From The Archives: How I Thought Lord Of The Rings Online Stacked Up

At one time I wrote up a list of my most desirable MMO qualities, based heavily on what was lost with Star Wars Galaxies.   I just found a document in which I looked to see how Lord of the Rings Online measured up against my ideals.   This is probably ten years old, so don’t judge.

<!–[if !mso]>st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } <![endif]–>

Plot: Story arc, background, quests, IP or original storyline. Everything in the game should tie into and revolve around the plot in some way.   Perfectly done! Middle Earth feels like Middle Earth in every way.  The stories and plots as revealed through quests are engaging and help the plot move forward.  They help give depth to the world.

Character creation options: Face customization including options for all features, eyes, nose, mouth, hair (long hair! not in a braid or bun!), hair and eye color options, cosmetic options, body size options including height and weight. If there are different species they should be very different and have tons of ways to customize appearance.   Terribly done.  Very limited character creation and customization tools.  You should have more hair, eye, head shape options.  Mouth-ack you can hardly see any change when you try to manipulate this feature.  I understand the whole “it is too taxing on the database” thing with customization and coloring, etc.  I can’t believe that you can offer more options up front though.

Classes: if there are various classes, whatever they may be called, they should have very different roles, abilities, and functions solo and within groups.   Well defined for me: Hunter, Minstrel, Loremaster, Burglar.  Captain, Champion, Guardian very fuzzy.

Advancement: There need to be a variety of ways you can advance your character. It cannot be that the only viable method is following a particular quest string, or even only quests period as the way to move forward. Sometimes, you just want to explore or craft, or gather resources by shooting stuff. You have to able to break free of a set path.   There need to be more opportunities to do side things such as the in-testing Reputation stuff that can help your character advance.  I haven’t had an opportunity to test the chicken play yet (tried this morning and got a message I had my max no. of quests….I have 28…argh.  Yes I bugged it.)  I think this type of alternate play is a good thing.  Anytime you can wander off and do some side quest it makes the game more appealing.

Option for good and evil and other faction types. In order for the world to be more complex, there should be a choice between being good or evil. How this plays out can vary widely. There should also be some neutral/gray areas or other factional influences that will distinguish your character and their life in the world.   MP and the Reputation stuff are good ways to go.  I do think more can be done here within the main PVE game environment. 

Setting: Time period and genre: Too many fantasy games for sure, but they could still distinguish themselves from one another by varying the time period they are set in. LOTRO has great attention to world detail, they have this right on the money.

World Size: Yes size does matter! If people are to spend alot of time in the world, then it needs to be large and varied and worthy of exploration.   I am all admiration for how much LOTRO packs into every inch of its world map, as revealed thus far.  I know everyone wants to rush to Moria and Helms Deep etc, but for the story and game to unfold as it should, given that we are living in the backstory of the world,  it should take time to unveil it all.

Travel options: We all want to drive cool machines, ride amazing creatures on land and in the air, move freely about the large world that has been built.   For LOTRO, this can be done with more horse options, with carts and wagons and carriages.  Are there catapults and siege engines for use in the Ettenmoors?  I thing more time frame appropriate mechanisms could make it more interesting.

Instancing: Some things should be instanced, mostly group type stuff so some camping fiend can’t spoil things. Some instancing can be for mazes, puzzles, or such things that can be randomly reset for each user or group so it is a new experience each time.   I really like the use of instancing in LOTRO.  I think more solo options would be nice—what session play is getting at I take it?  I always thought the monk guy on the island-bah I can’t recall his name who gives you keys to the chests?…I thought it would be great if those rest and the locations of the chests moved on the island so you couldn’t just memorize.  However, I just did this on Isen and you only have to solve 3 riddles now?  That really is too bad.  In any case, I’m in favor of more puzzles, riddles, and instances which are not quite the same layout wise or mob or treasure wise each time you enter, both for challenge and replayability.

Sandbox! Yes, make the world a big, open, explorable many optioned thing. Let those who wish a more predetermined path set out along quest sequences if they choose. Give people choices all along the way between being led by the snoot and doing what they want to do next.   Funny! You do have way too much leading by the snoot going on here.  You can explore but it does not really pay off unless you’re just wandering collecting ore or hides.

Mail: make is easy and intuitive to send/receive mail. Make it simple to send to multiple players. Allow some sort of mail save feature that puts it in Notepad or someplace you can get to it out of game.   Needs work.  Too annoyingly expensive still to send mail.

Bank: easy to use, includes storage. Nice on the extra storage being offered now. 

