Lord of the Rings Online European servers to be transferred to Turbine

Today’s shock press release:

Turbine announced today that it will be expanding its global operations and will assume full control of The Lord of the Rings Online™ (LOTRO) in Europe beginning June 1, 2011. As part of this transition, Codemasters Online will continue to operate the European LOTRO service until June 1st when the existing European players will begin the migration to Turbine’s global service. For more information on the transition, please visit http://www.lotro.com/news/latestnews/1157.

“We are working very closely with our partner Codemasters Online to facilitate a smooth transition to our new global service. We will be providing free account transfers to our new global service and players will be notified when the transfer utility is available,” said Kate Paiz, Executive Producer of The Lord of the Rings Online. “We thank Codemasters for the outstanding job they have done publishing and operating LOTRO and we look forward to continuing to deliver one of the world’s best online entertainment experiences to the gamers of Europe.”

“After 4 years of successful publishing and operations we are proud to be handing over a vibrant and healthy service to Turbine,” said David Solari, Vice President and General Manager of Codemasters Online. ”I’d like to thank our many customers over the years for their commitment and look forward to bringing more service-based entertainment to them in the future.”

It’s a shock because when the DDO server merger announcement was made, LotRO players were understandably concerned the same might be happening to them. The impression that we got was that this was not going to be happening any time soon, if ever, and that Codemaster’s contract still had many years yet to run. Perhaps both parties came to an agreement to cut it short.

Lifetime accounts and any subscription time will be honoured, and the servers will be staying intact and unmerged, so it sounds like Turbine have learned something from DDOs pretty terrible merging experience. That being the case, I don’t think European players have too much to worry about in the long-term. Let us hope it does not take months after Codemaster switching their servers off for them to be remade by Turbine this time.

You can find more information as to what steps you need to take to transfer your characters in the FAQ.

LOTRO: Rise of Isengard – The White Wizard approaches.

Do not let him speak. He will put a spell on us! Ahhh, too late!!!

WARNER BROS. INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT, TURBINE AND CODEMASTERS ONLINE UNVEIL THE LORD OF THE RINGS ONLINE™: RISE OF ISENGARD™

New Digital Expansion to The Lord of the Rings Online™ Launching Fall 2011

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment unveiled today The Lord of the Rings Online™: Rise of Isengard™, the latest expansion to the award-winning free-to-play massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) developed by Turbine. Rise of Isengard will expand the online world of Middle-earth where players will join forces to press further eastward into the legendary region of Isengard. Rise of Isengard will be available for purchase in the LOTRO Store in the Fall of 2011 with an increased level cap, the new region of Isengard including the legendary tower of Orthanc, enhancements to monster play and much more!

“2010 has been a year of unprecedented growth for The Lord of the Rings Online with our successful introduction of a free-to-play option for our players,” said Kate Paiz, Executive Producer of The Lord of the Rings Online. “This is going to be another outstanding year for the game as we progress on our journey toward Mordor and it all begins with our upcoming November update. The journey will carry through 2011 ending with our arrival in the epic region of Isengard where players will confront the raging war and shadow that has spread across Middle-earth.”

NEW FEATURES:

* Experience the Rise of Isengard – The Epic Story continues as the Grey Company makes its way south into Dunland, but troubles arise as their road takes them into lands where Dunlending forces, marshaled by the Wizard Saruman, prepare for war. The Rangers must seek new allies and face dangerous new foes, chief among them the traitor Saruman, whose web of intrigue threatens to endanger your quest, your friends, and your life.

* Increased Level Cap — Players will be able advance their characters up to level 70, gaining access to new traits, virtues, skills and class quests.

* Expanded Monster Play – LOTRO’s monster play system will get a major revamp including opening up the feature to all players, changes to monster player skills and advancement and a brand new region for players to battle for or against the forces of evil.

Autumn 2011 feels like an age away. I’m a little surprised, as I thought the F2P system would encourage the release of smaller chunks of content as often as possible, rather than a large expansion in a year’s time. Perhaps we’ll see other new content appear in the meantime. In any case, after spending so long battling Sharkey’s boys, I shall be looking forward to bearding the lion in his own den!

Hooom…. and then mayhap to Fangorn? But let us not be hasty.

LOTRO: Back to the Future of Ered Luin – November Update Preview

The upcoming changes to LOTRO that I posted about a couple of days ago have gotten me sufficiently intrigued that I decided to brave the 10 GB download, and go check out the Bullroarer server for myself. As I like to do, I’m going to play and take notes as I go.

