LOTRO Legendarium: LOTRO’s history in 2020 and hopes for 2021

    
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Just as how Sam and Frodo experienced depths of despair and heights of hope in their journey to Mount Doom, Lord of the Rings Online players have been on a journey of extreme highs and lows in 2020. Even as we end this year with sharp criticism for LOTRO, we also have positive news of the game’s future, roadmap, and increased comms from the dev team.

Today I’m going to carry on the tradition that I’ve been doing ever since I started writing this column a decade ago by looking back at the year that’s passed and then offering some thoughts and hopes for the gaming year to come. Let’s take a trip together, you and I.

LOTRO’s 2020 in review

Early 2020 began with additional instances for the Minas Morgul expansion, the Remmorchant raid in March, and the opening of Riders of Rohan for the legendary progression servers (plus some free cloaks and armor!). At that time, Daybreak promised that its recent studio split-up wasn’t going to impact LOTRO, a hint at things to come.

At PAX East — yes, back when physical conventions were a thing — SSG discussed the upcoming royal wedding and new expansion (which was, at the time, slated for late 2020), as well as missions, River-hobbits, and a possible new server ruleset. The actual 2020 producer’s letter didn’t come until early April, probably the latest such a letter’s ever been posted.

When COVID triggered lockdowns across much of the world in March, Standing Stone Games made the unprecedented decision to make all of LOTRO’s content free for what turned out to be many months. Even better, as the free period came to an end, SSG also gave away all of LOTRO’s non-expansion quest packs and greatly lowered the cost for older expansions.

Late April was a great time to game, as the 13th anniversary (and it’s self-crisping pig) arrived along with Update 26: Wells of Langflood. A secret quest and character transfers followed shortly after.

In June, LOTRO experimented with a temporary PvP server — an experiment that largely fizzled and was forgotten. That was OK, because at the end of the month, Update 27: A Great Wedding arrived and gave players the long-awaited wedding between Aragorn and Arwen, not to mention a way around epic battles and a brand-new mid-summer festival. Due to this new festival, SSG decided to merge the existing summer festival and farmer’s faire together.

The good feelings quickly turned sour in July, as server problems began to ransack LOTRO for days… and then weeks. And months. Weatherstock got delayed, and players steamed as SSG refused to discuss what was going on. Compensation was handed out, but for most, it was too little, too late.

August got a bit better, thanks to Helm’s Deep on the progression servers and the brand-new Rohan housing everywhere. The new housing neighborhoods also came with one of the biggest upgrades to the housing system, with new hook types and stables.

And September got a bit worse, as SSG abruptly announced that its next content update would be a for-fee “mini-expansion” that included a $100 edition. Update 28: War of the Three Peaks arrived in late October.

As players digested that, at least there was the excitement of a leak that revealed that a new class — the Brawler — was in the works. And things took a decided uptick in November as SSG dumped information all over us through a frank AMA livestream. It was here that we learned a lot about what next year was going to look like, including a delay of Gundabad for a full year (from fall 2020 to fall 2021).

If that wasn’t enough of a surprise, the $300 million sale of Daybreak to EG7 in December revealed a whole lot about LOTRO’s relationship to SSG, its finances, and its population. And as December wound its way to a close, Gondor opened up on the progression server and PvMP got a balance pass. Oh, and character race changes became a thing.

Revisiting LOTRO Legendarium’s 2020 columns

Here’s a full list of all of the LOTRO Legendarium columns I wrote this year, in case you missed one or wanted to revisit a past topic. I also tossed in some related columns I wrote on the MMO:

Hopes for LOTRO’s 2021

Going back through the entire past year of Lord of the Rings Online, I was really struck by how busy the game was. Three updates, the PvP server, a new festival, Rohan housing, future news, race changes… it was a really packed year, even without an expansion. And it was definitely a year of really cruddy happenings as well as really awesome ones.

So where does this leave us as we head into LOTRO’s 14th anniversary year? Well, we already know a lot of what’s to come: the expansion, mid-level content, new level-agnostic quests, the Brawler, and possibly River-hobbits. That’s enough to make for a good year, content-wise.

My hope is not so much for the game — which I feel is in a pretty good place, all things considered — but for the studio running it. With SSG and Daybreak operating under new overlords, I would like to believe that this could tip in LOTRO’s favor for increased funding and support. Better tech and more engineers, that would be great. I still don’t think a console LOTRO is going to happen… but hey, it would be pretty amazing if it did.

