LOTRO Legendarium: Getting a glimpse of LOTRO’s 2021 plans

    
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LOTRO Legendarium: Getting a glimpse of LOTRO’s 2021 plans

For a good long while now — years, really — I’ve joined the chorus of voices that have been asking Standing Stone Games to talk to its fans more and be better about leveraging its communication channels. This week, the studio actually stepped up and delivered the sort of comms that we’ve wanted for so long now in the form of an hour-long Q&A session with Executive Producer Rob Ciccolini.

It’s not as if one hour of chatter instantly makes up for months of silence and faulty communication, but you know what? It’s a really good start. While Ciccolini didn’t address every pressing question on the table or answer some topics to my full satisfaction, he did tackle a lot of topics and gave us a much better insight into where Lord of the Rings Online is going than we normally receive.

In today’s LOTRO Legendarium column, I want to give my reaction to some of the topics discussed, especially in regard to what we learned about LOTRO’s 2021 roadmap.

Comms and VIP treatment

If you give me the choice of “good news or bad news first?” I will always want to get bad news out of the way. So let’s tackle the two sorest spots with the community that I don’t feel Ciccolini addressed well.

When he was asked about what SSG was going to do to become better with communication, Ciccolini mostly discussed the snafu about War of the Three Peaks package details (which were kept hidden until the day of release). While that is one example, the question was directed at a broader spectrum of how SSG communicates, and there was no express commitment or specifics about how the studio might improve this. He did touch on the outskirts of some of other examples, but the best answer might be the fact that he jumped on a livestream in November to field community questions. If this is indicative of how Ciccolini and SSG want to improve comms going forward, then I am (tentatively) encouraged.

The other disappointment with the Q&A came when the topic of War of the Three Peaks’ pricing came up, especially in regard to subscribers who viewed this (rightfully so) as a content pack that they were being expected to buy. Again, we can infer from his presence on this stream and his tone that Ciccolini is well aware of the dissatisfaction from this move, but he didn’t back down or apologize for it. Instead, he redirected the conversation to promise that VIP players would see more benefits and a clearer outline of their perks in the future. And he also hinted that more “mini-expansions” will be coming with a similar price point.

Looking ahead to 2021

That said, we kind of got an early producer’s letter with this stream, didn’t we? Usually we’re waiting until spring to get word about the year’s plans for LOTRO, but Ciccolini was liberal with reveals throughout the stream.

In summary, there’s a lot on the table for next year. There are at least one or two updates to come before the expansion, including a mid-level zone (which is a rarity for the way LOTRO has been developed) and some sort of level-agnostic “lost tales” that will offer alternative adventures through Middle-earth. Shades of Bingo Boffin? If so, I’m 100% on board with this! Actually, the scarce details of these updates have me more excited than Gundabad.

Speaking of which, Gundabad got a delay from spring to fall 2021 to allow for more work and the difficulty of developing from home. The Brawler sounds like it’ll be included in this pack, although SSG kept the details of that and its abilities deliberately fuzzy. Ciccolini said that developing a new class was a monumental effort and that the team is very excited about it. Past Gundabad, the River-hobbit race should arrive (maybe late 2021?).

All in all, it’s a solid year of content in keeping with LOTRO’s output these past few years. Hopefully SSG can drum up a lot more excitement about Gundabad than currently exists because it needs to do a better job than it’s done for marketing past updates.

Legendary servers and other miscellanea

I did like hearing Ciccolini’s passion and tone during the stream. His off-the-cuff manner gave me an impression of a studio exec who cares about LOTRO, is trying to do his best under difficult circumstances, and doesn’t resent players for asking the tough questions.

The fact that he was talking to us and answering questions that had gone unanswered for a long time now really highlighted how much SSG dropped the ball this year. One example here was with some of the projects that he’d mentioned in his producer’s letter last spring. That letter mentioned legendary item revamps and a new legendary server, topics that hadn’t been publicly mentioned since then. Now, thanks to this stream, we know that the LI revamp hasn’t been figured out yet and that the proposed fall legendary server isn’t going to happen (SSG is still figuring out what it wants to do with the next special ruleset world).

It’s good to get confirmation and clarification; it’s just frustrating that it takes so long for this sort of thing. If Ciccolini or SSG would put out a monthly update — as many online games do — to keep players up to date on the progress of projects and changing development, that would go such a long way to keeping all of us on the same page.

I do hope that SSG gets tech issues sorted out to allow for old world transfers, which has been needed for a good long while now. I’d also like to see text scaling and UI improvements included, which were discussed without any firm commitments.

All in all, the stream was a good start. It helped to finally have a figure fielding these questions who had the authority and knowledge to answer them, and I encourage SSG to press forward with better comms. After all, the players want to be on the side of the game they love — and if all it takes for that to happen is some frank dialogue, that should be a priority.

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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cambruin
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cambruin

I appreciate your love for the game and respect you for having been critical of SSG. However, this time I don’t quite follow… so they promised things in the 2020 roadmap which was released way into 2020 (talking April or so even). They now state ‘none of that is going to hapen. Sorry..’ and we’re not only ok with that, but we appreciate the communication?! That’s what you get when you beat your wife daily, starve your children, mistreat your employees and neglect your customers; throw them a bone, no matter how small a bone, and they’ll thank you for it.

