Category Archives: Thoughts and Musings
When will it all End?
I have been reading a lot of articles, forum posts, and fishing about generally for info recently (being awake at unreasonable hours with a newborn baby will do that to you), and I have caught sight of a number of discussions and bits of information which have been intriguing to me, about LOTROs immediate and long-term future.
Firstly, there seems to be a lot of prophesying, and doom calling about LOTRO. I have seen plenty of speculations about the end of LOTRO, usually carefully worded as; ‘ all is not well‘,’enjoy it while you can‘, and such, nothing careless enough to be overtly falsifiable, except perhaps this post from The Tobold/MMO Troll, speculating:
I think Turbine will manage to get out another expansion covering the 2nd half of Rohan, but it – like RoR – will be significantly lacking, and overpriced for what is offered. Players will rightly expect a Helm’s Deep instance of some sort, and it will not be included at launch. If Turbine manages to create such an instance, it will be a raid, and likely the only instance included with RoR2.
Turbine will not make it to Gondor as most would expect next, in 2014. The game will start actively bleeding players in mid-to-late 2013, and be shut down before the end of 2014. If a Gondor expansion is offered, it will also be feature lacking but at a premium price, and the game will shut down within two months of its release.
Brave words, and kudos from me for actually sticking your neck out. I disagree that ROR was significantly lacking, or over priced, but I guess everyone’s mileage will vary on that subjective point.
But to address the actual point being made here, I do think that this is actually a strong potential scenario, least wise the timing of A potential closure date for LOTRO, due largely to licensing. Turbine has the license for LOTRO (and it seems The Hobbit from the following source) until 2014, and an option of extending this to 2017 (source). What does this mean? Well, presumably any extension, would have a monetary payment attached to it, I can’t see any reason to make it an extension ‘option’, unless it was a precaution to save money and close earlier if the game was not profitable. The next 18 months will be crucial. If the profits (and thats actual cash coming in, not the amount of people who play, or love the game) are not seen to be worth the additional license extension, then the end of 2014 will almost certainly be the closure of LOTRO. However, if the Hobbit Movies and the second half of Rohan (presumably including Helms Deep) manage to draw in enough additional players, then we may well find Turbine and WB taking up this option and extending beyond.
I have seen suggestions pointing to Turbine past titles, such as Asherons Call, as an example that they may just let LOTRO dwindle on for years, but this is largely wishful thinking. The crucial thing missing here is the license. Self created, or low value, IP’s don’t cost much to run. Middle Earth as an IP will always have a large figure attached to its existence, before any other running costs are added, and as such the scope for carrying on under unprofitable circumstances will be unlikely.
It’s sad to see people lose their jobs, but it happens all the time. We lost a 1/3 of our workforce this year too, but we are not collapsing as a company, despite seeing some hard times, there is often the inevitable churn, particularly after a larger project, or towards winter. Some of my friends work in the gaming industry for some quite large companies, and its inevitable that there are layoffs from time to time, especially after major releases, and whilst it sucks, and may indeed reflect some streamlining, or even downsizing, of the team (Community Rep and HR people are often first in line), it doesn’t always bode badly.
That all said, I am fairly optimistic we WILL see an extension beyond 2014, and I think a lot of the grousing currently is based on this trickle release of content LOTRO, and of course on the ever popular addition of grindy mechanics. The reason I say this is that actually, many people I know have enjoyed Rohan, and indeed Mounted Combat, they are mostly subscribers, and a good number buy Turbine points too, including ourselves, so are actively funding the game. It is impossible to judge or draw conclusions from such anecdotal evidence as this, but that is precisely my point. Often if you are on a quiet server, or reading forums, it is easy to get the impression that the sky is falling, particularly the unofficial forums, which tend equally on the negative side as the official forums do on the ‘fanboy’ positive side. I still see very busy chat, and kin channels, though having poked my head on other servers, I have no doubt a merger, or opening up some free transfer routes between some would not be a bad idea, though I guess in the current climate, moves like this would only be taken negatively, or as another sign of doom.
I suspect a lot of the current agitation and annoyance is at the lack of a instance cluster, as this was exactly the same after ROI whilst waiting for its cluster. Once again, in that instance, Emma and I were in a totally different position to many people of only having just levelled through all the content. But its true that what we could do with now is some instances, and not long after, some more content to arrive to keep the game moving forward for other elements of the player base.
