10 little things I wish they’d change in LOTRO

Ten years in, and I’m still finding this game as lovely and photogenic as ever!

But of course, there are always those “little” things we’d change about the game if we could. I’m sure the team has its hands full, usually in creating and testing new content, but I always hope that sooner or later some old issues would be addressed. In talking with my kin lately, we were going back and forth on little things we wish that would get changed or fixed or added. Here’s a list of my personal wishes:

  1. I wish there was a way to resize the quest box text to be larger (without resizing the whole UI). There’s always so much of it, and on larger monitors and resolutions, it’s more difficult to read now than it used to be. Of course, I could be getting older too…
  2. Daily login rewards have gotten stale — could we get some new ones? Housing items perhaps?
  3. A better way to track and organize your deeds, especially if you’re pursuing particular virtues.
  4. Token exchange — we get SO many tokens in this game, it’d be nice to trade the ones we don’t want for the ones we do. Maybe at a 2:1 ratio?
  5. If I’m wearing headphones and they’re plugged in and I load up the game, LOTRO — unlike every other MMO I play — stubbornly defaults to the speaker instead. Then I have to manually change that. It’s annoying and I wish the game would auto-detect and use my headphones if plugged in.
  6. Get rid of those really screechy ambient sounds in Angmar. Seriously.
  7. Give individual characters the option to own their own house (outside of premium housing).
  8. More than five quests/deeds on the quest tracker? It’s 2017, I think it’s possible to make this happen.
  9. More hairstyles. Better hairstyles. I’m glad for the avatar upgrades and all, but the hair is mostly too chunky and weird to use.
  10. A random mount/random pet button. Love this other games, would adore it in LOTRO.

LOTRO: Tipsy self-hating Hobbits

So back in February I had a notion to create a new character in Lord of the Rings Online that would be a change of pace of how I normally play. A fresh start toon that would slow down, complete all quests, read the text, and generally get more immersed into the zone without being concerned about blazing through the content and “catching up” with the current level cap stories. I had fun the few sessions that I did it, but other games and my drive to get my character ready for the expansion edged it out.

The idea stuck around in the back of my mind, however, leading me to give it another try this summer. LOTRO is really hitting the sweet spot of MMO gameplay for me this summer, and while Mordor is great and all, I wouldn’t mind having some non-volcanic questing on the side.

This time around, I wanted to have a character with no safety net and no help from my main, so that meant hopping to a different server. This would also mean that this character could own her own house, collect her own cosmetics, and make her way from scratch without any shared goods or money.

I did agonize for a few days over which type of character to create. I must have run the opening zone four or five times in succession, creating and deleting characters as I waffled between them. I tried a Hobbit Burglar, then a Man Captain, then a Hobbit Burglar (yes, again), then a Hobbit Minstrel, and then, out of desperation, a Hobbit Hunter. This last one finally stuck, giving me a different play experience while allowing me to enjoy being a Hobbit for once. And the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of a mobile ranged fighter with a whole ton of ports at her command. It should make going through the game again a much smoother experience.

The thing with starting over again in LOTRO is that there is just SO MUCH to do for a new character. I try not to think about the virtual Mt. Everest (Mt. Doom?) of content ahead, such as all of the zones, all of the quests, the whole epic story, the hundreds of deeds, home-making, doing Bingo Boffin all over again, and so on. The idea here is just to take one day at a time and be as completionist as I want to be. I haven’t decided how in-depth that entails — every quest in a zone? Every quest and deed? All four starting areas or just one? Rep grinds? — so I’m letting my first week or two of play sort this out for me. Figure it out as I go.

As the summer festival just began, I thought that I’d make it one of my early goals to see if I could get to kindred with the Ale Association and grab that goat mount before the event ends. It might be a very close thing, as I can’t do all of the delivery quests on my lowbie Hobbit, but I do have a set of dailies to run for a while and I feel that it’s worth it. I love me some goats.

Plus, it’s darkly amusing to play a semi-bad guy for once, going about the intro zones and being a total jerk to the Inn League. Double-plus, the Ale Association seems to really hate Hobbits, so I guess that makes me a self-hating Hobbit. I’m OK with that, as long as it gets me my goat.

Past that, the Shire is first on my massive to-do list, and there is enough here to keep me occupied for weeks. I’m anticipating grossly outleveling content quite soon, but again, that’s OK; sometimes you do things other than for the XP.

LOTRO: Finishing up Udûn

Finding a table for three in this country is a real pain in the eye.

I might not be the fastest or even the wiliest adventurer in Middle-earth, but I am pleased to report that I’ve finished up all of the quests in Udûn — the first of the five new zones for LOTRO: Mordor. I wasn’t in that much of a rush, just logging in to enjoy the story, take my time methodically checking off task items, and exploring this dark and often surprising land.