Overall, I hope that SSG takes a cue from the community’s enthusiasm for all of the information from late fall and makes an increased effort in frequent and honest communication. I’m not saying this with any sarcasm; I’m being sincere. SSG needs to rebuild trust between itself and the community, and that takes time.

Also, it needs to squash that “mini-expansion” notion once and for all, but that might be stretching my wishes too far.

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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FormlessOne

Entirely too optimistic a take; selling Daybreak screams “cashing out” to me, and with so many MMO IPs along for that ride, I strongly suspect you’re going to see a more static approach in the very near future.

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Bruno Brito

?

The numbers on DBG games are solid, for games this old. You don’t buy a company for 300Million to loot and burn.

You buy it to turn a profit.

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treehuggerhannah

My wish for this year (though unlikely…) is Lothlorien housing.

Karac_Avalron
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Karac_Avalron

Four things for 2021:

1. Legendary Items – We need alternatives to improve LI’s.
2. VIP – Pricing model
3. PVP – Audacity Gear
4. Gundabad – Its got to be great

Particularly VIP. Now that they chose to give away all the low level content free with the perm coupon other than PVP access and LP allowance there really isnt a reason to be VIP, particularly with the specture of elderslade “mini expansion”

A distant 5 for me would be the communication process, its been ridiculous for years. I think you need to put people in positions to succeed, not in positions where they lack a good skill set. A forum mod, shouldnt be your communications manager IMHO.

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Java Jawa

Not sure how anyone can support this game with so many lies and lack of information that comes out of this title.

I understand nostalgia and the enthusiasm when the game came out and the first 3 to 4 expansions, but now it’s just such a nasty way to run a business and treat players.

Not sure I got any hope for this title left, they’d have to axe the entire leadership team who made these awful decisions that lead to the above to even make a course correct.

I imagine I’m not the only person who feels like this and despite liking Tolkien so much, how do you won back a crowd you’ve repeatedly shown the middle finger to?

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Vincent Clark

The nostalgia pull is indeed strong. Any time I hear Chance Thomas’ music, I fondly remember the superb job the world builders did with the Shire and other parts of the landscape…that first time I entered the valley into Rivendell–all good stuff. But…

SSG, through their deception and manipulation has made the game unplayable for me. The worst part is…a small part of me might be able to forgive and forget all their bullshit if I actually saw tangible results from their shady monetization practices, but as it is…the game runs worse now than it has in years. Any trust is gone, for good.

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Paragon Lost

Just gonna second and third both of your posts, agreeing strongly.

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Mark Temby

Please let me explain why people still love this game, it is primarily for the community.

We have a wonderful kinship on Arkenstone that catch up nightly and have fun doing things together on a daily and weekly basis.

As an example, for a player that wants to raid well there are Yulefest instances for bis gear, daily and weekly mission goals, 6 man stairs runs, good old Rako for LI upgrades, the 12 man AD raid, 12 man Remmorchant runs, 12 man skirmish raids for seals and weekly quests for embers (for gear upgrades).

On top of this SSG cleverly sold character boosts at a very cheap price back at the Black Friday sales. This leads to players having new toons (different class) boosted to level 120. Getting these toons to 130 and raid ready generates a lot of activity.

Name me a better community with more to do than Lotro’s.

In a year where many people have experienced isolation and change, the value of a great in game community has never been more important and I’ve seen very few games that get anywhere near matching Lotro in this.

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Vincent Clark

People get out of their community what they put into it. I could show you numerous examples of community led and separate FC (guild) events in FFXIV that equal or surpass anything that happens in LotRO, but that is not the point that was being made in the posts you replied to.

I’m genuinely glad that you have a wonderful kinship on your server but that doesn’t magically erase or justify some of the shady shit that SSG has done and continues to do.

In the end, we all make allowances for the things we love, so I get it.

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Mark Temby

I have absolutely no problem with what I got for $20 for this mini-expansion. Tonne of quests, new mission system, new 6 man and 12 man instances. Spent twice that on pizza last night.

Obviously boosting revenue was important wrt to the EG7 deal. Lets wait and see what changes they bring.

As usual I’ll remain cautiously optimistic rather than yell at clouds.

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Bruno Brito

I have absolutely no problem with what I got for $20 for this mini-expansion.

Sure, but you are a LoTRO player. You people have extreme tolerance to being heavily monetized.

