Justifiable Disgruntlement?

Friday, May 29, 2009

I don't wish to belabor the subject of negativity towards LOTRO, but I constantly find myself at a conflicting crossroads - I love the game, but I also identify with many of the recent criticisms. I remember a time where I might have been considered an adoring fanboy, unabashed in his love for this new thing he discovered called MMOs. Add in a dash of LOTR favoritism and you got me. Now that I've been out for a while, perhaps I'm going a bit stale. The sugar has fermented and I'm a bit crumbly. Okay, enough with the food metaphor.

I'm not a hardcore player, but I do play enough to reach the level cap and complete most of the content before the next expansion. Is it the nature of where I'm at to be cranky? There's just not enough stuff to make me happy anymore. Like the kid who wore out all his Christmas presents and says to mom "I'm bored!". What does the kid do? At mom's behest he finds new games to play, new toys (or old toys rediscovered), or even uses his imagination to come up with something on his own. It's understandable that he's cranky, but there's a reason for it, aside from the immaturity of being a kid.

Maybe I'm that kid (hopefully more mature) and I just need something different for a while. Take a break. My criticisms aren't really my anger at the game for doing something wrong, but simply an outlet to the fact that I'm out of stuff to do. Boredom isn't fun and makes people grumpy. So, while I have valid concerns about the game, I'll try not to harp on them too much. I guarentee I'll be posting positives when the Book 8 patch notes are finalized.

In the mean time, I think all of us that are at the level cap, who have completed the content we find fun, should take a collective breath and understand what's fueling our disgruntlement. LOTRO may indeed have flaws (what game doesn't?) but realize it's our boredom that's causing our grief. Like beer goggles make the ugly beautiful, boredom goggles make the paper cut seem like a gaping wound.


Massively Book 8 Dev Tour

This is a dev tour of screenshots, and it's great to get a look at some of the stuff in Book 8. There's a couple interesting 3-man instances being added, which sound quite tough actually. Giant pistons you have to avoid or you'll end up a freep pancake. Wow... I like the puzzle element of these too. Not sure how much of this book I'll actually be participating in but we'll see. I think I might just be looking more forward to the continued balancing this book provides, moreso than the new content. I've said this before, but I have trouble sitting for hours on end completely ignoring the outside world when I'm so focused on an instance I'm running. Still, there are many players that run the instances and will enjoy the update. I don't think it'll last them as long as the next update will take, but that's to be expected. No game updates fast enough for some of the playerbase to continually find content. Nature of the beast.


Destiny Points

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Destiny Points, at least on the side of the Freeps (normal players, versus the creeps, which are monster players), is a rarely used system. Perhaps that's because people aren't aware of what destiny points are all about. To remedy this, Turbine has released an official article talking about destiny points, from how you earn them to how you spend them.

My opinion on why freeps don't use destiny points? Well, despite the argument that any buff is a good buff, I honestly don't think the bonuses gained from spending destiny points are worth it. Save them for your creeps, if you're inclined to play PvMP. If not, well, I suppose you could spend them on the free buffs since there's no other place to spend them. Me? I ignore them. I supose that speaks to a problem.


Variety of Content

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I posted about how happy I am about the bit of luck I got on my current Legendary Third Age Halberd, and before that about the uselessness of crafted items now that gear acquired through other means is significantly better rather than marginally and perhaps an alternative. But after grabbing myself a critted crafted Halberd, if it weren't for the legacy and relic bonuses, I'd use it instead of the legendary. A trade off between overall better DPS and the bonuses... it's too bad it's so unequal and that DPS for a captain isn't everything. Maybe if I were a champ or hunter, but then again, there's so much to lose without a legendary item. Now there's a new one that'll be available through the Galadhrim rep, better than the crafted ones. Why bother putting in these weapons anyway?

I don't mind variety, don't get me wrong, but variety needs to be useful. Having options that aren't worthwhile is pointless. It is true that there are opinions about variety and that an item deemed useless by one player will be embraced by another. At the moment we have an overwhelming opinion towards one option, because it is proven to be the most effective all around.

We're seeing this kind of thing in the raiding structure as well. Take a look at the latest post by LOTRO Chronicles. It seems Turbine is going for one direction in raid design and playstyle. Seriously, this trend needs to be rectified or at least tempered. We need variety, options, choice, free will. Within structure, yes, but Shadows of Angmar was well received in many ways, one for the multiple was to advance your character and be sucessful at whatever end-game activity you wanted (PvMP, raiding, instance runs, etc). We're sliding away from that right now.


The LOTRO Report

So, here's another LOTRO podcast that slipped by me. Actually, it didn't. I ran across it some weeks ago and filed it away under "post about that tomorrow". Well, tomorrow came and went and I forgot about it. Now, browsing around I ran across it once again and I need to give a shout out. I think this is a well-produced and informative podcast covering, so far, the end-game instances. But that's not all they plan on covering. Every aspect of the game is up for grabs. Do check out The LOTRO Report.


