Category Archives: Lord of the Rings Online

For Whom Will the Valar Sing Their Aria?

After the move op north in EVE Online I opened the Lord of the Rings Online launcher, started it patching, and went to bed.  I suspected it was going to take a while.  It was certainly still chugging along when I took a peek when I got up to use the bathroom later.  One does not simply log into Mordor.

Mordor, we have an eye on you!

But by the time the morning came the launcher was ready to let me log in.  That sent me to the character selection screen where I could behold the wonder of the character model update.

At least you can tell the difference

My thought there was mostly hoping that they didn’t spend a lot of time or money on that update.  You can see the improvement when you’re zoomed in close, but somehow I doubt you will notice it on other characters you pass in the world unless you’re one of those people who have to get up in everybody’s face.  Ah well.

From there I got myself into the game, dug out the code that Standing Stone sent me, opened up the LOTRO Store, and plugged it in.  I was rewarded with a success message.

My redemption validated… or something

I am not sure what “Premium Access DNT” is, but at least I recognized “Mordor Standard Edition Mordor Standard Edition” to be correct, if repetitive.  I could not bring myself to shell out for the more expensive packages.

The game also game me a pop-up of the sort when you are given or finish deeds.

Mordor Account Item Claimed Yes

You couldn’t actually click on it or anything, just dismiss it.  But I guess they felt that was necessary.  There was also the standard email from their payment service, Xsolla, which always makes me wonder, “Who is Xsolla?” when I see that name in my email.  I suppose getting a return address that says “Standing Stone” or “LOTRO” would cost extra.

So I was set.  Sort of.  I still needed my character boost, which did not show up with the transaction.  That had me a bit worried, since the top story in the launcher was about people having problems claiming their boost.  Joy.

However, logging out of the game and back in resolved that.  That wasn’t in the instructions that came with the purchase of the expansion, but I seemed to recall it being mentioned elsewhere.  And “turn it off, then back on again” is the universal first step for tech trouble shooting.

Once back in the game I found what I was looking for in my inventory.

The Package of the Valar

Now the big question: Which character to boost?

Yes, I managed to get a blog post out of every “which character should I boost?” situation.  But this one has a bit more edge to it.  While I think I will likely go with my champion, if I make the wrong choice I am a bit stuck.  Standing Stone has not yet added the Aria of the Valar to the LOTRO Store.

Moreover, when they do get around to adding it, I suspect it will be quite pricey.  In the last week they changed up the other boosts they offer, returning the level 50 boost for 3,995 TP.

They removed the level 50+ to 95 boost, which was 2,995 TP, leaving the all levels to 95 boost in the store for 5,995 TP.

Given that pricing, I expect that the Aria of the Valar boost to level 105 will be more, likely ringing in at 6,995 TP when it shows up.  Translating that to real world money is a bit of a chore, as SSG, and Turbine before them, engage in the usual scheme of base points, bonus points, and more points per dollar for the more dollars spent.  But calling it $70 wouldn’t be totally off base to my mind.

Current LOTRO Point pricing

So I want to choose wisely because currently there is no second choice, and when that option does appear it is likely to be expensive.

Of course, I appear to have time to think as the LOTRO launcher stopped being able to contact the game last night, so I couldn’t log in and use the Aria of the Valar even if I wanted to currently.

 

Quote of the Day – Activities in Mordor!

This new end-game system allows players to pledge their allegiance to one faction at a time. Pledge yourself to the Dwarves, Elves, Hobbits, or Men, and unlock rewards through activities in Mordor, including a unique story arc! Players will accrue Allegiance Points which advance your character along a given Allegiance. These points can be earned through acquiring items found in Mordor, completing repeatable quests, and more.

-Allegiance Mechanic, Mordor Release Notes

Here we sit, waiting for the Mordor expansion to go live.

Keep an eye open for Mordor!

The launch was planned for Monday, but was postponed until today.  Now we have entered the period of downtime, after which the expansion should be available.

Nothing left to do but wait and wonder and look at the patch notes for Update 21, which covers the expansion.

Of course, that leads me back to what we’re going to be doing in Mordor, how we’ll be interacting with the main story, and just how far we might be asked to stretch canon.

Mucking about with the core of the stories has been, as has been brought up elsewhere, has been a concern of mine since Lord of the Rings Online was announced.  Almost eleven years back, about ten posts into this blog, I was already writing about those concerns.  How was Turbine going to handle building an MMORPG with thousands of people wandering around while keeping the linear framework that is the story itself?

The team has done a pretty good job so far.  The player sees the story advance.  You get to interact with some of the key actors in the story, but they aren’t strewn about the landscape to bump into over and over again… except in Rivendell… no matter how far you progress you can still go back to Rivendell and find everybody still hanging about.

