Ettenmoors Revamp Part 2

Friday, October 31, 2008

A second dev diary, this time going into much more detail about the intricacies of the changes made to the Ettenmoors, showed up on the official website today. If you're a PvMP player, this is the one dev diary you need to read.


LOTRO Is Music To My Ears

I have never had the time or desire to delve into the music system in LOTRO. None of my characters even own an instrument. But there are those out there who have excelled in this entirely social system. I give great props to anybody who can really excel at playing music in LOTRO. It really gives the overall environment and community an extra depth.

A couple days ago I ran across a video on YouTube of a quintet playing Conan music, of all things, but it's fantastic. Check it out.

Massively also has a new guide to music in LOTRO. If you're at all interested in playing some tunes in Tolkien's world, check out the link.


A Brief Applogy

I try very hard to update this blog on a daily basis. If it's not a news story, I work even harder by coming up with some sort of commentary on LOTRO gaming. The last couple days I have been sick. Sick, sick, sick. Every year at this time... or thereabouts, I get a cold. Like clockwork. Yesterday I hardly had the energy to leave my bed, and spent most of the day sleeping.

So, while it might be impractical to get a daily post out for the entire life of this blog, for now, I apologize for the delay. Now, back to resting up. Stupid colds.


Taking For Granted What You Don't Have

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I go through cycles in my playtime with LOTRO. Sometimes I log in for a few hours every day. Other times I only log in twice a week. Just depends on my mood. But, when I know I can't log in, I really, really want to log in. It's just like anything else in life. You take for granted what you have all the time, but as soon as it's gone, you realize how much you want it. With my motherboard dead, LOTRO is just that for me.

And maybe it's partly the fault of all these awesome Mines of Moria dev diaries coming out of Turbine lately. Yesterday's one about legendary items really makes me want to be in there experimenting with the new content right now. But alas, I can't. Not only is MoM not released, but I don't have a system capable of playing the game at the moment.

I'm a bit worried about finishing the epic book quests, more than anything. I wanted to have them finished by the time MoM was released, so I can jump right into the new content with the rest of my kinmates. Certainly I don't have to have completed the Shadows of Angmar epic quests to start the MoM epic quests. But I like to keep my story in the proper order, so I've been doing the books in order, without skipping ahead. And with Moria only open to those who have completed the first chapter in Volume 2 and received a legendary weapon, a whole host of content will be unavailable to me - even if I get my gaming computer back up and running.

I've had little luck finding a motherboard that has an AGP slot for my current graphics card. I don't know if they make them anymore. It's old technology, with the current gen being the second iteration of the PCI-Express slot. Two stages removed from AGP. I'm going to investigate if changing the batter on the mobo makes any difference. The symptoms could be indicative of a dead battery. Which would be a relatively cheap and quick fix and get me back into LOTRO. We'll see how it goes. I'll keep you posted.


Ettenmoors Will See A Revamp

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Looks like the Ettenmoors will see a pretty significant revamp to location and gameplay with the Mines of Moria. I'm not a PvMP player, so I can speak to how these changes will affect my own gameplay. But, if you're interested, Turbine has released a dev diary for you.


Legendary Write-Up for Legendary Items

Turbine released a dev diary yesterday explaining legendary items. I, for one, needed an extensive diary (this one is 10 pages). I had a basic idea of how it functioned, but getting this write-up really helped flush the particulars out for me. Certainly, I'll understand it even more once I get hands-on experience, but until then, this will do nicely. I highly recommend checking it out.


Ten Ton Warden Overview

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The folks over at Ten Ton Hammer have posted their overview of the Warden class. It doesn't have much more information than the official dev diary, but it's an "independent" perspective. Check it out if you're interested.


Motherboard Meltdown

My motherboard decided to quit on me. As a result, the gaming system is down. That means I won't be logging into LOTRO till I get a new 'puter. Well, theoretically I could buy another motherboard, but I'm already planning on getting a new computer once I manage to find a job. But that planned system will require more of an investment than a new mobo similar to the one I already have.

I'll still be able to keep track of the LOTRO news and such, and if I have commentary thoughts on the game so far. I hope I manage something by Moria. Otherwise I'll have a game with no means of playing. Tis a lamentable problem I have.


A Bit of Bookishness

Saturday, October 25, 2008

This isn't a post about LOTRO. Rather it's about LOTR... no O. I recently acquired (reminds me I still need to pay for) the 50th anniversary hardbound edition of The Lord of the Rings. Being a LOTR nut, I was quite pleased with the purchase, to say the least. Here are some pics.

The Boxed Book
The Book and Box
Can't Forget The Map

So, pretty cool. This is one of those books that stays on the shelf. I already have a paperback set of the three books in good condition so... when I read through the stories again, those will be used. It almost makes me sad that I don't want to read through this one. But, it is like a collectors piece. Even if it's not worth a whole lot of money post-purchase, it's representative of a fond piece of literature. And there's nothing like a good hardbound boxed book to do it.


Monsters Invade Moria

Friday, October 24, 2008

Today! In about a half an hour monsters will be invading Moria. These monsters will be played by Turbine staff and in addition to jacking you up, you'll be getting things like festival masks and legendary items. Also, any player who logs into the beta will a unique title: Mithril Hunter.

So, any of you who are participating in beta... well, you already probably know about this. For the rest of us (me included), oh well. And have fun!


A Middle-Earthly Wildnerness

One of the biggest "feelings" I was struck with when reading through J.R.R. Tolkien's masterpiece was a feeling of great emptiness - of wilderness. And on top of that a sense of grandeur fallen into ruin. In my explorations of LOTRO's game world, they have really done a great job of conveying the fallen kingdoms. Ruins scattered everywhere across Eriador really help ground the place with a sense of history and time. However, the wilderness half of that equation is lacking. There's always something going on. Certainly this is a period of great upheavel and the rise of evil, so indeed, the world is abuzz with war, but even after conveying the feeling of great doom, the Middle-Earth of the books was a wild place.

