If all goes well, within a few days the Lord of the Rings Online
community will be getting its first glimpse of Mordor with the release of Update 20 (Standing Stone Games
said that it is "tentatively planning"
to roll out the patch next week). I don't know if I'm prepared, but after months of speed-leveling my Lore-master through the last few expansions, I'm in a place where I will be among the crowd that charges into the Wastes on launch day.
Update 20 is a big event for several reasons and should give us some insight into what the developers are thinking with their Mordor expansion later this year. Plus, with the 10th anniversary event right around the corner, the LOTRO community will have a bounty of content and activities to keep it busy during these spring months.
So as we saddle up our horses (and ponies and goats) for the trip north into the Wastes, let's mull over what we can expect when Update 20 lands.
This past week, I received this letter from reader Thurro: "Your recent LOTRO
resurgence has my interest, and from the sounds of you on the podcast I might not be the only one. Would you consider writing a beginners guide or even just a list of tips for getting started from scratch?"
Sure, why not? It's still a little too early to tell, but we could be seeing a nice little LOTRO renaissance right now, and I bet that there are more than a few players who are checking the game out for the first time after reading the news and hearing recommendations from others. Considering that it's a massive MMORPG with 10 years of content and expansions, I could see how it might be overwhelming during your first week.
A true guide would probably take so much longer than the space I have this week, so let me present a quick and dirty starting guide to the this wonderful MMO and then point you to LOTRO Wiki for any further questions (seriously, it's a great resource!). Let's get started!
Like probably most of the population of Lord of the Rings Online
, I was initially interested in player housing when it first came out, gave it the ol' college try for the first year or so to work within its limitations, and mostly forgot about it after that.
It was a sore point with the community, a subpar housing experience in a game that screamed for a robust feature on par with some of the genre's best. Year after year, a housing revamp was the top most-requested desire from players, and year after year, Turbine either ignored it, delayed it, or promised and then abandoned it.
Yet over the past year we've actually seen some movement on this front with two important changes: the addition of premium housing in Gondor and, most recently, Update 19.3's expansion of housing hook functionality. With these in mind, I turned my attention back to housing for the first time in so very long -- and found myself actually enraptured with creating a new home for myself. It's not the complete overhaul that we want and the game still needs, but it's far better than nothing and has actually revitalized the housing scene somewhat.
We are one month into 2017, and already the MMO genre is brimming with anticipation over several upcoming expansions. One of those has no name -- yet -- but is still the talk of the Lord of the Rings Online
I confess that I am a little puzzled how Standing Stone is currently handling the reveal of the Mordor expansion. One assumes that there's an official reveal in the works, yet at the same time, the studio's been quite chatty about some aspects of the expansion if particular outlets happen to ask about them.
The end result is a scattering of information around several sites, including the main LOTRO site and its producer's letter, leaving us with the task of putting together a picture of what we know so far about this next step of our epic journey through Middle-earth. Today, let's count down 10 things we know will be in the Mordor expansion proper (the title of which I am guessing will be The Doom of Mordor).
If you are looking for a bridge between you and the sometimes dense (but quite popular) works of J.R.R. Tolkien, then you could do no better than to sit at the feet of the Tolkien Professor. Dr. Corey Olsen
has been teaching about Tolkien and his collective works for years, providing understanding and fostering discussion in a way that is always interesting and accessible.
Recently, Olsen started up a new course at Signum University (where he is both the founder and president) called "Explore the Lord of the Rings on Location." This free, public course meets every week for a lecture through a chapter in Tolkien's famous trilogy, followed by a "field trip" in Lord of the Rings Online to locations mentioned. It's been a highly publicized event so far, with Standing Stone even creating a special lecture hall in Bree for the series. Interested parties can attend in person in the game, watch via Twitch, or catch up with afterward on the series' YouTube channel.
We caught up with Dr. Olsen to talk about the making of the course, the history behind his university, and his interaction with the long-running MMORPG.
Ever since I've been covering Lord of the Rings Online
for this site (dating back to 2010!), I've had a tradition of kicking off every year with a wishlist of some of my greatest desires for the game. I think I missed last year, but in the years previous, I would allow myself one wish for every year the game has been operating.
This year? The 10th anniversary means 10 wishes, baby!
It's shaping up to be quite an interesting and exciting year for LOTRO. I've seen friends coming back to the game thanks to the recent news and the promise of the expansion into Mordor. It's almost like we need periodic reminders that, "Oh yeah, that game is still running! And it's pretty darn good!"
But what would I like to see changed, added, or created for the MMO this year? Whether or not the devs ever get around to these, any of them would make my day.
One of the threads that weaves the Lord of the Rings narrative together is that of hope. Holding onto faith in friends, perseverance against all odds, and trust that good will prevail against overwhelming evil is something the Fellowship struggles with, yet in the end, that hope is fulfilled in the salvation of Middle-earth.
"Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles," Gaffer is known for saying. And the hope that was made good in the books is the hope that the LOTRO community holds on in these waning hours of 2016. After a rocky year full of ups (the Battle of Pelennor Fields, new housing) and downs (the datacenter move, latency issues), this aging MMO and its players faced upheaval as the game was handed off to a new studio, a new publisher, and a new future.
I've heard it said from many people that they are "cautiously optimistic" about where Lord of the Rings Online goes from here. It's a cautious hope, and one which I can identify. As a longtime (and recently returning) player to this fantasy world, I want nothing but the best going forward for LOTRO. But is that hope grounded in truth or mere wishes?
As Lord of the Rings Online
nears its impressive 10th birthday in April of next year, we see a game that's in many ways coming to its own personal endgame. To be sure, LOTRO
could indeed keep on thriving for another decade to come, but the guidance of the books and the progress of the updates has kept the story marching steadily toward the climax of Mordor and Mount Doom.
At the start of 2016, players were still in the thick of Gondor and facing the largest battle of their characters' lives. At the end, the battle is behind them, a brief respite consumed, and the task of pounding down the doors of the black country to the east remains.
Let's take a look at the year that was Lord of the Rings Online, from its updates to its festivals to its community to the future. Perhaps this is an MMO past its prime, but in at least one important way, it is only now maturing into what it was destined to be.
There are always those gut-check moments in your life when you realize just how much time has passed. For instance, I'm going to look up into a mirror at the end of this month to see a 40-year-old man who still thinks he's about 20. It's weird to have these moments because as you get older, time both appears to move faster while seeming to stand still.
So it was just yesterday, wasn't it, that Lord of the Rings Online launched? Not nine years ago, just shy of a full decade? It can't be that old, it just can't. I remember playing it as my wife and I -- then quite childless and completely unappreciative of uninterrupted nights of sleep -- bought our first house. I had originally leaned on LOTRO as a welcome substitute for World of Warcraft, having become burned out on the latter and looking for something a little more subtle and yet richer in other areas.
Recently I returned to LOTRO after about a 10-month break. I knew it was going to be not a long-term reunion but a gab session with an old friend. If nothing else, I wanted to go through the epic story and catch up with the latest installments. While I've long since lost interest in character progression, leveling, and looting in LOTRO, seeing the story through to the end feels very important to me.
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.
I might be a little tardy in doing this, but every spring since I started to write about Lord of the Rings Online
, I've done a column in honor of the game's anniversary. When I began, LOTRO
was only a few years old; now it's two years shy
of a full decade.
In the past I've discussed the history of the game and some of the grander milestones, but today I'd like to engage LOTRO's anniversary on a smaller, more personal level. As with many of you, I have a screenshot folder that is practically bulging with pictures taken of my adventures over the years. While some of those are just pretty vistas, others have significant stories attached.
So I'm going to share eight of those pictures with you, starting with the header up there. Back in the first few years, there was nothing as breathtaking -- or screenshotted -- as the descent into Rivendell. It's definitely long in the tooth today, but I'm still impressed with the tranquility, beauty, and design that the devs conveyed in this remote outpost.
While I've been playing Lord of the Rings Online
as one of my main MMOs for almost a decade now, it's primarily been for the single-player experience through the majestic and detailed world. I suspect that a disproportionally large percentage of the playerbase approaches the game in a similar fashion compared to other fantasy MMOs.
There's something about LOTRO's group content that's never been able to convince me that it's worth doing in the same way that I would in other games. I've liked it well enough when circumstances conspired to throw me into a group experience, but I've never felt that doing dungeons was something I had to do to gear up. Quest rewards have been just fine to get me through the zones and epic story thus far, and I don't think that will change.
And for a time, it looked as though Turbine had acknowledged that this was the case by taking instance clusters off the table in early 2014 in favor of lesser group content, like epic battles, roving warbands, and a handful of tougher areas. However, now that the game is under new leadership and well into a new year, we're seeing the return of the dungeon at last. Why the change of direction and how might it benefit the community? That's been on my mind a lot as of late.
At some point this year -- Turbine
isn't saying when, yet -- Lord of the Rings Online
will be making an effort to consolidate server populations
. It's a good move, considering that this MMO has quite a few servers and the players are too spread out. I'm hoping that transferring players from low-pop servers will grow the community and forge new friendships.
As I whole-heartedly support merges (or whatever PR phrase you want to use to avoid that dreaded term), what I am going to say next will sound really strange: I think the studio should open up a new server. And not just any old ruleset server, but a progression server.
I've been jealous of seeing games like EverQuest roll out this type of special ruleset because it seems like such a fun idea that few other studios are willing to implement. Well, I think a progression server would be a huge shot in the arm for LOTRO and could be a marketing boon if done correctly. Or maybe I'm simply mad in the head. Either way, I'm going to muse on what a progression server would look like and how it could help the game!