The task to build a Lotro (classic)


Lotro was better when [insert time], because [insert patch] destroyed the game. No Angmar article is complete without a comment like this. But at what time was it better, what has destroyed the game and are there these things?

What is a Classic or Vanilla Lotro?
If there wasn’t any objection what moment in time would be the best choice to roll back lotro to? Usually that gets answered with Shadows of Angmar lotro, Moria, Isengard, pre-Helms deep or before the essences. For now we’ll focus on classic lotro/SoA lotro since we’ve just had our Angmar articles.

Frozen in time or nitpick 10 years of lotro
This still spans a good 1,5 years from before we even had a raid and Evendim to just before the steps of Moria. I think most people can agree that we need Evendim and Forochel cause leveling was just horrible before that. Would we take the revamped north downs, Trollshaws and Misty mountain or would we go truly old school? All in all would we freeze lotro in time before Eregion or would we nit pick the area in their best state. Most areas are far more pleasant and entertaining in their current form for me. That’s the landscape settled

To scale or not
But the objectives would we fairly limited with only 1 raid to do and no skirmishes. Do we take all the instances that scale like Fornost, Annuminas and the great barrow with us? The game would be pretty boring after a while with only Angmar and Helegrod to do. Dome of stars is level 50 and pretty challenging to do. But that would just be weird without the city itself. I guess we could make another Road to Erebor and call it Minas Tirith avenue.

The beacons are lit and so are the trait tree pitch forks
If there was anything brighter than Saurons massive Barad dur torchlight it was any topic that discussed the trait trees, mounted combat and big battles. The two Rohan based expansions brought us so many things that are different to when the game launched.
Since mounted combat is out for mostly technical reasons i would like to keep the fast travels, but we’ll leave that be. That leaves us with the trait tree or have all skills available and play Tetris with your hotbars. Personally i like the idea of trait trees and would rather live with them than without them. I cant imagine to run a hunter with Barrage, heart seeker, burn hot, all the traps available and other crowd controls. With everything available there will be a clear best build that everyone would run. Surely we need some tweaks, but i like to actually have to choose my build.

30 minutes of bite-sized lotro
Big battles and skirmishes ill swap under 1 rug since they both have big proponent and haters. And i like to think of them as them as bite-size portions of mmo. Older instances are not built with cleaning time in mind. Both the big battles and skirmishes (and most scaled t1 instances) are configured that they take about 30 minutes to complete. Long enough to not make them feel really repetitive and short enough to not lose focus or drag them out. I feel this is more of a psychological and game design choice i think a true 3 hour carn dum lotro would not be entertaining for long enough.
A bite-size lotro with bigger and more unique runs as an option would be heaven. Being able to choose a Tier 2 urugarth or a system where you could up the difficulty like Diablo 3 with an instance or skirmish would add a great competitive element . Even in a classic Lotro.

How to do a classic lotro now
All of the above are mostly wishful thinking of how to make your own lotro. But you can make your own classic lotro already. Special project and kins exist that set rules on what is allowed or what level range you can play. Before Mordor, our kin ran a level 50/60 cap group without any other rules like legendary items or specific gear limits. A rolling level cap project like slow to has come and go, but over time the group drifted in interest. And artificial limits were too high, too low or too long. its hard to keep a cohesive group going for months or years. We’ve found that most not-scaled content was too easy and that scaled content had balance issues. *A
For a true classic lotro you would need to remove all these limits. Have someone set the rules that everyone operates by. Would there be enough people who would keep playing it for long enough to make it viable? *B

Classic lotro is a really great though experiment, but there are so many technical, budget, player based and design issues and ranges that we know it just won’t happen.*C Each paragraph is a really small part of what thoughts and discussions you could have. Each time in Lotro has had it flaws and velvet. Memories of the first Thaurlach kill are still in my mind, but i wont spent 4/7 days a week raiding in moment of my life. On the other times there are weekends where i would like a bit of a grind fest that isn’t possible with daily loot locks or 30-min lotro bits.

If you can find a couple of friend or server mates to level and do content on a level I heartily recommend it. A cross server instance finder would be really great. But on the other hand, people aren’t running level 115 Fires of Smaug for the challenge without reward. So that might only work for smaller group sizes.