The Dwarven tutorial is much changed, and for the better I think, with more of Thorin’s expedition members making an appearance. We see Thorin officially transfer stewardship of the hold to his friend, Gormr Doursmith. I won’t spoil the story for you, but its many changes add quite a bit of background to the tale. It was a little jarring for the roles within the story to be given to different people now, but if I hadn’t played the previous version, I would definitely say that this new telling is superior.

LOTRO New Dwarf Spawnpoint And Quest Window 550x324

Elvish Treachery!!! Where's my city gone?? Oh, there it is.

What Elvish treachery be this??? Upon finishing the tutorial, and quickly travelling 75 years into the future, I was shocked to not find myself standing outside Thorin’s Hold, but over near the Refuge of Edhelion where Elf characters would usually start.

In that picture you can also see the new quest window. I was happy enough with the old one, but the new one seems fine too.

The early Dwarf and Elf Introduction quests, which used to be separate up to a point before converging, are now more or less unified, though with different quest-text in some places. The map too is changed. I shall venture forth, along this shiny new quest-path.

Oho! What’s this? On the body of a Cave Burrower in the Silver Deep mine I find a Tin Token. The wiki tells me that that’s for the yearly Anniversary events. I guess that they’ve been enabled to make it easier for people to test the new Barter Wallet, which greedily intercepted the token before it could reach my inventory.

Back outside I follow the quests onwards, nervously passing a pack of barghest. You didn’t used to meet barghest until the Barrow Downs, so it’s a little weird to see these level 2 ones glaring at me. The barghest are FAR from all that’s changed around here though.

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The Berghold. I don't like what they've done with the place.

The Dourhand have been busy, and transformed the old Berghold storage depot into a rather sinister tomb. I do a couple of little jobs for Gormr, then head off to Dwalin to report my findings.

Dwalin sends me westward, and if I had thought the changes to the land I had already seen were significant, nothing could have prepared me for this:

LOTRO Ered Luin Revamp Strip Mining 550x324

Strip Mining! It's Undwarven!!!

The landscape has been strip-mined bare, and weird machinery spews smoke and fumes into the mountain air. Technology of this sort is always associated with corruption in Middle-Earth, and these vile machines could almost have been designed by Saruman himself. I find out where all the aurochs have gotten to; they are now being used as ill-treated beasts of burden by the Dourhand mining operation.

Fighting my way up through Dourhand guards I head into the Mirkstone tunnels, only to find that they have been overun by wights and corrupted spirits! Good gracious! All those silly humans and hobbits have to worry about in their introduction version of Archet is a few bandits! The corrupted spirits are even causing dread! This might be a little over the top, as undead really aren’t supposed to be all over the place in LOTR, and fighting them at level 6 feels a bit odd. This isn’t Toril!

Having finished up there I head back to Dwalin for what I suspect will be the big finale. Before I do that though, I’d better make a quick video of the changes to the land, as I don’t know for sure that the main Ered Luin zone has been changed. I’d hope that once the Longbeards have driven the Dourhands out that we can at least clean up some of this mess and corruption.

The Elven and Dwarven introduction quest-lines are completely redone, with nothing remaining of the old quests. That would normally make me a little unhappy, but the new quest-line does a much better job of storytelling, in my opinion, and I think it will quickly become popular amongst players. On entering the “real” Ered Luin, things return somewhat to normal, so far as quests are concerned, though I don’t have time to play all the way through the zone so there may be changes.

LOTRO: A Race Through the Haunted Burrow walkthrough video.

I’ve still not gotten around to sampling the Halloween fare of all the other MMO’s I currently have access to. I’ve been having too much fun just fiddling around in LOTRO. It has been so many years since I last played it that it has had a chance to redevelop that delicious new game smell.

I’ve been meaning to test whether my computer can capture high resolution videos for games like LOTRO for a while. Today was the perfect time to find out, when a friend asked me for help with one of the Haunted Burrow quests. It’s a timed one called Race Through the Haunted Burrow, and if you’ve not got your route sorted out in your head in advance, it can be a bit tricky.

I recorded it using Fraps at full screen resolution, and my machine seems to have coped, which is a relief. I record the Minecraft ones at half resolution, because you’re unlikely to really notice. Anyhows, hopefully YouTube will treat it kindly, and it’ll be decent enough to let folks be able to have a good look at the radar map if they need.

Now I know this can be done, I shall have to consider how to make use of it. With great power comes great irresponsibility.

Lord of the Rings Online’s November Update hits the Bullroarer test server.

As we hoped, the switch to F2P has breathed new life into Lord of the Rings Online. Like DDO, it seems that content is coming much faster than before, and November’s update is a fairly hefty one. The full notes are below the fold, but here’s a few of the highlights.

