lord of the rings online

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Official Site: Lord of the Rings Online
Studio: Standing Stone Games, formerly Turbine/WB Interactive Entertainment; published by Daybreak Game Company
Launch Date: April 24, 2007
Genre: Fantasy Themepark
Business Model: Hybrid F2P (Optional Sub, Cash Shop)
Platform: PC

Massively Overthinking: The value of MMO voice chat

This week’s Massively Overthinking question was shot over to us from Kickstarter donor Celestial, and it’s all about voice chat in MMOs.

Do you use a voice chat program while gaming, and if so, which one do you primarily use? Mumble, TeamSpeak, Ventrilo, RaidCall, Razer Comms, Skype, or some game-integrated solution (WoW, DCUO, LotRO, etc.)?”

And furthermore, do you actually like voice chatting, or is it just something you do because you have to for certain gameplay situations? Let’s discuss the pros and cons of voice chat vs. other types of chat in general!

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One Shots: Bagpipes in the woods

I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of bagpipe music, although I do harbor a certain fascination for any musical instrument that looks like the innards of a monster. Still, how often do you see bagpipes in MMOs? I’ve spied them only in Lord of the Rings Online, and there only rarely.

Reader Ratstew took this photogenic shot of his character bleating out a jam in the middle of the woods: “This is one of my LOTRO favorites, though of course I have hundreds more I could fill your mailbox with. It’s like potato chips — can’t take just one!”

Will you be able to look at only one picture after the break? I doubt it!

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The MMO industry mourns the passing of Christopher Lee

If you haven’t heard the news already, then we’re sorry to report that Star Wars and Lord of the Rings actor Christopher Lee has died at age 93. He was certainly a mesmerizing personality on screen, particularly as a villain.

One of Lee’s roles was doing the voice work for EverQuest II faction leader Lucan D’Lere. Former EQII lead Scott Hartsman mentioned this in his condolences on Twitter: “Very sad. An amazing talent. We were lucky to have him voice a main character in EQ2. Added a ton of class.”

Lord of the Rings Online posted a picture of Lee as Saruman from the films, saying, “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Christopher Lee today. He will be missed.”

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Perfect Ten: The top 10 healthiest live MMOs

One question that consistently pops up across the MMO gaming circuit is, “What are the most popular/healthy/active MMOs out there?” Every time I see this question, I sympathize with the concern behind asking it. For some players, finding a game that not only exists but is hopping and has the greatest potential for a future is of paramount concern.

Massively OP reader Duffy suggested that we cover this very topic when he asked, “Which MMOs are struggling and which seem to be rolling in gravy? Do MMOs in general do very well or are most just able to keep the lights on?”

It’s a difficult question to answer off-the-cuff because there are a lot of variables to consider. Instead, I researched several angles, including player tracking services, frequency of patches, financial reports, and even how often each game pops up on blogs. While the following isn’t definitive, I feel strongly that the following 10 games are the healthiest live MMOs on the western market right now.

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Lord of the Rings Online releases a balance patch with new roleplaying stage

The most recent patch to Lord of the Rings Online will go down in infamy for its basic lute volume nerfs. It’s 12% quieter now, and flutes are 15% louder. Clearly, this patch is focused entirely around nerfing lutes. Also around a number of bugfixes for instances and quests and providing several balance tweaks for several classes, but it’s mostly about completely destroying lutes.

Players will now have access to the Bree Festival Grounds with a stage, perfect for roleplaying and stage performances throughout the years. They can also enjoy easier reputation earnings in Central Gondor and the option to use multiple reputation items at once. Take a look at the patch notes for a full list of changes, including other musical alterations that aren’t just about promoting flutes over lutes.

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LOTRO musicians prepare for Weatherstock VII

For seven years now, it’s been a tradition among the Lord of the Rings Online community to assemble at the summit of the iconic Weathertop and throw a player concert to end all player concerts. Well, that time is drawing nigh, and Weatherstock VII is coming on July 25th.

Subtitled “A night of stars,” Weatherstock VII is hosted by the Lonely Mountain Band kinship on the Landroval server and will feature 10 bands performing using LOTRO’s music system. While band registration is closed, anyone can plan to attend in July and cast a vote for their favorite performance. The sponsors will offer protective escorts to lowbies and hand out all sorts of treats.

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The Soapbox: Can MMOs eradicate pay-to-win?

You know what sucks about getting old? Apart from the adult diapers and the dying? Yeah, it’s the seeing things you love retconned into things that you don’t love. That’s basically the opposite of fun, and so it goes here lately with me and MMORPGs.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m still playing them in the hope that they’ll dial back the casino stylings in favor of fun gameplay and ambitious feature sets.

But really, why would any for-profit development studio do that when a generation of gamers thinks that gamble boxes, cash shops, triple-dipping business models, and pay-to-win are not only acceptable but preferable?

