LOTRO Legendarium: Looking back and forwards with LOTRO

I think it is safe to say without any malice whatsoever that Lord of the Rings Online has firmly entered its autumn years.

Everything about the game seems like it’s slowed down. The last expansion, Helm’s Deep, is receding in the distance (as are all of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films) with no expected further expansions to come. Turbine as a studio has weathered a hard year with the failure of Infinite Crisis, and updates for LOTRO aren’t coming as quickly or reliably as they once did. Chatter across blogs, Twitter, and Reddit shows that this once-favored MMO is not enjoying being one of the major players any longer.

However, all is not lost! Turbine is not only putting out updates but is creating the right sort of updates, consolidating servers and pushing the story forward. The strength of the IP and the loyal playerbase does a lot to prop up this title, ensuring that as long as the lights are left on, LOTRO has many more years ahead of it.

Let’s take a trip back through LOTRO’s big news of 2015 before examining the 2016 producer’s letter and speculating on what is to come.

March

An alleged former Turbine employee posted a tell-all forum post criticizing the game and studio while stirring up a firestorm of controversy among the community. An interesting hour-long lore video featuring some of Turbine’s devs caught our attention and rekindled some interest in the game.

April

There was big buzz around the new legendary item imbuement system, and this month players were treated to a preview of how it would work as well as a sneak peek of the new Osgiliath instance cluster. Eighth anniversary rewards were announced, Russian players were dismayed to find out that their country’s version of the game would close in June, and Vanderbilt hosted a course centered around LOTRO.

May

Update 16: Ashes of Osgiliath came out with a ton of content such as four new regions, more epic story quests, and a legendary item imbuement system. In my final LOTRO Legendarium column (before this one, that is), I belatedly celebrated the game’s 8th anniversary with pictures and stories. The game’s producer made a lot of fans happy by posting a preview letter of several initiatives coming for the remainder of the year.

June

A small balance patch (Update 16.1) brought roleplaying improvements and a new stage in Bree. PvMP players were finally treated to something new with a preview of the Battle of Osgiliath map. Free them from the Ettenmoors! Turbine talked about other upcoming Update 16.2 features, such as cosmetic weapons and the Adventures of Bingo Boffin. Lord of the Rings fans also mourned the passing of Christopher Lee.

July

Summer months were made for frivolity and merriment, so it was appropriate that July saw the return of both the Summer Festival and Weatherstock.

August

Server merges loomed big this year over the game, and this month Turbine announced which 10 servers would remain. Five were picked from the US and five from Europe.

September

A quality-of-life patch came with Update 16.5, which extended the duration of store services and fixed a couple of vexing issues. We all got a chuckle when Turbine announced that players could pay for cash shop purchases with Subway gift cards. The studio also began allowing players to transfer servers for free in anticipation of shard consolidation.

October

The Siege of Minas Tirith began, as Update 17 finally hit the live servers. A new region, two epic battles, and a continuation of the main storyline awaited fans who logged in. Turbine bribed players to test out the new datacenter (which never did make its anticipated 2015 release) and the fourth annual Archet Aid was hosted by European players.

November

Following the terrible Paris attacks, the player community held a rally and concert on a French server to show solidarity with the country. We also talked about why we seem to keep returning to Lord of the Rings Online after all of these years.

December

The Yule Festival returned this month to cap off the year and bring us back to Winter-home, while Turbine started testing out sales of instant level boosts to 95 with Update 17.1.

I think it’s actually a good sign that Turbine didn’t procrastinate on its traditional producer’s preview letter but got it out in time for the holidays. The letter identified five big projects for 2016: the move to the new datacenter hardware, a level cap increase to 105, a new instance cluster (with a raid!), a collection system, and quality of life improvements. The story will progress through the Battle of Pelennor Fields and push toward the Black Gates of Mordor itself.

