LOTRO Legendarium: Looking back and ahead at LOTRO’s 17th birthday


At the start of Fellowship of the Ring, Bilbo Baggins famously celebrates his 111th birthday (alongside Frodo’s own 33rd birthday). He looks back at a life well lived but also one that’s developed a terminal case of stagnation and restlessness, largely because of the effects of the One Ring. His farewell birthday party is meant as a time to look back upon his life, and in a much more meaningful sense, to mark the beginning of a new era as he would leave to go on a last adventure.

In comparison to Bilbo’s 111 years, Lord of the Rings Online is only 17 years old, yet it too looks back and ahead every April when it reaches its anniversary season. We light fireworks, eagerly dig into our new gifts, and shake our head and mutter something about the progression of time. Yet lurking behind these superficialities is a deeper truth about the achievements of this MMORPG that began two decades ago and plans to continue into the indefinite future.

Panic mode activated.

Looking back

I’ve been covering LOTRO in this column here and on old Massively since 2010 — back when the game was a mere three years old and barely through Moria and into Mirkwood. It’s undeniable how much this MMO has grown in the intervening time, with scores of zones, thousands of quests, and many expansions fleshing out Middle-earth.

In all of those 17 years, LOTRO has added, changed, and grown, but it hasn’t reinvented itself the way some MMOs tend to do. I think if you grabbed a player from late 2007 and brought them to the game today, it would be quite familiar to them in design and look even if it is expanded.

There’s a true continuity that’s carried us through the years and provided a sense of stability. For those of us who’ve been playing for a while, this is a virtual “home” in a lot of ways. No matter how old we get and how much our lives change, we can always revisit Middle-earth and see Odo hiding on top of the Bird and Baby Inn, Filbert looking in vain for his handkerchief outside of Combe, and Sara Oakheart maintaining a top speed of one mile per two days. That’s a comfy cozy security blanket that long-running games provide, especially if they can retain their integrity the way LOTRO has.

It’s still so bizarre to me that we actually came to the end of the War of the Ring and the destruction of Sauron. After years and years building up to it, that whole confrontation seemed over in a hot minute. Yet despite some fears to the contrary, it wasn’t the end of the game. It was a new era, but in a healthy, life-goes-on kind of way. We’re now in year seven of post-Ring adventuring, did you realize? And SSG’s done a really great job eking out new adventures and ideas now that a bulk of the book is complete.

Yes, there have been mistakes and mishaps along the way. We can debate over the merits of the shift to free-to-play, lament the ongoing performance issues, identify the orphaned game systems, and wonder when our own wish list items will ever be fulfilled. I don’t excuse those, but they are part and parcel of any ongoing MMORPG. For my money and time, LOTRO’s done far more right than wrong in its lifetime.

We are running out of roads.

Looking ahead

So what’s ahead for LOTRO? Galadriel reports that her far-casting mirror is a little murky on that owing to SSG being somewhat cagey in its forecast. Of course, we do know a few things are in store for this year (hopefully): a new Umbar-related expansion, a time-unlock quest series, a kinship revamp, and a new hobby. Maybe a new legendary server, too?

There are other possible future additions, like the Scouring of the Shire and other appendix content, which’ll probably receive attention at some point. And I do expect big things when LOTRO hits its 20th anniversary in 2027. But honestly, we simply don’t know what lies ahead for us.

We can reasonably hope for a good future, whatever it may be, thanks to the tireless effort of this dedicated development team that puts in so much loving care and attention. As long as the servers are kept on and the studio has enough funds to keep paying its devs to make more stuff for us to experience, we’ll be happy to keep going on this ever-winding road.

I don’t need to know everything that’s in wait; I like pleasant surprises and creative experiments. I want the fun twists and turns to arrive so that I can write about them in this space and enjoy them alongside the rest of you.

No matter what, as long as this game endures, we’ll be in good company with one of the best MMO communities in the genre. So yeah, bring on Year 17 and make it a smashing success that gives us cause to toast our devs and friends when we come once more to the birthday table next year!

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.
Previous articleTarisland opens a dedicated pre-registration website with milestones and quests
Next articleThe Stream Team: A first foray into Planet Crafter multiplayer

No posts to display

Subscribe to:
oldest most liked
Inline Feedback
View all comments