Thursday, February 24, 2011

Blog Back Online!

There are a few broken links and such but I'm so very very happy to see our site again I could squeal with glee! A great big thank you to Dan for being so diligent in working through hostmonster's crap backups to get us set up.

Now if you rush to you may still see the down message. That is because the DNS could be cached and take a while to update. You can however force an update!

On Windows go to Start > Run and typing in the following command: ipconfig /flushdns

In Mac OSX Leopard, you can use the command dscacheutil -flushcache to flush the DNS resolver cache: bash-2.05a$ dscacheutil -flushcache

In Mac OSX versions 10.5.1 and before, the command lookupd -flushcache performed the same task: bash-2.05a$ lookupd -flushcache

Otherwise it could be another day before the site clears for you. Sorry for the inconvenience. Just part of the pains of switching hosts. But we are sooooo happy to be back online! It's only been a few days and we feel we've missed so much!

Update 5: Hostmonster Lives in Opposite World

Well, the backup was able to be transferred and it was not corrupt.  However, upon evaluating the restore, Dan discovered that the file count didn’t match.  I sent him the logs that Hostmonster published with the backup and it appears that a “full backup” is a very subjective term over at Hostmonster.   You see, because their server is still bogged down the backup skipped files.  Yes, that’s right; the full backup skipped files.  Thereby not really making it a full backup at all. 

So now Dan is manually going through the folders trying to match stuff up as he can and download what is missing.  I myself am trying to run a daily backup to see if that helps, but I am betting that Dan can do it by hand much faster.  However, our site is slowly coming back online and the name servers are pointing correctly, but you can see that there are some things missing.  But as far as restoring the files it’s a race! 

Dan versus Hostmonster.  (My money is on Dan.)

Dev Diary: Crafting Changes

I love crafting; I really do.  So I was excited to see that there are some changes coming with Update 2, Echoes of the Dead.  Especially since they are touching on the following:

  • New tutorials for all vocations
  • Redesigned crafting progression quests
  • Improvements for Metalsmith & Tailor
  • New Recipes
  • And… A surprise!


01So admittedly it was a long time ago that I started crafting, but I do remember that there was some confusion about what vocation I wanted to pick and how things worked.  To date, I also see some general confusion on the behalf of new players about what they should choose as well.  So to help resolve this issue Turbine has implemented new Crafting Vocation Tutorials where after you select a vocation a player will be granted

“…three tutorial-style quests, one for each crafting profession.  These quests are designed to provide basic information such as how to gather/obtain resources, how to navigate the crafting panel and how to execute recipes to produce your very first crafted item”

Which sounds like a great idea; especially since completing the tutorials grants some ingredients so players can jump right in after they’re done.  For those who go through all three tutorials in each vocation, they will be granted a special title as well.  Anyone who already have a vocation may also visit a Master/Mistress of Apprentices and go through the tutorials as well to claim the title.  Be cautious though, as if this requires you to actually switch vocations you could very well end up losing all your current crafting experience.

Progression-gating Quests

Currently on the live servers when you max out a tier of a crafting profession you are usually granted a quest in order to progress to the next level.  Sometimes these are as simple as going to an NPC, reading a book that they give you, and then finishing the quest.  Other times though, it requires you to go to another part of the world, kill a special mob to get a special ingredient to use in a special recipe, make the recipe, and then finish the quest.  Fun?  No, not really; especially if you’re level 20 and you need to kill something 20+ levels above you.  Thankfully, Turbine agrees!

image007We’ve removed many instances where crafting progress was halted due to a progress "lock" requiring quest completion. Profession-specific hints with useful information will now appear upon completing proficiency for any given crafting tier. The result is fluid crafting progression throughout all tiers of each profession.

Continuing the spirit of removing unnecessary gating, quests that gated access to a “Superior Facility Access trait” and the Artisan tier have been replaced with a new quest that will unlock both of these using “…crafting items and abilities already familiar to the player.”  Currently they are set up the same as most of the gated crafting quests where you have to do a lot of travelling, killing, and crafting of special components; so I am happy to see this being changed as well.  I remember the last time I had to do these quests my stomach just dropped because I knew it was going to eat up a ton of time where I’d rather be doing something else.

