Category Archives: Game Ideas and Suggestions

We Want More Beards!

With Turbines announcements of armour reaching the Store, and the whole ants nest that ensued on the forums, it got me thinking of what I actually use the store for, and what I would willingly pay hard earned cash for to enhance my game play.

I have bought a few cosmetics in there, when they are on sale. I have bought shared storage and wardrobe space, and a couple of character slots. I’ve bought relic removal scrolls, skirmish mark reset scrolls and enhaced Reputation. Think I may have got a few jewellers recipes on there when I wanted to make a Sabretooth Cat, when we first made our Loremasters.

The thing which sets Lord of thhe Rings Online apart from many of the other MMOs out there is its elaborate cosmetic system. Especially now after several updates, you can wear pretty much anything that comes your way and dye it in a myriad of colours. Your characters can start to be really unique. And cosmetics sell.

Festivals are essentially a way of gaining new outfits and maybe a matching mount, and they are always busy. Cosmetic items always seem to do well on the auction, the store has some nice exclusive cosmetics, and there are a number of great blogs out there dedicated to making some awesome outfits with everything available. People like cosmetics. How many players paid top whack for the Isengard expansion preorder, just for the extra outfits and horses? I know I did.

And yet, there is still room for Turbine to make a boat load of cash from the store and make alot of altoholics and fashionistas really happy, and still not upset the players who are convinced its only a matter of time until you can pay to win.

Haki's Beard...

Ganin's Beard, Look Familiar?

Adam recently decided to create a new Man of Rohan, (getting excited with the expansion announcement) and something of a solo project. Baby Dwarf was asleep so I went and had a look at the character creation process, which always interests me. He was struggling to find a hairstyle that wasn’t ridiculous or reminiscent of a boy band, and a beard he could live with, something between Lemmy and Gandalf. And there wasn’t that many. I have the same problem with my legion of Dwarves. I seem to use the same few beards and hairstyles. Some of the Dwarf hair again looks like a boy band haircut, and one that makes me think of a LEGO brick, but generally they are okay, although many of them end up different shades of colour with the beards and don’t look right. As for the beards, the ones without a moustache put me in mind of Planet of the Apes, and are to be avoided at all costs, and some are almost there, but look blurred, and some only work with the hair if they are black, and just don’t look right in the other colours. Other players must feel the same about some of the choices, because after four years of playing this game I have never seen some of the combinations used.

And that’s it right there – I would buy new hair and beards in the store.

If anyone has checked out the free to play MMO Champions Online, they will know that they have a system like this. For those of you who don’t know this game, it’s a cartoon/comic book superhero game. You make a superhero, and fight crime with super powers. It’s that simple and immense fun. Granted, Superheroes are not lore restricted, and can pretty much look like and wear anything, have wings or snake skin or whatever. But in the character creation panel you are faced with a whole lot of options that you can use, but some of them are either unlocked in the store or by competing deeds. I really liked that, and its something which could work in LoTRO.

Grimbold

In Star Wars the Old Republic, there is a fairly detailed character creation panel (although there is no cosmetic

Frodo

system available), but the thing that I liked most about it was that all the NPC’s are made using combinations of all characteristics available to players. In LoTRO, many of the NPC’s have beards or hairstyles that are not available to the player. Grimbold has a nice simple no frills stubbly beard that players cannot replicate, and Frodo has curls which does not look like he has a small cloud attached to his head. This could be utilised by Turbine. Account hair packs – even if they were sold separately by race and gender. This is all fluff, and no different from buying a cloak or a helmet in there. It won’t give anyone an advantage, but it could make a lot of people very happy, and keep the money rolling in to Turbine’s coffers, funding the game we all love.

Emma

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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,

Adam

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!

Summary

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

Adam

LOTRO past, present, and future: Part 1

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.

Vithar, Izbaruk, and Haki having beaten Dargnakh

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.

The Store

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!

