LOTRO Legendarium: What I want from Amazon’s Lord of the Rings MMO

    
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While my primary interest and focus in this column continues to be Lord of the Rings Online, I’m not so stubborn as to refuse to make room for Amazon’s upcoming Lord of the Rings MMO. We’ve known for a while now that this project is in the works, but the company and developer isn’t saying much about it, so there really hasn’t been a lot to dissect in this space.

So what do we know? Well, we know that Athlon Games and Amazon Game Studios are working together to make a massively multiplayer game set in the Lord of the Rings universe. We know that it will be set chronologically before the book trilogy, that it’s being developed for both PC and console, that it wants to create “breathless” settings and characters, and that it will tell “all-new stories” in this familiar IP.

The scarcity of details on the project hasn’t stopped some in the community from rampantly speculating about what Amazon may one day deliver. Those who are disenfranchised with LOTRO in particular are hoping that they might get, I don’t know, LOTRO 2.0 with better graphics, combat, and maybe golf. But as this is my column, today I want to just share with you what I would like to see in this game if and when it ever launches.

Faithful in feel

If we look to Middle-earth video games beyond MMORPGs, we see that there have been many attempts to portray The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings from the early 1980s to present day. Some of these are much more faithful to the Tolkien’s source material, while others merely sport a superficial Middle-earth skin.

One of the reasons that I’ve loved Lord of the Rings Online for over a decade now is that the developers have truly committed themselves to creating “the game of the books” that was as deeply immersed in lore, world-building, and proper setting as could be. When you have The Tolkien Professor use this game above all others to show how accurate the devs were in fashioning a world straight from the books, you know you’re doing something right.

So if I had one over-arching wish for Amazon’s project, it was that it would strive to be equally faithful and diligent in replicating J.R.R. Tolkien’s vision. Obviously, it will need to take story and setting liberties, since it is a prequel set in a time that isn’t as fully covered by the books, but there’s nothing stopping the devs from trying to replicate that “faithful feel” that makes Middle-earth a much different place to adventure than Azeroth or Tyria.

I just don’t want to jump into this game and see that it’s nothing but some bloody hack-and-slash murderfest where people name-drop Sauron on occasion before going on to decapitating Orcs and using steampunk blimps to race around the world. Not that that wouldn’t be cool in its own right, but it wouldn’t be Lord of the Rings.

Sampling the best

I certainly am not going to levy expectations that Athlon and Amazon make this MMO as if it was being designed in the mid-2000s. It’s 2020, and the gaming scene — and MMORPG scene — is different, and that’s going to greatly impact any forthcoming games. Instead of hewing to past design, I would suggest that the developers look to the current field and see what is working the best — and sample liberally from it.

What’s the best business model? Maybe rip right off some of the monetary ideas that Elder Scrolls Online, Guild Wars 2, or Path of Exile have been doing to great success. How do you connect players socially? Take some of the features that work from MMOs and other online games and give us robust tools to build up in-game networks and facilitate teamplay. Support crossplay with all you’re worth. Consider level-scaling in grouping situations at the very least. Invest in good voice acting. Build up an experienced and communicative community team that starts establishing the fanbase and setting expectations for behavior as soon as possible.

Also, it would behoove any smart developer to realize that the industry as a whole has left some really great ideas in the past — and these features and concepts might be worth a second look and an updated iteration. Look to how MMOs used to place a greater emphasis on activities and engagement beyond mere combat, and do something to replicate that in your game.

Be different and be good

My final great wish is a two-for-one deal. Firstly, I don’t want a LOTRO 2.0, because we already have LOTRO. A game that’s too similar will just serve to hurt one of the two (or both) and most likely frustrate everyone. Instead, be different while still being Lord of the Rings. There is enough room in this field for two (or more!) Lord of the Rings massively multiplayer titles, just as there is enough room for two Dungeons & Dragons MMOs. In fact, look to how DDO and Neverwinter sport radically different designs while still being D&D games, and take inspiration from that.

