Monday, 28 March 2016

My return to LOTRO

I am still not sure how, but something odd has happened. The past couple of weeks, I've found myself lost in virtual Middle-Earth and I can't seem to motivate myself to go anywhere else.

During the course of 2015, LOTRO was never really gone. I still logged in with Conrad from time to time, leveling through Rohan and, ultimately, Gondor, in a very, very casual pace. It was hard to convince Conrad to come along at times. Even though he wanted to complete the story and see the new regions, he said, he was totally burnt out on his main character, champion Fingolwë. The class overhauls with Helm's Deep that introduced skill trees to the game successfully made the class very accessible for casual or new players, but brain dead to the quick-fingered.

We solved the problem by switching characters. I blew the dust off captain Ravenwyn, who I had left at level 85; Conrad had a captain of similar level. He fell in love with the class and we levelled all the way from Rohan to Dol Amroth together, where our main characters had stranded. There I switched back to lore-master while Conrad stayed captain. Playing LOTRO together again and having so much fun at it was a special experience. We used to spend so much time doing this back in the day.

Meanwhile, we had started doing Moria "nostalgia runs", as we call them, every Wednesday. The challenge: to do everything as it was in the day, so maximum level 60, no essence gear and no Beornings. I levelled a guardian to tank, a friend a champion and Conrad... yet another captain (I guess someone really loves captains!). With most of our friends having left the game, we ended up beating almost every 6-man on hardmode with just the three of us - the power creep has made it much easier - but we had so much fun! I remembered all of a sudden how well designed those Moria instances are, and all kinds of good memories surfaced.

And somewhere down that road I got enchanted once more. With the beautiful landscape, with the cute quests, with Tolkien's lore, with the kind community.

I rolled a minstrel to play through those early regions again: they were the first I ever experienced in an MMO. I always wanted to give the class a try; however, my first minstrel was a hobbit I played exclusively with a friend that had left the game. So I created a second one that was free to play as I wished, an elf this time.

Then I wanted to see what healing would be like, so I had to get into some group content. Pugging got tiring pretty quickly, so I convinced some old friends to come back into the game.

Before I realized what was happening, I found myself...

...logging random alts during breakfast in the morning, working on the crafting tiers I had never managed to finish...

...updating old and creating new character pages on the Lotro-wiki...

...joining random players during open air concerts I happened to pass by, role-playing a merry drunk elf...

...buying a new house in the Bree-land homesteads; wondering how to decorate it...

...running around with flowers, teapots and whatnot, all to convince a hobbit with a peculiar blond haircut to sell me his hatrack housing decoration...

...joining raids of random players to defeat roving threats all over the world so I could trade the rewards for a couple of beautiful tapestries...

...and finally, after four evenings of trying, defeating Remmenaeg T2 with a full group of level 30's!

All roads lead to Middle-earth

And suddenly I realised that I was involved with Lord of the Rings Online as if it were my main MMO again. Is it? I don't know. How does one define one's "main MMO" anyway? All I know is that I found myself rather crafting in LOTRO (of all things) than playing through the newest KOTFE chapter in SWTOR. I don't think I've felt like that since 2012.

And why? I'm still perplexed. It certainly isn't the game itself: all the issues that caused me to leave are still there. Although I have to give the developers this: most classes have had their traitlines fixed, making them playable again, and a lot of small quality of life implementations, going hand in hand with excellent new quest regions (Rohan, Gondor), have been added the past couple of years. But what ultimately brought me back was the sum of virtual Middle-earth, the nostalgia experience with old friends, a new six-man instance I haven't defeated yet, and sort of coming to terms with what they've done to the game. Although Lord of the Rings Online is not without flaws, I'm having fun, so who cares?

So what's going to happen to the blog? Will I go all the way LOTRO again, as it was back in 2012? Unlikely. SWTOR is a high quality game and I do still spend time there, albeit not as much as before: I do "LOTRO nostalgia nights" on Wednesdays and raid in SWTOR on Mondays and Fridays. Most likely, Ravalation is going to present more of a mix of games, like it used to.

Finally, a question for the older gamers: did you ever seriously return to your first MMO? Did it endure?


  1. I quit WoW in early 2012 (when I permanently moved over to SWTOR basically) and thought that I'd never go back.

    However, at the end of 2013 a lot of stuff happened. I got together with my pet tank, found myself unemployed, and Blizzard had recently announced Warlords of Draenor, which sounded intriguing at the time. While my pet tank had also played WoW before, we had never done so together, so he decided to gift me the Mists of Pandaria expansion and 60 days of game time and we decided to make an adventure out of levelling two worgen together.

    Initially it was a lot like your experience: it was fun to play together and I enjoyed seeing the world again. We also undermanned dungeons together. There were moments during those early couple of weeks where I wondered whether the game would manage to suck me back in again, because I was actually keener on levelling our little pair than on logging into SWTOR (which was all about GSF at the time, which I didn't really care about).

