LOTRO: Improvements and Suggestions
I returned to LOTRO in August and have been playing continuously since then, working my way through the last expansion and Update 22. The upside to this ongoing commitment has meant that I have really applied myself to the unfolding narrative and have absorbed a lot more of the story than previously. It is very enjoyable to see the way various strands of different plots all tie together. I have also taken the time to revise my Lore-master build and attempt to optimise it to reflect the prevailing game meta. Broadly speaking, I have been successful so far. But there have been a few negative aspects to returning to the game. Many of them are actually issues that have always be present and have been compounded by the games age. LOTRO lacks some of the modern convenience and functionality we take for granted in more recent MMOs. So, I thought I’d take time out to list a few helpful suggestions that Standing Stone Games can then promptly ignore.
Auto-pathing. This subject was raised recently by fellow blogger Telwyn over at GamingSF. Unlike other MMOs, LOTRO relies mainly on the player when it comes to navigating their way around the map and travelling from quest to quest. Telwyn is indeed right that you can click on an object a small distance away such as a resource node or a quest item and your avatar will auto-path to it. But you cannot set a waypoint and safely auto-travel to it, nor are you given a visual bread crumb trail to help travel to especially esoteric locations. SSG and Turbine before them seem to delight in making navigating a real chore in LOTRO. The developers seem to have a real aversion to straight lines and intuitive paths. Try getting from one side of Dale, Moria or Galtrev easily.
Naturally I would like to see changes to this current state of affairs. In towns and safe areas, it would be nice to see auto-pathing on a practical level. For example, if you arrive at South Bree Entrance and click on Lalia’s Market, it would be convenient to simply automatically ride there without hinderance. It would also be useful to do the same out in quest zones, although to make things equitable I think players should maintain the risk of aggravating mobs they stray to close to. In default of this, I happily accept a visual route marker around some of the more esoteric areas, especially when it comes to reaching quest rings displayed on the mini map.
Landscape Soldiers. Back in 2012 when Update 6: Shores of the Great River was released, we gained the ability to summon our skirmish soldiers while PVE questing. I have often used this facility over the years as I like having backup in tricky areas and being “overpowered” (or at least robustly equipped). Broadly this tactic works but it can be like herding cats at time. Landscape soldiers are a somewhat blunt tool with little or no navigational control. You often have to dismiss them or re-summon them to avoid pulling all mobs in a given area. Having recently played Ghost Recon: Wildlands, I have learned what good AI companions can be like. So, if LOTRO could add some simple controls to landscape soldiers (just like Lore-master pets for example) then that would be really helpful.
Barter Currencies. There are simply too many of these in the game and many of them end up becoming redundant very quickly. In a previous post I mentioned that it’s worthwhile revisiting old currencies and seeing what you can trade them in for, but there comes a point when there’s nothing else useful and they just end up as being baggage. What I would like to see is some kind of currency exchange system that would allow you to hand in the old in return for new. It’s something that’s already available in-game for skirmish marks and to a degree within some of the barter currencies themselves. So, there’s no real technical reason why SSG cannot implement such a system, it’s just that the devil would be in the detail. Trying to find a fair and equitable exchange rate would be the real challenge.
Instance Finder. Ten years on, LOTRO is still a very social game. People do help and are surprisingly generous. However, try using the in-game instance finder and you’ll know the true meaning of loneliness. I don’t know whether it’s the times that I play, but I have never got the instance finder to successfully form a PUG. Usually, I run instances via my kinship but that’s not always convenient, so having a functional auto-grouping instance finding tool would be a real boon. SSG should take a leaf out of fellow developers Cryptic’s book, who have just added enhanced rewards to incentivise PUG and random queues. I don’t believe in coercing players into collaborating and favour instead the tried and tested method of providing a “carrot on the end of the stick”. If I could gain quality gear by running random or under represented instances, I’d certainly give it a try.
These are just four suggestions to improve LOTRO that I’ve quickly thought about. They’re not in any order or preference. They literally just came to mind as I was drafting this post. I’m sure most players have a comparable amount they can quickly bring “to the table”. As ever, I’d be very interested to hear reader suggestions, so feel free to leave suggestions in the comments. If LOTRO wishes to continue to move forward it would be wise for SSG to at least consider some changes. Yes, the age of the game and its respective code does impact upon what can and cannot be done, but simply expanding some of the existing functionality in to other areas of the game would be a good starting place. As ever time will tell.