Secondly, I just want it to be good. It doesn’t have to blow me out of the water, but it does need to clear a bar of competence and enjoyability. My greatest fear for this project isn’t that Amazon’s game is going to kill LOTRO, but that Amazon and Athlon are going to deliver some superficial Middle-earth slasher that has a horrible business model and is anti-community.

Be faithful. Be a copycat. Be different. Be good. If Amazon’s game can do these four things then, yeah, I’ll be more than happy to romp around in this MMO.

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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draugris

First and foremost I want them to develop this game with great respect to the Lore. Especially with all that nonsense going on in Lord of the Rings Online with having Quests where you basically work for Orcs or befriend with goblins etc.

I would also like if we would be able to play both sides but not like in Lotro, I mean with equal content.

RP Servers like at the beginning of Lotro with actual naming policies, gm support for events, etc.

And of course, PvP would also be on my wishlist, some kind of open PvP Zones like in Warhammer Online with Sieges and large scale battles.

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Viktor Budusov

>First and foremost I want them to develop this game with great respect to the Lore.
>And of course, PvP would also be on my wishlist, some kind of open PvP Zones

Sooooo looooore-ish :D

Anyway there is no other LotR game that is more accurate than Lotro.

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draugris

tbh. i don´t know what you mean with

“Sooooo looooore-ish :D”

Do you think PvP is against Lore ? Because that would not make a lot of sense

“Anyway there is no other LotR game that is more accurate than Lotro.”

Yep, among the blind is the one-eyed a king i would say.

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Ald

Hell i’d take LOTRO as is with updated character models.

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Stephen Montalvo

What I secretly want is for Amazon to just buy Standing Stone. Keep the LOTRO devs etc who are better then what they have, and spend a year or so revamping LOTRO and bringing it up to modern standards, and rereleasing it. That way they can have 2- a 2nd age and a modern 3rd age one. The whole ‘being released by’ thing makes me nervous.

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Anthony Clark

Fun. The point of any game, to be enjoyable and fun.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

1) Really want the game not to be called Lord of the Rings or anything like it since that name refers to the singular story of the Fellowship destroying the One Ring and restoring the true king and saving Middle-Earth. That’s it. And this game is not going to be that.

2) Really want this MMO to be its own story and just as fascinating and not try to cash in on either LOTRO’s fan base or the film trilogy’s fan base. There’s a ton of great stories in Middle-Earth. My preference would be Elrond’s story. Not only is it dramatic, but it makes a great companion to LOTR.

3) Really want people to get away from the whole mindset that this game, whatever it is, and LOTRO can’t exist in the same universe. If you hate LOTRO, fine, don’t play it. If you love LOTRO, fine, play it. This either/or crap bugs the hell out of me. And comparing LOTRO to ANY game is absurd. It’s the only MMO based on an epic literary masterpiece that has successfully survived for 13 years. There’s a reason for this.

4) Really hope it is a lot like LOTRO, an adventure, a journey, an exploration. Not a power level to end-game gear chase for pointless reasons. I hope it’s a fun, enjoyable game all the way along, not just at level cap.

Absolutely none of these is likely to happen, but a gamer can wish.

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Louie

I agree that LOTRO and this game can co-exist, but the real issue will be if the powers that be will let it. I can’t help but remember Star Wars Galaxies getting shut down 5 days before SWTOR launched because LucasArts didn’t want to compete with itself.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

While SSG keeps the licensing for LOTRO more hidden than a Hobbit’s best pie recipe, it’s clear from what’s been said that this MMO and LOTRO will not be license competing since they have licenses for different parts of Middle-Earth.

The termination of SWG’s license was pretty egregious and didn’t help SWTOR in the least. People who played SWG were not going to play SWTOR, ever. If anything, the fallout from the abrupt canceling of SWG should be a prime example of why never to do that.

There have been a gazillion games with Middle-Earth licensing, many of them in direct competition with each other. I think the difference from LucasArts is that with Middle-Earth the licensing is the source of revenue, not the game itself. Therefore, more people paying licensing fees equals more money. That means canceling LOTRO’s license would be a loss of revenue. I don’t think they give a hoot if two games with Middle-Earth licenses compete with each other.

