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The Road to Mordor: Looking at PvMP from the outside in


The other day I was making a mental list of aspects of Lord of the Rings Online that I generally avoid. Raiding was one, mostly because I don't have the time and the acquisition of gear isn't that important to me. Crafting was another because the end results have little personal appeal. But topping the list was LotRO's version of PvP, PvMP. I think I made a monster character three years ago and ventured out into the Ettenmoors once, but that's the extent of my adventures in that area of the game.

As a result, PvMP has received very little coverage in this column during my tenure at Massively. For one thing, it's not a good idea to talk about something of which you have little experience in doing. For another, I'm fairly sure that the PvMP community, while dedicated, is a small minority of the game's population. It's always felt like a weird vestigial tail to me, an anomaly that exists within our game that many of us rarely mention or see.

So today let's talk about it. I would like to, from the perspective of a player looking from the outside in. Why is PvMP so strange to me? What purpose do I think it has in the game? And how could it become more compelling so that I would actually want to engage in it?

The Road to Mordor Looking at PvMP from the outside in
The Enemy's enclave

A couple of weeks ago, I became fascinated with the topic of enclaves -- territories that are surrounded by other territories. Sometimes a country, due to a variety of boundary issues or legal disputes, will end up with a chunk of its land fully inside another country's region. These conclaves are cut off from a physical connection to the motherland but remain part of it even so.

Monster play feels like an enclave to me. It's a PvP game and territory literally surrounded by PvE lands. It exists in its own region with its own rules, its own monster population that is cut off from Mordor, and its own conflict.

When Turbine was developing Lord of the Rings Online, the studio had to deal with the tricky question of how to work PvP into a setting where all of the player characters were on the same side and had no physical conflict between each other. The (in)elegant solution was to create a zone where players could live out their fantasies of either being one of the Enemy's servants or waging a war against those who are, all without disrupting the flow of the game's core PvE experience.

This zone became the Ettenmoors, a region in northeastern Eriador. This enclave houses its own game-within-a-game, with daily struggles erupting over controlling the zone. However, it's not a place that you'll just stumble upon during your typical travels, and the game doesn't really go out of its way to urge you to visit.

The Road to Mordor Looking at PvMP from the outside in
My hang-ups about PvMP

Chance are, you probably know all about PvMP anyway and either enjoy it or have done your best to forget about it. So let me open my mind a crack to you and allow a jumble of thoughts to spill out about my feelings with the system.

Starting out with a note of honesty, I'm just not a PvP kind of fellow. I have tried it in numerous MMOs but generally don't find it exciting. Quite the opposite, in fact; PvP usually stresses me out and often frustrates me when I'm part of a side getting steamrolled. So any game trying to convince me to try its PvP system out is already trudging up a steep hill to knock on my door.

But more than that, LotRO's PvMP does not beckon to me as an essential part of the game experience. It's there for people who can't stand not having PvP in an MMO, but it has very little to do with the rest of the game whatsoever. I'm not asked to defend lands that I've come to know and love, and I'm not invited to become part of an army that will affect the fate of Middle-earth. I'm just allowed to come in a PvP prison where only the Free Peoples are allowed visiting privileges.

Another major speed bump in my possible participation in this aspect of the game is how long it's been out. If the game were brand-new and everyone in PvMP was starting on equal footing, I could see an opportunity to get my foot in the door. But I know well enough that today I'd be a little defenseless fish diving into an ocean of bloodthirsty predators who out-class and out-knowledge me in every way.

Finally, as with housing and hobbies, I have to wonder whether this is another experiment by Turbine's devs that the team no longer has any interest in expanding. The game has grown by leaps and bounds since Shadows of Angmar, yet PvMP is still confined to the Ettenmoors and continues on with the occasional rebalancing within it. There have been no additional PvMP zones, no move toward a PvMP server, and -- what I consider the most strange omission -- no PvMP skirmishes or instances. Folks, we're almost four expansions and five years into this game's life, and PvMP is still locked away. I don't see it having a glorious future in the game.

The Road to Mordor Looking at PvMP from the outside in
Prove me wrong, Turbine. Prove me wrong.

Please don't misunderstand the tone of this article. I'm not denigrating PvMP; I'm merely sharing my thoughts as someone looking from the outside in and not seeing a strong appeal. I know the PvMP community is rabid for it, and I acknowledge that Turbine hasn't completely forgotten about these players. I just would like to see the system have more meaning.

In my opinion, the most attractive aspect of this is how the game allows you to jump into the skin of an evil creature and battle "good" players. That's awesome and so rarely exists in other MMOs. Heck, you can be a playable giant spider or a warg. How many games can claim that?

It's time for PvMP to finally escape the bounds of the Ettenmoors and become more of an asset to Turbine's marketing than a shameful secret tucked away in a 2007-era zone. With all of the advances in the game's technology, it would be pretty awesome to see a zone in Rohan or Gondor where players could raise cities or build defenses. If I knew that going into Mordor, there might be the possibility that one of the enemies I'd face would have a human intelligence behind it, I'd welcome a whole new feel to the game.

And as I indicated a few paragraphs before, it could be a really interesting experiment to create a PvMP server and see whether it flourished or fell.

Maybe that's more work for a smaller population than Turbine has interest in pursuing. LotRO is, of course, a PvE game to its roots. But as my mother sagely told us, either poop or get off the pot. Invest more in PvMP and try to attract us "outside in lookers," or perhaps scrap the system entirely. Turn Ettenmoors into a rose garden or an ice hockey rink.

Well. Now I've guaranteed that an Orc is going to behead me in my sleep. Oh well.

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.

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