Follow This Blog on Twitter

Monday, May 25, 2009

I've now linked this blog to my Twitter account. If you have Twitter you can follow Jaxom92 and you'll be updated every time I post a new entry. You'll get "MEA Post:" followed by the title of the post and the URL link. If you're interested in doing this on your own blog check out TwitterFeed.com. I've also added my twitter feed to the sidebar below "Adventerous Links". It's not exculsively LOTRO, as I add personal stuff into it.


Fellowship Quests

Turbine has put up an official article talking about fellowship questing. My most favorite moments in this game have been when I was in a fellowship that has successfully completed some challenge, mostly comprised of my kinmates. There was one PUG group that tacked the Twisted Heart questline in Evendim. After some poor organization, I took it upon myself to "chew them out", basically saying if we couldn't handle what we were doing then, there would be no way we could handle the finishing instance. And we managed to complete this quest. It was an epic win if ever one could be called epic.

Even though I don't do fellowship content very often, mostly because of the timesink involved and the fact that I'm interrupted fairly often during my gameplay, it's probably my favorite content. And it's the content that best reflects the spirit of the IP. The Lord of the Rings is all about companionship, friendship, and coming together to face overwhelming odds. If this game truely wanted to capture that flavor, we'd all be playing in static fellowships. That's of course impossible to orchestrate in sustainable subscription numbers, so we get what we get. But don't ignore the fellowship content. Rarely have I come across a really bad PUG (mediocre, yes) and every fellowship experience with my kinship has been wonderful, even the failures (such as Friday's wipe on 2.5.5).


Boastful Post

I'm not one to usually toot my own horn about equipment I got, but in this case, I'm really excited about the current halberd I'm wielding. I got lucky on my legacies and ended up with two tier 6 legacies that I wanted, and the third as a tier 4. There's a good chance that tier 4 will be upgraded to tier 6 when the weapon reaches level 40. That means I'll have some spare points left to throw into upgrading the DPS and will have an all-around nice weapon. I'll be hard pressed to find a better weapon, even as a Second Age, perhaps even First Age. And that's really the point of this post - pointing out that once you get lucky on a legendary (if you get lucky), you're probably not ever going to want to try again, or if you do, it'll be very unlikely you'll get the same luck again, even with a "better" aged weapon. That's a sad state of affairs - if my level 59 Third Age Halberd has a good chance of being better than a Second Age of the same level. Like I've said before, perfect system for an MMO, with the near infinite quest for improvement, but ultimately a gambling mini-game.

Oooh, look at the pretty!


Sunday Progress Report

Sunday, May 24, 2009

So I made Friend status with the Galadrim and gained entry to Caras Galadhron. There's are some really fun quests in this area. They're not necessarily innovative in terms of design, but the writers for LOTRO really shine here. I mean, I'm chasing a shrew all over the place trying to get Pippin's pipeweed back! That's just funny!

Okay, I finished all the non-repeatable quests in Lothlorien as far as I can tell. I'm going to finish the deeds up in the next few days since there are so few. The last bit would be to gain kindred status with these elves, which will be a bit of a pain since the quests are pretty spread out. Speaking of kindred, I made kindred with the Moria Guards today, and bought my epic book for the legendary trait. I don't know why. I'm probably never going to use that one. As a captain, though I love to have as many options as I can - I am a utility class after all. Should there ever be a situation where there are more than one captain in a group it's good to be able to trait for something else and give the fellowship an even greater advantage.

Now, onto some screenshots. Probably the last ones from Lothlorien. Hard to trump Caras Galadhon and the Lord and Lady of the Golden Woods no?

Covered Walk
Fellowship Pavilion with Aragorn
Flets at Night
Galadriel's Garden
Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn
The Mirror of Galadriel


Floon Doesn't Mess Around

Okay, so Kill Ten Rats beat me to the punch on this one, but I swear I was thinking about this post yesterday when I saw the forum topic. You can check out the KTR post for their valid critiques, but I'd like to go a bit further and maybe add a different perspective. It seems like floon has a particular style on the forums, one which I call "Don't mess!" That is, he lays it down straight. There's no beating around the bush about what his opinion is. He doesn't baby the people he's responding to. No nonsense.

But guess what... that will offend people. And I have seen people respond to some of his posts with, "I am offended". However, I have never seen a response from floon that dismissed a valid argument politiely delivered. If he was of opposite opinion, he would take apart the argument, sure, but that's different. What we see with this post in particular is that he's responding to somebody who's whining. If they had constructed an argument rather than a demand (the three "pleases" only reinforce the whining tone) I bet the response would have been different.

Just because we have a developer out there that doesn't take any crap doesn't mean he's angry, mean, out to get you. Yeah, it might offend you, but ya know what? Maybe you should be offended every once and a while. And I'll stop here before I dive off the cliff into a political discussion.


The Golden Woods

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I have a few more screenshots for you all today. I spent some time yesterday afternoon in Lothlorien, taking more shots of the beautiful scenery. And questing of course. Can't wait till I can actually get into Caras Galadhon, instead of just being able to look at it from the outside. And then seeing The Great River (Anduin) for the first time was a moment for me. Oh to actually see those waters flow through Osgiliath and into the harbor...