Update 9: Instance Clusters, scaling, crafting XP, area loot and a BREEliant revamp.
So we are getting some Instances, and soon, but again, this is not up to everyone’s expectations, or to everyone’s liking. Complaints seems to range from; Why is it Hobbit themed and not Rohan, why are there not more 6 mans and raids, why is it in two parts, etc.
To address the Rohan issue, I think its clear Turbine are aware they need to grab more potential customers, and cater to them, to drive up profits, keep hitting targets, and allow that crucial 2014 extension.
You may have heard there is a new film out in a week or two, part of a trilogy, by Peter Jackson. They are, I’m told, quite popular. If you ran a Middle Earth game, would you want to miss out on this opportunity to attract new players? In addition, if you were attracting new players, would you want to give them some Hobbit themed instances, and make them scalable to a lower level so they could try them out without having to level to cap? Would you also think that giving them some crafting XP to help speed up the journey a little, and adding area looting to the game to improve mechanics would help? What about some new Steam packs, and perhaps revamping some of the lower level hubs like Bree and Archet to look more in line with the current endgame spaces, and impress new players? You betcha.
From the longer term players such as ourselves point of view, would you want two instance clusters in Rohan, one with East and one with West? It would be a bit monotonous to me, as a Dwarf there is only so much Green, Grass, Horses, and Blond blokes telling me their ‘need is Dire’ I can take. In Eastern Rohan there would only so many ‘meaningless white hand boss A‘ threats you could conjour up for instances, but for Western Rohan there is Helms Deeps, Edoras, The Paths of the Dead, and presumably some more Isengard stuff… so If you are going to replace one of these potenital clusters with a Hobbit themed cluster, and there just happens to be the first movie out with the Eastern Rohan expansion, it seems like a no brainer to me.
Why there are not more 6 mans and raids I do not know, or why they have been delayed. I presume that they have the figures, and know what sells and what is popular and are basing it off that. I personally prefer the 3 mans, but I guess, anyone who has read this blog would say thats obvious. I can only assume the scale of Rohan and what they need and want to deliver, and the size of the Dev team, are not perfectly matched. I doubt, given the need there seems to be to maximise profits, that they will be hiring more soon, especially as they had a few new guys around Rohan we met in Betas, and some new high profile staff members at Turbine generally, so the current team is having to break content into smaller chunks.
In addition they have scaled the Mirkwood cluster, including the raid, and finished the second half of the Moria revamp, so some extra content there, and something else that will definitely make it easier for a new player, and provide incentive to purchase these two pieces of content as they are now usuable whilst levelling, and also at level cap, especially as Mirkwood will now provide things to do at end game indefinitely.
New Areas and Old?
We know we will be getting Western Rohan next year, or possibly early the year after and, given the available space, it will be another large area, with some of the most iconic locations in Middle Earth in, so plenty for old and new players to look forward to. I have no doubt there will be a cluster with it, and that it will be inevitably delayed, and indeed that the expansion will be a similar price to this year, perhaps a little more?
There has also been suggestions we may get some more landscape prior to ROR: Part 2 as well, or some other content. A few posts that have been swiftly deleted on the forums have suggested so. A post in the Beta forum described how to find a way out of Limlight onto the Rohan side of the River via a Youtube video, and work your way over the Hills into a secluded forest valley, with a dusting of snow, which was far too polished for the usual Off Piste areas, and also had paths and an NPC Ent. I cannot now find this, or the Youtube Video it linked to. Sadly ,I didn’t copy them to my hard drive in time. *Edit: thanks to Roger from Contains Moderate Peril who pointed out it is still there, but has been made private by the owner
In addition there are also some images visible in a google image search still, which linked to a thread in the LOTRO forums detailing the Western Wold and Northern Fangorn. One image has disappeared entirely but appeared to denote the areas on the map on the large hill range behind Cliving, to the West of Harwick, and the North of Mirkwood, all South of the River Limlight, as I have highlighted below. Naturally the thread was very quickly deleted.
