Friday, 25 April 2008

BOOK 13, NOT...

As every LOTRO player in the world not actually in hibernation knows by now, Book 13 has been released in the USA in time for the game's first anniversary - but not in Europe. The results on the Codemasters forum have been explosive: by just before midnight (server time) on Thursday, the day on which most people expected the patch to be released, a thread on the subject had attracted a record 27,387 views as well as 425 responses - also an absolute record. More than a few people were pretty clearly upset.

At 7.30 pm, Satine came up with Codemasters' excuse: "... we will not be getting Book 13 tomorrow. And no, it's not because the localisation isn't done! We haven't yet received the "Release candidate" for testing therefore at the very earliest we'll get Book 13 onto the live servers will be late next week some time, but if we find anything wrong with it during testing, it'll be later still... Up until now we've prided ourselves in getting almost every update to you just one or two days after the US however on this occasion we haven't been able to do so".

Responses in the forum tended to divide between those calling down divine retribution on Codemasters and/or Turbine for not delivering at the (implied) time, and those who pointed out that there may even be advantages to showing a bit of patience; as "hitchhiker 54" remarked, "Think of it this way... The US get the patches first. They have since beta, which may seem unfair.... BUT (and this is my favorite bit) the US players find all those little bugs that get past test server! By the time we see the patch Turbine are already working on any issues. So... before another 'it's not fair' post goes up, please consider. Would you rather we did final beta test or have a couple of million Americans do it for us?"

Others were devastated, and didn't care who was to blame: "This really, really, really, really sucks!! I just have holiday, and hoped we'd get book 13 during my holiday, but it seems not...". By and large, however Turbine came in for heavy flack for treating Europe as as second-rate market, while for their part Codemasters got a fair bit of stick for, if nothing else, failing to keep their customers informed. "Buttercup", for instance, commented that "It looks like the blame is being placed firmly in Turbine's court for ignoring their European base in order to please the US market. Unsurprising, of course, but disappointed (in Turbine .. ) Nothing Codemasters can do with all the best will in the world if they aren't supported by Turbine...".

A PR disaster? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, memories are notoriously short, and if Book 13 fulfills expectations when it finally reaches these shores, all or or nearly all will be forgiven. And on the other, there is surely something in the sight of thousands of frustrated consumers screaming for their product which must make the hearts of profit-oriented business executives go pit-a-pat.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008


Shamelessly ninjaed from the US LOTRO forum boards, here is a preview of the next set of top weapons in the game. These are the selectable rewards for completing Chapter 11 of Book 13 (presumably the concluding chapter), so sadly no one character will be able to latch onto more than one of them...

They all cause lots of Beleriand damage (up to 96 for the two-handed sword), and all include between 1.5 and 3.0 in-combat power regeneration. They also come provided with assorted goodies for your class, including a handy +2% ranged critical chance for Hunters.

Thursday, 17 April 2008


It was a great relief to read in the patch notes for Book 13 that monster trophies are finally going to be rationalised. The current situation verged on the ridiculous, with a huge proliferation of nearly identical items, some of which were valuable in themselves, others were of use to craftsmen, while the majority were simply junk. We are blessed, for example, with no fewer than ten varieties of spider eye, all with identical icons: Small Spider Eye, Scarred Spider Eye, Huge Spider Eye, Blackened Spider Eye, Flawed Spider Eye, Dusky Spider Eye, Great Spider Eye, Monstrous Spider Eye, Grey Spider Eye, Dirty Spider Eye... Can you remember which of the ten is critical for the production of Fire Oil?

According to the notes, the change will definitely be for the better as far as crafting is concerned: "All of the recipes that utilize optional ingredients have been updated to use a new generic trophy item. If your recipe calls for the new “Tough Leg” trophy item you will be able to find that from 7 species located in all parts of Middle-earth". So that's all right then, particularly since the different kinds of Tough Legs will be stackable, irrespective of provenance, thus saving valuable pack space.