Adam

Changes to joining a Crafting Guild

Tedwise demonstrating the art of Home Brew

I was having a little look at crafting today and decided I would be really nice and do some cooking and farming for one of Adams little Hobbit alts. Between us we have an awful lot of characters and we try to craft on all of them and have them all in a Guild. Today was little Tedwise’s turn, as Adam is not such a fan of cooking and farming, and I agreed to do it for him, as he will often run skirmishes and such for me. When crafting, I throw nothing away. After levelling several of my farmers, I had a lot of fine crops left over which i had passed on, which needed turning into various fruit and vegetables (today it was mainly blackberries – I ended up with 1050 of them!). Tedwise could master many of his tiers without planting a field, and I could read a book while he did it, the best way to craft in my opinion.

The Cooks Guild Leader in Michael Delving

Anyway, with his bags bulging with fruit, I headed back to Michael Delving for him to cook it all up. He’s a fun-loving party hobbit, so naturally, this is mostly now beer. I opened up expert, and up popped the quest to join a Guild. We have very few characters who are not in a Guild, and those that are have been in for some time. Like before, you would be asked to go and speak with the Guild leader. Now though, the Guild leader asks you to speak to the person selling the Guild crest recipes, for the Cooks Guild this was the Repast Recipe Vendor. They then point you to the Improved Recipes Vendor, who then rewards you with a Small Expert level barter item, worth 400 reputation. That is definitely new, and I was pleasantly surprised. I had known that in previous updates, crafting had been changed – you no longer needed to go off to all parts of Middle Earth to get a strange Jewel/Mould/Hide/Stick/Herb/Relic etc. to advance the crafting tiers, but I had no idea that they had done a new “introduction to” quest chain for joining a Guild also.

The reward for completing the introduction to the Cooks Guild quest

Go on, and talk with your nearest Master of Guilds – there’s usually one in most craft areas, to join in the fun! They can be quite expensive in terms of materials, but it is definately worth it!

Happy Crafting,

Emma.

The Martial Champion ROI updates (Solo attempt Video)

I thought I’d do a little post and video about my thoughts on the Martial Champion in Isengard, based on my experiences on the Bullroarer BETA server. For starters let me say, the class is in great shape, it has never been cooler to be a Champion!

I should state to begin, that I am an EU player, and as such was not able to copy over my live characters, however, thanks to the eyes and guard tavern and its goodies bundles and auto-levelling, I was able to investigate the level cap thoroughly. I went through a few variations, and found a few bugs which I duly submitted, so I wasn’t just messing about! I did try out both the Fervour and Ardour stances as well, and yes, they are both great. Fervour feels pretty much the same as it always has, with some really nice additions and tweaks to inject a little variety in a Champ rotation. In addition Ardour… well for a start it now has a reason to exist, so that is something. In fairness, I didn’t play with it enough to make a detailed judgement, but it now clearly has a very specific and useful role, especially in landscape questing/skirmishing, though I can also see it being a cool alternative for different play styles in raids and FS content, though I still think for it to be truly utilised, LOTRO is going to need some kind of dual-specing system so we can switch out of combat without a bard, because AOE is rarely much use in a raid boss fight, and the retraiting hassle may just not be worth it.

However, what really blew me away was Glory and the Martial Champion traitline, in a very big way, and quite unexpectedly.