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Castagere Shaikura

A better business model than LOTRO. Also just like Star Wars, middle earth is huge. Explore other areas and timelines so we get something different. If it’s going to be the same as LOTRO what’s the point.

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Robert Mann

I want them to be bold, but conservative. That is, respect the lore and setting, do a good and solid job on what is there, and take some risks for crying out loud (that’s the bold part).

Do learn from other games, but also do try something new… and I mean actually new, not the nonsense of “This is the first time anyone has ever done this since the last time people did it, and the time before that, and so on” of New World.

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Vincent Clark

In terms of business model and game performance, the bar is set pretty low.

The world builders at LOTRO did a great job at capturing the magic and feel of the world of Tolkien (even if they got lazy/cheap as time went on with reusing old assets, etc.)

If the new team (which has an ex Turbine/Codemasters employee as a lead) is able to do the same, SSG doesn’t stand a chance.

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Snax

I don’t see what good you see in LOTRO, it’s a pretty mediocre and bad game from my 100+ hours of playing it since it became free in March 2020.

I love Middle Earth, I have many Tolkien books in my library as paper physical copies – Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit, The Children of Hurin, a big detailed map of Middle Earth. I love the story and the world very much, because of how low fantasy it feels for the most part, and from there – realistic and believable that most other fantasy series I’ve encountered.

I always held off on playing LOTRO, because of its monetization model and at many occasions I was thinking how awesome and immersive it’s going to be to get into that 3D MMO world and dive deep into Middle Earth. At times I even considered buying some expansions, but ultimately I called it off.

And then it became briefly F2P in March 2020. It’s like my wish came true and I immediately installed the game and started playing. I finished Bree Land, then Lone Lands and during Lone Lands, I started experiencing the frustration of the gameplay and the game itself in general.

Unless you live in North America, you’re cursed to play in constant lag and have your already painfully slow combat be even slower and laggier. Another issue is combat cues and feedback – both sound and visual effects are delayed and the combat feels worse than ESO, because you can’t “feel” your attacks hitting the target and doing damage – you only go by the numbers. Another issue is music in the game – while some tracks are nice, some, like in taverns sound annoying and there are also long periods of silence .. to the point where I just straight up muted the music and put on a YouTube playlist of Old School RuneScape music to keep me company.

LOTRO is an inherently bad game in my opinion and I don’t see what you like about it so much. Sure, maybe lore-wise and geography-wise it’s true to the original material, but the gameplay is one of the most broken and annoying types of gameplay I’ve ever seen. The fact that the game is a straight up WoW clone down to the marrow is staggering. I never imagined I’d be in Middle Earth and some random NPCs sending me on kill/fetch errands all the time – it’s just ridiculous, considering the types of adventures I read that Frodo and Bilbo went on, my “adventure” was a massive joke. In Trollshaws I straight up gave up and uninstalled the game – I couldn’t take any more of that boring, annoying drivel.

Even if those greedy pigs at SSG get divine inspiration and decide to make LOTRO completely F2P forever and not just till the end of May 2020, I still wouldn’t bother playing it, it’s that bad.

And for Amazon’s Middle Earth MMORPG, my deepest fear is that they might make it easy and dumbed-down like ESO where you kill mobs within a second and you can never be killed by them, because you’re an immortal demigod. LOTRO may have visually captured the Middle Earth feel, but gameplay-wise it’s worse than those cringefest Middle Earth: Shadow of War games that feel more like Prince of Persia/Assassin’s Creed clones in Middle Earth than anything Middle Earth related.

Actually Lord of the Rings: War in the North was the only game that really felt like an adventure in Middle Earth – you were really there and aside from the beat-em-up feel where you have to kill tons of cannon fodder enemies, it felt really immersive, too bad it ended too quickly, there were no expansions, sequels or any other games like it.

