Two major updates are coming to Lord of the Rings Online
this fall: the recently announced free-to-play conversion and the introduction of a new playable area just south of Eregion, Enedwaith. The new playable content is a good way to explain how free-to-play will affect the game. VIP members (those who pay a flat monthly fee and those who are Lifetime subscribers) will get access to the new area, the epic quest line associated with it and all the regular quests in the land. Those playing for free will be able to travel in the new lands and complete the epic quest line, but they will need to buy the regional quest pack to access that part of the new content.
The new cash shop is currently in testing. As it stands, no gear is being sold -- not legendary items, raid armor sets, weapons, etc. Turbine wants to the cash shop to help along players who don't have a lot of time to play, not to let them pay their way straight to the endgame. Health potions, cosmetic clothing and crafting recipes are what I saw. Turbine is going to watch the player reaction during beta very closely to gauge what should go up for sale and what should not.
No new Skirmishes will be added in this next content patch, but Turbine has something planned that utilizes the Skirmish system. Due to player feedback on their official forums, Turbine will make the old world raid instances available through the Skirmish interface
for any group size, from solo
for larger groups up to 24-man raid. These aren't technically Skrimishes so you will receive no Skirmish Marks, but they use the Skirmish technology to set the instance difficulty, port you there and then drop you back into the world when you are done. No word yet on if you be able to solo the raid trophies, but they are working on more cosmetic rewards with the graphical look of the old world raid armor.
New skirmishes are being worked on, just not for this patch. VIP subscribers will get them automatically, others will have to pay for them. The Skirmish tutorial will be available to all.
The last feature coming with the new patch is DX11 support. We weren't shown the shininess of Middle-earth using DX11 technology, but were promised screenshots soon.
Players will be glad to hear that both Housing and Hobbies are getting some love. No specifics were given other than Housing getting an "upgrade" and a new Hobby is in the works. These plans are long-term and not for the upcoming patch.
Massively will be taking a tour of the new patch in the next few weeks and will report back with more in-depth information about all the new features coming with Volume 3, Book 2.