Orc camps, goblin camps, spider lairs - those are wild, but not naturally wild. Where is the deep woods and rolling foothills without a sound but birds and beasts and my own footsteps? To me, that is Middle-Earth.

And LOTRO is something else. It's like a wierd hybrid that touches on elements and moments of what the "true" Middle-Earth was like, but then has to by its very nature throw in the game part. I'm not complaining that LOTRO isn't fulfilling the spirit of the world. In fact, I think it is on the whole - as far as it can. But it's not my fantasy adventure in Middle-Earth. Perhaps I would have prefered stepping into the world before Sauron had risen again, when birds were birds and beasts were beasts. Where orcs and goblins stayed in their caves and men minded their fields instead of the coins of others. Again, LOTRO isn't that - it is what it is. A game using the IP of Tolkien, but a game.

And really, I have to ask myself, could I have gotten anything better? Well, many people assert that Middle-Earth Online - what LOTRO was before undergoing a drastic redesign - could have given us this through an open world and sandbox style game. A make your own adventure. That's fine for some, and I might have enjoyed it. But I'm not sure that any product that has to be a game can at the same time be Middle-Earth as I experienced it through words. They're a different medium - a different form of entertainment. It's a futile exercise.

That said, when I've tired of the mob slaying, deed grinding, and general adventuring, I'll find myself preferring a quiet place in the Shire, or watching Amun Sûl at sunset, or fishing at Nen Harn, or watching the sunrise over the Icebay in Forochel. I get my tastes of the wild,when I can. I'd certainly love to see more of these places in LOTRO, where you can just relax without necessarily seeing another player. They don't have to be large areas, just a small peaceful, and empty place. Me and the Middle-Earth beneath me.


Another Bonus XP Weekend

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I'm not certain if this is just for the European servers or if there is another one on the US servers. I don't know if the first bonus XP weekend happened in Europe either. However, the link does come from the European LOTRO site, so if it is only happen in one place, Europe will be it. I found nothing on the US LOTRO site as of this posting.


New Trait System Explained

Turbine has released a trait dev diary today explaining the overhaul to the class traits. Briefly, there are three different trait sets that give additional bonuses the more of one set of traits is slotted. So, like the armor sets that accumulate bonuses the more pieces you have, your class traits will do the same thing if you slot traits from a particular set. This culminates in a legendary trait which will go in the new third legendary trait slot. But you have to have a total of 5 traits from a specific set for you to receive the legendary trait.

It all sounds pretty cool and, in my opinion, a better way to help guide players to character differentiation within their class. The critique, of course, is that it's very similar to WoW's different class specs, and that it requires certain traits you might not want if you want to get the legendary trait.

First off, I won't touch the "stolen" idea complaints with a ten foot pole. Anybody who knows anything about the MMO industry knows it's all about seeing what works well in the compeditor and trying to duplicate that as close as you can. It's the way it works - get over it. Second, sure, there might be a loss of nitty gritty customization with individual trait differences, but I think the bonuses from using traits in a set will outweigh what you might loose by being "forced" to slot a trait you don't want.

Looks like a sound system and good upgrade to me.


Kinmate's Moria Report

A few of my kinmates have been participating in beta. Some since July. One of them came on yesterday and started asking questions about Moria and his thoughts on them. I brought up the complaining on the forums and he just said "psshh" or something akin to that. Certainly there are issues, but they're being overblown on the forums - which is normal. Seems to be human nature that forums about games will always attract those that want to complain. I trust his assessment better because I've played with him often, I've chatted, I've gotten to know his personality and play style better than random forum posters. So, I'm not worried. And yes, despite my long post yesterday explaining why negative forum posts should be taken with a grain of salt, I was still a little apprehensive in the back of my mind.

Anyhow, he's really excited, which gets me even more excited. November 18th - I wish you were here.


The Unchanging Player

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

This is the ideal we all want. Either consciously or subconsciously we do not want things to change. It's a fundamental part of human nature. So, when I see posts such as this one, while it's intelligent, to the point, and non-agressive, I still have to question whether or not it represents the "truth" of the situation. It seems inevitable that these sort of posts show up when any change is on the horizon. And the size and scope of the change is directly proportional to the number and "volume" of the outcry.

I'm not dismissing this poster's argument, by any means. Heck, I don't even play a minstrel, nor have played in the beta, so I wouldn't know. But experience tells me exactly what I laid out above - people will complain about changes. Certainly there are times when those complaints have an aspect of legitimacy. This one might very well incorporate some of that. Or even all of that. However, I've come to learn my own opinion is the most accurate. For me. And that's what can be frustrating about using a forum environment for scoping out a game update. Number one, if you don't have an experienced-based opinion yet, you don't have all the facts. Regardless of how many "facts" are posted. Secondly, it's not your own opinion, and when has anybody else's opinion every exactly matched your own? Point for point. In its entirety. The meaning of life sort of scope.

So, everytime I read posts like this, I have to remind myself - wait until you've experienced the game. Then, I move onto the next few questions...

Does this change accomplish the goal it set out to? There's always a goal the developers have with changes. And rarely do you ever not know what that goal is when that change goes live. So you can indeed objectively determine if the changes accomplish that goal, regardless if you "like" the changes.

Is there "unintended consequences"? Nearly every change, be it in a game world or in real life, will affect something other than what it is supposed to affect. Frequently, these are indirect waves that shuffle down through systems. One class's gameplay change could affect how another class reacts when they play together.

Are these changes, unintended or not, limiting my ability to effectively play the game? Now, here's where subjectivity comes in. How do you define "limiting" and "effectiveness"? I would take each goal, accomplishment, etc in the game and compare if I can complete that within the set parameters. For example, does the change eliminate my ability to solo through content designed to be soloable? Or does the change eliminte my ability to power through group content that was meant to be more difficult than it is for my class? A little subjectivity, a litte objectivity.

