LOTRO Legendarium: Examining 2019’s amazing producer’s letter

    
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I swear, the news never fails to make a monkey out of me. Just the other day I was grousing about how it was the end of February here and we had yet to get our annual Lord of the Rings Online producer’s letter, and the very next day one pops out of Standing Stone Games as though the team had a spy waiting for me to say that.

Coming at the end of a week of fairly dour news in the MMORPG industry, it was a much-needed blast of upbeat revelations about the future of LOTRO as it heads deeper into 2019. While some of the letter mentioned expected developments — Minas Morgul, the Moria unlock for the progression servers — there were more than a few surprises that completely took me off guard.

It was certainly interesting to see where SSG’s mind is at right now, and we can learn almost as much from what wasn’t said (no talk on housing, additional classes, additional races, legendary item update) as what was. So what is this year looking like? Let’s comb through the letter and enjoy its informational bounty.

Expansion spotted ahead!

I don’t know about you, but I really wasn’t expecting any full-fledged expansions after Mordor. The dev team had abandoned the expansion model before for Gondor and then returned to it — and I want to say that both the decision to return to packs and to prepare another one for the future is most likely a product of Daybreak’s influence. That’s my gut feeling, but no matter what, I think that expansions are good for games’ profits and publicity.

So while we know that there is an expansion coming, it is most likely a ways out if SSG isn’t naming it quite yet. Sev said that we have at least two content drops (Vale of Anduin and Minas Morgul) coming before it arrives. So at earliest, it’ll reach us late 2019, but I’m willing to bet that it might even be an early 2020 release.

In any case, it’s good to hear that SSG is both planning one and putting some thought into its level of difficulty. I wasn’t alone in feeling as though Mordor was far to much of a tiresome slog due to the jacked-up difficulty level. The studio announced that with the seventh expansion, the questing content will be more or less on par with updates elsewhere, although there will be instances with difficulty levels that will offer increased challenge to those who want to try it. That’s a great choose-your-own-adventure attitude to take, and I’m glad I won’t be hesitant about the next expansion when it arrives.

Mr. Sauron, tear those virtues down!

As welcome as news of the expansion was, what really made my jaw drop was reading that virtues are finally — finally — receiving an overhaul. More specifically, the relationship between virtues and deeds. The gist is that instead of having to pursue very specific deeds to increase a related virtue, players will get “virtue experience” from all deeds to apply toward any desired virtue.

This is brilliant.

I’m serious. It’s a better fix than any I had proposed over the years without having to tear down and completely reinvent the system. Deeds will remain. Virtues will remain. But the relationship between them has gone from a rigidly fixed one to a very flexible format that delivers choice to players. I’ve leveled countless characters over the past dozen years and have long since grown tired of doing the same specific deeds to gather the virtues I needed.

Now — now we can just do whatever deeds agree with our playstyle the best. Unless SSG makes the virtue leveling so prohibitive that you have to do all of the deeds in the world, I can’t see a downside here. We can choose the path of least resistance — or the path of “the deeds I’ve almost finished already.” And the fact that all virtues will benefit your character, slotted or not, might give us more of an alternative advancement system to fleshing out an adventurer when there’s nothing else to do.

Everything else

After those two bombshells, everything else in the letter was nice but not quite as overwhelming. The 64-bit client, which has been coming since forever now, will make its debut this spring (yay). There are some really nifty crafting and kinship system improvements on the docket, which will give those older systems some much-needed refreshing.

I’m much more curious what the new grouping tool or revision is going to look like when it actually arrives. If this results in an increase in people using such a tool, then I’m all for it. I’d love to see the instance side of the game pick up in popularity, especially in light of how much fun that legendary server players are having with dungeon runs.

Beyond each of these specific categories, it’s just great to see SSG, as small as it is, continuing to burn brightly as it continues to develop this game for those of us who are enjoying the ever-progressing journey. The company’s managed to give us a few fun surprises over the past year, and that makes me think that there might be more on the way than this letter is suggesting.

So what did you think of the letter? Let’s get the conversation rolling 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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Matt Comstock

The virtue update, as you say, is simply brilliant! When I was playing, I mostly started ignoring directed efforts at increasing my chosen virtues. It was too annoying, at least for me, to track down the right things to grind out, and often super annoying to go back and farm out bog lurkers and neeker beekers…

Also glad to hear an expansion is on the way. I may have to dive back in to LOTRO at some point this year.

Ben Griggs
Staff
Ben Griggs

That virtue system sounds like of like Champion Points in ESO. I think it’ll work really well!

Ben Griggs
Staff
Ben Griggs

*a lot like

Sheesh

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firelily

We need a speculation thread (or article from Justin) about what the next expansion is going to be. Gundabad or Nurn? I’m thinking Nurn, given how large it is.

