Monthly Archives: January 2012
Welcome back to the final instalment dear reader, you did well, its almost over now!
I have gone over the Store, which I believe will grow and grow, make no bones about it there will be things to come which will frustrate and annoy players. With the level cap on the rise again, watch this process as a point of development. On the flip side, 2011 brought some good things with regard to frequency and quality of content, and some major changes to mechanics, itemisation, and rewards which should facilitate clearer itemisation and instance design moving forward. The system is now a durable one which holds the basics for long term adaptation and development. Yes that is easy to loose sight of admidst the communications mess, store rage, and bugs, but on the whole the actual game content I enjoyed a lot, but the delivery and polish needs some work.
Content going into 2012
I am now rewriting this section. I made some bold statements about actually believeing Turbines spin about 2012s content releases, but with Wednesdays announcements of a new region in Spring and the Riders of Rohan expansion in the Autumn, its blatantly obvious there is a good deal of truth to it. Shame really, would have looked great if Id have published this a few days earlier. Anyway, now we know that there will be a decent amount of content this year it makes it much easier to scan the horizon.
I think they have had a good couple of years working through this model, and I was reasonably confident that they were due to hit their stride this year with where they were going and how they would proceed, and we; the players, would finally start seeing some returns. It wouldn’t surprise me if we see some combination of skirmishes, re-scaling old instances, and/or new instances also come along with, or in between these updates, and probably further system tweaks, work on the instance finder, the festivals, and yes: a lot more in the store.
With the new currency system in place, scaling an instance is a very viable thing to do, without having to recreate a whole new rewards system and tokens, and incentives for players at level cap to still jump in. Hopefully we may see Fornost, CD or Uru, or perhaps even the Moria instances at some point in the next 12-18 months. In short, 2011 felt to me like a bit of a dry run and preperation for the next year or two, time will tell if that is true or not.
Whilst communication is clearly still a weak point and a source of worry, I hope some lessons have been learned. Wednesdays release on the armour from Sapience was a somewhat belated attempt to redress that, but this needs to be sustained, not a one-off. I believe the intentions of Turbine are good, we just need to have that trust reassured with more open communication. There is little point working yourself into a frenzy over one negative change, but there is also no point falling back in love with them for one well written post from a community team member. By all means we should keep complaints up when there are things we see we do not like. That feedback lets them gauge where they went too far, but beware of becoming white noise. The sum total of the armour explanation post and the new announcements of the 2012 content, redressed the balance somewhat, but whether this sustains over the next 12 months is the key. I am prepared for more poor communication, bugs, delays, and more annoying things in the store, keeping a weather eye on the horizon is usually a good idea.
I am pleased they are continuing out of Lorien and down the Anduin, as this presents us with some more opportunities to explore areas of Middle Earth, and experience part of the story of the fellowship in some fashion, without which, those less familiar with the work would be missing a fairly major event. Certainly we cannot see all of the story of the fellowship, but we last see the fellowship in Lorien, if we suddenly met Aragorn in Edoras and had to be told the back story via text or session play, it would be missing an opportunity from the point of view of story telling, and additions of more landmass and quests.
Clearly now we have dealt with Theodred, probably the next aid we lend Rohan will be via Eomer (cue Riders of Eomer reputation grind!). This makes a lot of sense story wise, as Eomer came across Aragorn ,Gimli, and Legolas as they ran across the East Emnet (part of which was in Eomers jurisdiction as Third Marshal of the Mark). We have received a snippet already that we would ‘see’ the breaking of the company, and Boromirs fall. I suspect this may be via session play, but who knows what may happen from there? We may not be able to follow Frodo and Sam, or travel with Aragorn, but we could be working for Eomer tracking a band of Orcs, and shadowing the trio in the process? Who knows, but certainly this way, we get to understand the breaking of the fellowship and some part of their disparate paths afterwards, even if only following in their wake (which is what, after all, we did in Eregion and Moria), and undoubtedly meeting Gandalf and the Ents towards the end. Proceeding in this order, gives Turbine a reason to build a bigger world, Story, and thus sell more quest packs and expansions, so from that point every body wins.