A Google image search for ‘Northern Mirkwood LOTRO‘ linking to a Forum thread which has gone, produces the following result. I saved the images below. Quite how accurate these are, or what exactly these entail is anyones guess, I’m sure BETA participants can verify it. These are just copied directly from Google Images and were not taken by me. I haven’t currently even logged on to Bullroarer since pre ROR release.
Intriguing stuff! It seems like this snow dusted forest and the gorge up towards Fangorn are all one and the same thing. Looking forward to finding out!
I have also heard some titbits that scaling of Moria instances is a WIP, though quite how far along that is I don’t know, but given how much seems to be known about 2013 so far, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t 2014 before that rose its head.
So all in all, I think There is plenty of evidence out there, that LOTRO is still attempting to grow, and build. Scaling old Content, revamping new areas, and cosmetic revamps of low-level hubs, new instances tieing in with the Hobbit films which scale to attract new lower level players. Updating the loot mechanics, craft XP, and new started packs and promotions all make levelling a little easier and more attractive, and undoubtedly some new store items to help speed levelling further will follow in the New year. Throw into that a new MAC client and associated steam pack to open up access for more players again. All this is undoubtedly designed to help build and promote LOTRO, to increase and sustain revenue from this point on, to keep achieving profits, and hopefully get us over that 2014 bump, which I believe Tobold/The MMO Troll is right to point out.
Last but by no means least, there are plenty of signs that more Rohan, Instances, and Indeed perhaps some new areas will follow, meaning there is still plenty to be hopeful for. Not to my mind, the actions of a company thinking of closing up shop just yet, so lets just hope its enough! What will happen in 2014-17, well thats anyones guess. I suppose, we may well see lifetime accounts being sold, over priced items, little new content, who knows, we may see some tail off, though of course, we may see a continued effort to extend the games span again. But for the time being, in contrast to a lot of opinion, I think we will see a continued effort to get more content out, and more money out of us, the players, in the next 12-18 months, things that it has to be said are not mutually exclusive.
Adam (a fanboy)
So for some people, this is a non issue. They either have one/multiple characters and are happy to spend money, or simply couldn’t care less about cosmetics. That is fair enough, but for folks like us that love messing about with cosmetics, and have a lot of alts, the Warsteed cosmetic system was both a source of interest and excitement, and a huge disappointment.
There have been a number of post on the major blogs around about this issue, Ketani at CSTM, Hymne at Cosmetic LOTRO, and Sig at the excellent new (ish) Warsteeds site to name a few. I won’t go over the fine details here, as they do a better job of it that we will, so we will just look at how we are deciding to deal with it, in our specific circumstances.
The items; saddles, tails, gear, armour/cosmetic sets, and hides I am sort of O.K with. I mean, they are expensive, but they are in line with the sorts of things the LOTRO store has been retailing so far, and there are for the most part in-game alternatives, or options.
The hides and horse colour dyes other than the default grey were something that, if they were cheaper or account wide, we could have splurged more on, but as it is they are a bit steep at 595 Turbine points per character. As a result, I have decided when I hit 80 with a character to choose them A horse each, and that will be it.
Yes, I’ve gone all soft and given it a name, chosen it a colour, and the characters will have to live with that horse for good. One or two may get a hide skin at an extra 595 TP (though oddly in the store the ‘hides’ button on the MC tab seem to be linked to the colours which dye the body slot item, and the ‘body’ button is linked to the hide skins… weird.)
Having resigned ourselves to this limitation because of the excessive cost, I actually quite like how this has altered my thinking about the warsteed. It has done what the Legendary Item system set out to do, but accidentally, through over pricing.
For us, it has given the horses a character, actually makes it a ‘permanent companion’ so to speak, a part of my character and their advancement experience. Hengest is Azaghars horse, and is a dark grey dappled horse with a black mane, Ganin has chosen a mid brown horse with a blond mane called Horsa (yes, from English Anglo-Saxon history). As you can see above, we bascially made the horse version on our dwarf characters, it made us chuckle and gave us an half hour of fun anyway! Now I grant you, our horses may wear barding, or different saddles and gear, they may even miraculously get larger and smaller if we re-trait them down light or heavy trait lines, but it will still be their horses, looking as they do in that picture, a permanent steed with them from now on, as legendary weapons should have been.