As ever, the Bard got it right the first time with his recipe:
"Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,--
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble."
You will note that nothing is said about the eye of newt having to be Dusky, Black or Scarred...

Sunday, 13 April 2008


"BCamlost" started an interesting poll on the Codemaster forums a couple of days ago. The question was "What is the current level of the character you currently spend the majority of your LOTRO time playing? (i.e., NOT your 'main' if that main's retired, and not your 'alt' if you just happened to log it today for the first time in months . . .). One choice only please".

Of 201 players who responded by the morning of Sunday, a full 134 declare their principal character to be in the level 46-50 range, and there is good reason to believe that most of these are probably level 50. This amounts to 66.67% of the total; adding characters in the level 41-45 range, we find very nearly 80% of the respondents are above level 40. On the other hand, apparently less than 2% of the sample are under level 15. Does this mean that virtually no new players are joining the game? Of course not. As at least two players point out in the subsequent thread, what we have here is a good sampling of forum users, not of players as a whole. And as "Rem" sensibly notes, "Forums are a place where naturally long-time players hang out. This is not a representative cut through the player-base, it only shows what it shows - forum crowd tends to be high level".

So what conclusions can be derived from this poll? Essentially, that the hard core of dedicated players have (long since) hit the current experience cap, something that we probably knew already.

Full details on

Thursday, 10 April 2008


Oddities of LOTRO, part XXVI: A Trapped Troll

This enraged (indeed, seriously pissed off) troll can be found lurking in a wooden shed in Carn Dum, along the road leading to the CD prisons; you're most likely to run into him while completing Book 12, on your way to kill twelve Poisoners and two Jailers. Don't worry, however; a level 10 hobbit armed with a sharp stick could (eventually) take him down, because no matter how furious he gets, he can't come out of his shed - he just stays there, roaring and lunging, but unless you get close to him, he can't do any damage.

Morale of the story: even trolls need to exercise and stay fit in order to reduce that unsightly chubbiness around the backside.

Monday, 7 April 2008


Loremasters and the wise already know something about Forochel, that mysterious region of eternal snow and ice to which LOTRO players are to gain access later this month. Much precious information about the region and its history can be gleaned from Appendix A of The Return of the King.

It was in Forochel that Arvedui Last-king, last of the Heirs of Isildur to reign over Arthedain, died in 1974. In that year "the power of Angmar arose again, and the Witch-king came down upon Arthedain before winter was ended. He captured Fornost, and drove most of the remaining Dunedain over the Lune... But King Arvedui held out upon the North Downs until the last, and then fled north with some of his guard... He was driven at last by hunger to seek the help of the Lossoth, the Snowmen of Forochel. Some of these he found in camp by the seashore; but they did not help the king willingly, for he had nothing to offer them, save a few jewels which they did not value; and they were afraid of the Witch-king...".

Of the Lossoth, we learn that "these are a strange, unfriendly people, remnant of the Forodwaith, Men of far-off days, accustomed to the bitter colds of the realm of Morgoth. Indeed those colds linger still in that region, though they lie hardly more than a hundred leagues north of the Shire. The Lossoth house in the snow, and it is said that they can run on the ice with bones on their feet, and have carts without wheels. They live mostly, inaccessible to their enemies, on the great Cape of Forochel that shuts off to the north-west the immense bay of that name; but they often camp on the south shores of the bay at the feet of the Mountains."

Arvedui and his few remaining men spent a bitter winter in Forochel, until at last Cirdan sent a great ship to rescue him. "But the winter was long in loosing its grip that year; and though it was then March, the ice was only beginning to break, and lay far out from the shore. When the Snowmen saw the ship they were amazed and afraid, for they had seen no such ship on the sea within their memories; but they had become now more friendly, and they drew the king and those that survived of his company out over the ice in their sliding carts, as far as they dared. In this way a boat from the ship was able to reach them."

