Monday, 29 March 2010


Feeling mildly curious about whether Turbine had revealed anything about its future plans for LOTRO at PAX East, I just now did a Google search and came up with what looked like an interesting link to a site called The No News ("Where no news, is gaming news!"). What follows is the complete extent of the information provided:

Next we moved onto Turbine who are the creators of Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online. Something I didn't know was that they are actually from here in Boston and were pumped that their hometown was finally hosting the expo. He discussed the new content in LOTRO and D&D Online and were actually giving away free copies of LOTRO and I believe there were members of Turbine signing the copies they were giving away.

He (who he?) discussed the new content in LOTRO, did he? That's fascinating. And, umm.... could we, like, share same? No? Well, never mind, I'm really happy about your free signed copy.

Late edit:
Eric Musco of The No News has added a comment to the effect that the real interview with Adam Mersky of Turbine can be found here; it seemed only fair to add his link to the original post...

Friday, 26 March 2010


Every form of barter currency appearing to date in LOTRO has turned out to be, in effect, non-transferable. Vile Coins, Rift-iron Coins, Battered Annuminas Armour, Marks of Triumph... Remember those? All water under the bridge by now, or just rubbish cluttering up chests. Medallions of Moria and Medallions of Lothlórien, collected with so much effort, are worth little or nothing to players currently at l.65.

Will we see the same thing happening with skirmish points? A lot of people will be upset if it does. By the end-game, unless you spend them on upgrading your soldier, the only really valuable item you can barter for skirmish points is the Scroll of Empowerment, which costs 1,950 SP and will upgrade a LI legacy by one tier - but, at the moment, it only works on l.65 LIs. Now a lot of players, myself included, have already upgraded as many legacies as we care to on our current LIs, and are simply collecting SPs in view of the inevitable next upgrade, or even the eventual appearence of First-Age LIs. We are assuming (gambling, if you prefer), that Scrolls of Empowerment suitable for the next lot of LIs, whatever they turn out to be, will still be available in exchange for our accumulated SPs. Should this prove not to be the case, we will find ourselves in the same position as holders of Imperial Russian government bonds the day after the Bolsheviks seized power...

On the other hand, if skirmish points continue to be valuable after the next upgrade, albeit perhaps hit by inflation (i.e., scrolls may have doubled in price), LOTRO will have taken the first welcome steps towards the goal of a reliable,  long-term barter currency.

Sunday, 21 March 2010


Readers may remember that last week, I posted my belief that "it should be possible to come up with a reliable formula to indicate what the chances of any PUG completing a particular instance or raid will be". This Holy Grail of scientific LOTRO studies is now within the grasp of serious students and analysts thanks to the efforts of my esteemed colleague, Master Belegwe, to whom we owe the following remarkable formula and its explanation:

The symbols are as follows:
  • C - the chance of success, expressed as a percentage
  • R - the relevance of rewards from a given instance expressed as a percentage of the proportion of the group the reward is relevant to
  • P - the number of players present
  • G - the gating requirement, expressed as an integer, with each piece of required equipment equalling 1
  • D - the difficulty of the instance expressed as an integer from a scale I created (The Belegwe Scale) with values ranging from 1 to 4, 1 being the easiest and 4 being the most difficult
  • A - the age of the instance expressed as an integer with each month (rounding to the nearest month) equalling 1
  • P(al) - the average level of all the players present expressed as an integer
  • I(l) - the level of the instance expressed as an integer
  • P(n) - the number of players present who have never been to the instance before expressed as an integer
  • P(e) - the number of players present who have been to the instance before expressed as an integer
  • K - the Kairos constant with a value of 9.0171
The equation can be expressed more simply, and I think more elegantly, as:

  • C- this remains the same as above
  • X - the product of the first set of curved brackets
  • Y - the product of the second set of curved brackets
  • Z - the age of the instance expressed as an integer
  • K - the Kairos Constant
  • Alpha - the product of the New Player equation
  • Beta - the product of the Experienced Player equation
It should now be child's play for anybody contemplating joining a PUG to gather some basic information from his potential fellow questers and enter the numbers into the Belegwe equation before deciding whether to proceed; more importantly, his or her decision will have been taken on the basis of firm scientific evidence rather than mere prejudice and conjecture. A new age of rationalism dawns on Middle-Earth!

Saturday, 20 March 2010


The LOTRO economy is currently in the equivalent of a deep recession, at least in the sense that economic activity is virtually frozen. Why? Because most l.65 players are awash with money, and have nothing to spend it on. The one single item that players might still be willing to shell out for is the Symbol of Celebrimbor, the essential ingredient for the forging of l.65 Second-Age items. It doesn't come up often in the AH, and when it does, the asking price ranges from 60G to 150G - though I seriously doubt that it actually sells for much over a hundred. However, the drop rate in Sammath Gul is said to be improving, and more to the point, given the depressingly limited shelf life of LIs, many people are beginning to wonder whether investing that kind of money in a weapon which will almost certainly be superannuated two months or so down the road is a smart move. LOTRO's economic czar has clearly screwed things up here, if the entire economic model is teetering, so to speak, upon the demand for one single product (and a rapidly crumbling demand, at that).

Sunday, 14 March 2010


A PUG, or Pick-Up Group, is what you join if you are looking for company on a quest, instance or raid; in other words, a casual assemblage of players of varying degrees of skill and experience for the completion of a specific goal. A group of people who regularly quest together, even if they belong to different kinships, is therefore by definition not a PUG.