Caras Galadhon
Covered Bridge
Golden Woods 1
Golden Woods 2
Shores of the Anduin


Interview with Patience

Friday, May 22, 2009

The resident community manager over at LOTRO, Patience has to live up to her name on a daily, hourly, moment by moment basis. An unforgiving job and one which I don't think I could ever accomplish with as much enthusiasm as her. ZAM.com has an interview with her from the recent LOGIN Conference in Seattle, WA (Hey, that's home!). Anyhow, some nice talk about all three Turbine games, but I'd like to bring up a couple things said regarding LOTRO:

"We're working on making MyLOTRO, the new social network we created, much more connected to the outside world, so you can hook up your MyLOTRO page with, say, Twitter, and tweet whenever your character levels or you post a new blog entry."

I like the idea of connecting the players to the game outside of the game itself. This blog is a primitive (relatively speaking) means of doing just that and I wholeheartedly encourage innovation on this front. I like the idea of linking it with twitter and I'll be investigating that in regard to this blog. I already have a personal twitter account, but I'd love to make a Middle-Earth Adventurer twitter account to update with the blog as well as activities I complete in-game.

"Definitely, because you could do, for example, Rohan in an expansion - that's a huge area. Or Minas Tirith! That also brings up new mechanics you know, you'd have to ask "are we going to have mounted combat?" Well, when we go to Rohan, it makes sense. No promises, of course."

I didn't post the question, but you can get the gist of it here. The fact that she refers to Rohan as an example, despite the disclaimer at the end, really makes me think Rohan is the next expansion, especially with all the other information we're getting and where the current game is positioned. Mounted combat would be a really neat big mechanic to add - quite a draw for new and returning players.

"Later this year we go into Southern Mirkwood, to the city of Dol Guldur and we'll be increasing the level cap, which is big news for our level 60 players!"

Okay, I posted a little while back about a level cap increase outside of an expansion. Patience didn't say that here, but I actually give it more than a negligible chance of happening. We'll have to see.

All around good interview. The sushi gimmick was amusing.


A Fond Farewell

No, I'm not leaving, but I'd like to take a moment to wish The LOTRO Follower a fond farewell from blogging, at least for a time. This sabbatical was brought on by a traumatic family accident. There's nothing like a dose of life's realities to make you take stock of your own life and appreciate what you have. The Follower cannot be faulted for taking a break from the world of fiction to grieve the loss of someone dear. Best wishes and prayers to you and your family. Take care and we hope to see you back in the future.


Book 8 Rumblings

I'm actually going to refrain from talking about the Book 8 patch notes over on the Bullroarer server. Mainly because there are already good discussions in the LOTRO blogging collective, but also because those notes are not final nor complete. Good stuff I'm reading so far. Made a point of checking out the changes to the Captain class, of course. Again, more on that later.

I'd also like to point to a couple changes talked about by Zombie_Columbus on the forums regarding Rune-Keepers and Burglers.

So, if any of those things concern you, do check them and and keep watching for when I really dive into the Book 8 patch notes next month when they're finalized.


Loth Shot

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I've been doing some quests in Lothlorien recently. Taking it slow, enjoying the scenery. It's supposed to be a relaxing location, so why try and hurry and do all the quests? No, I'll bide my time and savor the moment. And there are some great moments in Lothlorien. Yeah, the distance impostors are borked, but it's still beautiful. Such as this night-time shot of the sky and the trees, one with a flet where Legolas and Gimli wait. And a short distance from where I was standing, so did Frodo and Sam. Good to see the gang have made it through Moria (like I didn't already know). These are the moments in the game I treasure the most, where suddenly Middle-Earth the world comes rushing back into overwhelm Middle-Earth the game. I live for these, when I can forget about grinding IXP or deeds, or even quests. The more I think about it, the more I believe I would have enjoyed a less structured Middle-Earth. But enough lamenting what did not happen. Celebrate the quality of what we do!


Kinship Contest

I love contests, and when I saw something about a kinship contest, my curiosity was perked even more. There are some awesome kinships out there, but of course my own holds a special place in my heart. We might not be the largest, we might not be the most organized. We might not be a lot of things. But what we are is a family of sorts - and that's a bit of a rarity among online groups, in whatever form. (Not saying here that other kinships aren't close.) A contest where the group of friends I've come to know could win something? Score!

Then I got to reading the details and my enthusiasm departed. The contest earns points for kinships who gain new members and when those members gain levels. Only during the contest period. That makes sense, but my problem isn't with the contest itself, but the unintended consequences.

First off, this contest will encourage the creation of kinships whose sole purpose exists to win the contest. The players don't join because they see some value in the group of people they're going to be playing with. There is no connection beyond earning the reward, half of which is simply bragging rights.

Secondly, the contest encourages rapid leveling of characters - in other words, power leveling. It encourages playing in a manner that ignores the value of the content used to level instead placing greater value on the destination. Certainly we see this already, but it's never manifested in a mechanic purposefully designed towards rapid leveling.

