.
I can't talk about Towns without talking about the reception on Steam of this game. Towns was Greenlighted on Steam, however if you look at the "Game Hub" page for Towns, it is riddled with people complaining about the game and saying how terrible it is. I'm not really sure why so many are complaining so adamantly. I mean yes, it is not a perfect game. People mostly seem to be upset that there hasn't been an update or patch recently... but the most recent update was early November - barely two months ago. It's not like the game is utterly broken and unplayable. Since I bought it 3 days ago, Steam tells me I have played 24 hours of Towns. Maybe that's a bit much, but then again I have nothing else to do really. But my point is, I wouldn't have spent that much time playing this game if it weren't good.
The game is, of course, not without it's flaws. There are five maps types (Normal, Jungle, Desert, Snow, Mixed) and you can only have one saved game per map type. Not too awesome if you want to try out a new town style but have a saved town you really like. I've also found that getting more villagers is quite a task. This may be due to my play style however. I play more to the aesthetic end of things - I want my town to look like a town, or at least something that looks cool anyway. Many of the screenshots on the Game Hub page show very effecient setups... but to me efficiency is only good as long as it looks good while being efficient. Another problem is the tutorials in the beginning. They teach you how to gather, how to farm and how to turn civilians into soldiers but there are key elements of the game it glosses over or does not mention at all, namely building and heroes.
Overall though, I really recommend this game. It's at 50% off for the next 11 hours. Or you can just play the demo. Either way, if you like dungeon crawling and simplistic city-building games, this game is worth a shot.
Happy Yule everyone! Sorry I didn't make a blog post this past weekend. I finally graduate from University and have moved back home for the holidays. I am super full already and have only eaten the first course of our Christmas dinner. At least there will be lots of leftovers!
Although I haven't been posting, I have been playing. Sagewood is level 56 now, Herefara is 74 and Cithryth is getting closer and closer to completing Hytbold. Speaking of Hytbold though - what's the deal with the Captain's Hands of Healing Hytbold set? It makes no sense. Tons and tons of might but hardly any vitality? Quite a few of the captain's healing skills requires a sacrifice of the captain's own morale, or at least the main single-target heal. Very strange! So I've gone with a combination of Hands of Healing and Leader of Men pieces from the Hytbold sets.
And thanks to some very generous friends on Windfola, Giggles and Sparthir, I was able to get the boots I've been trying to get for ages to complete my new outfit! I don't have a metalsmith and I've only ever seen the teal critted versions of the boots on the AH (selling for 20g!). So I tried getting people in GLFF to make me some with payment, however they were less than helpful (only response I got was someone telling me to get armour from the Classic skirmish vendor, even though I specifically said I wanted these boots for their looks, not their level or stats). Giggles and Spar saw my pleas on twitter and Spar logged in and made me some free of charge! That's why friends are awesome! So thanks to Sparthir and his metalworker Spardor, here is my newest outfit, the Captain of the Norcrofts:
Helm of the Eastemnet
Commanding Battle Pauldrons of the Mark - green
Combative Eastemnet War Armour - olive
Vigilant Eastemnet War Gauntlets
Potent Battle Boots of the Mark - olive
Tobiano Warsteed - black chestnut (with black chestnut Simple Tail)
Captain's Halter - olive
Light Caparison of the Norcrofts - Rivendell green
At midnight I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 3D IMAX at the Minnesota Zoo! In this post I'm going to give a full review, however I'll be putting the more spoilery bits after the cut because I know some people want to see it for themselves without knowing what is different from the book. Overall, I really liked the film. The cinematic aspects of the film were good and the for the most part the lore was fairly solid. I only have a few small quibbles in both the lore and film production departments.
So now, if you don't want to be spoiled, do NOT click "Continue Reading" !
