Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Thoguhts on a failed return, and the future of LotRO

Hey people. I had honestly totally forgotten that I had started this thing until about a week ago, when I almost came back to playing LotRO. Before, there were a couple reasons why I stopped, but the main one was school. I wanted to really focus on college, and LotRO certainly wasn't going to help me in that respect. I finished a semester of college, but decided I like teaching guitar more than exams and papers and professors. So now school's not in the way anymore.

I had heard great things about the Siege of Mirkwood expansion, and I even had the opportunity to play it for a bit on a friend's computer. I took my friend's avatar out for a few more hours the next day just to see if it would be worth it, and by the end I was totally facing the opposite direction.

Basically, everything that had been added since I left seemed like icing on the cake. To most people, that metaphor means something positive. For me, most of the time it does, but this time I'm using it the other way. Icing is sweet while it lasts, but in the long run it's insubstantial, doesn't last a long time, and can easily make you sick if you have too much. The skirmish system was OK, I guess. It's basically an easy answer to the people whining about not being able to find a fellowship (which is a legitimate complaint). There's a bunch of new items to gander at in the AH, a lot of them to facilitate the crafting of Legendary weapons (I left before that beast reared its head). Those things (and others which I won't bore you with, you've already experienced them) left me with a very "blah" feeling.

I felt myself sinking back into the mentality I had right before I quit. The game has strayed from its roots to try to entice as many people as possible. I can't blame Turbine for this (well, maybe I can), but they need to survive as a company and in this climate that's not easy. The original goal was to experience the world of Tolkien with other like-minded players. Now with glowing legendary weapons and all these flashy new systems, the game's lost its awesome simplicity that it had in the beginning. I get that stuff needs to be added and changed to keep things interesting, but there's no reason that those things have to taint what was already a solid foundation. I've said this before, but the game is becoming a WoW clone. We already have a Wow. Give us something else.

My last thought is on the future of the game as a whole. I'd be screaming this in the forums and in real life if I could, but I can't post it in the forums becuase I don't have an active subscription, and I'd look like an idiot in real life. My dad plays the stock market game, and he watches a guy on TV, Jim Cramer. The guy's a character, but also extremely brilliant. He predicted the US stock market crash that happened late in '08 before anyone else did, and he tried to warn people (to no avail) to try to prevent it, because he saw the signs that no one else did. I kind of feel like that now, but time will tell if I'm just being irrational.

This game is going to die. Maybe not soon, but eventually. I obviously don't have subscription numbers, so maybe the number of players is growing astronomically fast, but I don't think so. Ballparking it, I think that number will stop increasing within 12 months if not sooner, and it'll be a dead game within 2 years. Turbine is throwing ideas into the game in a desperate fashion so they can have more bullet points for new features when they release an expansion. I say this with all the love in the world. I adored this game. I really did. The simplicity of it, the beauty of it (in every aspect), but now there's a whole crap-ton of unneeded...crap getting in the way of that. I want to adore it again. All I have now are the books (which is enough for now).

Maybe I'm an outlier in terms of what people are looking for in this game, but I don't think so. Anyone who wants what Turbine is serving up now is going to (if they haven't already) go over to WoW, because Blizzard has been doing it longer, they're doing it better, and their numbers are still growing after almost 6 years.

In the most arrogant and tucked away corner of my brain that I keep shut up 99% of the time, I'm hoping someone will post this message of the forums for me, because (again, arrogantly), I think this needs to be said to as many people as possible as a sorely needed wake-up call. Something needs to give, and it needs to happen soon.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Hello again. Before you get excited about this (like there are any out there that were actually waiting :D), this is basically a continuation of my previous status. The event that happened about a month ago, and the subsequent chaos that ensued has finally started to die down, but as a result of that my interests have shifted. I haven't touched LotRO since it happened, and I see no end to that streak any time in the near future. It's probably a result of what happened.

If you're interested, and since I think you deserve at least a small explanation, here it is in so many words. I was very close friends with an elder cousin of mine, she was about 2 years older than I am but we were really tight. She was one of the smartest people I knew, she had just finished her sophomore year in college going for a mathematics degree. While at one of the end of the year parties her friends was hosting, she had too much to drink. For reasons I can't fathom (and probably for no good reason at all, knowing what was in her system) she went driving by herself, and lost control of the car around a sharp turn, which was on the edge of a decent hill. She was killed in the crash. So don't drink and drive.