The point is to keep an open mind, and in that open mind, go through these questions. Certainly the changes might not inhibit effective gameplay, but maybe you prefer to play the old way anyway. That's fine, that's your opinion, and you might even act on those preferences (like leaving the game). At this point, I hope one is intelligent enough to attribute their actions first to personal preference rather than changes in the gameplay (albeit these have a factor in that decision).

Or the changes really might be a big pile of auroch's crap. In that case, raise your pitchforks and storm the castle.


Durin's Way

Massively has posted a youtube video and screenshots showcasing Durin's Way in Moria.


Changing Combat

The Mines of Moria expansion represents a major overhaul to the combat system. With a finite percentage system, if upgrades continued at the present rate, players would see 100% damage mitigation with still more room to grow in the game. As such, Turbine needed to revamp their system in order to allow for an extended life of the game.

Check out the official dev diary.

It sounds somewhat complicated, and it is more so than our current system. I for one will need to actually try out the combat, and have everything in front of me before I'll truely have a working understanding of it. I can conceptually comprehend what and why they did what they did, but there's no substitute for getting out into the field and giving it a go.

And, as always is the case with forums, there are unhappy people. Unhappy about class changes, unhappy about combat changes, unhappy about riding a furry goat. Unhappy, unhappy, unhappy. Sometimes I wonder if the word unhappy is synonymous with the phrase "dedicated forum poster". Then I have to remember we still have an on the whole awesome community that puts things like crafting guides and class guides up.

Such is life - I will be reserving judgement until after I play. And something tells me, just like the complaints for Shadows of Angmar systems, I'll adapt and still enjoy what I have before me.


First Review of MoM

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gamespy has posted a short review of the Mines of Moria. There's hardly anything there, but it does offer the first official editorial comment on the expansion to LOTRO. I can hardly wait!


The Rune-Keeper Revealed

Turbine has posted a 10 page article on their website describing the new Rune-Keeper class in great detail. Check it out!


Slice the Grinds

I talked a bit about what LOTRO's grinds are yesterday, but I didn't have any solutions. Merely, I asked, why does it have to be that way. Well, here's a thought about what could be done.

Grinds are doing the same task over and over again for a long period of time. It's only at the end of that period of time is there a rewards. Oftentimes, we as the player have become so jaded over having to grind, we're not nearly so receptive to the reward as we could be, even if it's a fairly good reward, something we wanted. There's nothing to keep us going between when we start the grind and when we end it. How about spreading the reward throughout the "grind", so as you're doing the task, you're getting rewarded and reassured more often.

The reward, however, must be something the player can see affect his character. It can't be something intangible such as points. Rep-points might be given out on a per-mob basis, but after a certain amount of time, they loose their impact. A series of small, but meaningful rewards is a better motivation then one large reward at the end of a long grind.

An example in LOTRO might be the slayer deeds which reward trait upgrades. These aren't very large upgrades to begin with, so there's already a problem of large grinds for small reward. But what about giving each mob kill, or a set of 5 or 10 mob kills an incremental increase in the stats (traits) you're going after. LOTRO frequently uses a whole number to signify strength, rather than percentages. In this example, percentages would be better suited to seeing this incremental increase. Rather than have a set number of mob kills, certain mobs will just increase your stats. It is also possible to have a maximum threshold of effective kills, with diminishing returns nearing that point to move players onto other deeds (and thus areas of the gameworld). The player here is seeing an increase of numbers that mean something more than just points or a tally, but the overall "difficulty" of the deed, that is, the number of mobs slain, isn't necessarily reduced.

A potential problem with this idea is when grinds are used to reward gear. You either have the gear, or you don't. LOTRO is implementing a legendary items system, which essentially allows you to upgrade your weapons. Something similar with all types of gear would eliminate the grind for the gear upgrade. In this case, smaller upgrades would be rewarded as you're "grinding" that marginally increase the stats of your gear, rather than an all-at-once reward at the end.

That's just one idea that floated into my head. How it could be implemented to the current LOTRO game isn't something I could speculated about. However, it is a way that the grind might be sliced.


Oh Captain, My Captain

Monday, October 20, 2008

Thought I'd share with you a pic of my captain. What he's wearing there isn't the functional gear, but rather an outfit comprised of mirrored elven gear for the torso and legs, and the rest is heavy elven soldier's gear. All except the cloak, which is actually a low level cloak I don't remember the name of.

I finally got all the critted crafted gear. Mainly bought off the AH since the prices have been falling pretty steadily. Apparently the gear from the Rift, Annuminas, or the Ettenmoors is more popular. Honestly, this stuff suites me just fine.


The Grind - A LOTRO Primer

This is one of those subjects that pops up on every blog about online gaming. In MMO development, there seems to be this idea that in order to maximize player time with the game, one or more "grinds" should be incorporated into the game. A grind is essentially a task that is repeated over and over again for some goal, be it experience, faction points, crafting ability, etc.

LOTRO is no exception to the idea that grinds belong in MMOs. Fortunately for me and the rest of the LOTRO players, the grind isn't necessary to advance in the game and experience a vast majority of the content. However, there are systems in this game that do require grinds.

The first, and probably most used grind is the quest grind. Now this should be an oxymoron. Unfortunately, it's not. There are moments in the game, particularly around the middle levels when working in the Lone-Lands and the North Downs where the quests begin to feel like doing the same thing over and over again. Hunt these boar (boars are infamous in LOTRO), collect this item, talk to this guy. Over and over and over. It's a moment where you must question why you are playing a game where even the quests are grinds. Fortunately, this doesn't represent the quality of most of the quest content. On the whole, I would say LOTRO's strong point is the compelling quest lines - particularly the epic book quests. Still, this grind exists. Thank goodness I got past it. But, it has been a sticking, and even dropping point, for quite a few LOTRO players. They just can't get past those middle-levels (20-30[5]). I hope that Turbine at some point takes a look at this content bracket and either revises the quests or adds another option with more varied, compelling, and even innovative quests.

