Please Note – This post is from 2007, early in the history of the game. A lot has gotten better since then.
I tend to object when I hear people characterize Lord of the Rings Online as “WoW in Middle-earth.” It is, however, a hard objection to make stick. You just look at the UI and say, “Hmmm… now where have I seen that layout before?”
Still, there are a lot of things that differentiate LOTRO from WoW. If you have played both, you know what I mean.
With the return of Earl, we have gone back to WoW for our Saturday night instance group. Earl actually went out, bought LOTRO, and was leveling up a character (and he is in the Gaff class of leveling machines). But the first weekend we could play found most of us approaching level 30 while Earl was just in his low teens. To get the group together to play, we decided to go back to WoW.
The suggestion that we leave Middle-earth and return to WoW was met with cheers by at least two of our group. I was less enthusiastic. There is still so much to see in Middle-earth. But I could see the point of getting back to WoW. We still have quite a few 5 player instances to get through there. Accomplishing some sort of MMO milestone, like hitting level cap, might be a nice change for me.
So we played WoW that next Saturday night and we all had a lot of fun. In fact I had more fun than I remember us having in LOTRO.
Now, as much as Earl is the life of the party, regaling us with tales of freight hopping and New York City property values, I do not think he was the key to the fun.
No, I think I found something that Turbine did not copy from WoW, something that differentiates the two games.
World of Warcraft is just more fun to play. Potshot has a similar post on his site because we talked a bit about this after the Hinterlands on Saturday night. He wants to know why WoW is fun, I want to know why LOTRO isn’t as much fun.
Now, I am not talking about depth or the feeling of long term fulfillment here. But as far as just getting in, grouping up, and playing goes, WoW wins. WoW is more fun.
I say this from the perspective of somebody who started off pretty anti-WoW. I have never been much on the Warhammer-derivative art style, the lack of parallel paths on the adventuring path past level 20, the shallowness of characters and guilds, the crappy PvP, the battle grounds, the heavy focus on an end-game I have no interest in, auctions, or the lack of frigging storage space. And don’t get me started on the patcher or Stranglethorn Vale. I have three alts that I stopped playing at STV. So WoW pushes a lot of my negative buttons.
On the other hand, I have been quite the LOTRO partisan. I really want to like the game. I like the art style, both its depth and beauty. I like all of the traits and titles and whatnot. I am even okay with the trade skills. You can actually make useful items for your level. And then there is the whole Tolkien IP. I want! I want! I want!
So I have enough going on in my brain with regards to LOTRO to ensure some pretty severe cognitive dissonance with regards to how fun it is.
And yet, even as we were making the decision to go back to WoW, I knew in my gut WoW was going to be more fun.
For me, LOTRO just isn’t quite there, and I have trouble pointing at exactly why.
Certainly part of it is the design of the game itself. While, intellectually, I like all of the little features in LOTRO, all of the achievements and titles and what not, they do add up to a burden of complexity on the game. They tried to give combat more depth but ended up making it a bit unwieldy. And the interface, while so similar between games, just seems more clear in WoW, especially when it comes to icons. And, yes, I’ve griped about the icons before.
And then there is the game client itself. WoW just feels much lighter and more responsive when compared to LOTRO. I just do not feel like I have to work as hard to make things happen in WoW. I remember reading quotes from Rob Pardo at AGC last year, when he mentioned spending a lot of time making sure that little things like the responsiveness of the cursor felt just right. That work paid off. And lag? Bree on a Saturday night can be a painful place to run through. Even some of the instances, as well done as they are, make my machine drag. WoW, on the other hand, just felt right, with little lag and excellent responsiveness.
It is tough for me to admit, but I was more comfortable playing WoW after a five month break than I was with LOTRO after playing for five months straight.
LOTRO is good, but when it comes to polish and smooth operation, it cannot beat WoW.
Does anybody else feel that way? What could Turbine do to change this?