When last we left my batch of strawberry mead, it was ready for bottling.  Well it has been bottled now and wasn’t too bad drink-wise.  I have some left over which is still aging.  I’m planning on bringing some to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving.  Should be relatively decent by then.

The only oddity this time around: the strawberry mead doesn’t really taste like strawberries.  It’s not bad, mind you.  It just doesn’t have the taste of strawberries in it.  I suspect that the copious amount of honey in it is masking the strawberry flavor.

I’ll consider this batch a qualified success: it’s good to drink, but until I figure a way to get a better strawberry flavor, I’m going to hold off brewing it again.

I’m also gearing up for my next batch: blackberry.  I’ve made blackberry mead before and it was pretty good.  I’ve altered the recipe some this time around (different honey, different nutrient) and will probably be setting up for the first part of the brew cycle in the coming week.

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The Ancient Gaming Noob has an interesting article discussing the pitfalls of creating an MMO around a well-known story IP. When you get to hold Legolas’ bow when he’s taking a leak or can interact with the world as a character that already has a predefined history it can hurt rather than help players’ interest and engagment.

TAGN from the comments:

Using Session Play to put you in the shoes of one of the main characters seems like a bad idea to me.

If you are allowed any freedom of action, you can screw things up. Boromir dances, makes rude gestures, and expends no effort at all in defending Merry and Pippin.

If you are not allowed any freedom of action, why bother putting you in that situation rather than just running a cut scene.

Job Done Well

LotRO is ever walking that perilous line. I thought the Amarthiel / Narmaleth quest line in Book 1 hit all the right notes for a parallel quest to that of the Fellowship. She wasn’t in the books and played no part in the story as done by Tolkien but it gave the players a threat to tackle which plausibly would have to be dealt with so the Fellowship could continue unimpeded.

I also enjoyed the cut scene / session play parts in the Mines of Moria where players could see through the eyes of a dwarf survivor all that happened upon the finding of the Balrog and the fall of Moria.

In both the Amarthiel line and in the Moria bits, players assumed the roles of minor characters or characters created expressly for the game and did not (usually) get into becoming a major factor in the Fellowship except as a helper.

Job Done OK

Most of the content thus far has been like that above. Sometimes, however, there was content that gave me pause. Like the walk with Frodo section prior to leaving Rivendell. When I did it, I thought it was awesome. My little hobbit would of course be thrilled to have a chat with a fellow adventurer so far from home. And the fact that he had helped Frodo indirectly since my character was a Bounder made it fairly exciting.

The only down-side was when I ran that same quest again on my alts. It was amusing as an RP device to consider what my different characters would say given the exact same events and dialog coming from Frodo. My burglar may have been supportive and glad to help, my hunter (who is the uncle to my burglar) might have had sterner advice though also more practical. My human guardian probably would have told him to train up in earnest and stay behind the large men with shields.

The problem I had with the walk with Frodo is that everyone does it. Several thousand characters have had their chat with Frodo. Knowing that put a bit of a damper on things, but what are you going to do. It’s an MMO.

Job … Done

While there were parts I liked, there were also some I thought went too far. The Rangers bit in Endewaith, I think it is, seemed a little off to me. These are rangers and members of the Grey Company. And they need the help of a hobbit cook / burglar because … why exactly? If they’re short on crispy bacon or need fishing pointers, my character would likely be a benefit. Other than that, I think, by lore reputation, my hobbit wouldn’t have much to contribute to the fighting. It was the same with the Dunedain parts in Evendim – just based on the lore I had a tough time imagining my hobbit adding anything to the battles.

Dunedain: “And now, setting aside our history as an epic fighting force equivalent to none, we have enlisted this hobbit to help with our battle.”

Me: “Remember, when fighting with a dagger, you grip the handle part and aim the pointy part away from you.”

Dunedain: “Er … yes. Thank you.”

Me: “Also, don’t run with scissors and be sure to pack a straw hat to keep the sun off your head while you’re farming.”

Dunedain: *sigh* “Ok, no running with scissors on the battlefield.”

I imagine they’d find a way to get him to guard the bee as quickly as possible.

Thus far, Turbine has steered clear of sticking the players directly at the controls of a major character (that I can recall, anyway). I’m looking forward to the Rohan expansion and hope Turbine will keep to what has worked in the past.

Back on 3/26 I started a batch of strawberry mead. It’s been close to four months and it’s coming along nicely. The fermentation process has completed, there’s no pressure in the airlock, and it’s time to start thinking about bottling it.

