Well, it's been over four months since the last free re-trial weekend for LOTRO, so clearly it's time for another "oh dear god, please come back, please please please" event. Not to look a free gift horse in the mouth, but, if Turbine really wanted me to take a serious look at what they've added to the game since the last time they invited me back to take a serious look at the game, they should really offer a re-trial that allows players to check it out at a time of THEIR choosing. I'm currently on a business trip a good 3000 miles away from my gaming machine, which means that I had to leave the hotel wireless downloading patch updates for a good 6 hours in order to take a peek at the game using my laptop, which has no graphics card. LOTRO looks terrible on a machine that doesn't have a graphics card, and, more importantly, barely runs.
See this post for screenshots that don't look terrible, low graphics settings apparently mean "make everything jagged and blurry".
Anyway, this is what I've learned so far....
- The fix to the horrible horse whistle actually is a massive improvement. Also, the dismount functionality has been proofread by an actual speaker of the English language. Previously, you had to click on the mount bar to get a confirmation window that asked if you wanted to abandon. The first time I clicked this, I was half terrified that I was going to lose my mount for good. Anyway, the confirmation now asks, more intelligently, whether you want to dismount. (On the downside, you still have to click through a window every single time you want to get off of your mount.)
- Perhaps there's a reason Turbine doesn't want me rooting around for too long to determine what they've added to the game recently. The LOTRO Wiki says they've added a single major content update to the game since the last free re-trial, a rate of content addition that would do Blizzard proud.
- Speaking of the Wiki, they inform me that LOTRO has a harvest festival in which you can race for a unique festival mount. Their archived info says that this thing made its debut after Brewfest 2007, though I have no idea whose was in development first. Then again, Turbine managed not to move the mount to a rare drop from group-only content, so I suppose I can't complain too badly on that front.
- The splash screen says the Moria expansion is coming out Fall 2008.
- The launcher, updater, and Turbine logo video all have new and upgraded graphics. The character select screen, however, does not, and..... wait wait wait, WHAT?!
The expansion is coming out Fall 2008?!
What in the name of cheese is Turbine thinking?! They don't have a release date, I guess they may be running an NDA'ed closed beta (which apparently isn't prominent enough to be worth breaking the NDA on, cause I haven't heard a peep), and I've seen maybe a handful of posts on the topic on Massively. If they're actually launching their expansion in the next three months, it's a big problem that I had no idea they were aiming for this year, cause I pay attention to these things. Also, there's no point left in the year 2008 that's substantially more than a month away from the 800-lb gorilla-din that is the launch of Wrath in mid November. The only possible way for them to possibly bury this launch any more thoroughly would be if they released it tomorrow.
I just don't understand what Turbine could be thinking here. They have a decent game (even if it did take them a year after their launch to get it to that state), and it doesn't make sense to do such an underwhelming job promoting it. I was planning on giving the thing a few months after its launch for Turbine to actually finish it anyway, but now I'm worried that they're going to pull another Asheron's Call 2. Overall, very concerning.
Anyway, I'll try to take another look around on my real computer on Monday to see if there's anything else worth seeing in the latest of free re-trials.