Most of the time as a player you are occupied with subordinate tasks, things that move the story along behind the scenes, but which wouldn’t get you a mention in the book.  And so it is that you spend a lot of time helping the quartermaster corps of the local Dunedain contingent by slaying bears, boars, wolves, and the occasional servant of Sauron.

So while there was no chapter about the brave battle against the tomb robbers of Esteldin, if there had been my character would have figured prominently.

Once in a while you get to be an uncredited extra in a key scene in the story.

Of course, the flaws of the MMORPG genre are manifest in the game.  The servants of Sauron pop up again as soon as you wander off… as does the mass of wildlife you spent all that time slaughtering to help provision the various outposts of the free peoples.

And their outposts are many.  It was a bit much in the early part of the game.  I don’t recall Eriador being that densely populated.  And the game moved along, the population density became more out of character.

While Moria was a delight to explore, the dwarves did seem to be devoting a lot of time and resources to fixing up their old home when there was a war raging.  But at least they had a reason to be there.  I’m not sure why Mirkwood has so many people wandering about.  If any place was more barren of life… save the odd dark squirrel… and spiders and elves at the far end… it was Mirkwood.  But you cannot run an MMORPG zone without a half dozen quest hubs.

So I do wonder what we will encounter in Mordor, and when in the timeline of things we shall be doing that.  There is, after all, no time between the battle at the Black Gate and the destruction of the one ring (spoiler), the former only ending with the latter.  The up front promise of the release notes…

Witness the fate of the One Ring and Sauron! The Epic quest line reaches a major milestone, and remains free to all players.

…is pretty much the end of the tale save for the cleaning up afterwards.  We can’t even go find Frodo and Sam, really, as the eagles arrive and whisk them off to rejoin the remains of the fellowship.

Still, I am keen to see Mordor, even if the tale there is going to be another series of supply runs for the free peoples and some sort of post-war favor buying system.  Tourist of Middle-earth, that’s me.

I still have yet to decide which character is going to get that level boost into the expansion.  I had best decide soon.

July in Review

The Site

I got another mighty blog achievement this month.

Seventeen in one day… oooooh

I think the lesson here is “kitten posts mean more likes” since that is where most of the likes showed up.

One Year Ago

Pokemon Go was everywhere after it launched.  Everywhere.

I listed out the NBI Class of 2016.  I haven’t gone to check how many survived the year.

Daybreak turned off the last PlanetSide server and the game was gone… though it lingered on the server status page for a while.

Daybreak did launch a pair of special event servers for EverQuest and EverQuest II.  I was keen enough to go earn the special mount on the EQII server.

There was strange news for Turbine as their parent company, Warner Brothers, announced that they were transitioning into a mobile app development studio.  We wondered what that meant for Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online.

In Minecraft I was tinkering with maps and night renders while Aaron created a huge map room in game.

In World of Warcraft I managed to unlock flying in Draenor.  Just in time too, as the 7.0 patch was already pre-loading.  Soon the garrison gold mine would be turned off.  And then it hit, bringing new features.

In EVE Online the Casino War was winding down.  There was a Keepstar to chase, the alleged hellcamp, and some sovereignty exchanges in Pure Blind.  That wasn’t really going anywhere though.  We killed four titans in Okagaiken and blew up a CSAA just to show we were still fighting.  But in the end we admitted defeat and began packing for our trek to greener pastures.

Our destination was Delve, ever the region that calls to Goons.  I mean, look down at the “five year ago” section below. We were attacking the region then as well.  But first we had to get through Rakapas.  I was there for a bit before I ended up soloing my carrier down to our staging in Sakht, accruing the maximum about of jump fatigue possible.

I also hit 160 million skill points while the Blog Banter spoke of malaise.

Five Years Ago

In New Eden my hear went “Boum!

Elligium took its pandas and went home.

Blizzard set the date for Mists of Pandaria.

There was a Steam Summer Sale.

I was wondering if Torchlight II could live up to its potential.

Ultima Forever!  A shot across Lord British’s bow.

Rift decides to sell mounts for cash.  It wasn’t like they were going free to play though.

Let it be noted that not all Kickstarters fail.  There was the Defense Grid expansion Kickstarter.  I kicked in, they built it, I played it.  Simple as that, and much better than any 99 cent app I have purchased.  And I still get a free copy of their next Defense Grid game when it comes out.

I wondered aloud if nostalgia servers… official ones… would remain the sole domain of EverQuest.

Meanwhile SOE was talking about Vanguard’s free to play plan.

I was underwhelmed at the so-called “reskin” of Qeynos in EverQuest II.  The sorrow of Qeynos knows no end.