If it so happens that my interest in the game gets rekindled (and I hope it does, I had a great time) I'll start blogging on here again. Of course, I can't blog about a game that I'm not playing, so it wouldn't be very fair to you all (that is, all 5 of you) to say I'd be coming back with a vengeance. If I were to start right now, I would be forcing myself, and that's no way to play a game. And because of that, the blogging would suffer as well (I'd be forcing the blogging too).

So, as of now, peace out. Have fun in Middle Earth, and I sincerely hope that I'll see you back there someday.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Sorry to all who read this, but I'll be taking a short break from this blog. There was a death in the family and there's a lot of fun stuff that goes along with that, and it'll be taking up most of my time. In the mean time, there are plenty of other great LotRO blogs out there, check out the list on the right. I'll be back when I can.

Friday, April 10, 2009

...To Rohan?

Continuing from my previous post, we're now going to speculate on the next major (as in not free) content update. As I said before, the most probable course in my opinion is to continue down the Anduin river, following the Fellowship's path Southeast. For the sake of this post, we're going to assume that I'm right (a lovely fantasy for me).

With the area Southeast of Lorien now filled in, it leaves a perfect opening to zip back west and continue Southward to Rohan. In my mind, we can expect the boundaries of the next expansion to include Fangorn (all the way up to bordering the Lorien area), and all the way West to the Gap of Rohan (including Isengard). I can see the developers still using the Anduin as the Eastern border, probably including Amon Hen at the Southeasternmost point of the expansion.

An interesting question now comes up. The only basis we have for the size of a major update is Moria. This is a pretty tough scale to use because it's extremely dificult to compare underground area to above-ground area. So in this speculation, I'm also going to take a stab at saying that the expansion will continue Southward until it hits the White Mountains. I'm not certain about that though.

The final thing I want to mention are two areas that have been largely looked over (by us at least, hopefully not by the devs). South of the Shire and the Lone Lands and the Trollshaws is a huge place called Cardolan. Briefly, it was a country that contained (among other things) the fortress of Amon Sul, and it was a key player in the long war with Angmar in the Second Age.

South of that is another area called Enedwaith. Originally this was a huge forested area, but the Numenorians in the Second Age as well as the War of the Elves and Sauron decimated most of the landscape. The Old Forest is one of the very few remnants of it's former glory. However, it's south-eastern portion apparently (accoring to Tolkien's writings) remains "well-wooded", but it's mostly grassland now. Some surviving traits are the ruins of Tharbad, an ancient city that was wiped out by floods in the late Third Age, and two groups of people: the Dunlendings in the east parts, and to the west, "fairly numerous but barbarous fisher-folk" on the coast of Belegaer (the sea).

These two areas seem (to me at least) to be an interesting opportunity for Turbine to use it's creative talent to give us some new and fairly open gameplay (akin to what Rohan will be). Both areas seem to be flat and wide, which should compliment the expansion nicely. When will we see these new areas? Probably not until at least after the Rohan expansion, but if you look at the map when they're done it will round out the world nicely.

The Road Goes Ever On...

As described by both Turbine and Tolkien, Lothlorien is a resting place. The Fellowship will stay there for a short while, and then continue East. Obviously the game has to follow their path, and so we are left to question where that path leads to next. I'm not alone in having done almost everything I wanted to do in Lorien. I'm Kindred with the Elves there, I've done the Battle of Lorien a few times, but the home of the Galadhrim was never meant to be a place of excitement and action like Moria was. It's a shame that an area that took so much time and effort isn't able to offer a longer period of satisfaction, but I have a hard time thinking of how Turbine could have put any more things into it then they already have. It's time to start thinking about where we're going next.

Turbine has (for the most part) kept up with their schedule of one free update per month in the past, which means theoretically there should be a new one coming soon. There are three obvious options for the path forward. The first is to head south, into Fagorn Forest. Secondly, heading southeast along Anduin, following the Fellowship partway down the river and possibly encompassing the Brown Lands and the Wold. Maybe if they take a little more time (the people on the forums'll love that one) they'll get all the way to Amon Hen? Doubtful, but possible. Finally, they might shoot for Mirkwood. For some reason, although many people have been saying this is where they'll probably head next, I sort of doubt it. Due East from Lorien is Mirkwood, but also Dol Guldur. I dunno but that seems like too big a fish to fry straight out of Moria. I mean one of the major storylines has been about stopping the Witch-King's advance on the North. It just seems to me to be too much too soon.

