Thursday, 26 June 2008


Shorn of verbiage, bad jokes and waffle, here is the gist of the information released during the latest Dev Chat session. Probably more hard information percolated through on this occasion that is usual in these sessions.

Book 14 has little in terms of new playable landscape for players to explore. We are introducing a small portion of Eregion to support our epic story but mostly the efforts of the World Team for Book 14 settled firmly in the realm of bug fixing.

Q: Where will the new 6 man instances take place and what size will they be?
A: They will take place in... familiar locations. As for scope, I designed them to be pretty quick, a 1/2 hour to an hour, but unpredictable and a bit random. Let's just say, you haven't seen any instances like this in LOTRO before.

There are a number of new scholar recipes coming online in book 14 - some for potions, others for new dyes and wall colours for your home, improved battle lore scrolls, and one-use recipes that allow you to make items that will be very handy for other professions.

Q: Will the infamous raid vitals bug that is afflicting European LotRO players be fixed in time for Mines of Moria?
A: I have been told that the Raid vital bug has been fixed for Book 14. Or so they tell me!

There are new armour sets in book 14 and the Annuminas armour set has seen a very good upgrade. Additionally, helegrod has been changed over to use bartering.

I'm pretty excited about Book 14. I got to create something for this update that I have never done before, and we have never seen in LOTRO before. I am going to be REALLY vague about exactly what is coming, but let's just say I'm trying to make the story much more important to everyone in the game, not just those of high level.

Q: I have a game mechanics-related question. This has been discussed both recently and in the past, and even the lorebook gives contradictory information on this. Basically, are skill cooldowns affected by weapon speed or are those solely dependent on skills? If so, is there any other use for weapon speed besides seeing what your auto-attack cycle speed is?
A: Individual skill cooldowns are not affected by weapon speed, only the time before you can next execute subsequent skills. Attack with a fast weapon and you have to wait less time after that skill is done before your next skill will start. Some skills are designed to ignore the weapon speed related timer, but those are usually quite special and built [to?] allow a faster response.

Any new mount variations made available between now and Moria will mostly be saddle and color variations. However, we have a region coming up (you may have heard of of it) that ponies (and assumedly horses as well) dare not tread. This means that something new is coming.

The Warden is a more "tank-y" class and is a master of marital combat, and must strike his blows in such a way to best finish off his enemies. The Rune-keeper is a master of words, and uses those to either damage his enemies or inspire his allies.

Thursday, 19 June 2008


This is an (almost?) complete set of the best projectile weapons in LOTRO as of Book 13, drawn from my priceless collection. Cudur, Bane of Forvengwath and Fortified Black Ash Bow are clearly the best available. I normally have Cudur equipped, and carry the other two in my pack. Cudur becomes available after you reach Rank 4 with the Free Peoples in the Ettenmoors; it costs 3 Luminous Spirit Stones and a further quantity of Glimmering and Dull stones, all of which can either be found in the Delvings of Fror or purchased at the AH. It should be possible to achieve Rank 4 after 2-3 days fighting in the Ettens.

Bane of Forvengwath
drops from the first Gatekeeper in Balad Gularan; unfortunately it seems to be fairly rare drop; on the plus side, he isn't that hard to down, and a determined fellowship could farm him. Fortified Black Ash Bow is of course a crafted item. Bow of Keria is a reward item for completing Book 13, and therefore quite achievable for a l.46 or so player. Bow of the Hunt is the reward item for completing the Hunter class quest; it's a nice bow, but usually, by the time most Hunters complete the quest, they will be close to getting something better.

The crossbow Nathfeig, another Barad Gularan drop, is useful to keep around when going after dragon kind (+7), which includes all the worms. Gautar's Ironwork Crossbow (an Angmar/Myrkworth drop) is the best I've been able to come up with as far as dealing out ancient dwarf-make damage is concerned, but there may be something better out there. Finally, Tongannel's Joy is a reward for the Trollshaws quest "Cause for Joy" which comes in very handy when you're in the mid-40s, and was my favourite bow for a long time.

Sunday, 15 June 2008


Rarely Seen Sights, I: The Deathly Falls

Down an obscure dead-end, at the far western end of Imlad Balchorth, travelers fleeing perhaps from the evil wights and spirits which infest the land might stumble upon this awesome waterfall of poisonous water crashing down from Urugarth - the source of the lethal pools and lakes which are such a hazard of the area. Interestingly, the gates to the left appear to be a back-door into Urugarth itself - locked, alas, at least for the moment.

Saturday, 14 June 2008


The next two to three months will likely prove important to the future of LOTRO. I'm assuming that Mines of Moria will not be released until September at the very earliest, with October being much likelier and even November an unlovely possibility. In the meantime, the game has been hit by an unfortunate combination of three factors; any one of the three alone could easily be shrugged off, but it's bad luck (and some bad management) that they should have hit simultaneously.

The first is simply seasonal. In the summer people go away on holidays (usually quite long ones if they happen to be Europeans), the days are longer, outdoor pursuits beckon, parents, significant others and spouses become even less understanding than in the darker days of winter and, what with one thing and another, most people spend significantly less time playing computer games. For the same reasons, people also buy fewer new games, which in turn leads to a small but significant drop in new players.

The second is the arrival of Age of Conan which, whatever its virtues or vices, has attracted a number of LOTRO players simply on the basis of novelty value. Some of them will stay with AoC, some are playing both games and most of them will, I suspect, drift back to LOTRO when the glitz has worn off. In the meantime, however, that represents another drop in activity.

Finally (and this is where bad management comes in), no matter what goodies Book 14 or, most likely, Mines of Moria eventually brings, it was a bad idea not to provide LOTRO players with some new raiding opportunities at the beginning of the summer. I know, I know, raids are not the be-all and end-all of online gaming. The point is, LOTRO is now 15 months old, and includes just two sets of raids, Helegrod and the Rift; this is plainly not enough. Most serious players have completed both raid sequences several times; in the case of the Rift, maybe even dozens of times in order to acquire complete armour sets. The result is that boredom is beginning to set in.

Consider: most average keen players probably hit the l.50 cap around Christmas time, so while they will have completed many of the new Forochel quests out curiosity, quests are simply never as interesting if you can't get experience from them. On the other hand, there are only so many times you can repeat the Rift raid chain, and once you have completed your set, it all becomes increasingly tedious (I know that if I have to face Barz one more time, I shall cut my own throat). Helegrod offers a more varied and interesting environment, but to be honest, how many kinships can rustle up 24 reasonably competent players often enough to make Helegrod adventuring accessible on a regular basis? A new 12-man raid coming out at the same time as Book 13 would have been an intelligent marketing move, particularly as the arrival of AoC was a known factor. I sometimes wonder whether the Delvings of Fror in the Ettenmoors may not perhaps have started out life as a potential raid venue which got side-tracked...

On balance, none of the above will in my view be enough to hold back LOTRO in the medium to long term, given its core client base of Tolkien fans and the very real positive aspects of the game (in a nutshell: looks, plot and updates), but it promises to be a slowish sort of summer... unless, of course, Codemasters choose to surprise us all.

Sunday, 1 June 2008


A formal portrait by Cornelius van Nackerling of Staddle, in the finest "Bree interior" style, of a collector surrounded by his trophies. Cornelius van Nackerling was highly regarded above all for his skill in rendering the effects of candle and fire-light on difficult materials such as velvet, silk, the steel of weapons and the fur of animal trophies. This particularly fine example of his late period goes on sale at the Bree Auction Houses in a week's time, starting price 200 gold.