I had auto levelled my Dwarf Champ to 75 and geared him out in the level 75 Ettenmoors armour, and grabbed a few decent jewelry items (a mix of current teal drops and level 75 Ettens). I then created a level 65 second age rune, with tanking legacies and maxed those, I had been lucky enough to find a level 75 third age legendary weapon which I also turned into a decent weapon mainly by looking for sudden defence duration, critical magnitude, wild attack, and brutal strikes and maxing those, and the level 75 Ettens off hander to go with it. I then slotted these with some standard tier 7 relics (mellee offence/morale setting, vitality and crit gems, and Parry and ICMR runes, with crafted melee offence relics. I then traited down the martial champion line, with stalwart blade from the deadly storm set throw in for the extra fervour pips, and set off for Nan Curunir, and Orthanc. When I got there, and legged it past the two doors trolls (one of which one shotted me first time for a rare 8K), I made a bee line for the smaller trolls that patrol the interior paths. These guys are level 75 Elites with about 75-6K morale,  and were hitting me (as you will see) for a good few hundred, interspersed with 5-700 and the occasional 1000+. In Fervour, though your DPS is demonic, and you can tear a good chunk off them, they soon pummel you into dust… and that is as it should be. However, though I could feel the dps was much lower in Glory, I felt incredibly durable, confident even, that I could last it out for a good duration. So, I Popped hope, some scrolls, food, and set at the Troll. My rotation wasn’t up to much, I had guessed I’d have to keep hedge up for my armour buff, sudden defence for its bubble when I could, bracing attack as often as able, and wild attack to fervour build, and (with a new trait) reduce the cool down of sudden defence, popping adamant/invincible to cover weak spots. I started on this rough idea as a basis, and chucked in a brutal strikes for some dps as and when I could. Imagine my surprise when he kicked my ass with only 9k of his health left. This was definitely doable, and more to the point there would be no need for messing about with kiting and bleeds, which I hate!

I bought off my dread, set everything going again and had a good read of my tool tips an traits whilst parked up in a ‘quiet corner’. I formulated a rough plan, to be fair, still playing by the seat of my pants a little, though I took note now that Heroics, it would seem, finally lives up to its name as a skill… wowza. Dire need, especially combined with its new trait, and the second wind skill, is now also usable much more frequently! So I had a second attempt, and lo and behold with a bit more concentration, I kicked his butt!

I was so pleased myself it was quite sad (and proud of Durzi too)! But I thought to myself, hang on; you are in level 75 top grade PVMP gear, with some great level 75 PVMP jewelry, 75 PVMP off hander, level 12 traits, high finesse rating… of course you did great, but you won’t get near that gear on the live server, and probably never be able to achieve that unless you start raiding a lot more again for some awesome gear. That bugged me.

I set off to look at the vendors, skirmish camps, and quest gear, to see what it held. I was pleasantly surprised, the Isengard gear from a variety of sources looks nice. Even using quest items, and skirmish barter gear, it will be easy to surpass the Moria and BG sets which we have had for so long, and decent teal crafted gear and above, is better than the OD T2 stuff by a good way. Finesse, also seems to be spread around quite evenly, so all in all I thought it was achievable, so I aimed to put it to the test.

I used Emma’s account, and her level 75 dwarf, to do this, the rune, weapon, traits were roughly the same as before, and you can see them on the video below, though I could only get a level 75 third age two handed weapon. This time however I handicapped myself in a few ways. Ideally I would have scoured the auction for sensible and obtainable gear, or even levelled up organically, and acquired what I could, but to be frank there is no way I had the time. However, by looking at crafted recipes, and skirmish gear and quest rewards, I got a good handle on what I thought was easily achievable for a fairly casually levelled Champ at 75, with regard to amounts of stats. I decided to use a selection of gear to reflect what I thought was this sensible level of stats and armour, before the min maxing of end game starts. Firstly I left all my traits at 10. For jewellery, I used two easily obtainable skirmish barter earrings, a mix of Moria/Mirkwood jewelry, with the exception of one PVMP ring for its finesse rating(this I was using to represent some decent level 75 crafted jewelry or drop). For armour I wore the BG set, with the level 75 PVMP helm, and pendvig clog.

You can see all these itemized in the video (this one is in HD so you can pause and read the tool tips, but sorry I squashed the screen ratio during compressions, yes… I’m a noob).

However, here are some basic core stats for reference:

  • Morale 7875
  • Power 1961
  • Armour 4893
  • Finesse 1390
  • Might 798 (I think I ate 46+ might food but can’t be 100%)
  • Agility 427
  • Vitality 569
  • Fate 110
  • Will 115

I had just short of 11K melee offence too, from might and bonuses. I think this is more than achievable, indeed, with the exception of the finesse and might, this is quite attainable on the current live servers, so I am happy that I handicapped myself enough with this, that I will, in fact, be above this level when I actually get to try this out on Eldar.