At midnight last night I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. As usual, the teams at WETA and Stone Street Studios and 3 foot 7 Productions have done a really fantastic job. I was able to visit the Hobbiton set in Matamata, NZ while they were beginning to rebuild it for the film. At the time I had to agree to a contract saying that I was not allowed to post pictures online because at the time it was still not certain if the film was going to go off (This was in July and November of 2010 - the actor's union issues and Guillermo del Toro pulling out happened around these times and so it was tricky). I was able to see firsthand there the amount of work the people were putting into the set. It was incredible. So many tiny details! I remember walking by a man painting lichen onto the doors of the hobbit holes by the Water. You never see close ups of these holes, but they still put those details in. Now that I'm allowed to share them, here are the some of the pictures of the Hobbiton set that I took on July 1, 2010:
The Party Tree
The Green Dragon
Bag End at the top of the Hill
Hobbit holes along the Water
And in comparison, my pictures from early November of 2010:
Overview of the Hobbiton set
Really glad I found that post I mentioned in the update to my last post. So here are some pics of my new White Captain outfit using the armor from the Steely Dawn:
Armour of the Steely Dawn
Dreng-gesc - black
Barnavon Hunter's Cured Gauntlets - white
Commanding Battle Pauldrons of the Mark - black
Cloak of the Dreamflower - white
I'm not sure if I like the choice of gauntlets and boots right now. I've always expressed a dislike for wearing the same boots and gauntlets from the same set as the chestpiece, but I think I might be able to get away with it in this instance, mostly because I think the set will be fairly rare anyway. It's also hard to find boots and gloves that don't clip this chest piece. The wrists and ankles are quite bulky and clip through a fair number of gloves and boots that I would otherwise think look fine.
As for the steed in these pics, it does not have a name at this point. I used the extra 500 TP I got from the Steely Dawn pack to buy the Shaggy Roan hide, because I really like the black legs on it.
Shaggy Roan hide - white
Simple Tail - black
Plain Black Saddle
Guardian's Caparison - sea blue
UPDATE AT BOTTOM OF POST!
This Friday, Steam released a new starter pack for LOTRO: the Steely Dawn Pack. I had vaguely heard about it but didn't really think much about it. Then today I was looking at the Show Us Your Favorite Cosmetic Outfit thread and andys90 had posted a picture of their toon wearing the chest piece:
I immediately fell in love with it! I've been looking for a new white outfit for Cithryth. All the white armour I've come across in-game just hasn't really cut it for the White Captain look, besides dresses. And a true captain can't go charging into battle in a dress. But THIS! It's white, not to elvish, but definitely set for battle. So I decided to buy it. I mean really when you think about it, $20 for some armour you get for every character is a better deal than a $20 horse for just one character.
Here are some more hi-rez photos courtesy of Casual Stroll to Mordor:
That's where the trouble began though. I purchased it and followed the steps to get the CD key for it to put into my Turbine account. You're supposed to be able to right click the game (in this case, LOTRO) in your Steam library and go to "View CD Keys". This then brings up a window showing you your product keys associated with the game. No such luck for me, though. The closest thing I could see in the right click menu was "View Downloadable Conent". That only shows that yes, I have purchased the Steely Dawn pack and yes, it pertains to LOTRO. That's it. No key. So, not able to put it into my Turbine account to actually get the items.
I looked around Steam support and the LOTRO forums to see if anyone else had the same problem. There was one other poster in the LOTRO forums that I could find (because finding anything in the LOTRO forums is a chore) who had the exact same problem. So I oped to send a support request to Steam. That was about five hours ago and I still have no heard back. I am displeased because I was really looking forward to playing with some new shiny outfits. Guess I have to wait.
In happier news, I have continued my theme of trying other outfit pieces and made a new outfit for Sagewood. This outfit I think really makes sense for Sagewood. She's a Bree-land archer out killing game and orcs and brigands as a mercenary for the town of Bree, or whoever might hire her.
Ceremonial Town-saver's Jacket
Leggins of the Mark - umber
Vital Eastemnet Combat Boots - sienna
Fingerless Gloves - umber
Storyteller's Fur-lined Mantle - gold
Plain Cloak - umber
Tattered Hat - sienna
Normally if I had gotten these leggings as a drop and tried them on in the dressing room, I would not have kept them. However I decided to give them a shot and I surprisingly love the way they go with this outfit!
Update Re: CD Key!
Okay, so up until just recently the Steam forums were down for maintenance (thus why I didn't mention looking in those for help). Well, just after I posted this I decided to try looking at them again and they were up! So I went into the LOTRO section to see the top post was about this exact issue. Many people are having it. Luckily, a user named Pixel Moose posted a solution!
Hey guys, I bought the Steely Dawn pack and ran into the same problem but I have found a solution. If you activate Big Picture mode on the Steam client, go to Library and click on LOTRO, then go the Links and More and at the bottom there should be a link that says View CD key. It is here that you can get the code for the starter pack. It was stupid for them not to put that on the regular Library page.
