LOTRO Legendarium: Should LOTRO’s raids be made accessible to all?

    
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Despite playing Lord of the Rings Online since beta and covering it professionally since 2010, there is a big part of the game that I’ve never really seen — and I suspect many other people haven’t either. I speak, of course, about the 22-or-so raids that constitute the toughest and most elaborate showpieces of the MMORPG.

Part of my lack of raid experience is simply due to not being interested in pouring in a huge amount of time and dedication into this slice of gaming, but another part is the game’s sheer lack of raid accessibility outside of being involved in a raiding kinship. There are no “Looking for Raid” tools, nor are there any other options to experience these instances.

Personally, the topic of being excluded from raids doesn’t chafe me too greatly, as the time investment is never worth the end results of such activities in MMOs. But I did find myself nodding along to an interesting forum thread earlier this month by a player lamenting that raids were gated story content that most people would never see.

“One thing that always bugged me, though (then and now) was that some of the coolest elements of the game are locked behind a raid,” the poster wrote. “Want to see a fight a Balrog? You have to raid. Want to go toe-to-toe with Saruman? You have to raid. Want to battle with Shelob? You have to raid. Fight the Lt. of Dol Goldur, the Watcher, an undead dragon and many other epic fights and environments all require raid parties to encounter.”

The poster then called upon SSG to consider modifying the raids, perhaps with a greatly neutered version, to open them up to non-raiders simply so that they could experience the story beats and encounters.

Immediately, this made me think back to another one of my all-time favorite MMORPGs, RIFT, which did exactly that. Back in the day, Trion Worlds added a new feature called “Chronicles of Telara” that offered solo- and duo-mode versions of raids that were largely just to see the story. I always thought that this was a tremendously good idea that (as with so many other ideas from RIFT) would be worth importing into other MMOs.

But could LOTRO’s raids be reverse engineered or modified to allow this? Speaking to that very issue was SSG’s Jeff Libby, who jumped into this thread with both feet to offer a perspective from the developers.

“I guess my question is: Do you want to see Shelob, or do you want to see The Raid Against Shelob in LOTRO?” Libby asked. “Because we often let you get up close and personal with major level threats (including Shelob!), so you still get to see and interact with them. If you want to see The Raid Against Shelob but you don’t want to do it with real people, then that means essentially making a new and basically solo version with all the mechanics that require more than one person stripped out, all the sources of damage reduced, all the difficulty removed — and after that it’s not really the same experience.”

He floated the idea of an alternate “storied tale” instance that would “take place in the same location and covers the same story beats.” Another option suggested by the community was SSG allowing for a huge buff (much in the same way that certain instances in the epic story are handled) or scaling the mobs.

That’s when Libby gave us more insight into how such suggestions are harder than you’d think to implement: “The problem is that both of those things is a ton of work, and having someone do that work means they’re not working on something else, or if they are they’re piling up a lot of crunch. If it’s a feature you want, then of course you’ll say it’s worth it, but it’s really not that simple. I worked nights and weekends on the Storied Tales for Helm’s Deep for half a year in addition to my normal workload, for instance, and reaction to those varied from ‘Why did you bother?’ to ‘I guess it’s okay for people who want it.’ So making alternative versions of things isn’t always a home run.”

While I would love to activate Tourist Mode and see all of the raids that I’ve never witnessed before, I can acknowledge the difficulty and resources that such a change would entail. I’ve always thought that SSG has done a great job, on the whole, of making LOTRO accessible to wider and wider swaths of players. Many instances can scale greatly, there are those inspiration buffs, missions can be accessed at nearly all levels, etc.

So raids-for-all is not a hill I’d die on. We already get gobs and gobs of soloable story content in this game, and I’m pretty content with that. But if there was a relatively easy way to do this on SSG’s end that wouldn’t drive devs to drink, then I’d be all for it.

What do you think?

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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