In my opinion, Amazon’s Middle Earth MMO should be something that has greater emphasis on both PvE and PvP. I know, someone might say how there are only the forces of Good and Evil and it doesn’t make sense to make Evil a playable faction, but that’s not what I mean. Even if they decide to make Evil playable, my point is they can have battlegrounds and arenas like in WoW where it’s more players fighting against other players for the sport of it – there are bets, rewards, etc. it’s a whole industry in Middle Earth.

Also the gameplay has to be something better than LOTRO and ESO, because that would immediately turn me off from playing it. It needs to put the player into the perspective of how small they are in this big world and how there are dangers everywhere. Which immediately reminds me of Sam and Frodo’s adventures with Gollum and how they were sneakily infiltrating into Mordor. That was one of the most thrilling parts of the books when I read them and I wish there is an element of stealth in the game where the world is not separated by zones, but instead there are enemis of every level (difficulty) in every zone so when you see some roaming enemies that spell instant death for you, you enter Stealth mode and sneak away and wait for them to disappear. In LOTRO I can imagine being level 130 and coming back to Moria or something and literally wasting every mob without breaking a sweat, that’s not lore-friendly … do you suddenly become a god after you reach Mordor? It makes zero sense and hence why I don’t believe LOTRO is good of a game or even a good Middle Earth representation. It’s more people praising it, because it’s the only Middle Earth MMORPG. If Amazon’s MMO is good enough, it can easily dethrone LOTRO so it can peacefully die in oblivion.

I think Amazon’s MMO should benefit from a semi tab-targeting/semi action combat, because just using the WoW style of combat might not be bad, but it also feels boring and besides WoW, no other MMO got that type of combat right – they all feel clunky. Also action combat MMOs are the other end of the spectrum where their combat feels so shallow and boring, so something that has both hotbar abilities and using mouse buttons for direct attacks when you’re waiting for cooldowns to go down is the best way to got about combat. It also has to feel fluid and impactful.

At the end of the day, I’m on the fence about this new game. I can’t say I’m really excited seeing how bad and mediocre LOTRO is and Amazon’s New World isn’t peaking my interest at all, because it seems like a PvP sandbox game that they are now trying to turn into a PvE game with optional PvP, but the worst part, like every sandbox game is that it has no content in terms of quests, lore or anything – just an empty randomly generated world with randomly generated NPCs, crafting and PvP – that is not an MMORPG. So I don’t know what Amazon will pull out, but I’m low key hopeful that they are really aiming to create a serious and solid Middle Earth MMO and hopefully one that will give LOTRO and SSG a run for their money, because as I said – I don’t believe LOTRO should exist in its monetization state and SSG are frankly being greedy and full of hubris thinking that they have the only LOTR MMO gives them right to pull whatever crap they want.

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Slim neb

I think blitzing 100+ hours in 2 months might be your problem – even if their is a pandemic on.
LOTRO is all about the journey, and is comfy as hell. It may not be the game for you, but it is not an ‘inherently bad game’. You clearly just need constant action coming from your screen 24/7. Might i suggest a game like Overwatch?
And considering you love Middle Earth so much, i’m surprised you didn’t seem to praise the main story quests, as they are very much reminiscent of Hobbit/LOTR adventures – unless…………….you skipped the quest dialogue boxes; but i’m sure you wouldn’t do that right?

hurbster
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hurbster

Yeah, I could spend ages tootling around in the Shire.

Snax
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Snax

I think you’re assuming too much about me and somehow my opinion struck a nerve based on your reply.

My favorite games to date are SWG and Vanilla WoW, which I still play, the combat in them is just right. In SWG is a bit clunky, but many times more satisfying than the one in LOTRO.

Vanilla WoW’s combat is just right – visual and auditory feedback from attacks does not have that delay like in LOTRO where it feels like the game was made by an indie team of 5 people who have no idea how to make a game.

Not to mention the archaic engine used for Asheron’s Call 1 and 2 that they decided to use which is now showing its age in every aspect even in the way downloads and updates are redistributed.