The second grind is the crafting grind. Being someone who enjoys crafting, this isn't too bad. Now, I am a yeoman and have only leveled cooking and farming to grand master. Unfortunately for me, cooking is (was worse) expensive, so the grind in the last tier took quite a bit of time. Cooks don't have a very strong and stable market for food unless it's critted food. Lucky for us, this grind is the least annoying of them all - or rather, least expansive. If you hate grinds in crafting, then it might be the most.

The third grind is the deed grind. Deeds are like the XBox 360 achievments, or the recent achievments added to WoW. They're a set of optional, non-quest, objectives to complete. The come in a few varieties. You receive a title and/or a trait (character stat modifier you slot) as a reward for completing the deeds.

  • First, the explorer deed focuses on finding a set of locations in Middle-Earth. These frequently revolve around some aspect of the lore. As such, they tend to be loved by the lore junkies out there. These are the least grindy of the bunch.
  • Second, there are also quest deeds, which advance as you do a certain number of quests. These also rarely incorporate grinds (unless it's quest grinding).
  • The third type is collection deeds. These are deeds asking you to collect a set of items, typically books or papers, off certain mob spawns. These can be a grind, but in my experience, the items drop at a decent rate for almost every deed.
  • Fourth, slayer deeds are the ones that create the most grind. These are the primary source of trait upgrades, but unfortunately, those upgrades require a grind. These deeds are two-tiered. the first tier gives you a title - such as "Slug Squisher" (for killing slugs in the Rukshuk Bog in the Shire) - and the second tier gives you the trait - such as Determination (trait for the slug slayer). The second tier also requires more kills than the first. The early deeds aren't too problematic (unless being farmed by many other players) with 30 the first time and 60 the next. But, as you get to the more advanced zones, you'll frequently see 150 for the first set and 300 for the next. Killing 300 of anything is a grind.
  • Fifth are the social deeds. These deeds revolve around emotes. A player will receive a new emote of other players emote a certain type to them a certain number of times. To prevent random emote spamming, these are blind deeds. That is, you don't know where you stand in terms of progress. These are definitely grinds, but the blind nature of them reduces the impact somewhat.
  • Sixth are the class skill deeds. These deeds give you improved skill traits that will upgrade certain skills. These aren't a grind necessarily because you advance them by doing what you're already doing - using your skills.
  • Seventh is what I'd call miscellaneous. They cannot be easily classified. They might (Shire post runs) or might not (festival tavern run) be grinds.

The last grind is the reputation grind. This basically means gathering reputation drops from mobs of a certain type to turn in with a given faction's rep vendor for reputation points. The number of points you have determines the level of reputation you have with that faction, and that level determines the type of rewards you can aquire. It has been my experience that these rewards are seldom worth the grind it takes to get the required rep.

However, despite my dislike for grinds, I've been doing a fair bit of it over the past few weeks. Certainly I still have quests hanging around, but all of them are fellowship quests. With my kinmates few and far between lately (work, life, MoM beta) I've been slower in the completion of fellowship quests. I'm not a huge fan of PUGs (pick up groups) despite having a fairly high sucess rate of a good group. So I've been grinding deeds and rep.

The rep I've been focusing on has been to unlock certain quick travel routes that are gated by reputation. Merely to make things more convenient should I ever need to travel to a given place. The Council of the North is my main focus. Their quest hub in Northern Angmar is time consuming to "run" to due to aggro and the distance from the nearest ungated quick travel route. I also have a fair number of quests still up there that I might want to complete at some point. The deeds I have been focusing on haven't been in any particular order. I've pretty much completed the ones I wanted to for the trait upgrades I need. So I've just been going through them systematically. Lately it has been completing them in the Trollshaws just to say I can completely check off an area of all quests and deeds (barring the raids quests).

The question is, why is this sort of gameplay necessary. I have the fortunate (or unfortune, depending on your point of view) to have a need for coin. My crafting skills aren't particularly profitable. So, these grinds, by gathering and selling the trash loot, gives me a "good" source of income. Still, there ought to be a better way of going about gaining the rewards and money that is more fun than a grind system. It's not hard, it's just tedious and time consuming. MMO companies are taking the easy road out with this type of content, in my opinion.

So, I bide my time till Moria with my grinding. I do bring a bit of it on myself by my completionist attitude toward the game, but still, it doesn't change what exists.


Final Class Dev Diaries

At long last my beloved Captain gets some love in a dev diary. So do the other two classes that had yet to get a "life after 50" treatment. Check them out below:


Much of the talk, at least in the Captain article, was about the new trait sets, which seem to be a replacement of the current traiting system. At least that's what it looks like. I previously mentioned my concern over the inability to really customize myself like I can now, despite the bonuses for using these trait sets. Still, reading through them, I'm pretty stoked about the skills you get.

The captain, like the rest of the classes, have three different options to choose from. One that focuses on damage and threat generation, one that focuses on healing, and one that's focused on fellowship support. I'm curious to know how much it will cost to respect between these sets. I can see the set used being very dependent on who is in the fellowship. If you have a minstrel (or two) you're not going to need the the healing set. If you're light on dps or tanking, the damage/tank set will be good. And if you have a well balanced group, go for the fellowship support. I can see myself consulting with my fellowship before heading out and changing my specs to work best with the party make-up, but if it's really expensive, I'd be less inclined to do so. In that case, I'd probably stick with the fellowship support set because that will probably always be beneficial.

Really, I won't know all the details until release, and be sure I will be posting my thoughts, comments, concerns, etc on what I find. Right now, I'm more excited then anything.


Masses of Massively Articles

Well, only four, but according to the site, they'll be putting up a host of Moria related articles until release (and I'd imagine after as well) since the NDA on the beta just dropped.

Exploring Book 1 Chapter by Chapter - this is a heavily spoiler-ridden article. I did not read it because, like I said last post, I want to experience everything when Moria comes out. However, if you're not so stogy as I, be sure to check it out.

