LOTRO Legendarium: Starting on a legendary journey

    
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Part of me was laughing at myself. Here I was, a grown man, shuffling around my weekly schedule to come home in the middle of the day to play an MMORPG that had been out for over 11 years. And more than that, I was practically bouncing up and down because of it.

For those that look at the legendary servers with crinkled expressions, at a loss as to the appeal, I must be Exhibit A in foolishness. What did these servers have anything to offer, really, that we couldn’t get on live? Yet for the crowds that tried to jam in the launcher the second that Anor (and later, Ithil) went live, we saw an opportunity to go back in time and enjoy a fresh start in a way that we haven’t gotten in many years.

It was messy. It was glorious. It was even, at times, ugly. But that’s the usual mix for Lord of the Rings Online.

Initial success

Curiosity killed the cat, but it also brings MMO players who are starved for interesting stimuli to new experiences. Despite some loud forum grousing, the progression server saw enormous success out of the gate. Right away, the server filled up to the maximum and a queue of around 4,500 people stacked up against it. This got a bit ugly, as the queue counter wasn’t working and people were desperate to get in and grab their favorite names.

Standing Stone was at least somewhat prepared for this event, as it had another server on standby that went live relatively soon thereafter. Transfers took several days afterward to start happening, but at least the studio made them free for any communities that got separated in the chaos.

I was pretty impressed to see queues for Anor continue well into the weekend (reportedly, Ithil didn’t see as many of those). Even more impressive was the uptick of conversation around LOTRO on Twitter, Reddit, and elsewhere. It got some nice press in gaming outlets, and even one popular Twitch streamer was playing it and helped put this 2007-era MMO on the front page of that site for a short while.

Nostalgia-fueled fun

From the inside, I can say that people seemed to be having a blast. While this wasn’t the vanilla server that some (not I) wanted, the level 50 restriction and the whole fresh start made us recall the original launch.

It was a glorious romp in those first few days. Chat was streaming by rapidly, with conversations, observations, and kinship advertisements running nonstop. Newbie areas filled up quickly, and dynamic layers handled the overflow. It’s been so long since I saw that many people running through Archet and the Shire, and I was grinning ear-to-ear the whole time because of it.

By taking something old and familiar and giving us a new lens through which to see it, enjoyment could be found once again. I’ve always loved the low-level areas of the game, but having lots of people questing through them and discussing them gave me the sense of company and companionship in a way that I can’t really get on the live servers right now.

One phenomenon I noticed is that people were really open to grouping up, even for a quest or two. I was tossing out invites left and right when I was grinding out deeds, and more often than not, those invites were accepted and we worked together for a common goal in the landscape.

Sara Oakheart, you do NOT need that stick!

Apart from moaning about Sara’s plodding escort quest, the oppressive nature of the Old Forest, and the initial lack of Bingo Boffin, there were some genuine concerns raised. Chief among these was the proliferation of powerful damage-over-time bleeds which ended up killing the unwary — and even sometimes the prepared. It certainly made hitting level 20 without dying to get the title a lot more difficult.

While I was mostly happy with how the new server started, it was dismaying that SSG pretty much went AFK for the better part of three days while player concerns and questions stacked up. Eventually we got a patch to fix the bleeds, the return of Bingo, and an actual working queue counter, but communication (or a lack of it) remains one of the signature problems of this studio.

So as the newness wears away, where do we go from here? Some players have raced to the end already, while others of us are still making our journey through the original lands of Shadows of Angmar. It’s a long way to go and only four short months in which to do it before (presumably) Moria opens its doors.

We’ll see how popular the servers continue to be, but my hope is that the communities that have founded on them will endure and be energized by moving through the game together at a somewhat measured pace. I’m encouraged that the studio has put little touches on the server — such as the XP reducer and the re-addition of a few classic quests — to help us get into the mood of old-school LOTRO as we take our steps forward into a larger world.

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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Sleepy

Well, we’re more than a week in and there’s still a queue to log in at peak times. It’s not going away any time soon.

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Desiggn Freek

New to LOTRO and took that bait. Kinda regret it to be honest.