It is also sensible from the point of view of what will follow-up these releases next year. When we head to the Westfold, and we get to see Helmsdeep and Isengard fall, events run pretty fast after that, it would be doubly frustrating to be piddling off in East Emnet and the Brown Lands, when we knew Aragorn was in the Paths of the Dead, and Gandalf was riding with all speed to Gondor. When this happens, we need to be following one, or both of them, and though game time is stretched or suspended greatly, we really need the follow-up content to be sticking fairly close to the main story.
In terms of the areas and landmasses, I suspect we may see Rivers used a lot for the division of the new region, and expansions because they naturally carve up the terrain into neat portions which equate to what we have heard will be released, and they make much nicer region boundaries than cliffs and hills. We have a rough idea of the ‘Great River‘ region added this spring from the preview articles, as it will be between Lorien and Mirkwood (see map), and will presumably not include Fangorn as that has been stated as part of the expansion. Looking at the map of the region, and based on seeing; Amon Hen, Fangorn, and exploring eastern Rohan in the expansion, then the River Entwash, and Anduin, and Limlight to the North make boundaries encompassing East Emnet and the area we will probably received in the Riders of Rohan Expansion.
All in all, it looks very interesting, and contains a lot of potential for some great stories and gaming, and we’ll be beating the enemy on horse back for some of it too! I am also hoping that the release of the Hobbit film in December of this year, shortly after this X-pac, will bring some more fans of the IP in Turbines direction, particularly if Turbine and WB can finally get their marketing sorted and roll out some info and turbine points cards and promotions with the cinema releases. Come on guys, lets see this game promoted some more then!
Expanding LOTRO abroad?
In another article over on Contains Moderate Peril (If you haven’t checked them out go do so right after this, its a great site with a lot of content and variety) It was reported that Warner Brothers had signed a deal with Inplay over in Korea. So I thought I’d throw this in as a flight of fancy to finish, whilst wild speculation was on the cards. It occurred to me, that WB have yet to release LOTRO to the far eastern market, and this little snippet made me wonder If they were looking for a company to localise LOTRO for the asian market. Could 2012 be the year LOTRO expands again? It would be intriguing to watch and see.
All in all there was a lot of good things in 2011, and a lot to be excited about in 2012 and beyond. Enjoy your LOTRO game time however you choose to spend it. Keep those weather eyes open, but there is no need for the tin foil hats just yet. If you got this far, you did well.
I remain, strangely, optimistic.
Thanks once again for reading,
Yesterday I talked about the store. Doubtless with the news yesterday of the new Riders of Rohan expansion and further updates earlier on this year, including a new region, and Sapience’s store placation, there will be more warm fuzzy glows around. This does not, however, mean that tied to all that there will not be further additions to the store and game which people do not like, or cause and out rage. Tempering our knee jerk reactions will be key, as these two things will come hand in hand from now onwards, the store and game will drive each other. Things will not go back to how they were, but I’ve been here 4 years now… I think they are fine, the Halcyon days of LOTRO are just that… a mythical utopia. I have friends who are new to the game and Dunland is their Moria, in a few years, they will be complaining that the Gondor expansion sold out and was buggy, whilst the next round of players is wide eyed at their first experience of LOTRO. To be fair, I even remember original 2007 and Beta players complaining voiciferously about Moria in the way I see ROI being moaned about now.
Today I want to briefly recap LOTRO in 2011, and the new systems, currencies, and functionality, and what that means with regards to the game moving forwards.
LOTRO in 2011.
Taken as a whole there was a good chunk of content in 2011. The latter portion of 2010 had seen Enedwaith released as a landmass with quests, and that was followed in 2011 with the In their Absence instance cluster, and then the Lost legends of Eriador skirmish additions, and then finally with the Rise of Isengard, which was to all intents and purposes one expansions, split into two releases, totalling a plentiful landmass and quests, instances and more epic story, new itemisation, and an instance finder.
The first two releases, contained some excellent content, with interesting mechanics and fun stories. I had my reservations about some (IoF particularly), but on actually playing them, I felt that for the most part, it was dealt with carefully to maintain fun and challenging gameplay, within the format of the world and its lore, The Stone Height instance in particular was a superb instance that slotted in so well and expanded upon the existing world. The ROI release/s also had a lot going for them, but unfortunately the clearly rushed attempt to meet the release date meant that bugs and glitches present on release tainted it in many people’s eyes, and detracted from the positive aspects, but they announced it, and got it out. By the time we reached the latter portions of the levelling process a month or so on, the bugs had been mostly patched and so generally the content was pretty smooth, and the same went for the instances, the dreaded Draigoch bugs aside.
