LOTRO Legendarium: Does LOTRO need a new dungeon finder tool?

    
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Welcome to a new year of the LOTRO Legendarium! With Fate of Gundabad at our backs and an unknown future ahead, it’s quite the interesting time to be involved in Lord of the Rings Online.

Today I want to cram two column topics into the same space. First, we’re going to pour over the recent producer’s letter that covers the first quarter of 2022, and second, we’ll be musing about what LOTRO could be doing to improve its dungeon finder tool. Here we go!

Q1 2022 Producer’s Letter

So I have to say that I totally love the idea of SSG putting out producer’s letters on a quarterly basis rather than an often-belated annual one. It gives the studio more flexibility to develop while doing better to keep us all in the loop.

Raninia outlined the major initiatives that are going to happen over the next few months. To wit, Update 32 is coming in February with a new 12-player raid (Abnankâra), Erebor premium housing, the delayed legendary reward track, the Spring Festival (with new rewards), and the Angle of Mitheithel level 40 zone. Past that, Raninia said that the Shadowfax server is going into Rohan in March.

Clearly, Update 32 is the central focus of this period and seem to offer a little something for everyone — raiders, housing fanatics, low-level adventurers, etc. It does seem a little strange to throw in yet another level 40-45 zone so soon after Wildwood, but hey, I’ll not complain about more expansions to Middle-earth!

And while Dwarven housing looks awfully tempting, I think that the legendary reward track will have the greatest impact upon the most players come Update 32. We’ve been struggling along with half a new legendary item system since Gundabad, reserving judgment until the other half arrived. Generally, I feel the revised LI system is easier to work with and offers more powerful results, but I want to know how grindy and necessary the reward track will be in developing our LIs.

As a final note, I really do hope that SSG comes through on its often-repeated promises of improving the server performance. At this point, such promises are white noise. The new engineers the studio hired and the hardware that it said it was acquiring could indeed help, but we’ll see. I hope.

Does LOTRO need a new LFG tool?

One topic that the producer’s letter — and the studio in general — doesn’t really address is the lingering issue of dungeon grouping. Unlike most modern MMOs, LOTRO doesn’t have an easy-to-use LFG tool to help players jump into dungeons. It used to, then phased it out while leaving us an instance tool that assists established groups in jumping into dungeons but does nothing for PUGs and casuals.

Considering just how many dungeons LOTRO has, it feels like an incredible shame that they’re not run as often due to the game itself being an impediment to grouping up. I chatted up two LOTRO players, Skro and Michelle, about their experience with dungeons and what they think SSG should do with a potential new LFG tool.

Skro said that he’s a “semi-casual” player who raids one night a week and mostly does dungeons through kinship and alliance groups. Similarly, Michelle said that she’s somewhat less than hardcore and mostly relies on kinship groups for instance runs. “I’m also the weirdo who will solo lower level dungeons just for cosmetic stuff,” she added.

I asked both of them if they use the current instance finder. Skro said that he doesn’t use it “the intended way,” preferring to lean on the LFF and world channels to form pickup groups. Michelle admitted that she never uses the instance finder to ever hook up with groups.

So what about a new dungeon finder or LFG tool?

“Tough question,” Skro said. “On Sirannon, I don’t think this would be worth the work, because of the low population of the server. Moreover, we have our old habits and our networks. And I must admit that I have a bit of anxiety upon a tool that would automatically gather people. Answering a request on the LFF or registering on a raid planner allows me to decide with whom I’m playing.”

Michelle tossed in her opinion: “If they could create a good LFG tool, I might use it. Having a way to separate the ‘YOU MUST DO THIS PERFECTLY OR WE WILL KICK YOU 10 SECONDS IN’ crowd from the ‘let’s just see how far we get, no pressure’ crowd, I’d be thrilled. Maybe make it a checkable setting. Unfortunately, even on Gladden (which is fairly chill and laidback), there are still players who are totally hardcore and if you don’t have the entire dungeon memorized to platinum it (if I might borrow the term from Epic Battles), they get all bent out of shape. And that ruins the fun for me.”

What are your thoughts? What can LOTRO do to encourage and facilitate dungeon groups in the future? Sound off 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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