Experience more of Middle-earth – FOR FREE!
Free and Premium players will now be able to access Moria, Lothlórien, Mirkwood, and Enedwaith for FREE! We have adjusted the access of Free and Premium players. You may now follow the Epic Story line through Moria, Mirkwood and, Enedwaith. This includes free access to the following:

  • The Legendary item system.
  • Attain level 65.
  • Access Moria, Mirkwood, Lothlórien, and Enedwaith regions.

Note: You will still need to purchase the appropriate quest packs or expansion packs to access other content (quests, deeds, instances, classes, etc) in these areas.

Fantastic news. The Epic Storyline is my favourite part of the game. It’s interesting that Turbine have decided to provide more content for free. Perhaps they’ve seen more profit in selling accessories and cosmetics than they have in quest-packs. This would be the reverse of how things have been working in DDO, but they are very different games. It does reduce the usefulness of the official expansions, especially with the removal of the level cap that you would normally have needed them for, so I would hope that they see a reduction in cost.

Swift Travel Changes
Swift Travel Routes that previously required that the player be a subscriber are now usable by past subscribers as well (although only by characters created or used during the subscriber period).

New Barter Wallet
We have new Barter Wallet! The Barter Wallet will hold all Skirmish Marks used to purchase items from the Skirmish Barter Vendors as well as all Anniversary Tokens. The Barter Wallet may be opened by clicking on the Caret symbol at the lower left of your screen and selecting Barter Wallet from the list of panels.

With the inventory problems that haunt me from MMO to MMO, I’m looking forward to the barter wallet. Functionally it sounds pretty much identical to the token wallet that EQ2 got last month, but space is at far more of a premium in LOTRO. It’ll be particularly useful to F2Pers who haven’t yet unlocked all their backpacks or much bank space.

Tasks
Tasks are free repeatable quest that players can use to augment their leveling within the game world. We’ll have a full developer diary about this new system in the coming weeks, but here’s some of what you can expect

  • Over 250 new quests.
  • 100% FREE to All players.
  • Use existing trophy drops.
  • NEW Deeds and Rewards.
  • Available at all levels, starting at Level 8.
  • Infinitely repeatable.

I’m a bit vague on exactly what makes these “tasks” so different from ordinary repeatable quests that they need their own name. Still, it’s EVEN MORE free content.

Reputation Mounts
We have reviewed much of the feedback players have offered regarding reputation mounts and what they represent in terms of accomplishment and time invested. You’ve made it very clear that these mounts should be special and reflect the effort required to earn them. We agree. Reputation mounts have received an upgrade in their stats. These mounts will now have 250 health, receive reduced critical damage and allow characters to block, parry and evade while mounted.

We have also added many new reputation mounts to the game. You may want to revisit some old stomping grounds to see if there is something new for you at an old beloved faction. You might find them on vendors or from barterers.

In the future some mounts purchased through the LOTRO Store may share appearances with the reputation mounts, but will be weaker than their earned counterparts.

I’m not at the stage where I’m going to be getting these just yet, but more mounts is always fun! It is significant that they’re making the point that the version of the steed you buy ingame will be superior to the Turbine Point storebought one.

Ered Luin Revamp
The Elf and Dwarf starting areas in Ered Luin have been completely revamped! Full details will be included in an upcoming Developer’s Diary. Create a new character and try it out for yourself!

I’m always nervous about changes like this, as there is potential for glorious old content to be swept away or spoiled. I’ll have to wait and see what that Dev Diary has to say!

Update: I’ve checked the Ered Luin changes out on Bullroarer, and found them to be good.

Storage Revisions
You have given us a tremendous amount of feedback since our major overhaul of the Vault and Shared Storage systems. We’ve heard you! These systems have received a major rework. Read the Developer’s Diary for the full details. (LINK)

Rune-keepers and Lore-masters
Lore-masters and Rune-keepers can look forward to new skills, upgrades, and other changes. Developer Diaries detailing and explaining all changes will be available prior to the final release of the November Update.

Lore-master & Minstrel Fellowship Manoeuvre changes
Lore-masters and Minstrels will now use the tactical versions of the “Ent’s Strength” and “Spider’s Guile” fellowship skills instead of the melee versions, just like Rune-keepers. This means that any time a Fellowship Manoeuvre is triggered, Minstrels and Lore-masters will no longer need to be in melee range to contribute.

NEW Ingredient Packs
Certain crafting recipes now have the option of using “Ingredient Packs” instead of the usual ingredients required. Recipes with this option will have a checkbox in the crafting panel to specify if you would like to use the packs or not. Using the packs to create these items will force the items to be bound to the maker upon creation.

A lot depends on where these Ingredient Packs come from. They sound like they might be the sort of thing sold in the store, though perhaps they might also be found ingame.