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Massively Overthinking: When IPs are wasted on mediocre MMOs

This week’s Massively Overthinking question comes to us from Kickstarter donor Aldranis, whose query neatly dovetails with the IP-related question we answered on the podcast earlier this week. Aldranis writes,

Do you think IP-based games lead to an oversaturation of mediocre MMOs on the market? It seems for every Marvel Heroes or Lord of the Rings Online, there are one or two Matrix Onlines. I feel these types of games can not only stunt design/developer creativity but also introduce games that no one would really play, wasting a great IP. Similarly, I’m really bummed that World of Darkness didn’t make it to the light of day (pun very intended). That was an IP-based MMO I was really looking forward to, and now seems to be lost, at least in the short-term.

I posed Aldranis’ question to the Massively OP writers, and man, they took the diss on The Matrix Online as fightin’ words!

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Roll a Warlock in Dungeons and Dragons Online next month

Time to roll up a new character in Dungeons and Dragons Online! In a new producer’s letter, Robert Ciccolini said that the team will be introducing the Warlock class to the game next month. The Warlock is a more sinister class than others with the ability to forge pacts with fiends and other forces in exchange for power.

Ciccolini said that after June’s Warlock will come July’s Update 27, which will contain an adventure pack in Shavarath. Not content to rest with that, he mentioned that Turbine’s hard at work transferring the game servers to a new data center in order to reduce lag and will be whipping up a new in-game storefront for later this year.

We spoke to Turbine last week about the future of the game and were teased about the Warlock content.

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LOTRO Legendarium: Eight years, eight pictures, eight stories

I might be a little tardy in doing this, but every spring since I started to write about Lord of the Rings Online, I’ve done a column in honor of the game’s anniversary. When I began, LOTRO was only a few years old; now it’s two years shy of a full decade.

In the past I’ve discussed the history of the game and some of the grander milestones, but today I’d like to engage LOTRO’s anniversary on a smaller, more personal level. As with many of you, I have a screenshot folder that is practically bulging with pictures taken of my adventures over the years. While some of those are just pretty vistas, others have significant stories attached.

So I’m going to share eight of those pictures with you, starting with the header up there. Back in the first few years, there was nothing as breathtaking — or screenshotted — as the descent into Rivendell. It’s definitely long in the tooth today, but I’m still impressed with the tranquility, beauty, and design that the devs conveyed in this remote outpost.

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The Daily Grind: Would you play a World of Warcraft progression server?

Classic servers and progression servers are on my mind lately. EverQuest just got yet another progression server; it had launch issues, but it’s up now. Lineage II is getting a classic server. RuneScape has one already. Darkfall’s considering it. Ultima Online… well, UO has Siege Perilous, which is old school only harder-core. We’ve even argued that Lord of the Rings Online would benefit from one.

But the elephant in the room is always World of Warcraft. Most of the people who have ever played WoW no longer do, and if the former WoW players in our comments are any guide, many of them long for the days of a previous setting. For some, it’s Burning Crusade. I preferred Wrath of the Lich King myself. And some peeps would just like to live in Vanilla forever. In fact, some do just that on illegal servers.

And all of those people would be paying Blizzard a monthly sub if Blizzard would just do what itty-bitty classic MMOs like EQ have done and opened some classic or progression servers. Would you join them? Would you play on a World of Warcraft progression server?

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LotRO producer’s letter talks Minas Tirith, new PvMP content, and more

Turbine executive producer Athena Peters has posted a new producer’s letter on the Lord of the Rings Online forums. In it, she outlines the firm’s plans for the remainder of 2015, including “major content initiatives” and “major service upgrades” for the long-running Tolkien MMO.

There’s a new PvMP map in the works (yes, you read that right); it’s designed to feature Osgiliath and it should be released later this summer. There’s a new episodic quest coming, too, with weekly updates slated to follow hobbit Bingo Boffin “as he traverses Middle-earth.” Minas Tirith also gets a mention, but Peters remains coy on the specifics other than hinting at a “surprising take on the siege of Gondor.”

In terms of service upgrades, look for a new storefront, new servers and datacenters, and an improved server transfer service before the end of the year.

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Global Chat: What do you remember about Guild Wars?

Late last month, the classic Guild Wars transcended its 10th birthday and prompted a flood of nostalgic posts and shared stories. A few MMO bloggers tore their attention away from the current crop of games to talk about what they loved about their initial foray into Tyria.

“Not only did GW1 revitalize MMOs in general for me, but it gave me a mission and story-based online game that I could play with [my friend],” said Aywren. “I remembered the music, I remembered the world, the Jade Sea. The colours! Oh, how I had loved the look of the world,” Paeroka gushed.

Tasha had perhaps one of the best testimonials: “Getting involved in something like Guild Wars to the extent I did seeps into every part of your life. Over the years I’ve treated the game as an excuse to learn new skills and open doors into new experiences I might not have had.”

Buckle up for an exciting Global Chat, as we hear a rant on double-jumping, a return to Champions Online, a player vouching for World of Warcraft’s virtues, and more!

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