Author Archives: Mireille Larkins-Burton

Nimble Fingers: OhSooCute Finger Puppets

OhSooCute’s crochet collection on Etsy seems to change too quickly to keep up! With many made-to-order items sold out almost as soon as they’re posted, I have to keep checking backfind the latest creations. Today I had an alien encounter at the farm…

Blue Monster Finger Puppet

Blue Monster Finger Puppet

Pink Piggy Finger Puppet

Pink Piggy Finger Puppet

These are part of an adorable set of nine characters, including roosters, bears, and bunnies, each sold separately for only $3.00 apiece. While you’re checking them out, take a peek at the Penguin Fingerless Gloves on OhSooCute as well; I’m partial to the blue ones.

From Skyrim to The Elder Scrolls Online

Quite possibly the most eagerly anticipated single-player game of 2012, Skyrim opened the world to dragons, inviting you to the icy Nordic lands, and gave you more power to define and shape your character — and your world — than ever before.

Not just Alchemy anymore…

Blacksmithing — far more than armor and weapon repair — now involves you in the full crafting experience. Cooking opens up several possibilities, from place-able finished dishes (critical to housing enthusiasts) to the immersive need to eat for nourishment. Previous Elder Scrolls games required an in-depth “mod”, a user-created add-on module, to make the game feel like you were living it on such a deep level. Bethesda paid attention, and included many of these elements in Skyrim, where you may cut wood, work leather, mine gems and metals, and more… if the NPCs are doing it, you can probably do it, too.1

The Elder Scrolls Online 1

The Elder Scrolls Online 1 (Photo credit: SpicaGames)

With all of these additions from one title to the next, does The Elder Scrolls Online — bringing the well-established single-player ES universe into the MMO free-for-all (probably not free to play) zoo — herald even more customization and immersion?

Or, will TESO’s lack of player housing at launch — always an issue to me — and the probable need to group up with others to finish high-level content divide the player base even further?

Asked from the perspective of someone who STILL loves — and plays — Morrowind, admittedly with mods. Lots of mods.

References

1: http://www.gameswelt.tv/19748/the-elder-scrolls-v-skyrim/video-interview-mit-todd-howard.html

MMOs, Housing, and Hope (Part 2)

There's No Place Like Home

You CAN go home again...

Since the first article in this series, MMOs, Housing, and Hope, I’ve rediscovered an older gem in a new setting: EverQuest II Extended, usually called EQ2X by those in the know (that is, geeky gamer types like me). The X, or Extended, refers to the Free-to-Play option, a remarkably robust system with more than enough quests and regions to get you to the level cap (maximum level) with plenty of quests to finish when you get there. However, rather than extolling the virtues of running a free-to-play model this way, I’ll get you straight to what you’re here for — the housing.

EQ2X housing offers a wide variety of options in each capital city. Starting with the standard “apartment”, a two-level structure with windows, a storage area, and in some cases, a fireplace, you pay just a few silver for weekly upkeep on an open-ended, deeply customizable housing system. Place furniture, trophies and doodads wherever you like, setting up a table and chairs in the center of a rug, then adding candlesticks and place settings, until the full RPG look is ready for your visitors — invite them over for lunch! Home access permissions are similar to LotRO, with different degrees of visitor access and control — if you want someone else to pay your upkeep, treat them like family, with full access to move and re-size your furnishings.

EverQuest II Extended Housing

Note the statue with her arms upraised; my character is half the height of that figure.

EverQuest II Extended Housing

That statue is a four-inch tall figurine in my son's house, and she guards the message center.

How do I move my furniture?

Your mouse scroll wheel controls everything from rotating to raising and lowering furnishings, as well as changing their size:

  • Rotate item: Scroll mouse wheel up and down
  • Adjust height: Control (ctrl) plus mouse wheel to lift items off the floor and place them (against a wall, for example) in mid-air
  • Re-size item: Shift plus mouse wheel to miniaturize or giant-size your furniture and decor

One of the first things I noticed when I placed a bed I’d earned from a quest, was that the bed looked ridiculously small next to my character’s frame. This quest took place in a pixie-like realm, so of course the bed was tiny. I ran through a number of crafting quests to make my own bed (not quite right, but certainly larger) before realizing that I could re-size the original bed. Nevertheless, the EQ2X crafting options for furnishings include several different styles, letting you create and decorate to your tastes. And if two rooms aren’t enough, turn your woodworking talents to room dividers, or just pack up and move your stuff into a bigger home.

EverQuest II Extended Housing

Look out the window and see your reflection in the mirror. Place books as you like -- on tables, in shelves, stacked on a box... you get the idea. It's YOUR home!

While I do prefer the graphics in LotRO, you’d expect far less visual competition from an older game like EQ2 (originally released in 2004). However, in EverQuest II, I love scrolling in to closely examine threadwork on my armor, etchings along the edge of a table, and the wide variety of textures throughout the game. EQ2 hasn’t just “aged well”, it’s on par with many modern games and in some aspects far better than most — housing, in particular.

MMOs, Housing, and Hope

There's No Place Like Home

There’s no place like it…

Do you ever find yourself wandering from game to game, finding friends and taking down the bad guys, then losing interest? Perhaps the game gets repetitive, or you feel that you’re not getting real value for the time and money you’ve spent. However, I’d venture that what you’re looking for is a place to call home.

Housing: Just another time sink?