So I mapped back to Isengard, ran past my Troll gate guard mates, and went hunting. Once again, I used food, hope, and scrolls (all current Tier 6 ones) I didn’t want to record straight away, as I wanted to make sure I could do it first, so I didn’t look to daft posting a video of me dying. I decided on a few trial runs. The first time through, I got my butt kicked with only 10K to go… that, I thought, was just you being sloppy. So I bought off my dread, got the hope, scrolls, food going again, and tried once more. I kicked his stony butt this time, so I traipsed down stairs for some coffee, and decided to go for a live take. You can see the results for yourself below. Rather sadly, with 14-5K to go, Emma logged in her account downstairs amidst a bout of post checking and task handing in, so it cuts a bit short. But as you can from the vieo, I had whittled 50K off with no real drama, and by that stage it is a fairly ‘rinse and repeat’ rotation, which is fairly sustainable probably quite comfortably beyond even this level with practice.

Unfortunately I am pretty busy at the moment, and had hoped to wrap this experiment up in a night (the practice, the video, the editing, writing this post) and it is pretty late now, so I don’t know If I will get another chance to record, edit, and upload another one. If I do I shall add a new post and link this to it, but for now I hope it gives you champs, potential champs, and interested folks something to look forward to and think about. As you may have noticed, this is by no means and in depth scientific test, but though I have been mor erigorous in my testing in the past, I find it saps the fun out of the gaming for me, and I’m sure some talented folks will have some better numbers, calculations, and rotations up, better than I could ever do pretty soon anyway. I dread to think what Athelious will do when he is fully kitted on live servers! Instead I hope that this serves as a bit of a taster, an opinion based test, for the purpose of fun.  I hope you enjoy it.

Cheers

Adam

P.S Don’t forget, its still BETA, still subject to change and all that jazz.

The Greatest Reputation Guide in the World – Tribute

With the Isenguard release day looming and twiddling my thumbs as I resist tinkering on one of my legion of ats, my thoughts turned again to Reputation, and just what it takes to get to Kindred with the various factions you meet in game. The goal for my alts is to get the World Renowned title and Steed of Eriador, as well as the Ambassador to the Elves, and the Elf Lords Horse, which is its reward. Adam and I have got there on Ganin and Azaghar, our Champ/RK duo, and are pretty close on our other 65’s. I get the distinct impression that I went about it the hard way, and so have compiled everything I know about gaining reputation, as a future aide de memoire, and also for others. I’ve gone through every faction currently in game (except the Eldgang of the Rift, as this does not contribute to either horse and it is a specialised area off the beaten track for many players), in the order that they appear in my character Reputation log.

Ganin on the Steed of Eriador

The Guide was made live last month, as a permanent page, under Guides, then Faction Reputation, but I’ve been tinkering with it and have now added all reputation gained through handing in Tasks – where to hand in and what levels the quests are available. Currently Eregion is the last place to hand tasks in at around Level 55, but none of the Eregion tasks give reputation, and no tasks can be handed in in Moria and beyond. However we have been told that Tasks will be back for Dunland.

I hope this guide proves to be of some help to you all, but please be aware that the level requirements for some of the reputation quests and hand ins may have been lowered following recent updates. If you think that I have missed anything out or you know of any discrepancies, please let me know so the guide can be ammended.