Obviously, you’re taking pot-luck in joining or starting a PUG; there are some seriously bad and/or annoying players out there, and you won’t usually know ahead of time. Prior familiarity aside, the only clues to ability will be a player’s kinship (assuming some knowledge of the relative standing of kinships) and a gear inspection (I would turn down anyone anonymous without a second’s thought). This last will at least tell you whether the player has the necessary basic equipment, and will give some idea of previous experience (they’re unlikely to be completely hopeless if they have, say, the DN +20 radiance leggings which drop from the Blind One).

Even if you end up with a competent group, it still won't be as effective as a well-honed kinship group, if only for the reason that members of a random PUG don’t share the crucial experience of having fought together and of knowing each other’s tricks and mannerisms. Inevitably, therefore, PUGs have a mixed reputation at best, and everybody has horror stories of PUGs they’ve joined in which healers thought they were tanks, hunters pulled everything in sight and leaders ran off with the loot…

In my experience, PUGs are most effective in the case of older instances which most good players will pretty much know by heart and for which they can slot into their roles almost automatically. On the other hand, given the much greater complexity of raids in general, I would normally steer clear of a PUG raid other than for purposes of scouting. The one exception is Helegrod, where the virtual impossibility of  assembling 24 players from a single kinship makes a mixed group inevitable – but the rule here has tended to be that in each server, one or two freelance raid leaders emerge who enjoy organising Helegrod runs and, rather like raid leaders in the Ettenmoors, have become familiar with the ability of most applicants.

Though largely bereft of mathematical ability myself, I can’t help feeling that it should be possible to come up with a reliable formula to indicate what the chances of any PUG completing a particular instance or raid will be. The following parameters would have to be considered and balanced: how old the instance is (the older, the more likely it is that more players have experienced it); how many players are needed (the more, the higher the chance of including an incompetent player); the value of the rewards on an arbitrary scale (poor rewards attract fewer players); the relative difficulty, again on an arbitrary scale; and of course, gating requirements.

Given these parameters, I think it’s a virtual certainty that you would be wasting your time trying to run Barad Guldur, the latest 12-man raid, with a PUG. The gating and gear requirements are very high, the rewards are surprisingly poor, few kinships have completed it as yet (and their members are very unlikely to be joining PUGs), and the learning curve extremely steep. Six months from now, if you're really lucky, you may find a PUG that just happens to be made up of players with solid prior experience of BG. But for now, all you'll find is players who've been unlucky with their kinships, who are kinless, or who are just plain out of touch with reality; in any case, players with insufficient experience of what is a very difficult and unforgiving raid.

Friday, 12 March 2010


It hadn't really occurred to me before, but I was struck recently by a huge difference between the European (Codemasters) and Stateside (Turbine) forums: there is almost no discussion of tactics on the CM forums. Which is quite strange, when you come to think of it.

By far the most popular sub-forum on the Turbine forums is the one called "Instances and Raids". Though it shelters a certain amount of grumbling and nit-picking, it also includes a lot of careful and serious debate about the strategy and tactics of the principal raids. Currently, there are several well-established threads about the Barad Guldur 12-man raid; one of them, "BG Strategy - Gauntlet and Boss 1 (Durchest)" includes 133 posts, many providing either detailed tactical proposals or feedback on possible changes since the latest patch. For a characteristic example of a recent post, see the illustration, above.

There are no remotely similar threads on the CM forums, whether for Barad Guldur or any other raid. When I did an advanced, post-by-post search for "Dürchest"on CM, the only posts of any interest which turned up were under the Warden sub-forum. Admittedly, a substantial thread was started recently about increased resistances since Volume III which includes some useful feedback, but nothing much more.

I'm curious about why this should be. Obviously the fact that Codemasters don't provide a tactics and raids sub-forum is one factor, but that can hardly be more than contributory. Are European players less interested in end-content raiding and/or less determined (or, of course, obsessive)? Are they less prepared to share experiences, preferring to hoard what might be regarded as hard-earned information? Or is it simply a general lack of interest in debate and discussion of matters tactical?

Thursday, 4 March 2010


- What was that?
- That was your new content...
- Oh. Do I get any more?
- No. Sorry.

With apologies to Basil Fawlty, that was more or less how most of us felt after checking out the latest free LOTRO content, a.k.a. Volume III, Book 1: Oath of the Rangers. I'm not one of those players who hit l.65 twelve hours after Siege of Mirkwood came out, and I like to take my time over the epic quests and enjoy the plot. So I was seriously disappointed to find that it took me slightly less than four hours to complete all of Vol.III/Bk.1. That's right, all nine chapters. Including the new instance. After which - zilch. I had just exhausted the new content...

This was, without any doubt, the thinnest update ever from Turbine. Other than the aforementioned mini-book and instance, we get some new recipes, some cosmetic loot from the Rift instance, an upgrade on a class skill and very little else. I wouldn't mind too much - after all, there's still the very tricky Barad Guldur 12-man raid to be completed - if it wasn't for the fact that a brilliant opportunity was needlessly blown by the epic quest chain. The basic idea of revisiting different regions of Eriador for the purpose of recruiting Rangers to the Grey Company of the Dunedain, leading in each case to a quest or instance, was a clever one; unfortunately, in terms of plot and narrative design the quests themselves proved unbelievably lame and superficial, as though they had been cobbled together in a spare half-hour on the back of an envelope. The saddest part is that a couple of instances, like the Annuminas tombs in the illustration above, were graphically excellent - but all the hard work of the graphics team was gratuitously wasted by whoever was in charge of writing the story. Also completely wasted was the boss mob of the Rift instance, who could have proved a tough and tenacious opponent under different circumstances, but can here be knocked over by a hobbit granny wielding a feather duster. Report: "Must do better".