The only reason he’s been ‘liberal’ with reveals is because the faith in the game is at an all-time low, it’s population clearly reflecting it. These reveals are nothing but a carrot on a stick.

Come on guys, this game deserves better. It’s community deserves better.

If anything, this stream was a confirmation and acknowledgement of what we already knew and delivered nothing but new promises of content no one asked for at prices no one agrees with.

I do not wish anyone to lose their jobs, especially not at times like these, but these guys have been mismanaging this game for far too long. I cannot and will not support it in any way, not anymore. I’d want nothing more than to log back in again, see my kin of old, but in doing so I’d be showing support and SSG deserves absolutely none of it.

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Java Jawa

I’m afraid this doesn’t do enough to warrant me coming back after being burned with servers being down for 2+/- weeks, bad compensation and 0 communication.

Cherry on top is paid non-expansion content, that’s also out of the purview of VIP players? F-off SSG is the politest response I have.

Very cool about a new class and a revamp to the LI system, but it really pales to the decisions coming from the top.

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ogged451

And he also hinted that more “mini-expansions” will be coming with a similar price point.

Ok, screw that. I didn’t buy this, but I talked to people in-game who did and they are less than satified (that’s the nice version). For once, I’m happy that the last time I was at max level was at 105.

legendary item revamps

I lost count, but I think this has by now more iterations than Hellgate London.

the difficulty of developing from home

Seriously ? Unless you employ only luddites who have no computers at home, setting up VPN and using remote desktop solutions should provide a proper enviroment.
My company is doing that for eight and a half months now and our output hasn’t suffered. Disclaimer: I’m a Euro and have little knowledge about the american company culture in that regard. My employer is likely to be more accommondating than SSG. For example, everyone got a bonus for making home office as comfy as possible. I got a 4k display and a new chair from that.

Speaking of, SSG should really work on the technical side, playing LotRO in 4k is really painful.

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Stormwaltz

Unless you employ only luddites who have no computers at home, setting up VPN and using remote desktop solutions should provide a proper enviroment.

I’d be cautious about this, because it strongly depends on the design of their toolset, and I don’t think we have enough knowledge of it to make an informed judgment. Worldbuilding toolsets for open worlds with multiple devs working in parallel are a particularly thorny problem.

If you’re building a level in Unreal, you can check out a small chunk of content, work on it, and check it back in with little difficulty. It’s designed primarily for the creation of discrete, self-contained maps.

But when I worked on ESO, the overland content dev environment was more like a mirror of the game world. There was a single server that everyone worked on at once, and you checked small chunks out of. While you were working in your area, you could see what other people were doing in chunks nearby – buildings moved, terrain raised and lowered, etc.

Working on a shared, fast office intranet – the environment ESO’s toolset was designed for – it was a fantastic tool for rapid collaboration. But if I were trying to use it from home, I’d expect serious performance degradation unless that “shared live environment” was modified or disabled by the tools programmers.

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Vincent Clark

“And he also hinted that more “mini-expansions” will be coming with a similar price point.”

This will mark the official end of the game I think. For starters, it will encourage those that subscribe now, to drop their subs…cause what is the point?

And without that guaranteed monthly revenue stream, I see the company resorting to even more (if that is even possible) P2W shenanigans.

They are literally bleeding what little remains of their player base.

o/

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Ben Stone

The issue is that a large amount of their remaining ‘subs’ are lifetime subs. Aside from expansions, they have gotten nothing from them in 10-13 years.

If you got the lifetime sub at launch, you’ve basically paid 23 dollars per year for access to all content outside of expansions and a monthly cash shop stipend. Many of them will stockpile that until the expansions can be paid for with it.

Given that, I cant really blame them for trying to divorce the VIP status and new content. They need some incentive outside of expansions for lifetime subs to spend money. Daybreak / SSG really need to re-evaluate their business models and fix them. They are just patching up gaping wounds at this point and they haven’t really evolved since F2P first became a thing.

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PanagiotisLial1

Got to agree that lifetime subs are mostly a mistake that many companies stepped away from. However its not the buyers mistake that they bought them but the sellers mistake that they sold them to cash in now and mortage the future

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Stormwaltz

I have no quarrel with SSG selling new content – as a lifetime subber since 2008, I’ve received tremendous value for my dollar. Next to the Sennheiser HD380 headphones I bought about the same time, it’s the best $200 I’ve ever spent on entertainment.

Non-lifetime subbers might have a legitimate grievance. I definitely don’t.

My own problems were:

1) The content was far over the level of my active characters. I know there are level-scaled missions, but I don’t consider those alone worth $20.

2) The $60 and $100 editions offered slim added value for their cost. Unless you really wanted to ride a boar, they were overpriced.

I skipped the expansion and bought $36 in LotRO points instead. So far I’ve used them to buy storage upgrades, which I wanted much more than a boar mount.

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mags who

https://www.lotro.com/forums/showthread.php?683093-New-Mini-Expansion-Pack-quot-War-of-the-Three-Peaks-quot-announced-normal-collector-s-and-ultimate-edition&p=8034887

Just found this the War of the Three peaks will be available for lotro points . My guess is early next year sometime. I’m ok with that. Can always level an alt in the meantime. lol

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mags who

As far as I know these mini-expansions will still be available for lotro points in the store several months after release. I can’t find anything to say otherwise .