But in 2013, LotRO is six years old, and rethinking core features of the game is a theme of the year. We're on the cusp of a massive class and class trait overhaul, and Turbine did promise that housing will be getting some major love at some point this year (although hey, it's almost November. Perhaps this should be mentioned?). So why not rethink deeds?
As much as we love routine and become skittish about change, I feel it's important not to take anything off the table when it comes to improving the game. Deeds have served admirably thus far, but they're not without fault or potential for so much more. Here are six ideas that could take a good system and make it far better.
I know that there are strong opinions on both sides of the aisle when it comes to whether or not broadcasting achievements to your entire guild is a good thing. I've played games that have and haven't had this, and I much prefer the ones that do -- even if they are a little spammy. How come? Because being part of a guild means that I want to be connected with others, and knowing what deeds they've accomplished keeps me in touch with their journey.
Some folks just aren't into promoting their own accomplishment, and in LotRO I rarely know what my fellow kinnies are doing unless they make an effort to say so. But if the deed system would add a kindship-wide broadcast, that would change. And for those who hate it, why not also include an option to toggle it off? I'm all for options.
Idea #2: Show all undiscovered deeds in the log
Exploration is one thing, but when it comes to achievement systems I'd rather not have the system be coy and say, "Well, go out and discover them, big boy!" That just sends me to an out-of-game wiki and makes me cross. Instead, LotRO's deed system should simply list all of the deeds of the game in the log, period, whether we've started on them or not.
There are just scads of deeds as it is, and I hate constantly feeling I might be missing one if I move on from a zone and then have to backtrack later. Just show me. It won't be that much of a spoiler, promise. In fact, having all of the deeds listed allows me to plan out what I want to accomplish in advance.
Idea #3: Make multiple paths to the same virtue
Virtues continue to be a sore point with me, especially after going through the game multiple times. It's not content with a point and purpose; it's just busy work that's making me invest way too much time into a statistically small improvement. What's worse is that if you want virtue X, then there's one and only one way to get it.
So why not change that?
Take a cue from WildStar, Turbine, and let players adjust their progress according to their playstyle. Let's say I want to get a point of Zeal in Bree. Right now, that involves a horrifically long slayer deed that nobody likes. But what if I had a choice? What if I could get that point of Zeal by doing the slayer deed or by crafting 15 at-level items or by exploring all of the Old Forest? If deeds were flexible as to their rewards, in other words, they might be embraced more than shunned. It wouldn't even require that much shuffling around.
How many titles do you have by level 85? I don't know about you, but I'm just swimming in useless titles that I've never see anyone use. A great deal of deed rewards hand out titles because titles are cheap and easy to program. I think it's time we start getting serious about better deed rewards.
The way I see it, deeds offer me an alternative path to get something I want. So what is it that I -- and other players -- want? What could tempt us into getting really into deeds in a way that hasn't been seen since 2007?
Cosmetics are present in limited numbers, and that could be expanded. Fluff items are always welcome, as is housing furniture. I don't see many (any?) deeds handing out dyes, so that could be another reward. What if deeds could reward us with tokens usable for raid-level gear as a path for the solo player to gradually earn a really nice armor set? I'm just spitballing here, but I think there's potential for more.
Idea #5: Streamline slayer deeds
Let's go back to slayer deeds for a minute. I reserve a lot of ire for these deeds because they're far more grindy than most of the rest of the deed log. Killing 240 salamanders for a trait point is in no way equal to the time spent exploring eight spots on the map. Yet if each of these rewards me with a virtue point, then they have a basis for comparison. The thing that really irks me, though, is that there is no developer over at Turbine who would disagree with anyone saying that slayer deeds are grindy and unbalanced. You know why? Because the devs created a store item to directly cut the grind in half.
So let's cut past the BS and call it like it is: Slayer deeds are fat, bloated relics of the older game, and they need to go on a diet. In my opinion, a slayer deed for a zone should be mostly done through normal questing by the time a player has finished up in the area. Cutting the number of kills required by 50 to 75% would be ideal to eliminate the annoyance here while doing nothing to hurt the game overall.
Idea #6: Overhaul the deed log
Finally, the deed log as we know it needs to go. It's served us well for six years, but it's become a crowded, unwieldy interface as the expansions have added to it.
If you want to keep the book aesthetic, then fine, I'm cool with that. But how about an index and appendix for quick searches? Or even hyperlinks for cross-referencing? Numbers in addition to those progress bars? Turbine could even draw a bit on its experience with monster manuals for Dungeons and Dragons Online.
Say that I want to know, in-game, what I need to do to bump up my Charity virtue. There should be a virtues page that shows this without any fuss, period. And what about separate pages for each in-game festival?
If we're really being ambitious and wishing for ponies, I'd ask for lore summaries (such as major characters, places, and historical events) to be rolled into the log as well. And what about optional developer commentary that you could unlock as another form of deed rewards?
I'd also like to have a separate window for deed tracking. Yes, it's nice that I can put deeds up on the screen, but when they're sharing the same five-item limit space with quests, then I run into problems quickly. Separating them is the most obvious solution to me.
Maybe the deed system can't compete with more dire issues in the game right now, but I would hope that it could be made even better for our adventures in years to come. What would you like to see done with this system?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.