Is LOTRO Effectively in Maintenance Mode?

I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread

-Bilbo Baggins

There was a lot of optimism when EG7 announced their plans to purchase Daybreak Games.  It was a heady moment for many of us when EG7 gave us a bunch of data about the various titles.

Enad Global 7

There was also statements from EG7 about investing in titles like Lord of the Rings Online, including what seemed like crazy talk about a console version.  It felt like good things could be coming.

Almost five months down the road the, now that the afterglow of the announcements has passed, some of us are now getting a little impatient to see what changes, if any, the coming of the new Swedish overlords actually bring.  As with other such transactions, you only get so much goodwill time before the old problems become your problems.

Unfortunately, the message coming from the LOTRO team seems to be the usual litany of deferral and excuses.  Last week the community got a Q&A with the executive producer and to say it was a disappointment would be something of an understatement.  All sorts of things people have been asking after for years like a scalable UI or wide screen support to make the game playable on larger monitors are nowhere in sight.  They mostly seem to be on about bugs and whatever new content they can scrape together.

Most disturbing to me was the response about legendary items, a horribly grindy feature that should have been left behind in Moria:

We want players to have things to do while they are leveling. I know that some players are ‘Oh, this is too grindy and sometimes we overdo it,’ but ‘grindy’ doesn’t scare me as much as ‘I don’t have enough to do.’ I don’t have enough to do is worse because players want to play the game but they don’t really have goals to pursue.

This betrays such a basic misunderstanding of what makes people stick with these sorts of games that I despair for any future for the game, even if EG7 decides to throw some money at it.  This is all of the worst conspiracies about MMO devs confirmed, that they make things purposely grindy to keep us with the game longer.  Have you met your players?  We do stuff just because we can.  We don’t need enforced mandatory grind, we’ll make our own thank you.

I honestly thought we were past that somewhat when WoW launched as was relatively easy to level up in compared to the industry as a whole and yet people still found things to do in the game.  I guess not.

The legendary items thing really strikes home for me.  Despite my enjoyment of Lord of the Rings Online over the years… I bought a lifetime subscription back at launch and own every expansion… I have never made it very far past Moria in the game.  Part of the reason is that Siege of Mirkwood is just an uninspired expansion where Turbine was clearly just mailing it in while they threw resources at some of their fruitless projects.  But it has been mostly due to the constant need to attend to the legendary weapon… and not the one legendary weapon I got back before Moria, but whichever drop I happened to get that was an upgrade.

Yet somehow they are worried that if they dumped legendaries that players wouldn’t be able to depend on drops to keep up with DPS… though we pretty much have to depend on drops for that anyway.  I guess maybe I should be happy they aren’t planning to make them more grindy, which was pretty much the message back in January, but adjusting the “suck” setting back 10% still means things suck.  And they’re talking about challenge modes that will make grinding your legendary even more of a requirement.  They seem 100% locked into “grind makes the game” as a philosophy.

Leaving aside my personal investment in the demise of legendaries, the whole tone of the Q&A was as depressing as any of the worst periods of the Turbine or Daybreak eras.  Even the positive bits, like the new bit of content, The Further Adventures of Bilbo Baggins, turned out to be hollow, being made up of reused assets and mechanics.

A development team that was going to get an infusion of resources to help it along would surely be able to offer a more convincing vision for the future.  Instead I am beginning to wonder if EG7 isn’t simply perusing the Gamigo business model of buying up tired titles and milking the last bits of life out of them before shutting them down.  I previously dared to speculate as to what LOTRO needed.  Now I wonder what the game can even hope to get.

It should be a good moment for the game.  It is celebrating its 14th anniversary and a major potential competitor, the Amazon funded Middle-earth MMO, has been cancelled. (Though the LOTR series under development is still on, so there may still be a renewed interest in all things Middle-earth.)  Instead, the game is starting to feel like Bilbo at the top of the post, stretched too thin for the resources they have with no relief in sight.

8 thoughts on “Is LOTRO Effectively in Maintenance Mode?

  1. Yeebo

    I have to say I am pretty close to writing LoTRO off. A lot of recent SSG moves in DDO and LoTRO signal a team that cares a lot about short term profits and very little about how healthy the player base is three years from now. The fist post on my blog that anyone actually commented on was about LoTRO, I have written a lot about it over the years. It pains me to see the team giving us signals that this may be the last great whale milking before the games go in to permanent maintenance mode.