In EVE Online, there was war in Delve… again… if only I could get there.  There were battles in 49-U6U, C3N-3S, and DSS-EZ, a conga line in 319-3D (where we also watched the alliance tournament), and a flying titan in F2OY-X.  The tiny Wallpapers Alliance held out longer than Nulli Secunda, before being crushed.

Then having done the heavy lifting for TEST, the CFC was asked to go home.  TEST was going to be its own alliance, but we would all remain the best of friends in the big blue donut of love.  Anyway, it was time for a convoy back to Deklein.  Somewhere along the way I got a warning from CCP for causing lag.

And there was also a link to a list of things to do in EVE Online.

Ten Years Ago

Hey, it was the Revelations expansion in EVE Online that was news a year back, and I was running through the updated new player tutorial. It was a huge improvement, though I ran into a glitch or two.

The instance group was still off in Lord of the Rings Online for the Summer, though we were having issues at The Great Barrow when we weren’t playing Truth or Dare.

Vanguard was already planning server merges. 13 servers were being reduced down to 4.

EverQuest II got its own magazine… again (okay, it was an SOE magazine for Station Access subscribers the first time around, but it had an EQ2 scantily clad dark elf on the cover!)… in the form of EQuinox. And they were offering Rise of Kunark beta access to subscribers!

Dr. Richard Bartle, keeping to his strict regime of “one controversial fanboi enraging quote every summer” said he would like to improve the MMORPG species by turning off World of Warcraft Seemed kind of mild after the next year’s entry and reaction!

Perpetual was making crazy-insane statements about Star Trek Online… like no Galaxy-class starships for you! Ships that size were planned to be “space cities” and quest hubs. Back then I told Cryptic take note: If I cannot aspire to be Captain Kirk, I am not sure I want to play! Or just go read Tipa’s post on the subject.

The end of Auto Assault was announced by NCsoft and I took note and pondered a (silly) solution.

I stopped in front of SOE headquarters for a picture. (Mirror universe Wilhelm, with goatee.)

Microsoft finally announced a warranty extension due to the “red ring of death” problem with the XBox 360.

And Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw did his fist Zero Punctuation video.

Most Viewed Posts in July

  1. From Alola Pokedex to National Pokedex in Pokemon Sun
  2. Where the Hell is that EverQuest Successor Already?
  3. The Corrupt Developer Career Path
  4. Delve – We Mine Things and We Rat a Little Less
  5. Dual Monitor
  6. We’re on the Road to Mordor
  7. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  8. Given the Boot in Fallen Gate
  9. Producing Mechanical Parts
  10. Kitten Time
  11. Two Days to Delve
  12. The July 2017 Update Brings Revamped Strategic Cruisers to EVE Online

Search Terms of the Month

casino wars eve
[No longer a thing since casinos were banned]

wow insider
[Also no longer a thing since AOL canned it]

candy crush users hate update june 2017
[Not according to SuperData Research]

les informations sur la xl actinet
[I am not sure what an “actinet” is, XL or otherwise]

wii little big planet
[Sorry, that is a PlayStation exclusive]

EVE Online

The Reavers deployment ended.  Fun was had, but it is over.  Then there was mucking about in Delve, a capital op, and the usual bout of trying to figure out what I should train next.

EverQuest II

Well, as seems to be the pattern so far this year, my MMORPG flavor of the month seems to be exactly that, a month-long venture at most.  I started off on the Fallen Gate server, got to level ten in time to get the special mount, added a couple more levels, and then stopped playing.  Good thing I only subscribed for a 30 days.

Lord of the Rings Online

The promise of the Mordor expansion and the end of the War of the Ring after more than ten years of fighting and grinding grabbed my attention, and suddenly I was patching up LOTRO… as if you can use “sudden,” “patching,” and “LOTRO” in the same sentence… and trying to get reacquainted with the ins and outs of Middle-earth.  So I guess we have the next flavor of the month.  Will it last any longer?

Minecraft

I haven’t done anything in Minecraft this month.  Part of that was just having other games to play while lacking in any real project to focus on in our world.  The other part was that the latest version requires an update to the Overviewer application I use to make maps of the world in order to plan.  I really depend on that app a lot.  Unfortunately, the person who has done that in the past has moved on so the Windows part of that project is effectively dead.  Such is life with open source.

Pokemon

Pretty much the same situation as Minecraft, I ran out of things to do and stopped playing.  I keep an eye on the game and grab Pokemon when there are download events, but otherwise I am on a break from the game.  That probably isn’t a bad thing.  A new version is coming out later this year so maybe a break now will mean I’ll be refreshed and ready to go when that lands.