In addition to these changes, new quests have been added to the various profession vendors to provide quests to those who have completed the Journeyman proficiency to a Master/Mistress of Craft Guilds; who in turn will guide you into joining a crafting guild.  This is a good move, because currently your only notification that you are eligible to join a guild that I know of is if you happen to stumble upon a Master/Mistress of Craft Guilds and pick up the quests.  This new approach should do a lot more to inform players who may not know about Crafting Guilds or just may have forgotten to join one.

Tailor & Metalsmith Upgrades

The Tailor and Metalsmith professions will be undergoing the same treatment that the Jeweler and Weaponsmith did last year.  This means that the new items produced should have stats that are more appropriate for their intended classes and levels.  (All existing armor stays the same.)  Also, many recipes will have multi-output options and therefore will be renamed and/or consolidated.

So what does recipe consolidation mean for the Metalsmith and Tailor? The most important thing to note is that all racial variant armour recipes are no longer accessible and have been removed from the game. To be more specific:

  • All unused racial variant armour recipe scrolls have been removed from inventory and treasure
  • All learned racial armour variant recipe entries have been removed from the crafting panel

And there's no need to worry about appearances: All of the unique visual designs found amongst the various Dwarf-make,Elven, Westernesse, and Bree-land armor variants are still readily available! The armour pieces that could previously be produced by these recipes can now be made using the multi-output functionality of the remaining

This is an interesting move and it should reduce a lot of clutter.  I know I had a ton of recipes that I’ve gathered over time that I don’t use, but do eventually add up to a very long list of options which make it hard to find a specific recipe at times.

Final Touches

image021To wrap things up there are several new recipes:

  • Scholars are getting new “Book of the Wind-rider” & “Book of the Whisper-draw” recipes for use by Hunters
  • Cooks are getting some new Cooked Food recipes
  • All Crafting Guilds are getting new level 65 1st Age Weapon & Class Item recipes (woohoo!)

And as far as “The Surprise” goes?  Well, the only hint that Turbine would give is the picture on the right; which we would guess means that they are going to change or revert the sound that is currently made when smoking.  Good thing too, because that new noise just didn’t make much sense and a lot of people found it fairly annoying.  But hey, not all changes work out as intended, right?

I would say that overall most of these changes are good and I’m glad to see progression being made in revising the different professions and in lowering the barrier of progression.  A lot of people enjoy crafting, but it definitely is in need of a boost in some areas so hopefully this go some ways to providing it.  It will be interested to see how the higher level armor stacks against its current renditions, or if it has changed at all.  And craftable 1st Ages?  I’m going to have to look into that as well.


PDF Version


Status Update 4

It was a long night, and I want to salute our tech Dan who was really committed to getting things set up for us. I know he worked at least 12 hours yesterday and a lot of that time was answering questions and working with me to trying to get our information from the old host.

Unfortunately our old host is still so incredibly overburdened (even without us being active) that when Dan was attempting to do a back up, the process was dying on the old host. This resulted in corrupted backups. When Dan tried to just do a live import, the transfers would just die on him.

So, after being on the phone with the old host for half an hour (thanks to the help desk guy who was uncomfortably mediating between me and tier 2 support) we think we have it nailed down. Dan gave it a good show and was working until after midnight his time to see if he could get it working, but eventually we both agreed that we would let the backup run and see how it would turn out.

However, good news greeted me this morning and we have received an email from the host stating that a backup has been successfully created and hopefully it is not corrupted. So, if it is good to go, Dan should be able to transfer it over to the new server and restore out site!

So, it has been a process and I have to say I think we made a good choice in our future host. In the future, due to the nature of virtual servers, we should be able to scale the server if we run into problems. I can't thank VPSzone and you all enough. You all have been incredibly supportive and we thank you for it!