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J

or they are like me and have a Lifetime account. :D

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Vincent Clark

It’s not really a question of who is right or who is wrong. SSG clearly did something (and not just in this case) that was ethically…ambiguous. We just happen to have different thresholds on what we are willing to accept and not accept.

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Bruno Brito

Not debating the rights or wrongs. But DBG players tend to be extremely tolerant of heavy monetization, because DBGames are pretty solid cashcows. DCUO is full blown DLC model, LoTRO sells quest packs, which no one should accept at this day and age, and i’m not even going to start on Everquest 2 and DDO.

So, yeah, i agree. I’m not going to spit on DBG players, but i also don’t think anyone should say “i’m proud of buying a mini-xpac which was basically the way of the company wanting to charge a patch, in this dogshit year where they couldn’t even keep their servers up.”

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Vincent Clark

My bad, Bruno–my comment was directed at Mark Temby, not you. Sorry for the confusion.

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Bruno Brito

No problem. Figured it later haha

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2Ton Gamer

Some of the server communities are great. Landy and Arkenstone are both good examples. It’s the overall forum community that is just a as nasty as others and so many longtimers simply cannot take leveled criticism and got really ugly over the summer when clearly SSG deserved every bit of criticism it got. Yes, the communities are decent on a those micro scales, but regardless players have a right to say enough is enough and move on.

I was one of those who dropped my yearly sub for LOTRO which I keep up even while I am playing other games. I play maybe 4-6 months per year most years but paid for the year regardless and bought points when they were on sale usually spending $59-$99 each time. I cut my ties after the summer not because of server issues, but because I am sick of the lousy communications from the devs. They should be effin thankful for every single subscription they get and treat their customers with respect. No one expected them to tell us things that they cannot contractually tell us, but something more than the mumbles we got was deserved. We pay, we deserve to know why we cannot log in and play what we pay for and then shite rewards they gave out after the fact were nothing more than a slap in the face.

I judge my experiences by a companies ability to handle times of hardship and they, my friend, shat the bed and there’s nothing stopping it from happening again. So yes, I’ll spend my $20 on anything else than to buy that joke of a mini expac. It’s not a case of if it’s affordable, but if you should be buying it period.

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Mark Temby

By that same logic would you avoid going to the superbowl with your friends if the stadium managers and/or the team you support didn’t communicate effectively?

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Vincent Clark

That’s a horrible analogy, but sure…lets break it down: if the team I support didn’t show up to a game that I paid money to watch and for subsequent games didn’t show up with little to no communication as to why…yep, I would avoid going to see them in the superbowl.

If the stadium manager, whose facility I’ve supported for years, refused to fix the broken seats littered throughout the majority of the stadium, let the concessions stands serve below standard food and watered down beer and suddenly tried to charge me extra for each game even though I already bought a season pass…yep, I would avoid going to that stadium for the superbowl.

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Mark Temby

So either you:
1. Bought the mini-expansion played it and didn’t like it or
2. Didn’t buy the expansion and are just making assumptions

I’m guessing #2.

As I stated in detail earlier, for the sake of $20 they have added plenty to do. If you don’t like 6 and 12 man content and new quests and the mission system and don’t think they are worth $20 that is fine, but if you didn’t buy it and just want to vent about something you have not played then that’s a little disappointing.

Yes the stadium needs a coat of paint, and they did have it shut for a month over 6 months ago, but that hasn’t stopped me enjoying the game now.

It seems you like to have the last word, so please make something else up. I’m done with trying to add some balance. I’ll just go back to enjoying the game with kinnies.

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Bruno Brito

So either you:
1. Bought the mini-expansion played it and didn’t like it or
2. Didn’t buy the expansion and are just making assumptions

3. Didn’t want to buy what is a glorified patch for a game that already sells quest packs and has been plagued by lag and terrible management for a while.

As I stated in detail earlier, for the sake of $20 they have added plenty to do. If you don’t like 6 and 12 man content and new quests and the mission system and don’t think they are worth $20 that is fine, but if you didn’t buy it and just want to vent about something you have not played then that’s a little disappointing.

We can complain about shitty things without buying them.

You must have terrible self-control with money if you need to buy things first to then complain about something that was clearly underwhelming for the price you bought it.

Yes the stadium needs a coat of paint, and they did have it shut for a month over 6 months ago, but that hasn’t stopped me enjoying the game now.

Not the point.

It seems you like to have the last word, so please make something else up. I’m done with trying to add some balance. I’ll just go back to enjoying the game with kinnies.

I’ll dance on top of my table, knowing i’m right and had the last word.