Here’s a weird thing to admit: I was actually concerned when I heard that Lord of the Rings Online
brought back Chance Thomas
to score this year’s Mordor
expansion. It’s not that I dislike him or his music; on the contrary, I recognized that Thomas has created a large amount of terrific music for this MMO’s beloved score. And while SSG has done very well with its scoring in house (Gondor in particular), I would normally be ecstatic to see Thomas come back again.
My concern stemmed from the source material. Mordor is evil, through and through, and I knew that this would call for an oppressively dark soundtrack. I felt that no matter who scored it, it wasn’t going to be an eminently listenable album, and I worried that Thomas’ efforts would be hamstrung by this setting.
After receiving an advance copy of the score (which will go on sale digitally November 1st), I found my concern borne out. Mordor’s OST is very competent and does a great job helping to sell the corrupted, death-strewn nation — but it’s not anywhere near as fun to listen to as, say, Thomas’ adventurous Riders of Rohan or his classic Shadows of Angmar work. That said, there are a couple of standout pieces and some very interesting elements going on with these tunes, so let’s go through it track by track to grok this latest chapter in the LOTRO musical archive.
Now that we’re in the thick of Lord of the Rings Online: Mordor
(which I’m still enjoying very much), my mind has taken a turn back to look over 10 years of gameplay updates and expansions.
It’s bizarre to think back to a time when the entirety of the game was merely eight or nine zones crammed up in Eregion. While there’s still plenty of Middle-earth to uncover and explore, the ensuing decade vastly opened up the game world and took us on a journey that spanned from Bag End to Barad-dûr.
It all starts to blur together after a while, particularly after alternative leveling regions were added, the epic story was changed to be more solo accessible, and the studio experimented with different forms of content delivery. I felt like taking a quick trip through the expansions that brought us to where we are today. Because… why not, really?
Outrageous. Ridiculous. Exciting. Exploitative. Controversial.
This past week’s announcement of Lord of the Rings Online: Mordor’s launch date and pre-order packages set ablaze discussions and arguments among the community, both in-game and without. World chat was streaming by quickly as players debated the pros and cons of the reveal, while the forums blew up with huge posts defending and criticizing the pre-order packages.
While this is not the travesty that some are making it out to be, I definitely agree with those that say Standing Stone Games misstepped with this announcement and needs to take some action to rectify the confusion and value of the upcoming expansion. While LOTRO players seem united in their anticipation for Mordor, some of that enthusiasm has been dashed with how the dating and packages have been handled, and that is a shame.
Let’s break it all down and see what we’ve learned and what pre-order might be best for you!
One of the hallmarks and attractions of MMORPGs is growth. These games, much like the characters that inhabit them, grow and change over time. Every hotfix, patch, content update, and expansion adds or modifies something to the whole package (sometimes for better, sometimes for worse). And while that growth keeps things interesting and takes us on a long journey, there is always the very real danger of devs introducing features that, for one reason or another, get abandoned and left to rot inside this ever-expanding game.
After 10 years, five expansions, and hundreds of patches, the Lord of the Rings Online that we play today is by far larger, more complex, and different than the one that launched in 2007. It was inevitable that the team would introduce various systems and features that took off, became popular with the community, and have been heavily supported ever since. It was also inevitable that the opposite has happened too.
I polled some of my fellow LOTRO players about the subject of abandoned features in the game and received quite a few responses. Most of us agreed on a core seven features that the devs originally had grand plans for… and have since neglected and ignored. So let’s take a look at seven features that the team would probably rather you not pay attention to these days!
It was perhaps the worst-kept secret for Lord of the Rings Online’s
upcoming Mordor expansion, but now it’s officially confirmed: Composer Chance Thomas is returning to score the MMO
Saying that “it was a long time coming,” the announcement marks a reunion between Thomas and LOTRO after many years apart. Thomas was one of the key composers who wrote music for the base game and its expansions up through Riders of Rohan, but he’s been absent from the project since 2012. In the livestream, Thomas said that the lawyers had to wrangle things out to make a way for his return.
