Dynamic Vs Static

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I think that LOTRO would do well to pursue the dynamic instancing mentioned with skirmishes to its fullest extent. I think the future of MMO design implements more and more dynamic content, using AI of sorts to automatically adjust play to suit the players. This gives the same content more variety and enables replayability. It infuses fresh blood into a static system that is beginning to... well, stagnate. We see the same types of quests, the same NPCs, the same levels, the same grinds. Not just in LOTRO, but in many MMOs.

One idea in the past has been to have procedural content - that is content that is automatically produced. Unfortunately the automation doesn't produce enough variety and quality that hand-crafted content can. But now that we're seeing the limits of hand-crafted variety, perhaps we should look again at procedural content. This time, though, let's make it a hybrid. Create the content the same, but instead have the content scaled in size, scope, difficulty, etc to the players. Therefore there is in every encounter the option to solo, small group, large group, and in select cases, raid. Rewards should be tailored to the group size to some extent - incentivizing a larger group over a solo - since soloing would by nature be easier.

LOTROs prospects of the dynamic instancing is the first step towards this road. I don't think LOTRO will ever see the full vision of dynamic content - that is scalable content everywhere. The game would require total overhaul and essentially become a new game. But the instancing content could certainly be redesigned with this type of technology without greatly upsetting the world so far built.

In the future (a LOTRO 2?) I'd love to see dynamic content be the driving force behind a new game. Companies are experimenting with more casual and more hardcore games, different settings, different leveling systems. What made MMOs attractive in the first place? The people playing together - ultimately anything that eases togetherness in an MMO is something that will further the genre. Dynamic content could be just the thing.

Post inspired by a post at Kill Ten Rats.


Hunt for Golum

This is a non LOTRO post, but related to Lord of the Rings. I rarely do these posts as this blog is very specific in scope. However, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to forward on this news story on the BBC. If you liked the Jackson movies, you'll enjoy this. If you didn't like the Jackson movies, look at this story anyway and appreciate the skill involved, if nothing else. Hearing about an amateur effort that produces something so well done as this renews my faith in mankind's creativity and goodness. We need more happy things like this.

The Hunt for Golum - Amateur Fan-Film


Moria Evaluation

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Now that I've completed a good portion of the Moria content, I'd like to take the time to evaluate the zone.

First, I have to say the visuals are stunning. I've always been impressed by the art direction in this game and add that to a very robust graphical engine and we can see some amazing spaces. Moria is definitely one of them, really emphasizing vertical space. However, traversing the space vertically is actually not nearly as prevalent as many previews stated, and what I initially thought. There are certainly places where you have to go around some obstacle by finding a way to go up and over or down and under, but overall there is not a lot of this sort of thing as one sees more and more of Moria. There is also forced verticality. For example, the Chamber of Crossroads should be directly above the Waterworks (if you've ever jumped down the well in the Chamber you end up falling into the Waterworks). However, how it's located and built in the game engine is actually not above the Waterworks. I understand why they did this from a technology standpoint but it is jarring when you realize what's going on. Having your technological limitations and "cheats" so obvious doesn't help immersion.

The quests in Moria are abundant. I mean, there are a ton of quests, many stories, but the predominant theme is purging Moria of the orc infestation. There are some nice jewels of quests such as the riddle quest line which breaks up the usual "kill 10 orcs" but on the whole most of the quests are more of the same - a quest line that sends you back and forth to the same area two, three, or even four times to kill, gather, or otherwise run errands for your quest NPC. This isn't a criticism because a lot of games do exactly the same. There are a host of general blogs out there that deal with this issue. For the purpose of this discussion I will just say that we're seeing more of the same, albeit very well polished, particularly the quest text. Each NPC has a personality and a story behind why he's where he is, what he's doing, and oftentimes you'll get flavors of relationships to other quest givers. I try to immerse myself into the this lore side of the quests to mitigate the somewhat repetitive nature of the quest structure.

The six-man instances in Moria have garnered a lot of attention - mainly because a lot of them were broken and players could use exploits to complete them easier than intended. They're all finally fixed (I think) at this point but there's still a bit of grumbling about the amount of time it takes to run through all of these enough times to get the radiance gear drop. I once had a goal of getting the radiance gear but realizing that I'm not that into repeating content over and over again, decided to drop the goal. I do want to run these instances insofar as finishing the deeds and quests within them, however. My impressions with the instances are fairly slim given I've only run two of them and none all the way through. There's nothing that stood out to me in particular, good or bad. Like any group content, you get a good thrill from a successful run and burned out on failures. What I did run seemed well constructed and challenging. Overall, good content to delay people from finishing the content too fast but not necessarily fun after you begin farming them over and over for your gear.

Ultimately any zone is made or broken on how I subjectively feel about it's place in Middle-Earth by the time I'm done. Before seeing Moria, my impressions of the place was dark and predominantly empty. Coming out I feel like I've been in a wholly separate and living world. Both of these are accurate assessments - particularly since the Fellowship's passing has stirred up trouble in Moria. Over all the feel of a dwarven kingdom in ruin is there but can be easily lost in the mechanic of questing. The quests should support the lore and atmosphere, and while they do, I think there's almost a quest overload. Not the number of quests per se but rather the repetition of similar themes over and over again pushes the player to slowly begin to ignore the flavor of what they're doing. I remember most of the questlines in Eriador, particularly the beginning quests since I've done those multiple times, but once in Moria I seemed to hit a wall of information that didn't stick nearly as well as the stories outside. I sort of got brain melt with all of it.

Overall, Moria is a wonderful zone, full of quests and beautiful spaces. There's a host of activities to keep the player moving through the halls. Well designed but the fact that it is in an MMO versus Middle-Earth is hard to miss. I think that's true for a lot of this game, now that I've been playing for so long. It's increasingly hard to push me into the wonder of experiencing Middle-Earth versus the excitement of experiencing more of a game. The latter isn't bad, but the reason I came to LOTRO was the former. I essence, my reasons for playing have been tempered and changed. My feelings about more are a good example of this. I think at one point I would have been more in awe of experiencing the space - and that was there in the beginning, but now I find I'm more focused on experiencing the content.

Moria verdict - Well designed space. Tried and true mechanics.


Gurvand Guide

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

LOTROLife has posted a guide to Gurvand (hardmode), and 6-man instance. This guide is post-exploit fixes, so everybody is going to be redeveloping their strategies for these instances. I've never been through this particular instance, but guides are always helpful for the first run through, either from the web or via a group member who has already gone through the content.


What Zones?

Again it's back to the future world speculation post, this time inspired from a post at Kill Ten Rats. In this post Suzina speculates that we'll see 12 new zones by Christmas 2009 based off of what we see on the Rhovanion map. Before I get into what I think of the prediction I have to bring up something that has disturbed me from the first time I saw this map: It's oriented too far south. Take a look at this map of Middle-Earth. Rhovanion, based on the position and orientation of the name, implies that area extends all the way to the Lonely Mountain but not as far south as Mordor. Rohan might or might not be included. It's on the border.

