LOTRO and the trap of altaholism

For its 15th anniversary, Lord of the Rings Online backed up a dump truck to players’ inventories and gave them a ton of new stuff, even more if you were subbed during the anniversary festival. Including this beautiful star cloak. I will gladly pay $15 for that alone, thank you. It was already exciting that free players were getting all of the expansions up to and including Helms’ Deep for free, but then they went and gave out the collector’s edition to Mordor, Minas Morgul, and War of the Three Peaks for free as well. Seriously, if you think there’s any chance you’ll ever play this game in the future, go log in now, or you will be kicking yourself. 

That’s wonderful! I’m really grateful to SSG for being so generous! I even tweeted a dumb meme about it and it took off! (I don’t know about you, but for me, nearly 100 likes and more than 10 RTs is probably some kind of record) There’s just one downside. I had already bought the collector’s editions to Mordor and Minas Morgul. No biggie, it’s super old content at this point, I’ve probably gotten my money’s worth.

…except that I’ve never actually been to those zones. My highest level character is like half way through Mirkwood. I bought those expansions thinking that I’ll get there one day, and at least this way I get cosmetics and other goodies to enjoy along the way. I used the level boosts that came with each, but neither character stuck, partly because of that “I didn’t earn this” effect that much better writers than I have spilled plenty of digital ink over, and partly because LOTRO is really bad at level boosts and I couldn’t really progress with what I was given without a lot of backtracking (I’m told the 120 version is better about this at least). 

How could I possibly have played LOTRO for years, putting in dozens if not hundreds of hours, and never gotten past the second expansion? If you’re mystified, you’re not alone; I’m not really sure how it happened either. The only answer I can come up with is alts. When I say my highest level character is halfway through Mirkwood, I actually can’t tell you for sure without looking if that’s my Rune-Keeper or my Beorning, because they’re so close in level and progress. It’s also about where my Captain was before I used the first of those level boosts on her (which was a huge mistake; at least the second time I used a boost I was smart enough to do it on a fresh character so I wasn’t missing anything by not playing him). I’ve also got a variety of other alts abandoned around the 30s and 40s. 

And that’s just on my main, normal server. There’s also that time I got excited to play on the Arnor progression server until I got distracted long enough that I fell hopelessly behind, the Shadowfax speed leveling progression server (in Deadly difficulty for some reason) until I realized that the server was super dead, and the Treebeard slow leveling server until I realized that I don’t really want to play on a slow leveling server. All of those characters got to the 30-60 range and fizzled. 

I love the early zones of this game — The Shire, all of Bree-Land, Evendim, The Trollshaws — so much, I don’t mind redoing them periodically. Also, am I the only one who finds all of the classes in this game a lot more interesting than they ought to be? Normally, I go into a game like Star Wars: The Old Republic or The Elder Scrolls Online and I find at least one or two classes I like and one or more that I really don’t care for. But in LOTRO, even the classes I can’t play to save my life, like Lore-Master or Warden, I want to be good at because they’re interesting somehow.

I have played far too much on too many alts, and not focused enough on one character, and it has finally come back to bite me. I sometimes fear that the game is going to suddenly shut down one day, and I will really have wasted my money on all those expansions that I’ve never seen, and, worse still, regret that I never got to see all of the cool places I’ve only heard stories of and seen in screenshots. 

All of that said, I don’t consider any of it time wasted. This is a game, and if I’m having fun and relaxing and getting a few moments of respite from the stresses and struggles of life, it’s time well spent. I long ago decided that I wouldn’t let any game, or any group within that game, dictate how I spent my free time or plan my life around it. I will play in whatever way is the most fun, or not at all. But there’s also something to be said for seeing something new and different rather than repeating things I’m already familiar with. 

Like any good Hobbit, I prefer the comfort of the well known, but, like Bilbo, there are a lot of adventures waiting for me outside of my comfort zone. Maybe this anniversary will be the wizard that pushes me out the front door. 


LotRO life in the fast lane on Shadowfax

Last time I talked about my excitement for LotRO’s Shadowfax progression server, with its faster leveling and fast expansion release cadence, and pondered what class to play. I still hadn’t decided by the time the new servers went up, so I ended up just rolling a bunch of characters and seeing which one stuck.

