Clearings in the Lonely Woods

There is a stark contrast between playstyles of many an MMO waiting on an expansion and just receiving the expansion.  The new expansion brings a new journey through many zones and quest chains, and as unfortunate as it is, many people experience the journey at a hugely varied pace.  Real life, and other games, have limited my game time Lord of the Rings Online with experiencing the new expanded content in Siege of Mirkwood.  As it is, almost everybody in my kinship is well ahead of me.  The woods can be much gloomier when only strange creatures and strangers abound.

Yet, Turbine has done a great job (as far as I’ve experienced) with the content concentration.  In the Mirk-Eaves, the quests send players at about three quests per chunk to specific geographical locations.  At the locations, I’ve found there is about 10-20 minutes of gameplay from doing everything from destroying orc weapon stashes, staking out bosses, and everyone’s favorite: killing boars for boar meat.  If a player does it right by picking up all three or so quests at once, then everybody at the geographical location will be doing approximately the same thing. 

This feels like the opposite of the Mines of Moria, where the content was layered upon layers of layers, so that I might have had to return to the same geographical location two or three times depending on where I was in the quest chains.

The reason that this is important is because it reinforces the benefit of randomly grouping with people at the geographic location.  Everybody knows why everyone else is there.  There is no wondering if player A is one part three of the quest chain in the orc fort while player B has to still find some orc plans so an elf can pat her on the head and tell her to return to kill more orcs.

This is not a new idea, but it is a simple one with pretty significant effects on the journeying population.  I don’t know if the “clearings” will maintain themselves through Mirkwood.  I tend to doubt it as the simplified 1:1 ratio gives way to “story” and the expense of creating landmass versus quests.  Still, for the first sub-zone in Mirkwood, I am happy with my meaningful brief fellowship encounters.

the play begins in darkness

4 thoughts on “Clearings in the Lonely Woods”

  1. Is the idea of areas that you spend 20 minutes in, and then never have a reason to visit again really sustainable though? Not only does it make the game feel less of a world, but it also means that you need one heck of a lot of those 20 minute areas.

    I prefer the idea that someone might be in the same area as me for a completely different reason. Makes it more “worldy” and less like a theme park.

    1. Content exhaustion is a given for explorers. I prefer the clustered content rather than returning multiple times to the same area. It a avoids the – You’re on what quest? F***, I have to run to the quest hub and back again to finish this quest arc.

      A lot of the earlier LOTRO areas seemed to be designed on an inverted traveling salesman problem basis so its nice to see the content clustered. Running down the same road for the umpteenth time isn’t fun for anyone (Hello, Rivendell). The Lonelands redesign seems to be addressing the large amount of travel time as well so maybe the design team is making a significant shift in their philosophy.

      Twenty minutes of content and five minutes of travel work better for me than twenty minutes of content interspersed with twenty minutes of travel which seemed to be the old design. I guess every player has a happy medium since I don’t really like the almost fully instanced DDO with zero travel time.

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