LOTRO Legendarium: Is LOTRO on the cusp of a crafting renaissance?

Now we're gundagood.

There are a lot of big and interesting projects in the works for Lord of the Rings Online’s Updates 37 and 38 — too many to cover in a single column, really. So today I wanted to plunge into waters where I’m far out of my depth and talk about crafting.

As there have been a real lack of crafting columns in this space, you may rightly deduce that I don’t really craft in this game. It’s not just this game; most MMOs offer me very little incentive to pour hours, effort, and (usually) in-game money into making stuff that I can just buy or farm elsewhere. LOTRO’s always had a very robust crafting game, yet I didn’t see the need for it when questing gear was more than adequate and what few crafting items you did desire you could just snag from the auction hall.

But may we be in for a change in this regard? Are we on the cusp of a — dare I say it? — a crafting renaissance in LOTRO?

It looks like we may be. After years of being neglected and marginalized, crafting is on its way back thanks to an ongoing “refresh” spearheaded by the development team for this fall’s expansion. This doesn’t look like a one-and-done effort, either, but a long-term process of making crafting more expansive, exciting, and ex…traordinary?

According to a developer livestream earlier this month, we now know that the crafting refresh is made up of multiple prongs of initiatives including:

  • An Umbar-specific crafting tier that will be separately accessible to anyone who wants to jump into crafting later in the game.
  • An uncoupling of vocation packages, allowing players to mix-and-match the crafting professions they desire.
  • A regular rotation of crafting-specific events, such as the forester one that’s being tested.
  • Modifiable crafting tools and cosmetic tools.
  • Permanent boosts attached to crafting events (such as forestry adding critical chance).
  • A future option to pick up a fourth crafting profession on a character.
  • Craftable gear that will be comparable to raid-level gear.
  • The ability to craft essences, traceries of craft, and off-hand weapons.
  • The possibility to craft class items, instruments, and more furniture.
  • The ability to track multiple harvesting nodes at the same time.
  • Crafters won’t have to raid to get the materials they need.

“We really want to start emphasizing crafting and getting back to the viability and importance of the crafters in the world,” Orion posted, going on to say that the crafting team is splitting up output between five level ranges that go from vendor trash up to delving, skirmish, and raid-level output.

The team will eventually split all of the crafting into tiers based on the content. This includes a “Classic” tier for Shadows of Angmar, then Moria, Rohan, Mordor, Gundabad, and Umbar tiers. However, the team is going to work backwards in a way, focusing on perfecting the universally accessible Umbar tier first, and then going back to rework previous tiers after that.

But now, it's more money.

While the dev team seems pretty enthusiastic and chatty about this, I do get the sense that this “refresh” is very much in flux. It’s still a ways out to seeing even the first big push of it (which happens this fall) and will no doubt be subject to further adjustments and fine-tuning.

Stepping back and looking at this, what do I think? For starters, I have no doubt that the game’s current underserved crafting community is over-the-moon that their beloved systems are getting serious love. A lot of these ideas seem very solid with little in the way of downsides, and simply hearing that SSG is committing to working on this over the long haul is encouragement to the faithful that they’re not being forgotten.

But what about people like me — the reluctant crafting novices? Is this enough to draw us into that sphere of the game? I’ll pull out my Mighty Hedge here and say… perhaps?

If you’re not a crafter, then getting into it requires a good deal of enthusiasm to overcome the initial learning barrier and shift in gameplay. For example, if you’re the type of player who’s always chowing through quests, will it be difficult for you to adjust to harvest mats and take time out to craft? It may be.

We are creatures of habits, deadly so in MMORPGs, so for a studio to convince and woo us to switch those habits to include other systems, then there has to be powerful incentives.

And there may be those incentives at play here. I think that SSG is pushing this hard is getting some serious attention by a lot of folks. After all, when a studio is actively engaging in developing a certain part of the game, it’s exciting to hop on board that train. Another incentive is the easy entrance into Umbar crafting and the promise that crafting output will be desirable and usable.

I’m going to stay on the fence for a while on this, even so. There’s a whole lot of talk about this rework, to be sure, but seeing it in action and hearing word-of-mouth from much more experienced crafters is what I need to properly evaluate its potential. After all, there are always so many things one can be doing in Middle-earth. If crafting wants to make a play for my time, it’s got to be irresistible in design and rewards.

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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