The composer said that the Mordor expansion will be a “different feel” than what he’s done for the game in the past — and will be quite dark, indeed. He’s currently reading through the design document and looking at various pieces of Middle-earth art to help inspire his composition. Thomas has just now started writing the score but said that there will be live orchestral recording of at least some of it.
Thomas and Standing Stone teased a second special announcement that will come next week. You can watch the full interview after the break!
It might not be Lord of the Rings Online’s
technical birthday quite yet, but the 10th anniversary celebrations are all ready underway as of today. Players can go on the first part of the brand-new scavenger hunt quest series
right now and pick up their birthday gifts later in the day.
In response to concerns that the gift boxes didn’t initially impress, Standing Stone said that there’s more to this anniversary than meets the eye: “When developing for our 10th anniversary, we made a decision to focus on both items and content. What this means is that the 10th anniversary has far more playable content associated with it than any other anniversary we’ve had. We also have more than thirty items available in the scavenger hunt. We appreciate the feedback on the gift boxes themselves, though. I would caution that I’d wait until you see the fireworks before passing judgement, though, as they are pretty sweet.”
After over a month of voting and counting down, we’ve arrived at the final six picks for your favorite MMORPG theme songs of all time. It’s been absolutely illuminating seeing the formation of this list and the placement of certain tracks, and I’m glad that everyone who wanted to got to participate.
Before I reveal the top six themes, here are a few honorable mentions:
Are you ready? I know I am! Here we go!
I am of the opinion that there is something special and magical about getting to experience music in person, especially so when it is a large orchestra performing some of my favorite pieces of game soundtracks. I loved seeing Video Games Live several years back and felt happy at the time at seeing two of my interests meet together and earn some legitimacy as an artistic performance.
We can’t always be there to see such performances, of course, but a nice consolation prize for those wanting to simulate the experience is to watch musicians and composers filmed while they do their work. It adds another layer of appreciation and can even cause you to look at a piece in a whole new way, even if you had heard it a hundred times before.
Today let’s check out some live performances of MMO scores and see if we can’t get any goosebumps going!
isn’t the only place where you can get a good deal on MMOs this holiday season. Lord of the Rings Online
is holding its own sale in the LOTRO Market
where you can get many of the expansions for a pittance.
Helm’s Deep, the most recent expansion, has been discounted from $40 to $10. Riders of Rohan, Rise of Isengard, and Mines of Moria are all down to $5 apiece, while you can pick up Siege of Mirkwood for $2.50. Probably the best deal, however, is to pick up the expansion quad pack (all expansions save Helm’s Deep) for $10. So for $20 total, you can snap up every expansion in the game to date and get ready for next year’s trip to Mordor.
Don’t forget that even Saruman was on the lookout for a good deal: “Isengard bids five.”
Very few things get me as excited as the announcement of a new expansion for a favorite MMO. Expansions are thrilling events, stirring up publicity and community interest, serving to attract both new and old players alike to their release.
A truly terrific expansion can even feel like a game’s launch all over again, particularly if it can keep technical issues to a minimum while reinvigorating the game without ruining it. I’ve played mediocre expansions that played it too safe, horrible expansions that broke things that worked, and wonderful expansions that gave me great hope for that MMO’s future.
Among my favorite releases were City of Villains, World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, and Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan. I’d love to hear from you today about the best expansions, campaigns, and stand-alone products you’ve experienced and what made them so great!
Lately, a friend was asking me where he should start with collecting MMO soundtracks. “Pretty much anywhere and everywhere” was my initial reaction, although that was not quite as helpful as he needed. So we started talking about grabbing all of the free soundtracks out there as well as snapping up particular albums as a backbone of a good collection.
Frankly, if it’s an online game and it’s released a soundtrack, I will buy it. I don’t care what kind of MMO it was or how popular it might have been; often the quality of the music is divorced from whether or not I would play that particular game. So while my collection is pretty expansive, I understand that a beginner collector can’t just buy all the things right away.
So that created an interesting thought exercise for me. If I was starting out and had the funds and desire to purchase, say, six albums off the bat, which ones would I pick? It was tough, but I came up with the following list to recommend to any MMO OST fan as “must haves” for a good collection.