What a week this has been! Originally I was all gung-ho to talk about nothing else than all of the new Halloween content that Lord of the Rings Online has added, but with the word of the coming progression server, I knew we had to discuss that too. So saddle up for a long ride this week!
He who runs behind the rows
I don’t know why SSG didn’t talk all of this up more ahead of time, because this is one of the best festival additions we’ve seen in years. Wistmead is one of the most atmospheric zones in the game, and I was genuinely creeped out (and even touched!) by the second Bingo Boffin Harvestmath questline. We’ve been waiting for the resolution to that cliffhanger for a year now, and I was not disappointed.
And while the maze feels like a bit of a rehash from the Spring Festival labyrinth, I’ll give it a pass because it reminds me of the corn mazes that my family and I go through every fall. All in all, I had a wonderful time strolling through player neighborhoods, exploring the new content, revisiting the Haunted Burrow, and getting all of the cosmetics, mounts, and decor that I wanted. Bravo, devs, for raising the bar for Halloween content.
Legendary Worlds on their way
With that out of the way, I think we really should discuss the “Legendary Worlds” that SSG announced earlier this week. If you didn’t catch the announcement, the studio said that it will be opening up a new server type this fall that will initially cap progress at level 50 and the original Shadows of Angmar zones. Then, every four months after that, the studio will unlock more levels and content so that the community can progress through it together.
This certainly sparked a firestorm of discussion that divided players up into three camps. You either were really excited about it (as I am!), you were against it (mostly out of fear that it would take population away from other servers), or you were disgruntled that the server wasn’t set up the way that you would have preferred.
It’s hard to judge how much of the latter is just cranky players being cranky on the forums as they always are and how much is valid insight. The main arguments against this server type as I’ve seen include the lack of the original trait lines (a big sticking point to many who have hated the newer trait trees), the current ease of leveling and character power compared to 2007’s launched game, the limitations to subscribers-only, and the presence of the LOTRO store.
What’s the point?
Again, it depends on the person and what they wanted. I think you have your people who really would love to see a classic vanilla LOTRO server done resurrected from 2007, while others are more open to a modern version but with some sensible changes. One argument that I’ve seen from this crowd is that if SSG isn’t really taking the server back in time, what’s the point?
Let me speak to that point, because there is one. Make no mistake, this server is not a retro server in the vein of Old School RuneScape or WoW Classic. SSG is far too small and lacks the serious resources such an effort would take. You may want it, you may wish for it, but let’s be honest: It’s not going to happen. It might not even be a remote possibility if the code or original hardware doesn’t exist any more.
What this server is is a modern progression server. The whole point isn’t to give us a 2007-era world and freeze us in time, it’s to start a new community out together and keep a leveling crowd roughly in the same brackets over time. That right there has huge appeal for some players.
A fresh start
Starting out new in LOTRO these days or rolling up an alt means months if not well over a year before your character is right up there in the endgame content with everyone else. It’s a huge world and a very long journey, and it kind of stinks to do it all by yourself. Nobody’s running at-level instances. Nobody’s chatting in those zones. But on a progression server, everyone is being offered the chance to go through this journey as a group without the fear of being left behind or struggling to catch up.
There’s also the appeal of starting out fresh on a brand-new server, which LOTRO hasn’t had for many, many years, by the way. It’s a new economy, new kinships, new acquisitions, and new personal achievements. I love fresh starts because what was old hat becomes sort of new again, if only for a little while.
I’ve seen a lot of people note that with the Stone of the Tortoise, players right now can artificially limit their progression and stay in whatever zones they want. That’s true, but that’s also missing the fun of a whole community going through old content alongside of you. It’s also ignoring the effect that a game can have when it limits your content and then periodically doles out more of it. Again, it’s about recreating that feeling of expansions dropping and moving into an ever-expanding world.
A proven system
There is no doubt that Daybreak-controlled SSG is doing this because it has been proven to work in EverQuest and EverQuest II. In fact, this is exactly the same sort of progression server that both of those MMOs have gotten and enjoyed over the years. People like them. They’re fun. They’re an option for a different kind of experience, and that appeals to some and not to others.
What I don’t think doomy and gloomy people are seeing in their pouting fits is that if this server is not for you, then don’t worry about it. Don’t play it. But it could be a really good thing for the game as a whole.
Why? Because we’ve seen in this industry that progression and legacy servers are Big, Exciting News that draws attention back to an older title. It won’t take a lot of resources for SSG to pull off, but it will rake in a good chunk of publicity, even months later as each new content expansion unlocks.
Three suggestions for this server
That all said, I think the community has some good ideas as to what SSG could and should do with this server. If it is at all feasible, bringing back trait lines would go a long, long way to pulling old-school players into the idea of this server. I’m not sure how much work that would entail, but if there was only one big feature or change SSG made with this ruleset, that would be my recommendation.
I also second those who would like to see the LOTRO store disabled or severely curtailed on this server. Considering that everyone on the shard will be subscribers, SSG is getting their money regularly and doesn’t need to grub for more. And the store’s advantages for progression will undercut the idea of a pristine leveling experience. SSG should take a cue here from Trion Worlds’ RIFT Prime server and reign in its cash shop.
Finally, make sure this server is stable and tested before launching it. Considering that this is supposed to be one worldwide server, I can only imagine the latency and technical issues that will arise from people all over the globe trying to cram in and play on this server. SSG has a history of rushing out half-tested content, and it will shoot this server in the foot if it does so here.
In any case, speaking just for myself, I’m psyched and ready to roll up a Hobbit for a new adventure through the entirety of Middle-earth come this fall!