In other words, I see superficial relationships (kinships) as a possible result. This is not to say that the contest will be approached in other ways that doesn't exhibit the behavior I mentioned. However, the optimal methods to reaping the reward isn't using the traditional kinship mechanics (by mechanics I mean motivations for the creation and sustaining of kinships).

So what are the rewards for this? A kinship house and 6-months rent if the kinship doesn't already have a kinhouse, or a years worth of rent if they do. Plus a badge on my.lotro. Bragging rights in other words. I have no problem with the rewards. I'm obsessive about getting titles in the game and those are bragging rights after a fashion. (Not that I change my title much. Had "Lord of Fangs" for quite some time.) And the kinhouse reward is pretty sweet. But what use are such rewards, especially the kinhouse, if the winning kinship's sole reason for existence was to win the contest?

The forum thread announcing and discussing the issue goes back and forth between positive and negative reaction. It also has a few dev responses to the negatives. They mention that even small kinships with active members can gain many points. That's true if your small kinship has players below the level cap. My kinship is mostly comprised of players at the cap, at least those that play regularly. Furthermore, we're a pretty close knit group, rarely adding new members beyond our own alts (many of which are at the level cap as well). The dev's points are valid in a small subset of the population. Like I said, the most effective and efficient way of winning is to behave in the manor I mentioned above, which I would consider "not intended". And there will be a group of players who will do this - there always are, especially in gaming.

Nice idea, good intentions, unintended consequences. I hope I don't have to say "I told you so."


New Blogs

Always looking to expand the LOTRO blogging community, I have three new blogs to talk about today.

The first is called Epic Book. Started just this month, the author(s) of epic book have proven to have a wonderful sense of humor and style to the writing. I'm greatly looking forward to reading more from this blog. I hope you all will be as well after you read the excellent kinship post.

The second blog is called Mucho Mango. This one was started at the beginning of the year. Primarily talking about LOTRO, Mucho Mango is not adverse to delving into more general MMO topics. As such you'll see their blog in the "Other Adventurers" section. Please don't take that for a lack of quality LOTRO content. I'll definitely be perusing the older entries now that I've found this blog. Good stuff here.

Lastly is something a little bit different. This blog is called The Low Perspective and is essentially a Hobbit story blog. I think they nailed the hobbit quaintness in the tone of the writing. If you love all things Hobbit, be sure to check this one out.

I wish the best of luck to all three of these authors in their new and not so new blogs.



The earth-kin are an interesting type of character in LOTRO. Something pretty unique in my mind. We have wolves and boars and wargs and orcs and goblins and spiders. All the usual fair, but the earth-kin are something else. They're not giants, they're not trolls. They are large. Some are good, some are bad - there's no assuming their moral stance on the War of the Ring.

One of the better storylines in the North Downs involved these earth-kin and the mini-struggle then were going through in the midst of the larger battle for Middle-Earth. Check out the latest character page talking about the earth-kin and one of their more notable members.


Why I'm Not Applying To Isengard

Monday, May 18, 2009

I genuinely thought about it. Really hard. I had a blast beta testing LOTRO before release. I met awesome friends, I got sucked into an awesome game. For the first time ever I spent 200 dollars on a video game (total now is a little over 300 counting my lifetime sub and the two boxes). LOTRO for me has been an event of a lifetime. That sounds melodramatic, and maybe a bit nerdy when referring to a video game, but it's true. My gaming habits changed, I started this blog, I met a bunch of people I'd still talk to (try to anyway) even if I weren't playing.

There's a difference between now and then. Recapturing a romanticized nostalgia is futile. I already have those friends and they're not testing (not that I'm aware of), and I'd feel compelled, obligated, responsible to and for beta testing on Isengard. As it stands, I don't log in on a regular basis anyway. Adding a testing regimen would probably be a bad idea in the middle of mild burnout.

Then there's the fact that I couldn't talk about any of that here on this blog. While I highly doubt I'd break the NDA because of the temptation this blog offers, the Adventurer exists to chronicle my LOTRO journey and thoughts. Having a hole in that journey because of an NDA wouldn't feel right.

However, I'm greatly excited about the prospect of this testing and wish all the testers the best of luck on Isengard. I hope Turbine can get the data they need from this and build that much better a game.


Level Cap Without Expansion?

Friday, May 15, 2009

So here's a random thought I had. A level cap raise has been talked about, but what if we see it without an expansion. So, perhaps a free book update adds, say, five levels. Maybe the one that adds Dol Guldur puts up another 5 levels to separate it from Moria and Lothlorien.

Do I think this will happen? Not really, but I do think it's an interesting concept that could be done. What would be the effects? Well, for one thing, we won't have a stair step pattern to the content. Here's how the content looks like so far: A relatively even ramp up to 50 with a plateau, then another ramp up to 60 with a plateau. Etc, etc, etc. . Instead we get an even ramp all the way up, with each new content upping the cap by 5.

Of course, there's a good side to having such choices of content at 50 and 60. Alts don't have to do the same content as other alts or mains. I've advocated multiple advancement lines for content below 50, particularly 20 -30.