After a lot of waffling and self-induced anxiety and an existential crisis or two, I ended up maining a Captain. A High Elf, believe it or not. I’m not a big Elf person (they’re kind of jerks in every universe) but they have some cool animations and a unique shout, and I have the High Elf race, so why not? Captain is just such a comfortable class for me. While I played one a bunch back in my early days with LotRO, I hadn’t played one seriously in years, but it all came back to me very quickly. I’ve been leveling in tank spec, just because I was previously DPS. Cappy DPS isn’t that great to begin with, so I can’t say I felt a lot of difference in TTK, but the extra survivability is definitely noticeable. 

As I was trying different alts, I tinkered with the new difficulty settings. I landed on Hard, mostly because that’s the minimum difficulty to get the account-wide title (which I will never use, because when you have the title “Walked Into Mordor” why would you ever use anything else?) and because it was just enough added challenge to be fun, but not enough to make killing every random mob feel like a chore. LotRO isn’t known for its difficult open world content, but I don’t think I realized just how weak it really is until I forgot that I was on hard mode, then went into a quest instance and was bewildered at how fast I was mowing down mobs above my level. Then I remembered that difficulty settings don’t work in instances. I would probably be playing on Deadly or higher difficulty on at least some of my tankier characters, just for the novelty of the challenge, but the random AoE nukes are more annoying than fun. The constant dread visual effect and the Eye of Sauron popping up over your head every few minutes were extremely distracting, which was a big turnoff initially, but fortunately SSG removed those after a few days. I wish I could talk my friends into playing on this server with me, because I think it would be a blast to get a party together and crank the difficulty up to max and play through the whole game like it was one giant dungeon. 

The culture of the Shadowfax server is interesting. I haven’t done a rigorous population study or anything, but from the frequency of chat and the number of people I bump into while leveling, it seems like there’s a decent population, comparable to maybe one of the smaller regular servers. Oddly enough, there aren’t really a lot of guilds. There’s one mega guild that I see recruiting pretty much every time I play, and apart from that, I’ve seen maybe one or two others. I know that there’s no real point in hitting the gear treadmill when it’s all going to be invalidated every two months when a new expansion gets added, but that’s not usually the main reason I join a guild anyway. I’m mostly there for the social aspect (the fellowship, if you will excuse the pun). Instance runs are just a convenient side effect. The LFF channel is pretty lively, though, with people PUGing dungeons and raids much more frequently than I usually see on my regular server. I saw some naysayers claiming that there wouldn’t be an economy on Shadowfax, but I’ve been making a pretty good living off of dyes so far. Maybe that means I’m the only one bothering with crafting? 

The biggest reason I didn’t stick around LotRO’s original progression server was that I fell behind the curve and couldn’t catch back up as new expansions unlocked. From what I’ve heard, it seems like it lost a lot of population because of this, and because speedier players drifted away waiting for content unlocks. In my view, Shadowfax has fixed this both problems speeding up leveling and speeding up expansion unlocks. I know most of LotRO’s population is more keen on Treebeard, and I may roll there after I get a character or two up to cap, but for now, Shadowfax is my LotRO home. 

Musing about what class to level on Shadowfax

Lord of the Rings Online announced its speed-leveling Shadowfax server and its slowmo-leveling Treebeard server just a few short weeks ago, and now we know they’re coming this Wednesday. As someone who has been playing LotRO for ages but has never made it past Mirkwood, I’m excited for the fast leveling server. I’ve sometimes wondered what it would be like if this game did what Star Wars the Old Republic did and upped the XP output of the main story quests so you can focus exclusively on those while leveling, choosing to do side quests only if you’re interested in them, not as a primary means to level. I’m not sure if Shadowfax will boost leveling speed quite that much, but since LotRO doesn’t have SWTOR’s level scaling, that’s probably for the best. Sorry, Treebeard, as much as I love you as a character, I felt like Arnor’s leveling was too slow, so I don’t think your even slower pace is for me. 

So the question is, what class do I want to level this time? I might still be on Arnor if I hadn’t started with Warden, realized that class wasn’t for me, rerolled, and then felt hopelessly behind. Ok, I probably would have ended up hopelessly behind anyway, because that’s how it goes with me and this game, but still, picking the right class the first time around is important with these limited time progression servers. 

I’ve never made a serious attempt at a Guardian. I know they’ve fallen out of favor as tanks, but I’m probably going to be playing mostly solo anyway, so DPS is fine. Besides, the health regen-focused red line and the melee AoE-focused yellow line both sound interesting. 

