LOTRO Legendarium: Why LOTRO needs a progression server

    
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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!

This isn’t the progression server you’re looking for

I want to start out this thought exercise by denouncing the concept of a progression server where the devs somehow turn back the server clocks to 2007 and allow players to experience the same game code as was in existence at that time.

For starters, I sincerely doubt that the old code exists anywhere. What RuneScape did with its “old school” server was possible only because the team found old server tech that still had the code on it. Most studios do not save their entire ancient codebase on a few million 3.5″ floppy discs for a rainy day.

Plus, theoretically turning back the clock would reintroduce bugs, creaky mechanics, and so many potential conflicts that I couldn’t see that working. Is there demand for such a server? Perhaps on a limited scale, but I do not see a lot of people waxing nostalgic over the days of slower combat and no map in the Old Forest. No, it’s best to dismiss a “retro” server out of hand.

Why a progression server could work

Like many older MMOs, LOTRO has a lot going for and against it. One of its greatest assets, in my opinion, is a wealth of established content: Eight years’ worth of updates, plenty of new zones and regions, hundreds of additional quests, and five expansions. It’s already most of the way through the books in terms of story progression and territory, which provides any new player with a lengthy adventure.

Then you have an established population that is always looking for reasons to roll up alts and get a new experience out of a game players have traversed for the better part of a decade now. The addition of a Beorning class was quite helpful in providing said new experience, except that players who tried out the new class were instantly 100 levels and countless hours behind the curve of the bulk of the population.

So take plenty of content to gate, couple it with an established population that would love to get a hit of that “new MMO smell,” and come up with a smart way to roll it out. Suddenly our theoretical progression server is an experience unlike the game has seen to date.

My vision for a LOTRO progression server

If I were dev for a day and had the power to make anything happen instantly, here’s what I would do in regard to a progression server ruleset.

First, I would announce and hype the heck out of it because why do something like this if you’re not going to get some major publicity out of it? LOTRO’s not doing expansions any more, so there are fewer reasons to blow the trumpets over “big” events. This could be a big thing that not many other games are doing. Plus, given time to prepare, kinships and leveling duos could make plans for the jump to the new server.

The tricky thing would be figuring out how to segment the actual progression. Would there be a hard level cap that would be slowly increased over time? Would you gate by expansions? By zones? What about the epic books? Personally, I think it would need to be a hybrid of all of those.

I envision starting out the server with only the first three zones (the Shire, Ered Luin, and Bree-land) and a level 20 cap. The server could exist like this for a while to allow kins and characters to become established, snag housing, and explore the first stages of the epic book.

Then, I’d gradually (every month or so) raise the level cap by five or 10, open up zones to match those levels, and unlock the epic books that take place in those regions. The key would be to strike a balance between going quickly enough that players wouldn’t be too bored but not so fast that the population progressing together would get spread out. Such a pace could take the entire server from the beginning through the most current content in about two years.

In fact, since we’re talking about a special server ruleset, I’d want one additional feature: If a player were more than 10 levels behind the current progression cap, then he or she would be treated to a massive XP buff so that catching up wouldn’t be a chore. That way players who come into the server months after its start could still have a chance of experiencing it with others.

The benefits of a progression server

Really, what I’m envisioning here is crafting a LOTRO experience that we can’t get on a large scale right now: Starting fresh and progressing together with a bulk of the playerbase through classic and modern zones. By creating artificial gates, the devs could slow players down to really enjoy content they now zip through and re-experience dungeons, quest lines, and areas that have long since grown stale.

While it would be some work for the studio to create and run, I would think that a progression server would be a smart use of existing assets and a constant excuse to make game update announcements.

Even smarter would be to involve the progression server community to come up with special events (scavenger hunts and races in the currently unlocked zones?) and to talk about favorite areas and stories. Think of it as a nostalgia-fueled roadtrip with both the devs and players in the van together (a… big van).

Plus, we haven’t had a new server in so very long. The chance to start over or return to the game when a server opens its doors is a strong call to some players.

Is this an interesting or a dumb idea? Would you roll on such a server, or do you have a better idea how to organize it? Sound off in the comments!

Every two weeks, the LOTRO Legendarium goes on an adventure (horrid things, those) through the wondrous, terrifying, inspiring, and, well, legendary online world of Middle-earth. Justin has been playing LOTRO since its launch in 2007! If you have a topic for the column, send it to him at justin@massivelyop.com.
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FredRenan
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FredRenan

Jezo Wow, I quite agree with you… I still dream about moria, have never wandered beyound Trollshalls, but I’ve been awhile for some years. That’s it, cooking, farming, role-playing and even playing with permadeath had gave me a lot of fun stories to tell!
I loved the idea of progression server because of the instance population reasons. And also, it would also be amazing to see people hanging around places like the North Downs more.
And, as far as I see, from a financial and tecnical point of view, I don’t really believe that one single server will cost so much it isn’t worth the throw. (Also remember all the itens people will buy and use there).
The main issue will be the crew costs for such an enterprise, which may hinder the hype a little.
Any way, I loved the idea, hope someday it comes true!

bardamu1999
Guest
bardamu1999

thain Speaking as a person who came late to LotRO who wanted to do group content I can totally see the need.   Many times I heard stories or came upon some really evocative set piece and folks in guild or in chat would talk about how it was some instance nobody does anymore.  Once or twice I was able to convince some folks to give it a shot and they either wiped due to inexperience with instances, or just rolled over it very easily since they were out leveling the content.  
So if you keep pace with the pop with these servers I’d be able to do all of those instances and content I hear about but couldn’t do myself.

bardamu1999
Guest
bardamu1999

Kinda counterintuitive, IMO; the idea of merges is to cut costs, a progression server would just add to Turbine’s financial burden.  
So, yeah, if we had 3 wishes from an MMO genie, sure.  But realistically this would shorten the game’s lifespan if implemented.

Draugris
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Draugris

I think this is an interesting idea, i´ve never played on a progression server in any game before. But the big question is if there is enough playerbase left that are interested in such kind of mode. When i log in to my Lotro server there are around 300 people hanging around in the channels which is not much. I would try a progression server with a RP ruleset for sure.

thain
Guest
thain

Am I just completely missing something? While I see the appeal of being able to revisit old dungeons, I don’t quite get the point of such a “progression” server. I mean I kind of get it as forced nostalgia, but I guess im just completely uninterested.

MesaSage
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MesaSage

Lenn_Len zoward  Same here.  I’m on a server that will likely not be closed because it’s “mid-pop”.  Still, I’m not looking forward to consolidation because that means we’ll have a population spike when the others are closed.  The lag is already terrible whenever the festivals roll around, even in areas not participating in the festival.  I tried running the horse races yesterday in Bree and the Shire and both of them were ruined by lag, which has become an increasing issue for us.
That doesn’t seem to get through to the writers on this site, who continue to champion consolidation, despite having little direct experience with what that will mean for players.

RooWoods
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RooWoods

Not sure about a progression server for Lotro but I certainly think WoW could do with some .

ThompsonClaytonRadcliff
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ThompsonClaytonRadcliff

Whether you agree or disagree with the idea, it’s DOA.  There’s no resources to create and maintain a progression server.  That’s been made abundantly clear.

Loyheta
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Loyheta

BalsBigBrother Same here >.< I’m sure mine is something like “oh that would be awesome”.

hubristic
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hubristic

xGBHx or, you know, let the person write an article that is interesting as a thought experiment and leave it at that.  The devs rarely listen to the player base (housing? kinship revamp proposal that has been on the forums for years?).