Now, I understand why they chose to picture this farther south - in preparation for moving further with the fellowship, who doesn't go north. However, I'm bothered by the fact we're missing some of the far north areas of this region, which is mentioned in the Lord of the Rings in reference to Bilbo's previous journey. As such, I've always felt this map would be redone at some point to better reflect the region - to be more in line with the books. It certainly wouldn't be the first map that has been redone. Interestingly enough, the Shire map was re-done with the release of Moria and nearly all the other maps save Evendim and Forochel were reprocessed as well.

I don't agree with the argument that new zones can be inferred based on a map not being redone. However, based on the good chance that the new expansion will be Rohan, we can infer from that what we'll see - and it does line up fairly well with what we see on the map. Here's my take on the new zones to be seen in Rohan:
  • Fangorn
  • The Wold
  • West Emnet (West Rohan)
  • East Emnet (East Rohan)
  • Emyn Muil
  • Isengard
You'll notice I differ fairly strongly on a couple - notably the loss of Wilderland and the inclusion of Isengard. Why? Well, I discounted Wilderland because it's too far east. There's no reason to go way out there in the initial expansion. We might see an excursion similar to the one north into Evendim and Forochel back in Eriador but even then I'm wary. I also include Isengard because I'm not buying the argument about map redos. Evendim and Forochel weren't listed on Eriador's map before they became zones. Isengard can just as easily be listed and it would be a major oversight excluding the primary antagonist zone from a Rohan expansion. The only reason they might not include it is they didn't have enough time - like what happened to Lothlorien, and it'll be added to the following book update.

Dagorlad is missing because it figures more importantly in Return of the King material and Frodo and Sam head south after the Emyn Muil, not east. I also combine some of the zones mentioned in the Kill Ten Rats post because I think that my divisions are more in-line with the previous overland zone sizes. Moria zones are actually almost mini-zones within the overlarge zone of Moria. Basically, they're smaller than a normal overland zone and as such the 12 count doesn't need to be replicated in a Rohan expansion. The only advantage is one of marketing - keeping up the zone count is in a sense inflating the numbers to make them look good. I don't think it's necessary though. Not with the great publicity from Moria and Turbine's content record with this game so far.

So, Fangorn will include all the forest - at least the important parts. The Wold will be the link between Lothlorien and the rest of the expansion - like Eregion was for Moria. (I would like Fangorn to be accessible from Lothlorien, but I doubt it because the developers like to have greater control on content progression than I feel is necessary.) East and West Rohan is pretty self explanatory. The east will include the transition to Isengard as well as Helm's Deep and Edoras will be on the border between east and west. West will be the transition back to the Anduin, which is a nice eastern border. Emyn Muil will be a zone to shadow Frodo and Sam's journey. Back to Isengard - this could even be a smaller zone within East Rohan but I think it deserves its own treatment seperate from Rohan.

Even with 6 zones, this is probably more space than the Mines of Moria expansion gave us. I'm a little wary of speculating this much into the expansion but it makes sense from a world continuity and thematic perspective: all the zones are needed to inclued all the material Rohan would concern. And the beauty of all this is that either one of us may be right, or either one of us may be wrong. Time will tell.


Raid Posts

I've never been on a raid. Mostly that's because my schedule has never coincided with the raids that some of my kinmates participate in. I don't think I'd ever go on a PUG raid before I went with my friends. Recently it was my goal to get all the radiance armor. Not so much to go participate in the Vile Maw raid, which requires the radiance gear, but rather just because I like nice armor. But I kind of abandoned that after I realized how much work that was and at my casual pace everybody would be in Mordor before I finally got around to getting my last piece of the set. Hyperbole but you get the point. Essentially, raiding is probably not my cup of tea - not because I don't like playing in groups (see last post for clarification of that point) but because I just don't make the time to do so. My last big excursion was an instance run of Urugarth with my kinship. That was a blast, but it took a really long time - a bit longer than I would have preferred and by the end I was totally wiped out and logged pretty quickly afterwards.

All that said, you most likely won't be seeing raiding posts from me. But in the interest of keeping this blog going with relevant content, I will always link to those who are talking about raiding so you fellow adventureres can get a taste of everything despite my own personal preferences. I point first to LOTRO Chronicles, part of the LOTRO blogging collective, who has a nice post about the state of raiding in general. The next post is from Kill Ten Rats who uses a raid to illustrate the more specific aspect of gear aquisition and class dynamics within raids - pros and cons. Good posts by both.


Coming Off Too Strong

I think I came off too strongly on yesterday's Road Block post. I should state clearly I'm not adverse to grouping. Some of my fondest moments in game have taken place in a group. Where the post came from is that I've predominately soloed most of the game. You get used to that play style, without having to take the time to organize a group. You get used to deciding to do content and then doing it, not LFFing for a range of content and taking what comes. It's the same phenomenon that happens to single people getting married if they've lived by themselves for a while beforehand - you have to get used to working with another person, making decisions that affect not only you, but another, and most applicably, make co-decisions.

So, I'm at a point in my LOTRO gaming where I have to change up my playstyle. The reason I ended with a bit of a downer was that I believe firmly that a game's reason for existence is to entertain - if it no longer entertains, there's no reason to play. If I don't successfully transition my playstyle to grouping, whatever form that takes be it PUGs or with kin, then LOTRO no longer is entertaining and I have no reason to play. This is by no fault of the game, purely my own.

However, I doubt that will happen. Why? Well, I think I love this game too much. I might feel burned out from time to time but that doesn't mean I think any less of the game. Back to the relationship analogies - one might get in a fight with one's wife, but that doesn't (or shouldn't) mean one loves her any less - there's just a bit of a speed bump. So, here's a speed bump. I intend to make every effort to successfully navigate over it or around it or whatever and continue to play, continue to have fun.

I didn't mean to present such a dour outlook with my last post. Like any endeavor in life, MMO gaming has its ups and downs.


Road Block

Monday, April 27, 2009

I finally finished all the solo content in Moria the other day. My last zone was the Flaming Deeps. Now I have a handful of small fellowship content and then all the full fellowship instance runs. Notably in that list is my captain class quest for the Hands of Healing trait - probably the only one I really want but ironically the hardest one to get because it requires getting a full fellowship to run one of the least appealing (at least for my kinship) instances in Moria.

So, with the last quest turned in I made my way out to Lothlorien and the first camp, largely comprised of dwarfs, although it seems some elves have show up to keep watch over their off-and-on companions. These quests surprised me. I was expecting a predominantly solo affair however many of them are rated at small fellowship. Now, I did the first set of each of the quest chains without the need for a small fellowship, but I think that was half luck as there were a bunch of other players clearing out the mobs as well - keeping me more safe than I otherwise would be.