The actual staggering of content releases, I was fine with, indeed I would prefer it from a personal point of view, but with regard to ROI I do not think it was intended, or perhaps certain from the outset. I think from this point on Turbine may stagger content more like this, even expansions. In many ways if this had been announced clearly at pre-release, and promoted proactively as part of a policy going forward (which I believe, smaller, more frequent releases, will be) then I think that we, the customers, would have been happier all round. At least if on pre-order it had explained that this pre-order would entail a 2 stage release of landmass/quests and instances/feature I do not feel personally it would have affected sales, but the uneasy feeling I got after people started asking questions and getting guarded answers leads us into the worst part of 2011.
The biggest bug bear with Turbine last year was communication. Whilst some of this was may have been deliberate, many skeptics would argue all of, it is quite probable most of it was down to them not knowing exactly what they could, or would, release, at any given time. The general reaction of tight-lipped, delayed, responses just seem evasive when some reassurance and clarity was being sought by customers. To me this was the most worrying aspect of 2011. Whatever the reasons, customers need to be kept informed of what a company plans to do and as, and when, this changes, with game changes, but especially where customer details and security is concerned. If my consumer trust is lost I think twice, and harder, about spending my money on their products, perhaps not over a single issue, but if this turns into a pattern, I certainly will. For now, I believe the clumsy communication was exactly that, and not malicious. I have no doubt that if necessary a company like Turbine will do what is expedient to their business success, but for now my trust is still present, if guarded.
Needless to say, the first half of 2012 I as a player have, and shall be continuing to, take carefull note of how things proceed. Hey Turbine; I would like to hear intentions, and be kept abreast of revisions to them, because believe it or not, I enjoy the product you produce, and would like to spend money on it, but I am becoming a little wary and starting to wonder what it is you are not telling us, alongside what you are. Yesterdays post by Sapience was a welcome start, and was followed up by the Announcement of the next expansion: Riders of Rohan, and so far the forums have been alight with dev responses. But things needs to be kept like this; more frequent, and more proactive, not just today, or this week, but always. I want to log on and see that Dev tracker full each day. I hope they are making a new start today in this regard, and are a little more able to communicate this to us in future.
LOTRO’s stats, rewards, currency system, and the instance finder
So this year we saw the removal of stat caps, the addition of finesse, and the consolidation of benefits for various classes into a single stat. Though that won’t bother or excite some people, it does mean that creating varied items for players to earn, make, and buy, is much simpler for the developers, and this is a long-term sustainable upgrade too. With scaling benefits based on stat level, and player level, it should mean that this system can see us to Mordor and beyond!
I am actually one of the few people who seems to think that LOTRO’s new consolidated currency system is pretty good after the ROI update. The acquisition rate could do with buffing a little in some of the non-insengard instances, but otherwise its pretty good as a model, and I can foresee some tweaks and improvements going forward. With many older tokens and currencies going bind on account, and older scaling instances dropping the new tokens and scalable loot, it is creating a situation where log term all the content in LOTRO will be relevant at level cap to some degree, so people need never lose the opportunity of running an instance even when they out-level the zone.
With LOTRO instances now rewarding a tokens (marks, medallions and seals) for completion (and bonus amounts for various challenges), and these being used to purchase a variety of rewards from armour, legendary item rewards and enhancements, crafting items, and cosmetics, means everyone can work towards something. At the same time, unique armour, jewelry, legendary item settings, and single use recipes are dropping from group content, which add a little excitement and interest to the individual runs, so earning armour need not always be reduced to a calculated grind. Naturally MMO’s often attract people who grind content heavily and that behaviour will inevitably reduce most playtime to perfunctory completion, but I can’t really see that there will never really be any way to combat this extreme behaviour.
All in all, my experience so far has been good, I have earned enough medallions and seals to work towards several bits of armour on two of my characters, and also found some nice recipes and drops along the way, with plenty of choice for additional rewards along the way. This has supplemented nicely the enjoyment I have got from just running the instances, and experiencing the stories, and challenging myself with the game play.
