Senior LOTRO Designer Joe Barry posted a dev diary recently, explaining the new-endgame content that is coming to Riders of Rohan. The rebuilding of the burnt out village of Hytbold is being promoted as an alternative to raiding and furthermore can be completed solo. The rewards are class and trait-specific armor sets that are comparable to raid gear and the title of Thane of Rohan. The mechanics of this undertaking revolve around repeatable daily quests, participating in mounted combat, and other unique events. Over time a player can rebuild the two dozen plus buildings that make up Hytbold through carrying out over one hundred and fifty repairs.
It all sounds very straight forward on paper, but obviously there are wider aspects to consider. Casual players and non raiders have previously requested alternative ways to receive raid quality gear and this allegedly provides a solution. However, it still does not eliminate the grind factor associated with traditional raiding. I can see the logic of this. If it takes a raider a specific amount time to earn a desired item, any alternative non-raiding option should be of comparable length. If not there will be disharmony within the community along with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Of course there is always the option to reduce the amount of time required for both the raiding and non raiding options, but that’s highly unlikely.
The overall time commitment is on par though with the amount of play hours and overall time it would take to get a raid armour set from a cluster. However, instead of spending 5+ hours once a week for 6-8 weeks raiding, you’re instead spending 30-45 minutes a day doing soloable dailies for a similar amount of weeks.
For those who have not participated in any of the Riders of Rohan betas, it should be noted that there are now four rep factions in the new area. The Wold, Norcofts, Sutcrofts and Entwash Vale. Reputation XP is gained through doing regional quests. Although Hytbold can be accessed with lower rep, some of the quest are gated behind Ally status. Regional quests will only provide rep XP upto a certain level, so if you want to reach kindred, then playing through Hytbold is mandatory. Where this new process widely differs from raiding, is in the pattern of time spent. Both require according to Mr. Barry a similar amount. Some may debate this, but for the sake of argument we will assume it to be correct. Raiding often involves three to four hours plus of intensive game play. Therefore it may not necessarily be conducted on a daily basis. The rebuilding of Hytbold via five daily repeatable activities, could produce a more regular and scheduled form of game play. It could well have an impact upon the logon and concurrent user stats and be beneficial to Turbine.
Whatever way you dress it up, all MMOs involve grinding to a greater or lesser degree. It is a standard mechanic designed to keep you playing. The key is to package the grind in such a fashion that it is not so immediately identifiable or feels like one. Some players have no problem with this sort of game mechanic and will happily undertake the rebuilding of Hytbold across multiple alts. Others may not warm to this grind, despite its rewards. The fact that faction rep cannot be supplemented by tasks is a major hindrance. I managed to drastically reduce the time it took to get kindred rep with the Heroes of Limlight Gorge for example, by simply buying out all rep items that appeared on auction house. That option will not be available this time round, although I believe store bought rep accelerators will still play a part.
It will be interesting whether this new alternate endgame concept proves successful or not. It is already being discussed on the Rider of Rohan beta forums. For me it all hinges on what loot is on offer. If the gear is sufficiently better than that available through crafting and drops, then that may be an adequate incentive. If not then completing the rebuilding of Hytbold is redundant. Yet the fact that it is the only means to get kindred rep with all factions, does mean that Turbine to a degree have you over a barrel. Will this policy be changed prior to the launch of Rider of Rohan? I doubt it, because an additional means to gain rep would mitigate the purpose of Hytbold.