One of the benefits of adding 5 levels here and there with the free updates is to keep the players on the leveling treadmill. The reward system driving play takes a fundamental change when you reach the level cap. No longer are your stats naturally increasing by whatever content you complete, but rather you have to find specific content that increases your stats (deeds with desired virtues, instances with desired gear, etc). You might not like a deed grind or the instance needed to advance your character however.

Like anything, it's a trade off. Ultimately, whats more beneficial to the game? In my opinion, more options for content progression throughout the levels rather than keeping the player leveling. If adding 5 levels from time to time in free content updates takes away from being able to do this, then I say no. Perhaps there are benefits I have missed.


Potential Delays and New Frontiers

I'm talking about two issues in this topic, simply because I want to conserve space and both of them won't produce a lot of commentary. First up is the idea of potential delays to an expansion and level cap raise this year, presumably in November.

Pearls of Unwisdom
has an excellent post about this and makes a very good case for why we shouldn't be surprised if we do see a delay in the expansion. I think too much is read into the Steefel comment quoted but other than that, the post is right on. Seeing the recent slippage in the planned release of some content, I do worry about a big slippage of the next expansion into early 2010. It's a possibility but not one I'm willing to bet on yet. Turbine has done an excellent job so far, barring the recent problems. Like I said in a previous post, I think we're in the tumultuous teens part of LOTRO right now. It'll smooth over.

The second topic is the recent screenshots of a survey that asked about a LOTRO on the XBox360. I ignored this for the most part because I have participated in similar surveys in the past where game concepts were given to me that ultimately led to similar, but not exact fruition. LOTRO is used as a placeholder name for those surveys. It presents the idea of a Turbine MMO on the consoles. Because of the IP associated with LOTRO, it's not the best analog, but it works well enough. My opinion of the matter has not changed.


Emotional Impacts

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

As I'm thinking about the burn out period I'm currently in, I wonder if some of that has to do with the emotional impact of the game's world design. Being stuck in an enclosed space, especially when it's dark and dank can lead to severe psychological problems after a while. If Moria were a real "cave" and we as people spent months in that cave, I think we'd begin to feel a bit worn out. Us humans need sunlight to stay healthy. Perhaps part of the burn out is because the world is designed well enough to impart a bit of this type of impact on the players.

I know one of the biggest joys for me was seeing Middle-Earth come alive in the world design. When I'm in places like the Shire, I just feel happy. One of my favorite activities in the game is cooking in Michel Delving. It's arguable just as boring as running repeatable quests in Moria, but I find the activity much more pleasant, maybe as a result of my surroundings. Before Forochel, I felt burn out when questing in Angmar. Angmar is another dark place like Moria and I hated to be up there. Combine these dark places with more tedious and time consuming content and it's a double-whammy. I just don't want to do it. I just don't want to be there.

I think it's a testament to the world design team for creating a virtual environment that fills me with an emotion that actually affects my playing habits. And certainly not everybody experiences this. My personality is just particularly attuned to that sort of thing.

So, I'll try to make a point of hanging out in more pleasant locals from time to time. Hopefully that'll mitigate some of the frustration I've experienced as of late.



Monday, May 11, 2009

I posted an evaluation about the Mines of Moria last month, having completed most of the Moria content. I think I ran a bit negative despite overall positive impressions of the expansion. Zubon posts over at Kill Ten Rats a Moria retrospective, being generally negative. So, did Moria really screw up a good game? It might have, it might not. We're in the tumultuous teen years of LOTRO. We learned to crawl, then walk. We were happy. Then came the hormones and things got a little rattled. With the next expansion, let's call it the twenty something. Should be good as Turbine finds its stride. Hopefully it'll see less bugs and better designed content.

I'm an optimistic person. I still think Turbine has an excellent record with this game. The upcoming additions such as scalable content seems to be a positive move. No, I don't think Moria was a bad expansion, and despite general negativity, from myself included, the game is going strong. A lot of us have just hit that burn out point I think, and burn out, like any sort of frustration, is a petri dish for negative thoughts.


Are Gear Checks Inevitable?

This is an extension to my crafting post yesterday. Considering that the "supreme" end-game content is raiding, and therefore the "supreme" gear should be acquired from raiding, should we just expect to see crafted gear fall by the wayside? And should we accept it?

I don't raid. I'm not against raiding, I just don't like sitting down at games for large amounts of time wholly focused. I might do it casually, if such a thing is possible. As such, I can't objectively evaluate if gear checks are a good thing or not, as they're usually always associated with raiding. A fundamental goal of raids is to extend the end-game by creating group grinds. Adding a gear check into the process is a very good way of making raiding a grind. Only one person gets a piece of gear per run, therefore one has to run the raid multiple times to gear up every participant.

I think that's perfectly fine. Raiding is a particular game play style and system where a grind such as this is accepted and perhaps even embraced. In this sense, gear checks are inevitable. But raiding isn't an isolated feature of the game. It's connected through the gear progression, and in some cases through the quest chains. And because of the experience gained in raiding, be it gear, grouping mechanics, etc, players who participate in raiding approach other content differently. That's normal.