Massively's Top 5 Anticipated Features - I don't know how they managed to put these in any order, because they're all epic. I mean, we get to see Durin's Bane for Morgoth's sake. But, I would put Legendary items at number 1 for me. This systems seems to be a great way to advance your character even after the level cap. The depth of Legendary items promises to make it an engaging mechanic. The trait system revamp would be number 2, though I'm a bit aprehensive about it. It doesn't seem, from some of the screen shots seen in the hands-on articles below, that we'll be able to still mix and match if we don't like the preset sets. Then again, these sets have some epic skills and bonuses associated with them, so the incentive to use them might nix my aprehension.

Rune-Keeper Hands-On - Anything and everything you'd ever want to know about the Rune-Keeper. Skills, traits, and gameplay, it's all there.

Warden Hands-On - Just as much love as seen with the Rune-Keeper Hands-On, but for the Warden class.

Just as an FYI, I'll be taking at least a cursory glance at the new classes and post my reactions. Also, you can espect extensive first impressions and commentary on the new systems put into place with Moria. The revamped traits (which seem to more resemble the different "specs" in WoW), the legendary items, etc. Then of course I'll be talking about my experience in Moria itself. The date is fast approaching and it will soon be very busy around here.


Moria Beta Lifts Tomorrow

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Those of you who are participating in the beta may now "legally" spoil it for the rest of us. Well, hopefully not, but you're certainly allowed to talk about any and all of it. I for one will be doing my best to avoid spoilers. I chose not to participate in the beta even though I was invited. The magical moments of exploring this new world will have to wait until the 18th, when I can delve into it with the rest of my kinmates all at once.

It's a decision that was influenced by my beta experience at the beginning of LOTRO. I certainly enjoyed the opportunity to play this game since August of 2006, but after three or four times through Breeland and into the Lone-Lands and North Downs - and even to Rivendell, the magical moments were much fewer. At least after release. I certainly experienced them during the beta process, but in some fashion, my enthusiasm waned sooner as a result. I've still remained playing, and enjoy the game greatly, but as an exporer type on the Bartle Test, the first moments of experiencing the game are the ones that produce the strongest drive in me to continue to play.

So, I choose to wait on Moria and let the excitement build.


More MoM Videos

Friday, October 17, 2008

Three videos regarding the Mines of Moria have been uploaded to YouTube. First is a small tour of the Foundations of Stone section in Moria. The last two are short class videos for the Rune-Keeper and the Warden. Check them out via Massively with this link.


Legendary Items

This new system in Moria has to be the one I'm most looking forward to, even perhaps over seeing Moria itself. Creating a system that reflects the legendary nature of certain weapons in Middle-Earth almost helps ground the player in this space moreso than many of the landmarks open to our exploration.

The system basically allows you to customize your weapon through runes that are slotted in or on the weapon. From there, these runes give the weapon certain bonuses. We already have weapons with bonuses, but the ability to tailor them to your specific needs as a class and player is invaluable. It also offers another avenue to character advancement beyond simple leveling. Turbine has stressed they want this system to be soloable. I can certainly agree that leveling and wielding a legendary weapon should be soloable. I mean, these weapons are unique to the player, so what better fit then to allow that player to undertake the mission of acquiring and improving the blade.

However, I doubt that the highest "level" runes will be easy to gather solo - a group will probably make it easier. I'm not going to launch into a commentary on solo versus group play at this time except to say I think there's a good balance so far, and the legendary system will compliment that.

If you want more info on these, Turbine posted an article about Legendary items on their website. Check it out!


Build-up to Bree

My first sight of Bree came about whilst I was in closed beta. But I'm getting a head of myself. At that time, there was only the man starter area open. This took place in a little town called Archet, northeast of Bree. The quests here were designed to take you from Archet to Combe, then to Bree, with an optional detour into Staddle, a hobbit town east of Bree.

Being the completionist and quest-a-holic that I am, I took the detour to Staddle first before heading into Bree. You can enter Bree from the Staddle gate or the Combe gate. What's cool about the former is that as you come over the hill from Combe, and enter through the gate, much of Bree is laid out before you. Center in your view is the boar fountain, anchoring a market area.

Now, Bree isn't the most spectacular of locations in Middle-Earth. If you clicked the links in Middle-Earth the Beautiful post you'll see how evident that is. However, Bree has a cozy quality to it. Tight-knit buildings, shoulder to shoulder, pathways that turn in on themselves, a bustling little town.

And of course there's the Prancing Pony, the inn run by Barlimon Butterbur and a defining moment for Frodo and Co as they first meet Aragorn in the guise of Strider. At that time, the town was both a refuge and a danger. Southrons turned by Sauron and Saruman hunted for the hobbits - and a greater menace, the Ringwraiths, scoured the land for Baggins as well. It was a time where you could trust no-one, and who was this mysterious ranger called Strider.

I remember the moment vividly from the books, so to be able to visit this iconic and eventful city gave me great joy. Walking into Bree, seeing the sign of the Prancing Pony hanging on the inn, was the first moment that hit me with the fact that I was truely experiencing Middle-Earth, and not just some generic fantasy world. Bree brought me into Middle-Earth, and from there the majesty of this place opened up for me... Hobbiton in the Shire, Bag-End, Thorin's Hall, Weathertop, the Fords of the Bruinen, Rivendell... it was all there to see and experience. It wasn't about questing or zones or any of that. It was simply about seeing these places. And it all started with the simple town of Bree close to 2 years ago.


More Warden Words

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Turbine has another Warden article on their main site. You can check it out here. I think both this class and the Rune Keeper will add some well dimensioned gameplay mechanics to LOTRO. They sound anything but boring.


How to Pay for Your MoM

Depends on how much the judge set bail for. Er... wrong mom. (No, my mom didn't really go to jail.)

