Syndication with my.lotro broken by WordPress 2.9

Trap Door Spider Queen of LOTRO
A mighty big bug, and colourful too!

The otherwise excellent WordPress 2.9 release has caused some problems in the FeedWordPress plugin I use to syndicate content from my My LOTRO blog. The plugin developer’s been quiet since July, and the latest beta build of WP 2.9.1 hasn’t fixed the problem–yet.

Game-related blogs exacerbate problems with managing your content across many sites and trying to provide a one-stop-shop for those who are interested. In the case of my.lotro, their blogging software is often a version behind and the mods they make quirky; I noticed in the latest release that tags and categories in quick edit pick lists are white-on-white for instance.  However, they have some nice game-related features like achievement logs and character details. My knee-jerk response is that they should provide better RSS widgets and become more an aggregator than a host for non-game content, but there are the usual issues of allowing uncontrolled content on their site and the visual train-wreck of content created for wildly-different CSS schemes that make it a dice roll.

What’s a gamer-blogger to do? Wait. I’m tempted to put my programmer hat on and see if I can fix this, and maybe submit it to FeedWordPress’s developer. Then again, my holiday LOTRO marathon really shouldn’t be interrupted, especially with STO so, so close.

Rank has its privileges in Star Trek Online

Star Trek Online
Star Trek Online

Fleets are the guilds of Star Trek Online. The guys over on mentioned in STO Radio podcast 1.4 that fleets would have seven customizable ranks. They’ve even put up their choices and logo for Nova Fleet already.

Googling around, it looks like fleets are popping up all over the place. I don’t know if this is normal for other MMOs that haven’t launched yet, but it doesn’t surprise me. Star Wars: The Old Republic might have a larger, more passionate (i.e., fanboy) base than Star Trek, but there is an inherent structure and deep lore to the Trek universe–beyond just its military ranking–that makes such organizing easier and more contextually relevant.

If I were designing a fleet, I’d go in a different direction than STO Radio and base it on modern naval organization. The game isn’t released, and I’m not in the closed beta (yet … cough, cough) so none of this factors in how privileges relate to ranks, but here goes:

Fleet Commander The highest authority in the fleet has ultimate control over the fleet, its resources, and its composition. (i.e., guild leader)
Task Force Commander Task force commanders control shared fleet resources and rank. (i.e., guild officer, promotions, and banking)
Task Group Commander Task group commander is the lowest strategic rank in the fleet and has the authority to recruit new captains into the fleet. (i.e., guild officer, recruiter)
Squadron Commander A squadron is a small group of complementary vessels. The squadron commander has experience with all vessel classes and can coordinate a diverse group of vessels to achieve complex objectives. (i.e., guild veteran, raid leader)
Flotilla Commander A flotilla is a small group of similar vessels (i.e., cruisers, escorts, or science vessels). The flotilla commander is an expert with one vessel and may be responsible for training captains in the optimal use of their individual vessels. (i.e., guild veteran)
Captain The fleet captain is a full, permanent member of the fleet. (i.e., guild member)
Acting Captain While the acting captain is the true commander of his own vessel, his position in the fleet is probationary or temporary. (i.e., guild recruit)

Like the modern navy, I don’t envision static arrangements of ships into flotillas, squadrons, etc. Fleet rank may imply authority when grouping with individual rank breaking ties. Of course I would expect consensus to overrule simple rank based on player skills and the challenges at hand.

I just get more excited every moment I think about this game coming out. My usual goal of moderating expectation is completely out the airlock! Please, Cryptic, do not disappoint!

Beast of Burden

Banhorn rides back to Bree-town in style after a long walk out to the Bree horse farm!

Barley isn’t the fastest horse in the stable but still faster than travelling on foot–marginally so even if you’re a hunter or warden–for an affordable 220 silver coins. On the way, a wolf decided that a late night horse (or elf!) snack was just the thing: Fortunately, Barley was barely faster!

Banhorn rides Barley

Private Message Notification: It LIVES!

I posted a suggestion in about adding private message notification to the my.lotro interface. I’m overjoyed to report that the my.lotro refresh added something close. Unfortunately Add media is a little broken right now, so please enjoy my text rendering:

Logged in as banhorn |  My Profile | [V] 1 unread | My Admin | Logout | Report this site

The [V] is actually an envelope icon. You may not have noticed this since it only shows up if you have unread messages. Most people don’t check or don’t even know about the functionality, so it’s not very likely you’ve got any unread messages to be notified about.

Was my suggestion responsible? I’ll admit to squealing like a schoolgirl at the possibility. However, it must have been an often-requested feature, and–I don’t mean to sound ungrateful–the implementation falls a little short of my suggested design:

Logged in as banhorn | Messages (3) | My Profile | My Admin | Logout | Report this site

My design had a permanent link to messages that would highlight and display the unread message count as needed. People could discover the private messages functionality without requiring the serendipity of somebody sending them a private message first. The original problem of being a concealed function is unchanged if you don’t have unread messages but you want to send a message.