- Merric

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dev Diary: Legendary Item Revisions

GeneralChangesYesterday, we saw the release of a combined Dev Diary by Ken “Graalx2” Burd and Brian “Zombie Columbus” Aloisio concerning the Legendary Item Revisions.  Love them or hate them, Legendary Items (LI’s) are a pretty elaborate system that needed some love.  For those who may be unfamiliar with the system, let me see if I can sum it up for you briefly.

Legendary Items are a special kind of weapon or class item that is accessed by completing the first book of Volume 2.  These items will level up as you kill mobs and/or complete quests that grant Legendary Item Experience.  Each item also comes with a set of bonuses called Legacies that are granted when they are initially identified and then three times during their leveling process (at levels 10, 20, and 30).  Legacies usually enhance a class skill or increase stats and are advanced through the use of special scrolls and by using points that are granted each time the LI levels.  LI’s also have three additional slots apart from Legacies where you can place “Runes” which grant additional stat bonuses.  Runes are granted initially by the introduction quest to Legendary Items, but are then gained by deconstructing Legendary Items and then combining (5) runes to create higher level ones; the higher the level the rune the better the bonuses.  All-in-all it was (and still is, really) a complicated system that required a lot of grinding, a lot of random legacies, and a lot of (justified) complaining.


LI-IDNow with this update we are seeing some fairly big changes to the system.  First comes the changes to Legacies.  The biggest complaints centered around which Legacies you item is imbued with is basically a lottery.  Once you identified a Legendary Item it could get between 2 – 4 random Legacies on it that could be Pool A (renamed to Major) or Pool B (renamed to Minor).  What’s wrong with this?  Well, there’s nothing worse than investing a ton of time and/or gold into a second or first age Legendary Item and getting 2 Legacies that you consider horrible.  It was very disheartening to a lot of players.

So in Update 2, Turbine will be introducing “Legacy Replacement Scrolls” which will allow you to take a Legacy from one item and put it on another; allowing you to build your “ideal” Legendary Item.  However, there are restrictions:

  • The Legendary Item to be deconstructed must be at least Level 30 before a player is given the option of extracting a Legacy.
  • The Legacy to be replaced must be from the same class as the extracted Legacy. No moving Hunter legacies onto Guardian Legendary Items.
  • The Legacy to be replaced must be on the same type of Legendary Item from which the Legacy was extracted. No moving legacies from weapons to class items.
  • Lastly, the replaced Legacy must be of the same category as the extracted Legacy. Legacies are now categorized as "Major" and "Minor" legacies. These categories are the same as the previous Pool A and Pool B categories. [Note, that Minor Legacies are now able to overwrite Major Legacies, but not vice versa.]

Other changes include Legendary Items always having 3 Major Legacies upon their first identification.  Although some may be disappointed that they will no longer having a chance at getting 4, I am sure there will be no complaints about not getting 2 anymore.  Also, after the patch Item XP runes will no longer be gated by the level of the Legendary Item; this will not apply to existing runes, though.  Also, to some people’s chagrin and others happiness Graalx2 states, “We have also expanded the LOTRO store to include all existing Legendary Item scrolls, as well as giving a player the option to purchase two additional Legendary Item slots.”  Players will also be able to unlock up to two additional Legendary Item slots, giving them the ability to level two more items at the same time, through the Store as well.


Now, moving onto the changes to Runes, we see that the number of tiers of Runes have been decreased from 9 to 6 and the number of relics per tier has increased to 10.  Although,there will also be an additional 9 “Unique” relics that are available for level 55, 60, and 65 versions that are new to the game.  As far as relic bonuses go, Zombie Columbus (ZC) states,

Instead of each tier being a new set of stats, the same 10 stat distributions will be available in all tiers at increasing potency. Most stat combinations achievable with the old relics will be available, as well as some new stats that weren’t available before

RefiningIn addition to a reduction in tiers, “critical combinations” have been removed (and have been replaced with a chance to gain a new currency called “Shards”) as well as a reduction in the amount of runes it takes to combine for higher tiers.  Shards are a new LI currency that are created either by refining relics (which can be done via a new tab offered by Relic Masters) or through the before mentioned critical combinations.  Shards can then be used instead of gold for Legendary Item services or they can be used for a new process called Melding.  The reason being, because the gold prices for all services has been dramatically increased.

Melding, which is a new system performed via a new “Transmutation” tab on Relic Masters, allows for players to browse different recipes to combine Shards and/or Relics of different tiers into different Legendary Item products.  These products range from all the tiers of different relics, to Legendary Item Scrolls, to the Unique Relics that are new with this release.

TransmutationEvery relic of every tier can be created by simply melding a relic of the same tier and some Shards. No longer will you have to constantly combine relics in the hope of getting the one you wanted! Special “Unique” relics with different stats than then normal tier 1-6 relics can also be made, which will allow you to pick and choose the combination of stats you want from the Legendary item.

Various Scrolls that enhance your Legendary Items can also be made, and Melding can even create unidentified Legendary Items! All such items will be bound to your character. Our plan is to extend the recipes available in the Melding tab in future Updates as players decide what they like and don’t like about these changes

Because of these changes, all relics will be removed into your LI Panel upon the release of Update 2.  Note that any runes currently above tier 6 will be considered tier 6 and that what slot they may go into may have changed.


From what I have heard, a lot of people are happy with the changes to the system as far as Legacy Scrolls go.  However, most are unhappy with the fact that you can no longer un-slot relics when reforging a weapon.  My only thought is that Turbine feels that there needs to be some kind of loss and if the relic system flows as well as ZC intends for it to, then it shouldn’t be much of an issue.  I will see though.  Admittedly I am not the most aggressive person when it comes to Legendary Item leveling (personally I find it difficult to get LI’s for my respective class that are my level outside of Eregion), but I only have one level 7 rune and the rest are 6 and lower.

But I remain fairly optimistic that these changes will encourage me to pursue LI leveling without feeling that it is a lost cause.  I should also mention that when they mention that the gold sink has increased; it really has increased quite a bit.  Some services run over 500 silver and I’ve heard tales of someone spending almost 100 gold to build their “ideal” weapon on Bullroarer.  To me that sounds extreme, but if it does turn out to be too high I am sure that Turbine will made adjustments accordingly.  Also, remember that this is the first of two planned upgrades to Legendary Items that we can see this year.  I can’t imagine where they will go from here, but I look forward to seeing what they do.  

Status Update 3: Migration!

We have been told that our new host is currently in the process of migrating our old content to our new servers! It may take all night as hostmonster is capping their bandwidth but progress is being made and we are certainly a step closer!

Status Update 2

So, the server is up and they're installing some preliminary software on the server before they migrate the data over. I was really hoping that this might be done today, but I'm not sure that it will. I will do my best to keep everyone updated.

However, in the meantime, here are some screenshots released today by Turbine!

Operation Supply Drop LOTRO Auction

Ollehael of Dwarrowdelf emailed us letting us know of a charity event in support of our U.S. troops that has touched our little corner of LOTRO. The gaming site, Front Towards Gamer is hosting a charity called “Operation Supply Drop” that focuses on sending things like video games overseas to soldiers deployed in places like Afghanistan.

Ollehael has donated a brand new Collector’s Edition of Mines of Moria for Operation Supply Drop to auction off to help raise funds for this charity. All proceeds from this sale are going to the charity.

The starting bid is $20 with $4 shipping and the auction is open for two more days. The current retail price for a collector’s edition on amazon is about $40 but the point isn’t really about getting a great deal, it’s about supporting the troops while getting good anyway.

Collector’s editions do have a bit more physical goodies than what you’d get buying the regular box or the expansion pack in the store. There’s soundtrack CDs, a replica one ring and a cloth map. But mostly it’s a great cause!

Status Update

As of last night I had a host picked out, but I wasn't too confident about it. However, thankfully we were contacted on Twitter by Anthony of After talking to him for a while, it seemed like they were the best solution I had seen so far. They offer up a more robust VM, plus they are very open to scaling servers up and down based on your needs. It sounded like a great fit and after discussing this with Goldenstar a bit more last night and this morning we made the decision to move ahead with the purchase.