I’ve had a Minstrel for a long time, but I’ve never put serious time into him, which is something I regret. It’s a fun class, and I like healing. Besides, Bards are such an iconic RPG staple, and so many MMOs are missing them these days. 

I have a high level captain, but it has been years at this point since she was my main, and I kind of have the urge to level a new one. I always played in DPS spec, and I know captains are considered the best tanks right now, so I could always try leveling in tank spec. It might go a little slower, but the faster leveling speed should more than make up for that, right?

Finally, I rolled a new Hunter after their rework a while back, but honestly felt like it made everything a little too easy. Then again, I never made it out of Bree-Land, so maybe with faster leveling, I’ll get to more challenging content before I get too bored, and be glad for the extra power.

Right now I’m leaning toward one of the two tank classes. Logically, I feel like I should want to play the Guardian, since it’s new to me, but I’ve also been thinking about the Cappy a lot lately. We’ll see how I feel Wednesday!

LotRO: Running Wild(wood)

I promised last time that I would talk more about Lord of the Rings Online’s new Wildwood zone, so here we are. But before we get into that, can I just gush about how much I’m enjoying the Burglar class? To be fair, all of LotRO’s classes are fun, but I always thought Burg was one of my least favorite. I’m not saying I like it more than the Beorning or Rune-Keeper, but it has a nice, simple rotation, a lot of cooldown tricks to boost your DPS or get you out of trouble, just enough cleave, and stealth is always nice when you just don’t feel like dealing with enemies right now. Plus, the burglar is just so quintessential to Middle-Earth. 

Of course, coming back to this character after a long while, I had to design a new outfit for him. I was going for a well-to-do Hobbit look with this one, inspired, of course, by Bilbo Baggins, when I realized that I was inadvertently cosplaying Scrooge McDuck from the 2017 Ducktales reboot. New Ducktales is a fantastic series with an incredible voice cast — a rare case of a modern reboot that actually outshines its predecessor — so I decided to just run with it. If anyone knows of any 1-H weapons that look like fancy little canes, let me know and I will totally rock those. 

I mused last time about why SSG chose to even create the Wildwood zone in the first place. I have since read a few theories, from the one I gave, that they realized that Angmar is the worst zone in the history of MMOs[citation needed] and people want a way to sidestep it (I always forget that there’s already Forochel to do this, though I guess many people don’t find arctic/snow zones particularly inviting either), to the theory that their metrics showing that a lot of players get bored with the game around that level (anecdotally, I have to say, I do have an inordinate number of characters abandoned around the Misty Mountains) and wanted something fresh and inviting to keep them occupied. Still others pointed out that all of the mobs in this zone drop pages to those books that give you a skill point when you catch ‘em all, not just the humanoids as usual (why did this wasp have a page of The Expert’s Guide to Dirty Fighting? We may never know), and that this may have been designed as a way for players to get all of their skill points in before moving on to Moria without having to farm as hard for them. I feel like if that was the sole purpose, though, it would have been much easier to have the pages just drop from everything in the existing zones. Whatever the reason, it’s still a bit odd, but I’m enjoying having something new to do on an alt that doesn’t require me doing years worth of old content first. 

Wildwood is kind of a strange zone for LotRO, because there isn’t really much of an overarching story going on here as far as I can tell. Certainly nothing tying it to the trilogy. Just a bunch of people (and one random Ent for some reason) hanging out in the middle of nowhere, asking you to do stuff for them. And I do mean in the middle of nowhere; it took some wandering around before I even found any quests, since, if there are breadcrumbs leading you here, I missed them entirely. For anyone else looking, there are quest hubs on the east and west ends, near the borders to Tresselbridge and Evendim, and another smaller one near the very center of the zone. Orcs have taken over a few villages in the area, but, while you get a daily popup quest to kill them and blow up their stuff (seriously, why do their supply crates explode so violently? Are they shipping Star Trek bridge consoles or what?), nobody really seems especially worried about them. Apparently that’s no more urgent than hunting moose. 

Speaking of fighting things, I love that new combat musical cue. It reminds me of some of the vanilla LotRO combat music, but with a twist. Well done as always, Bill Champagne!

The new missions are a bit underwhelming. I’m not sure if the ones in the Three Peaks DLC were any better (I doubt it), but between these and The Further Adventures of Bilbo Baggins, I feel like missions are less like skirmishes, as I was hoping, and more like regular old quests that happen to take place in an instance that scales to your level and group size. It’s not terrible, just not the tentpole feature SSG is touting them as. At least there are a lot of them, so if you do decide to grind missions for currency or levels, it’s not like you’re stuck running the same instance over and over. 

