Tuesday, 30 June 2009


There's another two hours or so to go before Book 8 comes available in Europe, and probably between thirty minutes and two hours of downloading the patch after that... If, in less than a week, Turbine and Codemasters have managed to catch all the horrific bugs which were reported after Book 8 launched in the States, they deserve congratulations.

So before we launch into the eagerly-awaited "Scourge of Khazad-dum", this seems like a good moment to take pause briefly and take stock. LOTRO, it seems is on its way to China... According to a timely post on MMeOw, "Turbine has apparently teamed up with CDC Games to release the title in China... CDC Games will be the MMORPG’s exclusive distributor in the country. As you might expect, both parties are excited about this: CDC has 13 million active users for the games it currently handles and expects LotRO to get a piece of that". A new client base of thirteen million customers, or even a small fraction thereof, isn't to be sneezed at by any means.

There has been much grumbling in the ranks of late, and the forums are full of people swearing blind that LOTRO is on the skids, that the player base is crumbling and that at this rate we'll be lucky to see Rohan, never mind Moria. The fact is that that none of us, myself of course included, have the figures to back up our views of how LOTRO is doing from a commercial point of view - so everything you read is merely opinion, sometimes reasonably well informed but mostly based on little more than the writer's prejudices or desires. For what it's worth, I don't go along with the prophets of doom, and I certainly don't think LOTRO is in any serious danger of folding. Granted, there have been several bad design decisions since the launch of Moria - I've highlighted several of them in these pages - as well as a certain amount of bad luck, but none of them are terminal. There are many reasons for optimism. First of all, the unique Middle-earth environment, no matter how much it may have been knocked about in the process of transformation; secondly, the much larger than usual mature audience, many of whom are happy just enjoying the scenery; thirdly, the fact that two good years into the project, neither Turbine nor CM have found it necessary to merge any servers. And finally, of course, there are those millions of Chinese players just a boat journey away...

Tuesday, 23 June 2009


The following announcement appeared two days ago on the US LOTRO forums:

ALERT: Notification of Suspicious Activity

We have been made aware of suspicious account requests via in game email and other means. These emails are very convincing and link to a site that has cloned the appearance of the lotro.com website. All players should be aware that this is not a valid site and is in no way associated with Turbine.

Example email:
“Becasuse you suspected of lllegal trade for gold, system will freeze your ID after one hour.If you have any questions, please login (URL) to make a complaint .We will be processing as soon as possible.Thank you for your understanding!”

We are currently investigating reports and will take appropriate actions.

European players will remember that a similar kind of attack was directed against Codemasters account holders last March. In both cases, however, the extreme illiteracy of the email texts should have made it pretty obvious that it was a scam, and a poor one at that. Presumably the next step would be for the scammers to ask anybody so foolish as to respond for account details, after which their player characters would be stripped of anything worth re-selling on the illegal gold market. People still willing to deal with gold sellers because doing so is supposedly a "victimless crime" must now realise that they may very likely be profiting from a fellow-player's misfortune.

Friday, 19 June 2009


A frequently heard grumble, particularly from players on RP servers, concerns misuse of the player-moderated chat channel Global Looking for Fellowship (GLFF), with "player-moderated", in this case, being a euphemism for "unmoderated". GLFF, on those servers which have implemented it, is supposed to be for people looking for fellowships across all regions of Middle-earth. Being a channel most players keep permanently open, unless they are actually on a quest or raid, in practice it tends to be used for lots of other purposes, including idle chit-chat - irritating, if you are only keeping half an eye on GLFF in the hope of finally catching mention of that quest you've been trying to complete for the last two weeks.

However, what really gets some people wound up is the hijacking of the channel by LOTRO's equivalent of drunken louts, who use it to exchange incomprehensible badinage at tedious length; judging by the palpable snigger which accompanies many of these exchanges, the perpetrators are mostly 12-year old male refugees from WoW. Inevitably, increasingly annoyed requests for said louts to take themselves off to another channel and desist from clogging up GLFF are met by even more frenzied spamming.