    But then we hit the level cap and slowly but surely I was reminded of all the ways in which I had stopped caring for WoW's endgame back in 2011, and pugs reminded me of how completely contrary to my own the general community attitude had become over time. I didn't renew my sub after those sixty days ran out and haven't been back since.

    I hope that your LOTRO "revival" lasts longer! How come there was a new instance for you to play, did Turbine revert their stance on not adding any more group content in the meantime?

    1. I knew about your temporary return to WoW and what I've read from others doesn't get my hopes up for a definite return to LOTRO as my main MMO. I hope I will be able to juggle it for a while together with SWTOR and ARK, though, especially because the nostalgia nights are so much fun.

      And yes, LOTRO surprisingly introduced two new 3-man instances and one 6-man instance in 2015 (Update 16: Osgiliath). Then again, according to the co-worker that left Turbine they just said the "nobody is interested in endgame" thing so they didn't have to admit that they didn't have the resources (not sure if you read that since it isn't your game).

  2. To me that happened not to only one MMO but with lots of MMOs I've played throughout the years. In my case though it was a mix of feeling of unfinished business (I hate leaving things without some sense of closure) and the friendships I forged playing the game. All the things that soured me on the game are still there. So are the friends and those are the ones that can make some really trite gameplay feel fun.

    Even that has a limit though. Like I usually say to me a good MMO needs to have two things: good gameplay and good company. There is only so much one can compensate for the other. So even though my friends are awesome I eventually finding myself burning out again and leaving MMOs behind for a while.

    1. I think the company is the trick for me as well. I did play occasionally with Conrad the past year, but only now my friends have started joining Wednesday's nostalgia nights, I've become enthusiastic about the game again.

  3. I've been running Wow and Guild Wars 2 size by side for awhile, but connection issues with Wow made me bring up LOTRO instead this weekend.
    I played my Loremaster who is in Angmar. Wolves every two feet! Not an exaggeration. I really do like the character though, and will be getting in some play time regularly. Needing some foods, I brought up my Cook who is a Burglar. I didn't appreciate the class in the past, but playing my Wow Rogue at level 98 has changed all that. I'm ready to work on the Burglar too.
    I love the music and the quests, which are still the only ones where I read the text, not just scanning for the objectives.

    1. Heh, I've found myself playing LOTRO at times as well because it's the only game that runs on my Mac (my work/study computer). I totally agree about enjoying the landscape and the quests - they are so cute!

  4. Welcome back ;) For me it still is my first and only MMO. Never cared to look for another. Not entirely true, recently I looked into others, but they didn't convince me enough to start playing. It must be the wonderful Tolkien world brought to life. And after 8 yeast, I'm still not bored with it. Also, maybe mainly, because of the community. I have some great friends in LotRO. And although the game's graphics aren't the best in the business (to say the least, haha), I love to be there, love the fields, acres, mountains, hills, rivers, seas, towns, villages....

    It's home!

    1. Thank you! For me LOTRO will always feel like home as well. :)

  5. Lotro was my first MMO and as you know, like you, I'm back in the game too.
    For me it's a mix of nostalgia, Middle Earth being a nice landscape to be in, the server being populated with nice mature minded players and most of all the people I play with.

    No MMO is perfect and the instances in Moria, BG, OD etc are still brilliant. I love Wednesday's nostalgia nights. Gondor and OG are good too and I'm looking forward to the new raid.

    1. I'm so happy you have been there for all those Moria nostalgia nights! Without us three I don't think we'd be where we are now. Not to mention how awesome would it be if we could get an actual raid going?! I'm looking forward to it!

  6. I don't think I've ever played just one MMO at a time since about three months after I first discovered EQ. I started with The Realm as my back-up to EQ and over the years I've tended to play something around three to six MMOs at a time, out of a pot of maybe three dozen possibles.

    That said, I always have one "focus" MMO that occupies about 75% of my time , and that can rise to 95% for a new MMO or a new expansion. I often bring an old MMO back into the rotation as a new "back-up" but I have also returned to an old MMO and made it the focus again: EQ and EQ2 numerous times and Vanguard twice. Mrs Bhagpuss also returned to Rift once but I found I couldn't take it for a second round.

    It's been a long time since I played LotRO. I left it in acrimonious circumstances and though I have been back plenty of times since it's never stuck. I wouldn't mind giving it another try sometime, though.

  7. I started LoTRO in beta and played, pretty much, every day until I hit the end chapters of Book 1 and struggled to get enough players to run the quests (this was before the "power up" thing that let you complete them solo). I took a long break then and only came back when they could be solo'd; I then played, with my son and his fiancée to level 85 and, for various reasons they stopped playing and I found my motivation to pay reducing again. This was a couple of years ago; I log in at random times, but with the character changes, trait lines and so forth, make it hard to reconnect I'm afraid. At the moment my main, a level 85 hunter, is standing with Gandalf at the eve's of Fangorn and I'm struggling to want to go any further.
    Maybe, like you, I'll login and find the wonder again, I hope so because LoTRO is truly a stunning achievement of a game.

