Thursday, 20 March 2008


Korrigan must be credited for discovering this excellent map of Middle-Earth, which apart from anything else makes the relationship of the various regions of Eriador accessible in the game much clearer. The map was produced by the brilliant young digital artist Jonatan Alvarsson; a visit to his website is strongly recommended. Don't miss his trailer for an imaginary horror-adventure game, Alone.

It would be nice if Alvarsson could be talked into making a LOTRO-friendly version of his map, with all the extra locations added in...


LOTRO community officer Liquilla has posted a brief chat log of the LOTRO Roundtable chat with Jeffrey Steefel which took place at Connect on the Codemasters forum. Most of the answers are, as you would expect, of the blankly uninformative "we are aware of that issue and are giving it our most serious consideration" type, but one or two fragments of hard information still percolated through. In particular, the rumour of new mounts can now be laid safely to rest:
Q. Can you give us any information on the new mount? A. It's not a new player mount, it's a mount for monsters. Once you kill a monster its rider will fall off and continue to attack you – this is just one of the many new AI enhancements coming LOTRO’s way.
So there you go. No flying drakes or other exotic mounts for us after all. Too bad, I had high hopes of those War-Mammoths promised in the forthcoming Book 13.

Read the full chat log on

Wednesday, 19 March 2008


Why do you, or I, or any of us play games of any kind? Presumably, unless we are masochists, because in one way or another we enjoy the process. Playing games such as LOTRO requires some investment on the player's part, partly of money and partly of time, the payoff for which is the pleasure derived from playing the game. The governing principle is common to all transactions: as long as a player (consumer) feels that the benefits outweigh the costs, he or she will happily continue the exchange. In the case of an online game such as LOTRO, the benefits include the challenge of overcoming difficulties, the richly developed world in which the action is located, an ongoing sense of achievement and, of course, interaction with other like-minded participants.

All of which makes the existence of professional power-leveling services hard to understand. Apart from the ubiquitous gold-sellers and their tedious spamming, there are a handful of enterprises which, in exchange for a player's password and a substantial quantity of real-life cash, will undertake to build up an online character to whatever level is desired. As an example, one such company offers to take a character all the way from level 1 to level 50, handing it back to its proud owner complete with mount for around 500 US dollars. How? According to the company's claims, "2 or 3 expert players [are assigned] to your character to do the power leveling; the person leveling up your character has a very good understanding of how your specific class is played. Your character is primarily leveled up via what is commonly known as "grinding", which is players playing solo simply killing monsters over and over. We do sometimes do simple quests to obtain experience. We have extensive knowledge of your game's world and know the best areas & quests to level up your character as fast as possible".

Another such enterprise, treating its relative ignorance of English with a fine disdain, advertises its services with the dashing slogan "To impress your friends, to crash your enemies, and become cheers of your clan!".

Now, I neither know nor care whether these are all scams from beginning to end, whether (illegal) bots are used to level-up the character, or whether Codemasters can and will ban you if they catch on. What completely baffles me is why on earth anybody would want to make use of these services in the first place. Consider: apart from the costs of purchasing the game and of membership, you would be paying half a thousand dollars for the dubious pleasure of having somebody else "play" in your stead, following which find yourself in control of a fully-tooled up l.50 character with which you will do - what exactly? You, as player, are now controlling a kinless and friendless loner with no experience and no knowledge of the game, no familiarity with how to fight your character class, no sense even of the game's geography. Imagine a situation in which such a player finds himself part of a PUG venturing into Helegrod or the Rift; the mind boggles...

In effect, using a power-leveling service is the equivalent of going into an expensive restaurant, ordering a fine meal, and then paying somebody good money to eat it for you. Other comparisons of a more scabrous nature will no doubt occur to readers.

Sunday, 16 March 2008


So, it's Moria after all. The smart money was on Moria all along for the first big expansion; after all, the regions of Middle Earth guaranteed to generate the most player excitement have always been Moria, Rohan, Gondor and Mordor, and it was obvious that in a plot-driven game, Moria had to come first. Lots of goodies are promised, including two new classes, a variety of raids (including more 24-man raids), six new books and a cap level of sixty. Most players seem to welcome the increased cap, though there has been some inevitable grumbling about the extent to which this will devalue the major boss fights in the Rift and Helegrod. Personally, I think it's a good thing - after all, the bosses in the new expansion will inevitably be even tougher, and the new cap will prove an additional incentive to go out there and quest. Plus, in a game obviously designed to have a lifetime of several years, a fixed cap would sooner or later prove a recipe for stagnation.

To my mind, the most exciting innovation sounds like it will be the forging of Legendary Items. According to the official Codemasters release, "Players will be able to forge weapons and class-related equipment and evolve them to build a legacy the likes of Bilbo's Sting and Gandalf's Glamdring. These legendary weapons will level-up along with the player, allowing customization by advancing the item's virtues, adding runic legacies, modifying its titles and forming fables". Now this is something genuinely new and original. If it works along the lines suggested, it could mean an end to the constant upgrading and replacing of weapons (and armour?) as better and better sets become available; this way, once you had acquired, say, a legendary sword (which presumably would in itself require considerable effort), the sword would increase in capabilities alongside you as you leveled up. You might perhaps even be allowed some latitude in selecting the increased capabilities: for instance, higher fire damage or improved speed?

Those who have played Baldur's Gate II will remember that brilliant invention, the talking sword Lilarcor, which apart from an endless stream of wisecracks was also capable of self-improvement.

Saturday, 1 March 2008


Action at the Auction House is normally sedate, even soporific; the great majority of items on sale never attract so much as a single bid, and bidding wars are as rare as beryl shards. The only exception occurs when somebody posts one or more items for sale with a ridiculously low opening bid and no buyout. Sometimes this can happen when the poster genuinely has no idea of the value of an item, at other times it may be from nothing more than curiosity, a sense of fun or the desire to stir things up. When one of these unique opportunities is discovered, most players wait until the last moment possible before putting in their bids, so as to avoid being outbid. A degree of uncertainty is provided by the fact that the AH indicates the duration of a sale in hours only, so that the indication "1 hour" could mean anything from 60 minutes to one second to go...

Usually, when the seller's intention is to provoke a bidding war, he or she will arrange for the sale to time out sometime in the early evening, when most players are online; this morning, however, saw a sharp bidding war on three items posted by Robinn on the Laurelin AH at a time when most players were fast asleep, some recovering from Friday-night excesses and others from overlong Rift raids. The principal item concerned was a single-use Engraved Beryl Earring Recipe; currently fetching an average 2.5-3 gold at auction, the recipe (when critted) yields an Etched Beryl Earring which brings around 13 gold at the moment. Yesterday, it was being offered at the unbelievable starting price of (I think) around 18 silver. The same player had posted two Engraved Beryl Necklace Recipes starting at around 20 or so silver (average AH price 1.2 gold).

The items had certainly been noticed, but by late last night only a handful of bids had been posted on all three; the real bidding war, as expected, began this morning during the last hour and ended up as shown above: a total of 66 bids brought the earring recipe to 1.96 gold and the two necklace recipes to 525 silver each with 53 and 51 bids respectively. I don't know whether 66 separate bids on an item constitutes any kind of record, but presumably both the seller and the final winners went away satisfied: the seller because he walked off with 3G (less commission) having presumably enjoyed the whole process, and the winners because they had secured what was still a relative bargain, even though the initial prices had been driven sky-high. In my case, having acquired one of the necklace recipes for 525S, I was able to sell it on for 1G within five minutes. Not as heroic as killing drakes, but moderately profitable, and should take care of the rent for a few months...