And now for a moment of design OCD: My design had the notification coming after the “logged in” item. I can’t say why, but putting the inbox notification between ‘My Profile’ and ‘My Admin’ feels wrong. It may be as much about workflow as grammatical parallelism with the unread indicator splitting up the two “My …” links.

These are minor improvements that I’m sure will appear soon. (Hint, hint.) Having the same messaging system in my.lotro and would be really nice but a little harder to implement I’m sure. Still, one can hope!

Off to the forums to report the Add media bug …

Experience good and bad

Goldenstar has a great post about the Assist Experience Penalty over on A Casual Stroll to Mordor.  Go check it out. It touches on some things that fascinated (sometimes frustrated) me about LOTRO from the beginning and went from a few lines in a comment box to this:

Assists happen. I don’t mind when it’s help. Sometimes that’s real “Oh crap!” help, but it might be noob zeal or pro role-playing. It’s all good. I can forgive when it’s an accident. It’s easy for ranged classes to attack my target if they see the mob and not me.

However, I doubly hate obvious kill-stealing. First, I hate it because it flies in the face of proper etiquette and the spirit I think many in LOTRO have. Second, I hate it because it doesn’t work. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand how experience works in the game. So they cause harm and get no benefit for it. Mean AND stupid!

I’m torn when I’m the one in the position to give assistance. The RP’er in me wants to charge in and help if that’s what my character du jour would do. The gamer (or maybe the urban hermit) in me doesn’t want to intrude or ruin what might be a really triumphant moment.  So I check the relative health, power, and level before doing anything, then position myself to help. I jump in when I would be reaching for an “Oh crap!” button if I were in the other person’s elven boots.

One thing I’ve started doing lately that is assist-ish is pulling nearby mobs to make sure the person I’m helping doesn’t accidentally pull them and get into real trouble. That avoids the penalty and keeps me close enough to help if needed.

There’s a related problem: Many people don’t understand the math behind fellowship experience either. It’s not a straight division; there’s a bump for every additional member, the group experience bonus. A large fellowship clearing an area will make far more experience over time than the same members working separately.

How much? A 6-member fellowship gets a whopping 116% experience bonus, so each kill is worth over twice its solo kill value. A fellowship member gets 36% of what the solo experience would have been–not the 17% you’d expect from dividing the solo experience by 6–and you kill mobs much, much faster. That’s a higher “XPS” for individuals and a huge bump to the total experience awarded. (All else equal–your mileage may vary based on level disparity in the fellowship.)

Turbine did a brilliant job engineering this. It discourages power leveling and kill stealing while promoting teamwork. The shame is if people don’t understand or even know about it, they will continue to make bad choices that end up hurting everybody.

Related Lorebook articles

Update: I adjusted the numbers based on the Lorebook articles above. My original figures came from the Experience Mechanics article on Lacking evidence either way, I decided to go with the Lorebook numbers.

Elf Overboard!

Getting to the Irestone was the easy part; Ael slipped through the streets of Keledul unseen by the few sentries who weren’t drunk or asleep at their posts. Finding and freeing Avorthal had been much easier than expected.

That’s when Volund appeared. ”We sail north, Elf. Your time is almost…” Finding two armed elves where he expected one helpless one, he shouted, “… intruders? Attack! Come to my aid, you worthless thin-beards!” Two more dwarves burst from the hatch. Their advance forced the elves to fall back against the railing to avoid being surrounded.

Both sides paused, sizing up the situation before resuming the fight. Stars shimmered in the cold mountain air. Waves lapped against the side of the ship. Despite the dire circumstance, the moment filled Ael’s heart and he sang out,  ”A Elbereth Gilthoniel! A tiro nin!”

One dwarf blanched, dropped his weapon, and leapt into the water.  The other crumpled lifeless to the deck as Avorthal’s blade found its mark in that instant. Then Avorthal screamed, “You shall not escape me, villain!” and leaped after the terrified dwarf. Two figures shrank into the distance as the two remaining combatants with mouths agape stared dumbly after them from the deck of the Irestone…

Elf overboard!

Elf overboard!

Love Bird

We have visual confirmation that Star Trek Online will include Klingon starships with the signature D7 hull configuration. These images come from the second of two videos on GameSpot that summarize the 30 years between the end of Star Trek: Nemesis and the beginning of Star Trek Online:

The D7 battlecruiser from The Original Series and its improved descendent, the K’t’inga class, are my favorite ship designs in all of Star Trek. I can’t imagine a Star Trek game without them, and I wish STO would get some good Klingon starship porn out there.  As much as I love the Discovery and Excalibur so far, I need to see some attractive Klingon ships.

Come on, Cryptic: Give me some sugar Gagh, baby!

Here are the Future Past videos by way of GameStop: