Saturday, February 14, 2015

Melody of the West - A Fond Farewell

My grey ship has arrived and it's time I sail into the west, away from LOTRO's shore and towards Valinor.

Four years ago, I started dabbling in cosmetics. Three and a half years ago, I began to share outfits with some close friends, embarrassed to admit I played "virtual dress-up," as I had once put it. Three years ago, I began sharing them with all of you...and it's been a glorious three years.

It's with a heavy heart I make my final cosmetic entry here at Material Middle-earth. I thought it appropriate to end on an outfit using the same location and similar colors as my very first--sea blue and the elven homesteads in Falathlorn--which can be viewed here.  Even though this blog opened with a cosmetic contest I held for Forgottten Darkness in April 2012, it wasn't until June that I mustered the courage to post my own creation.

There have been 150+ posts here, ninety percent of which have been outfits. The other ten has been about beta previews and updates regarding cosmetic additions to the skirmish camps. I honestly never expected to reach that number. From June to December of 2012, I was an outfitting machine. I had a new outfit every two to four days (some of which I think are absolutely ugly...and it's not because I was new to this) and I quickly burned myself out after making fifty-something outfits. I returned in April 2013, just in time for a server fashion contest and the release of the Wildermore zone...and then a computer hardware failure left this blog suspended until September. I returned again and managed to ahdere to a weekly posting regiment on Saturdays, which has worked very well. I've never felt any pressure to make an outfit or haphazardly throw one together under that system.

This blog has certainly come a long way. I remember how small and timid my early pictures had been. Not to mention, I started this blog with nothing more than Microsoft Paint and the in-game screenshot key as my only tools. I could never keep consistent dimensions with any of my pictures due to the nature of Paint. If I adjusted the sizes of images in the slightest bit, they would pixelate horrendously. I knew nothing about lighting or advanced graphics settings at the time. If it weren't for Devonna posting her guide to screenshotting in early 2012, and me noticing it some six months later, I wouldn't have learned how I could make the best of my screenshots. Combine that with picking up Paint Shop Pro 7 and FRAPS in 2013, and this blog started to look consistent. As the year went by, the pictures became bigger, brighter.

Material Middle-earth even had a format overhaul. After staring at the old green and black Rohan theme, I decided it was time to change the banner and layout of the blog. Originally, I leaned towards a Gondorian theme, but decided to use a universal one. A screenshot guide was added and a condensed tags page was created to make navigation easier. I'm just glad it was a successful and well-liked change.

You might remember from the old banner image or the "About Me and MME" page that I once had a passion for housing. Unfortunately, finding an active player house on my home server hasn't been easy. Well decorated abodes have become an even rarer commodity. At least there have been a couple featured here. I was waiting for the anticipated update for well over a year, but Rowan announced that it wouldn't be possible. It was then I decided to drop housing entirely. I had plans to revive that part of this blog if player housing became viable again. It's a shame, because this aspect of the game had so much potential!

Outside of LOTRO, this blog continues to be a creative outlet for me. I've had the opportunity to gain some skills in web design, graphic design, and image editing software. You see, I'm someone with creative inclinations, ranging from doodling in notebook margins to full-page sketches in sketchbooks to writing short stories. Now that I've had the chance to expand this hobby to the internet, I have no idea what I'll be doing next. After all, if I'm not making something, I start going stir crazy. If I do begin a new project, I'll certainly post something here in the future should anyone be interested. Whatever it is, it won't be related to LOTRO, but it might be cosmetic related. I do play multiple games after all! For the time being, I plan on making Twitter my long-term home. Feel free to follow me that way you can keep tabs on my future gaming endeavors!

And now for the most important part of this entry.

There are so many people to thank for this successful blog.

First, I'd like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to two of my fellow Gladdenites, Ely of Pony Lovers Anonymous and Emiele, and the two Gladden kinships Forgotten Darkness and Turning of the Tide, which no longer have webpages. Thank you for your kindness, encouragement, and advice in all things cosmetic. If it weren't for all of you, I wouldn't have found my love for outfitting.

Second, I'd like to thank Hymne of Cosmetic LOTRO, Starry of The Starry Mantle,  Freyjuska of Lotro Fashion, and Devonna of The Lotro Stylist. The four of you inspired me to start what I've felt to be a successful blog and keep it running as long as possible. You were and still are the pioneers of LOTRO's cosmetic blogging community. I remember listening to that Cosmetics Roundtable on CSTM back in 2011, which featured three of you.

Third, I'd like to thank those of you who have pulled me aside to tell me how much my outfitting has inspired you, whether you've posted in the LOTRO forums, made cosmetics a personal project, or created your own blog. Ellishul of The Elven Tailor (also The Elven Adventurer on Tumblr) and Makaia of Style of Middle-earth, you two are foremost on my mind.

Fourth, since I can't assign this individual any particular category, a hearty thank you to Gloredh of Wandering Around Arda. You also share my passion for elves, outfits, and all other things elvish, which has been a source of both joy and continual inspiration for my own.

Fifth, I'd like to thank Second Breakfast of Crickhollow and Rangers of the West of Gladden for inviting me to help judge their server fashion shows. It's been a privilege witnessing the creativity and courage of the participants and the community spirit of such kinships. And while I'm on the topic of server events, I also want to extend a thank you to The Lonely Mountain Band. Your Landroval Ales & Tales events, along with the many others I've attended the past three years, and the attendees they've gathered have inspired several outfits here.

Sixth, I'd like to thank my partner in crime and best friend of 15+ years, Laenai. You have been with me since the very beginning. If it weren't for you, I would have never started playing LOTRO. Thank you for pointing me to both the infamous outfit system and wardrobe panel back in 2010! I bet you never expected that would start my cosmetic blogging career!

Seventh, a special thanks to Turbine, Inc. This blog would have never been possible without the release of LOTRO in 2007. I hope that Warner Bros. gives you the funding you've deserved since they purchased your company to make this game the shining jewel it once was!

Last, but not least, I'd like to thank every person that's come along on this journey and shown their support through commenting via Facebook and Twitter, e-mailing, game mail, the official LOTRO forums, and humoring me as I spent the past few years making what you've discovered here. (I'd name you all individually, but that's another blog post in and of itself!) I'm honored to have been presented the opportunity to offer advice and help create your character's ideal outfits on multiple occasions.

I cannot stand but humbled in the presence of this community. Na lû e-govaned vîn.

All of my love and best wishes for your LOTRO endeavors,

Nathrien Estelenlaer <3

Shoulders: High Officer's Shoulder Guards (Navy, T6 Metalsmith recipe)
Back: Cloak of the Ibis (Sea Blue, LOTRO Store)
Chest: Lore-keeper's Robe (Sea Blue, classic skirm camp vendor, level 85 Barad Guldur light armor)
Feet: Potent Resolute Boots of Fate (Sea Blue, random instance reward during the Helm's Deep expansion)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Hobbit-skald - Pennycandy of Gladden

This here is the final outfit request I'll be honoring. As you know, Saturday will be my final day updating this blog. I understand that there are other creations that some of you would have liked me to make, but I'm out of time. It's taking all of my willpower to stick to my guns and retire, as planned, this weekend. Thank you for strongly encouraging me to continue, but the longer I stay, the harder it will be to leave. Let's get back to the outfit, shall we?

I had a brief conversation with Lilyrose, the leader of Rangers of the West on the Gladden server. Some of you may recall that I've had the pleasure judging two server fashion events hosted by her wonderful kinship between 2013 and 2014. Anyway, she was wondering if I could make some sort of warrior-skald outfit. Usually she dons her Draigoch set and charges headfirst into battle on her hobbit mini. I'm hoping this gives her (and other similar halfling characters) another combat-ready option.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Revisiting the Early Days of MME

As promised in late November, I've gone back in time to 2012, taken old outfits from this blog, and reposted them here in bigger, brighter pictures with much improved graphical quality. It was difficult to choose from over fifty outfits, but I narrowed that list down to eight. With each picture, I've included the name of the outfit (most sound soooo corny!) and a link back to the original post for the dyes and skins. I almost changed some of the pieces, but decided to leave them as is.

Normally I post new outfits on Saturday, but I thought this would be a refreshing change of pace.

You might be wondering what was my reasoning for doing this? Here's my first reason. I never had the followers in 2012 that I have nowadays. When Material Middle-earth was in its infancy, I was lucky to get a hundred views a month. Nowadays, it nets at least several thousand. By not establishing myself on Facebook until late 2013 and Twitter in 2014, many LOTRO players didn't have the chance to see my early work as it was posted. I am hoping, today, that you'll join me on a sentimental journey and see where it all began. And for the second reason, this week's entry allowed me to exhaust whatever marks, medallions, and dyes remained simply by recreating these.