Turns out there are three separate packages that will deliver you the Mines of Moria when November 18th arrives. First off, all in-store boxes of MoM come with Shadows of Angmar as well. So you new customers won't have to shell out 70 bucks to get everything. Just 50.

The other factor is this triple dipping I alluded to. The first package is the standard box. Turbine is calling it the "Complete Edition." It comes with:

  • 30-day free game time
  • 2 in-game tokens
  • Quick reference card
  • Product key card
  • 3 14-day free trial buddy keys
  • Starter guide
  • PDF version of the manual
  • Mines of Moria poster
  • Middle-Earth map

The Collector's Edition comes with the following:

  • Unique premium book packaging
  • 3 in-game tokens
  • 22" x 22" premium cloth map of Moria
  • Special gold-plated replica of the One Ring complete with chain and pouch
  • Mines of Moria poster
  • Middle-Earth map
  • Lord of the Rings Online Art and Music Collection with the official Mines of Moria soundtrack
  • Online community badge for the LOTRO forums

To further complicate things, each of these two boxes can be pre-ordered for special benefits:

  • Special pricing of $9.99 per month or $199 lifetime subscription
  • Special soundtrack CD
  • 1 in-game token
  • 1 in-game item: Mines of Moria Cloak
  • 1 in-game title: Mines of Moria Expeditionary

Then there's the upgrade early offer for existing subscribers which nets you the following:

  • Special pricing of $9.99 per month or $199 lifetime subscription
  • 1 in-game item: Mines of Moria Cloak
  • 1 in-game title: Mines of Moria Expeditionary
  • 3 in-game tokens
  • Middle-Earth map in PDF
  • Starter Guide in PDF
  • Manual in PDF

The prices for the three editions:

  • $29.99 for the Early Upgrade
  • $49.99 for the Complete Edition
  • $89.99 for the Collector's Edition

Now... where do I begin. First, why does it have to be so bloody complicated? I'm still not sure I completely understand how it's supposed to work. I pre-ordered the collector's edition from my local GameStop (because I'm such a fan I've lost all sense of prudent spending) but I did not receive any of the pre-order specific benefits yet. No soundtrack CD, no key to put in to get my in-game item, token, and title. Maybe that comes with the box on the 18th. I'll have to give them a call to clarify how that works. Hopefully GameStop didn't screw it up.

Second is a note about those in-game tokens. They can be turned in at a special vendor for in-game items. Turbine has been mum about what those items might be, and I have no clue where the vendor might be. Probably a few of them in choice locations like Thorin's Hall, Bree, and Rivendell. Possibly Michael Delving, but the Hobbits seem to get the short end of the stick when it comes to these special vendors.

Third, it's pretty cool they're offering the special pricing once again. I went with a life-time membership when I bought Shadows of Angmar and I can't be any more pleased. I spent a considerable time worrying more about my college course work than I did about anything in the game - there were months that I didn't log-in for more than a couple minutes just to check on my house upkeep or in-game mail. To me, the lifetime subscription was well worth the money because I didn't have to worry about getting my "money's worth." Simply knowing I would be playing this far down the road already gave me that "peace of mind." It's really a great offer Turbine! Thanks!

Fourth, is it really worth an extra 40 bucks for the Collector's Edition over the Complete edition, or an extra 60 compared to the Early Upgrade? I'm already a subscriber, so this Early Upgrade thing is targeted to me. Then again, the Collector's Edition is as well - for the hardcore fans. I guess I'm one of those, because I bought it. Still, is what you get worth it? To me, it's a personal badge of honor. I'm saying to myself, I love this game, I appreciate the work Turbine has put into it, I want all the goodies I can get out of it. The cloth map and the replica One Ring are the two items that most interest me. I'm curious to how well crafted the latter is. Being a fan of the movie adaptation of LOTR, and with a particular appreciation for the character of Aragorn, I have both Anduril as well as the Elven knife given to him by Celeborn. Created by United Cutlery, they're well crafted replicas. I have to wonder if a One Ring purchased through a game is really going to compare. Then I have to say to myself - "you bought it through a game you dolt!" and just realize it's still bloody cool.

Lastly, if you want to see all this stuff for yourself, check out it out here.

I'm looking forward to the 18th for sure... when I pick up my big box and delve into Moria. Happy adventuring!


Middle-Earth the Beautiful

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sometimes there are moments in this game where you just have to stop and admire the scenery. I'm a junkie for nature photography. Love to take it, love to look at it. One of my favorite things about this game is you'll frequently be minding your own business and WHAM! something amazingly beautiful pops up on your screen. Thank goodness for the print screen button!

I was out grinding Kergrim and Limrafn for the slayer deeds in Evendim today when I stumbled upon a bit of that zone I hadn't seen before. And wouldn't you know, the sun was just rising, the moon just setting, and Annuminas sparkled in all its crisp morning glory.

And a few weeks ago me and a kinmate were working on the epic quest line. I don't remember the book, but it required you to look in a particular direction from Weathertop. We were in the Northdowns at the time so I decided, let's ride through Kingsfell, around Nen Harn (the lake in Northern Breeland) and up the back side of the Weather Hills. Low and behold out popped Weathertop in all its warm sunset splendor.

May Middle-Earth's beauty bless your adventuring!


Words of Warden

Lamenting the fact that there's not been any dev diary love for the Warden class yet? Well, wait no longer. Fresh off the presses today Turbine has released a Warden dev diary.

The gambit system seems pretty cool. I was much more excited about the Rune-Keeper's attunement system more than the Warden, but now that I know more about the warden, it sounds like a pretty compelling class in and of itself.

Unfortunately, I'm a pretty monogamous player. I have a hunter alt and a guardian alt for mainly crafting purposes, but I don't even level my crafting on them very much. So, I probably won't play any of the new classes beyond level 10 or 15 (like my other alts). Just enough to get a feel for them. Still, they both seem to add a new and interesting mechanic and play style to the mix. Makes me lament the relatively straight-forward-ness of the hunter and champion.

Be sure to check out the diary!