This brings me to the point where I have once again all fellowship content. This means that I will need to spend more time before questing finding groups to go questing with. It means a fundamental shift in my playstyle - for I am mostly a soloer who does group content from time to time. I'm at a point where I have to decided do I want to do fellowship content most of the time until I find more solo stuff? And even if there is (and I think there is) solo content further into Lothlorien, it still doesn't clear the fellowship quests I currently have in my log.

I think I need to give a majority fellowship playstyle a fighting chance. I need to see how much actual work it is to find fellowships (PUGs) versus the perception of the amount of work it is. Some people say you can find PUGs easily in this game, some people say otherwise. Can they both be right? All questions I don't have answers to but ones that I will should I choose to continue questing.

The other option is to grind deeds - but to what end? Every trait I use is tier 10 and many others that I might use are as well. The ones that aren't, well, I'll probably never use. Rep grinds fit in the same picture - no reason to get kindred with any of the factions I'm not kindred with because I have no need for any of the "rewards". That's a post for another day, however.

So, here I am, at a turning point in my gameplay. Do I go forward or do I stagnate? For the sake of this blog, at the very least, I ought to move forward - but ultimately a game is only a game if it's fun. If it ceases to be fun, for whatever reason, there's no reason to play.


Future Post

I'd like to take a moment to highlight a very good post over at Pearls of Unwisdom. This isn't an exclusively LOTRO blog. It doesn't show up in the LOTRO blogger section or on the combined blog so I feel I should draw some attention to it.

The post takes the Book 8 and future info recently released and runs with one of my favorite topics - speculation. And I think Unwize gets it right on the money. Too often I see posts on the forums that speculate LOTRO will go in a certain direction simply because they want it to, or others completely ignore any and all hints dropped by the devs. Unwize doesn't. He takes what was said and what we know straight up. There's no wishful thinking, no ignorance - just pure hypothesis. Check it out for a very good look at what we'll be seeing by the end of 2009.


Some Book 8 Details

Friday, April 24, 2009

Massively has gotten the scoop on some Book 8 details, and even future updates to the game. Dol Guldur guys - just like I said. I like the sound of the "skirmishes" idea. Having an instance type environment that doesn't require a set number of players or class composition will be a great boon to grouping content.

One of the biggest hurdles to group play is the organization before the actual play. I would love to see this approach done for all instanced group play content. That means that there would be no content that could not be completed. Of course, rewards would have to scale to the difficulty of completing an instance with a duo versus a full group, or a raid with 12 people versus 18 etc. But still, the content and story within that content would be accessible to everybody. It also wouldn't be a mutual exclusive situation between "casual" and "hardcore" players.

I honestly don't see this type of system making its way into all the group content in the near future. If the older group content isn't a ghost town now, wait until all new group content is much more accessible - you'll never see groups trying to take on content that is harder to organize. Path of least resistance ya know? But if Turbine decided to revamp all the previous group content in some future that implemented this dynamic instancing, then we might see something far reaching in its impact - not only for LOTRO but for MMO gaming in general.

The last item I'd like to mention is the level cap increase by year's end. They didn't mention an expansion with that comment, but considering the previously stated goal of one expansion per year, we're on tap to see an expansion and level cap increase by year's end. Not a surprising development, but interesting to see the absence of expansion talk considering its mention.

EDIT: A nice forum topic on the subject can be seen here with some dev responses. Looks like the preview went out to a few press outlets, in this case, 1up.com.


Anniversary Week!

Today is the 2nd year anniversary of LOTRO. Congratulations on a wonderful two years. I've been very fortunate to grow up with this game, starting from pre-birth (beta) and into the wild world of the MMO gaming space. LOTRO has made quite a splash and by all accounts (except naysayers of course) is a successful game. To commemorate this momentous moment... er, yeah... Turbine is holding a welcome back week. Where in the past we saw weekends, we get a whole week to inspire our long lost LOTRO brothers to return to the fold, so to speak. In addition to just giving former players free play time, there are a host of benefits for logging in this week - for everybody! Check out the official announcement for details.


Exploring Mazarbul

The Chamber of Mazarbul is an iconic location in Middle-Earth. Not only is this where the dwarves under Balin took their last stand from the unending tide of goblins, but the fellowship was nearly cornered in the very same place. The room is steeped in bloody history. Check out the Exploring Middle-Earth article to learn more.


Hero's Guide to Customization

In an interesting turn, the Hero's Guide series of articles that Turbine produces has taken leave of visiting the zones of Middle-Earth and decided to look at character customization. Certainly there are more robust systems in other MMOs, but with a bit of work and willingness to do something a little different with a class/race combination, not to mention hair style, you'll get a character that stands out. And that's not the only part of the story. Once you get past character creation there is a host of stat options you can play with as you level - gear is the most basic but there's also virtues aquired through deed completion. When you think about it, the uniqueness factor isn't all that bad.


Working on the Meta

Thursday, April 23, 2009

So I spent most of today in LOTRO not in LOTRO. That is, I was working on my cooking price guide. The last time I updated it was before the launch of Mines of Moria, so there is a new tier of recipes, not to mention the price changes and added food items. Oh, and with that whole new combat revamp stats are different meaning all the listed effects have to be revised. That means virtually every line in the spreadsheet needs to be changed. Alas, if only I was a programmer and could just use the new tools Turbine provided to dynamically update my cooking guide. So, all this is pretty meticulous work and will take me longer than an afternoon. I'll be working on it for a little while.

Oh, and I'm fully aware of this work done by a LOTRO player but like my guide, it's out of date and I prefer the way I'm formatting my spreadsheet.


The State of the IP

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

There's been a couple posts by my fellow LOTRO bloggers delving into how Turbine has handled the IP. MMeOw has an excellent post about the epic Volume 1 story (don't go if you haven't yet finished that volume) and 2 high road poses a classic time travel scenario to visit on these ideas as well.

I'd like to offer up my opinions on the matter. I think as this game has been growing, the IP has gotten a bit more lost than it was from the beginning. The developers were able to work in their own space without players actively involved with their work - I think that might have been more conducive to keeping focus on the IP they were working on. Now as players are running around the world they've created, there's a whole lot more gameplay related issues they're dealing with than lore issues. As the game is getting more popular, the Tolkien fans that play the game are getting more dilluted into the general MMO playing community that is involved with LOTRO. So, there are percentage-wise, less voices talking about the lore issues than there were at launch or during development.

I think the Rune-Keeper is a perfect example of this. They way Turbine sets up their own lore around the RK makes it fit with the IP. It's like sticking a round peg into a square hole. The peg might be small enough to have four tangential points of contact and it can move freely within the space, but there are still gaps. Those gaps are the difference between what Turbine has done with the IP in the game and what the IP is. Honestly, they could be a lot bigger and I applaude that they've stuck so close to Tolkien's lore.

