One of the greatest attractions of LOTRO is the opportunity to explore Middle-Earth. Turbine have done a very good job of interpreting Tolkien’s world, offering a rich and diverse environment. I 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.
Exploring is an integral part of LOTRO and can become a sub-game in its own right. Therefore we should not be surprised that this aspect of the game has its enthusiasts, who take curiosity to the next level. The invisible walls, rivers and mountains ranges that Turbine use to enclose different regions are seen purely as a challenges. Nothing more than obstacles to be over come, possibly revealing a secret treasure.
I wrote a post last year about the abandoned graveyard near Bree and how it is an example of a storyline that was dropped from the final release of Shadows of Angmar. Over its four year lifespan, LOTRO has gained test areas or locations for quest lines that were omitted for various reasons. Often these are behind obstacles or hidden from direct line of sight. I’m sure many of you may be familiar with the infamous hidden hobbit village, west of the Ered Luin gate. There was a time when such places could be accessed quite easily, but over the years Turbine has 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 was never formally extended to the live servers. However, players being the curious bunch that they are, naturally continued to do so and a sub culture soon built up around it. They will simply try and go anywhere, if it is possible, regardless of the complexity. I have 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 Turbine, players still continue to explore the game environment to the full. Whether it is right or wrong, 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 such images below. None of these screen captures were taken by myself and due to the controversial nature of such activities, I will not directly credit the sources. Once again, I am simply referencing information that is publicly available on the internet and am not endorsing one way or the other, the practise of going “off map”. As usual, comments are welcome.