The End of What's to Come...
I say the end only because Book 14 officially ended the first volume of Lord of the Rings Online; and what a journey it was. Good times, bad times, frustrating times, server melt downs, and tons of free content through the book updates. It has been one hell of a ride, and a fun one at that. I look forward to the feared Mines of Moria and what is to come with the future of LotRO. Nostalgia aside, let me get back on track and take a step back to the not-so-distant past.
The server wide event that we all dealt with, love or hate it, it was there and it was blocking the rest of Book 14 until it was done. For those of you who might not have been aware, the event revolved around players finding elements of ring-lore to unlock the next chapter in the LotRO saga.
Some players didn't even bother collecting the ring-lore, while others collected as much as they could with all their alts every day. Each day brought the server to a new total that was closer to the goal. There was much anticipation when the ring-lore was about 10k from the target value of 70k. In fact, I'd say that even the ones that wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole before, jumped in and helped reach the ultimate goal. On that momentous day of the "unlocking", fun and frolic could be found in Rivendell. Hundreds of players waited eagerly as only a few more pieces of ring-lore were needed to be turned in. It was quite the sight and of course a huge lag and performance drop. Fortunately, I managed to take some screenshots.
Arkenstone (the server I dwell on), is relatively small compared to some of the servers, so just imagining the strain that our server had on a few hundred players brings tears to my eyes that other servers probably had much worse performance during the "unlocking".
During the waiting period, there were players calling out orders for people to do certain emotes all at the same time: there was dancing, there was yelling, there were questions, but best of all their was a community. A community formed together for the first time for a much desired purpose. It is a memory that will not be forgotten and I thank Turbine for such a well thought out event.
Oh, but the night was not over, not by far. When the news came from the front that all the ring-lore had been collected and the heralds sang the news with pride, the next step was already under way. It was like a slideshow trying to run into The Last Homely House to talk to Elrond. Even more so when players were sent to the reputation dungeon in Bree, the sub-division of the Barrow Downs, Haudh Iarchith. It was a night of confusion, unfortunate deaths, and tons of laughter (at least from my end). Apparently, the dungeon wasn't built to hold so many people at once because it wasn't responding well. The cursed creatures that dwelled there had trouble catching the aggro as the server strain created large time delays. Everyone, no matter how great their rig was, was lagging like never before. The server took a toll and paid the price when the players of Arkenstone crashed it. On reboot, it still wasn't responding well until people starting logging off in frustration. Of course I have some shots of this as well.
Eventually, the players found the entrance to the mini-instance that would lead them to the objective and thus onto the next pieces of book. Without spoiling too much of the story for those of you who are nearing the book or haven't braved that far yet, we headed on to Forochel. The great ice land has borne us many new challenges. Once again with no strategy or sense of direction, the journey went onward. It is said that a dragon calls the cave its home and holds something that we must collect. The instance was well thought out and pretty challenging, with a slew of elites and elite masters that you had to face throughout the cave. The surprise that the foes of Angmar had in store for us was an ambush that had you cursing the name of Elrond for sending you to such a place.
Although it seemed like a total loss for the night, the third time was the charm and we knocked the beast back to the depths of hell without a guardian in our party. Not easy, but doable none the less.
And so the deed was done, the story unfolds further and now the path to Mirobel is unlocked. Anticipation for the new area was strong, but when I got there all I could manage to murmur out was "This is it?". Indeed it was it, the same area that you did a session play for in the beginning of the book was the area of Mirobel.
A small box to run around in is really what it felt like. I could see trees, rivers, and things within the mountains, but I could not reach them. I could not jump over the invisible wall that the rubble held. Must have been some magical rubble. I wasn't happy with this idea for the zone in general. It clearly broke my immersion for the game. I was so used to running through the fields of Bree, braving the mountains and swamps of Angmar, and treading the harsh weather of Forochel that I never felt enclosed. This time I did and I sat there scratching my head as to why. It would have been better if they had just made book 14, chapter 15 an instance and not a small zone to gather and then go into an instance.
Well, complaining and crying about it wasn't going to help anything, so I just accepted the fact that I was indeed a mouse in a box, since you also couldn't get out without using some form of port. Anyway, that night finally ended without taking the challenge of what chapter 15 had laid out before us. A few days passed, and I was on the trail again to finish this book. With some effort, I managed to get a group and head on in. Mirobel had many sub extensions to the main quest and overall was enjoyable. The basis of the direction was to kill the key bearer and gain entry to Tham Mirdain, where Amarthiel resides.
The end of the book had quite the treat for those that managed to pass the challenges. It featured the new cinematic system, which really made the story come alive.
I do hope Turbine goes back and adds this system in for the earlier books, it really does make a difference rather then standing there looking at your character or group while events unfold. The camera will actually pan around and focus on the action, if an NPC is walking, the camera will follow that character walking to its destination. It will also change shot views (such as you see on sports) depending on what is happening. To give you a good idea of what I mean, think about Guild Wars. The cut scenes are shown with in-game real time footage, so you will see your group at a distance depending on the shot view.
With the story at an end for now, there does remain some unanswered questions (cliff hangers if you will), but all in all the story of Volume 1 ended on a good note. With many introductions to new systems and the implementation of an event system within the central storyline. A few performance problems due to over crowding certain areas, as well as some bad direction and taste for the new area of Mirobel. Good and bad aside I'd say Turbine put in a good effort and that effort won't be stopping anytime soon.