Well, it turns out that Anthony is not a sales person, but the Network Operations Manager for the company. He was great in assisting us and he even processed our order as soon as it was placed. So right now, somewhere in Dallas, TX (my home before Michigan) a new virtual server is being created that will be hosting A Casual Stroll to Mordor. Once it's up, a technician will begin moving our data from our old host to our new host (which was included in the service). So, everything is looking good.

We would like to express our thanks to everyone who contributed financially, mentally, and/or spiritually. We cannot thank you enough for all of this.

So to our writers: If you thought you had a vacation, you're wrong. You best be typing away, because we're going to be back before you know it!


Contact CSTM

We still have access to our normal podcast email address but since we are planning to switch hosts we may need to reset everything up and in the meantime I don't want to miss anyone's messages!

We still will be doing the podcast on Saturday, blog or no blog and we still want to hear from you! I will still have a player achievements post somewhere on Friday morning so you will still be able to submit your achievements to us!

Here's the ways you can contact CSTM during our downtime.

Voicemail: 1-520-261-2786
And of course there's Twitter and Facebook.

Thank you for your patience during this host nonsense!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Podcast Unaffected by Outage

Just a quick note to let everyone know that our host outage affects the blog only. We have a separate host for our podcast episodes. All your RSS hosts such as zune, iTunes, or other podcatchers will still be able to download the file.

If you typically just listened to CSTM via the web site, you visit our podcast host and stream directly from them until the site is back up.

Unfortunately all our show notes were hosted on the blog and so those links will not be available until the blog is restored.

A Casual Stroll to Mordor Offline

Just a notice to all our followers that A Casual Stroll to Mordor's site is offline and may be for a few days while we sort out some web site host issues. We sincerely apologize for this lapse in service and are working on finding a new host as soon as possible.

Cause of This Outage

We were hosting our site through a shared server solution site called We've been using them for years (even before CSTM) and haven't had any issue.

A few weeks back we were having intermittent database connection errors and were told the issue was too many database calls coming from our site. No warning that this was any problem with our hosting service, just plain facts of what the issue may be stemming from. I researched on my own possible solutions for this type of issue and installed a new caching plugin to ease up on database calls from our site. The errors went away and we assumed all was good again.

Fast forward to today. LOTRO's site maintenance extended past their window and as a result people came to CSTM to see if there was any news. The resulting spike in traffic basically caused the database to blow up crashing the service entirely. We contacted the host for assistance and was told they'd look into it and expected everything to be back up in 15-30 minutes.

About an hour or so later we received an email saying that our site has been deactivated due to Terms of Service violation associated with our account. Our account has been suspended and we have 15 days from the date of deactivation to get our data or they may be deleted.

Just like that. Our site is turned off. We called and spoke with Hostmonster but basically they're done with us. When we notify them of our new host they will refund us any of our unused balance.

Finding a New Home

Thanks to the brilliance that is twitter, we almost immediately had more hosting suggestions than we knew what to do with!

Our old host was a shared server solution and told us we basically need a VPS or dedicated host. We are trying to avoid shared server hosts so we don't end up right back in this same situation. We realize hostmonster's database policies may have just been absurdly low as we really don't think CSTM generates unmanageable amount of traffic.

We are in talks with several hosting sites explaining our operations and trying to find the service/price that fits us best. It may take us a couple days to find, set up and transfer all our content to a new service.

We are very sorry for the downtime! We are working hard to find a new home for CSTM as quickly as possible!

Thank You

We are sincerely touched by all the helpful suggestions and wishes for quick recovery we've been receiving from the community. Thank you very much. If it hadn't been for all the support from our fans, we might have just walked away. Instead we are inspired to get back online as quickly as we can and continue sharing our love of LOTRO with everyone!

Thank you so much for your support!

If you are interested in chipping in a little to help us in paying for our new host you can do so with the donate button below. Donations are not required but certainly are appreciated!