Life After 50

No, this hasn't suddenly turned into a mid-life crisis advice blog. What I'm talking about is the level cap in LOTRO. Of course, after Mines of Moria (affectionately called MoM) comes out, you'll be able to advance another 10 levels to 60. That doesn't just mean there will be the satisfying blue numbers floating above your head after a mob kill or quest turn in again. Or that you'll hear the lovely "woosh" signifying level gain. (I must say I love how it's subtle. Sometimes I don't even noticed I gained a level.)

But what the heck do you do after 50, aside from visiting Moria and Lothlorien, or work on your legendary items, or level up your crafting to the next tier, or... well, actually, there's quite a bit to do. Still, Turbine has released a series of dev diaries explaining "life after 50", as Massively puts it, for each class. So far we have the burgler, hunter, lore-master, champion, minstrel, and rune keeper. That leaves the guardian, warden, and captain left. The links below will take you to the individual articles pertaining to each class. What sucks for me is that, and it seems to happen often, the captain is left for near last. (More on my experiences with a captain in later posts.)


In case you were wondering why I linked all these to the European site rather than the US (I'm from the US, by the way) is that when Turbine redesigned their site for the new Moria theme, the broke all the old articles, so many of the dev diaries have gone poof on the official site. That's a bummer, but thank goodness for Europe's site. You guys rock.

Edit: Looks like the links were only broke from other sites. They just changed the addresses, but you can still find the dev diaries on the US website.


What Keeps Me Going?

I posted a bit about the Rune Keeper as a lore breaker yesterday, and established that I see LOTRO as a very good game set in the Lord of the Rings universe rather than a virtual Middle-Earth. However, none of the game elements in LOTRO are the number one reason I keep playing, with maybe the notable exception of the epic story quests. So, despite how I've come to separate the two "worlds" from each other, my favorite part of playing LOTRO is seeing the places from the books that I so fondly remember. It is the link between the IP and the game that keeps me going, regardless of if some of the choices by Turbine bend the lore. I think I've placed my trust in them that although they might stretch the IP, the heart of Middle-Earth, that is the landscape, the nature, the places, the journey, is still the same.

Just the other day I randomly ran into a couple quest chains in Evendim (the Dwaling area) that I hadn't done. Being a quest-a-holic, I of course jumped on the irresistable quest rings. Poor hobbits didn't know what hit them. Anyhow, it turns out one of the chains was a wonderful omage to Tolkien and his Inklings group (basically a author support group or writer's group). He, C.S. Lewis (another notable author from that time - Narnia) and a few others would spend their time smoking pipes and musing over their own writings, offering critism and commentary. I find it classically romantic. And seeing this mentioned in the game in a way that only those with knowledge of this real-life activity of the author really made me feel special for finding and appreciating the quest.

It's this attention to detail and love for the IP that keep me going, even if in other aspects Turbine pushes the game side of things.


Rune Keeper a Lore Breaker?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

This topic became a heated debate on the official forums and elsewhere the moment it was announced. Indeed, there are screen shots depicting lightning blasts from the character's hands. This seems like something more akin to StarWars than Lord of the Rings. And on the surface I would agree the Rune Keeper is a lore breaker. Not once did we ever see a character, even Gandalf the White, spew lightning from his hands.

That said, magic does exist in the world of Lord of the Rings. It's just not the same kind of magic we're familiar with in sword and sorcery novels or World of WarCraft. When Tolkien wrote about magic, it was very subtle. It's certainly possible his Catholic background instilled in him a desire to stay away from anything construed to be "witchcraft" or "sorcery". Whatever the reason, we didn't see what we see in the above screen shot. But is it still possible within the rules of the lore as set by Tolkien?

Zombie Columbus at Turbine wrote a dev diary explaining their take on the Rune Keeper. The elves and the dwarves had the power to change the world (not create) through their deeper knowledge of it and how it was created. Turbine extrapolated this into using Runes as a method of changing the world.

In my mind, the ability to wield lightning, whilst ignoring the spirit of Tolkien's intention with magic, does not technically break the rules. And the lightning fingers of the Rune Keeper isn't any more lore bending then lightning strike from Lore Masters. Both are equally unsubtle and bend Tolkien's intention. If I accept the Lore Master, which I have done, then I must accept the Rune Keeper.

Does it ruin my immersion in Tolkien's world? Not really, but not because I'm chosing to ignore it. More so because, even though I love the world of the Lord of the Rings, LOTRO isn't that. No game can ever capture it. (Peter Jackson's movies came close.) I might have once believed it were possible, with the concepts behind Middle-Earth Online, but regardless, LOTRO is still a well made game, using the IP of the Lord of the Rings. It has taken on it's own life for me.

Think of it like the parallel universe concept in Back to the Future. Both timelines existed simultaneously and parallel to each other. This is the same way as LOTRO and LOTR is for me. The books are the "correct" timeline, universe, etc, but (unlike the alternate universe in Back to the Future) LOTRO is a great universe as well - the universe of a game. And as much as the lore junkies (I hesitate to call them freaks) don't like that, this is a game, first and foremost, not a virtual recreation of Middle-Earth.

Hopefully most of them can come to appreciate both, loving both, as I have. It would be a shame to dismiss a well crafted game that you might enjoy otherwise. So, to those of you who are up in arms about the Rune Keeper - give it a chance. And to those that can't, well, perhaps this game wasn't for you in the first place... and it just took this long to figure out. Best wishes to you in the "real" Middle-Earth.


Mines of Moria Video

The first paid retail expansion for LOTRO is fast approaching. Indeed, Turbine just officially named a release date, November 18th, late last week. I found this Mines of Moria preview video on a German gaming news website and uploaded it to Google Video for convenience.

Check it out!


So It Began

Monday, October 13, 2008

My adventure in Middle-Earth started when I randomly came across the website for the now defunct Middle-Earth Online (or MEO). Aware of online gaming via my cousin (who was my partner in crime in getting me hooked on gaming) the opportunity to delve into the world of Middle-Earth on a grand scale had my blood pumping. Well, not really, but I was excited about the game.