The instance finder has been a whole other kettle fish. I fear that it may have been released too early. Whilst there is merit in having an open Beta stage, I think there is also the risk of turning players away before it is even completed. Certainly I have used it, but only in our preformed three mans, and even then it has put us in the same instance three times in a row from a choice of 4. I think it is easy to engineer a Solution to a problem that may not exist, and this might well be one of those cases. I like the principle, trying to increase the variety of peoples playing, but the idea of being shoved into a Dargnakh as a tank with two hunters fills me with even more dread than a pug normally would, and that is saying something!
All in all I felt we saw a good volume of content in 2011, certainly enough for me, and if the bugs and glitches could have been ironed out, that of a high standard too. It was visually interesting, contained good story lines, and extensions of parts of Tolkiens lore left pretty blank by the texts, which is what I really want to see from this game. The initial stages of unifying the currency, rewards, and methods of grouping has established a great footing for a more long-term viable system, something new MMO developers should take note of.
The glitches and bugs I can forgive often new content releases contain them… remember Moria. The instance finder will probably improve over time, hopefully before the player base totally writes it off. The one thing that worries me going forward is sustained communication. Tomorrow, I will chat 2012’s releases, and my other expectations.
once again, thanks for reading
Riders of Rohan will bring players into this epic region, increase the level cap to 85 and introduce Mounted Combat! Rohan is huge! So huge, that this fall we’ll be introducing the Eastern Plains of Rohan, the largest region we’ve ever introduced (almost twice the size of Moria!) You’ll also be able to explore the Eaves of Fangorn and the fabled Amon Hen, where Boromir was slain and the Fellowship broke up! We can’t go to Rohan without introducing Mounted Combat, which will allow you to fight atop your new mount, the War-steed. Mounted Combat will allow you experience LOTRO in a whole new way!
It will be worth keeping an eye on LOTRO over the next few weeks to see what further news gets released. But mounted combat, huge new zones, new factions and stories, and before all that a new region: The Great River will be introduced this coming spring! It makes a lot of sense as they seem to be adding eastern Rohan, which means we will have to be linked to that via somke means other than Isengard, so heading out of Mirkwood and Lorien will be a quick way to get there, and to assist Eomer with his troubles!
While fall might seem like a long wait, there is much work to do, and many miles to travel before we arrive. This spring we’ll take our first steps along the path as we add another new region to the game and allow players to explore the shores of the Great River (Free for VIPs!). We’ll also introduce the option to bring Skirmish Soldier along to aid you on your adventures throughout Middle-earth. We can’t wait to share more details with you as the year progresses.
Least we now have an idea of what is next and when, and I for one I really looking forward to it!
Firstly I must apologise for the length of this article. It fact, it’s so long I have split it into three posts that I will release each day to ease the burden on you dear reader! I have been thinking about this, adding to it and editing over a period of a week or two, so it has ceased to become news, possibly even legible, and morphed into more of a review or summary, or perhaps just a vague collection of words and thoughts on LOTRO and its current state and issues as it stands and moving forwards into the future.
Over the last few weeks we have been continuing to play LOTRO and investigate the three-man content, and pursuing some faction reputation, and other tinkering on. The new three-man content is great fun, excellent environments, good stories, and great rewards, which is exactly what I have come to expect from LOTROs instances. We have successfully run the three Isengard three mans, and the classic 3 man instances at 75, and are working on gearing up and getting better, in order to complete some of the tier two challenges in Isengard.
We have been having an awful lot of fun, so much that we have actually been neglecting our Star Wars: The Old Republic characters a little bit. This has struck me as a bit odd as Star Wars is an excellent game that we had been enjoying immensely, and if anything the LOTRO community recently seems to have been generally very disgruntled, up in arms, and running for the hills/raching for the tin foil hats, just as I was remembering all the things I love about it again. This has caused me to think a little about why I am still pulled away from a great game that is a fresh release (SWTOR) and what it is I like about LOTRO, beyond the IP. The current debate has focused my thoughts on the past 12 months and the coming 12 months, and what I have been enjoying, how I think the current problems may affect the game and my enjoyment, and what I personally expect from LOTRO and Turbine in the coming year.
All the thoughts are naturally just my own opinions and assumptions, and naturally must be understood from that point of view. Each person must look at their own gamestyle or enjoyment and come to their own conclusions.
