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Roads Goes Ever On - Returning to LotRO

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I'm ashamed to admit this. I'll say it once and then we're going to move past it. I did not read The Lord of the Rings until after seeing Peter Jackson's: The Fellowship of the Ring. I eventually went back to read The Hobbit, The Simillarion, Unfinished Tales and The Children of Húrin. As an addicted MMORPG player and fan of Asheron's Call I was excited when Turbine announced they had purchased the rights to develop Middle-Earth Online, now called Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO). As an early beta tester I was impressed with Turbine's re-creation of Middle-Earth and when I found Gandalf's stone on Weathertop I knew this game would be special. However, it took me nearly three years to rediscover that.

I stopped playing LOTRO in 2007 shortly after it was released for two reasons: (1) I couldn't convince my friends to quit playing World of Warcraft (WoW) and (2) I didn't like the LOTRO combat system. I hated auto-facing my target, the combat animations and the slow response time. I returned to WoW without ever buying the retail version of LOTRO and to a dozen "I told you so" tells in game.

I resumed grinding Battlegrounds and took my weekly Arena beating for easy epics. I was mediocre at PvP and the label "casual raider" is probably an overstatement. You shouldn't look to me for a Twin Val'kyrs strategy or any advice on how to get your 2s team to 2200. I had a lot of fun playing WoW and the combat system, to me, is the best of any MMORPG. But I just let my subscription expire with more than 20 days remaining.

In any MMORPG you're bound to come across a few annoying players and the Law of Truly Large Numbers says WoW will have a staggering amount of annoying players. It got to the point that other players began interfering with my enjoyment of the game. I once heard that when 10% of people panic the other 90% will follow. In WoW Battlegrounds it could be amended: when 10% of people panic 50% will follow and the other 40% are AFK. Eventually I couldn't bring myself to queue for a Battleground when it felt like I was the only one trying or knew what seaforium charges were for. I had a friend who came to this conclusion about two months before me and quit while I kept telling him "C'mon man, don't let other people spoil your fun". He was right. He told me the prisoners have taken over the asylum.

They've also taken over the chat channels. Including the popular daily rendition of which in-game item will get the most laughs when linked with the word "Anal". Normally, this goes on until someone mentions Chuck Norris. At which point all gloves are off because Chuck Norris just roundhouse kicked everyone in the server and they fell off. I think it was the triple experience from the Refer-a-Friend program that allowed all the players banished indefinitely to the Barrens to level up and use the trade channel as a megaphone. Then they registered on the official forums. Even WoW's ever-so-resilient community arm, Ghostcrawler, briefly resigned from his responsibilities on the forums citing the incessant complaining. He has since retracted that, however, I believe his departure from that role is imminent.

I stopped playing WoW shortly after Ghostcrawler announced and retracted his posting resignation. I downloaded the 14-day trial and two days later I purchased LOTRO: Shadows of Angmar, Mines of Moria and the new expansion Siege of Mirkwood. Was the combat system that dramatically improved? No, and I still don't like it. Maybe WoW has spoiled me forever (like Soldiers of Fortune 2 has for FPSs), but I'm not playing LOTRO for the same reasons I played WoW.

They say a few bad apples spoil the bunch and WoW has a big orchard. I'm reading the official LOTRO forums and, yes, people there have complaints too. Even Chuck Norris makes an appearance. Every community has rotten apples. We also, in part, need them. They're the type of people who push for bug fixes, new content and are passionate about ideas to improve the game. However, WoW's player base is arguably younger and the line between constructive and deconstructive comments becomes blurred.

I've had a fantastic in-game experience with LOTRO so far. I joined a RP server which may be the reason the chat channels are respectful and while I'm in Bree nobody is shouting that "Paladinlolx" just ninja'd a helm on an Onyxia 25-man PuG. Middle-Earth captured my imagination when I read the books and now I'm a part of that story.

I'm playing LOTRO to rediscover the magic of MMORPGs that I first found in EverQuest and Asheron's Call. I leveled my WoW characters to 60, 70 and 80 as fast as I could. I thought I knew it all. When I took breaks from WoW I leveled characters in Age of Conan and Warhammer as fast as I could. You can see a pattern emerging here.

And in all honesty, my new LOTRO character, a Burglar, leveled to 20 fairly quickly. Firstly, Turbine has raised the amount of XP you receive from quests and monster kills since beta. Secondly, I couldn't tear myself away from the game. That's not to say I was only leveling. I had a pint with Butterbar at The Prancing Pony, walked from Bree to the The Party Tree (yes, walked), spent 10 minutes listening to the music in Tom Bombadil's and read every single quest along the way.

The next part of my epic quest line, whihc I'll talk about in my next article, takes me to Rivendell. I remember the first time I saw Rivendell in beta "I thought I had strayed into a dream".


Guest Writer