LOTRO past, present, and future: Part 3, Rohan and Beyond!
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,