Because of this connection, there's more to it than just a gear check. So, perhaps raiding should be designed differently to acknowledge this connection. On the other hand, is this connection only superficial and meaningless. Why care about a gear check if you don't raid? I realized my goal of getting radiance gear wasn't necessary if I wasn't going to experience the watcher raid. Sure, the extra stats would help me in the rest of the game but my current gear will probably never be the death of me in gameplay other than raids.

So, to answer the question, yes. I had thought it might be avoidable, but actually, despite my desire to see gear crafting be important again, I also like the extra dimension a gear check like the radiance gear requirement gives to the raid game. However, like anything, it has its side effects. Cost benefit analysis anybody?


Play and Win

There's a prize promotional event going on May 14th. If you log into the Bullroarer server between 9 PM and 11 PM eastern on that day, you are automatically entered to win one of 37 prizes. Now, the Bullroarer server is the special preview server. It requires a separate client download in order to log in. Check out the official news release for more information on prizes, terms, and conditions.


What Happened to Crafting?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Heyo! You, armorsmith! You, weaponsmith! Cancel my order, I just got this epic second-age weapon off an orc, and this awesome armor from some deep, dark, dank place in Moria. Your stuff is crap.

The other day I commissioned a level 58 critted halberd from one of my kinmates. Why? Actually, the DPS rating is a lot better than the level 57 third age "legendary" I currently have, despite the almost perfect legacies and some tier 6 runes. I also want an alternative damage type weapon for when I might go back to places like Sarnur or Haudh Iarchith with mobs that require certain damage types for effective combat. As an aside, I'm curious as to what happened to that idea and why it doesn't play a more active roll in the legendary weapon system.

Anyhow, I'll be getting a Peerless Thain's Halberd for a backup weapon in these unique situations. I would have preferred a weapon with light damage, such as the Mirrored Ancient Steel Halberd I once had before legendaries came about, but alas, the new critted crafted weapons don't have that option. It's either Westernese like the Halberd, Ancient Dwarf-Make, or Beleriand. That means I'll probably commission a Peerless Thain's Greatsword and Peerless Thain's Great Axe at some point to have my bases covered. Again, why? Well, those special circumstances, but mostly because I can. And I don't want to believe that crafted weapons and armor is completely useless.

Actually, the crafted armor is useless to me. I've got a full set of the Captain gear acquired from the instances, bought from the AH before said armor was Bind on Acquire. I'm a bit disappointed that crafted armor is no longer "comparable" to the epic sets gained through group play. Certainly the Mirrored Armor wasn't as good as the Rift Armor, but it still was a viable set for combat. With the new enemy types and behaviors in Moria, this became less true. And you could run the Rift in a set of Mirrored Armor just fine, but you cannot run the Watcher raid in crafted gear. No, you'll be dread-killed. You need the best armor in the game, the radiance gear acquired from not just running all 6 instance and winning the roll, but doing so in hard mode.

I'd like to see crafted gear become viable again. One of the big pushes with LOTRO was to make crafted items useful, and equalizing them with raid gear was exactly how to do it. They weren't perfectly equal - raid gear was marginally better. But it worked for who played what type of content. The more "hard core" players went raiding and therefore cared more about getting the best of the best gear, even if it wasn't massively better than the crafted gear. The more casual players went after the crafted gear because it was easier to gain without grouping. And they could deal with it being slightly less than the best because it would still function in whatever activity they wanted to do, even if they decided to do a casual raid run, just for kicks.

Bring back the crafted gear market. Show our hard working laborers that their product is important. Let's acquire crafted gear because it's useful, not just for the heck of it like me.


How to Improve Legendaries

I made a post about a week ago talking about what the legendary system has become. Pearls of Unwisdom has a nice post about what could be done to improve it. Check out the post for some great ideas. I wonder how much Turbine reads these blogs?

EDIT: Nice post from From Dusk 'till Dawn about the subject as well.


Accessiblity, Playability, and World Integrity

I've noticed a paradigm shift at Turbine lately. Okay, perhaps that's a bit melodramatic, but there does seem to be a new focus when it comes to the development of new content.

One of the key goals to ensure the initial success of Lord of the Rings Online was selling it to the built-in Tolkien audience. I've come across numerous people who started playing this game simply because it was out of Tolkien's world. I am one of them. It's my first MMO because I love the IP. People like us had to believe that Turbine was committed to upholding the lore of their beloved literary work. And by and large I think Turbine did just that. So much developer time and communication was spent on assuring and proving that they held the lore up high just like the fans that it seemed an all consuming mission - the first priority.

Alas, that was an unrealistic ideal. LOTRO is a game, and a such the first priority is making it a good game, regardless of the lore or IP or whatever. We started seeing that more and more clearly post Mines of Moria release. More dev communication has been devoted to the gamey aspects of LOTRO, rather than the lore. The lore junkies have been sold, many of us have life time subscriptions, but now the goal is to expand the audience. Hook the gamers and people who aren't necessarily fans of Middle-Earth, but just want a good game. In essence, Turbine is on a quest to make their game more playable. Why is the Rune-Keeper in the game? Because it offers greater variety to the class play styles, even though it butts up against the lore line. Why did the newbie areas get a revamp? Because Turbine wants to attract new players and make the game accessible, make the game playable. It's not that LOTRO wasn't these things in the past, but like I said at the beginning of this post, Turbine is shifting gears. We've gone through 1st which was beta, we went through second, which was Shadows of Angmar, now we're really getting moving with 3rd. There's a big difference between 3rd gear and 1st gear. Even 2nd is not the same.