Thanks for Looking

Emma

Update – Echos of the Dead Delayed on EU Servers

Codemasters announced this morning :

“Due to last minute technical reasons, the release of Update 2: Echoes of the Dead has been delayed momentarily whilst a fix is applied. We will announce a new launch date shortly. Tuesday’s maintenance window will be postponed until later this week.”
We were due to get this update today but it sounds like we won’t have to wait long. Our guess is that the Update will go live on Thursday, keeping the usual schedule of maintainance.
It’s a pretty big update, with instances, skirmishes, overhaul of Evendim, updates to legendary weapons and relics, a new raid, solofication of Book Two, and a new Epic book with the Rangers in Enedwaith. Personally, I’d rather wait a few days and have all the bugs and issues resolved, rather than get it now and encounter problems. The delay seems to be centered around the new Relic system on Legendaries. I remember when the last update went live with the changes to the Vault, and someone lost a stack of Mithril Flakes…….like I said, I’d rather wait!
The following synopsis of the Update has been taken from the EU Lotro Community
The Epic Story 

The Rangers of the Grey Company have uncovered a mystery in the depths of Enedwaith, one that threatens the secrecy of their quest. At the heart of it is the enigmatic dwarf Nár and his surprising knowledge of their road and their duty to Aragorn. Unraveling this mystery will take you into battle against a darkness whose root lies in the Second Age of Middle-earth…

4 New Instances

The Town of Stoneheight: The shadow erupts in the town of Stoneheight on the North Downs, where Ivar the Gaunt-lord spreads destruction as he searches for his helm of power.
Northcotton Farm: Thadúr the Ravager has brought festering venom into the heart of the Shire and seeks to spread his poison to every Hobbit hole and hall.
The Lost Temple: In a forgotten temple of ancient Arnor, Ferndúr the Virulent seeks to unleash plague and terror upon Middle-earth.
The Glacier Fortress: Drugoth, master of death and fear, is assembling an army of walking dead atop an icebound fortress deep in the heart of Forochel.

New Raid – Ost Dunhoth

Gortheron, greatest of the Gaunt-lords, summons the power of death itself in the cursed ziggurat of Ost Dunhoth. In a new 12-person Raid, you must bring the battle to this deadly servant of Sauron and stop him before he raises his underlings to new powers and completes his dominion.

Legendary Items – Better than Ever

Customize your Legendary Items like never before. Preserve your treasured legacies during reforge and bring them to the next chapter of the battle. The all new Relic system allows you to refine extra relics into Shards. Meld Shards into powerful unique relics, scrolls and unidentified Legendary Items.

Additional Features

New Skirmishes: Three new Skirmishes erupt from the depths of Moria. Beyond the barriers of the 21st Hall, in the nighted gulf of the Deepway, and along the Way of the Smiths, defend the brave dwarves of the Iron Garrison from the hordes of Mazog. These Skirmishes are waiting for you to test your mettle and hone your skills whenever the call of battle sounds.
Monster Play Update: With improved Monster Play, being evil has never felt so good. A tutorial and more starting skills get you ready to take on the world. Jump right in and fight on the side of the enemy!
Volume 2 Epic Story Solo Play: Now you can go it alone through the depths of Moria and the shadows of Angmar. The Volume 2 epic story is revamped for solo play and ready for a hero.
Evendim Overhaul: Return to the hills of Evendim, where you helped reforge the Blade that was Broken, and reclaim the land from the forces of the Shadow. Over a hundred new quests have been added and new quest rewards have been updated to allow for better solo play and better quality gear.

As far as I can tell, the four new instances are end game instances, but you must have found the five Mysterious relics which have sprung up in Middle Earth in order to access them. You can do this at any level, I stumbled across a relic in the North Downs and was able to access it on a level 21.

Ganin at the Relic in the North Downs

There are five relics to find spread across the map – they are in Oatbarton, North Downs, Trollshaws, Forochel and Thrors Coombe in Enedwaith. Once you find them all you need to speak to Barliman in the Prancing Pony in Bree, and then you get the title “The Calm before the Storm.” The LoTRO Lorebook has a great entry on all things concerning these relics, including map co-ordinates for them and the locations of the new Instances. It may be worth having a look at this and going exploring with any characters you may want to play the instance with, so it’s all in place for when we get the update on the EU servers.
Check out Casual Stroll to Mordor to have a look at what the update is all about, as it is live on the US Servers.
Happy Waiting!
Emma