The rewards from these missions aren’t that appealing either. The mining pick weapon skin could be cool for a dwarf, and some of the pets aren’t bad (some of them, like the moose, would have been cooler as mounts, but I’m not surprised since this game is very stingy with any mount that isn’t a new blanket thrown over a boring old horse/pony), but nothing I’m really excited to grind for. There’s some good jewelry in there, I guess, but I’m never that excited by gear I’m going to quickly outlevel anyway. 

It has been a lot of fun getting to know my Burglar again while exploring this new zone. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with him once I’ve outleveled it. Do I want to take him through Moria? I’d really like to get back to my Beorning, who I also love, and push into some content I’ve never seen. And I was just talking to a friend about how much I used to enjoy playing my Captain, who I haven’t played in ages because I level boosted her to Mordor and then couldn’t progress because the TTK and mob density was so ridiculous. Maybe I could grind a level or two in Wildwood missions and give Mordor another try while a little overleveled? I have no shortage of options in LotRO, I just wish I had the time to explore them all. 

An honest look at LotRO’s “mini-expansion”


Lord of the Rings Online’s latest update went live yesterday, and all of the players were super excited for it and pleased with the new content. That’s what the headline should have been today… but it’s not. There are a lot of players upset about the way War of Three Peaks, LotRO’s new so-called “mini-expansion,” was handled. Personally, I have a lot of mixed emotions about it, so let’s parse some of my feelings toward this update.

So what is all this fuss about? First off, there isn’t that much story/zone content here. Hence the “mini” label. Second, while true expansions have always had a cost associated with them for everyone, LotRO’s model has always been that subscribers get all of these smaller zones included in the subscriptions, whereas non-subbed could buy them piecemeal. This was the case as recently as last year’s Vales of Anduin release. These smaller, post-expansion updates were previously just called… updates, so this obvious marketing label feels tacky. Three Peaks broke this long-standing pattern, however, and requires everyone who wants to play it to pay at least $20 to unlock it. To make matters worse, players can’t use cash shop currency (aka “money we already gave you”) to unlock the zone as with previous releases; it’s a direct buy on the website only. To add insult to injury, there are two premium packages, labeled “Collector’s Edition” and “Ultimate Fan Bundle” (the latter with a big gold RECOMMENDED banner over it) for $60 and $100, respectively, that add a range of cosmetics (all of which, as far as I’ve seen, are ugly) and a few convenience items you could have bought from the cash shop.

Of course, LotRO got way out ahead of this and made the community aware ahead of time and communicated the reasons for this sudden change, right? Nope. As fellow bloggers Roger over at Contains Moderate Peril and Syp of Bio Break have chronicled, LotRO’s communication to its players has been bad for a long time, and seems to be getting worse. For some unknown reason, the pricing and details of these bundle tiers were kept secret until release day. I say “unknown reason,” but I would speculate that it’s largely because they knew this was going to tick off a lot of fans, and hoped this would get people to convince themselves to buy it ahead of time. Of course, instead this has caused the launch day to be more about angry fans griping about the change in sales tactics than about the actual release.

I do want to say, though, that, in Standing Stone’s defense, the update is a little more than just a single zone quest pack. It also includes the new mission system, which looks like it’s basically skirmishes by another name. Skirmishes have always been one of my favorite things about LotRO, because I can scale them in difficulty with my level and group size. Not enough games have that kind of content, and I’ve always wished they would start making new ones again. To be honest, I’m not really sure how much content is in these missions, because they haven’t been talked up much (again, communication problems). If, to play devil’s advocate, you did think missions justified the mini-expansion label, this isn’t the worst thing, given that the last couple of expansions were also a cash buy-in at first, and it is half the price of those expansions. But even if they’re extensive, is such a feature enough to justify treating this like an expansion? In my opinion, not really.

A lot of players are really upset about this, shouting about corporate greed and such. They feel that SSG has altered the deal they’ve had for years now, with no warning, and they want an explanation. People are threatening to quit because of this. To be fair, none of these kinds of shenanigans happened before the transition to Standing Stone Games and Daybreak’s involvement as publisher/owner/corporate overlord/whatever (everyone has been weirdly cagey about the nature of that relationship). Personally, I’m less upset about it and more worried about SSG’s financials. I don’t know anything about how they’re doing money-wise, but how desperate must they be to do something like this that they know will tick off so many of their fans? And they had to know this would tick off their fans. Nobody can be that incompetent… right?