Farming Revamp
The number and types of seeds required to complete farming recipies have been significantly reduced. Field recipes now require just one seed to execute. The types of seeds available have also been adjusted to all for more generic seeds types, increasing inventory space for farmers. All farming related tooltips have been adjusted and now offer more detailed descriptions.

It’s the little things that count

  • There is now a “report as harassment” option when right clicking your chat window.
  • You can now mouse over any Legendary Item being tracked and see the tooltip for that item.
  • Players may now be summoned out of Housing instances and Private Encounters.
  • Captain Summoning Horn and Mustering Horns may now summon players into and out of Dynamic Layers.
  • The Dwarf Brigands have gone and seen the cosmetic outfitter in their local town. Because of this, players will be seeing a lot more variety in the dwarf brigand bodies they step over on their way to glory.
  • Check with your Class trainer or favorite craftsman to learn about new consumables for each class!

The full November LotRO November test patch notes are after the leap.

Continue reading Lord of the Rings Online’s November Update hits the Bullroarer test server.

LOTRO – A Beautiful Pea-Green House

This week I’ve mostly been pottering about on Landroval, a US Lord of the Rings Online server. I played LOTRO a bit in Europe when it first came out, but I was another victim of the post-Bree North Downs/Lone-Lands slump which caused many a player to fall at the wayside back then. Hopefully I can get past that stage this time without falling into the same pit of ennui. So far, so good, and after about a week of getting bossed about by Rangers while doing all three of the prologues, I’ve managed to scrape together enough cash to buy my first home. I WAS going to write about the Autumn event, but unsurprisingly EVERYBODY has already done that, so I’m going to talk about my new house instead!

Player housing in Lord of the Rings Online is much less complex than in EQ2 or SWG, but that’s probably to be expected, as it was added in a patch rather than being a launch feature. I’m told that it is similar to the housing system added to Asheron’s Call, LOTRO’s pointy-looking older brother. Rather than being able to move objects freely, you only have (in a regular house) about 30 static “hooks” in which you can fix particular sorts of item. As any house decorator knows, that’s not a lot of space, and I’ve already run out of wall-space for my Halloween paintings and fishing trophies. Not being able to place items where we choose is a bit of a shame, as it removes the creative possibilities that have allowed decorators in EQ2 to build all manner of amazing rooms out of common household objects. In addition to furniture, you can also paint your walls, and even set a theme tune! Osgardh, Dwarven archaeologist, has knocked up some lovely pea-green paint, but the tune will have to wait.

LOTRO Housing Hooks

A few housing hooks.

Nevertheless, in spite of its simplicity, it’s still quite a fun system. The best aspect of LOTRO housing is that instead of each home being individually instanced, like in EQ2, you’re part of a neighbourhood of about 20 houses. In the middle of the neighbourhood are a few useful facilities such as a vault, and a furniture vendor. It creates a sense of place, without bringing about the sort of urban sprawl we saw in Ultima Online and SWG, I hope it is copied and improved upon by the upcoming crop of MMOs.

I’ve settled in the human-styled area to the south-east of Bree, near the entrance to the Lonelands. I picked that one mostly for location, but I did not spend too much time exploring the different possibilities as I do not intend to be living there very long. I will be upgrading to a larger home as soon as I can afford the seven gold, mostly because it has double the chest storage lots.

Chest storage is incredibly useful. Because your house is shared between all the characters on your account, and they all gain the power to teleport home once an hour, it is a great way to transfer items between characters if you have not yet bought the shared banking (which costs a hefty 1295 points for 20 shared bank slots.). Player housing, and the housing chests, are bought purely with good old-fashioned in-game gold.

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It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood!

Neighbourhoods are a great idea, though the implementation could be better. In particular, it is terribly difficult to end up in the same neighbourhood instance as your friends. As they have a finite amount of space they fill up quite quickly, and there is no way to move between neighbourhood instances without having to give up your current home and buy another one at full price. That the ratio of small, middle, and guild-houses is set in stone also makes things tricky logistically if you want to get everyone you know in the same instance. Even if you’re lucky enough to have everybody online when a fresh neighbourhood comes into being, if you have more than 9 friends, someone is going to be stuck with a starter house. Still, with the newly F2P-nourished pace of development, I expect that housing will be getting looked at and improved.

It’s good to have another fall-back game that I don’t have to worry about subscribing to. Turbine does F2P right, and manages to get money out of me as a result.

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Green. That's what we're all about. And Gold.

LOTRO: Frodo and the Lifetime Subscription.

Reposted in honour of the Lord of the Rings Online Free-to-play servers going live!

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Frodo discovers that LOTRO has gone F2P.

Regarding today’s (back when I originally posted this) news about Lord of the Rings Online going Free to play.