 

Your Task if you choose to accept it……

Task board in Annuminas

This is something I’ve been thinking about since the November Update went live, and the recent poll over on  Casual Stroll to Mordor just spurred me on to writing something about it. The first time we experienced it was when we started out Loremasters. We had deliberately held off creating them for after the November Update, so we could go through the new Elf and Dwarf Ered Luin starter zone. The first Board we saw was the one in Gondamon, so we picked them all up, and managed to hand in a few straight away – we had kept hold of all trash task items just in case, we really had no idea what we had to do. Went back to the task board, and they started again, so we ended up staying in the area a little longer so we could both hand in again. It was a long and laborious process which continued when we went to Bree and we collected all those tasks too. A jaunt up to Trestlebridge for a craft quest showed that many of the task items we had, could also be picked up and handed in there. We stuck with Bree, as the Trestlebridge ones don’t have a faction associated with them, and therefore no Rep.

We ended up with bags full of random trash, unsure what to sell, what to keep, and what to pass on to alts. Then Adam discovered one of the best plugins ever! It was created by Vinny, and it essentially lists all of the task items you have in your bag and sorts them into groups of what to hand in, where, and for what level. If you log all of your alts into it (they have to be on the same account) it will tell you which of your alts is the right level to hand the quests in! Like I said before, if you are making any attempt to do task, this is the best plugin ever!

The picture shows an example of the magic of this Plugin. I took it on my 25 Loremaster, so anything in red writing is under level and anything in yellow writing is above level to collect the quest. Green is what I can currently hand in on that character, or in brackets afterwards the names of my alts which can hand them in. It really is great – it tells you how many you have and how many are needed for each hand in, of what item: the 12/4 bit, what level it can be handed in at; the 27-31 bit, and where it can be handed in at; @Oatbarton (sometimes there are multiple locations, and in brackets if the quest has associated Rep; (MS)= Mathom Society, and repeats this for each loaction. Finally which of your alts can hand it in alternatively (Fairwen, Emsibelle), especially usefull if your current character can’t.

It finishes by saying how many quests you can hand in – but note that it includes all the places you have task items for, not necessarily on the character you are playing. For example, the 38 quests I could hand in includes three lots of glistening essences which could only be handed in on two of my alts in Bree.

If you are tempted by using all your trash items for tasks (bearing in mind that the last task board is in Echad Dunan in Eregion, so anything which drops in Moria and Beyond is still just trash) this is a fantastic plugin, it makes life so much easier. I was recently doing some deeds in the Lone Lands on my 65 Dwarf Champ Ganin – appallingly I had got to 65 and only had 2 Valour, which seriously needed changing! – I kept all of my trash items (worth nearly a gold) and sent them down the line to lower alts. This was a great start and meant that with a few sneaky purchases of Task Resets from the Store, I could hand a serious amount in on my Loremaster, getting a couple hundred XP for each one and a little Rep too.

Happy questing!

Emma

Naming Guide for Pets

I really enjoyed writing my general naming guide for in game characters, and a guide for Lore Master pets has been on my mind for some time. Not only do I like to have my alts with appropriate names, as my LM has progressed I like my pets to also have an appropriate name. Having two Jewellers myself, and Adam also having two Jewellers, we have tried to collect the full set of cosmetic appearances for our pets. At level 25 we only have the Raven and Bear usuable, but we do have all of them ready and waiting.

Now I’m not being dictatorial about this, name your characters and pets whatever you like. I’ve seen bears called Bungle (the bear from the U.K kids TV show Rainbow) and Eagles called Sam (come on, you all know the Muppet Show, right?) tortoises called Nornuan and bog-lurkers called Bogbrush. I’ve even seen Captains Oathbreaker Shades called LookAtMeImSeeThrough. I’m fine with this, if thats your thing. This is just a little guide put together for those of you who like knowing you have aproprate Middle Earth names, and would maybe like a few suggestions.

