The Road to Mordor: My wish list for 2011

January is always a month of denial for me because it usually takes a full 30 days for the reality of a new year to settle into my skull. It can't be a new year! I just, just got used to the old one! I'm going to forget the real year when I sign my checks and then I'll be denounced as a fraud! What horrible teenage fad will be inflicted on us this year?

Seriously, Ke$ha was the final straw for me. She's like all four horsemen of the apocalypse melted down and recast as a talentless banshee with an ironic dollar sign smack in the middle of her name. But that's my problem.

A new year also means a virgin slate for all of our MMOs. What happened last year was so last year -- now we turn our eyes to the future. We know a little of what's upcoming for Lord of the Rings Online, but that doesn't mean we can't have wishes. You know what they say: If wishes were horses, I'd have the Steed of Night.

So in honor of '11, I've come up with an 11-point wish list of what I'd love to see in LotRO this year. I fully expect Turbine to drop everything -- everything -- to get on it!

1. Random dungeon grouping

Don't get me wrong -- I absolutely, positively love the new instance-join interface. It's done wonders for paving a smoother path to dungeons, and when you want to pull a group together that's are scattered all across Middle-earth, there's nothing better.

But that doesn't mean I can't wish for a little more here. Kinnies aren't always available for dungeon runs (or in the same level range), and LotRO's LFG tools are still cumbersome -- an interface nobody uses and the spammy /glff channel. I'd like to see something like World of Warcraft's random dungeon finder, even if it only pulls people from your current server (in fact, I'd prefer that for the community aspect).

2. Legendary Item improvements

Legendary Items are really cool when you first get them and interesting for a while past that, yet ultimately they're frustrating. High-level players dislike pouring in a lot of effort leveling LIs only to find out that the legacies they were hoping for aren't there. I know Turbine's said that LI improvements are on the slate for 2011, so I'm crossing my fingers that the team fixes this crucial problem to make LIs awesome all over again.

3. More wardrobe space

Fifty spots seems like a lot, but you'd be surprised just how fast you fill up a wardrobe with cosmetic outfits from the auction house, costumes from festivals, and good-looking armor pieces. I'm dying for more space in the wardrobe, and I can't believe that Turbine wouldn't open this up to make even more money.

4. More surprises

I love surprises, which is why I love MMOs in general -- you just never know what to expect from the future. I know marketing dictates how much Turbine announces new stuff in advance, but I'd love for a surprise or two to be kept for a quiet day. This past week's mysterious relics mini-event is an example of a neat little surprise. More, more I say!

5. Increased voice-overs

Voice-overs are expensive and definitely more time-consuming than typing into a quest text box, but it really makes a huge difference. Every once in a while in the game, especially during the epic storyline, a character gets vocal for a little bit, and I'm usually thrilled with it. VO sucks me into the story much more than the text, even if it's just little Hobbit NPCs whining about pies.

6. Volume 2 soloing

A great amount of Volume 2 is soloable, to be sure, but I dearly wish the whole thing was, from start to finish. Even at level 65, I still have a couple of books unfinished because I can't ever seem to snag a group doing the same quest.

People applauded Turbine's efforts in making Volume 1 soloable, so it's a bit of a let-down now when you hit those mandatory group quests that jolt you out of the story and force you to troll Looking For Fellowship.

7. Better housing

The general consensus about LotRO's housing is that it's nice, it's functional, and it's maddeningly restrictive in terms of customization. I've accumulated so many housing items that I can only display a fraction of them in my luxury-sized home, even though the floor space is more than adequate to hold them all with room to spare.

In addition to the increased ability to add and arrange decorations, it would be great to see some measure of functionality added to housing to give you a reason to head on home after your journeys for something other than just to ooh and ahh over your tentacle monster.

8. Icon overhaul

Whether you think of LotRO's icons as useful, cluttered visually, or kitsch, I've never been a fan of them. There's too much going on in such a small space, and although you know what the buttons do after a while, the pictures themselves are rarely a help (and have been lampooned somewhat in the blogging community).

New icons would be a welcome relief for the UI, especially if they're a bit bigger.

9. Refining the paid content

As Turbine continues to wade through the issues surrounding the LotRO store, I sincerely hope the team improves the store's functionality while toning down the aspects that the community finds obnoxious (ooh, I won 5 new TP! Thank you, pop-up, for now I can go and spend it on nothing!). A Casual Stroll to Mordor has a number of great suggestions for improving this aspect of the game, and I give that site my thumbs-up of approval.

10. Cosmetic weapons

Last week in kin chat, a newcomer to the LI system was asking us, in so many words, if he absolutely had to use LIs, because he detested the models and wanted to equip all of the cool-looking weapons he was getting from drops and quest rewards. I sympathize with him, because in my opinion, the LI weapons look lackluster (and I sincerely dislike that visual effect that flows over them).

Rumor is that Turbine's looking at cosmetic weapons, much in the same vein as cosmetic outfits, and I truly hope this will happen.

11. A new gameplay system

I've always thought Turbine's right there at the front of the pack when it comes to creating and refining innovative systems, from skirmishes to the wardrobe to freeze tag to the Frostbluff Theatre. The studio's made a tremendous virtual world that is perfect for all sorts of off-the-path ideas, and it's my wish that we see at least one unexpected idea come out of Turbine this year. Looking at the past, I'd say the odds are good on that happening.

So what is your personal wish list for 2011? From your fingertips to Turbine's eyes -- post them below in the comments!

When not enjoying second breakfast and a pint of ale, Justin "Syp" Olivetti jaws about hobbits in his Lord of the Rings Online column, The Road to Mordor. You can contact him via email at or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.
This article was originally published on Massively.