Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

The diminishing returns of progression servers

Generally these days I have a pretty set pattern in approaching Lord of the Rings Online. On night one, I’ll play my Lore-master on a regular server in the newest area (Vale of Anduin), and on night two, I’ll jump onto my Minstrel on the progression server in Mirkwood.

A few months back, and most of my enthusiasm was reserved for the Minstrel, but as of late I’ve noticed that my interest has swung in the other direction. I very much enjoy going through the newer content and catching up with the latest while I find that my Minstrel feels more like a chore that must be done and endured.

This gave me serious pause the other night as to my intentions for the progression server. Is it worth the time and effort? It’s no small thing to level a character from one to 120 in LOTRO and through to the end game zones, especially if that journey is artificially gated. For a couple of weeks now I’ve been concerned that the pace of my progress through Mirkwood hasn’t been fast enough to get me to through the zone and Enedwaith before Isengard opened, and I haven’t really enjoyed that pressure bearing down on me. Nothing is particularly wrong with my Minstrel or the journey (and my kinship is still very strong and active), but it certainly isn’t as heady and exciting as it was when Anor opened up last November.

Now, obviously I am a huge proponent of progression servers. I’ve spoken up in support of them many times and it’s a personal hope that Blizzard decides to go this route with WoW Classic. It’s a whole lot of fun to progress with a community and re-explore old stomping grounds. But even I have to admit that there are diminishing returns for this content. New server types — progression or otherwise — get massive loads of attention from the start and in those early months, but after a couple of years, the next progression unlock or development gets buried in the news and the community has shrunk to a stable, core group that isn’t quite as vocal as it once was.

For LOTRO, I think many of us were greatly excited to see Eriador populated once more. We were given the experience to revisit these zones without the mentality of zipping through them on the way to somewhere else. We had the population to run instances and see others around us, and that still is a great thing. But the new server excitement certainly has died down as we turn the corner toward the legendary shards’ first anniversary. Progression is coming slower. Isengard isn’t that huge of a draw. Outfits and houses have been established. It is what it is. A cool experience, but one that is diminished from late last year.

So I’ve been evaluating plans going forward. Option one would be to stick it out, keep trucking on my Minstrel for the sake of completing this journey and seeing old lands once more. Option two, which I have been giving more serious contemplation toward, is to ditch my Minstrel and work on bringing my level 110 Captain through Mordor and beyond. I’ve missed playing the Cappy, and now with the recent patch, it’s looking better and I like the idea of having a self-healing tank for this tougher content rather than only my problematic Lore-master.

Yet I hate to be so cavalier about ditching the legendary server. A choice must be made, however, because those expansion unlocks are coming, and if I don’t keep up, then there’s even less of a point to playing than there was before.

3 thoughts on “The diminishing returns of progression servers

  1. This is why EQ keeps opening new progression servers (although they also do use varying rulesets). A huge part of the fun is everyone being new and on a level playing field. The actual content is less important, except to the raiders. After a few months or maybe a year or so, things settle down and the server is just that – another server with a population that may or not still be commercially meaningful.

    If the game is fortunate enough to have a few expansions that included a new race and a new starting area – or even better a whole separate leveling path (EQ had several expansions like that) then the server gets several bites at the “new start” cherry.

    Most MMOs don’t have that luxury, though, and even in EQ each new start has diminishing returns. The trick is in judging the time to start up another brand new Prog server and get the hype train runing again. Rift, for example, could do well with a second Prog server because they made such a mes of the first. If they revamped the ruleset and did some work on recreating a bona fide “Classic Rift” experience people would be all over it. Sadly, the resources or interest for that are almost certainly no longer there with Gamigo.

    LotRO could definitely do another Prog server in a year or two, though.

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