And yet, I've come to a place with this game that I now view it as a game first and Middle-Earth second. I'm still crazy about exploring Middle-Earth and seeing all my favorite places, but I've lost the idealism of walking those lands via this game. It's not that type of creation - and it can't be if it wants to be a sucessful game. This isn't a virtual environment - this is a virtual playground with various activities like swing sets, jungle gyms, slides, teeter-totters etc. We can quest, craft, do deeds, camp the AH... LOTRO is a game with a Middle-Earth skin more and more as time goes on. That skin is thick and robust, but it doesn't cover the shape of a game underneath.

Is this a "bad thing"? For me, not really. I've already invested a lot of time into this game that my forgiveness of the "little things" is pretty expansive. If they did something big that totally changed the thematic structure of the world - i.e. promoting messages mutually exclusive to Tolkien's own, then I'd cease to apologize for the game. And considering I've gotten my money's worth out of the game with my Lifetime Subscription, I have no qualms about dropping it should such an event happen. I don't think it will though - Turbine is too smart for that, and even if they screw up, it'll be slow enough that they'll see the tsunami coming and (hopefully) change/reverse course. So, no, what they've got now is not bad. In fact, it's a really good game. But for me, LOTRO is a game. I had wanted Middle-Earth, but that dream was unreal. Not with the movies, not with the game - that dream is only within the books, and, I've come to realize, that's where it should stay. There is no other medium best fit to represent what Tolkien created than that which he put it in.

The state of the IP is like the British royalty - they have great respect given to them and many adore them, but they don't hold the real power anymore. The lore of the game is given much respect by Turbine, but the real driving force behind this game is that it is, indeed, a game.


Mountains Discussion Continued

Sunday, April 19, 2009

So I was fairly accurate in my assessment of the reasons why we have what Scenario terms "valley-itis". However, I wasn't aware that in the beginning of LOTRO as a project, the technology of the game limited the zone transitions to choke-points rather than wide open movement. The technology has evolved to where we can see things like the Weather Hills in Breeland becoming passable, the ability to travel to the North Downs via the big lake in Breeland, etc. I'd like to see more however the caveat brought up by Scenario is one of content control. That is, choke points offer more control over what content the players experience when first entering a new zone. A valid point, however I'd like to offer a counter point:

Is it necessary to control the content experience that much? We're certainly playing in a content heavy PvE environment, but one of my most memorable and lasting experiences was running into elites trolls considerably higher level than me when going through one of these wide open zone borders (Breeland/North Downs). I certainly wasn't turned off by the encounter. On the contrary, I found I had a new goal. Level myself up properly so I can finally explore that area I knew existed but was too dangerous. This type of zone transition was new and fluid content in and of itself - it was self-created and highly invested into the player. I look at it this way: the quests are content I invest in because I take it from the game into myself. The goal I set above is content I take from myself and put into the game. And yet it all stems from how the world is designed. Both are good, but the latter is lacking in quantity.

Content gated by being too-low-level is just as formidable and solid as impassible terrain. Add in the fact that there are vector quests readily available and easily found to guide you through this boundary and you have a much more personal connection to the game and world around you. It is in human nature to rebel against "artificial" boundaries. A scenario like my experience above seems much more spontaneous and integrated - much more a part of my journey rather than a certain quest's journey. I think the intangible quality I'm dancing around here could be termed adventure. It is the adventure of discovering the boundaries rather than simply seeing them in front of you that compells one to move past them.

I certainly understand why the world is built in the manner it is and that the work to undo that now would be counter-productive to moving forward, but most MMOs revisit old content at some point. That would be the time to consider altering the landscape to be more conducive to the "adventure" talk about.


Mountains, Mountains... Not a Rock to Climb

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A frequent criticism visited on LOTRO, particularly by old school MMO players, is that LOTRO has a lot of mountains that aren't climbable. Furthermore, these mountains create a "fishbowl" type atmosphere where we're always stuck in valleys and we cannot get out of our little "aquarium".

Is this a valid criticism? Partly, but let's look at it. There is no denying that the zones use mountains/impassible terrain as a means of bounding the zones. And often times it does feel like we're in valleys all the time. On the surface, these arguments are perfectly valid because they're true. However, we should look at why there are mountains, mountains everywhere and not one is climbable.

First we have to understand from which direction this game came from. LOTRO is not starting out with an MMO and building a world around it. Rather, it's the opposite. Turbine started with a world - Tolkien's Middle-Earth, and built an MMO around it. The nature of MMO world building is different from that of a normal world - which is how Tolkien tried to build Middle-Earth.

Let's look at a few maps to illustrate my point:
What are some of the commonalities between all these maps? Well, the most obvious one is that the three game maps are pretty much comprised of large islands versus the continent seen in Middle-Earth. The nature of the island-like game worlds is that they don't require as much time create - that is, the can be created all at once and the ocean offers a very normal, natural, and non-confining boundary. Middle-Earth, however, is much larger. It is a world, rather than an island. Each game has zones, but the zones in middle-earth are bounded by land, rather than water and all that land isn't built yet. So, there has to be some way to keep the players within the playable space without breaking immersion with an invisible wall and nondescript landscape beyond. Mountains offer the greatest ability to do so, particularly non-climbable mountains. Climbing the mountains would defeat their purpose.

Basically, we have a necessary evil in our non-scalable mountains. Because the world isn't bounded by oceans - because it was built from an already existing world not designed around MMO principles, we have to compromise.

Another item of note is the linear nature to the zone progression. Not in leveling (although that exists to a degree), but rather in physical placement. Lord of the Rings is a story about a journey across the continent - in one direction. Taking that as the main focus of the MMO story forced a straight-line approach for the most part in the zone creation. As such, there is only one place in the game where we see zones adjacent to each other in more than one direction: Evendim, The Shire, Breeland, Northdowns square. Largely these zones are seamless (less so with Evendim) and that would be the standard should additional adjacent zones be built.

Between these two issues, we have a more closed-in feeling in LOTRO. And for me, understanding this doesn't alleviate my desire to see a more expansive world than our linear travel pattern we have now. But I've got to accept what is now with the hope of more in the future. It's not like the current development is not quality work.

Lastly, I think the Google Maps type map over at Arda-Online offers the best example of what we see in the game.

EDIT: This post was inspired by a topic on the forums which was just today commented on by Scenario.


Massively, You Make Me a Liar

Friday, April 17, 2009

So I posted a rather long commentary on the various terminology used for patches and the epic quests and how the interchangeability between the two make things confusing sometimes. However, one thing was certain: Dot notation wasn't used for patches - rather for in-game quest referencing. Looks like Massively's mention of the patch uses the dot notation. It figures.