One issue that came up is the amount of strawberry debris and particulate matter in the mead. Sometimes a fruit mix will leave a lot of junk floating in the mead that isn’t exactly harmful, however it will mess up the texture while drinking and make the mead taste less awesome. To remedy the floating bits, I added bentonite – a negatively-charge clay which will drag the particulate bits to the bottom with the lees so I should end up with some nice, clear mead. I’ve also added potassium sorbate – a compound which won’t kill the yeast but will keep it from reproducing. If the mead continues to ferment after it’s been bottled, the pressure could build up until the bottles explode or the gasses push the corks out. Either way is a mess. Potassium sorbate should prevent that from happening.

The mead should be ready for bottling next weekend.

Weatherstock is a giant music festival put on by the Lonely Mountain Band on the Landroval server (my current kinship). Guests and musicians showed up from all around the world (including France, Germany, the UK, Canada and the USA) to compete for prizes, entertain and engage in lots of random silliness. After a couple months of set up, stocking up and organizing, the event went quite well. There was a ton of goings-on behind the scenes including chat channels for those who prefer other languages besides English, security and lowbie escorts for people just visiting the server for the event (with low-level alts) and lots of goodies to be made and handed out (ales, pipeweed and hope tokens).

Due to crowd constraints and the fact that my gaming PC is getting on in years, I didn’t take any decent screenshots of the events. There are always some folks with missing uniforms or whose facial features get blurred in the attempt to minimize lag.

If you’d like to see some shots of the events and get a rough idea of what went on, I recommend the Curious Took. You can see some pretty amazing promotional posters over at Keli’s LotRO Journal. The Landroval Times also has some images of the event in their “recent images” section on the right-hand side of the page.

Weatherstock 2012 was a lot of fun to take part in (even though my role was only creating ales and donating some funds) and I think a lot of people felt the same way. I’m proud to be in a kinship that puts on those sorts of events for everyone.

The LotRO spring festival is underway.  As per usual, that means you should stop reading this site and go visit A Casual Stroll To Mordor for their excellent guide.  🙂

In other news, I’m enjoying the creativity and general silliness of my new kinship.  In addition to making a lot of in-game music, there are also members that enjoy making little LotRO machinema-type movies.  And I got to be in one!  The director gave us instructions over raid chat and we did what he told us.  Most of it involved standing around and doing various emotes (“Ok, you’re at a party.  I want to see lots of /drinking, /eating, /dancing, etc.   Annnnnnd … ACTION!  More dancing on tables!  Ok, don’t forget the new /toast emote!  That’s great!   Annnnnnnd … CUT!”)

We did several scenes in different locations around Middle-earth.  It was a lot of fun!  I’m not really sure what the story is supposed to be but if I find a video link to the finished product, I’ll have to post it here.

And now my hobbit wants a bowl of blue M&Ms in his dressing room.

Thespian Hobbit

A couple of gaming updates:

1) I unsubscribed from SWToR.  I haven’t reached the cap in the game yet but due in part to real life business and other MMO intersets (primarily my return to LotRO) I couldn’t see shelling out money for a game I wasn’t playing.

2) I am now in another kinship (guild) in LotRO.  The new group is way more populated at all hours than my old kinship ever was.  They’re a fun bunch of folks who regularly put on shows and engage in general silliness and I’m having a blast thus far.

One thing that struck me, listening to the kinship chat over the past couple of weeks is how much I’ve missed it.  Chat in SWToR and in my old LotRO kinship was essentially dead.  It’s like having a radio tuned to a dead channel: what’s the point?  Now there are all kinds of things going on in chat, along with events in the game and also raids and groups … I feel like I’ve come home.  MMOs are more fun with other players.  Whodathunkit?

 

Mead update:

Last time I posted, I had just racked the mead into a glass carboy.  At one point the airlock lost pressure but a couple of days later, it was under pressure again.  The pressure indicates that the mead is brewing.  Yeast are producing gasses which exit the carboy through the airlock.  A lack of pressure means that fermentation has stopped or slowed to the point where it’s no longer strong enough to effect the air lock.  The fact that it has re-started is good (as it’s nowhere near ready yet).  The mead is beginning to clear up which means that in a couple weeks it will be ready to rack again.

Today I racked my mead.  Racking is the process of moving the mead from one container to another.  Once the bubbles in the air lock slowed to less than one every thirty seconds, it was time to separate the mead from the lees (dead yeast that forms on the bottom of the container) and move the mead to a nice safe carboy for the rest of the brewing.

Stats thus far:

Alcohol by Weight: 9.71%

Alcohol by Volume: 12.25%