I am really digging the Mines of Moria expansion for Lord of the Rings Online, and I have barely scratched the surface. I started as a level 48 Captain, which got me a little worried. Turbine seemed to sense the need for more intermediate content and created Eregion (level 48-53). This got Ravric, Foe of Night up to level 51 with a crit-monster legendary halberd, Meticulous Owl. The quest design in the first Mines of Moria region is absolutely fantastic, and it truly shows how masterful Turbine can be.
I love Lord of the Rings Online’s style. It is all about the story. A region is not just a place to kill ten rats. It has a story. The Enemy is at work everywhere, but not always in accord. The Lonelands is cursed with the Red Maid, which is a truly epic almost heartbreaking story in its own right. The North Downs has the story of the three races of Light trying to fend off orc tribe invasions from every angle, and it has the slight twist of the orc tribes not really working together. Eregion also has it’s own story of Saruman’s search for ring lore to re-create the penultimate artifacts worn by so few in Arda.
The problem before was that getting a lot of the story required players to go through a tedious quest progression. The basic formula for early Shadows of Angmar content went something like this: 1) complete solo first quest learning about “symptoms” and thinning said “symptoms,” 2) complete additional solo quest doing something to laterally solve the problem, and 3) obtain full fellowship for final quest to stop source of problem.
The problem is the final step. The mini-story cannot conclude without a quest requiring a full fellowship, and it is very unlikely a player will find a full fellowship of players ready to do that quest. Too many times I see a wall of text go up in the Looking For Fellowship (LFF) channel that lists five or six “final” fellowship quests. It’s akin to anti-funneling. With a limited quest log, people will abandon remaining fellowship quests when they move on to another region, and other people simply have not completed all the preliminary solo quests required to know what quest the LFF’r is talking about.
Eregion is different. The basic formula that was overused in early Shadows of Angmar is nearly gone. In northern Eregion there is one “final” fellowship quest, not five or six. So players holding on to Leader of the Foul Wood will eventually group up if they watch the LFF channel. The southern fellowship quests are three-man instances that are repeatable and rewarding to those that wish to repeat them without having quests for the instances. On top of that there are four (to borrow from Warhammer Online) Chapters to Eregion in the form of quest hubs. When players are questing from a certain Chapter they will mechanically be questing across a specific sub-region of Eregion and story-wise be learning about a specific corruption of the White Hand. This is excellent funneling in my opinion. Players can quickly buddy up in the Chapters for questing and create larger fellowships for that really well known content on the fly.
This gets me really excited to enter Moria, but I am taking my sweet time in Eregion because it is a blast. I get on Turbine’s case a lot for holding to old ways a bit too much, but the way they are going right now with quest design seems to be the exact right one for Lord of the Rings Online. Now, if only they would consider Hirelings for that game.
Trying for the subjective.