Also, don't forget that next Saturday I'll be posting my farewell entry with a new outfit! Before then, I'll be honoring one last outfit concept from a follower. If all goes well, that ensemble will appear here on Wednesday morning.

The War-forged Defender

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Purveyors of Pie

Mid-January, when I had asked for outfit ideas on Twitter, Fredelas posted the following on my wall: "Could you help me with some LOTRO outfit ideas befitting my position as Certified Pie Inspector?" This was a tall order for me, as I am dreadful when it comes to outfitting hobbits. I never bothered with dwarves during the three year run of Material Middle-earth, but I certainly tried my hand at a few hobbits. For the first week, whenever I applied the term "Pie Inspector" to our adorable halflings, I couldn't think of anything. It was absolutely frustrating. Halfway through a second week of drawing blanks, a blizzard swept through and buried me under 3-4 four feet of snow. Dealing with that gave me a chance to distance myself from LOTRO. This past weekend, when I sat back down, I had a couple of ideas:

  • A Certified Pie Inspector that understands the process of making quality pies from scratch. This inspector holds everybody else's to the same lofty standards that he holds his.
  • A Certified Pie Inspector who has never baked, but eaten enough of them to know the combinations of fillings and mixings that make a superb pie. (Considering hobbits also appreciate good ale, I tossed this into the mix as a side hobby. This explains the robe I chose below.)

Brainstorming was only the first step. Finding the right attire? That was going to be tricky. Other than the Bounder Shirriff's Cap and the tunic out of the Mathom House, I knew of no signature hobbit clothing. In fact, I don't think I've seen anything other than attire that's designed for dwarves, elves, or men (though men and hobbits seemed to share the same or similar styles). Thus began my search to find clothing with justifiable hobbit-like appearances or origins. What you see below is my final product. These outfits might not exactly feel hobbit-like, though they do stand out enough to give our Certified Pie Inspectors the proper air of respect and authority!

Beneath each picture, I've included short captions. I've decided to do a little storytelling for this entry, something that I haven't done in a very long time. Also, you're in for a small surprise. I've featured my first male hobbit!

Naturally, the hardest thing about baking apple pies is reaching those pesky apples first. Everything else is easy for little Pennycandy.

Of course, you can't be an official Pie Inspector if you can't bake your own to perfection! 
Those crusts must be golden brown and just thick enough to not collapse when cutting that first delicious slice...
Head: Plumed Hat (Red, introductory quest reward)
Chest: Arth-crus (White, Fangorn's Edge instance reward)
Hands: Oven Mitts (Red, skirm camp cosmetics vendor)**
Legs: Balanced Leggings of Might (Red, world drop)***

**These mitts are only necessary when putting in or taking out that delicious pie from the oven.
***The Rhuvel-socas leggings from Pits of Isengard would make the ideal pairing with the shirt. I've been trying to get them for a long time, but to no avail. If I had them, they would have been pictured instead.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

To Match a Steed...Three Times!

As most of you know, the car I like to call "Inspiration" has been running on fumes for several weeks. It has been a struggle just to make an outfit, let alone log into LOTRO. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to fill in the final Saturday of January with an original outfit. At the beginning of the month, I casually mentioned on Twitter that I had been running out of ideas. One follower, @AraeElimraen, wondered if I'd take a request. I love taking suggestions for concepts as well as a specific piece or two. It gives me a chance to see old skins in from a different perspective or forces me to find new or unusual combinations. Here's what had been proposed:

  • Use specific gear--namely the Golden Host Coat of Haleness and/or the Wood-wanderer's Cloak
  • Make an outfit befitting of a Mirkwood soldier, loosely based on Thranduil's armored appearance in Battle of the Five Armies
  • Make something that matches/compliments the Blue Roan Steed.

The first two ideas ended up going nowhere. Whatever I did create felt, at best, rushed and lacking completion. However, the idea to match this steed intrigued me...especially since I don't own it. It was removed from the Spring Festival token vendors before I started playing LOTRO and I refused to drop 70 mithril coins for one this year when it returned. I had to search for an image, several in fact, that way I knew what I was working with. For those of you who haven't seen it, here's a picture:

Image courtesy of  Wandering Around Arda
It's a dangerous assortment of colors--smokey grey, black, a silvery white, and a dark teal--and they would definitely present a challenge. I wasn't sure of what characters my Twitter follower had either, as this post is mostly for her. It took some time, but I came up with three ideas to suit different styles of clothing, race, gender, and character class while trying to match the steed itself, the caparison, or both.

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