LOTRO 10th Anniversary: Remembering LOTRO Part 2
When reminiscing about LOTRO, there are many personal highlights for me to consider. Raiding in the Rift, completing the epic story in Shadows of Angmar, or even getting my first mount. Yet, if I had to pick a personal favourite experience, it would be the great charge across the River Anduin, into Mirkwood. This happened on Gilrain server on Monday 25th of Janurary 2010, the night before Siege of Mirkwood expansion was launched. An enterprising player by the name of Mikeemoo arranged the event via the forums and at the designated time a hundred plus players assembled on the Western bank of The Great River. Once the signal was given we swam en masse to the Eastern shore and swarmed up the bank into the woods. As the zone was not yet accessible the developers had placed NPCs in the vicinity; Mirkeves Fell Arrows that could one shot any player. However, due to the sheer number of players in the zerg and the resulting lag, many made it across. Eventually the server kicked everyone but it was immense fun while it lasted.
This anecdote in many ways encapsulates all that makes LOTRO so enjoyable. Teamwork, a sense of community, an environment that lends itself to more than just the scripted gameplay. This is why player generated events thrive in the game and why Standing Stone Games are wise to support such undertakings. Although over the years, the relationship between the player base and the development team hasn’t always been good and it’s fair to say that mistakes have been made on both sides. The transition to F2P was far from smooth for the European players and both Enedwaith and Dunland where hardly highpoints in the games ten-year journey. Then there was the introduction of the skills tree with Helm’s Deep which divided the player base. However, unlike other fickler communities, LOTRO players tend to take a more pragmatic approach to the ups and downs of gaming. They have rolled with the changes over the last decade mainly due to their passion for Tolkien’s work.
As soon as I had bought LOTRO in 2008, I started blogging about the game. In many respects, it was instrumental in my writing on a regular basis, as it tends to be a rule of thumb that you should write about what you enjoy. What quickly became apparent was that there existed a very dynamic and friendly blogging and podcast community associated with the game. Everyone was extremely welcoming and only too happy to help promote each other’s content. The LOTRO Combo Blog was an invaluable source of information, aggregating dozens of fan related sites. There was also a wealth of LOTRO related podcast and shows, all dealing with a unique facet of the game. But I think we can all agree that the jewel in the crown of fan related productions was “A Casual Stroll to Mordor” with Merric and Goldenstar. The show presented LOTRO related news and views each week with a healthy dose of enthusiasm and honesty. It very soon became indispensable listening among fans and in many ways, did a better job of informing players and promoting the game than Turbine.
On a personal note, one of the most agreeable aspects of playing LOTRO over the years has been the friendship that I’ve formed with fellow bloggers, podcasters and guild mates. The kinship system in LOTRO is a subtly different beast to comparable social systems in other games. It doesn’t offer the obvious items advantages of say Guild Wars 2 or STO. It seems to be far more of a labour of love. I have been in the same kinship since spring 2009 and it is a remarkably tight knit social group. Some players come and go but there is a core group that are the heart and soul of the kinship and they are always online, willing to help and blessed with a boundless enthusiasm. As LOTRO has finally reached the Black Gates and Mordor awaits via the next expansion, I’ve seen many a familiar faces return to the kinship roster. It’s amazing the way friendship just resume, as if time has no bearing on the matter.
In many ways Update 21 is a major crossroad for both LOTRO and Standing Stone Games. Finally, the central story goes beyond Tolkien’s work and it is incumbent upon the in-house writers to maintain the high standard that they have for the last decade. There is scope for this to be a major creative step forward. It could also go the other way. Yet, despite the importance of this transition, the community seems far from nervous about the matter. Good will abounds at present and the recent ten-year anniversary has been well received. Certainly, the transition from Turbine to SSG has repaired a lot of previously burned bridges and the developers seem to be far better at communicating and keeping players informed than they previously were. So, here’s to LOTROs future and years more of fun and fond memories. May the road continue to go on and on.