Anther consideration is the Fellowship's position. Like it or not we are drawing close to the breaking of the Fellowship, so they'll have to start making their way down the river soon. If we go down Anduin, the Fellowship will almost certainly be moved from Lorien to a camp or something along the river (that fits with the lore as well, so everyone wins). When I think about Fangorn, I'm inclined to think that they'll also extend the river a little bit, and move the Fellowship wherever they decide to stop. The only scenario I can come up with where they Fellowship stays put is Mirkwood. Mirkwood plays no part in the Lord of the Rings (the main story anyway), so there's no reason to move them yet. However, Dol Guldur's right there, I can't see it happening. When I started typing this paragraph I thought the Fellowship's being moved/staying put would help in deciding what's going to be released next. Not so much.

Ah, I've left someone feeling very sad and alone. The Gladden Fields! Where the One Ring was found, where Isildur was killed, the whole bit. However I don't see them expanding North to here now, there's not enough stuff up there.

So, final thoughts? I think Mirkwood's out because of the whole Dol Guldur thing, and Fangorn not so much for another reason. All in all, I predict we'll be taking a boat ride down the Great River soon. It has the most potential for quests and lore, plus it still leaves something else open which I'll touch on in another post (soon, I'm really bored).

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Thoughts on LotROCON

As my computer has been without internet for the past couple of days, I've had time to just sit and mull things over. One of those things was the proposed LotROCON by Moormur over at the LotROCAST. In theory, it sounds like a great idea. Lots of people that love the same game getting together to talk about it together, play it together, and interact with the people that make it happen (the developers, hopefully). However, in practice, there are some huge obstacles that need to be overcome. I hate to be the storm cloud in the bright blue sky, but here we go:

For starters, attendance needs to be guaranteed. The last thing anyone wants is this huge thing planned (theoretically with some substantial money involved) and then 15 people show up. That, however, is exactly what I see happening. This game (in my opinion) doesn't have the player base yet for this kind of event. If you take the total number of subscribers for the game, there is a minority (some may say an extreme minority) that will have the dedication to invest the time/money/resources in general to come to an event like this. Talking about the number of subscribers as a whole, from what I've seen we are too spread out over a large area to make one event at a single location a success. At the moment, that location is looking like Westwood, Massechsetts (where Turbine is headquartered). New England isn't exactly the most desolate place in the country for computer gaming, but I don't think that's going to cut it.

Just as a side note, here's a data point: I'm a (fairly) avid LotRO player living in SE Pennsylvania. The drive to Westwood, Massechusetts is about 350 miles and at the worst about 7 hours of driving time. Would I be willing to come? Yeah, if I could be assured that it would be worth it (number of people attending would have to be more than 7 for instance).

So for the moment we're going to assume we have enough people ready/willing/able to come to this thing to make it happen (feels pretty good, doesn't it?). The next thing is getting the word out. That means advertisements on the main page up the wazoo, forum reminders, LotRO Tracker announcements, and in-game announcements at the very least. I'm no wizard at organizing things like this, so I have no idea what other means people use to advertise that something like this is going to happen. However, using only those methods mentioned seems pretty flimsy to me. I can't explain why, but for some reason I can't see only those getting enough people to come. Not a very flushed out argument, but there you are.

Next comes the issue of the all-important dollar. Something like this costs money. A lot of money. Renting out a convention center or some such venue is not cheap, and someone has to be willing to do it. Aside from that, there are countless other expenses to cover. Food (getting vendors to come isn't free), computers for people (a lot of them, ideally) decorations, people have to do stuff and get paid for it, I could go on and on. Would Turbine be willing to do it? Maybe, if they could be guaranteed a healthy return. You could argue that somewhere the money has been paid already by the subscribers, but these people get paid to make the game as well (Lorien didn't get made on prayers and nachos). I seem to remember hearing that Ten Ton Hammer funded something similar to this a while back (although I think it was on a smaller scale than we're thinking about, or maybe I'm getting ahead of myself). But someone has to come up with the money. Maybe there would be an admission fee. Is that normal for these sorts of things? I have no idea, I've never been to one, much less organized one.

Finally, this stuff doesn't happen by itself (I actually like that prayers and nachos thing I came up with). You need people who have the drive to put this kind of thing together. From my chair, I see some incredibly well-motivated and well-connected individual or group getting something like this together, with Turbine on the sidelines maybe supplying things like banners and stands where you can buy the game. Do we have that? Maybe. I know I don't know anyone like that, but my connections inside the community are pretty limited (getting into closed beta a community guru does not make). I would do it if I knew people who knew people. And I would help if I could, but I'm all the 350 miles down here. Holler if you really need me.

Internet Again!

Hey guys I just finished moving my computer to a new location, and for a while the internet wasn't playing nice, but now it's up and I can start blogging again!