LOTRO: Going Off Map
One of the greatest attractions of LOTRO is the opportunity to explore Middle-Earth. Standing Stone Games have done a very good job of interpreting Tolkien's world, offering a rich and diverse environment. I often like to cross reference the in-game environment against such books as Journeys of Frodo by Barbara Strachey and The Atlas of Middle-Earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad. Whenever a new region becomes available, I always like to see what lore based references I can find there. Overall the Middle-earth featured in LOTRO is remarkably faithful to the source text, given the practical compromises regarding scale that have to be made.
Exploring is an integral part of LOTRO. The game itself offers a wealth of deeds rewarding the finding specific locations. In many respects exploration is a sub-game in its own right. Therefore, we should not be surprised that this particular aspect of LOTRO has its enthusiasts, who take their curiosity to the next level. The invisible walls, rivers and mountains ranges that the developers use to enclose regions and zone that are under development, are seen purely as challenges. Nothing more than obstacles to be overcome by some players, so they can access these obscure and off map places. There is always the hope that a secret will be discovered therein.
I wrote a recently about the abandoned graveyard near Bree and how it’s an example of a storyline that was dropped from the final release of Shadows of Angmar. Over its ten-year lifespan, LOTRO has gained several test areas as well as locations for quest lines that have been omitted from the game. Often these are behind obstacles or hidden from direct line of sight. I'm sure many of you may be familiar with the infamous (and now totally inaccessible) hidden hobbit village, west of the Ered Luin gate. There was a time when such places could be reached quite easily but over the years the Devs have taken steps to put them out of reach. Posts on the official forums, referencing going "off map" are closed promptly and such activities are discouraged.
Initially, back in the day of the Isengard test program, participants were encouraged by Turbine to test the maps boundaries and log any faults. This policy was never formally extended to the live servers. However, players being the curious bunch that they are, have naturally continued to do so and a sub culture has built up around it. Thus, there are players who will try and go anywhere, if it is possible, regardless of the complexity. I’ve heard of complex sequences of jumping that can take hours. Yet, the practice of going "off map" is not without consequence. Characters straying into these areas can become permanently stuck. There have also been instances of such incursions affecting the servers and localised roll backs having to be carried out.
Despite the dangers and the risk of incurring the wrath of Standing Stone Games, players still continue to explore the game environment to the full. Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of such activities, it certainly makes for some very interesting screen captures and provides a new insight into the games development. I have collated a small collection of “off map” images. None of these screen captures were taken by myself and due to the controversial nature of such activities, I will not credit the sources. I am simply referencing information that is publicly available on the internet and am not endorsing one way or the other, the practice of going "off map".