LOTRO past, present, and future: Part 2
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