To my ears as a long-time player of the game, that all is welcome news. Personally, I hope that Turbine is accumulating enough content and resources to create Mordor as one big expansion for the future, but if that’s to come it doesn’t look like it’ll happen this year. I’m equally glad that the studio is going back to making new instances, since players have been asking for those for quite some time now. Maybe a reversal in this area might signal that the studio is open to reconsidering some of its other positions — player housing revamp, anyone?

Lord of the Rings Online needs to put out a solid, reliable stream of updates and information in the new year. Turbine must get out there more and talk up the game, as it remains its strongest property and has quite a bit of juice left in it. If the studio is quiet or unenthusiastic about it, players will pick up on it and respond in kind. If it cheerleads more and presents a front of strength, then warriors will bolster the title.

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34 Comments on "LOTRO Legendarium: Looking back and forwards with LOTRO"

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Geering
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Geering

As much as I love LotRO – I’ve quit every other MMO, one is more than enough of a time sink – I have to agree that it seems to be on its Autumn years.

That’s not to say it’s about to die, we may still – hopefully – have quite a few years before it finally sails westward.

My expectations for the future aren’t much, anyway… complete the story, fix a few things & I’ll be happy with an extended maintenance mode. It’s not like there isn’t enough to do. Even if you don’t do the optional grinds, there’s still hundred of hours for every character you create.

Of course, what *would* be nice & I mean really, really nice, is that if juuuust before the lights were turned off & the doors closed for good, someone inside Turbine anonymously & accidentally leaked the necessary data to emulate the servers, oops.

It could happen.

wanderv15
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wanderv15

Karl_Hungus Boseafus You forgot that Turbine is no more independent company.

wanderv15
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wanderv15

That was quite good year, but i hope 2016 will be better. At least we’l get a new raid! People waited so long!

wanderv15
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wanderv15

denhith Lol, another troll. Did you play Moria on start? Riders of Rohan? U17 is much more stable. The only problem WAS memory leakage in some places in Minas Tirith on ultra high settings.

wanderv15
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wanderv15

Karl_Hungus

ThompsonClaytonRadcliff
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ThompsonClaytonRadcliff

JohnD212 I think it is safe to say without any malice whatsoever that http://massivelyop.com/tag/lord-of-the-rings-online/ has firmly entered its autumn years.  That’s not calling for a ‘death knell’, it’s calling it like it is.  ‘Autumn’ does not equal throes of death.  The game is by any objective standard a shadow of its former self with the loss of a vast majority of its player base, decline in content offered, and well documented loss of developers at the company itself.  As someone who played from early beta up until Helm’s Debacle, nobody loved the game more than I.  But I saw the decline.  It’s there in plain sight.  Justin was being kind and optimistic in his writing here.

bambocheur
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bambocheur

I enjoy Justin’s LOTRO coverage and I admit that this article did get me over the edge and reinstall the game for my annual 1-2 weeks of gameplay before I exit for the year. At this point, there’s not much Turbine can do to win me back, I’m firmly in the “LOTRO’s best years were back in 2009” camp, but I still hope that Turbine’s management can pull this off for the sake of it’s employees.

Enikuo
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Enikuo

My concern for LotRO is that it might be expected to make up for the failures of the Lego game and Infinite Crisis. On it’s own, I think LotRO would probably have been fine. I just don’t know how Turbine’s other missteps might affect it.

DianeBradley
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DianeBradley

JohnD212 I agree. I was somewhat distressed by this article. The loyal player base is eager for former players to come back and for new players to give it a try. “Doom and gloom” reporting like this tends to make potential players think it isn’t worthwhile, so they shrug and head off for some shiny new title that’s getting all the hype.

I’ve tried a few shiny new titles recently: Elder Scrolls Online, Guild Wars 2, Final Fantasy XIV. What am I playing? LOTRO and EQ2, with an occasional foray back to WoW.

Enikuo
Guest
Enikuo

Grimmtooth I transferred to Arkenstone when Windfola was shuttered. It seems pretty busy. I like it so far.