And it worked! Yay! But that is incredibly frustrating. Why should we have to go through the Big Picture mode (aimed at users with TVs and controllers... not regular PC users) just to get the CD key? Seems very broken to me. But it's good to know for those having issues.
I haven't been playing much LOTRO the past week. Like I said in my last post, my old Minecraft had a grand re-opening and so I've been playing a lot of that lately. However today I have been spending quite a bit of time on LOTRO - enough to put together a new outfit! I decided to go through the Starry Mantle again to get some inspiration and came across the Sons of Elrond outfit. I liked the combination of the gloves and chest piece - when Cithryth was in her 40's she used to wear that chest piece all the time and I loved it. The gloves of course are part of the set that goes with my favorite Rohan chest piece. I decided to make the outfit less Elvish and turn it into some light riding armour. Here is the result:
Thick Elven Steel Armour - olive
Tactical Eastemnet Assault Leggings - umber
Vigilant Eastemnet War Boots - rivendell green
Vigilant Eastemnet War Gauntlets
Shoulders of the Eorlingas
Mantle of Framness
To get these pieces I had to go make a trip to the Auction House. I spent quite a bit of gold, but also picked up a few other items that I may use for outfits on other characters. I got my hands on a Tattered Hat that I am definitely going to make use of on Sagewood. I'll probably put together an outfit for her and post it tomorrow.
Otherwise in LOTRO I've pretty much just been doing my Hytbold dailies and trying to get the deeds of each town done. So far I've gotten Eaworth and Harwick's deeds done. I've been lazy about remembering to get my fishing rod out of my vault and thus haven't done any of the fishing quests in Snowbourn. But in general I quite like the dailies. Some of the instances and locations are actually quite beautiful.
I literally spent my entire day playing Minecraft. I did pause long enough to do my Hytbold dailies but that's it. I only have one and a half weeks of actual classes to attend and then one week of finals (in which I only have one test). It is so incredibly hard to stay focused with that knowledge in mind. I needed a day to just totally 100% vege out.
It also didn't help that my old Minecraft server was starting over. For those who don't know, Minecraft is mostly single player, however thousands of people have set up private servers. Some servers you can log into without any extra effort. Some are called "whitelist" servers where you have to apply on the server's website to be allowed to log in. There are also all sorts of mods and plugins people have made to make the game better/easier/more enjoyable in multiplayer (like the ability to lock chests and doors so people can't steal your stuff!).
HH Minecraft was the first multiplayer server I ever joined. I've only seriously played on one other server but that was only for a few months. On HH I became a moderator (dispersing justice, adding people to the whitelist, banning people, etc) and eventually a sort of junior admin (helping make the server policies etc). After almost a year on the server I got burned out from dealing with little kids. Minecraft and LOTRO have very different user bases. A lot of people in LOTRO think their server's GLFF channel is childish, immature, etc. But they have no idea. GLFF can be a paradigm of high thought compared to some Minecraft sessions. Because Minecraft is basically virtual legos, it attracts many children and younger teenagers. After awhile, the immaturity and childishness was running rampant on the server and I left for greener pastures. It wasn't the owner's fault though. It's hard to make a balance of anything.
However recently he decided that he didn't have enough time to run the server and gave it over to one of my former fellow moderators. He has seriously cracked down on the childishness, removed many of the extraneous useless mods and plugins and just generally done an awesome job. Part of the reconstruction was that the old server map was wiped and we started anew. So I, a long with many others who had left for similar reasons, have returned. I spent all day playing and it was awesome. Built a new house, built up my farms, built a vault, made plans to connect to the center of the map with a rail line. And it was awesome.
Everyone who makes outfits has a specific style. Just like everyone has their own style of handwriting and each author has a specific voice in their writing, so too do LOTRO outfitters. Mine has always been a more realistic and RP oriented style. I use a lot of earth tones. You will never see me rocking a purple outfit, except maybe with one of my elves' party outfits. Another LOTRO outfitter who has a pretty similar style to mine is Devonna over at LOTRO Stylist.