Would i forego all my characters to relive these times in a more permanent setting? No, not a chance. I don’t have nearly any interest in a full-on MMO-job that the game used to be. Nearly every revamped area or leveling pace i would pick over the old version. Would like to have more options to increase difficulty on landscape. Mordor did an excellent job at this, but even that would need a lot of tweaking for certain classes. For now i’ll make due with under powered classes or overleveled quests to scratch the itch if it comes up. And then slowly slide back in the comforting chair that im used to at this time. * D

Appendix A – Classic other MMO
Other MMO’s have tackled the grouping and leveling problems before by making everything scalable. Guild wars had it bit in from the start and star wars The old republic or Eso added it afterwards. Each option has is pro’s and con’s, but its great for first time players. But it would make every new character a new main leveling wise. It would make finding a companion for an instance or a quest more easy in lotro. But do i really want to run a new char through the same areas as before? Alts to me are that, alts.

Currently wow has a beta running for a revamped level scaling. Each expansion area now has dynamic level range. In addition to a more challenging dungeons. From what i’ve read it feels like a mix of guild wars landscape and lotro skirmishes. Your quests will never turn grey, the rewards are on your level and the level ranges from the minimal to a set max for that expansion level maximum.

If and when such a thing would go live it’s unknown. But it would forego having to switch regions in wow/lotro to level. It would give you the chance to finish the stories in an area. It could work in lotro, but you might be level 115 by the time you’d enter Moria if you follow the epic story and each quest. It would make Middle-earth even more immense.

Appendix B – Classic servers (a wow story) viability
We don’t know that much about the servers that run Lotro itself. I’m going to assume that each instance or world area is part of a virtual server from information about older mmos and general information like how lag operates in area’s like Bree, Ettenmoors, and new quest regions when launched.

What this means that each little area is a separate little piece of Middle-earth. When you cross into a new area you might get teleported into a new loading screen. Each part has a maximum capacity or runs on a different physical server. Each new iteration or update changed a little of how the game would run in the background.

To give you an idea of how big an undertaking it would be to turn back the clock on lotro or any other MMO. Blizzard had announced that they are working on a way to run Classic WoW. They are making a separate development team on top of the normal studio team for this project.

I know you’re not ready to talk about the release date here. It sounds like you’re at the very early stages of development here and as you’ve mentioned, you’re still in the hiring process. But are we talking about months of development before this goes live, or years?

J. Allen Brack: This is a massive effort. This is a very, very significant effort. I would not expect it to be soon. We actually don’t know when we’re going to release it. I know that’s a generic answer that we give for all of our Blizzard titles, but with this one, we don’t actually know how long it will take.
But do you suspect we’re talking about months here, or years?
J. Allen Brack: This is a massive effort.

What does it cost?

No idea, but probably a lot. Part of the job requirements was a massive drive to make it run. I read this as that it’s a really nasty job that comes with a lot of setbacks. In the same way that Lotro is in the works of converting LotRO’s engine to a 64-bit version that has the same kind of Legacy soft and hardware obstacles that a classic wow would have on some level i guess. One difference is, of course, the number of people and resources a company like Blizzard has available.

For a deeper look into the technical issues PCgamer had a pretty in-depth interview with some engineers of other games to shed some light on it.

Appendix C – Revamp and rebuild difficulty
Private servers of WoW and other MMO’s have been run before. These emulate a point in time or patch by 3rd party sources. These usually operate in a grey area of copyright and protected IP’s. But they show it is viable to make them with a dedicated team. But these servers usually work on a very specific state of the game. Meaning it’s near impossible to update or add content without reverse engineering the content creation tools. Some studio’s have given these tools to the community and others keep it strictly in-house.
In a perfect world lotro could be rebuilt from the ground up and each person could choose how they would love to play. But in the end servers and development teams have to be paid. We’ll see how the world of lotro will grow and have to wait for any technical news. The game engine has some leeway to improve itself and we know they are working on something.

Appendix D – Open source – maintenance mode – Shut down (no lotro zomg is dead! appendix)
Beyond a classic or immense change to the games themselves, there are other ways a game can go. Below a few options, games and their developers can go beyond the classic or revamp option.

Some games have been given an open source license like Red alert and other command and conquer. And continue to be run and expanded by the community. Or games are made to resemble them like Transport tycoon

Sometimes games have run their course or new titles are being developed like Final Fantasy XI and XIV. At other times games like Anarchy online and age of Conan stopped being actively developed, but remained playable. The last two games have had recent announcements and inquiries and get rebooted.

Other times studio’s go bankrupt or just shut down a game. This is relatively often in Asian MMO’s, but doesn’t happen that often in western studio’s. A lot of ruckus comes from these events like Turbines own Ashercons call, Westwood buyout by EA, Gamespy online services or Daybreak games track record (SSG’s publisher). So far lotro and ddo are on the good uptick, but we all know a perfect world is hard to find.

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