User Interfaces

UI is one of the most important elements in a game. It is the point of contact between the player and the created world. If for whatever reason that contact is hindered in any way, the game will suffer regardless of any other considerations. It's no surprise then, that once a suitable UI schema was found, virtually every MMO since has used this model. I don't know enough about MMO history to correctly pinpoint when the modern UI first showed up, but that's not important.

What I want to talk about is the malleability of the UI in LOTRO. It cannot be denied that WoW probably has the best malleability of any UI system out there with the plethora of community-created addons assisting with any conceivable function or goal from the auction house to raid healing. LOTRO's UI as far as I know does not support add-ons. For me, that hasn't been a problem and all the content in LOTRO has sucessfully been completed without the need of add-ons - not to say that an addon to help with healing, for example, wouldn't help. It's just that such a lack does not make content impossible. A weakness of WoW might be that their addons have become a double-edged sword in this respect. So many players use a particular add-on that content is designed with that add-on in mind. If you don't have it, the content is next-to impossible. We can't blame Blizzard for this either - they don't want their content trivialized so they have to react to the add-on, or ban the add-on. This latter approach is a slippery slope after the precedent of allowing add-ons for so long. I don't see them going this route.

LOTRO, on the other hand, has no add-ons, like I said. They don't have to deal with this particular problem, but it still holds true that a UI with any problem what-so-ever will affect the perception of the game. The UI is like the window through which we view and interact with the world. A dirty, scratched, or even broken window will cause problems in that regard. LOTRO thus offers some malleability to their UI in the form of scaling and moving the elements around. In some cases, certain elements can be turned on or off.

Myself, I stick with a fairly basic UI set up - not different from the default. Where I do change quite a bit of the UI is the hotbars, and I think that holds true for a lot of people. We grow used to a certain pattern of movement when it comes to our hotbars therefore there's probably quite a few different set-ups out there. I have used a few different ones myself before finally setting on the one I currently use.

Because your hotbar layout is so personal both to you and and your class, getting into a discussion about why I put them where I do wouldn't benefit many people except to say that my goal was to minimize mouse movement as much as possible while retaining logical groupings of skills on those bars. So, all my bars are located in one spot and the placement of skills and items I put on those bars is well thought out.

Would a more customizable UI be better for LOTRO? I've already mentioned that there is no content in the game that cannot be experienced successfully with the current UI, but is there still a trouble-spot that hinders gameplay? Some argue the scaleability of the UI is one such place. As you scale your UI up or down, the art assets are squeezed to fit the new "contours" so to speak. As this art wasn't designed for anything but the default UI size, illegibility goes up as the UI is scaled. As such I keep my UI scaled to default. Honestly, I don't need things any smaller because my screen resolution gives me nice large spaces to work with. Others might not be so fortuante and a smaller UI would help with that. To remedy this situations, all the art would have to be recreated in such a fashion as to work with scalability more closely, which would be a big project. Some argue it would be worth it, and my earlier statement about the supreme importance of the UI would suggest so as well, but considering the number of people function well in the game with the default scale, resources devoted to such a probject might indeed not be worth it. Only those with the data can know for sure, and those are the developers. We haven't seen a focus on this issue so I imagine we won't in the near future.

Generally, I think the UI is satisfactory. It's not perfect, but it's close. No human creation is, but that's a philosophical discussion that doesn't belong here. We're looking at a simple UI that has been duplicated over many different games for a very good reason - it's a good UI. It wouldn't be used if it weren't. LOTRO offers some customizability but not so much as to become overwhelming or problematic in other areas (like I mentioned with WoW). The UI "window" is mostly clear, unscratched, and unbroken.


Dynamic Tool-Tips

The community, particularly around the LOTRO Blogosphere, has wanted to see mouse-over tooltips for some time that we could incorporate into our blogs. At last we have that. MMeOw and Under the Banner offer some nice thoughts and overviews of this feature so I won't duplicate that here.

However, I do want to mention that while I'm fairly computer savvy, the one area that I have no familiarity with or even the slightist hint how to accomplish is the coding involved in this. Now, it seems that Turbine is making it pretty easy, but pretty easy is still confusing to me at times. Give me code and my eyes glaze over. I think that might be a hold-over emotional response to being disenchanted with programming when I took some classes in high school. Oh well, it is what it is.

The last time I tried to change up the layout in Blogger by inserting new html code, I totally screwed things up. I still can't get the by-line for this blog to show up under the title even though I have one set in the settings. I don't even want to touch the html code again, in all honesty, so if that is required for this tool-tip thing, then unless I have very specific, fool-proof instructions, I'll still resort to simple hyperlinks.

The other item I wanted to bring up is something UtB mentioned in their post about this tool-tip - and that's the lorebook data is out of date/incorrect. The problem being that the tool tips use the lorebook for their source. There has to be a way of automatically keeping this data updated when a change is made to the live game. I would guess that something would be accessing the database and using that to change the database the lorebook calls on. But of course, as I've said above, don't ask me to program that. I don't have a clue what would be involved. I'm just an ideas guy.


Exploring Chetwood

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Exploring Middle-Earth articles aren't nearly as comprehensive as the Hero's Guides but if you can't get enough of this game, I guess these will whet your appetite. The latest is looking at the Chetwood.


Hero's Guide to the North Downs

The latest addition to the Hero's guide from the official site takes us to the North Downs. This is a place that is only briefly mentioned in the books and simply appears as a place name on the maps, with very little detail of what that land was like. Turbine thus had a bit of wiggle room to create an environment for the North Downs. For example, the town of Trestlebridge, the southernmost settlement, doesn't appear in the books at all. Interestingly, many lore fans argue Trestle should have been the size of town for Bree, and of course that Trestle shouldn't have existed at all. Oh well.

As to the land itself, the guide does a good job of overview but I'd like to mention that the North Downs has a great emptiness atmosphere to it. While the zone isn't any less full of mobs than most other zones, combining the music and the art of the landscape gives it that stark wilderness feel. In that respect, I enjoy the zone. What I find not so enjoyable is the fairly bland scenery. On occasion you'll find a nice composition here and there but for the most part the North Downs is forgettable in terms of imagery. We can't win them all every time.

Playability is pretty good although this zone falls into the mid-level squeeze from 20ish to 30ish along with the Lone Lands - so whatever the quality of the quests and other activities, there's that shadow. I hope we'll see a new leveling path somewhere else but that's a discussion for another day.


Patches, Expansions, Books, Volumes Oh My!

If you're not familiar with LOTRO, then seeing something like "Patch II for Book 7" will confuse you. What the heck does that mean? Let's do this hierarchically.

At the top is the paid boxes in the stores (or digital downloads of course). So far that's the release of the game - Shadows of Angmar - and the expansion - Mines of Moria. Each of these paid distributions of game content adds a volume. So, for release we saw Volume 1 and for Mines of Moria we saw Volume 2. Simple so far. Now the term volume is also used in how the epic quest line is organized in the game. So we have two volumes of the epic story so far, 1 and 2. Each volume is comprised of books. Volume 1 has a total of 15 books and Volume 2 has 7 so far.