I guess that's why the Lords of Creation (a.k.a. LOTRO devs) gave us ignore lists, though they might usefully have increased their maximum capacity. The following brief excerpt from a Chat Log which I saved a couple of months ago and just recently rediscovered gives a pretty good idea of what comes through an average evening. Names have not been changed to protect the guilty.

### Chat Log: General 04/25 08:30 PM ###

[GLOBALlff] Runarfin: 'rofl'
[GLOBALlff] Malethor: 'whats consonants preciouse?!:o whats consonants?:o'

[GLOBALlff] Arandarion: 'well, just don't react when someone starts to spam, or it becomes a massive spam in here :o'

[GLOBALlff] Runarfin: 'con-so-nants!'

[GLOBALlff] Erlo: 'Etten raid up.'

[GLOBALlff] Runarfin: 'b-b-boil em mash-em stick em in a stew'

[GLOBALlff] Thrawneekaran: 'watcher raid looking for burg now, any good out there?'

[GLOBALlff] Malethor: 'xDD'

[GLOBALlff] Erlo: 'God can people stop random spam. I do spam abit but this is just pure silly.'

[GLOBALlff] Candytuft: 'I'm excellent, but unavailable :-p'

[GLOBALlff] Dworim: 'ahahaha Runarfin'

[GLOBALlff] Glewdron: 'we always try to repel em but they always return in greater numbers -.-'

[GLOBALlff] Runarfin: 'spam is my middle name'

[GLOBALlff] Mpty: 'So I see.'

[GLOBALlff] Glewdron: '(speaking about spam)..'

[GLOBALlff] Runarfin: 'you just split my first name'

[GLOBALlff] Mpty: 'Whats the fun of spam if noone listens.

Saturday, 13 June 2009


We have a new splash screen, according to which Book 8: Scourge of Khazad-dum is nearly upon us - and very good news that is, too. But I am made more than a little uneasy by this chap, who figures mightily in the splash screen and, is, presumably, the Scourge personified. Now, I definitely don't want to sound negative before Book 8, upon which so much rests, is actually released; also, I remember an old Hawaian (I think) proverb which says, roughly, that if you're rude about your own coconut tree, it will drop coconuts on your head.

But - and I don't know how to put this diplomatically - dear old Scourge does not look very... Tolkienesque. Particularly not the blue neon highlights, of course, but also the fact that I'm prepared to eat my boots if he doesn't turn out to be half the size of a mallorn tree. Now as I've remarked before, I'm not a lore fanatic. LOTRO's designers have come up with a number of monsters perhaps undreamed of by Tolkien which are nevertheless perfectly convincing in terms of the mythos, or which at least fit in more-or-less comfortably; Gaunt Men, Morroval, Rogmul, Doom-singers are all both imaginative and appropriate.

The rot set in with Mines of Moria (where have I heard that comment before?), and specifically with the dreadful Foundations of Stone, whose shameless steals from "Alien" are not only contemptibly lazy, but also wildly out of place in Middle-earth. I sincerely hope that Book 8 isn't going to continue that trend, but Scourge here looks as though he belongs firmly in World of Warcraft. There's nothing wrong with WoW, in it's own place, but (and we really have to be firm, here), LOTRO is not WoW, and the last thing it needs is WoW's cartooney design. I say it's spinach, and I say the hell with it.

Fingers crossed.

Monday, 8 June 2009


Quest trophies - the decorative items which drop when a particularly tough boss has been killed - are, quite rightly, Bind on Acquire (BoA) - they are meant to be proof of prowess or cunning, and shouldn't be available on demand to anybody with money or generous friends. The same applies, perhaps with rather less urgency, to decorative items only available to those who have achieved high rank with various factions.