    1. Cool that you've played LOTRO with your family; that must've been a special experience. :) I tried to get my brother into the game but somehow MMOs never clicked with him.

      I was at the same spot: like you I lost the lust to level further around 85. Maybe it's something with those regions: Rohan is awesome, but it's also so big... it's like there's no end to it. And then mounted combat is rubbish. For me it started becoming more fun when I was finished with Rohan.

      I did spent some time leveling my hunter lately and for what it's worth, I thought the blue line was a lot of fun. Very solo friendly; you can kite enemies forever. If you'd like some tips for the traits, let me know. :)

    2. I used to run three red and four blue (I think) but it looks like that type of setup and keeping the skills, and therefore rotation, that I used to run is no longer possible; especially as one of the skills I used has been moved into the yellow line. I, also don't enjoy grinding too much so tended to only grind out the traits I wanted; I now find that I need to go back and grind out more trait points to get back to something like I used to run. This saw me a couple of weeks ago grinding Neeker Breekers in the Marsh outside Bree. They went down quick but it wasn't fun.
      I'm really not sure I can be bothered to be honest but if I don't my character will be gimped on trait points....

    3. Yeah, there's not much point trying to play it like you used to; they did design the class to be played differently. If it's any comfort: you'll have more points than you need for one tree once you've reached L100, so you'll be able to pick some from other trees as well (even if they are more expensive per trait). I hear blue line is a lot of fun while leveling (which I agree with) because of mobility and lots of focus, while red line is probably slightly better DPS wise for "endgame" (in situations in which you can afford to be stationary).

      You earn skill points for class skill deeds, for leveling and for completing parts of the epic, though, so I don't see why you'd be grinding neeker-breekers for that? That's just for a deed I think (so for virtues, not skill points)? Either way, you get a lot of skill points for the epic story (and also virtues by doing quests/exploring in Rohan & Gondor), so I'd just have fun on the way and start bothering about collecting the last skill points once you're L100. :)

  8. My first MMO was WoW back in 2009. I still harbor great friendships from it, but the game now is not the game it was when I started. And for myself personally? The community drew me away from the game in ways that broke my heart.

    While it saddens me that I can't go back, I opened my eyes to other MMOs out there and eventually found and fell in love with FFXIV. It's a game where I was encouraged and driven to do things I used to be so anxious to try before, and I've met so many amazing folks in the process. I'm still with the same FC that I started the game with, I'm in love with my main as much as I did on Day One, and I've built so many good memories there I can't see myself leaving anytime soon, and it's been 3 years now 😊

  9. An interesting post! I've been back in LOTRO recently and loving it once more. It's certainly a heart-warming MMO to come back to. I think some MMOs are easier to return to than others - possibly this is linked to discussions over the weekend on various blogs about barriers to entry for returning vets (was it In An Age? No time to look for the link now, sorry). LOTRO seems to be an easy game to come back to for sure. Community is a big thing for me as well, it's visible and pleasant in LOTRO - not global chat, that's not much above the usual mess it is in most games, but the relatively high levels of organised and welcoming public events is certainly miles ahead of any other MMO I've tried.

    1. I expect the trait lines and classes that have majorly changed since Helm's is the bottleneck for most players that return to LOTRO, although I don't think it's too bad myself. That said, I did try to return once before and was really put off by the stuff I had to catch up with:
      * realize how few skills my characters have left;
      * check out how the new skill trees work and what everything does;
      * actually spend points in a skill tree;
      * check if any game mechanics/stats have changed;
      * figuring out what legacies are available and how useful they are in the new system;
      * actually spend my points on my legendary items;
      * move my skills to useful places;
      * set new keybinds to my skills;
      * get rid of the junk in my bags.

      For the people reading along, Telwyn wrote a post in response to this one: Coming back is easy.

  10. Avoid listening to the nuts in World Chat moaning that Turbine is going to lose the LOTR license in 2017, and you'll be fine.

    LOTRO is the rare MMO that still has a positive multiplayer environment for both noobs and hardcore alike. As I'd never suggest that kids start off playing MMOs with WoW --Trade Chat alone is enough to make you want to vomit at times-- I'd suggest LOTRO because the players tend to be the friendliest of the MMO bunch.

    For me, a lot of going to LOTRO has to do with a reacquainting myself with the world of Middle-earth and Tolkien's works. I'd burned out on LotR long before the movies came out, and while I loved the movies (and The Hobbit trilogy) I simply couldn't get back into LotR itself. Maybe a decent portion of it has to do with the "sausage fest" nature of the main characters: no major female characters at all, which might have worked back in the day (and given Tolkien's Edwardian inclinations), but not in modern times.

    LOTRO itself, however, has really reawakened my interest in Middle-earth, because Turbine has done such a good job of integrating the sexes without being overbearing.

  11. Logging back onto this game after ditching it for WoW a few years ago really brings back the feels. Im still currently playing WoW and would love to continue doing so but logging onto my Elf hunter just brings back good memories. Ill be sure to try and juggle between WoW and Lotro as imo they are both worth playing.


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