I guess I expected much what most people were with Mordor: A lot of volcano, a lot of ash, and a lot of angry orcs. And to be fair, there is that, but there’s also a lot more. I think underestimating Mordor or oversimplifying it as a “bad guy endgame zone” is a mistake. As much of a mistake as some of the scavenger NPCs who are rushing into the country looking for spoils of war and assuming that now that Sauron is gone, all aggression and evil has folded up shop.

What we’re discovering is that the truth is anything but. The machinery of war and its supporting systems continue to tick, and a massive power vacuum opens itself to be filled by various nasties. Maybe they’re not Sauron, but they’re not exactly pansey pushovers either.

Udûn got a lot better the further in I got, thanks to gear that helped bring my Lore-master up to spec. On one memorable night, I joined up with a group of five other players to utterly destroy one of the forges from within and plunder all of the quests that it had to offer. We had an absolute blast steamrolling the bad guys and joking around. See? I can be social on occasion.

A few of the quests were a little too difficult due to being unrefined or bugged, but for the most part, I had little problems getting all of them done. I’ll tell you, by the time I was done, I knew that entire zone inside and out.

And while there is absolutely nothing attractive or beautiful about Udûn, it isn’t as oppressive or boring as I had first assumed. The three forges that serve as public dungeons of sorts are incredibly detailed and impressive, and I think a large part of my fascination is finally getting to look “behind the scenes” at Sauron’s operation, to see what an evil pit of a country looks like and how it functions.

It’s deeply satisfying to have no more quests in the zone and to be able to move on. My character is geared up decently now, at least for questing, and I’ve gotten four levels out of the area. I also appreciated that one of the main missions took me far out of Mordor for a bit of Middle-earth excursions. Granted, that excursion brought be back to Angmar, so it wasn’t like I was jumping for joy, but scenery change is appreciated when you are logging into the same place day in and day out.

LOTRO’s Mordor has terrible border control and other tales of adventure

I don’t think I can recall an MMO where I’ve seen players so incredibly excited to rush headlong into an ugly, oppressive, and nasty zone as I have this past week in Lord of the Rings Online. Heck, I’m even pretty excited, and I list volcano-and-ash zones pretty low on my list of video game biomes. I guess there’s something about Mordor, about what it represents and what we’ve been striving for over the past decade that helps to overcome these inherent drawbacks.

I love the premise here, which is basically, “There’s a land of monsters and dark terrors that just lost its supreme overlord. What happens next?” Again, that’s kind of a unique situation that’s not often explored in MMOs. Will there be a power vacuum? Will projects and plans put into motion before Sauron’s downfall still proceed? What does a country that harbors pure evil look like on a grand scale?

Poor marketing and a controversial pricing scenario aside, Mordor got off to a great start. I didn’t get quite as much time as I would have liked due to some long days and early nights this past week, but I certainly made headway into Udun. This first zone is — was — Sauron’s industrial complex, so lots of forges, billowing smoke, toxic runoff, and the like. It’s pretty mob dense, which made for slow going due to the big jump in item levels (questing gear went from 222 to 300) and the new shadow debuff that’s in the more oppressive places.

This meant that the ease of fighting as a Lore-master with an OP lynx came to a swift end, at least for the time being. Mobs were really tough, especially during the first night, and I experimented with my bear and eagle before returning to the lynx and playing it safe. It didn’t help that some of the quests were buggy (such as extremely slow-to-respawn NPCs for a surrender mission) and that a lot of objectives lay in the middle of crowded camps of enemies. As often as I could, I tried to stick near other players or group up. That helped a lot.

But I’m actually really enjoying myself, slow progress or no. It’s the first bona fide expansion since Helm’s Deep, but even that didn’t feel this grand or daunting. An entire expansion completely in the enemy’s territory is a challenge, and I want to rise and meet that challenge.

Oh! Let’s talk the avatar upgrade, because at least Man and Elf characters got those. It’s not a drastic overhaul — I don’t think it could or should have been, really — but when I logged in I found myself looking at a much more natural face with softer lines, more expressive eyes, and hair that wasn’t quite as blocky.

From listening to my kin, some were ecstatic over the improvements while others griped that it changed their characters’ faces too much (however, there is still the option to use the old graphics or to go to the barber and redo one’s face). The new female running animation divided people too; I personally like it a lot, but some seem to jeer at it. Guess you can’t please everyone.

Another small touch that I’m digging with this expansion are the audio logs, these little scraps of narrated lore that you find across each zone. It tells the backstory of that zone in small increments, and I hope that this sort of thing is spread throughout the previous zones as well.

My kids, when they’ve been sitting with me and watching, have done so with wide eyes and mouths pursed with trepidation. I think they really like the “safe” danger of dad heading into this dark place, and they get excited at pointing out each new threat that comes across our path. We made our way into the belly of a forge at one point, and my son recognized the great battering ram Grom (or its lookalike) from Osgiliath. Lore connection!

