LOTRO: The size and shaping of Middle-earth

map

The other day I was poking through all of the additions and changes to LOTRO from the past couple of years and found this map lurking, for some reason, on the collections page.

Why isn’t this the real game map?

This is a complete side tangent to what I want to talk about today, but can I say that it’s utterly baffling that THIS isn’t the default stable and game world map? It’s so clear to understand, it shows all of the stables, and it gives a whole-world overview in one fell swoop. Why oh WHY is this shoved inside a tab inside another UI window? Why are we still using the really antiquated stable interface to get anywhere? Probably because LOTRO wants you to spend real money on buying ports to these through the maps.

Another side tangent: I only noticed last night that now that I was in Gondor, the regional maps went from a hand-drawn style of the rest of the game to a more Google Earth-style top-down photo. Aesthetics aside, I actually like this style a lot more. It certainly makes the trickier parts of the map easier to navigate.

How big you’ve grown, LOTRO

OK, let’s get back on course with the discussion at hand, which is to boggle at how big this game has grown over the past decade — and yet still see that it only covers just a small swath of the full Middle-earth.

You can see how the map has been gradually filled in by the expansions and zone additions over the years, going roughly in a diagonal slant from north-west to south-east. And all of it is continuous, save for Ered Luin which is removed from the rest of Eriador by a loading screen and a so-far unfilled-in map. You can visit as far west as the Thorin’s Hall, as far north as the icy bay of Forochel, as far west as Gondor and Mirkwood, and as far south as the ocean that laps up against Gondor’s borders.

A few other observations:

  • Looking at all of the map segments, it’s very apparent how much actual space was given to the plains of Rohan to accommodate mounted riding and combat.
  • The core of the launch game wasn’t insignificant, but look at that map and subtract all of the expansions, plus the post-launch zones of Evendim, Forochel, and Eregion. That means there were only eight zones (by my count) in 2007. Right now there are about 40 zones, if you count both PvMP regions, the Beorning starting area, and all of Moria’s maps separately.
  • And we haven’t even gotten to this spring’s Wastes nor this summer’s Mordor expansion, which will continue to enlarge the map.
  • The gaps and unfilled-in areas of the map fascinate me. Probably there’s a lot of nothing in those areas, but look at all of the unclaimed and unexplored regions in the west. HUGE amounts of land there, all just possibilities.
  • Mirkwood is massive in total, and the bit we got for the expansion a while back is only just a small chunk of the southern forest.
  • Prior to playing LOTRO, I never really thought of Gondor as being both a mountainous and coastal country, even with the book maps.
  • Coming in 2022: The overseas expansion!
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3 thoughts on “LOTRO: The size and shaping of Middle-earth

  1. Redbeard February 17, 2017 / 10:12 am

    And the thing is, Turbine (and now Standing Stones) were forced into compressing the maps so that the distances are manageable. Unlike Azeroth or Hyborea, Middle-earth came with some fairly well defined distances (courtesy of the books), and especially in Eriador there were wide swaths of, well, nothing. Plague and war had depopulated a LOT of Eriador, leaving it the domain of beasts, so Turbine made a design decision that most people would not want to play a game that had a whole lot of scenery and not much else and compressed the map.

    It was a smart move on their part, as while I hear periodically in world chat about how awesome it’d be to have a game based on the full size of Middle-earth, I have to disagree. MMOs’ major drawback is that, unlike pencil-and-paper RPGs, they are forced into moving at the speed of distance as opposed to the speed of plot. Making the distances between major plot points even larger than what they are in-game would drive people away rather than pull people in.

  2. Syp February 17, 2017 / 10:59 am

    Absolutely. They definitely came to a good compromise, making the maps that feel big and huge without being far too expansive for practicality and enjoyment. It’s definitely not as condensed as, say, World of Warcraft’s maps.

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