Already we are having fun, deciding what our other characters horses might look like, and what they might be called, how they might represent or complement their riders characters. Obviously not everyone will be into this, but for us, it has been fun, and after all thats what hobbies are about right?
We are Lifetime account holders, so the game holds no running cost for us outside of expansions, and about £40ish a year in Turbine points for stuff we fancy, so in many ways we are able to take this stance, as the high cost impacts us less that subscribers. Given the rate we level and play, realistically the monthly allowances we get from our lifetime VIP will basically pay for these steed colours and hides for everyone oertime if we pace our purchases.
Perhaps we are deluding ourselves, perhaps we should take a harder stance with regard to this, as I wouldn’t disagree that they are too expensive, and prohibitive of the sort of splurge purchasing I thought I would indulge in. However,we have taken the active decision to not get too het up about it, or back ourselves into an ideological corner from which there is no retreat. We have registered our complaint on the forums and within the wider LOTRO community, but we are not going to get overly annoyed or embroiled in the issue as this is our hobby and it is easily tarnished when you set off on a, often futile, crusade to change things. We are taking what we have been dealt by Turbine, and choosing what we feel are appropriate purchases, and what we consider to be cheeky and too much, and thus Turbine will not be getting money off us for, which brings us onto the warsteed dye situation…
To be fair there are some free colours which you can use to dye your horses outfits and barding; Orange, yellow, green, rust, indigo, and rose. So… yeah, ones that would sell well then… not. It is however good news for Dutch or Brazilian football fans. For access to the other colours you have to pay TP to unlock them for use, so far, I am fairly comfortable with this.
595 Turbine Points is far, far, too much for a pack of four predetermined colours, randomly mixed, that is bound per character. For people like me with 5-6+ level cap alts, 2K+ TP per character, just to parp around with dyes is ridiculous. We are part of the LOTRO community that likes cosmetics, naturally fan boy and girls disposed often, and we are a natural target for the F2P marketing, and are pretty comfortable with that, but we are not total idiots.
Two options would have been acceptable to us personally, If they had announced it was 595 TP to unlock the colours for the whole account or server, this still would have netted turbine 2K+ of points for a full access unlock, though admittedly people with alts would have got more benefit than those with just one character, who would still be in the same boat.
The other option is choice, often Turbines favourite word when it comes to trying to flog things. In this instance 100ish points per colour, hell even 150 TP per colour, would have at least given us a choice of what colours to buy and use, but as it stands if you are after black, then you get lumped with a number of other insipid colours, basically just so they could justify sticking the 595 price tag on it, then claiming ‘but it is for four colours‘! I am sure if they could have got away with charging 595 for individual colour of black, red, Rivendell green, Ered Luin blue, and crimson, and branded them ‘premium colours‘, i.e. the colours the bulk of folks want, then they would, and then stick the rest on for 100 points each, to fill up the corners. I suppose this shows us they still have some shame.
As it stands, we have decided to not buy any dyes, and do our best with plain horses, or greens. If and when we have used our monthly allowances and bought our steeds some hide colours, then we may consider using our monthly allowance for these, but I am not using Turbine points I paid money for, for this unlock. Once again, I have a lot of sympathy for folks who are subscribing, as this is a bit beyond the pale.
Either way they will get their monthly points back for some of this stuff, but it will take a long while to accrue, still, we are in no rush. If Turbine had wanted our actual money, they went the wrong way about it. But, as always, we shall remain irritatingly cheerfully optimistic, and have fun with the new game mechanic that, I have slowly been creeping through rounds of Beta to live from being suspiciously uncomfortable with, to really enjoying.
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.
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.
In Star Wars the Old Republic, there is a fairly detailed character creation panel (although there is no cosmetic
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.
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
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!
Got to say that I love the lotteries! As an EU player they still have the novelty value, and both myself and Adam check them regularly on all our accounts. So far we have been pretty lucky, but this last weekend Adam came away with a Worn Symbol, and I got a shiny new horse on two of my alts. The lucky ladies were Emsibelle, my little Hobbit Tank, who won the Steed of the Guardian in a Guardian only lottery, and Fearien, my Elf Loremaster, who won the Cremello Steed. I was pretty excited, and had to rush off and design new outfits to match.