So how does this refocusing of attention affect the world we've come to know and love? This is where I want to bring in world integrity. Focusing on the lore side of things so much for the first act built an idea of what kind of integrity we'd see with this game. The Shire is a perfect example of the meticulous attention the developers paid to getting the lore side of things right. I imagine that such attention required a great deal of time to get right. Now more time is being spent on the game side of things, like getting the raids working properly, or the instances, or making the gameplay more accessible. That time has to come from somewhere. It's logical that Turbine has shifted that from the lore focus. Now, don't read me wrong here. I'm not saying they've abandoned holding to the lore. If Lothlorien is any example, they're still very much attuned to it. I'm just saying that it hasn't been a primary focus lately. I think that one has to be careful here. Not just with the lore, but all the other early ideas come into play as well. The early ideas are what made this game what it is. The later ideas grow it, but not everything needs to be tweaked and changed.

Myself not being in the loop, knowing exactly what's going on, gives me little room to make judgements. I just advice caution. Some of us early lore-centric players seem to be feeling a bit like the game has lost it's main reason for existence - building a virtual Middle-Earth. Then again, was that really the goal from the beginning. We're we just sold that goal because that's what would make the game successful? I don't think I bought a lie. Turbine has done a great job with the integrity of the world. Like I said, caution is merited as we move into the futre. Let's not forget how dear the IP is to many of us. Just because I have a lifetime subscription doesn't mean I'll play for the lifetime of the game. Sure, you got my money and I give you little more except for the retail expansions, but I'd like to continue playing. I won't if you drop the ball.


Dev Response

Saturday, May 9, 2009

I posted in a forum thread the other day, thought I'd bring it up here. The discussion revolves around world building and the methods and motivations behind the direction world building has gone in the game. I'm very much interested in world building, as a writer, as a highly imaginative person, and many of my topics here reflect that. It's always a joy to get a direct developer response to one of your questions. So check out the thread, join the discussion, voice your opinion. I'll be collecting my thoughts over the next few days and put together something a little more concrete than this pointer post.


Fellowship Maneuvers Guide

Friday, May 8, 2009

There's a great official guide up on the main site about Fellowship Maneuvers, also called Conjunctions. I'll leave it to the article to tell you what these are and how they work if you don't know already. I will say that some of the best moments in group combat has been when our fellowship pulled off the harder full Fellowship Maneuvers, such as Wrath of the Oathbreakers. In that, each person has to hit a different color in the right order. Getting 6 people to do that in the middle of hectic combat is a challenge, but the pay off in both in-game effect and personal satisfaction is great. This mechanic is one of my favorite parts of the combat in this game. It's a wonderful group building exercise.


Blogging Lull

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wow, is it Thursday already? And I haven't posted since Monday? Something is terribly, terribly wrong. Or is it?

Honestly, this week has seen more LOTRO playing that the past few weeks, and I've enjoyed myself in game a lot more this week than I have in past weeks. And yet I've said nothing. I think that's because I'd rather post something thought provoking than "I did such and such today and it was fun." That's kinda boring. So is silence, but at least I'm not diluting my blogging quality any.

I will say I helped out with groups most of this week. I mentioned the Carn Dum run Monday but I also helped some folks in my kin and some pick-up players with Book 14. I had hoped to get Book 15 done finally yesterday, but the planned group never showed up. Oh well.

I think the lull in blogging is a factor of a couple things. First, the weather is getting better so more of us are spending time away from the computer. As an example, I'm going on a hike today. Second, the Book 7 patch is done and Book 8 isn't close enough to say any more than we already have. Repeating oneself isn't particularly stimulating either.

So, it's not that I've run out of passion, or that I've stopped playing LOTRO completely. There's just only so much one can say before it becomes monotonous. Happy adventuring!


Carn Dûm Run

Monday, May 4, 2009

Did part of a Carn Dûm run today. It was a spur of the moment thing. I logged in, thought about what I wanted to do, looked on the global looking for fellowship channel (glff) and saw that one of my friends, and reader of this blog, had one more space for a CD run. Okay, sure, why not. I have some deeds out there, I still have quests to do in CD, let's go. I knew I wouldn't be able to do the whole run, but I could get some done.

Turns out nobody had done the run before, so it was going to be a bit of an adventure. That's pefectly alright since an adventure will always make things more interesting. First pull was a bad pull and most of us bit the dust. Luckily we retreated right next to the battle and could keep on fighting. After that we got the hang of it. A few of us died again from some lose aggro or stepping into the killer water. We had three under 50's and as such were squishy.