Why do I say so far? Well, that's because books are also LOTRO's big free content updates (many MMOs use an appropriate term here instead of the generic "patch"). Shadows of Angmar shipped with 8 books already contained within its epic quest. Books 9 - 14 were patched in as these free content updates. So the first book that was a patch (so the first patch) was Book 9. A little bit confusing. Book 15 came into volume 1 with the release of Mines of Moria (or volume 2).

Now, the Mines of Moria had only 6 books in its release, so the first book patch was Book 7. I do believe the official releases of these patches include the volume number with them to avoid confusion but so many of us players simply curtail it to Book 7 or just B7. As an aside, when we're referring to the epic quests in chat, many of us will use a dot notation like 1.7.4 or 2.6.1. The first number is the volume, the second numer is the book, and the third number is the chapter. Oiy, yet another term. Chapters have nothing to do with the patches so we wont go further than that here except to say chapters are the individual quests within the epic quest line. This dot notation does not refer to a patch number, but you'll rarely see it used outside of the game so not too many worries there.

Let's get back to patching shall we? We have today an announcement of Patch II for Book 7. Patches between Book updates and paid expansions are simply planned mini-updates that fix pressing issues like significant bugs and the like. So today we're seeing the notes for the second patch after Volume 2, Book 7 was released. To further refine things, we'll sometimes see hotfixes, which are extremely pressing patches that cannot wait for a scheduled patch to a book (or paid update).

I hope that clears up any confusion - or not. The interchangble use of the terms volume and book within the game and as part of the patching structure can make these confusing, especially when the volume portion of that information is removed in conversation. So, check out that link above for the patch notes. And yes, every type of update has patch notes, not book notes or volume notes. Gah!


LOTRO's Graphical Effects

There are a few times in LOTRO where I'm just amazed by the visuals. Most of the time that's the landscape but every once and a while there's some effects that really get my blood pumping. One of them is the Grims, first seen in Forochel and now later fire versions in Moria. The latter has a really cool looking special attack.

Sorry about the UI showing up in this pic. I didn't have time to shut it off and hit the screenshot button in the middle of my combat skill rotation. Not that it would matter much if I did miss my timing, but the effect is fairly quick and I needed to be fast on the print screen key.

EDIT: After posting this I decided a visual demonstration of fighting the Fire Grims would be cool so I went a head and captured a bit of combat and put it up on YouTube. You also get a bit of what it's like with a captain in combat - solo of course is different than group play.


Forochel and Eregion Overviews

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Zubon over at Kill Ten Rats has done both an Eregion write-up as well as one for Forochel. He discusses at length how the quests are laid out and what sort of storylines you'll find. He also mentioned various deeds you can complete while going through the zones. A commonality between the two zones are that they are designed for the player 45-52ish. Forochel was put into the game when the level cap was still 50 and Eregion came to us with Moria but was accessible to those who did not have the expansion. In essense, these are regions designed for the level cap of 50 and when that is raised, it's hard to fit them into the normal leveling progression.

This is a trade-off from the lack of regions we see at the lower levels. A plethora of content for 45-55 will give players options for what they want to do. Go through Eregion on one character and Forochel on another and Angmar and the Misties on a third. Certainly the natural flow of the regions is broken up but a natural flow tends to be a bit linear, and I like the two axis directions going on in the world development at the moment. Honestly, I'd rather see a checkered board approach - a surface of zones to choose from, but that takes a lot of resources.

In any case, Zubon's comments are worth reading for those interested in what each zone has in store for you. He's frank about both the good and the bad - and with all quests, I recommend you read the quest texts to get a little context to what you're doing. It'll make it that much more enjoyable.


Watcher Raid Guide

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

There's a guide that went up over at LOTROLife.com concerning the watcher raid. If anybody is interested in raiding, definitely check this one out.


Fortifying Food

With the release of Book 7, cooks were able to collect Fortifying Food recipes, or more commonly referred to as Soup recipes, since all the Fortifying Food is soup. These food stuffs give you a bonus to fear, disease, poison, or would resists, with the higher bonus for the higher level food. I've now collected every recipe for every tier except Journeyman. There have been no Journeyman level Fortifying Food recipes on the Auction House (where I collected most of them) and I'm a level 60 so I'm not naturally questing in the level range that Journeyman recipes would be found. I'm assuming that since they are so low, people just aren't selling them, but it still seems a bit odd that none has ever shown up on the AH as far as I can tell. I wonder if these four recipes didn't make it into the game for some reason.

In the mean time, now that I have all the recipes available to cooks, I'm going to be rewriting my Cooking Pricing Guide, which I'll then upload for the convenience of all cooks out there. Stay tuned for that.


Road to Rivendell Video

Monday, April 13, 2009

At last I managed to get my video process finally... well, finalized. I managed to find a tutorial for using VirtualDub to stitch my videos together. I'd prefer a higher compression to limit the size of the videos further, but I don't want to sacrifice quality. So, there are 12 parts to the Road to Rivendell that I've uploaded to YouTube. It's best to watch these in their "HD" setting because it gives a better impression of the beautiful graphics that this game has. So, without further ado I give you the...

Road to Rivendell

This is pretty much a video tour, without commentary or caption, of Frodo's journey from Bag End to Rivendell. The time it takes to travel that distance in-game is an hour and ten minutes real time, something like a whole morning game time. Neither of these are accurate to the time frame in the books, clearly, but that's unavoidable. If you'd like a nice commentary about Frodo's journey, check out The Road Goes Ever On blog posts. Great lore material over there.

You use the "related video" section or "more videos by jaxom922" to find the additional parts. In addition, one of my readers has kindly created a playlist for all 12 parts of the video. You can find that here.


Jack Cloverdale, Stable Master Extoridaire

Friday, April 10, 2009

I'm not sure why I'm posting about this absurdly short article covering a made up NPC that is simply one of the stable vendors in Bree, but here it is. Can anybody say waste of time? Or perhaps too much time? I find the latter hard to believe.


Heroes of the Misty Mountains

A new Hero's Guide is up this time talking about the Misty Mountains. I recently just finished this zone (all deeds and all quests complete). I guess that makes me a Hero of the Misty Mountains as well. I think Turbine did an excellent job with their cold regions. Whenever I play in the Misties (or Forochel) I always feel a bit colder despite the actual temperature in my house. Want to explore the chillier side of Middle-Earth? Check out this Hero's Guide.


A New Community Tool

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hey, listen up developers/coders and fans of LOTRO, there's a new tool for you guys. Turbine has developed an API for accessing XML database information. Now, if you remember some of the conversation around the LOTRO blogosphere about the need for better tools for creating communty/fan sites, this is an answer to that. Well, not directly to us because of our discussion, but this is what we were looking for.

