lotro legendarium

LOTRO Legendarium is a Lord of the Rings Online column by Justin Olivetti. [Follow this column’s RSS feed]

LOTRO Legendarium: My LOTRO wish list for 2018

Ever since I’ve been writing this Lord of the Rings Online column — which spans back to 2010, if you can believe it — I’ve started out every year with a little tradition of making a wish list that I’d like to see happen for the game. This year, I actually debated whether or not to do it, because Standing Stone Games has already sort of laid out its big plans for 2018 (or at least some of them) and I know that the studio’s smaller stature means that we probably can’t expect as much as we once did.

But then I thought, hey, it’s tradition. And why is it a bad thing to aspire to greater things and encourage the studio to reach for those? Should we just roll over and give up on this title that we love? Far be it! So I’m dusting off some old ideas and tossing in a few new ones to give to you my list of 11 things (for 11 years) I want to see happen in 2018 for LOTRO. Let me know what some of your wish list items in the comments too!

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LOTRO Legendarium: Looking back at the road we traveled in 2017

“The road goes ever on” is one of the most well-known phrases from Lord of the Rings, alluding to the ongoing journey of the characters, life in general, and even the fandom that poured out of this franchise. That road took us through 2017 and one of the most interesting years for Lord of the Rings Online since the MMO’s debut in 2007.

After all, this was the first year that saw Standing Stone Games handling the title since the studio’s formation in 2016. We lived through the 10th anniversary, went to Mordor, and lived to tell the tale. It was a year of ups and downs, of mistakes and successes, and one of continued life for LOTRO.

As we walk down the road and get ready to cross the border from 2017 into 2018, I felt it would be appropriate to look back at the year that was and the road we traveled. What great memories did you make in the game — or the game made for you — this year?

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LOTRO Legendarium: Fixing Lord of the Rings Online’s grouping problem

One of the quirks — and frustrations — of MMORPGs is that there never seems to be one game that truly has it all. Even some of my favorites are missing what I consider key features or design elements that are present elsewhere, and it’s maddening to think about how much better the game could be with those features transplanted.

For Lord of the Rings Online, I have to say that my biggest frustration with the game design is that dungeons might as well be non-existent. Oh, they’re in the game (and raids and skirmishes too), but LOTRO has never cultivated a dungeon-running community of the sort that you see in contemporary MMOs.

In other games, I enjoy changing up the routine by grouping up with others for a run through detailed setpieces as we battle our way to the final boss. I enjoy the rewards that those runs bring and learn a lot more about how to play my character. This has almost never been the case for me and LOTRO, and it’s not for a lack of trying. This MMO has a grouping problem that undercuts participation and interest in the dungeon scene, making such runs an anomaly instead of part of the mainstream. I have some observations from my point of view and some thoughts about how it could be fixed.

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LOTRO Legendarium: They’re taking the Hobbits to Erebor!

With some depressing news bouncing around the MMO genre as of late, it was particularly welcome to read an upbeat and exciting producer’s letter from Lord of the Rings Online this past week. And surprising as well — I don’t think many people were expecting a “state of the game” post in late November, of all times. That’s sort of a “new year” thing. I’m not complaining.

Because you all are my fellow Hobbits, there is no one else who I would rather chat with about all of these reveals. Probably no one else would tolerate me doing this, anyway, so here I am and here you are. What did you think about this letter? Here is my takeaway, but I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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LOTRO Legendarium: What the Amazon TV series means for Lord of the Rings Online

If you haven’t been paying attention to the television market over the past few years, you might have missed the fact that we are in the middle of a revolution of how shows are made and broadcast. Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Disney, and CBS are greenlighting all sorts of fantastic shows with the hopes of strengthening their audience and luring them to these pay-to-watch platforms.

