Monday, June 11, 2007

Lotro: The Honeymoon is Over

Lotro had a terrific start, great timing, effective launch, great reviews and a lot of enthusiasm from early players. Two months in I think it is fair to say that the honeymoon is over. Some players have already worked through most of the available content while others are getting bored. Just look at some comments from the blogs on my blogroll:

Tobold:
"I still like Lord of the Rings Online, but I'm not quite that enthusiastic any more."


Zoso from MMOG Musings:
"After a bit of Lord of the Rings Online over the last few days, I'm not sure I'll spend much more time in Middle Earth. It's fun enough and all, but really just more of the same old MMOness."


and perhaps most damning Tipa from West Karana:
"Lord of the Rings Online being a bore (but a pretty one) — I didn’t even last through my free month"


I suspect this sense of ennui is fairly widespread. I have noticed that Throg's kinship channel has gone very quiet these days. The fact that we are approaching high Summer doesn't help. It is hard to justify locking yourself in a darkened room to squint at a PC monitor when the sun is shining outside.

At a personal level I still enjoy playing. Throg is questing away in the North downs, just a couple of kills away from level 34. He is looking forward to buying his very own pony to ride at level 35. I am finding it much harder to write about Throg's adventures however. The plain fact is that most of them aren't exciting enough to write about and since the newness of the game has worn off there is little point writing about mundane details of gameplay.

A great many lotro players have previously dabbled in other MMORPGs especially World of Warcraft. In my opinion this has been a blessing and a curse for Lotro. On the plus side Lotro benefitted from copying many of the best features in WOW making it very easy for players to get into the game. The launch of Lotro also coincided fortuitously with a time when many seasoned WOW players were getting bored and looking for something new. On the down side this influx of experienced MMORPG players has proven to be a hard audience to keep satisfied. They burn through content quickly and are quick to spot deficiencies. I also believe that the very similarities which made the game so approachable for former WOW players are now proving to be handicap when it comes to keeping players entertained.

Take the auction house as an example. My Night Elf was playing WOW for several weeks before he stumbled across the auction house in Ironforge. It took another while before I figured out how it worked and was confident at buying or selling. The same auction house went on to become a very important and enjoyable part of the game for me. In Lotro on the other hand Throg went straight to the auction house after completing the tutorial and I discovered that it worked very similarly to the WOW auction house. The Auction House interface is almost indistinguishable between the two games. Throg was able to start trading straight away. This was handy from the point of view of generating income but the whole experience lacked any novelty for me.

Is this the end of LOTRO? I hope not. Some players will leave, others will join. For me the expansions are the key. They have to introduce new and exciting content: new regions, new quests, new creatures and new game play features.

Jeff Anderson's Shack News interview gives me great hope. If Turbine introduce new content patches every few months as he indicates they are going to do then there should be plenty to keep me entertained. I hope they will not be too constrained by the license however. Every region Throg has visited so far has had a string of kill ten wargs, kill ten bears, kill ten orcs quests. The types of monster are the same just the level varies. These quests are getting pretty tedious.

I will shortly be taking a long Summer holiday with my family. No PC and no Lotro for over a month. In the past when I have taken that length of break from a game the urge to resume playing has dissappeared. The timing of the "Shore's of Evendim" expansion is particularly interesting because it comes out just before I head off. Enough time to get a tantalising glimpse of what is on offer but not enough time to experience it. If the expansion is good it could be the hook needed to get me playing again when I return.

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7 comments:

Sithload: said...

After playing a lot of the LOTRO beta, (different races, different classes to level 15) I ended up getting bored pretty quickly. I didn't buy the game at release, figuring I'd wait to see what everyone else thought of the game.

I was pretty surprised that there was a lot of positive press about it. Bloggers that I respected were quite enthused, even though I saw little to pull me deep into the game.

Pretty graphics, great IP, wonderful stories, but the game itself didn't grab me.

I've been watching curiously, wondering if I had missed something, or wondering if people might come to share my opinion after the initial shine had worn off.

Your point about LOTRO's timing is correct. They hit a good lull in the market with a wonderful IP and a solid, accessible game. The "same old" issues you mentioned in your post above were somewhat forgiven or hidden because of that.

Time will tell if Turbine can crank out the content and keep people's attention. I don't think they can get my attention, though. After extended stints in EQ, DAoC, SWG, WoW and Eve, LOTRO just doesn't have enough to differentiate itself to capture my attention.

That said, I wonder if there's any difference in the enthusiasm level from people who have been playing mmorpg's since the UO or early EQ days and people who were new to the genre with WoW. I can see where LOTRO would seem pretty fresh if WoW was your first mmorpg.

I wondered if perhaps the post-level 15 content somehow made up for the sense of deja vu of the early levels, but judging by the comments you linked to, it doesn't look that way. I still don't feel compelled to buy it.

Zoso said...

I think the similarity to WoW being a double edged sword is a very good point. The differences stand out at first (different classes, titles/traits etc.), but as you get into it I found the similarities became more obvious (kill 10 boars, kill 10 orcs, collect 10 things), reinforcing the ennui (which reminds me of one of my favourite quotes: "Sign me up for ennui. Or not. Whatever.")

mbp said...

Turbine's "content creation" model is very different to Blizzard's. Blizzard kicked off with a huge load of content and were very slow to add expansions. Turbine kicked off with a smaller work but seem intent on adding new content approximately once very two to three months. It will be interesting to see how that pans out.

I don't read too much into former World of Warcraft players getting bored of Lotro. After all, the games are very similar and if you are bored of WOW you are already pretty close to being bored of Lotro. If Lotro is to succeed in the long term it must start from now (with the initial enthusiasm over) and build something long lasting.

Bildo said...

For me personally, one of things that was keeping my interest was the intense story-line that tied closely to the books... but there's a significant gap between Book 1 and Book 2 (about 5 levels or so in quest level), which suddenly slowed the pace for me altogether.

Now I have started Book 2 and 3, but not cared to really pursue them. The main differentiating (sp?) factor for LotRO in my book was the story and cutscenes... now that's gone.

I'm still trying to go forward, but if this new content coming tomorrow doesn't exhilerate me, I'll be gone by the end of June and on to something else more productive and rewarding... until Gods and Heroes, Pirates, or Conan come out.

Once an addict, always an addict. :P

Sean said...

Hitting that brick wall of level 35 put a damper on spirits so to speak since I really enjoy having enough quests to complete solo to at least get me through a level before teaming up with others to knock out the more difficult ones. I do have to say I can't wait to see what is in store for us tomorrow, I don't have my hopes set to high for fear of great disappointment.

mbp said...

Good point about the Epic Quest line Bildo. That is a unique feature of the game and I really enjoyed the early epic quests - particularly the mini instances. Once he hit the lone Lands thoug the Epic quest line disintegrated into a pointless trawl around the marshes. I haven't completed chapter 3 yet but I hope later chapters rekindle the sense of a great saga slowly unfolding that the first books had.

Brundo said...

Speaking about boring gameplay, wait till you start grinding legendary traits books and pages. Anything you thought was boring will be like a disneyland vacation compared to that.

Or getting those last +7 deeds at lvl 50. Kill 480 fire worms? Rrright.

Or may be 360 elite trolls? What? You have to convince another 5 sods to help you? Good luck with that.