Saturday, November 10, 2018

Passing On A Legend: LotRO

The launch window for Lord of the Rings Online's "Legendary" server hasn't fallen quite as badly for me as it has for Telwyn. I also have a week off work, but I'm staying at home, an ideal opportunity to stump up my month's sub and throw myself into the fray.

It would be worth it, too, I think. New servers are fun, new progression servers doubly so, and new progression servers for MMORPGs that have never tried them before are probably the most fun of all. I wouldn't expect to play for more than a few sessions but the buzz and excitement of the packed starter zones, plus the flurry of blog posts I'd write, would more than justify the $14.99 VIP fee for the single month I'd need.

Unfortunately, Standing Stone Games' push for publicity isn't the only draw for the week I'm home. There's also the little matter of EverQuest 2's "Chaos Descending" expansion, which I've already pre-ordered.

The gates to the next set of Planes creak open on Tuesday November 13th, which also happens to be the day Guild Wars 2 receives the long-awaited, potentially game-changing Runes and Sigils update. That may not have the obvious appeal of a new server or a fresh expansion but with seventeen max level characters I have a lot of options to consider and possibly a lot of work to do.

Then, thinking of LotRO, there's the game itself to consider. Like World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online, LotRo was an MMO I wasn't particularly interested in at the time everyone else was going crazy for it. Unlike WoW, which I actively avoided, or WAR, which I barely noticed, I did consider playing LotRO but I was busy with other things so I took a raincheck at launch.

Have you ever tried to catch a mosquito while wearing chainmail gloves?
This morning, vaguely stirred by the ripples in the blogosphere, I went rootling around in my files, looking for old screenshots of Middle Earth. At first I couldn't even find the installation for the game itself. I thought I last played it through Steam but apparently not.

Eventually I found it on one of the drives I took out of my old PC several years ago, now housed in a caddy. That led me to an interesting half-hour digging through old folders there, where I turned up a bunch of screenshots from the first run Mrs Bhagpuss and I took through the game.

According to the dates on the files, we originally played LotRO in the summer of 2008, considerably earlier than I'd remembered. At that time the level cap was still 50 and the first expansion, Mines of Moria, was several months away. By the time it arrived. we'd left.

 At the time we played, the game was very busy. My experiences with empty starter zones came much later, long after the game had gone Free to Play and the story had shifted far away from the Shire and Ered Luin. My memories of early days in Middle Earth have more to do with the excessive presence of other players than their absence, so maybe I'm not missing out on all that much by not jumping on the Legendary train this time around.

I'm somewhat puzzled by SSG's decision to curtail leveling speed. Having played LotRO on and off over the last decade, from what I guess we'd call "late Vanilla" through to my last visit a year and a half ago, I'd strongly challenge any suggestion that leveling there has ever been too speedy.

I think I remember this place. Didn't I spend a level hunting big cows here? Ah, the adventuring life...
When I was playing in the Spring of 2017, on Live servers with whatever the accelerated progress there is supposed to be, I found leveling in the 40s to be like wading through molasses. (Has anyone ever done that?). Even as someone who has consistently supported "slow leveling" I always found LotRo a bit too much of a good thing.

On balance, I think I'm happy to skip this particular exercise in nostalgia. I haven't taken a LotRO character to fifty the first time yet and if I'm going to put in the time and effort I think I'd prefer to do it on my Guardian on the Live servers first.

To which end, I'm patching up the game as I type. So far it's taken nearly an hour, which does make me wonder if the installation I've found us really the one I used last time I played. I bet it's not.

Whether I'll actually get around to logging in is another matter. What with a whole new expansion in EQ2, new systems and gear to come to terms with in GW2 and the still very surprisingly strong pull of the unnamed alpha I'm enjoying, it doesn't seem all that likely. At least I'll be prepared, should the whim strike me.

It will be interesting to see how long the current, wider flurry of interest lasts. I suspect Wilhelm is exactly correct in likening SSG's decision to open a second Legendary server to the mistakes SOE and Daybreak Games made in the past with their progression servers.

Outstanding in your field isn't exactly the same thing as out, standing in your field.
The likely result, at best, will be one well-populated server and one that's almost dead. Comparing this iteration of progression to the last one, I would guess that the surviving Legendary server will do considerably better than the already-forgotten Rift Prime. Not only is LotRO is a vastly more powerful I.P. than Rift but, in the long run, I think that the Legendary server's lack of divergence from the regular Live version will act as a strength.

Effectively it will be a "new start" server for a game that has a loyal and dedicated following and those tend to be successful, provided they don't appear too frequently. If I was already playing LotRO I would certainly consider re-rolling on Legendary just for the chance to start over with everything fresh, something I used to do a lot in the days when EverQuest was popular enough to spin up new servers regularly.

One thing I have decided, partly as a result of the LotRo reboot but mostly in the wake of BlizzCon, is that I will subscribe to WoW for the Classic launch next summer. That is dependent on what else might be happening, naturally. A beta for Ashes of Creation or Pantheon might scupper the plan.

I'd expect any MMO game company's marketing division with half a brain to give WoW Classic an extremely wide berth, though, so the runway should be clear for that particular launch. I might even start working on Mrs Bhagpuss to see if she could be persuaded to give WoW Classic a try. She liked WoW more than I did when we both played but she very rarely goes back to revisit any MMO once she stops playing.

That's a tale for another year, let alone another day. And lot can happen in a year. Let's wait 'til we get there.


  1. The LOTRO patcher is just rubbish. I patched up about three weeks ago, then they put out their latest update and it easily took two hours to patch up again on Tuesday.

    I can see passing on this LOTRO venture. It is kind of neat for me, going through the same zones again. Also, they added back some old quests that had been removed, which have the effect of boosting the amount of xp you get for running quests in an area, which seems to make the rise in the xp curve something of a wash. The restored quests mostly overlap the quests that replaced them, so doing them isn't even extra effort. A couple were simply twofers.

    We'll see if I make it past the Lone Lands or Evendim. I always found the run between 40 and 50 a slog. My main hope is that those of us still in the Blaugust Discord will form a kinship and maybe actually run an instance or two together. We shall see.

    1. Yes, it was the 40s that killed it for me first time around (that and the twerps I kept running into on the RP server) and I still struggle every time I try to press on to 50 even now. I'd quite like to see some of the lands on the far side of Moria but it looks increasingly unlikely I'll get there unless I decide to buy an Instant 100 potion in the cash shop...or actually, to buy the Mordor expansion which, I see on checking, comes with a boost to Level 105...).

      I was wondering about a blogger guild for WoW Classic, too...

    2. I wanted to say the same. The patcher is horrible. It takes me hours to update - unless the client is installed on an SSD in which case it's only one hour. D:


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