The more I go into Mordor, the more it’s really making me looking forward to replaying this entire MMO start to finish some day in the future on my alt. I know, that’s silly and massive and has a good chance of never happening, but there’s a spark that’s kindling again in my heart for this game.

Getting my virtues before LOTRO: Mordor launches

With LOTRO: Mordor (probably, maybe, possibly) launching today, I wanted to make sure that my Lore-master was fully ready for this lava-strewn expedition. And the only thing I really had left to do — other than perhaps whip up another amazing outfit — was to round out my virtues.

I know some people have told me that virtues aren’t worth doing, they don’t make as much a difference these days, but whether or not that’s true, it’s been bugging me that my LM didn’t have as many as my old Captain did. And beside, I ascribe to the notion that every little bit helps in some way.

I didn’t have that far to go, perhaps about 17 virtue deeds (out of 120 when Mordor launches), so I figured a few focused sessions would get it done. I drew up a list, cross-compared with what I did already, and figured out the easiest ones to do. “Path of least resistance” is my middle name.

It actually ended up being a little enjoyable, as it was yet another excuse to scoot across the world and experience it in a slightly different way. Sure, most of that experience came in the form of burning things to death before letting my lynx chew on the charred remains, but there were a few quest chains and exploration deeds to do too.

The dead garden of the Ents is always sobering to return to. Bet it would’ve been really pretty before everything turned all browny brown.

With a stack of slayer deed books and plenty of levels on my side, I was able to chew through packs of mobs quickly. Sometimes you just want to zone out while playing an MMO, grind while listening or watching something fun and enjoy the feeling of making progress or getting a task out of the way.

So how am I feeling about Mordor? Excited, perhaps not as much as I’m seeing from some quarters that live and breathe Middle-earth more than I do, but I am looking forward to it. An expansion is a huge amount of content, and five zones should keep me busy for months. I hope that the dreary landscape doesn’t get to me too much, but from the previews I know that there’s at least a lot of variety. Plus, I can always take breaks and mess around with a lowbie alt maybe.

If it does come out today, I’m not going to hold high hopes of actually getting to play it. When the Wastes opened up a few months ago, it was nearly unplayable for the first couple of days thanks to everyone crowding into one area and trying to do the same quests. Mordor literally has a chokepoint at the start, so I’m going to be flexible.

Still… I’ve gone from Shire to Mordor in 10 years! It’s quite a big step on our collective journey through LOTRO and a moment that I feel we’ll remember for quite some time.

LOTRO: Goodbye Bingo Boffin, hello virtue grind!

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Actually, “endings” in MMORPGs are not as common as in other games, as we’re used to the adventure (and the road) going ever on. But after 52 installments of Bingo Boffin’s journey, it was finally time to draw his story to a definite end.

The final part took the form of a dinner party in which Bingo invited neighbors and all of the friends he made over the course of his travels, providing a fitting epilogue, a few laughs, and even a reunion of Hobbit cultures that were previously separated. We also got to see just how much Bingo has grown over the year and how he turned into somewhat of a skillful diplomat.

The dinner party bit was a nice bookend to how the whole chain started, and I really liked the quiet moment when Bingo reflected on his travels with you in the foyer. “Every adventure comes to an end someday,” he said, but there wasn’t a lot of regret there. Bingo satisfied his urge to explore and see the wider world, and he’s brought more than a bit of that home with him.

While there were parts of the chain that were more time-consuming, boring, or annoying than others, overall Bingo Boffin’s quest is a wonderful addition to the game and a great alternative to the “real” epic quest. I especially recommend it if you like fluffy items as rewards, such as cosmetics, housing decor, and pets. I’m swimming in the latter two, and I really need to take an evening to work on my home so I can clear up some inventory space.

Now that we’re weeks, if not days, away from Mordor opening up, it’s time to prepare for the expansion. For me, this means first of all making a new outfit! I love the Bartleby backpack and worked an adventurer’s outfit around that. While I have plenty of pets, I’m making it my thing to pull out squirrels in any MMOs that let me. Love my white squirrely here as a tribute to Squirrel Girl.

Next up is to flesh out my virtue roster. I made a list of how many points I need to bring each to 21 (that being the new cap when Mordor launches) and took an hour or two to cross-reference my deed log with LOTRO Wiki to figure out which deeds I needed to do. I really wish there was a better way to organize this in-game, but oh well. Here’s what I ended up with:

There’s a lot of slayer deeds in there, alas, but I do have several slayer accelerators in my bank, so I’ll try to make the best use of those. Hopefully it won’t be too bad and I’ll be able to get most of these done by launch day.

By the way, SSG, I’m really OK with you delaying the expansion to late August to get in some more testing. July 31st feels too fast, too rushed for what needs to be a homerun release. There’s no rush here!