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Friday, 22 July 2016

An expedition through LOTRO's frills: before and after


With Lord of the Rings Online's latest big update, three things were added to the game: interior housing hooks, frills and a new raid. The topic of most discussion? Frills. These improved grass polls, flowers and shrubberies are meant to make the in-game world more lively and realistic. Indeed, they were already implemented in all post-Mirkwood regions upon creation, and now they've been added to vanilla areas as well.

But LOTRO wouldn't be an MMO if a part of its population wouldn't dislike these changes to their familiar regions. I was curious myself how much had actually changed and started an investigation. It took some effort, but I managed to dig up old screenshots of five regions and revisited each in-game. I'm posting the before picture first, then the after one, so you can easily compare them. Go ahead and judge for yourself!

Bree-land



A boar outside the Bree South gate




The Greenway Crossing




Archet Valley. 
Trees block the view on the ruins to the right. I almost didn't recognize this place!


Ered Luin



Limnael's Vinyard


Eregion



The road south of Echad Eregion

The North Downs



 Kingsfell




West of Kingsfell




One last shot from horseback: the wooden bridge to Kingsfell




Valley east of Esteldín.
You would think I accidentally moved the screenshots around, but this is not the case.
Somehow, there are less frills than before: grass frills have been added, but a tree and shrubbery that stood to the left and in the middle have actually been removed.
I scouted the area thoroughly, but they just aren't there anymore.

The Lonelands 



Eastern Lonelands




Approaching the Last Bridge


Conclusions

Frills have definitely changed the feel of older regions in Lord of the Rings Online. An interesting observation we can make is that at some parts, 'old style frills' were removed: the tree and shrubbery of the valley east of Esteldín and the grass in Limnael's Vinyard are examples. Overall, the developers seem to have taken care to give the frills colours appropriate to the region, but how much actually has changed varies greatly locally.

What do you think: new LOTRO frills, yay or nay?

24 comments :

  1. I really like them. They add a certain je ne sais quoi to the depth, and Limnael's vineyard in particular looks fantastic!

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  2. I don't play LotRO often but I know the vanilla areas well enough and I very much doubt I'd have even noticed the change. While a lot of those screenshots show considerable difference, the only pair that makes the area look as though it might "feel" different is the Eregion set. There the new grass is very much greener, which makes it look like a different season.

    Hard to tell without logging in but on balance it looks like a change that probably wasn't necessary and won't make much difference to anyone's experience one way or another. Not sure why it would be worth doing except that Turbine do appear to be running some kind of "re-assurance" PR right now and it was probably something they could do quickly and easily to show they are still actively involved.

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    1. Hmm, maybe I should've included some pictures of the regions in which it's clearly visible, but it would've been a different topic; I decided to stick to the before & after trend. Unfortunately, it also made me very dependent on the screenshots I had (which were made with something entirely else in mind)! I can imagine people who don't play LotRO regularly thinking it doesn't show that much, but for those who do it's huge. Especially the starter areas look so much more detailed. I wasn't really expecting anything when I heard they were going to add some stuff (more like you said, a PR thing), but they really made an effort to have the quality of the early regions live up to the later ones.

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  3. LOTRO still has the best skyboxes I've seen in an MMO. I should re-download this!

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    1. I didn't realize you played! But yes, it's absolutely ridiculous that I'm enjoying the scenery in this game so much, considering its age. :)

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  4. The frills are growing on me (pun intended) :) . When first released, there were some areas - Trollshaws & Ered Luin particularly - that I thought were overdone. At that time, there were also some places where the grasses were so tall that NPC's &/or targets were obscured. Much of that "overgrowth" was reduced or toned down with the last update (8.2.2). I've not been to all regions since, but I have noticed the tall grasses are gone or shortened.

    There are still some scattered spots-mainly in Ered Luin-that have a little too much forestation for my taste. But hey.. that's just me :)

    OTOH, my personal home @ 1 Twinfall (Elf Homesteads) did not get ANY frills when they were added -- so I moved.. LOL. My new home is across the bridge @ 2 Twinfall - and has a lovely front yard. The back is a bit jungly, but I rarely go there-so: no matter.

    Travel in Eregion is definitely less stark, less boring, So - overall, I think they are a very nice addition.

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  5. I always explore new regions with max graphics. Frills and all. Once I've seen it I turn off all frills for performance sake. Cool they added frills to the old areas but I'll rarely turn them on. Thanks for the before and after pics!