I've posted about it before, and I'm feeling it again: I'm in an outfit rut. I still feel like I tend to use the same cosmetic and armour pieces again and again, the same two or three colors over and over. So this time I decided to take a look at some fellow outfit bloggers who have a different style from my own. Two bloggers with a more adventurous use of color and armor pieces than me are Hymne at Cosmetic LOTRO and The Starry Mantle. The Starry Mantle especially uses a really wide variety of armour pieces and isn't afraid to try out head pieces I don't even bother to keep. Hymne uses a lot of fantastic color combinations in her work that makes her outfits very dynamic.
I decided I'd start by trying to find a new outfit for Sagewood. I had posted a new outfit for her a few weeks ago but I still wasn't that pleased with it. Sure I used some new pieces but they just weren't clicking. I figured a scout/hunter outfit shouldn't be too hard to find amongst the outfit blogosphere. Eventually what caught my eye was The Starry Mantle's Outlaw Wolf-keeper outfit. It's still within my range of comfortable earth-tones and realism, yet it uses pieces I've never used (some of which because I don't own them!). Not wanting to copy it straight off, I decided I'd get some of the pieces together and tweak it a bit. I ended up using some of the ideas from Hymne's Beta Sneak Peek outfit as well(the third outfit in that post, specifically). Here's what I ended up with:
Pathfinder's Jacket - black
Ceremonial Thrill-seeker's Leggings
Steadfast Skirmish Gauntlets of the Mark - umber
Vital Eastemnet Combat Boots - black
Resilient Skirmish Pauldrons of the Mark - umber
So far I quite like it. The only thing I'm not 100% with is the shoulders. I am very picky about shoulder guards and I don't like many of the shoulder pieces in game. I'd love if anyone has some suggestions on what they think might look good though! I tried the shoulder guards the Starry Mantle used in her post, but without the Hunter's helm from that outfit, it just doesn't work as well I don't think.
I tried soloing Northcotton Farms on Cithryth today (so she was 20 levels over). I got past the first boss then got bored. It was just taking too long and my patience has a tendency of waning quite quickly anymore. Gone are the times I would gladly sit through an on-level 6-man like Lost Temple, taking the time to learn every battle and the nuances. I just get bored with it too quickly. My attention drifts and I end up alt-tabbing to the internet. So I probably won't be earning the last 45 Medallions of the Northmen that I need for that Hunter helm. Oh well. Still lots of other armor pieces available in the game.
This American holiday weekend through tomorrow, there has been a Double Bonus Points sale in the store for Turbine Points. This is pretty great because depending on how many points you buy at once, you can nearly double the amount of points you get (if you buy $200 worth of TP at once you definitely get more than twice what you normally would). On top of that good news, there was an unannounced sale on warsteed color packs (presumably running the same sale length). So 295TP for all warsteed hide color packs and equipment packs! Tons of people are taking advantage of this wonderful sale (and you should too while it lasts!). I know I did and bought two more hide color packs and all of the remaining equipment packs on Cithryth. Unfortunately Sagewood and Herefara were not high enough level to purchase anything in advance.
With everyone buying up new colors I fully expect a new glut of wonderful warsteed outfit posts spreading around in the next week or so. Me, of course included. I made a new warsteed to match my Helmingas/Westfold Captain outfit. His name is Helmwine (translates to Friend of Helm):
Solid Hide - black
Simple Tail - charcoal
Captain's Halter - crimson
Light Caparison of the Norcrofts - red
Light Leggings of the Entwash - crimson
And here is the gear used in my Helmingas Captain outfit:
Hauberk of the Helmingas
Potent Calenard Pauldrons - burgundy
Heavy Plated Dunlending Gauntlets - black
Dreng-gesc - black
Cloak of the Grey Company - black
I really like the Guardian's saddle because it's the only one that seems to fit my character correctly. She sits right in the middle of it (not so far forward she might as well be sitting directly on the horse, like with many saddles) and the front of it hits right where her hands sit so it actually looks like she's holding onto the saddle, not just invisible reins or something.
In other LOTRO news, I've gotten Sagewood to 53 and I managed to level Herefara two levels to 70. I think she's caught up to Navthalion in the Wailing Hills area of questing, even though he's level 73. What can I say, I'm impatient to get MOAR warsteeds! On Sagewood I quested with my dad a bit in Moria. He has a level 51 Champion. He is a casual player to the extreme and only levels every couple of weeks. He's been playing for about three years now I think? It's fun to spend time with him in game even if I can't in-person.