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Lord of the Rings Online

Massively Exclusive: Turbine on the future of Asheron's Call and the studio

Fantasy, Asheron's Call, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Interviews, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play

When has putting an MMO into maintenance mode ever signaled a bright future for a game? Even so, that's what seems to have happened for Asheron's Call, which is preparing to not only transition into a maintenance mode phase but drop subscription fees and allow for player-run servers by the end of the year.

The announcement was so unusual in the industry that we had to reach out to Turbine to get more perspective on this move. Asheron's Call Executive Producer Rob Ciccolini took the time to answer a few questions about the change for the game, Turbine's recent layoffs, and how the studio is adjusting going forward.

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The Road to Mordor: LotRO's big battles are a big bust

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Road to Mordor

Recently my journey through Helm's Deep came to a close as I finished all of the quests plus advanced the epic story as far as it could go. Overall, I loved the expansion: It had great pacing, beautiful scenery, memorable quests, and an obvious dedication to doing The Two Towers right. But there was one glaring fault that Lord of the Rings Online seemed to save for the last, which I discovered during my foray into the big battle system.

Other than visiting them in a couple of press tours, I had been avoiding big battles (even though you can jump in one starting at level 10) because I wanted to experience them organically as part of the storyline. I wasn't necessarily anticipating them, but I wasn't dreading them either. "Mild curiosity" is perhaps the emotion that I identified within my breast, and as it turned out, that was wildly overpreparing for the experience that followed.

Big battles are, I'm sorry to say, a big bust in LotRO. Sure, they have their positives and moments, but for a system that Turbine spent over a year to create and shoved aside instances and raids in favor of putting into the expansion, it should have been so much more. So what went wrong?

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Lord of the Rings Online fully automates character transfers

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Business Models, Free-to-Play

It's been long in the process, but now it's finally here: Lord of the Rings Online has switched over to a fully automated character transfer process.

"We are pleased to announce that as of today, Monday, March 3rd, automated character transfers are available to all players for both Free People and Monsters," Turbine posted on the forums. "This is something you have been requesting for some time, and we are very excited to have the service ready for you now!"

Players can move characters between servers by purchasing transfer tokens through the LotRO Market website. One token is $24.95, three tokens is $69.95, and six tokens is $134.95. Unfortunately the new system will not take Turbine Points, nor will it allow players to transfer between NA and EU servers. Turbine said that players have a "limited time" to request a transfer with Turbine Points by contacting support.

Turbine outlines the path ahead for LotRO and DDO

Fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Free-to-Play, Dev Diaries

Coming hot on the heels of yesterday's revelation about the future of Asheron's Call, Turbine posted a pair of producer's letters this morning to talk about where Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online are heading.

Aaron Campbell has moved back to the LotRO team to be its executive producer and said that Update 13 will be coming soon. In Update 13, there will be a revamp of North Downs, additional quests in Fangorn Forest, support for multiple attachments in mail, and a new epic book that allows you to play as an Ent. "We're pressing forward to Gondor," Campbell promised. "We're digging in deep (but not too deep) to continue the journey through Middle-earth."

As for DDO, Franchise Director Athena Peters said the team is getting ready to push out Update 21 on March 10th but is also looking beyond that to the second update of 2014. Update 22 will expand Three Barrel Cove into epic levels and add new guild airship amenities.

The Road to Mordor: When storm clouds gather...

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO Industry, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Road to Mordor

When I think about the news swirling around Lord of the Rings Online lately, I feel a bit like Sam and Frodo getting their first glimpse of Mordor and Mount Doom. It's hard to think of cheer and happiniess when the view is full of heavy clouds and ash.

I have several positive articles that I'd rather be penning this week, but I think it would be a mistake to avoid the questions and feelings that all LotRO players are experiencing right now, including me. It may not be the journey that I'd like to be taking, but it's the one that's needed right now.

So let's sit down together, fill our tankards, and mull over just what's going on with our Middle-earth. Maybe in the talking and in the company we will find the solace and comfort that we need.

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The Daily Grind: Do layoff announcements affect your MMO gameplay?

Fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Business Models, MMO Industry, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Daily Grind

LotRO's Wildermore
Yesterday's Turbine layoff announcement wasn't particularly surprising, given the fact that the firm has tied its MMO fortunes to a couple of third-party IPs and has been giving away access to its games for the past few years.

Regardless of whether or not we believe Warner Bros. "normal strategic alignment" statement, layoffs are layoffs and they reflect negatively on an ongoing game service to some extent. What that extent is varies from player to player, of course, and that's where today's Daily Grind comes in. Do MMO studio layoff announcements cause you to rethink the amount of time or money you spend on a given game, or is it just business as usual?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

Turbine suffers another round of layoffs

Asheron's Call, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO Industry, News Items, Miscellaneous, Infinite Crisis

Gamasutra and Twitter are reporting that an unspecified number of Turbine employees have been fired today in a new round of layoffs.

A Warner Bros. representative responded with an official statement: "As part of our normal business process, we're routinely looking at the strategic alignment of our company. Unfortunately, in order for us to invest in growth areas at Turbine, we have to eliminate some positions. These are always tough decisions, which we don't approach lightly, but it's crucial that Turbine is structured in a way that reflects the current and coming marketplace."

Massively has reached out to Turbine for additional comments.

Jukebox Heroes: Elf music

World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, Vanguard, Runes of Magic, Miscellaneous, ArcheAge, Jukebox Heroes, Music

As probably many of you know, I am no fan of the Elven menace. I won't rehash the reasons n this space, but I mention that because I do try to be a fair man. When I'm not trying to eradicate any pointy-eared immortal know-it-all tree-hugger in sight, I have been known to appreciate the Elves' musical culture. That doesn't make me a hypocrite. It just gives me slight pause before ganking the next Drizzt or Legolas.

For whatever reason, Elves bring out the magic and talent in MMO composition. Elven themes are quite often among the best that a particular OST has to offer, particularly if you like airy, magical, ethereal tracks that are big on imagination and almost devoid of percussion. I've been noting the trend of excellent Elf music for years and figured I might as well devote a week to it here before going back to my Elf-bashing ways.

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The Road to Mordor: How LotRO explores what it means to be a hero

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Road to Mordor

Developers, journalists, and bloggers alike have spent gobs of time chewing on the concept of heroism in MMOs: what makes us heroes, how these games can be tailored to make us feel heroic, whether games should force us to be heroes, and whether heroism is a desirable trait for a gamer. What we can agree on is that, if nothing else, the term has been so widely used and abused that we don't even think about the fact that "hero" is often used synonymously with the term "player character." It's just accepted that we're all heroes in MMOs as a base characteristic.

But am I a hero? At the start of an MMO, no, I am not. I am a blank slate. My character has no backstory inside of the game, no accolades under her belt, and no past adventures in which she showed herself to be anything out of the ordinary. That's another thing about heroes, apparently: They can't be ordinary. They have to become uber-elite and save the world, preferably on a weekly basis by beating something to death with an axe or immolating it with a fireball spell.

Lord of the Rings Online and its dev team may not be innocent of trying to shove us into the roles of heroes and play to that allegedly universal fantasy, but what I do appreciate is that this game has made me truly consider what it is to be a hero and how most MMOs get it wrong.

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Lord of the Rings Online community Q&A talks region revamps

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Free-to-Play, Community Q&A

The number 42 isn't just the answer to life, the universe, and everything; it's also the number of questions that Turbine addressed in a new LotRO community Q&A forum post.

A majority of the questions had to do with upcoming content, in particular what's coming with Update 13. In addition to the revamp of North Downs, the devs are apparently working on retooling Misty Mountains and Trollshows, as well as adding "a small slice of new region content." A future Paths of the Dead update was teased as well: "You can expect to see the Paths of the Dead in some form. Aragorn's path through them is described rather specifically, but I think your character will have a different reason to enter and explore the Paths."

So what other features are the team working on right now? It sounds as though Rohan housing might be a possibility as are catapults in the Ettenmoors. Kinships and housing will receive some cross-feature love, crafters could see a wider range of tradeskills, and mail and inventory are both being worked on at the moment.