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Sleepy

Ooh, let’s have a Scouring of the Shire expansion, please! I was always a bit disgusted that the films completely omitted it, was great in the books to see the character development of the supporting hobbits play out through it.

Some of the negativity in this thread, good lord.

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Coldrun ??

That’d be awesome! Sort of a “Lord of the Rings: The After Years.” One of my favorite parts of the books, seeing how everyone had grown.

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Matthew Yetter

I have long said that this would be awesome to see in the game, and could actually be done with relatively less development time than other expansions. Ideally, the entire Ered Luin/Shire/Bree region would go through a slow metamorphosis based on your progress in the Epic Story. It would be as-is through Isengard. Once you’ve reached that point in the story, traveling back to those lands would send you to a different instance where Shark’s reach has grown — probably with a few small quest lines to experience the changes and try and help slow his influence. Then following the destruction of the Ring, returning to those lands would bring you the true expansion content and allow you to help overthrow Saruman once and for all. They could even extend Sharky’s influence all the way up into the North Downs (turning Esteldin into a last hold out against him) and over into the Lone Lands.

Naturally, you would need to be able to change to an earlier version if you wanted to do stuff with lower level characters. The reflecting pools would be an ideal way to handle this.

Since they wouldn’t have to build whole new landscapes, they could just focus on evolving the regions.

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Viktor Budusov

64-bit client is the biggest bombshell i think :)

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Vincent Clark

I know Justin loves this game and you can almost hear the excitement in his words so I don’t want to try and temper that with any negativity. However…they mentioned the word expansion once, in passing. It wasn’t an announcement of any sort, official or otherwise. No dates (or time-frame), no name, not much of anything. The way that letter is written (I’m assuming for legal reasons), it’s pretty much a guarantee an expansion isn’t happening in 2019 at all.

Not even addressing the LI system is quite shocking. It eventually led to a response from Cordovan on the OF which, in itself, is comical for all the wrong reasons:

“Clearly there is a LOT of interest in additional information about Legendary Items. We’ll have to see what we can say on the subject.”

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Viktor Budusov

LI is not main problem of Lotro so i don’t see anything ‘shocking’.

There are THREE ‘expansion’ words in the letter. It’s obvious that expansion is in plans. With that sort of attention may be it’s not good idea to comment Lotro posts at all? Your negativity is ridiculous.

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Vincent Clark

I’ve already conceded above my error, but your comment about the LI’s not being a main problem is out of touch with about 80% of the population who play the game. It’s clearly an issue–otherwise, they wouldn’t now feel forced to address it’s omission from the letter.

For the record, my criticism of the game/company has nothing to do with you, so coming at me the way you did is a bit telling.

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PanagiotisLial1

Quite happy with everything mentioned in their producer’s letter and yes getting to pick which deeds you go for is a big step in the fun factor of leveling a new character

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Akagi

Agreed, I want to buy into the game too, but it’s too expensive and too confusing. They should include everything up till now in one package with a solid price. There was a lifetime subscription that is now gone and I don’t unserstand why. Even if it is $500, people will still buy it, hell, I will buy it…

By making everything so confusing they are isolating themselves from potential customers… They are clueless.

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PanagiotisLial1

Its very expensive for my budget not that expensive as you mention but you may still end up paying like 200-250 if you dont have a sub. I think its one of the games that best course of action is buy 6 months sub instead

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Thanos Karageorgiadis

I really wanted to start playing LOTRO but with all those expansions to buy its a big NO for me. Their shop is confusing and even if you wait for a sale the cost is too much for a new player.
Plus, you will need a sub to be able to play all content.
Im not sure theres another AA mmo out there in which you need to throw more than 100€ to buy it

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firelily

You certainly don’t need a sub to play all of it, and it’s not as complicated or expensive as that. The game will let you know what you need to buy as you level. The main quest will take you to different places and you will get a prompt to buy them. You don’t need to buy any expansions until level 50, for example, and all the starting areas are entirely free (which will give you a good idea of the game and will keep you playing for a while), as are most classes. There’s also tons of detailed guides on what and when to buy (the lotro reddit has a few).
Just start playing it and follow the main quest. Like I said, most of the time the game will tell you what you need to get when you actually need it. If you have any more questions let me know, or you can ask in the general forums.

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Roger Edwards

Ah the use of the word “goals”. Temper your expectations folks.

April-Rain
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Kickstarter Donor
April-Rain

I really do think Lotro could push its self to be up there with the top 3 mmo’s with right love and attention and improved performance.

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DargorV .

Not unless it receives a radical graphics overhaul

A lot of the Tolkien fans Ive shown the game to simply brushed it off because “it looks meh”

Can’t blame them, while Lotro is great, it hasn’t aged well

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Malcolm Swoboda

It won’t get nearly enough to be ‘top 3 mmos’ anymore.

But we can hope that its best aspects influence a future multiplayer LOTR setting game.