Pokemon Go

The recent update to gyms has gone pretty well for me.  I am earning a lot more coins thanks to the fact that there is a gym next to my office that trades hands during the day, but if you’re the last one in you are safe overnight and will get the full 50 coins.  So I went from earning maybe 10 coins a week getting into the old style gym to 100 or more with little change in effort.  Of course, this makes me wonder if Niantic is being too generous.  Are remote gyms unintentional gold mines?  Otherwise, I made it to level 29 and, thanks to the experience boost during the one year anniversary, made some good progress towards level 30.

My basic stats this month:

  • Level: 29 (+1)
  • Pokedex status: 185 (+11) caught, 214 (+17) seen
  • Pokemon I want: Gyrados
  • Current buddy: Magikarp… only 147km more to get enough candies for a Gyrados

Coming Up

Will there be a Blaugust this year?  If there is one, it won’t be Belghast driving it.

ANet will be announcing the next Guild Wars 2 expansion tomorrow.

In LOTRO the Mordor expansion looms.  I plan to simply boost into Mordor.  However, I won’t be doing that today.  The expansion has been delayed for the moment.  Can we blame Daybreak yet?

In a break with tradition there will be an game update for EVE Online in August.  The only item on the list for it so far is killing of the Captain’s Quarters to help clear the way for a 64-bit client.  While I won’t miss the quarters, I should probably go for one last visit before they’re gone.

In the Imperium, there is word that we will be deploying somewhere looking for a fight.  We’ve been given lists of doctrines and ships to bring, but no destination or time frame yet.

The Blogger Fantasy Movie League is getting into its final weeks, with the 13 weeks finishing up at the end of this month.  We shall see who the winner will be… actually, it will be Liore… maybe somebody will take second place from me.  Given how I did this week it seems possible.

The Man from Annuminas

In preparation for the coming Mordor expansion, and specifically what plans our potential group should have come the launch, I have been back and playing in Middle-earth.

It is the usual mixture of wonder and exasperation.

I got out a champion in our guild who was in the midst of Evendim, one of my favorite zones in the game.  Sigwerd the man champion, for men are men and human isn’t a word of Middle-earth, still dressed up in a selection of cosmetic gear from past expansions and the Lone Lands.

Sigwerd in Evendim

The chest piece is clearly from the Lone Lands… dyed olive green… but I cannot remember where the hooded fur cloak came from.  Just don’t tell PETA, they’ll sue me claiming the former owner of the pelt holds its copyright.

Anyway, the idea was manifold.

I wanted to get back into the game itself, with its various quirks.  I wanted to get a feel for the state of the game.  I wanted to try out a class I might play going forward.  I wanted to work with the new talent tree thing.  I wanted to get a sense as to how quick levels were given that one of the possible plans was essentially “walk all the way to Mordor.”  And I wanted to enjoy myself.

It is no doubt a telltale of my somewhat conservative nature that I like to go back and run through enjoyable zones and quest lines.  As I have noted in the past, nothing makes you feel more like a ranger… or in this case a champion… of Middle-earth than going through a zone like you own the place.  This is as opposed to wandering about the place half lost with the map up and muttering something about, “If that is the goblin camp over there, then the wolf den must me off to the left.”

I must have more than a dozen characters beyond level 30, so the Lone Lands is like a second home to me, with Evendim not far behind.  Once a zone known primarily for the amount of swimming you had to do in order to get around, it was revamped and given a boat transport system and a re-work of quests, all of which turned it into a great zone.

Looking out on the lake

I picked up where I left off with Sigwerd… left off about six years ago… with him picking up the quest trail in Ost Forod.  He was level 35, so ready for the quests there.  I ran through those, then the quick set on the island of Rantost, then up at the north end of the lake, before picking up at Men Erain and what I consider the start of the grand finale of the zone.

Evendim map

Men Erain starts in with tombs of the Kings of Arnor and leads you into Annúminas, the highlight of the zone.

The ancient fallen city, once the capital of Arnor, is such a great area.  When you arrive there are not many quests handed to you, just a couple of general ones that will take you about the area.  But one of the quests teams you with the ranger Orchalwë.  He travels the ruins with you and, as you reach certain points, give you additional quests as well as assisting you when fighting.

Sigwerd and Orchalwë in the ruins

The whole thing is so organic in its way that really puts me in the game.

And you need the help of Orchalwë.  Many of the mobs you face are elites.  While they aren’t too tough… you can solo one, though it takes some effort… they often come in groups of two or three and singletons wander about leading to surprise adds.  Three at once was a tough fight for me, even with Orchalwë throwing me a heal now and with me having taken the Martial Champion spec, which is a damage dealing tank.  Any mistake and the wheels come off.

However, the elites do not become locked encounters, to use the EQII term, when you tag them. (Also similar to how WoW handles named mobs in Legion.)  This is very handy as it encourages casual group efforts.

