Tuesday, 26 May 2009


Nornúan lives in Filikul, a rather damp and plashy chamber of the great tower of Gabil-Munz, at the centre of Moria's Waterworks. He probably doesn't mind, though, as he's a giant Snapping Turtle - a chelonian not to be trifled with lightly, since he has 688,000 morale and a habit of shedding poisonous spines in all directions when he gets upset, which is often. The spines cause stacking acid damage over time (Gushing Wound) which is incurable by any potion, salve or spell.

Filikul is LOTRO's latest 12-man raid, and a very odd one it is too. Reaching Nornúan involves a swim/trek across the Waterworks and a two-minute walk down an undefended passageway - and there you are. No adds, no minor bosses, just a quick, very brutal fight; if you don't get him down in under ten minutes, the stackable DoT will wipe the party out. Now, to my mind, the first oddity about Filikul is that it feels astonishingly arbitrary. There's effectively no plot lead-in, other than a casual mention of a missing dwarf. So why, you would be justified in asking, should I go out of my way to beard a horrible great turtle in his sanctuary, where he's been living perfectly happily and not really bothering anybody?

The answer, I guess, is loot. Nornúan is supposed to drop one guaranteed First-age weapon, plus another Second-age item and an Iron Coin (good for normal radiant armour) as well some minor stuff (I say supposed, because last time my kinship took him down, there wasn't a sniff of a First-age item). Trouble is, when it does deign to drop, the First-age item is either a Warden Spear (something like 50% of the time), or else a Captain or Guardian spear; there have been reports of Hunter and Champion spears, but they are pretty rare. So if you don't belong to the spear-carrying classes, tough luck...

I haven't been overly bothered by this, as I tend to see Filikul as the designers' response to complaints that the Vile Maw instance is way too hard, particularly the post-Book 7 Watcher II: "OK, here's an easier one, no radiant armour needed (although it does help), you can have some low-cost First-age legendaries - but you probably won't like them...". Fair enough, in an weird sort of way, but there's more. It now appears that come Book 8, the developers propose to make Nornúan immune to the Burglar trick "Enrage", which causes the affected mob to attack at random - the method adopted by most raids to deal with the turtle's stacking debuffs, which would otherwise build up mostly on the tank. Note that this is not an exploit (a cheat, in other words, exploiting a design error), but the rational use of a game skill to defeat a boss attack. This decision has caused a lot of comment, most of it negative. Again, I can't say I'm too upset; it's not as though this was an astonishingly long and complex raid, and that a strategy carefully developed over weeks of trial and error had suddenly been rendered useless.

However, it is very poor design. If the developers really didn't want players to use Enrage, they should have seen it coming and done something about it beforehand. In the final analysis, Filikul looks and feels like a rather slapdash, not very well considered quick fix. On the European forums, Sanxo put the matter accurately if a little harshly: "The devs are fighting a losing battle against the law of unintended consequences, but rather than let the dust settle and think for second, they create a ragged patchwork of fixes held together with ill-considered nerfs". Ouch.


Jaxom92 said...

Raiding isn't my game in LOTRO, so I don't feel passionately about changes made to the raiding circuit, so to speak. However, the principle behind the changes seems to baffle me a bit. At least, I wonder, like you and most of the players, why the developers cannot see the use of certain skills to create an effective strategy for the raid while they're designing and testing. I'd rather attribute it to an unintentional oversight rather than an innate inability to work within their own design. But these things do seem to keep happening don't they?

In this specific case, it looks like they want this raid to have a few tanks, a few healers, and the rest DPS. That way, the tanks take the DOT and when they die, another can take over. There are enough healers to rez the fallen tanks. And with the majority DPS classes, they'll be enough damage to burn down the turtle before the raid wipes. One designer approved strategy. But why does it need to be this way? What's wrong with *multiple* strategies. Sure, a Burg using enrage might be the most effective strategy and negates the need for the above method, but that doens't mean the above method wouldn't ever be used. What if a raid cannot find a burg?

What I love about LOTRO is the design allows many different combinations of classes to effectively complete content, and doing so opens up multiple successful strategies. It's good design, it's interesting design, its *replayable* design. I don't like the indications that parts of this game are being so focused like this. Like you said, bad design because isn't the point of an MMO to encourage replayability? And if there's replayability in this game beyond the typical grinds, isn't that a really, really good thing?

Seriously, there needs to be a bit of a reevaluation of priorities. But, like I said, I'm not a raider so this doesn't personally bother me. If they start trying this stuff on the "regular" content, then we'll have serious problems. And not just from me.

Yeebo said...

I'm not sure why Turbine seems so intent on cramming one strategy for all of the end game fighst down our throats. It's not as if the Turtle is suddenly a pushover if you enrage him. And I wonder what "rampant exploits" they intend to patch out of the hard mode dungeons?

The continued and ongoing oddness with drop rates in the game also has me puzzled. The basic structure of their system must be that it is very hard to debug and test correctly. Odd drop rates that get fixed after a few months is one of the few consistent gripes I've had with LoTRO.

Anonymous said...

I run the turtle 4-5 times each week depending on how many of my kin's alts are online. First, the turtle isn't guaranteed to drop anything. I've seen runs with no 1st or 2nd age items. Usually he drops the stuff you mention, and although he tends to drop more spears I've seen plenty of champ swords, guardian axes, hunter bows, etc. Second, why bother with enrage? Just use a lm's bear to tank the turtle. A burg can provoke the turtle so it doesn't switch targets so no one gets an acid dot. The healer just keeps the bear up. Dead simple. Or I should say Dead turtle simple.

Kairos said...

Poor old bruin... Must say I've never tried that approach; we'll give it a shot tomorrow evening.

unwize said...

Enrage has been my favourite Burglar skill from the moment I got it, but it does kind of negate the meagre strategy that this fight contains, i.e. tank aggro management, and so I don't really mind the change.

I'd prefer they introduced Enrage-immunity to particular boss mobs rather than nerf the skill.