Lord of the Rings Online faces a challenging year in 2014. We already know that it's going to be an expansion-free year with a different focus on development. In April, the game will be seven years old, which certainly puts it into middle-age in MMO years. And with some uncertainty over the future of the game's IP rights, some disgruntlement over the store and aging character models, and no word as to how populated or profitable LotRO is, it's made a few folks nervous.
But it could be a tremendous year as well, full of possibilities for Turbine to make good choices. I'm still as in love with this game world as ever. I wouldn't be playing LotRO if I didn't find tremendous fun and value in it, and I have hope that 2014 will see the game get its second wind and strengthen as a whole.
So without further ado, here is my wish list from last year to see what was fulfilled and what was denied, along with my 2014 wish list for features and changes that I'd like to see.
My 2013 wishes
Here are the 13 wishes that I made back in January 2013. Which ones came true and which were left unfulfilled? If I'm being very generous, about four of my wishes were at least partially addressed.
1. Housing revamp: Not really, not remotely. As people did point out in my recent column on the continued housing revamp delay, Turbine did perform a few tweaks to housing, but those fell far short of the promised overhaul.
2. A new expansion covering the second half of Rohan: Granted! Helm's Deep came, saw, and conquered my heart. I'm still greatly enjoying the questing and landscapes, although I don't think that the Big Battle system was as much of a gamechanger as the devs had hoped.
3. A virtues or legendary skills revamp: Ignored. Legendary items are the same over-busy mess that they've been for years now, and virtues remain as grindy as ever.
4. A new class: Ha ha ha ha... no.
5. More class options: Granted! It's still a divisive topic, but the class overhaul and new trait trees of Helm's Deep were a wonderful change to the game that streamlined busy hotbars and gave classes more defined builds. Plus, the ability to respec on the fly is one of my new favorite things about the game.
6. Better character visuals: Unfulfilled. Yes, commenters, I know that some of you don't like how the avatars look in LotRO. Do you need to say so after every unrelated column, however?
7. Do something meaningful with PvMP: Ignored. PvMP has its small cadre of hardcore fans and a developer or two helping out, but I don't think we'll ever see this grow into anything other than a tiny sideshow for the game.
8. Ease up on the store greed: Rejected and then some. People were very displeased when Turbine announced that the new expansion's epic story would require the expansion purchase, and the push for monetizing housing storage and more expensive fast travel for West Rohan was a turn-off.
9. A mentoring/sidekicking system: Sort of fulfilled. The Big Battle system did allow the devs to come up with a way to scale players up to level 95, giving folks of disparate levels a chance to do content together. More of that, please!
10. More incentive to use the instance finder: Not really.
11. War-goats: Shamefully, this went unfulfilled.
12. Cosmetic weapons: Ditto. Turbine says this is challenging to do, but I have to wonder about that.
13. Golf: FORE...closed. No links for us!
My 2014 wishes
From silly to incredibly profound (OK, more silliness), here are 14 (for 2014, get it?) wishes that would just tickle me Elmo if we got them this year.
1. A new class: It's beyond time for the game to get a new class. I don't know any other MMO that's had this many expansions and hasn't done this for the past four packs. Creating a new class within the limits of lore and IP is tricky, but it can certainly be done. And should be done. That would just rock 2014 so much.
2. Additional class-race combinations: Hobbit Lore-masters. Hobbit Captains. Hobbits EVERYTHING.
3. Rohan housing: Rohan houses are so detailed and cozy that it's a criminal shame that we're stuck with the comparatively bland dwellings from Eriador. I want to move into a horse viking log cabin, confoundit!
4. A new hobby: If you won't bend on golf, how about... anything? Anything, really. Hobbies are one of those fluff areas that could do so much to invest us further into the world of the game, but this section has felt abandoned for years now.
5. A new mid-level zone: Chances are that all of the new zones we'll see in 2014 will be for endgamers, but it doesn't have to be that way. What if just one of them were devoted to enriching the middle of the game? My vote would be for a Northern Mirkwood. What say you?
6. A revamp to the deed system: Deeds are fine and dandy, but they're also clunky and a little antiquated in their current form. I'd love to see a revamp done to the system and its user interface as I posted several weeks ago.
7. Free expansions for all: Turbine should really take a cue from how RIFT and EverQuest II are handling their free-to-play models in regard to their expansions. RIFT has made its expansion completely free while EQII has done the same with all but the most recent. If LotRO would give away all of the expansions up through Riders of Rohan and turn its monetizing focus onto more cosmetics, I think it would go a long way to paving over some of the ill feelings that its business model has created.
8. More roleplayer tools: The studio has to acknowledge the strong RP community that thrives in this game and how they've stuck around for a long time. What a great thank-you it would be, then, for the devs to give players more tools -- an improved or expanded music system, interactive emotions, an interactive year-round theater -- to foster this community?
9. An in-game wiki: It's high past time that we stop needing to tab out of the game to access helpful wikis. Having a solid, cross-linked source of in-game info that isn't going to point me to a Turbine knowledgebase would be welcome indeed.
10. Kinship-wide achievement announcements: If we had the option to toggle these on and off, I'd champion their inclusion in a heartbeat. I want to know what everyone else is up to!
11. Kinship improvements: On the topic of kinships, LotRO could be doing a lot more to provide useful features outside of the kinship housing and kin auctions. What about a calendar? A more robust kinship leveling system? More useful tools to give officers for management?
12. A stable travel map: I remember way back when World of Warcraft stopped making you travel one step at a time in its flight system, but instead allowed you to select your ultimate destination. That was awesome. Less awesome is the fact that LotRO's stable travel is still a pain, as we have to progress step-by-step through it, we have no idea what stables link to what other ones until we get there, and the names of places are really confusing. So why not just give us a big map of the world with all of the stables on it and let us just click on where we want to go?
13. More mini-events: I really like the idea behind the "could come at any time" buried treasure event and would love to see more of those in the game. What if each zone had an event that could be triggered on any given week, calling the population to return to that area for a small but fun get-together?
14. Vanity pets: Unless it's a problem with the game's code, I simply cannot see why vanity pets aren't in the game. They'd be in high demand (they are in other MMOs, and can you imagine how much more so in this IP?) and they're proven money-makers for F2P titles.
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.