  • Developer’s Perspective — the time sink means more money earned for less effort. Large MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) that don’t have housing always startle me, as this is an often requested feature that requires very little development time and reduces server load through instanced neighborhoods or houses.
  • Player’s Perspective — everything you do in a game that isn’t what you want to be doing is a time sink. Every time you run, ride, or fly from one area to another. Every time you return to your home city to craft or sell materials. Every time you “grind” a dungeon (run the same task over and over) to gain better gear — so you can do it all again in the next dungeon. Every one of these things has the potential for the Time Sink label.

As time sinks go, housing is actually a lot of fun. Achievers stand around capital cities displaying their beautiful (read: high-level) gear, and often place rare goods in the auction house or their personal store at impossible prices, just to display their achievements. Collectors turn in sets of similar trophies for in-game money, or they fill valuable storage space with trinkets they’ll never use again. And then, there’s the role-players….

Lord of the Rings: the Ecstasy and the Agony

Dawnsong Explorers LotRO Housing Small Birch Tree

LotRO’s beautiful landscaping (Image from Dawnsong Explorers)

Yes, I love the RP in RPGs, when I just want to relax and enjoy the atmosphere. I became deeply enthused (read: crazed) when Lord of the Rings Online announced the addition of housing to what is, in my view, one of the very best games running. I did the research, I purchased a house and paid ahead on my mortgage, and I began loading my trophies into the proverbial wheelbarrow, carting the products of taxidermy and quest rewards to a pretty little two-room home in Falathlorn, the Elven housing area in Ered Luin. And yes, I knew all about “hooks” —  or so I believed — and felt certain I could still work within these limitations and furnish a lovely house for myself, complete with landscaping.

And you know what? It IS beautiful, and I’m very happy with the way the outside of my home looks. From the birch saplings to the clumps of clover and the inviting little picnic table, plus the gorgeous view, I could sit outside and wish for a gardening plot for hours. And then I went inside.

I tried to place a bed in the second room of my house (looks like it a bedroom to me). I can put that bed in one place: the very center of the room. Not against a wall, but right in the middle. Well, fine. So next, I’d like to add two chairs by the fireplace, with a small rug between them. No, pick one, any one, but just one of those three things. Frustrated, I moved back to the living room, and placed a table in the center, hoping to display a few books, a map, and perhaps a piece of gear or two. If the table hasn’t been designed with these visuals in place, I can’t add them. Also, no stacking; you can’t place one thing on another in your home. Apparently, I hadn’t researched this feature as well as I’d thought.

LotRO Elven Housing

LotRO Elven Housing: Kinda empty? You’re out of “hooks”!

Terribly discouraged, I felt that perhaps Turbine should have left housing out after all, as this apparently simple issue — hooks rather than free placement — pushed me away from LotRO for many months. I returned to a game that didn’t tease me with possibilities, World of Warcraft, a game that degraded, through one expansion after another, into arguably the easiest graphical MMO available. No challenge equals no fun for me, but that’s fodder for a future article.

Recently, I’ve started chasing hope again, looking for a place to call home. Part two of MMOs, Housing, and Hope will continue my walkabout through the realms of fantasy, as I seek a place to hang my scabbard and put up my feet by the fire.

Read the next part of this article, MMOs, Housing, and Hope (Part 2).

Let’s Hear It for the Hair!

Several months ago, while writing the Savvy Shopper blog for ShopCompanion on The Shopping Vine,  Folica.com approached me and asked me to become a VIP Reviewer. If you’re crazy for hair — and yes, I am — you might already know that this was an exciting opportunity. At Folica, it’s “all about the hair”, and they feature many of the best hair products available at very good prices. The concept is easy: Folica sends you products, and you write a good review. You keep the products or free, and they get better product content! That’s the win-win result I love, from either perspective.

Croc Greenion Flat Iron

Croc Greenion Flat Iron

Here’s an example, my detailed review for the Croc Greenion Flat Iron. As you can see from the review, Folica’s write-up field does have a few issues with odd characters and formatting (it didn’t like the degree symbol). However, the review was a blast to write! Previously, I’d written a handful of less-than-enthusiastic reviews about the France Luxe line of hair accessories, so I was a bit concerned that a few negative ratings might affect my chances of writing for them in the future.(Note: they weren’t all negative; I loved the France Luxe Stacked Crystal Bobbie Pins and the Triple Strand Pearl Headwrap!)

It turns out that I had nothing to worry about — Folica contacted me again for reviews about more complex products. The trick to this, it seems, is to write up a few, then leave them alone for a while. Give them a few months to cycle through their long list of other VIP Reviewers eager to try something new. Then send your contact a note and remind them that you’d love to write for them again.

France Luxe Stacked Crystals Bobbie Pins

France Luxe Stacked Crystals Bobbie Pins

France Luxe Triple Strand Pearl Headwrap

France Luxe Triple Strand Pearl Headwrap

I found that mentioning specific products — even those without reviews — doesn’t influence their choices when they send you a box full of goodies. They know what they need, and they’ll send what they think needs featuring, so mention products you’d like to try if you wish, but enjoy testing the products you get — and you will!

If you’d like to become a Folica.com VIP Reviewer, they’re still accepting applications at the Folica.com page on Facebook. Just fill out a fairly quick form, and they’ll contact you when they’re ready for your reviews.

Have you been a VIP Reviewer for Folica? Tell us about your experiences!