Firstly let’s get the store out of the way. There is no dodging it, statted gear has gone in, relics can only be reclaimed via it, stats, damage and resistance, can be bufffed significantly by it, and levelling can be speeded by it. I imagine it is a large part of Turbine (thus also WB’s) income from the game and they are going to keep pushing it, regardless of promises in the past. Brace yourselves. I confidently predict we’ll see more armour for higher levels go in, I imagine we’ll see more store only horses than you can shake a stick at; the rest of the classes, racial mounts, regional mounts, cosmetic pets, perhaps more ways to ease the legendary grind via store, probably more services to speed leveling or auto-start at advanced levels, or increase the drop rates in instances. Yes, I do also consider these things to be conveniences, not advantages, to cite the tired old line.
Whilst I am not hugely excited by the prospect of this, I think pragmatically I have to consider how this will affect my gaming, and whether I can tolerate this, not on a level of principle, but on a practical level. Politics and philosophy are interesting and important, but not something I feel compelled to demand of a computer game developer in a game world, particularly a PvE one. The players themselves of course should always be free to enjoy tolerance and equality within their leisure time, that is and should never be in question, nor should players treat each other like dirt, we are still all human beings deserving a modicum of respect. This is, however, a hobby: something I do for fun, and it is often the case that people feel more precious or proactive towards their hobbies than they do about real world politics and philosophies. I understand this, as hobbies are often a healthy temporary escape from real life pressures, something we don’t want tainted and feel prtective of, but for me that is all the more reason not to carry too much of that real world baggage in there with you.
If someone is happy with paying £10 to Turbine for three pieces of level 20 armour, which will, with the best will in the world (tactical class puns aside!) see them 15 levels? (you will find quest drops better by 35) will that spoil my game? No, because I just don’t believe that many people will bother with it, and if they did, well its a lot of funding to ensure LOTROs continuation. Why should I dictate what they are able to spend their time and money on? If you could buy anything in game in a store, or earn it in game, yet some players were calling for game play time restrictions there would be an outcry, and rightly so, yet the reverse which we currently have is considered fair and equal. Why should I have a say in someone elses choice, when it does not affect me. If someone goes to the store and spends £15 on a piece of T2 raid armour for level cap, does that affect my enjoyment? Again, No.
I think I already passed part of this hurdle mentally. When they went F2P and announced that the reputation horses would be in the store I was pretty annoyed, this was my end game. I liked earning reputation and collecting mounts, and they were the symbols of my effort. Then a while after F2P it dawned on me what some people had been claiming all along; these still are the symbols of my effort. They still meant something on that character, and indeed, not many people seem to buy them from the store anyway. When I saw one, I didn’t really care how it had been obtained, I knew how mine had and I was happy with it, and finally and possibly most important, even if I thought it was cool, I wasn’t sinking £15 on a horse I could get in-game.
I feel pretty much like this about the armour debate. So long as I can acquire good, suitable armour, fit for purpose, by playing the game I don’t mind how other people go about it. I also actually doubt they will ever put current ‘end-game’ armour in the store, maybe the rift level 50 set, maybe higher tiers, but for now they realise that there does still need to be something to keep us comign back and buying those relic scrolls. Just as finished this post, I saw this from the forums, which you can take as you will. I personally thought this should have come out with the announcement, but demonstrates they are aware what sort of ground they are standing on, and may be at last that communication we have been so desperately waiting for.
Would I personally buy a piece of Draigoch armour for £10? Perhaps. I have earned three pieces on my Dwarf Rune-Keeper and almost my second piece on my Dwarf Guardian pretty easily with Isengard and classic 3 mans, supplemented by a few skirmishes, for a couple of weeks, so if I could obtain 4 pieces that way, then add a helmet or shoulder guards for £10 from the raid from the store I might just for the set bonus. I have little desire to raid anymore, and If I did, the odds of winning a coin are pretty low, so that may well be something I choose to spend money on.
I have thought through many of the worst case scenarios, indeed I suspect many will come true; increased reduction of legendary item grind via the store, auto-level services, buying worn symbols, or increased acquisition rate buffs for tokens.