Yet the Snowmen were afraid of the ship, and their chief counseled the King to wait until summer and return by land. Arvedui however ignored this wise advice, and insisted upon sailing; and before departing he gave the chief of the Lossoth his ring, saying "This is a thing of worth beyond your reckoning. For its ancientry alone. It has no power, save the esteem in which those hold it who love my house. It will not help you, but if ever you are in need, my kin will ransom it with great store of all that you desire." And as we know, a great storm arose, most probably due to the malice of the Witch-king, and the ship foundered with all hands upon the ice: "So perished Arvedui Last-king, and with him the palantiri were buried in the sea".

What does this foretell about Book 13? For one thing, it seems clear that Narchuil, which has been fruitlessly pursued across Evendim for so many months, is none other than the ring of Arvedui Last-king, and that unlike the palantir, it has not been lost beneath the waves. The epic story line will therefore deal with the recovery of Narchuil from the Lossoth, whether by hook or by crook. It may also be that the palantir will also play a role, since such powerful magical items have a way of reappearing mysteriously.

Dealing with the extreme cold of Forochel will also be a major factor in exploring the region. Three alternative ways of handling this suggest themselves: the use of potions (boring!), the purchase or gift of furs from the Snowmen (also boring), or the acquisition of furs through the hunting of elite polar beasts (much more interesting). It also seems likely that the Bay of Forochel will prove to be frozen solid, since swimming through such icy waters should normally prove fatal; of course, the developers may have opted to provide us with boats, but that seems rather less likely. Either way, get out your thermal winter underwear (now there is an interesting crafting item).

Friday, 4 April 2008


Time for another look at LOTRO's stock exchange, a.k.a. the Auction House prices. Overall, the signs are that the economy has slowed down somewhat since early February, a steady decline which the introduction of Book 12 did nothing to affect. That perennial economic indicator, the price of Beryl Shards, currently averages about 900 silver, down from just over one gold. Etched Beryl Rings, of which only a few are being offered, range from 12.5G to 15G, with no takers at any price, at least today.

The biggest price drop has affected exchange items from two of the major questing and raiding areas, the Rift and Anuminnas. Battered Arnorian Armour pieces are currently on offer for an average of 200 silver each (800S for 4 pieces, with a buyout of 1,200S), a full 50% down from the February price of 300S each. Rift-Iron Coins average 180S (one lot of four is currently on offer at a starting price 0f 725S with a scarcely larger buyout), again a large drop from an average price of 450-500S two months ago. Not surprising, really, as more and more players are venturing out into the Rift and gathering the coins for themselves - and also, of course, realising that there's not all that much they can exchange them for, anyway. I foresee Rift-Iron Coins hitting a new low of about 80S or so in less than a month. Meanwhile, the Laurelin AH does not offer so much as a sniff of Helegrod armour items at any price whatsoever. Now that would be a good short-term position to take...

Wednesday, 2 April 2008


This is the latest LOTRO loading screen from the States, downloaded from the American game forum. It seems pretty clear: Book 13, "Doom of the Last-King" is coming sometime later this month - most likely after 21 April. Looks as though Turbine is really getting its finger out...


Today, Codemasters released surprise details of The Battle of Amon-Hen, their exciting new update to LOTRO! This astonishing and completely unexpected sequel to chicken play introduces a new race which actually grows as you level up (see picture, above). New housing options allow the race of Fowl to purchase chicken coops, deluxe coops and kinship hen-houses after reaching level 12; these will apparently be large enough to allow all races of mixed kinships to enter and wander through freely.

Speculation abounds as to which skills Fowl are likely to be best at; despite the (possibly over the top) suggestion of massive, Guardian-style fighting chickens, it seems most likely they will turn out to be best at scouting and sneaking, possibly with a hint of nature magic at their disposal. Think burglar with extra peck...

It seems likely that at the time of release (unfortunately, no date has as yet been given), there will at last be an increase in the number of characters available to each account, as it is certain that the vast majority of players will want to create a Fowl character.