    When the a team publicly acknowledges that most players hate a system, and gives a really weak reasons for keeping that system in you can conclude that they are making a lot of money off of it and that the money coming in right now trumps any other consideration. I can’t think of any other way to look at it. The alternative is simply mind blowing levels of incompetence.

    If they cared about the long term health of the game, wouldn’t they at least be planning to fix the UI?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Yeebo – If they just fixed the UI I would go back and happily replay the 1-50 content and Moria.

    I forgot to mention that I did boost one character up into Rohan, but the first thing I ran into was a roadblock with the legendary item they handed me, which needed to be leveled up to get me to the DPS needed to take at level mobs. So I would have to either go back to old content or pay for some boosts. I am sure the latter was the plan.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yeebo

    The content through Rohan, Helm’s Deep and the part of Gondor I made it too the last time I was playing really is all excellent imo. As a lifetime subber, you should be sitting on enough coins to max out your LI and barely scratch your stash. You might also consider dropping down into some of the Isengaurd content, which is also quite good and so far below your level it won’t matter whether your LI is up to snuff.

    If the game is really going down in a ball of developer apathy in the next few years, it might be worth trying to see more of what’s there. If the client didn’t seem to hate my current gaming rig, I’d be doing more of that myself. I can play it on an older PC I have here, but it’s hard for me to go back to those framerates.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Yeebo – The problem is that on my big new monitor the game is literally unplayable until they implement UI scaling to make things readable on screen. But people have been asking for that for ages. A quick search will find Cordovan saying it is on the list back in 2016 and it was clearly a much repeated request even then and it seems no more likely to happen today than it did five years back.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. bhagpuss

    I know we’re all just reading between the few lines we get to see but my feeling for a long time has been that the problem is very squarely with SSG themselves. While it’s certainly true that Daybreak changed some systems in thier own games (EQII particularly) to nudge players towards spending money in the cash shop to avoid lengthy upgrade cycles, it’s never been anything remotely close to what I’ve heard described in both LotRO and DDO. As you found when you came back to EQII for Blood of Luclin, while it might be necessary for hardcore raiders to get their wallets out if they want to feel competitive, regular casual players can manage perfectly well – indeed happily – with the normal drops and quest rewards. And as for catch-up mechanisms, the games abound with them. There are no real roadblocks I’m aware of and if you want to come back the expansion bootstraps will make sure you’re able to start in the latest content..

    SSG, on the other hand, seem to have absolutely no interest in anyone other than the hardcore already at endgame. And they want to screw every last penny out of those people no matter how much it makes the game untenable for everyone else. Daybreak clearly were at least complicit in letting that continue and they may well have facilitated it but I don’t think there’s much doubt the underlying philosophy originates with SSG.

    What EG7 will think about it is yet to be decided. I think it’s way too soon to know. I’d have thought it would take at least a year – probably two – before we really get a handle on where the bigger group is going. One thing that has already become apparent, though, or seems to have at least, is that the individual sub-companies Daybreak set up – Digital Ink, Darkpaw etc – are already starting to show signs of independent thought. DCUO is certainly moving and I believe Planetside is, too, from things I’ve read. Darkpaw appear to be spending money although it’s mostly on infrastructure, but that’s a positive sign. If SSG aren’t doing any of that then it could be because EG7 aren’t funding them or it could be because that’s how SSG roll. I’d bet on the latter, particularly in view of the kind of things they’ve been saying, as you quote above.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Anonymous

    I have had a lifetime VIP subscription since launch. Unfortunately, since SSG took over, I can no longer log into the game (I think my password was inconsistent with their password requirements). I have had a customer service ticket pending for three months with no response beyond the initial automatic response. I have talked to other players who have waited even longer, with no response. So yes, I think it is in zero maintenance mode.

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  7. Pendan

    While I agree they are just not understanding the Legendary issues of players and are obviously not making big changes, I think it is hard to say they are truly in “Maintenance Mode” a week after they added some new quests with Bilbo and just a month after they added Wildwood.

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  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Pendan – You’ll note the use of the word “effectively” in the title. Yeah, we got Bilbo… which was a re-use of current assets and mechanics, and the War of the Three Peaks, which they tried to pass off as an expansion much to the annoyance of the players. Meanwhile SSG is still sitting on issues that have been around for years at this point. I think cranking out cheap content and being focused only on things that bring in money while waving off much that is broken in the game gets them pretty close to the term.

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