Game of Thrones, Westworld, The Walking Dead, The Defenders, Star Trek Discovery, and Stranger Things are a few examples of how these companies are getting acclaim and major viewership with ambitious projects. Large amounts of money are being thrown around on both the licensing and production of these shows, and companies are frantically looking around for the next big hit. So while Disney is boldly announcing a Star Wars live action TV series, Amazon went to the fantasy equivalent and nabbed a little thing called Lord of the Rings.

Yes indeed. The big news from this past week was that Amazon bought the rights to produce a multi-season Lord of the Rings series. While the exact cost of this deal wasn’t revealed, industry experts estimate that it was somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 to $250 million. No small po-tay-toes any way you look at it. But what will this series mean for our beloved MMORPG? I have a few thoughts about that.

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LOTRO Legendarium: Reviewing the Mordor soundtrack

Here’s a weird thing to admit: I was actually concerned when I heard that Lord of the Rings Online brought back Chance Thomas to score this year’s Mordor expansion. It’s not that I dislike him or his music; on the contrary, I recognized that Thomas has created a large amount of terrific music for this MMO’s beloved score. And while SSG has done very well with its scoring in house (Gondor in particular), I would normally be ecstatic to see Thomas come back again.

My concern stemmed from the source material. Mordor is evil, through and through, and I knew that this would call for an oppressively dark soundtrack. I felt that no matter who scored it, it wasn’t going to be an eminently listenable album, and I worried that Thomas’ efforts would be hamstrung by this setting.

After receiving an advance copy of the score (which will go on sale digitally November 1st), I found my concern borne out. Mordor’s OST is very competent and does a great job helping to sell the corrupted, death-strewn nation — but it’s not anywhere near as fun to listen to as, say, Thomas’ adventurous Riders of Rohan or his classic Shadows of Angmar work. That said, there are a couple of standout pieces and some very interesting elements going on with these tunes, so let’s go through it track by track to grok this latest chapter in the LOTRO musical archive.

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LOTRO Legendarium: A shocking Halloween twist

Two of my absolute favorite “inconsequential” elements of Lord of the Rings Online have to be the Haunted Burrow every Halloween and the whole Bingo Boffin saga, the latter which I just enjoyed for the first time this past summer. When I discovered that these two features were on a collision course during this year’s Harvest Festival, I about fell off my chair. I might have even ranted a little to my kin about how I was disappointed that no one informed me of this fact. You think that I should start reading patch notes or something…

Since I have run the Haunted Burrow to death (pardon the pun), I eagerly turned to devour this new scrap of holiday content and to reunite with one of my favorite characters in the game. Ever since I’d finished up with the wonderful conclusion of the Bingo quest line, I’ve been secretly hoping that this wouldn’t be the end. That the developers would, one day, bring back this character and Bingo would ride again.

And while his much smaller quest series for the Harvest Festival is a breezy and mostly unremarkable affair, Bingo Boffin brought back his goofy charm — and a shocking twist that might be hinting at dire events to come in LOTRO’s game world.

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LOTRO Legendarium: Grading Lord of the Rings Online in 2017

At the beginning of 2017, it seemed as though a mini-renaissance was brewing for Lord of the Rings Online. Standing Stone Games broke away from the sinking ship that was Turbine and offered a fresh start of sorts for the long-running MMO. We were coming to a head with the game’s story and a return to large-scale expansions was confirmed with the news of Mordor.

Reality and hopes don’t always get along, and while 2017 hasn’t always been the kindest to LOTRO, it hasn’t been a crushing disappointment either. The more I’ve been looking at the state of the game, reading the forums, playing it, and covering news, the more I’ve felt the need to grade how the game is doing in the right here and now.

So why not? It’s school season, so let’s embrace the academic spirit and assign some marks to LOTRO’s operation and state. Agree with these grades? Disagree? Get out your quill and scratch your own thoughts down there in the comments!

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LOTRO Legendarium: Six places LOTRO could go after Mordor

It always seems a bit unfair, a bit impatient, and a bit premature to be asking that eternal question of an MMO: “What’s next?” This, perhaps, is doubly true when a recent meaty expansion is still providing an (exploded) mountain of content with an instance cluster on the way. You can almost hear the developers’ eyes roll and their exasperated sighs as they say, “Can’t you be content with where you are right now?”