It’s really sad to me, because I feel like a lot of this could have been avoided. SSG could have communicated better. If it’s a financial issue, they could have just said “Look, we’re not making money like we used to. We need to charge for some of the smaller updates we previously gave to you for free,” and this community would have started throwing money at their screens. The players who bounce out of an MMO because its future looks stormy have left this game a long time ago. The players who are here are here because they’re loyal to this game in particular. If SSG really truly believes this content is meatier than a regular patch, they should have marketed it better. And if it really is gross incompetence, then, well, I hope this is a wakeup call that they need to do better.

It seems like players would have much more easily accepted it if the zone update had been delivered the way previous zones had been (i.e. free for subbers and in the cash shop for non-subbers), and the mission system, which seems to be the tentpole feature SSG is saying makes this mini-expansion bigger than a regular patch, had been sold separately. Sure, you wouldn’t have milked extra money out of people sitting a big pile of premium currency from paying their monthly game tax, but again, that’s money they have already paid you.

At some undetermined date in the future (again, communication from this studio is wonderful), this pack will be going up on the cash shop for purchase with premium currency, and at that point, I may pick it up for the mission system. Or maybe I’ll wait for a sale. At any rate, I’m not too broken up at the idea of not getting to play this (fully skippable, as it has no level cap increase) content on day one. I’m perpetually behind in LotRO. It’s just what I do at this point. I don’t think this is worth breaking out the pitchforks and storming SSG HQ over, but it certainly is a move that is disappointing at best and worrisome at worst.

LotRO: Walking back into Mordor

Do you ever have regrets about decisions you’ve made in MMOs? A few years ago in Lord of the Rings Online, I needed a crafting alt for a profession I didn’t have on any other characters. I decided to do a class I had never done, Rune-Keeper, with a race I hadn’t done much of, Elf, just to be different. I had to level him a bit to get him to a superior workbench (I’m so glad they got rid of those; they were dumb), but I quickly fell in love with the way the class played. I always regretted not making him a Dwarf, however. I tried to remind myself that Elves had racial passives that were more useful for Rune-Keeper than Dwarves, but it didn’t help. I just like Dwarves a lot more than Elves. Leveling is so slow in LotRO (I know many LotRO fans find it too fast, hence the slowed progression on the legendary server, but I guess I’m just spoiled by other games) that I didn’t want to start over just for the sake of my character’s looks.

Then Minas Morgul came along, bringing with it the new Stout-Axe Dwarf race and a special edition that nets me cosmetics and a character boost. I know a lot of MMO players sneer at level boosts, and I can certainly understand why, especially in this game where the story and the world is the standout feature. But this seemed like a perfect opportunity to create a new dwarf rune-keeper without having to start over at level 1. Plus, it’s a class I already know, so it’s not like I’m going straight to 120 with no idea how to play my character. And if I hate it, I can just go back to my old Rune-Keeper.

It’s also a way for me to resolve another regret: Mordor. I was really interested in the story of Mordor — where will the story go now that we’ve entered more-or-less uncharted territory, with the big-bad dead? — so I bought a similar package for Mordor on sale a while back and level boosted my Captain, and immediately regretted it. The mobs in Mordor have so much health that my Captain in DPS spec has a lot of trouble surviving, and in tank spec it takes her so long to kill mobs that, if I have to pull two mobs at once, the first mob has respawned by the time I’ve killed the second. As far as I can tell, it’s not like they start you off with garbage gear or anything, that’s just the way it is for some classes. I didn’t expect a cake walk into Mordor, but it was just too much to do alone, at least with a Cappy.

So I have decided to take my new Stout-Axe Rune-Keeper through the main quest for Mordor and the associated content before starting Minas Morgul. He’s overleveled, so it has been going pretty quickly. And, once things do get tough, I have more confidence in the Rune-Keeper’s DPS and self-healing than the Cappy’s; I think if I had boosted my Rune-Keeper instead of my Captain for Mordor I wouldn’t need another token today, but there’s nothing I can do about that now.

Long-term, once I’m caught up with current content, I would like to turn him into a healer and run some dungeons with the guild I’ve been a part of for a long time, but have never done anything more than chat with. As much as I love newer, faster paced games like Guild Wars 2 and The Elder Scrolls Online, I miss the experience of healing in more traditional, tab-target MMOs, and from what little grouping I’ve done in the past, the Rune-Keeper is a lot of fun to play as a healer.