Sigwerd versus an elite

At a couple points I was standing, looking at an objective when another player of showed up, their own copy of Orchalwë in tow, and we were able to take on the area and finish the local quests.

The whole thing is so well done, perfect for a small group like our, it makes me wonder why more of the game isn’t like this.

Not that there are not flaws, the first of which is that Orchalwë goes away if you finish his main quest, something that left me in the lurch before I was done with the zone.  That is the reason I am soloing the elite in the screen shot above.

Finishing up in Annúminas, though without having hit all the possible quests, left me almost level 41.  I learned a few things along the way.

The first was that after picking a spec I really should have assigned points to the skill tree.  That would have made life easier.  Still, I managed to muddle through with a small set of default skills.  Once applied my available points my options on the hot bar expanded.

Champion skill at level 40

The icons haven’t changed much since I made my humorous/mocking post about them over eight years ago.  They are still hard to see and when I can see them they still don’t tell me what a skill really does.  The one with the box communicates, as does punching Amy Tan, but the rest still could mean any number of things.  As I understand it, the fact that I have what might be termed a “vintage” monitor means that it isn’t as bad as it could be.

And second, don’t hit the “x” key or your camera will lock in on whatever you are targeting.  I did this by accident during a fight and spent the next 30 minutes trying to figure out why I had lost control of the camera.  I had to Google the issue to fix it and then unmapped “x” from that function.

On the key mapping front, I had to map both “b” and “i” to open my bags because by this point I can never remember which game uses which and my brain seems unable to cope with this.  LOTRO uses “i” by default, but I kept hitting “b,” so I changed the key… and then I kept hitting “i,” so clearly I have some bad wiring as well.

However, I remain impressed how often I end up getting LOTRO Points for completing deeds.

Hey, more money!

But while the world is still quite worth touring, I did run into more graphical glitches than I expected.

The haunted pixellated forest looms!

More on point to planning, I did get a bit of a feel for leveling up.  With VIP blue bar daily and a 25% experience booster from a past expansion in the pocket equipment slot it was easy enough to get a level a day with a reasonable play session of about an hour.  The blue bar goes away pretty quickly, so doing two levels a day means more than double the play time.

Also, I did this under ideal circumstances.  As noted, I feel like the hero in Evendim and I know where to go for any given quest more often than not.  So, operationally, I was very efficient.  That efficiency drops off considerably past Evendim however.

That means going will be slow, or slower, past a certain point.

I think we could, as a group, power on through to level 50 by doing every last thing in Evendim, including the three person version of any instance, picking up the latter half of the Trollshaws, and then pressing through the Misty Mountains.  The last has Goblin-town, which is another ideal place for a small group.  We’d still probably need to hit Angmar or Eregion to get to 50.

At 50 we could decided to try Moria or get a discounted Blessing of the Valar boost to level 95.

Going much farther than 50 however means postponing Mordor for a long time, and getting there through all the content between there and where we stand would likely test our stamina as a group and the life expectancy of the game.  There are a lot of zones between us at level 40 and Mordor.

And even the ten levels between the Blessing of the Valar and Mordor might be a challenge.

Anyway, the plan is still under discussion.  We have at least another week before the expansion lands, and maybe a bit longer given the tentative launch date given with the pre-order.  I likely won’t feel pressed to buy anything until this coming weekend.

Moving Forward to Mordor

As I mentioned last week, the Mordor expansion for Lord of the Rings Online is coming and may be here as early as the end of the month.

Mordor, we’re simply walking in!

I even got a note from Skronk saying that he an Enaldie might be up for a return to Middle-earth, which would give us just enough of a group to do instances.

Of course, there are some issues to overcome.  We haven’t played as a group in LOTRO since late 2011. We’ve done Rift, World of Tanks, Need for Speed: World, Neverwinter, and a couple more runs in World of Warcraft since then.

A metaphor for our group, featuring our group

Our kinship, Murder for Shire, was on the Firefoot server, which is now gone.  I moved the guild to Landroval, which was one of the few choices back when they did the server merge.  That seemed like a good place to start, though we could also use the kinship we formed on the Windfola server back at launch.  Somebody just has to move that guild to another server, since you can no longer access the old servers any more.

Six characters still on Windfola

The characters on other servers might not be required.  The group of three we had on Firefoot, guardian, minstrel, and rune keeper seems pretty viable in the classic tank, healing, DPS format.  At least once we figure out how to play them.  A lot has changed since 2011.

That, however, is all trivia, things we could wrap up with a bit of practice and maybe a Google search or two about the whole spec/talent tree thing LOTRO has going now.

The key question is: How do we get to Mordor?

Obligatory Boromir meme

The thing is, a decade into this war, we’re still standing around in Evendim fighting tomb robbers and pondering whether to head into the Misty Mountains or Forochel next.  So we have a decision to make.  What path will we take to Mordor?