Now, I'm not a programmer or coder. I took a couple programming classes in high school and the best I can rember is some basic logic - not even the actual coding language (think it might have been C++). So, this isn't for me, but because you creative types will probably create some pretty cool widgets and the like, I'm all for this kind of thing. Props to Turbine for spending some resources on this.


Video Update

I have good news and bad. The good news is that I've created a video called Road to Rivendell, which follows Frodo's journey from Bag End to the Last Homely House. Unfortunately, the filing system with windows limits video capture to 4 gigs. 3.9 gigs to be specific. That means it doesn't matter which program I use, the videos will always be split up into multiple files. Now, I have a compression program that works great for reducing the video size to something more manageable. 150 gigs worth of video is crazy. The sizes after compression are still relatively large, but they're at 1680 x 1050 and really good quality. That was my goal, however, so I'll accept relatively large video size for the quality I'm getting. One of the goals for Road to Rivendell is to showcase LOTRO's beautiful landscape. The higher quality video the more able I am to carry out that goal.

Now here's the bad news. I cannot find a free/relatively cheap program to combine the videos. I've tried Corel VisualStudio 12, Windows Movie Maker, and VirtualDub. VisualStudio will combine the uncompressed raw capture but my compression program crashes with the larger files this produces (read about 25 gigs). If I compress the files before combining them, VisualStudio crashes when I try and import them. I'm at an impasse here. Movie Maker cannot create the videos at the quality I want. VirtualDub, even getting past the fact that it's not user friendly, is also bad on the quality side. The sound is also screwed up because apparently (according to the FAQ) my processor isn't fast enough to encode the audio properly. I highly doubt that with a Quad Core 9550.

So, here I am sitting with 40 seperate video files for Road to Rivendell. I didn't really want to upload a 40 part video with each part between 1.5 and 2 minutes long, but at the moment, that's the only thing I can do. So, I'll be linking to the YouTube videos as soon as they're uploaded (will take a couple of days at 40 total to uplaod). If anybody has additional ideas, that'll be great. Oh, and I'm not spending 700 bucks on Adobe Premiere Pro. That's way overpriced for amature/hobbiest video editing.


Turbine Wins March Mayhem

The Escapist Magazine put on another March Mayhem showdown between video game developer studios and Turbine was on the list. It came down to Turbine and Bioware and Turbine won by 1%. Very close race. Here's where I admit I didn't vote for Turbine in this last heat. I love LOTRO and thus love Turbine's work, but I think Bioware is an awesome company too and just personally feel they have the slightly better product(s). Not that it mattered in the end. One vote is one vote. So, congratulations to Turbine for the second year in a row.

Of course, the forums over at The Escapist are alight with Turbine cheated, etc, etc, etc. Back and forth back and forth. You know what? It doesn't matter! It's a vote. No awards, no money, just pure voting fun by a bunch of fans. Get over it!


Spring is in the Air... Again!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Spring Festival is back for an encore. Looks like with all the server problems people thought that they should have more time with the spring festival. I'm inclined to agree with the sentiment and so was Turbine. Due to popular demand, the Spring Festival is back until 12:00 PM EST on April 13th. That's Monday.



I finally managed to get FRAPS working properly without crashing the computer. That's a good thing. So I'm currently testing methods for moving the video from raw capture to an upload site for sharing. Most likely I'll be using YouTube. It has the biggest file uploads available that I can find and supports "HD" quality. Not really HD, but it will suffice. The current problem isn't the uploading so much as getting the video ready for uploading. FRAPS splits up the capture into 3.9 gig files as it captures, so I end up with multiple files if I have a video longer than 1.5 minutes or so. Now I have to find a free program that will 1) not watermark my videos and 2) combine them without changing the aspect ratio and signficantly reducing the quality. Before this I have to compress the video to a manageable size. Currently experimenting with various encoding options to get a quality versus size ratio that I'm happy with. I'd rather err on the side of quality because LOTRO is such a gorgeous game.

Hopefully I'll figure out a solution soon and if anybody has suggestions, let me know.


How Will a LOTROCON Get Its Wings?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The LOTRO Follower recently posted some thoughts on the idea of a LOTROCON that has been batted around the LOTRO Blogosphere and forums recently. I've yet to make a post about it on the Adventurer. The Follower has given some good thoughts and has inspired me to offer my own in a more organized fashion than comments.

The worry is that there won't be enough interest to justify the expense of putting on the con with all the ideas that we have - gaming room(s), in-game duel tournaments, panels, official developer attendance, Tolkien/lore programming. That's a lot. And it costs a lot of money.

What about something small - we're not getting away from expenses with this kind of thing - it'll cost someone something somewhere regardless of how many people are in attendance, but rather than have a huge con right of the bat full of wonderful ideas but also a big logistical challenge. Let's start with a much smaller scale.

Let's have a small event. Maybe just a half-day get together. Book a restaurant for an evening. Or a bar. Hang out. Many large cons can trace their roots to like minded people simply sharing a drink on an annual (or even more frequent) basis. Something this small, however, isn't appealing to spending money to fly too so it'll have to eventually be bigger to attract a bigger crowd. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? If you build it they will come?

What about a series of community events across the country like the above. Small things, get-togethers more than cons per se. They could be tied to industry events so that there's a chance of getting some official attendance and increase interest.

The important thing is to have someone or a couple someones keeping track of this sort of thing so they can build on the interest and push for a larger event. We can't instantly have boiling water. It's got to slowly warm up but as more and more molecules get excited, the pot begins to bubble. As more and more people are aware of these events, the more momentum we can build and that way we can have a better meter of interest in a larger LOTROCON event.

What this will take are a few advocates in various places across the country. Processes of this type tend to be spontanous and uncorrelated - only later do you see an organized effort to capture the energy. Perhaps we can artifically create that energy by coordinating from the beginning. Someone near major population centers over the whole US (we certainly can included our Australian/New Zealander and European neighbors in this too) can be the spearhead for these small get-togethers, but these people talk to each other about how their events went, how they planned, and most importantly get the word out in an organized fashion.

Eventually there will be enough interest to hold a small convention someplace cheap to fly to - Las Vegas has lots of convention space of any size and has some of the cheapest airfares (Southwest Airlines is great for that). If there has been official interest in these smaller predecessor gatherings (perhaps by having one near Turbine's headquarters or associated with industry events) official interest in the newborn con will exist.

And then we build from there... and we get a nation-wide (perhaps world-wide) gathering of people who have grown up with the community we've built. It's more than interest in the game or the con. It's interest in the people they've gotten to know - the relationships they've built. Sucessful IRL activities based on games are propelled by relationships - even if those relationships have started in the game. Between players, between developers. Whatever. LOTROCON can be a reality, but we need to start with the foundation or else our house will come falling down.


