LOTRO Legendarium: Three key problems LOTRO can’t seem to solve


There’s a special agony reserved for faithful fans of a franchise when they see said franchise make unforced errors, decline in quality, or fail to address critical issues. Love mingles with dismay, and frustration ends up tainting enjoyment.

As much as I truly do love Lord of the Rings Online — and I’ve been writing about this game since 2010, so it’s not like I have to prove myself here — there are aspects of this game that make me grit my teeth and demand a therapeutic ventin’. So today I’m going to offer up some constructive criticism about three key problems that LOTRO either can’t or won’t address.

The lag

While there are tech issues like UI scaling, two-factor authentication, and 4K support that are important, there’s nothing on the backend that’s as vital to LOTRO’s well-being and future than fixing that awful, rotten, no good, very bad lag. I know it, you know it, and SSG knows it. It’s keeping people away from the game and pushing loyal players out of this space. It’s absolutely embarrassing to have an MMO of this caliber struggle with lag and rubberbanding when it’s 17 years old.

What’s infuriating here is that SSG has been talking about fixing the lag for years now. If spoken and written words could’ve fixed this issue, the sheer volume uttered would have resulted in the most silky-smooth performance in the genre. But the more SSG talks about throwing resources and engineers at it, the more it doesn’t seem to get any better.

And maybe SSG is tired of talking about it because this year’s roadmap letter spent not one jot on any tech issues. Maybe the thought was that if the devs don’t talk about it, people will just forget that its a problem? Yeah, good luck with that. So what’s being done for the lag, when we might see any improvement, and why this isn’t a top, absolute top, priority is anyone’s guess right now.

The economy

Here’s something we need to discuss: LOTRO’s economy is weirdly borked. In a way, it’s almost non-existent to many players.

The core issue as I see it is that this game’s gold has so little purchasing power. It’s simply not used for very much at all. We are drowning in dozens of tokens and other currencies that are bound to characters or accounts, but the one currency that can be transferred between players isn’t utilized that often.

The other day I was reading a group of players in world chat talking about this very phenomenon — how they were sitting on hundreds if not thousands of gold without anything to spend it on other than housing upkeep and the pittance for travel costs. They couldn’t figure out what gold was useful for these days either.

Normally in MMOs, the economy would flow through the auction house, with supply and demand and all that. But what in LOTRO do you need or want to buy from the auctioneer… unless you’re a crafter looking for mats? Dyes, food, and maybe some leftover festival items, perhaps. The last time I dropped a huge chunk of gold on an action hall purchase was back when crafters were making First Age legendaries.

Today, the auction house is downright anemic and seems to serve a much more limited niche of crafters and gatherers. Have you looked through yours lately? It’s such a sad shopping experience. Couple that with the fact that you can’t resell most LOTRO store purchases or lockbox items, and you’ve greatly limited the economy.

Like mounted combat and epic battles, the economy of this game is a vestigial system that used to have a lot more purpose and function than it presently holds.

Unless SSG and its overlords are going to stop trying to funnel us into the cash shop or to use Mithril Coins for every purchase while limiting gold-purchasable items, the economy is going to continue to stagnate as useless wealth stockpiles grow.

The grouping

While I’m only emotionally bewildered by the economy, it’s LOTRO’s grouping tools — or lack of them — that really grinds my gears.

This MMO is not lacking in three-player, six-player, and raid-level instances. It has scads of them. Heck, as I’m writing this, another four are poised to go into the game with this spring’s update. We are spoiled for choices, especially if you factor in skirmishes and missions.

The problem is that there’s simply no elegant and generally accessible way to find groups for instances and raids. It used to be that LOTRO had a looking-for-group tool similar to other MMOs, but for various reasons, it was rarely used. So SSG kind of gave up on that and became content segregating the game’s population. The first segment would be the dedicated dungeon divers who joined kinships who scheduled this sort of thing, or barring that, endlessly spammed the LFF channel to put together groups.

The second segment? The one with a bulk of this game’s community? Dungeons ceased being a thing to them because there’s no good way to find groups. I swear, this MMO is the only one that I regularly play that puts out so many dungeons while eschewing useful grouping tools, and it’s maddening. All these other MMOs have figured out how to do it, but SSG is shrugging its shoulders and going, “Well, we tried that one time, it didn’t take, so now we’re going to cater this content to the hardcore minority?”

I love running dungeons in other MMOs, and I know I would in this one. There’s so much interesting instanced content in this game that I’ve never seen unless there was some solo or quest version.

SSG needs to take another, much better attempt at creating a public grouping tool that’s slick while incentivizing the community to using it. Having such a tool work cross-server would be even better, although I doubt this game’s tech would allow that.

Anyway, those are a few blind spots that I felt like exposing this week. None of them is without a path to redemption, but all of them would take some serious commitment and work to properly rectify.

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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