LotRO is my WoW Classic

Hey, not sure if you’ve noticed, but a lot of people are playing World of Warcraft Classic. Shocking, I know. As I recently wrote for Massively OP, I never played WoW, but I was interested in giving Classic a try with some friends. I haven’t been converted to Warcraftism, but, weirdly enough, my time in WoW did make me long for The Lord of the Rings Online.

In some ways this shouldn’t be surprising. After all, LotRO did shamelessly steal much of its gameplay mechanics from WoW. Playing a game so similar is bound to stir up old memories. But if I’m turned off by WoW, shouldn’t I be turned off by LotRO?

After thinking about it for a while, I realized why. LotRO has the same effect on me that WoW Classic on my friends. It’s a traditional, tab-target MMO, with mountains of content (no Erebor puns intended), that I played during some of the formative years of my MMO gaming career. Unlike modern WoW, LotRO hasn’t had the budget to do major, Cataclysm-style revamps of the game, so, while it has seen its fair share of controversial updates, the “retail” version of it feels much the same as it did back in its heyday. LotRO is my WoW Classic.

The problem is that I’m still subscribed to WoW Classic. More than once, I’ve logged into LotRO, felt guilty that I’m playing a free-to-play WoW clone while paying for WoW, logged out after an hour, played WoW for half an hour, felt bored, and logged out and played something completely different. This is exactly why I dislike the subscription model, and why it’s bad for the industry as a whole.

Why, you may ask, isn’t Old School RuneScape my WoW Classic? After all, RuneScape was my first MMO, and the thing that I was playing when World of Warcraft Classic and Old School RuneScape were just “World of Warcraft” and “RuneScape.” The answer is… I don’t know. Maybe it’s because RuneScape is from such a different branch of the MMORPG family tree that it doesn’t fire the same nostalgia triggers. Maybe it’s because LotRO has built in so many more quality of life features, whereas OSRS has preserved many of the little annoyances of oldschool MMOs (although, let’s be honest, by 2007, RuneScape had better QoL features than WoW, you just had to earn many of them through levels and/or quests).

Have you ever had a similar experience? Is there a classic MMO that things like the recent WoW nostalgia storm has you longing for?

Holiday Events: Diversions or Disruptions?

Holiday events in MMOs are fun little diversions. They give us an excuse to revisit older, usually low level zones, do something light and silly, and get some cool cosmetics. A lot of games use these as a way to get people back into their game, and it often works. For instance, every May the Fourth, I log back into SWTOR to pick up that year’s recolored astromech droid. If not for that event, I probably would have gone years at a time without logging in, and, of course, once I’ve gone to all of the trouble of patching, I usually poke around in the game to see what’s new.

But lately I’ve noticed a pattern of holiday events having the opposite effect on me. They disrupt the gameplay routine by taking me out of the zone I was working on, taking up a good chunk of my playtime, and making it urgent that I do my daily holiday quests, because if I don’t, they’ll be gone before I get all of the stuff I want. I think every time I’ve wandered away from LotRO has been right after a holiday event. I know I haven’t been back to SWTOR since I binged all of the content to get that XP boosting armor from the Dark vs Light event. And I’m sure I could think of many other examples.

I’m not alone, either. Just as I was thinking about this, Ben (aka Braxwolf) over at Massively OP wrote about ESO’s recent rash of events and its “more is better” attitudes toward festivals. Go read it now, because he describes the problem in that game really well. I especially like this part:

Many MMO players pride themselves on being completionists… They can’t pass up an opportunity to log in and try to accumulate whatever is available at the moment. This mentality is partially what attracts people to MMOs in the first place, but it’s not always compatible with ‘more is better.’ The accumulation has to be reasonably obtainable, else a feeling of hopelessness and burnout can soon follow. I’ve heard some of the biggest cheerleaders within the community complain about the sheer number of events we’ve seen recently. The ‘I can’t even’ is real.

It’s hard to complain about more things to do in your favorite MMO, but time limited events, combined with rewards dangled in front of players, make us feel not only forced into a certain activity, but also rushed through it. And, even if your main MMO isn’t overloading you with events as ESO is, if you bounce around to multiple MMOs like I do, it can be somewhat anxiety-inducing to try to get around to the festivities in all of the games you play, let alone grab all the cosmetics you want, before the season is over.

