Discussion about LOTRO seems to revolve around three points.
- How much is LOTRO like WoW? To me, similar enough that if I want to play YAFMMORPG, I can play the better polished one.
- How true is LOTRO to Tolkien? I care more about the quality of the game, since I have never dreamt of playing a side quest while Frodo goes to Mordor.
- Wow, lifetime subscription rate! This is perhaps the biggest topic of chatter I have seen, and that is a bad sign. You want people to be talking about fun or revolutionary gameplay or breathtaking visuals, not pricing plans.
Another extended discussion follows the break, without major revision to my previous post. If you like EQ or WoW but want a new one, pre-order at take the $10/month until you go to the next new thing.
I already said some nice things about LOTRO, so let me focus on what is new and interesting, rather than YAFMMORPG. It is something new. Any novel version of an MMO can hold your attention for a while, so there are new things to see and new systems to learn. If novelty excites you, here is a batch. It has adopted some good ideas from other games.
The Shire is a great zone. It captures the spirit of hobbits and has a different sort of gameplay with a more interesting variation on courier quests. You can level off delivering mail and pies for quite a while. It is pastoral splendor.
I love the deed log. It gives you a list of things to do and places to visit in each zone, with small incentives to do so. As a lover of City of Heroes badges, this is a great way to do something similar. Organizing it by zone is a good thing, rather than CoX’s unmanageably huge lists.
Conjunctions are a fun combat mechanic. It adds another reason to group, it gives the debuffer another tool, and it encourages group coordination. It is an entirely positive surprise in combat, like getting a pull on a slot machine that pays out from “nice bonus” to “wtfpwn.”
You can really use instruments, meaning that you pick what notes to play. Compose your own in-game music!
Monster play is an interesting idea. Balance will be delicate here, along with the differing populations that have access from the creep and freep sides, but the experiment is worth doing. PvP is perfectly consensual, contained in its own zone. At level 10 you can be a full participant, at least on the monster side. Monsters have their own quests, resources, and treadmills. Monster play can benefit your normal characters. Because of the open beta cap, the PvP zone will be solidly claimed by villainous forces by the time the heroes arrive, with a massive horde of monsters that will dim as the heroes increase their own numbers. That is really harsh for early battles, but it feels right.
It is Tolkien IP, and it is nice to see various things from the books like the Prancing Pony.
There is a huge map for future development. Some people think the lifetime subscription means that Turbine thinks the game will die within a few years, but the space for ongoing updates is large enough to carry us through an entire generation of MMOs.
Lifetime subscription! Woo!
I feel weak. I rarely fight significant foes, but I fight a lot of bears, boars, and bugs. I fight them one at a time, at risk of my life. I am too used to fighting gangs and hordes in CoX and EVE, so it is hard to go back to fighting one spider. Also, I am stuck in the mindset that a few level-minus-four enemies should not be a threat while solo, and elites like that annoy me. I said this in my original comments, but re-balancing weakened the characters after that.
I feel slow. I run slowly and I cannot get a horse until level 35, despite being able to afford it at level 17 (pre-economy rebalancing). I can borrow a horse from a stable for defined routes, but even that does not feel terribly fast, and I don’t know which ones are bugged and go cliffdiving. Again, spoiled by CoH.
I feel plain. To complete the “spoiled by CoH” trio, I look like every other dwarf. I look a little different from someone of some other classes, but equipment does not do a lot to make me look unique. Adjusting my hair color and nose shape is not enough anymore. Even the different races do not look that much different, especially since I am going to be staring at the backside of a cloaked humanoid for my entire time in-game.
Crafting is a cash sink, not a serious part of the game. The products are useful in too few instances and the materials are too expensive. Crafted goods are inconvenient, expensive, and level-restricted. Quest rewards are a constant stream of manna for doing what you were going to do anyway. It might be worth buying a crafted weapon if there is no good quest weapon in your level range, but most of your damage is coming from your abilities anyway. For farmers and cooks, seeds cost more than fruit and ingredients cost more than prepared food.
You cannot expect the crafters to sell everything to players. Balancing your crafter economy around that is like expecting the PCs to level entirely from PvP. Oh, they can get xp from NPCs? Great, we need crafting xp from NPCs too, which means having something we can grind and at least break even. Won’t that lead to crafters who are cut off from the world and not part of the social sphere? Every game has been striving to be more solo-friendly, and you are worried about the blacksmiths soloing? You can build that game, but this is not it. Ask EVE how to set up a dynamic player economy.
We have Tolkien’s IP, and half my quests are to kill ten rats or whatever? Wait, sorry, one quarter are to kill ten rats and another quarter are to bring back ten rat tails. That only feels cheaper when you are using the fundamental literature that spawned D&D and its diku descendents. You are already sending me into the rat lair to find the golden rat head, where I will inevitably kill ten rats, so how about we increase that reward and not clutter the game?
The game does not score highly on the wife-o-meter. My wife played for a few hours, thought her elf was ugly, and moved on to more important things she has to do. If she were interested, I would pre-order two copies today, slam down $500, and have a game we can play together for life. Heck, she might be interested if she were not so busy, but she would need to put in some work. The game did not immediately bring her in and sell itself.
For my part, it is a bad sign when I have free access to LOTRO but am instead playing Eternal Lands and flash-based tower defense. I played for a week or two and tried out all the early content, filed quite a few bug reports, and lost the urge to log in again.