I followed the updates religiously for some time, signed up for beta whenever that would happen, but at the same time the game itself came into trouble, I grew distracted by other games, and what was going on In Real Life™. I actually forgot the game even existed. That is, until August of 2006.

I opened my inbox one morning and found an e-mail inviting me to participate in the closed beta process of the now renamed Lord of the Rings Online. Lucky for me, Turbine had retained my beta application information despite all the turmoil the game had faced with it's drastic reimagining. So, when the moment came and the servers were open to me, I plunged myself into the world of Middle-Earth.

The beta experience was a whirlwind of excitement for me. To actually be able to step into Middle-Earth, a world I greatly enjoyed through Tolkien's books and the Peter Jackson movies, was a giddy experience. And addictive. When I found out after only a week of play that they'd have the servers closed for two weeks to move onto the next phase of beta, I started shaking in anticipation of the withdrawls. Not really, but I did very much want to return to the game.

I attribute my attachment to the game to two things. First, it was my first MMO. There's an intagible quality to one's first MMO (and other games for that matter) that places it at a special place in the gamer's heart, regardless of it's overall quality. Lucky for me, LOTRO is a very well built and designed game - so my special place is warm and fuzzy with quality. Secondly it was the IP. I'm a LOTR nut. Well, not as much of a nutter as those folks that read the books twice a year, and have studied the 12 volume History of Middle-Earth as much as a PhD canidate would his dissertation. However, my affection for the Lord of the Rings coupled with my ability to actually game there in an expansive way drew me in like a moth to my halogen floor lamp. I'm confident that LOTRO won't burn me up though. At least, not to the point of death (i.e. leaving the game).

At the time of my beta, there was only one starter area in the game, that of the race of men. But what an epic way to be initiated to the game. Sure, it used the cliche "you're a prisoner with nothing and you have to break out" concept, but from there, the boring cliche left. Right away I was introduced to some unwitty Hobbits - and surprise, surprise a Black Rider already! The whole experience was very cinematic (for a MMO) and sucked me in right away. Here I am, right in the middle of the world crashing down at the hands of Sauron. My little part of the LOTR world.

As my LOTRO gaming continued, the second seminal event for me was finding my current kinship (guilds in other games). It was by chance, when trying out a dwarf in a later stage of beta, that I grouped up with a member of Operation Arda Freedom. Funny story, actually. I was initially mistaken as the "heir" (or second in command) due to my name starting with the letter G. Apparently the real heir always made characters that started with G, and the leader was terribly confused. After about 20 minutes of sorting this out, I was a member of the kinship. But I think that event helped draw me into their community faster than I would have otherwise. So here I give a shout out to Dwudulin, the man who started it all by grouping with me, Grimbur for finding my theft of his identity quite humorous, and Elster for mistaking me for someone I was not. You three and the rest of the kin are a wonderful bunch of people to play with.

With that fond note, I will end this post before it becomes unwieldly. Happy adventuring.


About Me

I thought I'd take some time to let you know a little about myself. I'm a 23 year-old gamer (at the time of this writing). My gaming history goes back to the DOS days, surprisingly enough when my grandparents bought a 486 Mhz machine to occupy me and my cousin while we were visiting. With the help of his step-brother, we played Railroad Tycoon, the orignal Doom, Civilization and a few others that escape me at the moment. We would wake up at 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning and play until our parents came downstairs and told us to shut up and go to sleep. I was hooked. I'd even dream about playing the game.

I'm also a tech-fan in general, interested in what's under the hood of my machine. While not yet having built my own system from scratch (future project) I have upgraded my existing machine. It's sort of an armchair hobby for me at the moment as I like to keep track of the latest tech news and innovation.

The overall word I'd use to describe myself is nerd. But I take pride in that. I love the world and interests that opens up for me. And hopefully, through this blog, a little part of that will spill out.


Link List & Blog Roll

I have set up a link list and a blog roll here for your convenience. Most of the links are LOTRO specific, with a couple exceptions. The blog roll, as alluded to in my intro post, does not currently include any LOTRO blogs. However, there are three included that I highly recommend. I will probably be adding to this roll as time goes on and I find new blogs I like.

I'd like to specifically call attention to a couple of the links...

First is Visions of the Ring. This is an excellent fan site for one specific feature. The author (Hayoo) has created a flash speculative expansion map which really does an excellent job of detailing the world land additions to the game so far and where he'd like to see the game go. I disagree with some of the directions and time frame, and might bring that up in a specific post, but for now, an excellent site to stop by at.

The second is MEHQ's dynamic map. The main site has been offline for some time, but the dynamic map is regularly updated for accuracy improvements as well as game updates. Defitely check that out if you're having trouble finding a quest NPC, mob, location, etc.

Third is the offical LOTRO Lorebook. This is a wiki put together by Turbine so they and the players can create an extensive database of anything and everything having to do with the game. It's continually growing and, while still in beta, is already quite useful.

Lastly I'd like to call out RingCast, the only regularly updated LOTRO specific podcast I have found. Hosted by Lady Sinaea, she runs through the latest news and gives her commentary on what's going on in LOTRO. Not updated nearly as often as I would like, but hey, it's quality work.


Welcome to My Adventure

Hello and welcome to the Middle-Earth Adventurer. My name is Jaxom92 and I currently play Lord of the Rings Online. This might be considered a late addition in the game, especially considering that I've been playing since closed beta in August 2006. However, for quite a while I've been wanting a blog devoted to LOTRO and haven't found one reliably and regularly updated. So this blog is designed to do just that.

The content will hopefully be updated on a daily basis. The goal is to include links to news, interviews, videos, forum posts, patches, and anything else LOTRO related. It will also include my own commentary and thoughts about the game.

I hope you enjoy your visit here and find at least one post of interest.