Recent Server Problems

Monday, April 6, 2009

What's the deal Turbine? That's what a lot of folks are asking right now. I don't know enough to speculate except that it's possibly linked to the recent server move to a new data center. All this happened after the move. Like I said, I don't know enough. But some who have the same lack of knowledge I do think they know enough to speculate. And accuse. And insult.

There is nobody that knows the problems better than the people working on the problems - and that doesn't include the players, even if you have industry experience - be it software or hardware. I find the idea that there is some overarching negligence or incompetency on the part of Turbine a bit immature.

Thank goodness the vast majority of people who play LOTRO are patient, mindful, and mature individuals who understand that this type of problem is not the norm (twice doesn't make a behavioral pattern). They understand that the tech teams are working as fast as they can to find, diagnose, and fix the issues. I hate that in the midst of fixing the problem, while the community team is trying their best to keep people informed, there are a small number who lash out with insults instead. I would not be able to be in that job without become severely jaded, at best. At worst - I'd flip my lid too and become the very thing I disliked.

Kudos to all the Turbine folks, both techs and community relations, as they deal with the latest issues. Keep up the hard work and I'm glad to know that you guys are so committed to the mere value of our entertainment.


LOTRO on the 360

Sunday, April 5, 2009

There has been a rumor floating about out there regarding LOTRO being released for the 360. No timeframe has been established and Turbine isn't talking. Previously it was intimated that LOTRO probably would not see a console release, but plans can change. Rather than harp anymore on unsubstantiated reports, I want to talk about what LOTRO might look like on the 360.

The first thing that happens is the need to redesign the UI. This game was developed for the PC with a keyboard and mouse in mind. In order for the game to be most effective on the console, a UI needs to be developed with a game controller in mind. That means the UI needs to be more sleek, more slim. Menus and information needs to be accessible without a lot of scrolling through options with the controller. There is a lot of information that needs to be conveyed so this is a particularly big challenge.

As an extension to the reimagining of the UI design, general controls need to be changed and/or simplified. For example, there's no need for a "walk" as a game mechanic so there's no need to map controls to such a function. It's a waste of valuable button space. The PC has an abundance of buttons so the "walk" function doesn't hinder gameplay. Movement should be fairly easy to accomplish since there are many, many third person avatar games out there. It's the use of skills that is the biggest problem. My skill bars use up 42 slots counting all my skills and the miscelaneous potions I put on them as well. Directly translating that to the 360 controls would be a nightmare. Memorizing 42 different button combinations to access the skills you want to use? I don't think so. Nor can you curtail the amount of skills within the game without greatly changing the gameplay - essentially you'd be designing a whole new game from the ground up since the LOTRO content is made and balanced for the skills that are in the game. To further complicate matters there are many classes with skill chains that require a quick response with a different skill in order to take full advantage of their potential.

If the design issues can be worked out, we're more than likely looking at a version on the 360 that significantly differs from the PC side in such a way that it could be argued gives one side or the other an advantage/disadvantage. Why I bring this up is because it's highly unlikely that a console version of the game would be playable on the same servers as the PC side. And without knowing anything about how XBox Live works behind the scenes, I'd venture to guess there are some hurdles in that regard as well. So, more than likely, we'll have a whole new set of servers just for the 360 LOTRO.

Honestly, I don't see LOTRO coming to the consoles. There's a lot of work - and by a lot I mean like designing a whole new MMO a lot. And that's the point. Why not just make a new MMO for the consoles if the end product of LOTRO for the 360 is virtually the same thing - except with the LOTRO skin? Based on previous announcements from Turbine, I think they are working on a console MMO but it's more than likely not LOTRO.


Faimir Blurb

Saturday, April 4, 2009

LOTRO.com has a plethora of official articles about the lore of the game, both original and crafted for LOTRO specifically. The most recent addition is a blurb about Faimir, an elven maiden in Rivendell. This character is entirely crafted by Turbine but such characters help create the illusion of a living world within the game.


Quite the Drama

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wow, while I was busy with some IRL activities yesterday evening, the world exploded. Or that's what it might seem like from the alleged reaction on the forums. But that's typical. Honestly, this issue seems like something beyond Turbine's control. They were moving to a new data center and one thing going wrong or unnoticed could totally screw things up. It also seems the forums were brought down (after they were available once again) to curtail a flood of "What the heck is up Turbine!?!" posts. Currently the message reads:

April 2, 2009 12:20PM EST (-4 GMT)
Nimrodel and Gladden will be brought down at 1:00PM EST for a restart to correct performance issues. We expect to have them back online by 2:00PM EST!

April 2, 2009 12:15PM EST (-4 GMT)
We have temporarily disabled the LOTRO forums while we investigate an issue with logins. We'll update this message with more information. Thanks for your patience!

Some people get way too bent out of shape over this kind of thing. It's a game, people, not life. Heck, there are many people who overreact to things in life as well. I wonder if they're the same people that caused a fuss on the forums? So yeah, just cool it. I'm 100% sure everybody they can have is working non-stop trying to fix the problem.


Heroes of the Trollshaws

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Listen up my troll-slaying friends, Turbine has a new installment of the Hero's Guide, this time talking about the Trollshaws. Alas for me this is too late for the Trollshaws is one of the zones I've completely... er... completed. I guess that makes me one of those heroes. Or not. Check it out.


April Fools in LOTRO Land

Last year's Battle of Amon Hen was genius, in my opinion. This year Turbine set up a special chicken play session where you had to run from Gramsfoot to Glan Vraig in the Ettenmoors. You got the title Fool. Apparently there were too many fools out there and they all pulled one over on the servers. It was too much to handle and our poor chicken quest "bawked". Without the puns that means the quest was disabled. Doesn't look like it'll be reinstated either. So now the April Fools is getting an enticing piece of mail in your box that you can do nothing with. BAHAHAHAH!

And now for a bit of hilarity from the blogosphere and gaming world in general. This will be probably the only place where I deviate from the LOTRO subject...

Blizzard has some new additions to their games. WoW has gotten two, StarCraft II will see one, as will Diablo III.

Ravenous over at Kill Ten Rats had a chat with Richard Garriot about his next game - a spaced based red paper clip bonanza.

The Ancient Gaming Noob is promoting a game: Cornhole.

2 High Road is deeply upset over a lore breach involving our favorite White Wizard baddie.

Tobold talks about Blizzard's new Pokemon MMO and a strictly PvE server for EVE.

Google now has a tool for auto completing your e-mails for you.

And as for me, I've been selected to be the official LOTRO blogger by Turbine's Executive Producer Jeffrey Steefle. Apparently I have a fan out there in Turbine land. My responsibilities will include annoying the devs as I hover over their shoulders getting all the juicy nuggets of what they're working on, sitting in the aforementioned Mr. Steefle's executive producer chair - which I hear is made out of real Evendim boar leather, and finally blowing up this blog and all my readers because after I get this job, you will all know too much.