I love adventure, but how can I enjoy the adventure of LOTRO with that clunky and delayed combat where it feels like I’m fighting with the game itself? And how can I get immersed in LOTRO’s quests when they are “Go kill 20 spiders or go kill 20 bandits and collect their swords”?

The world of LOTRO looks nice, but it’s also boring to traverse, but at the same time looks very real and boring. And not that I mean that realistic is boring, but the way it was depicted in the movies was far more good looking and the game came out many years after the movies. Even when I read the books, I imagined things looking way more exciting, even when Frodo and his friends were still leaving the Shire and going to Crickhollow, that was one of my favorite beginnings of fantasy stories before things gets too epic for my liking.

I think you need to not get triggered so much and despite how much you like LOTRO accept the fact that it’s a very poorly made game and most of their work went into recreating the world and quest text and everything else suffered, especially the gameplay.

WoW’s story in comparison is asinine and yet it fits better with the gameplay and overall makes a way better game.

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Roger Christie

So basically, he was right. And no, it’s not a ‘very poorly made game’. But you were probably triggered by it.

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Viktor Budusov

The combat is not clunky, it’s just quite slow – and for me this is exactly what i want! I don’t like fast paced combats like in WoW or NWO or whatever. They are not comfortable for me. So please leave this game for people like me, ok? Don’t call it ‘clunky’ or ‘delayed’.

Boring world says the guy who plays SWG :D. And very old engine says the guy who plays classic WoW and SWG :DD. Lol

Snax
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Snax

WoW’s engine even in Vanilla feels far more advanced than the one of LOTRO, which released 3 years after WoW and yet somehow manages to be remarkably uglier. The original character modes looked appalling, especially the male human and hobbit looked like some women with short hair.

And the combat in LOTRO is still a clunky trash. Not only does it have a huge delay between abilities, but if you don’t live in North America, the lag makes it even worse when you have to watch the animation, then one second later you hear the sound and only then you see the visual effect. If that’s not a clunky combat, I don’t know what is.

The combat of WoW is not fast at all, it’s just normal tab targeting combat, it’s in fact the single MMORPG with fluid tab targeting combat, even WoW clones like LOTRO and others can’t get it right. In fact I’ve played some Chinese WoW knockoff back in the day called Talisman Online, which had more fluid tab targeting combat than LOTRO. I don’t even see how you can compare WoW to NWO, they are different like night and day.

LOTRO is built on the archaic engine for Asheron’s Call 1 and 2, in case you don’t know, go look up some gameplay footage and see what jankfest both games were – that’s where LOTRO inherited its jankiness from.

Even SWG, whose engine is also really outdated and even in 2003 it felt old, has more fluid combat and controls than LOTRO. LOTRO is just a joke that only exists as a freemium game, because it’s the only Lord of the Rings MMORPG. When the new one released nobody but 50/60 year old retired people will be playing LOTRO only, because they don’t like change and have already invested too much into it.

Your comment is delusional, there is nothing good about LOTRO, the only people defending it are those who were tricked into spending money on it and when they realized how bad the game is, they did that mental gymnastics thing where they make themselves believe the game is actually a masterpiece only so they don’t regret buying into it and now feel they should let the whole world know how much of a masterpiece LOTRO is when it’s in fact a massive pile of trash created by one of the most incompetent and greedy developers out there.

SWG and WoW still blow LOTRO out of the water.

hurbster
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hurbster

Elder Scrolls stories have ALWAYS put you as the big hero (or villain) since the first one.

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Viktor Budusov

So long post with so many personal feelings. Your personal feelings don’t make the game bad or ‘mediocre’.

>Unless you live in North America, you’re cursed to play in constant lag and have your already painfully slow combat be even slower and laggier.

Russia is far enough? Combat is ok for me.

>Actually Lord of the Rings: War in the North was the only game that really felt like an adventure in Middle Earth

Looking at all your other arguments i also wonder, do you really need a MMORPG??

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Adam Russell

lotro battle royale!
jk