Simply Walk

First on the list is to simply play through to Mordor.  That route means we see the whole epic story line through to the end.

Pros:

We won’t miss a bit of the story!  Complete play through!

Cons:

Where do I start?

We’re in our low 40s and Mordor is level 105 I think.  That is a good sixty levels to go in a game that has softened up the level curve some, but not so much that we could make it there, as a group, this year.

Doing this also requires all of the expansions, which I believe only I own, so there would be a cost.  And while Moria is an excellent zone and worth seeing, after that things are bit less certain.  I found Mirkwood tedious and formulaic without much to recommend it.

And, honestly, our past history is working against us.  We are, as I repeat, a decade into this game and only have a group of level 40 characters to work with.  We’re not the fellowship of the ring, we’re Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, and Trillian mucking about in cocktail party for a bit then buggering off for something else.

Blessing of the Valar

Second option on the list is to use the current boost available from the LOTRO Store, the Blessing of the Valar.  This boost gets you to level 95 and puts you on the road to Gondor.

Pros:

Gears us up, gets us all to the same level, puts a bit of cash in our pocket, puts us into content none of us has seen, gives us a run through the direct build-up before Mordor, and keeps us the hell out of Mirkwood.

Cons:

At 5,995 Turbine Points, the Blessing of the Valar is a bit pricey, plus there are still expansions to purchase I bet, though I couldn’t tell you which ones.  We could cut that price down a bit as the Blessing of the Valar Upgrade, which requires you to be level 50, drops deal to 2,995 Turbine Points.

Seems like a bit of a waster when the Mordor expansion comes with a level 105 boost.

Also leaves us with ten levels to get through in Gondor, the quality of which I cannot speak to.

Scenes Missing

Go directly to Mordor, do not pass Gondor, do not collect 200 farthings.  The expansion comes with a booster to get you straight there, why not use it?

Pros:

No mucking about, march straight into the black lands ready to stick your sword into the heart of the foe.  We’ll be all caught up, geared up, and playing with the critical mass of the player base that has otherwise been hanging around the black gate wondering when the next bit would show up.

No need to buy anything besides the Mordor expansion.

The content available seems to be sizable, with five zones and another ten levels.

Seems to be the plan best matched to the historical record of our efforts in Middle-earth.

Cons:

Kind of like reading Fellowship of the Ring to just past Weathertop, putting it down, then picking up Return of the King and starting in again just after Shelob’s lair… or maybe even after the battle before the black gate.  I’m not sure where during the timeline of the story we actually enter Mordor.  Are we just the clean up crew, set to mop up the remaining orc holdouts?

Certainly key plot points would be skipped.  But it isn’t like we haven’t read the books I suppose.

Forward to Mordor

I suppose the ideal path would be something like what Star Wars: The Old Republic did, where they gave you an experience boost so you could just do your personal story without side quests to advance.  Something like that for the epic quest line would be ideal.  However, that does not appear to be in the offing.

So that is what we are looking at.  It will be just the three of us I imagine.  Neither Bung nor Earl were much for Middle-earth, and Earl is still banging away in the Broken Isles.  He is dedicated to WoW in a way that a tourist like me never is.

The other choice is which edition of the expansion to buy, though that isn’t a tough choice at all.  Sure, I’d like everything included in the Ultimate Sucker’s Bundle, but $130 is just too much for that.  If that were the $80 package I might be convinced, but as it stands I don’t care about making a high elf character and the title is cool, but not that cool.

People have been upset about the Mordor expansion pricing, to the point that it has Syp arguing for free access to elves.  But the only way to send a message is to not buy something if you think it is over priced.  I’ll take the $40 expansion and be on my way.

Of course, all of this means EverQuest II and the Fallen Gate server will drop by the wayside as I jump games after a month yet again.

We’re on the Road to Mordor

The story doesn’t end where we remember and your journey isn’t over! Adventure deep into the lost stories, dark reaches, and challenging enemies that shroud the lands around Mount Doom, and beyond.

-Mordor Expansion text

Just over a year ago, back in early July 2016, WB was telling us that Turbine, after the failure of Infinite Crisis, was transitioning into a mobile app development studio and the future of Lord of the Rings Online seemed in doubt.

Bleak times in the war of the ring.  I was suggesting people play the game while they still had the chance.

Then in December of last year came the announcement of Standing Stone Games, a new studio that would be spun off from Turbine.  Asheron’s Call was being shut down, and there was some relationship with Daybreak, but LOTRO and DDO were to be the focus of the new entity.  The games seemed to have more of a future than one might have expected a few months earlier.

Still, you never know what is going to happen.  Hope is one thing, reality is another.

