LOTRO: Legendary Servers Launch
First off, fellow blogger Wilhelm Arcturus wrote a blog post that predicted pretty much everything that happened today, with regard of the launch of the new Legendary Servers. Yes, you read that right. Servers, plural. Apparently, there was so much interest in Anor, it led to massive login queues, so Standing Stone Games very quickly set up a second Legendary Server named Ithil to deal with the over flow. To ensure that folks get to be with their friends and kinmates, there’s also a free transfer grace period. I guess there’s no such thing as a smooth launch, be it a new game or a variation of it. The more cynical among us, may even go so far as to postulate that the server queues were planned to generate a “buzz” and the “need” for a second server. However, it’s more likely that SSG just miscalculated and had to think on their feet. There could well be server merges ahead when the excitement, queues and possibly player numbers die down. Either way, the job is now done and LOTRO now has two progression servers.
I logged into Anor shortly after 5:00 PM GMT today. The launcher initially showed that I was some ridiculous number in a queue and it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t decreasing, and the client had indeed stalled (Ctrl-Alt-Delete and Task Manager are your friend). So, I started multiple copies of the launcher and logged in the game and eventually one connected with the new server. I knew what class I was going to play and what my character name was in advance, so setting up a new avatar was not an issue. I skipped the tutorial, loaded my saved custom UI and then pushed ahead with the intro quests. Needless to say, the starter zone was heavily populated, and it took a while to kill the standard number of Boars or Wolves as required. However, the zerg had its benefits and tricky areas like the spider filled basement under Sprigley’s Farm was easy to navigate.
World chat was very active and relatively civilised, and players broadly seem to accommodate each other. Orderly queues formed to kill the likes of Jagger Jack and people were happy to group to make clearing quests easier. Eight hours on from launch and there was already crafted items appearing on Auction House for sale. Despite the “all about the journey” mantra your often see banded around on the official forums by many traditionalist LOTRO players, by the time I logged off there were already people approaching level 30 or so. It was also pleasant to see a lot of Kinships recruiting. Judging from world chat, there are a lot of retuning players who have been absent for quite a while. I have set up a Contains Moderate Peril kin, mainly just for fun and larks but if players stay the course, I see no reason not to run some of the endgame content.
Nostalgia is a curious thing. I liked the way the SSG has re-instated the original music at the character select screen. Playing with a low-level character is pleasingly uncomplicated with only a handful of skills. There is also a very re-assuring sense of familiarity with the game when it’s presented like this. The sheer volume of players bustling about also reminded me what the original allure of the MMO genre was; a thriving living world or at least the appearance of one. More than a decade on simply being online with others has lost its mystique and is something you just take for granted. This evening gave me a pleasant reminder of how exciting it was back in 2008 to see a town filled with other people. However, there are a few things that bring you back down to earth, such as the absence of all the items you have purchased on your regular server. Vault space was quickly filled and at present there is no kinship or personal house to use as an overflow. I also just couldn’t get used to wondering around without my standard cosmetic outfit, so I’ve already put my hand in my pocket and bought it again, which was probably SSG’s motivation all along.
It will be interesting to see if player numbers are sustained before the release of new content to Anor and Ithil in four months’ time. There’s is no real reason to leave if you’re a returning player because they are not burdened with over familiarity with the content or harbour a grudge over previous changes to game mechanics. But there will be an inevitable decrease of player as some get bored and kinships find it harder to run content due to a lack of “bums on seats”. Personally, I don’t see any problems getting to level 50. I always liked this part of the Epic Story and I tend to level quite fast due to structured and planned sessions. It’s what comes next that is a stumbling block for many. Even a revamped Moria is still a big ask for some players. However, the LOTRO community is very tenacious and often flies in the face of established wisdom. So, I shall simply wait and see how things pan out on the Legendary Servers, while having fun progressing through Bree-land and beyond.