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  6. I love the frills. One of reasons I keep coming back to this game is that it's just plain nice to look at. The frills have breathed new life into older areas. My wife and son have recently started playing with me (crazy fun), and so I brought in brand new characters and have revisited the beginning Bree-Land quests. An interesting side effect of the frills is it's not so easy to spot creatures in the distance anymore.

    Since the frills can easily be turned off, I don't see any legitimate reason to complain about them. I also haven't noticed even the slightest performance hit from them (I'm running at the same level I did before the frills, and I've also tweaked the frill draw distance out a couple notches).

    All win, from where I'm standing.

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    1. I love them, too. Cool that you've started playing with your wife and son. That sounds like a lot of fun, indeed. LOTRO is one of the few MMOs I'd recommend to children of any age. Just so cute and playful. I can also imagine the festival quests being a lot of fun for younger children. :)

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  7. Big fan. Frills give older regions new visual life.

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    1. I'm totally with you on this one. :)

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  8. I may have to change Ye Old Graphics settings, as this is going to kill my graphics card. (I know this from the grass settings on SWTOR.)

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    1. Try it, first. I haven't experienced any extra lag in the old regions and my laptop is five years old now. As you can see on the pictures, the majority of the landscape is still the same, and how much is added varies greatly. I'm pretty sure these regions are still less demanding than the post-Mirkwood regions, which are covered in these frills. I guess LOTRO being such an old game really helps in that regard.

      Rooting for you being able to experience the upgraded areas as they are on the pictures. If not, you can always turn them off somewhere underneath Options. :)

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    2. Hmm... Does your laptop have a SSD or a regular hard drive? I wonder if that's part of the difference.

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    3. I'm a casual gamer, so I've never gone in for a gaming rig. I play on a stock Dell a little over a year old. I'm using built-in Intel HD graphics, so I don't even have a dedicated GPU. My hard drive is not SSD.

      I have to play SWTOR at the lowest graphics setting or the performance hit makes it unplayable (and it's still surprisingly good looking even at that). However, I am able to run LOTRO at High, with the Frills kicked up to High draw distance. The addition of frills has had no discernible impact on game performance (it hasn't even increased the game's effect on CPU temperature).

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    4. What Terry says is true, LOTRO is much, much less demanding than SWTOR.

      I do have an SSD in my laptop, but as I understood it, it mostly helps with loading screens? The video card supposedly has a much higher effect on how high you can put your settings. But I'm absolutely not techy, so maybe I'm posting bullsh*t now. :$

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    5. Well, I got on LOTRO last night, and I discovered that while there are some hiccups when going through the Eriador zones, it does seem to be usable. It kind of reminds me of the hiccups going through Alderaan's zones.

      I do wonder about the mini-Reds playing on their laptops, however, but they're heavily into SWTOR at the moment so they'll likely get back into LOTRO this fall.

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  9. Well, just based on your screenshots they look like a nice addition, making the ground look more natural instead of just a carpet-like texture.

    The only one I'm not sure about is that Eregion picture - as Bhag said, the grass is a totally different colour; makes it look a bit pasted on in my opinion.

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    1. Heh, carpet-like is a nice way to describe it. I would've gone with polygonic areas, which sounds a lot more ugly.

      I agree with the Eregion frills. I think they should've gone for a more yellow or de-saturated shade to fit in. But I'm happy they generally seem to have done it quite right. :)

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  10. Definate YAY! First of all thank you for the before and after pics. Sometimes I walk somewhere and it seems to be different, but I'm not sure :)

    My house has a beautiful garden now. Many flowers added. I think I bought the right house (live there for years now), because from what I've seen it's the house with the most frills :) (Twinfall 2, Falathlorn, the house Irissina moved to).

    So, yes, I love new frills! And the new hooks ;) Just some more in the yard and I am totally happy :)

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    1. Yes! I have that all the time! This was the only way I could be sure. It was exciting to trace back those places on my screenshots, because I had no clue if anything would be changed at all. I decided to include them all, regardless of how much would've changed to give an objective overview.

      I would totally have added your house if I had a before picture! The new frills are very visible in Ered Luin, but alas I had only one before picture in my archive. I don't usually take a lot of landscape pictures and I guess I never was very fond of the region. I like it a lot more nowadays. :)

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  11. The kin houses have way more external hooks as well. At least elven ones.

    There are lots moved stuff around Gondamon - trees relocated, shrubbery removed. First time i went there after update, i almost didnt recognize the area.

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    1. I'll have to check out the Gondamon area now, can't wait! I keep being surprised how different things look when going somewhere.

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