Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Allarond's adventures in Lothlorien, trying to wrap up the last of the pre-Mirkwood content, left him with the majority of the rep and tokens required to get the rep reward mount. Unfortunately, with the game set in the Middle Earth, the exotic mount in question is another horse. That said, max rep horses come with 50% more health than the default mounts, so that upgrade alone was worth the 3-4 hours worth of daily quests it took to finish the grind.
The Moria Crafting Instance
As an aside, this journey took me into Moria's so-called crafting instances, which appear to be primitive prototypes for the modern skirmish system. Players zone into a solo instance with a fixed map but randomly generated foes, where they can earn tokens for a successful 10-20 minute clear. (The instances are referred to as crafting instances because they happen to contain large numbers of crafting material nodes to harvest, not because there is any actual crafting to do inside them.) Overall, players can expect crafting materials, reputation (and reputation items), and perhaps some legendary item exp for the brief, repeatable encounters.
My guess, having elected to skip Moria era repeatable content in its entirety, is that these instances proved highly popular with the playerbase. That popularity seems to have inspired the evolution of the feature into the current skirmish. Turbine proceeded to make this the major feature of the new expansion, complete with a more robust feature set (more maps, greater variety of random foes), scaleable group options, custom NPC soldiers, and a wider variety of rewards.
How long can random content last?
In some ways, my biggest complaint about LOTRO has generally been that there isn't enough LOTRO to go around. As Zubon observes, that crunch will be especially noticeable for the next few months, as Turbine chose to increase the level cap even though they would only have a single 6-man dungeon for level 65 players and a single relevant 12-man raid (which the login splash screen absurdly refers to as the most challenging 12-man raid EVER) ready to go.
With skirmishes, Turbine appears to be hoping that players will accept randomly generated content in place of the human-designed instances that Turbine apparently cannot supply in any reasonable quantity. Will it work? Time will tell, but the apparently popularity of this type of repeatable content in the game suggests that Turbine may have put all their eggs in this particular basket because they feel that it has the best chance of being accepted by players. So far, so good, but the expansion is young.