There is, however, one very common occasion when this strict BoA rule needs be relaxed or modified. Many trophies end up gracing Kinship Houses, either because they are considered honours pertaining to the entire fellowship or raid responsible for the kill, or else because individual members choose to donate them. The problem is that because they remain bound to their original acquirer, they cannot be moved by anybody else; if anyone but the owner tries to do so, the only option given is "Return to owner", which means they immediately end up in the owner's escrow account. If the owner in question then fails to retrieve them in time, they are gone forever. Note also that there is no indication of just who the owner is, so there's no possibility of contacting them and having them move the item.

All of which means that making changes to a trophy-heavy Kinship House is virtually impossible, even for the leader. What's more, trophies and other BoA items will vanish in the wake of a departing member, even if he or she had no such intention. The obvious answer is to allow for decorative items of all kinds, including trophies, to be BoA with the sole exception of transfer to a Kinship, perhaps into a Kin Treasure Vault accessible only to the leader and nominated members by means of a new permission. Items taken out the vault and in the temporary posession of a player would immediately become BoA again unless placed in a Kinship House decorative slot. In other words: trophies would be transferable from the original owner to the Kinship, after which they could only be used in Kinship House decorative slots.

Thursday, 4 June 2009


In the course of the 3 June developer chat, developers were by and large as wary as ever of making definite statements. However, sorting through the whole transcript, I found that a number of answers addressed the vexed question of Legendary Items, a frequent source of complaints and grumbles. Pulling these together, it seems as though we can expect some positive developments in the near future.

Perhaps most importantly, the devs acknowledged that there are indeed problems with the LI system as it stands today: “Are there any plans for redesigning the Legendary Item system? Completely redesigning it, no. It took a lot of work to get the various systems in place to create the LI system. However, we’re definitely monitoring the complaints and seeing where we fell short with our goals. So in that regard, we’re going to be making some solid changes. The details haven’t been completely solidified yet, but our main goal is to make it feel less grindy, to better maintain the feeling of advancement and progression”.

Other specific promises include a method of resetting the legacy points on a maxed out Legendary Item, to come “very soon”, and the ability to exchange legacies on LIs; the latter is probably more of a mid-term project, since they apparently haven’t decided exactly how to implement it.

On the question of crafted Legendaries, the response was “We definitely want to bring crafters into the LI system more than we have… this is a very large complaint we’ve heard and we fully intend to remedy it” - but no details were provided.

Finally, a crucial detail concerning the upcoming 12-man instance in Book 8 was dropped: “Some very special mobs (please see certain mobs in Dar Narbagud) are completely immune to Common damage”. This is very far from a minor point; if we are to come up against monsters immune to common damage, the implication is that either special weapons or else special titles for weapons will have to be acquired before these mobs can be attempted. So will this in practice turn out to be a weapons equivalent to the radiance armour – i.e., the instance will prove to be impossible without specific items? It certainly sounds like it…

The complete transcript can be consulted on Kill Ten Rats.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009


I suspect that not many players are aware of the fact that the Codemasters forum recently started running a section in which players are invited to respond to questions about the game and its design. Since these questions are usually quite specific, and presumably correspond to things the designers actually want to know more about, I would hazard a guess that somebody actually reads and takes note of the responses posted here - which is not necessarily the case with unsolicited suggestions and complaints.

The questions seem to change every couple of weeks or so; this is the current set:

Question 1: A friend who does not play MMOs asks you why you play them. What 3 reasons would you give them?
Question 2: Currently a hot topic among forum posters is play styles, so how would you describe your play style? Casual, Hardcore, or something in between?
Question 3: You're given the opportunity to pitch one new feature to the dev team. Go! (please be brief).

As you can see, some are probably of greater interest to players than others. Among the more relevant questions from recent weeks I would include "If you could change 3 things about LOTRO's User Interface, what would they be?" and "What three(3) features would you add to the Kinship system?".

In any case, if you have constructive views about the future design of LOTRO (as opposed to merely strongly-held views), it's worth your while contributing to this little feature.