But we finally have something solid on which to ground hope.  After much talk, Standing Stone Games has put up the pre-order page for the Mordor expansion for Lord of the Rings Online.

We’re going to Mordor!

Mordor, we have an eye on you!

In my view this is a big deal for two reasons.

First, we’re going to fucking Mordor.  This I want to see.  You can fault Turbine for many, many flaws in LOTRO, but for all of that the place has always looked and felt like Middle-earth to me.  So to continue that out to the far end of the tale, to bring us to Sauron’s dark land, to visualize the location and bring it to us so that we may wander it is simply awesome.

Explore the landscape of Gorgoroth to find hidden treasures, scourges on the land, and get rewarded for your exploration! Only the mightiest should journey that far into the dark places.

Mordor Expansion text

Of course, I do wonder how it will actually play.  How will SSG bring us to this dark and hostile land?  What will we do there?  Will we be standing around watching Frodo and Gollum at Mount Doom?  Will Mordor be like Mirkwood and Moria, with a plethora of chatty NPC quest givers hanging around the place?

But I pretty much started off the whole LOTRO idea more than a decade back with similar questions.  We shall see.

Second, SSG is actually selling us some new content.

Not that the teams at Turbine and now SSG haven’t been adding new content over the last few years.  The game has brought us to the very front step of Mordor already.

At the Black Gate with the cool kids

But actually selling us some content at least implies that it has more value and, of course, selling an expansion generates revenue for the company.  Expansions are one of the few sure fire ways to get a game’s dedicated followers to pony up some cash.  Also, expansions to me are a sign of success.  As long as a team has the resources to create expansions and an audience big enough to buy them and make the venture financially viable, any suggestion as to the demise of the game seem quite premature.

Whatever you want to say about EverQuest and EverQuest II, Daybreak cranks out an expansion every autumn for them.  And every time Blizzard gets around to releasing an expansion for World of Warcraft, it sells like crazy and subscriptions jump.

So being able to get your act together and sell an expansion is a sign that you are still in the game, so to speak.

And so you can pre-order the Mordor expansion today.

For $40 you get the Standard Edition about which SSG says:

  • Mordor Expansion
  • 300+ New Quests
  • Hundreds of new Deeds
  • New Allegiance System
  • New instance cluster with raid* and more!**
  • Aria of the Valar – a level boost to Mordor!

I am big on that last item.  Despite owning all the past expansions, I am still way back in Rohan wondering what to do.  There is faint chance that I will make it to Mordor from there ever.  Boosting me straight into Mordor is my last, best hope.

Look, could you just point me towards Mordor and maybe lend me a horse? You seem to have a lot of them.

If you have a bit more loose change in your pocket though, for $80 you can get the Collector’s Edition, which has everything in the Standard Edition plus the following:

  • High Elf Race
  • Character Slot
  • Exclusive Alliance Cosmetics:  armor, cloak, & kite
  • Exclusive Title “Walked Into Mordor”
  • Exclusive Alliance Mount

A new race doesn’t do much for me.  A character slot is nice however, as are the cosmetics, while a mount is cool too.  That title though.  One does not simply hand out Mordor titles.

And if you are totally into LOTRO and feeling whale-ish, for $130 you can have the Ultimate Fan Bundle, which gets you everything in the Collector’s Edition plus:

  • Exclusive Mordor Cosmetics: armor, cloak, & eagle kite
  • Exclusive Mordor Mount
  • Exclusive Title “The Ultimate”
  • Equippable XP Accelerator for all characters!
  • Exclusive Housing Teleport for all characters!
  • Three Relics for all characters
  • Two Essence Reclamation Scrolls for all characters!
  • Ten Extra Shared Storage Slots
  • A code for a month of VIP Access

There are definitely some tasty bits in that stew.  However, the price is well beyond my tolerance.  With these choices I am much more likely to go with the Standard Edition than the other two.

And then there is the question of “when?”  The Mordor expansion site says that the target launch date is July 31, 2017 and that it will ship no later than August 31, 2017.

Not much time left to wait!  You can find info about the expansion packages here.

So who is set for Mordor?

Addendum: SSG has added a Mordor expansion FAQ.

A Decade on the Road to Mordor

Ten years ago today Lord of the Rings Online officially went live.

Happy Anniversary

LOTRO was one of the first MMORPGs to go through beta and launch while I was blogging, and certainly the first one I jumped into at launch during the reign of the blog. (I was watching Vanguard during beta as well, but was dissuaded by my experiences there.)  One of my earliest posts was a response to the idea of such a game trying to tell the story of the books.