I don’t particularly care for all of these, and don’t misunderstand me, I do not for one second understand why anyone would pay money to skip parts of a game. but I have empathy with people wishing to speed somethings up or increase rewards, or complete elements that their lives do not always allow them to the way many gamers do, particularly repetitive ones. Our game time is limited, and we like to play with a smaller group of friends, so what we do with it is precious and we try to spend the time carefully. If I can double rewards from an instance with a scroll, I probably will, because in all likelihood I’ll only run one or two a week, and for £1 I can make that time more productive towards earning some new armour it is actually a small price to pay.
In short, the store is here to stay, and will only get ‘worse’. I am fairly hardened to that, and of all the things currently in, and that I have mentioned, I actually don’t think there is anything that irritates me more than the Relic removal scroll which Roger from Contains Moderate Peril aptly cited as the first wedge in the door. This is largely because it was a necessary and existing part of the game which has been shuffled to the store under the guise of ‘revamping’, and now there is not an in-game equivalent. It doesn’t have to be exactly the same, but when you remove functionality from a game and add it to the store, you break players trust. I for one will think twice about spending my money on their products if this particular behaviour continues, which the pessimist in me does believe will happen. Thankfully, these scrolls rarely need using as relics are not essential for levelling (if you want stick tier 1 relics in) and I only tend to use them when I am certain I will keep a weapon for a long time. Oddly they have not done this with deeds, the slayer buff tomes sell well, and yet the Isengard slayer deed and discovery deeds were some of the easiest and least grindy to complete, which I expected to be the opposite. If ever there was an opportunity to increase the necessary kills and increase sale I felt sure this was it.
I suppose many may see this as a store defence, or store apologists post, and perhaps it is? Personally I think it is more of a reconciliation. I have heard some talk of ‘Turbine folks needing to put bread on the table’, which is clearly nonsense, if that was the only issue we’d be laughing. The issue is justifying why, in an aggressively competitive market, Lord of the Rings is taking up resources when we could spend it making another few Call of Duty/Football/ Harry Potter, etc games. that are clearly very lucrative for the number crunchers, but likely would not interest me. It’s a fine balance making it turn good profits, and keeping the players onside. If as an individual you can’t reconcile to the Stores existence with regard to your gaming style, and what will inevitably come into it in the future, it is going to be a tough year!
At the end of the day, this is a game, I look to the enjoyment I get from playing it, and the cost in real terms, and focus on that. Luckily I am a lifetimer, so even though I sink money on points (probably £40-60 a year) it is a very cheap hobby. I ask myself the question often, does an hour of my leisure time doing this justify the cost, and LOTRO, even if I added a subscription is still well above that threshold for me personally, when that stops becoming the case remains to be seen, but I doubt us as players will get much say in it.
So tomorrow I’ll discuss the current rewards and currency system, and the content situation in 2011
thanks for reading!
It feels like a long time since I have written a post, so I thought that I would keep you updated on what the Khazad Guard have been doing. Our main Dwarf trio, Izbaruk, Haki and Forest finally got to 75. It only took 3 years, but it was a journey that we thoroughly enjoyed. We dinged just as we got to Forthbrond in the quest chain, so there’s still plenty to explore as a trio, and the Reputation with the Riders of Theodred still to get.
There was the inevitable break in our regular sessions with Christmas, visiting family and the seemingly obligatory illnesses you always get at this time of year. Of course both Adam and myself have been having a little nosey at the new Star Wars the Old Republic game, which we are thoroughly enjoying. Yet we have managed to still fit in our regular Dwarf Night. We have decided to take a little break at questing and to have a go at some of the instances and skirmishes using the new instance finder, and just have pot luck with what we get. So far we haven’t done any of the new three mans, but have been in the School and Library, finishing off some deeds and looting some very nice treasure.
Last night Forrest had been in Carn Dum, grabbing a few last items for class quests, and so we joined in and had a retro Dwarf Night. We cleared Carn Dum, completing loads of deeds, getting a few nice items to save in the kin house vault and then we took on Mordirith. It was a lot of fun and at the end we won Mordirith’s mirror, a nice new trophy of foes defeated for the Kin House. It was a nice change to be going back to somewhere we hadn’t been to in a very long time, much like running the school and library.
Saying that though, the Khazad Guard still to push on their advance, taking the fight on through Isendale, Fangorn and the Ring of Isengard, right to Saruman himself.
Happy New Year all!