I was the tank, as the highest heavy armor wearer. I think I could have done better as a tank had I had more practice with my aggro skills. Unfortunately I was also watching healing on our lower level fellows in case our minstrel couldn't keep up. That didn't always work either and my attention was divided. I think if I was traited better for a tanking role and we had higher levels I could have managed it fine.

It was fun experiencing some new content. Well, new for me at any rate. Two quests done, a couple deeds finished, good times. And I even managed to get a nice screenshot as well.


Legendary System not Swords

I fully believe that the legendary weapons system is probably the best mechanic in LOTRO. It has complexity, a virtually unapproachable finish line (the perfect first-age weapon), and massive variety of stats and levels. It's the quintessential perfect MMO system. What it isn't is what it was advertised as... or rather, what the players thought they were getting. That is, a system to give them a truely legendary weapon in the sense of Glamdring and Sting. Actually, perhaps my halberd is one of those: I got an orc slayer modifier so my weapon glows blue when orcs are close. It would have a name if I had realized how to name the weapon before it reached max level.

And yet it really isn't legendary like Frodo's sword. Why? Because Frodo recieved his weapon fully leveled, with max stats. It was legendary from the moment he found it - and it was unique. With the legendary weapon system - everybody has one. Certainly each one is nearly always unique from another, but the fact that they're so abundant considerably lessesn the percieved value. In this case that is the intangible "legendary" quality. What the players expected wasn't possible - giving only a select few people a lengendary weapon isn't smart game design, even if that gives a better feel of "legendary". Basically, we expected the impossible from this system. What we got was a very good MMO system, disguising the new type of grind well.

At this moment in time, having gotten a full set of instance gear from the AH before it was BoA, and a full set of critted jewelry, the only gear goal I have is in my legendary system, and as alluded to before, it is virtually impossible to get the perfect weapon. Not having access to the figures I cannot calculate the probability. I would venture to guess that even if the system had been in the game from the beginning the probability would be so high as to be mathmatically impossible given the length of time players have had with the system. Given the system has only been in the game for five months, it's even less likely the perfect weapon has been found.

My perfect weapon would be a level 60 First Age Halberd with all Tier 8's and the following legacies: Tier 6 Devestating Blow Critical, Tier 6 Pressing Attack Critical, Tier 6 Relentless Attack Critical Modifier, Tier 6 Melee Power Cost Reduction. Will I ever find/buy a level 60 First Age weapon with those exact stats all at tier 6? Very, very doubtful - and that's what makes this system so perfect for an MMO - there isn't an end. There's always room for improvement. Add in the fact that we'll see a level cap increase (and presumably one for the legendary items as well) before the end of the year, and we'll always be running for an unreachable goal.

I have trouble lamenting the fact that we didn't get a true legendary item when I realize just how robust and fitting this system is for the game. It incorporates the lore wonderfully but is still stretched over the MMO core that LOTRO is. And we have to remember, we're not the fellowship. We're not Gandalf, Frodo, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, whoever. We're not even the true heroes of our own epic storyline (ever notice how the NPCs are the ones that almost always do the serious, climactic confrontation?). Legendary weapons in the sense of Sting and Glamdring don't belong to us.


Living in Middle-Earth

Sunday, May 3, 2009

I've posted a few times now about how LOTRO has begun to feel less and less like a world of Middle-Earth and more like a game as I become more focused on the consumption of content rather than the building of the world. In other words, the magic has worn off. That's to be expected. To reinvigorate the idea, there's a wonderful thread on the forums asking "If you could choose to live in Middle-Earth..." The question asks for where, what race, and what profession and/or class, putting in the context of the "real" Middle-Earth.

Myself, I'd be a man living in Minas Tirith, preferably after the War of the Ring and under Aragorn's benevolent rule. I'd like to be a librarian, historian, and scholar. Such a profession would probably present opportunity for travel as well.



Friday, May 1, 2009

In keeping with the Forchel theme for official articles today, the latest Characters of Middle-Earth spotlights Kaj, the son of Ora, the chief of the Lossoth (the peoples of Forochel). Kaj starts one of my favorite quest lines in the game, one where the player helps him court the love of his life. Funny, I really enjoy the quests that get involved in NPC's romantic lives - the two hobbits in Staddle were a riot. Anyhow, the story around Kaj is a good set of quests and if you haven't been to Forochel, definitely check that one out.


Hero's Guide to Forochel

The next addition to the Hero's Guide series has been released today, this time covering Forochel. I thought they had already done one for Forochel, but apparently not. I always find these read pretty well, particularly this one. I think that's because Turbine had the opportunity to create a fair bit of lore themselves for Forochel, being barely referenced in the canon.

As to the zone itself, I found it to be a pleasant diversion from the sylvan landscape of much of the rest of Middle-Earth. Moria was a similar diversion, but more intense. Where I enjoyed the transition from ice and snow to green grass and back again, emerging into Lothlorien felt like I was once again alive. It's a testament to Turbine's design team and artists that their worlds can evoke emotional and sometimes physical responses in their players. Forochel is no exception - when I quest there I actually feel cold. Good place to go in the heat of the summer months. Do enjoy this extra lore on Forochel.