At the beginning of the year, I sat down and drafted up a "wish list" for Lord of the Rings Online's 2011 year, populating it with 11 changes and additions I was hoping to see by now. To my surprise, Turbine actually pulled off quite a few items on the list, and I thought it'd be a good idea to go back and examine which of my goals the team met and which remain elusive.
Also, since 2012 kicks off tomorrow, I'll look forward as well and draft up a dozen -- yes, one more over the year before -- wish list items that I'd love to see come true in the new year. It's my column; I can cry if I want to, after all. Let's get this party started!
1. Random dungeon grouping: Wish granted! I haven't had a lot of time to mess with the instance finder yet, but I'm excited as all get out that it's in the game.
2. Legendary Item improvements: Wish sort of fulfilled. I went into all this a couple of weeks ago, so I won't rehash my mixed feelings on the system. To the studio's credit, Turbine did put some work into taking the randomness out of LIs, and while it's not perfect, it's better than it was in January.
3. More wardrobe space: Wish granted! With the last update, we can now expand our wardrobe well north of 100 spots, which is way more than the 50 I had at the start of the year.
4. More surprises: Wish granted! There were plenty of surprises surrounding the expansion, although I won't say my mind was exactly blown the way it was in 2010.
5. Increased voice-overs: Wish denied. The expansion continued Turbine's trend of having a spoken line or two per quest, but the vast majority of everything is still text-based, which is a big shame when it comes to the epic storyline.
6. Volume 2 soloing: Wish granted! We can now go through the entire epic storyline (save epilogues) completely solo.
7. Better housing: Wish denied. Housing got knocked off the to-do list for the year, apparently.
8. Icon overhaul: Wish denied. I don't think we'll ever get better icons in this game, but I'll never stop wishing for them either.
9. Refining the paid content: Wish granted and denied. The LotRO store got a makeover to improve functionality, which is great, but the pushy approach to F2P monetization remains a thorn in the side of many gamers.
10. Cosmetic weapons: Wish denied. Woe is me.
11. A new gameplay system: Wish denied. I was really hoping that we'd be seeing something brand-new for the expansion, but nothing doing.
So that's about six out of 11 wishes granted, which is pretty darn decent in my book. The wish that I was most glad to see was probably either the instance finder or the Volume 2 soloing, since both of those appealed to my casual playstyle.
2012 will be a challenge for the LotRO team. The competition is heating up in a big way with several major titles either here already or coming soon, and Turbine has to contend with the fact that LotRO is an aging game. So what could it do to wow us all in the coming year? Here are my 12 suggestions.
1. Housing revamp. Go big or (don't) go home, I say. The LotRO community has always been ripe for player housing, but the system we're currently saddled with seems like a half-measure. It's nice for what it is, but man could it be so much more. I'm hoping that 2012 will see Turbine finally give housing its due and improve the system across the board.
2. Cosmetic weapons. Considering how popular the cosmetic outfit system has been, I think it only makes sense that being able to choose our weapon-look would be a huge hit with the players.
3. A new expansion. If Turbine can pull off a second major expansion in as many years, it will prove that it's living up to its promises of producing post-F2P content faster than in the subscription era. It's time to see Rohan, anyway! Speaking of which...
4. Mounted combat. We know it's coming. It could revolutionize how the game feels and plays. I, for one, can't wait.
5. New music. I was a little let down that we didn't hear any new tunes with Rise of Isengard. The music of the game conveys the lands and peoples we're visiting, and it'd be great to hear something different as we head south.
6. More quest choices. We had just a tiny taste of this with the last expansion, and I'd love to see more. Let us make choices that affect quests and have consequences. Make us want to think about what we're doing and why we're doing it!
7. Summer festival improvements. In comparison to the other, more recently updated festivals, the summer festival seems creaky and dull. It'd be great to have something new added on par with Winter-home or the Haunted Burrow!
8. A new class. We haven't had a new class added to the game since Mines of Moria, and I think it's high time that we do. New classes are great ways to add replayability to the game, especially for those long-time vets who have done it all. It'd be tricky to do, to be sure, but that's not my problem! I'm just here to wish.
9. More class deeds. After a certain point in the game, I find that my character's build is pretty much locked in, especially since I'm not seeing any new class deeds coming along to provide me with new options. As a result, I don't feel like my character is "growing" in any significant way, and that's not good.
10. Reduce the grind. Now that Turbine has three expansions under its belt, there is plenty of genuine content out there that makes the need for excessive virtue/deed grinding obsolete. So I wish the devs would reduce the grind on deeds and virtues (especially slayer deeds) by a factor of 10 in some cases. It doesn't add anything to a player's experience or sense of fun to have to kill 350 of something versus 50 or 100.
11. Faster combat. This is a topic of discussion for another week, so I'll just glaze over it here by saying that I really wish combat in this game would go quicker, especially at higher levels.
12. A new social system or hobby. Again, LotRO players love to socialize and engage in activities that aren't necessarily related to orcslaughter. Why not add a fun new system that allows us to interact in different and enjoyable ways?
Wow, that was easy coming up with 12! I feel like I'm just getting warmed up here. But enough about my wishes; now I want to hear yours. What would you most like to see happen in LotRO in 2012?
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 email@example.com or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.