The World Beyond Moria

Saturday, December 20, 2008

So where are we going? Famous and humorous words from Pippin, but a good question nonetheless. So where after Moria and Lothlorien is the world headed? I like to look at Hayoo's Vision of the Ring speculated expansion map because it is usually kept up to date. If you click the link and then scroll to the Mines of Moria expansion you can see generally what's in the world currently. I think the MoM landmass has a few things in it on this map than actually exists in the game, such as Tharbad and the Moria PvMP zone, but otherwise it's generally a good map to compare the lands in the game to the "actual" lands of Middle-Earth.

The developers have repeatedly stated the primary goal is to follow the fellowship through their quest to Mordor. So far, that's pretty straight forward given that the fellowship is all together at the moment. Presumably the fellowship is waiting around in Lothlorien like they were in Rivendell. I have personally been to Lothlorien yet so I cannot confirm or deny this. But it goes to follow the pattern. And that's what we're working with when talking about speculated directions with this game. What is the pattern and how can we use that to make an educated guess about where we're headed next?

Well, the pattern after the release of Shadows of Angmar was free book updates ever 2.5 ot 3 months or so. We saw a major land mass added in Book 9, the immediate book update after release. We also saw another major addition four books later with Forochel. In between there were minor landscape additions every other book or so.

If this pattern continues, we should see a major landscape addition with the next book. However, we should note that Evendim was at work just before launch to be ready by Book 9's release. The question is, was a major landscape being worked on at the same time as the Mines of Moria expansion? It's a hard question to answer yes to given the time, tallent, and resources that went into Moria and the major systems put in place or tweaked. There's a good chance we'll see a major landscape addition with the second book update after Moria.

Where will this addition take us? Well, a logical direction would be to the area that houses Dol Gildur, Sauron's old haunt from the time of the Hobbit. With Sauron no longer in attendance, various orc/goblin factions might be vying for control and/or another power struggle like we saw up in Angmar with Volume 1. This would be my first guess.

My second guess would be a lower level region somewhere in Eriador to fill the level gaps I talked about before. Many of the devs have expressed a desire to see some of these gaps filled with more content for more leveling path options. A few logical places would be the connection between the Shire and Ered Luin, Southfarthing, or south of Breeland. I'm a bit leary of this type of update because of the epic storyline included with each book addition. The need for high level content in the same area as significantly lower level content poses the obstacle of how to integrate the two without causing difficulties for the lower level players.

As to what the next expansion might be... my guess would be Rohan. The fellowship has split, but there's a nice resting place for most of our main characters in Edoras and/or Helms Deep. It will be a bit more challenging with the timeline due to the swift movement of the Fellowship members through Rohan and in and out of Fangorn.

Many players desire to see places from the hobbit open up. As much as I agree with that sentiment I'm reluctant to guess that direction due to the pattern of following the fellowship. We see this both in the current content and stated goals by various developers. The hobbit content follows none of the fellowship. I find it unlikely we'll see Hobbit content except perhaps in the form of free book update detours. The next major expansion will more than likely be southward instead of north.

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