These names are all derived from Sindarin, or Quenyan, which I have shown with a (Q) next to it, and I have separated them out into the main LM pet groups – Raven, Bear, Lynx, Eagle, Sabrecat and Bog-lurker, and they are based on the pets characteristics and possible cosmetic appearance. Have a look at Casual Stroll to Mordors excellent visual guide on all the possible appearances of LM pets.

Raven -Blood, Frost, Mottled, Storm, Weathered

  • Yar – Blood
  • Silveth – Shining White
  • Seregellan – Friend in Blood
  • Wista – Fair
  • Imilneth – Sparrow
  • Oldur – Servant of the Wand
  • Hensaleth – Wise Eyes
  • Hinalagon – Stormy Eyes
  • Tolthalion – Son of the Summons

Bear – Black, Polar, Wildpaw, Tundra Cub, Blackpaw, Weathered

  • Morfineth – Black Hair
  • Balcardil – Powerful Tooth
  • Lossehen – Snow Child
  • Verie (Q)- Bold
  • Bruidal – Noisy Foot
  • Merce (Q)- Fierce
  • Helegon – Icy Cold
  • Balchamp – Cruel Claw
  • Maita (Q)- Hungry
  • Orchereg – Orc Blood
  • Vanimore (Q)- Dark Beauty
  • Rodothor – Great Warrior

Lynx – Onyx, Spotted, Grey, Tundra, Mountain

  • Mithdal – Silver Foot
  • Forothdil – Silent Hunter
  • Pelfaroth – Encircling Hunter
  • Nylecca (Q)- Onyx
  • Curudae – Skilled Shadow
  • Hithfaer – Mist Spirit
  • Belan – Powerful Gift
  • Gornien – Impulsive
  • Maegordir – Of the Sharp Mountain
  • Nurtale (Q)- Hiding
  • Trewath – Slender Shadow
  • Talagor – Fast Foot
  • Autha (Q) – Apparition
  • Naice (Q)- Sharp Pain
  • Daengoroth – Shadow of Horror

Eagle – Ashen, Ember, Snowcrest, Tundra

  • Aikandro – Sharp Flame
  • Helcie (Q)- Icy
  • Ruindal – of the Red Flame
  • Hemaeg – Sharp Eyes
  • Telpendu – Flash from on High
  • Henduanna (Q)- Given Eyes
  • Yula (Q) – Ember
  • Huriel – Fiery Spirit
  • Aradu – King of the Skies
  • Sorantar – Eagle
  • Selecheneb – Wise Eyed
  • Alarca – Swift
  • Ringa (Q) – Cold
  • Serecampa (Q) Blood Hook
  • Orien – Of the Dawn

Sabrecat- Dusky, Spotted, Grey, Deepwood, Striped, Onyx

  • Hithien – Dusk
  • Toronthalion- Strong King
  • Lomiel- Daughter of the Dusk
  • Carahir – Lord of Fangs
  • Mistie (Q)-Grey
  • Bamorien – Dark Beauty
  • Borinon – Boldness
  • Hinluin – Blue Eyed
  • Carcaroth – Hunter of Fangs
  • Bregoth – Fierce
  • Gurugaran – Red Death
  • Fuinhir – Shadow Lord

Bog-Lurker, Mountain, Swamp, Tundra

  • Runda (Q) – Rough Wood
  • Valandur – Power of Trees
  • Esgeth – Rustle of Leaves
  • Sirdal – River Foot
  • Didor – Woman of Woods
  • Celeblas – Silver Leaf
  • Ragoreth – Slothful
  • Naresce (Q) -Rustle of Leaves
  • Fasse – Tangled
  • Tauca (Q) Wooden
  • Oreg -Bloody Thorn

These are just a few suggestions, above and beyond this there are infinite amounts of approiate lore based names which you could base on a characteristic of the pet. Adam named his Black bear Orod (Mountain), as he was huge and dark like a mountain. Its something fun I always enjoy so try it for yourself, I hope these have been of some use!

Emma