No, not really. Speculating about the future is one of the exciting hallmarks of MMO fandom, and I feel it’s entirely possible to be both content with where you’re at while wondering what’s to come. So with that caveat out of the way… what’s next for Lord of the Rings Online when Mordor is said and done?

Before we dig into the possibilities (six of them, to be precise), we should acknowledge that Mordor itself will no doubt be the central focus of LOTRO through the end of this year and probably most of 2018 as well. There is a great deal of landscape left undeveloped and unexplored, and I have no doubt that the Black Book of Mordor could be expanded into a fat volume when all is said and done.

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LOTRO Legendarium: Is Mordor too difficult?

If there’s one topic of discussion that I’ve been hearing a lot in world chat, on the forums, and among my kinship, it’s about Lord of the Rings Online: Mordor and its huge jump in difficulty.

It is pretty much the first thing you notice when you head through the Black Gates to the land beyond. Mordor is waiting there, ready to chew you up and spit you back out. Until you start getting the new quest gear rewards and bump up your Light level with it, progress is agonizingly slow. And even after a zone or two, it’s far from a walk in the park. Mobs hit hard, have deep health pools, and often are packed together so that pulling just one is an impossibility. I’ve probably died more times these past few weeks than the last two years in LOTRO.

It’s almost like I’m playing a different game. Once or twice, I’ve rested my forehead against my desk and typed out in frustration, “It feels like this expansion wants to abuse me!” And I hear nothing but sympathy in response from those feeling the same.

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LOTRO Legendarium: A trip back through LOTRO’s expansions

Now that we’re in the thick of Lord of the Rings Online: Mordor (which I’m still enjoying very much), my mind has taken a turn back to look over 10 years of gameplay updates and expansions.

It’s bizarre to think back to a time when the entirety of the game was merely eight or nine zones crammed up in Eregion. While there’s still plenty of Middle-earth to uncover and explore, the ensuing decade vastly opened up the game world and took us on a journey that spanned from Bag End to Barad-dûr.

It all starts to blur together after a while, particularly after alternative leveling regions were added, the epic story was changed to be more solo accessible, and the studio experimented with different forms of content delivery. I felt like taking a quick trip through the expansions that brought us to where we are today. Because… why not, really?

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LOTRO Legendarium: First steps into Mordor

Victory.

It’s a fascinating place to begin an expansion, really. Most games like to set up a new threat, pit players against impossible odds, and have them struggle toward a final boss in some distant raid somewhere. Lord of the Rings Online, however, enjoys bucking trends now and then, and no more so than with its new Mordor expansion.

The first few minutes revisit the conclusion of the Quest of the One Ring, with the surprising triumph of the Battle of the Black Gate, the eagle air-lift of Sam and Frodo, and the destruction of the Ring. Everyone is taken to a peaceful glade to lick their wounds, reconnect with friends, and savor the victory. Even the epic book, which we’ve been working on completing for 10 years now, has come to a conclusion. Shortest expansion ever, right?

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LOTRO Legendarium: Mordor’s pre-order is flat-out ridiculous

Outrageous. Ridiculous. Exciting. Exploitative. Controversial.

This past week’s announcement of Lord of the Rings Online: Mordor’s launch date and pre-order packages set ablaze discussions and arguments among the community, both in-game and without. World chat was streaming by quickly as players debated the pros and cons of the reveal, while the forums blew up with huge posts defending and criticizing the pre-order packages.

While this is not the travesty that some are making it out to be, I definitely agree with those that say Standing Stone Games misstepped with this announcement and needs to take some action to rectify the confusion and value of the upcoming expansion. While LOTRO players seem united in their anticipation for Mordor, some of that enthusiasm has been dashed with how the dating and packages have been handled, and that is a shame.

Let’s break it all down and see what we’ve learned and what pre-order might be best for you!

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