[CC] The scale of scaling

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In the beginning, there was Bree. Your first place you found your party members for your venture in the Great Barrows. One massive subterranean infested area full of wights and keys to having a chance at an audience with Sambrog. That is at least the story if you were around level 20 in 2007. Each instance had his own level range. You could still run it at a different time, but it wasn’t that much of a challenge.

But the landscapes change, the games change and the people (customers) change. Lotro has had its ups and downs over the 10 years. Each person has their memories and plenty of content has been made over the years. But one thing that’s still part of the game is largely dimmed in shadow. The scale of scaling in Lotro. Scaling has been essential to it. From old content being revamped (or re-used depending how you look at it) and giving each person a way to get experience in grouping or experience from a skirmish or big battle.

Lotro has seen its fair share of lay-off and downgrades over the years. Each change has been hyped or cursed from F2P, no more raids, mounted combat or trait line revamps. Scaling has been part of us for years now and Critters casual and Eme will take you on a journey through the years of instances and grouped content in LOTRO. We’ll start with a short overview and delve deeper into Earth and end up in the Middle of scaling Lotro.

All of fornost in one instance

The start of scaling
The first scaling got introduced as part of Update 9, Shadows of the past part 1. Followed by the expansion of Mirkwood that also brought us a few skirmishes. Across the following updates instances like the Great barrows, Fornost or Helegrod were split up into smaller wings. They would then scale from their original level all the way to the level cap.

The mix
One expansion later we had gotten more pre-moria instances scaled, a few more skirmishes. But Isengard brought us a new set of enemies. None of them scaled and Moria was still untouched. Some major players from Angmar were left untouched and till this day they remain as silent as Erebor was for years. Scaling looked as great way to add repeatability to a game and updates with “new content” every few months.

The motherload of scaling
The road to Erebor was paved with scaling. A massive amount of instances and raids were released across two updates with the smaller groups first and the raids a bit later. The same schedule that looks familiar to the Mordorians. But make no mistake this path has been in Lotro since it’s inception. In their absence was the name of the quest that gave us our first expansion without a multi-boss raid environment. Each instance was flavourful, made to last about 30 minutes and part of a MMO-world that changed.

Survey data from Daedulus project

The no raid-era, big battles
If Riders of Rohan was the bite-sized lunch. Helms deep and the infamous quote of Sapience that raiders were a minority in Lotro (and mmo’s) was gaming snack time. Gondor was going to be an era of big battles. Scaling got his big brother in them. Not will you have to find enough players to do a 6-man. All people will be the same.  A different way to group, but it remains an essential part of LOTRO. The decisions made during these years still bring back mixed responses, but in the end, it proved to be a new weapon in the arsenal of grouping.

The revival of end-game only and backward scaling
Osgiligath brought us new instances, a bit before that we got Roving threats. excellent instances that were for the level cap. But these scaled the other way. Lower levels from 50 and onward could venture into the sunken labyrinth or strike massive mumakills down. Minas tirith brought us a similar set, but these instances proved to be of little interest to the hobbits and dwarves still in Eriador. The battle of Pelenor fields gave us a level 105 only raid. Was scaling on its way back?

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor mmo subscription numbers

To scale or not to scale?
As technology progressed so did the options the developers had. But not every game has the basis to implement these things. Some games like Guild wars are made with scaling in mind from the ground up, others like Elder scrolls online or star wars added it to their games later. It can be a blessing to not have to worry about level gaps, developing new loot. But this can be a curse at the same time. If everything is available to all then what is your focal point (what’s your endgame or selling point)? What do you do after you done it all once? The story and journey become lost. It becomes a game about numbers and efficiency. Scaling is a cheap and excellent tool. Like every tool, it needs to be maintained and the person wielding it needs to feel he’s accomplishing something.

Mordor, layoffs, and SSG
This chapter is as fresh as a plump bread out of the oven of a Boston bakery. The changes in the game world, layoffs at Turbine and the overall resources available to the developers are all part of the decisions that resonate in Lotro to this day. The 105 raid had a short-lived life it scaled in the first few public betas in Mordor. The new 115 instances will scale backward to 105 and it’s reasonable to assume that the raid will be 115 only. Mordor has been the biggest reset to Lotro since Helms deep and it feels it’s still a bit unfinished. The groundwork is done with difficulty set to classic LOTRO. Will scaling be part of the future? The gearing certainly is as can be seen in the new gear. Mordor is building on a new foundation with a new name.

The scale of scaling
The future might be not here yet and we’ll have to see. I can give you a short look into the past. And feel pretty certain. Without scaling content, lotro wouldn’t have been around anymore.  I’ll leave you with a famous quote from a certain elf. And numbers that speak for themselves. I’ll see you soon on Eme’s journey across the instanced part of Middle-earth.

“And some mechanics and tactics that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for 10 years, lotro hasn’t passed out of all knowledge.”

Scaling content reachable from the instance finder (71 total)
8 big battles
44 instances
19 skirmishes

Non-scaling content reachable from the instance finder (29 total)
29 instances

What a mess of an article
It sure is. What started out as a look into scaling instances quickly turned into a bigger project to check out the history of Lotro. The scale of scaling had went deeper then just the mechanics and it proved to be hard to make a summarized article. The decisions made by turbine are entwined with real world events. Too many what-ifs popped up with not enough facts or data (to be found) to dispute or confirm them. Each chapter in lotro’s history had been the rebirth or death of itself depending on who you ask. Perhaps its even impossible to make an objectional overview of its history. You’ve got to work to a conclusion in an article and I’m not sure we’ve seen that conclusion to lotro just yet.

Future articles will focus on a specifc moment in time, instance cluster or a look under the hood of Lotro.

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