Bazaar: system for buying on the spot or searching player vendors.   No player vendors, no player merchant system that is viable and distinctive. 

Player vendors: Different vendor options. Customizeable to look like player or other in game characters.   Nope.

Group sizes: Small for regular groups, larger for raids, larger yet for social groups (entertainers).  Fine for the groups and raids.  Can use more mid-level group sizes…looks like that is coming so so fine..  More social options and band options needed for musicians.  I would like to be able to play the same song as the band leader, for instance.  Playing music should give some reward or xp or have some stylized clothing…anything to make it more of a social and true entertainer ability.   Dance needs to be added.  There should be dance troupes playing at the fairs and on the stages of Middle Earth.

Tutorial: Well defined tutorial area. Basics of chat, combat, social interaction, money and banking, User Interface should be covered.   Really well done.  Very engaging as well.

Guild management: Guild lists, chat, halls, management of membership should be easy to use.  I think the Kinship lists are great and dynamic.  I like the recent addition of seeing at a glance who is online.  Guild Halls need to be added.  Shared environments, places to meet and trade and drop off goods for others.  It would enhance the community feel greatly.

Resource management and collection: It isn’t all about the loot! There should be a deep crafting game that includes resource collection of many types, both hunted and mined. Both combatants and crafters should be involved in and interdependant.  Well, everyone is forced to be a combatant.  You can’t advance in your craft because of the nature of the craft quests without ubering up your toon.  It is just not right that the dedicated crafter needs to do that.  While there is interdependency in the crafts, the crafter should be able to gather for himself non-hunted materials.  A woodworker of any stripe should be able to gather wood, for instance. 

Crafting game: This should involve being able to be a combatant or not. You should be able to create and customize a wide variety of useful and decorative objects. What a player makes should always be the best item available factoring in their skill level, resources used, and the requirements of the object.   I still agree with me here. J  Hopefully over time more useful objects can be crafted.  Right now I don’t use myself my own crafted goods because my character always seems to outlevel what I can usefully craft at any given time.  I can always get a better reward from quests than I can make at any given time.   There is very little that can be crafted that is ornamental in any way.

Loot: I love loot! I want it to be decorative or useful to somebody though. No need to spend time or effort making pure crud dropping, we’re talking no brains, stomachs, glands or whatever, that I can’t use in a recipe or schematic or drop onto something to make it better or more attractive.   I’ve gone to the dark side on this one and treasure any old boar part I come across or any bone that gives me repair money.  On the other hand, useful crafting items and components should drop at a much greater rate.  Loosen that loot table!

The Arts and Imagination: Entertainers should be in the world with the ability to dance, sing and compose. Artists should be able to paint and sell their creations. Writers should be able to author and sell their stories. There should be some version of a newspaper or other way of allowing events in information to be passed to the denizens of the world.   No sign of anything like this, except for the ability to compose.  I thought when I wrote this that that would open up a world of possibility, but without a supporting set of emotes and clothing and entertaining skills, it has not.

PVP: Consensual. Instanced or allowed in certain areas so there aren’t people clogging up the main game areas with their showboating contests. Competitive. Duels, fields of battle that require tactics, Capture the Flag, tournaments with leaderboards. Perhaps put versions of real world sports contests such as soccer in so that it fits with the world.   I haven’t MP’d but think from what I read it goes a long way towards this one.  Chickenball, and things like that, if they worked really well, would be a good start on the tournament thoughts.  Still would like to see jousting.  Also racing, horse racing, or wild boar races through the shire!

Solo vs Group: There should be both solo and group advancement and play options. There should be no required quests that you need to do with a group only that will keep you from advancing your character through the story or their skills. There should be other advantages to grouping–more money, more resources or loot collected, better chance at phat loot in a group, faster character advancement (xp gain) perhaps so it is desirable to group but not necessary.  Here is a real problem.  Too many story arcs do require a group, and a full group at that.  Also, it needs to be easier to step in and help someone with a quest even if you already completed it or haven’t completed it or whatever.  I hear people all the time asking for help and you can’t get into the instance, or you have to crawl to Timbuktu to get to a spot where you maybe can help.  Make it all friendly! 
Quests:  Story arcs (static and monthly/serial); side quests that develop the story or give depth to a region/city/planet/area; repeatable killing quests that yield xp and resources or money; delivery quests that do not involve long distances or backtracking; race or profession specific quests;  quests that allow you to solve a problem or piece together and item or puzzle.   I can’t fault quests in this game for sheer number, variety, cleverness and fun.  The quests are a pleasure to read and play through.  Just make them easier to complete or help someone else to complete!