Yahoo Headline 2007, before Yahoo became malware

The path for LOTRO from beta through launch and to today has been somewhat symbolic of the post-World of Warcraft era for MMORPGs.  It was driven along initially on the wave of WoW-subscription number induced euphoria, where the sky seemed to be the limit.

Then there was launch and the rush to play and the problem of the game simultaneously being too much and not enough like WoW.  There were some fun little quirky features, like titles you could earn for actions… though the fact that those were secret (or at least not documented or traceable anywhere in the UI) meant most players never knew about them.  It is hard to sell yourself as different when you hide things I suppose, and a decade later I don’t think I have a single one of those special titles yet.

Meanwhile, for those who rushed ahead, there was bemusement as content fell off a good ten levels before the cap.  Subscriptions fell off, complaints mounted, changes and updates went in, and Turbine went forward with plans for an expansion; The Mines of Moria.  That was an amazing and ambitious expansion.  I pre-ordered that as well back in 2008, though I did not actually get into the content for a few years and it was several years after that before I was out of the far side of those caverns.

LOTRO was also a leader in the conversion to a free to play model citing a huge boost in players and revenue to accompany the change.  They were also ahead of the curve when it came to the grim reality of such conversions.  Player expectations as to what “free” really means can be harsh, that initial surge of new players never lasts, and once you start down the cash shop path, forever will it dominate your destiny and development time.

More expansions came and again Turbine was in the lead with pre-orders and special editions with cosmetic fluff thrown in to entice more money out of players.  But eventually expansions stopped and all revenue focus went into the cash shop and new items and new currencies showed up.

Then they began to fall behind the curve of the industry.  They were not too late to the game with insta-level boosts, but they failed to grasp that people want such boost to get to the latest content, the NEW stuff.  Turbine thought boosting people to the first expansion and level 50 was enough.  That was a worst of all possibilities idea for me.  Moria was nowhere near the current content and the first 50 levels that get you there are some of the best, most charming, most memorable content in the game.  Skipping The Shire and Bree and the Forsaken Inn and Weathertop and Rivendell and the beautiful scenery of Middle-earth to head down into a cave for ten levels seems like insanity.

Eventually they figured that out and now you get jumped to Rohan with your insta-level boost, but I remain dubious about the idea as a general plan.  A seasoned player advancing an alt might take full advantage of the jump, but a new player is likely to be out of their depth.

And then there was the spin-off, where LOTRO and its sister, Dungeons & Dragons Online were folded into their own company by Warner.  Spinning of MMORPG divisions has been a thing, from Daybreak Games and its Norrathian legacy to Broadsword Games which keeps Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot going.

It has been a strange trip these last ten years.

But all of that was in the future back in April of 2007.  Ten years ago today I was in Middle-earth playing the game, having pre-ordered it.  That was back when pre-ordering could be done by buying a pre-order box off the shelf at Fry’s.  I still had to follow up and buy a retail box, but the pre-order box got me a head start and kept my account active for a while until I got the real game key.

And then, of course, there was the choice to be made as to which founder’s bonus to take.

Founders Choices

I went with the $199 lifetime subscription over the $9.99 reduced monthly subscription price which, looking back over a decade and more of MMORPG time, was probably the most sound investment I have ever made.  I have received more value for that money than I ever expected.

At the eight year anniversary I mocked the game a bit, pointing out that even by the longest measure… Frodo is warned by Gandalf to leave the Shire through to Bilbo and Frodo departing from the Grey Havens… the events of end of the Third Age in Middle-earth being reproduced in the game only took three and a half years.

At that point Minis Tirith was on the horizon still.  Two years later… again, more time than it took Frodo to get from the Shire to Mount Doom… and Mordor is in sight.  Update 20 brings players to the battle of the Black Gate.

Gandalf blazing in bleached white

I read about that and the tenth anniversary events and such and I feel like I should log in and take a look.  But then I read about the mix of joy and frustration with the anniversary events and remember that I am, as always, stuck behind several layers of content and I pass on to something else.

Look, could you just point me towards Mordor? I’m a bit behind.

This is ever the problem with MMORPGs that evolve through expansions and updates and levels and rigid layers of content.  I think I have patched up a few times since I opted for the Blessing of the Valar level boost, but every time I log in I look in my bags and cannot figure out what half the stuff in there is (the icons haven’t gotten any clearer in ten years while my eyesight has gotten worse) and the legendary weapon that the boost handed me… which isn’t ready to use, you have to find a vendor and go through some gyrations to make it work… and I wonder if I might just be better off rolling up yet another new character and playing through the first 30-40 levels yet again.  I think I must be close to 20 characters past level 30 at this point.

But Middle-earth yet abides, waiting for my return.  Some day that ring will be tossed into Mount Doom.  Of course, then we will have to get back to the Shire.  The tale isn’t done until the Shire has been scoured.