Lord of the Rings Online to revamp North Downs and more

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Patches, Previews, Free-to-Play

With its focus shifting from expansions to regular content in 2014, Turbine has announced that one of its upcoming projects is a revamp of Lord of the Rings Online's North Downs.

During a recent in-game event, Community Manager Rick Heaton said that North Downs will be one of several zones to receive love in a future update: "Update 13 will see a few zones revamped. A few of have been asked for by many people. You will get some more information in the 20 questions, but I'll spill the beans since you going to read it next week. North Downs will be getting a once-over."

North Downs was widely rumored to be the next zone to be reworked several years ago following the major revamps of Evendim and Lone-lands.

The Road to Mordor: The ins and outs of LotRO's mithril coins

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Business Models, Economy, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Road to Mordor

Even though mithril coins have been in the game for the better part of a year now, we haven't really had a discussion about them in this space. I think it's time to do that, especially considering how Turbine keeps expanding the reach and utility of this handy-dandy (and expensive-wensive) currency in Lord of the Rings Online.

Mithril coins were added in March 2013's Update 10, and their purchasing power expanded in subsequent updates. Basically, the mithril coin was a new type of currency that offered a quick and clean solution to buying goods and services in the game without the player's having to go through the LotRO store. Think of them as video arcade tokens, obtained with real money and used on the entertainment that you desire. Turbine saw these coins as a way to streamline certain pay-for-service portions of the game that had their own separate currencies (such as revival tomes and stablemaster writs). One unified currency for a variety of uses.

I haven't seen a lot of chatter on these coins as of late, leading me to believe that their inclusion in the game is more or less accepted now. Some people find the coins irritating and an abuse of free-to-play moneygrabbing tactics. Others find them very useful and welcome in the game. I have a foot planted in both camps, and today we're going to look at the ins and outs of using mithril coins.

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The Daily Grind: Do you like LotRO's mounted combat?

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Daily Grind

Lord of the Rings Online - The Norcrofts
I realize that I'm like a year late to Riders of Rohan and Lord of the Rings Online's mounted combat, but I'm nonetheless enjoying it a fair bit. It's different, for one thing. And it's got customizable horses and plenty of room to ride them, for another.

It lags a bit more than I'd like, even when there are no other players around, and that brings me to my point. I rarely see anyone participating in mounted combat, at least on the Landroval server around the Norcrofts, Wold, and Entwash Vale areas. It could be that everyone's at endgame and Helm's Deep, or it could be that I'm just playing at the wrong times. Or it could be any number of other factors, including the possibility that mounted combat isn't that popular with LotRO's playerbase.

What say you, Massively readers? Do you like LotRO's mounted combat?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

Lord of the Rings Online renews license through 2017

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play

Turbine has secured the license for Lord of the Rings Online -- for a few more years, at least.

Community Manager Rick Heaton confirmed the license renewal on the official forums today: "I just wanted to drop in and address the concerns surrounding the license, again. We have said as far back as July of 2013, we plan to support LotRO for many years to come. I really want to be as clear as possible on this subject to avoid any further confusion or misunderstanding. The license was renewed."

For more on the issue of LotRO and the license to Tolkien's works, you can check out last year's Road to Mordor column on the subject.

LotRO not working on new dungeons, has no plans to merge servers

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Free-to-Play, Community Q&A

Lord of the Rings Online Community Manager Rick Heaton spent time answering various player queries during a recent "Take the Hobbits to Isengard" event, and an enterprising player recorded the salient details to pass along.

Heaton said that despite demand from players, the team is not working on creating any new traditional instances, raids, or Rohan housing. He did comment that one of the older zones is a "possibility" for a revamp during 2014 and that there are no plans to merge servers. For players looking to jump from the old Codemasters servers to the other ones, Heaton reported that a "significant technical issue" has kept this from becoming a reality.

If you're curious about how many people are playing the game, well, you're going to be curious for a long time to come. "Unless we can say we have 10 million players and are bigger than World of Warcraft, what's the point?" asked Heaton during the event.

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