The game is just so mediocre. Really dont wish to be negative but people should know what theyre buying. Its really a very obvious WoW clone – without the polish or quality. The performance is just awful – constant stuttering, animations lock you in weird ways, texture popping everywhere you look, the audio has zero spatial or distance awareness. I could go on and on. And the game is even easier than WoW – never thought i’d say that. But ya, the leveling experience might be the most boring easy I’ve ever experienced. And buying VIP only gets you access to the Legendary server. You still have to buy certain races and classes – yep you do. And you still have to buy all the expansions once they release. Meh, ill try to get my moneys worth but i doubt any in my circle of friends will be staying past this month.

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teppic

It’s still keeping up high numbers, Combe and Staddle still have tons of horses running through as players go about to Chetwood and back. It’s still lots of fun.

Some downsides: communication is still appalling. The patch notes said they’d tuned bleeds (i.e. they’ve nerfed them into irrelevance) while increasing level 1-40 mob damage, but in fact damage has decreased quite a bit, and so mobs overall are extremely easy. This is completely the opposite of what most of the chat in game was praising – slightly harder, more challenging content being extremely fun. They’ve said pretty much nothing since the short patch notes were posted.

Level 50 content is severely undertuned, apparently people can complete 12 man raids in groups of 3 with basic gear. The studio has said nothing about this and ignored the countless comments on it. We just have to hope they’re working on it.

But aside from all this, levelling up on a busy server with a good community is lots of fun and I’d recommend giving it a go.

Cadaver
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Cadaver

Part of me was laughing at myself. Here I was, a grown man, shuffling around my weekly schedule to come home in the middle of the day to play an MMORPG that had been out for over 11 years. And more than that, I was practically bouncing up and down because of it.

It was strange to find myself excitedly getting up at 5.30am for the launch of server in a mmo from 2007! When I finally got into the game (14 hours later), I rolled up a new hobbit character and just sat around in Archet watching the world chat scroll by and soaking in the vibe.

What was old is new again and the familiar feels fresh. I knew I was hooked the moment I heard the classic character menu music. It’s great to be back.

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Barantor

I found the devs/mods more open in some communication lines like the unofficial discord where folks waited and chatted in queue had a few updates by Cordovan and the subreddit seemed to be very active.

It’s been fun having folks around while I quest and my experience has mostly been in line with Justin’s about grouping for quests and whatnot. What I’ve really noticed is that beyond the few folks that rushed to cap, the majority are spread fairly evenly across levels and several (like me) are taking their time and doing everything in an area before advancing, like all the deeds and all the reputations.

It’s a fun time and a good play by SSG.

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Phubarrh

The legendary server would have been perfect for me, since I’m really just playing through the game now after a few brief months at launch…but now I’ve been playing a year, and barely into Rohan. Really don’t think I want to start all over again at this point, sadly.

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Maggie May

Yea, I know the feeling. If this had happened a month ago I would have been all in with my small army if alts. As it is, I made a high elf Mini did the intro/tutorial, which not to give any spoilers (was definitely different and made me chuckle a little) then returned to my server to continue killing vile wights and burning bloated corpses in the lonelands.

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Ironwu

Because LOTRO has changed so little in terms of content modification (unlike WoW w/Cataclysm), I really don’t see the need for vanilla or classic servers in LOTRO.

About the only thing they would need to do to make it ‘old school’ LOTRO is modify experience, damage, and some quest lines. Nothing major like they are doing in WoW.

I guess that is why I do not see the long term appeal of this progression server. There is really nothing here that is not already available in current LOTRO.

But, certainly, enjoy it for what it gives you. I do hope it lasts for longer than I expect it to last.

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Reht

I guess that is why I do not see the long term appeal of this progression server. There is really nothing here that is not already available in current LOTRO.

Yeah, we get that you don’t understand the attraction. It gives new players a large playerbase to play with rather than soloing through the virtually unpopulated zones that you experience on the live servers, just like EQ, Rift, etc. I will have the opportunity to experience the content, even if it is watered down from its launch version, while it’s current on these servers with other players. Yes, there are quite a few new players, and i am on the smaller of the two servers. And yes, the population is something that is unavailable in current LOTRO.

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Viktor Budusov

Now people asks for Hardcore server (+200% incoming damage)

:)