When I first saw the Cremello Steed on A Casual Stroll to Mordor back in March, I wasn’t sure that I liked it. But when I saw it come up in the lottery, I entered it anyway. It is actually quite a difficult horse to outfit with I thought, as it has quite a busy pattern on it and the reds and blues on it can be difficult to replicate on some items. Cosmetic LoTRO have recently done their excellent version of a matching outfit for this horse, so I decided to do my own something simple and elegant suitable for a noble Elf lady.
Dress : Elegant Dress, Store Cosmetic, undyed
Cloak: Widows Drape, Dunlending Reputation Vendor, dyed red.
Now, for Emsibelle, she is a tomboy, no-frills Tank, and so I needed something suitably heavy armoured, and yet looks fairly comfortable to be riding in. Her usual attire is the Durins Guard moria set, dyed rose, but I needed a whole new colour scheme. The Steed of the Guardian is quite dark, mainly made up of what looks like a worn mid grey leather armour with various red and white shield motifs and a couple of weapons and saddle bags. Because of the leather on the horse, I looked mainly at what I had collected in the way of medium armour and went from there. Fortunately for me, the Isengard expansion came with alot of very nice looking pieces, which I have been hoarding.
Chest: Reinforced Leather Dunlending Jacket, Medium Armour quest reward, burgundy dye
Shoulders: Ornate Pauldrons of the Dunland Swordsman, Heavy Armour quest reward, default dye
Gloves: Burnished Dunlending Gauntlets, Heavy Arour quest reward, default dye
Boots: Reinforced leather Dunlending Boots, Medium Armour quest reward, default dye
Incidentally, today is the first day that the Steed of the Guardian is openly available. It is a Store only mount, and only available until 8th December, although it may crop up in further sales and lotteries. At 1995 TP’s per character its pretty pricey, although its run speed is 68% and has 250 morale, putting it stat wise up there with the Steed of Eriador (world renowned) and suchlike. I will say that like the Steed of the Hunter, these horses are inspired by the classes only, and do not come equipped with any other skills. They can be ridden by any character, regardless of class.
If you do feel like you have a pile of Turbine Points burning a hole in your pockets, have a look at the Mounted emotes. These are emotes that you command your horse to do, and look pretty impressive. They were also available in some of the lotteries recently, and it may be that they are in lotteries around the same times that horses are available. Currently there are three mounted emotes available in the Store – Bow, Rear, and Kick. They come in at 195 TP’s each, and again it is per character. I was lucky enough to win one of them on my little Hobbit Hunter, Cebelia.
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.
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.
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!
I got extremely lucky with a legendary weapon on my Dwarf Champion Ganin. It was a 65 Third Age, so not the greatest now, and was identified and used back in the days when you couldn’t save legacies, and add them on, even before F2P and the LoTRO Store, where you can remove your relics prior to deconstructing, and before crafted First Age weapons, and possibly even crafted 65 Second Age weapons. It was that long ago.
Now Ganin and I became very proud of that axe, while Adam, a seasoned Champion, looked on with envy at every reforge. And this is why:
Okay so it probably didn’t have the best relics on there, but it did have 6 Major legacies on there, which is almost impossible to get. If the level cap was never to have increased past 65, it was unlikely that I would ever have to change this axe out. All this axe had added to it was a Scroll of Delving to upgrade it from 60 levels to 70, otherwise it was utterly perfect, I was just working to earn scrolls of empowerment to up the tiers (a slow process when you are casual/duo player!).
However last night Ganin reached 71 on discovery of the Rohirrim Scout Camp in the Gravenwood, and at that point it became obvious that the axe was starting to lag behind, in terms of its DPS. The quest reward there was for an axe (green background so in reality not that special) with a full 10 DPS lead on my precious legendary. During the course of the evening I had looted some nice Champion weapons while killing Bugan in the Mines (all champs – go there! I got 7 champion legendaries in about 20 mins and they all turned out really nice) and bit the bullet and said bye-bye to my beloved axe.
My new weapon (an axe obviously) is pretty nice, and probably better suited to my playing as a Glory Champ now. But it will never be as great as my original axe. I will not see its like again. Farewell old friend, gone but not forgotten.
I’d love to hear about your legendary weapons – did you too have the perfect level 65 and have to deconstruct it? Leave a comment and let us know!