Games shouldn’t be an obligation. I have a job. They pay me. I shouldn’t feel like I’m paying a game company for the privilege of working a second job in the digital world. I am by no means advocating that games get rid of holiday events, but games like ESO need to be aware of the fact that, while they may bring some players back, they create an exit point for others.

LotRO: Never Mind, I’m Rerolling

You may recall that the last time I talked about LotRO and its Legendary Server, I had decided I was definitely going to see my warden through to 50. At this point, though, I haven’t played for a couple of weeks now because, for some reason, the last few weeks of December is super busy, and my enthusiasm for that character has waned, which has made it harder to want to log in. My warden muscle memory is getting a little rusty, and I’m so far behind the pack now (just finished up the Lone Lands) that starting over isn’t going to make much difference, though I still think I can catch up before Moria hits if I stick with it. Also, while playing warden is really fun, it’s also a little exhausting. There are so many things to keep track of! You’re constantly thinking about building gambits and gambit combos and trying to balance self healing with taunting and DoTing. I love that type of tactical, always-three-steps-ahead gameplay, and it’s very rewarding when you’re hitting everything just right, but I’m realizing that it’s not the kind of thing I want from LotRO right now. I’m more interested in a simpler, more relaxed gameplay experience. I figure, if I’m not happy with the class, I should reroll now and not feel bad about it.

So I rolled a lore-master. “But wait,” you say, “isn’t lore-master probably the next most complex class after warden?” Yes, it probably is. And I’m pretty sure they got a fairly sizable nerf not long ago too. But it has pets and DoTs and a little healing and crowd control! What’s not to love? Plus, it’s a different kind of complexity. It still has that always-three-steps-ahead feel I love about the warden, but with cast bars. You have to use all of your tricks to stay ahead of the game, but it’s more spread out and less frantic. Besides, I never said I made sense.

I’m making quick work of the lower levels. I just did most of these quests on my warden, so rather than reading and doing every possible quest, I’m trying to push myself by only doing on-level or above quests. Going from warden, a self-healing, self-buffing tanking machine, to a lore-master, a squishy caster, has been a bit of an adjustment. On a good day, though, I’m able to use my stuns to keep enemies at bay and burn them down one at a time. On a bad day… well, let’s just say I’ve been stocking up on food and health gear.

I still really want to level a minstrel healer some day, but I think lore-master is probably a better pick for me right now. My minnie is a farmer/cook, so he’s actually a decent level for never having left Ered Luin, just because of crafting XP. This has always been my problem with this game; all of the classes are so well designed that I want to try them all, but there’s so much content that I’ve never seen that I feel bad alting too much. I feel pulled in both directions and usually end up doing neither.

LotRO: An Unexpected Party

For those who don’t know, January 3rd is J.R.R. Tolkien’s birthday. It’s something of a holiday among Tolkien fans (I’m a pretty casual fan; I’ve read the Hobbit and the Trilogy, but beyond that, most of what I know comes from LotRO and reading wikis), with various celebrations culminating in toasting “The Professor” at 9:00 pm your local time. I cut a piece of pie for myself (peanut butter pie isn’t very Hobbity, but it’s what I had on hand) and logged into LotRO to celebrate. I had no particular plan, so I did my Yule dailies on the Legendary server and then started puttering around Bree. That’s when I heard music coming from the stage across the street from the Prancing Pony. It was a little Tolkien Day party, with a three piece band in matching outfits and maybe a dozen humans, hobbits, dwarves, and elves gathered around enjoying it. I only caught the end, but they were doing a rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas with a “singer” /saying some fun Lord of the Rings-themed lyrics. At 9:00, they handed out free beer and toasted The Professor, and thanked him for creating an incredible world that lives on beyond him and which we now virtually inhabit.

There were bigger parties (I saw a video of a particularly big one on Landroval). I, and anyone else there, could have gone there and had a bigger community experience. The musicians could have gotten way more exposure for their guild there. But they didn’t. I like to think that it’s because they think of Arnor as their home community now, and they wanted to celebrate with them. It’s kind of how I view LotRO; there are plenty of bigger, flashier, newer MMOs out there, but I like LotRO because you don’t get experiences like that in just any game. And these weren’t “influencers” asking you to like and subscribe and follow and whatever else so they could get your ad revenue. They were just random players doing something cool for random players like me who happened to wander by.

In short, I love this game and its community, and I need to play more.