Can Mounted Combat Save LOTRO?

The short answer: maybe, if it’s done with an eye toward modernizing the game and isn’t just the same game we’ve been playing for years, only on horses.

One could argue whether LOTRO needs “saving” in the first place. I know I’ve been down on it lately, as have several of my readers and, according to comments I read on LOTRO stories around the web, as have many others.

Of course, the complainers about any game are typically in the minority, and LOTRO‘s numbers still seem fairly strong. However, despite being #6 on the Buzz Index, the game is #47 in terms of new Facebook likes and #31 in new Twitter followers, in terms of percentage gain, since I started tracking in December. (This is something I’m going to examine in more detail in an upcoming post.) So that would seem to indicate that the game is, at best, stagnant and at worst, losing players.

In any case, I think it’s safe to say that a significant number of people would agree that LOTRO needs a (horse’s) kick in the pants to get going again, and mounted combat could be that kick. We got our first in-game look at mounted combat in a video released by Turbine this week:

The close-up bits of in-game action (at about 3:15 and 5:00) don’t show us a lot. For the most part, it just looks like… well, combat. With mounts. Some different skills, people move faster, but that’s about it.

And that simply won’t do.

Players have been looking forward to mounted combat for five years, but the MMO landscape has changed dramatically since 2007. Three or four years ago, we might have been satisfied with just “fighting on horses,” but I don’t think that’s the case any more. I think Turbine knows it’s going to have to knock people out of the park with Riders of Rohan, and to do so, they’ll have to radically alter gameplay to suit the modern MMO fan. They can’t change their core gameplay of leveling-instancing-raiding, but Riders of Rohan and mounted combat offer the perfect opportunity to take LOTRO into the new decade and to inject something unique to the game: dynamic events.

Chaaaaaarge!!!

What we know about mounted combat is that it’ll take place in a huge special zone with an altered rules set to accommodate mounted skills. So right there, you have a segregated area where you can experiment with new things that won’t interfere with the game as a whole. What I’m suggesting is that this area be sprinkled liberally with villages, enemy camps, resource points, and so on. Bands of orcs, wargs, and whatever other nasties roam around, causing havoc, and it’s up to intrepid heroes to meet their challenges, save the people of Rohan, and, if possible, drive the beasts back to whatever hole they crawled out of. Think of it as being a single zone in Rift or Guild Wars 2, with invasions happening all the time and the desperate people struggling to hold back the tide of evil that threatens to engulf them all.

It would essentially be a brand new game, all functioning within the LOTRO system and yet being separate enough so as not to mess with the core experience or require a complete re-envisioning of the game. It would be a lot of work to implement, I’m sure, but there is at least a little of the framework already in place. Remember the Angmar battle instances? Those often involved bands of enemies attacking various points at semi-random intervals. Multiply the size of those areas by about a hundred and give them more detail, as well as reasons to fight (i.e., rewards), and you’ve got something.

I realize this is a lot of speculation, and we didn’t see anything remotely resembling it in the video dev diary, but if Turbine is working on something like this, I could see them keeping it under wraps a little while longer. If it, or something like it, is not what they’re working on, then it’s possible that they simply don’t understand what players want in an MMO any more, and that’s truly sad. Even if you’re not enthused by my ideas involving dynamic events, you have to admit that mounted combat needs to be something special, because “more of the same” just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

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7 Responses to Can Mounted Combat Save LOTRO?

  1. Jack says:

    My feelings exactly. And those of many of my kinmates. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’re suddenly down on LOTRO after getting a taste of Guild Wars 2. Sure, I was generally annoyed with the grind and the store in LOTRO, but I didn’t see anything out there that was significantly better until GW2 came along. Now everything has changed. I love LOTRO for its connection to Tolkien’s world, but that won’t be enough come August 25th.

    But yes, LOTRO will have something that GW2 doesn’t: mounted combat! And if they do it right I’ll check that out. I’m sceptical, though. I’m also sceptical that LOTRO’s engine can handle the big battles that it’ll need to to make the war feel epic.

    Mixed metaphor alert: “knock people out of the park.” A combination of “Knock the ball out of the park” and “knock people out”? Sorry, I can’t help myself. 🙂

    Great analysis! I’m so glad I discovered your blog via your reporting on Gamebreaker.tv !

  2. I don’t know much about LotRO, but when I hear “mounted combat,” I suffer horrifying flashbacks to jousting at the Argent Tournament.

    So I guess what I’m saying is that at least LotRO can’t possibly screw up mounted combat any worse than WoW did.

  3. Dave Hatcher says:

    Dynamic events similar to Rifts invasions would possibly work in Lotro, though the heavy dependence on mob tagging to get rewards will need to be changed.

    I will LOL if you can fight standing still on horseback as effectively as you can while moving, but I think its possible Turbine will implement it so that is true. To do a good mounted combat, they are going to have to make fighting on foot inferior, which trashes the rest of the game, so I am not sure they have the moxy to do it.

    • jasonwinter says:

      Well, since it is in a segregated area, I think they can make mounted combat “superior” without making the rest of the game seem bad.

      They could also implement missions within that area that are more “chase and follow” than just straight up “fight in an area” quest. I’m thinking something like what you see in a Grand Theft Auto.

      • dndhatcher says:

        APB is like that with many missions that are go there, steal some explosives, take them somewhere else and blow a door open then steal whats inside and bring it back here. Enemies can guard either the explosives or the door or chase you down as you go places or gank you while you are stealing or planting explosives. Good PvP opportunity for the Moors.

  4. Soulshine says:

    Speaking from the perspective of a former player since I just recently cancelled my entire account at Turbine after 2.5 yrs of play that included all content, raids, expansions, etc. as a VIP – my answer to the above is a resounding: “NO. Hell no.”

    I have seen the game be dumbed down to the point of being offensive, the grind raised to ridiculous levels even for a “traditional MMO,” complete and utter disregard from devs for class originality let alone balance, PvP is a joke, and even worse manners with people on their forums.

    Two weeks before I cancelled my account, I got an invite to Beta and took my 4 lvl 75s into Bulloroarer to play – absolutely nothing that they are doing is ANY different other than this clunky, buggy, pitiful mechanic of horse back combat. They keep tweeking weird little things that have no impact on the game but to annoy, and don’t make any improvements where they should. Now, you can argue all you like that since it was Beta it was supposed to be buggy – I beg to differ, ’cause I have also been playing in GW2 Beta and the quality difference is MIND boggling to say the least about it. After seeing that, there is no way to go back to what now feels like the hellish experience of Lotro in comparison, no matter how much I adore Tolkien.

    If Turbine/WBGames cannot see their way clear to even remotely attempting to implement even the simplest of innovations, Lotro will easily go the way of the dinosaur as soon as they see (if in fact they ever do) the black gates of Mordor. Personally, as much as I wanted to be there for that, I am no longer willing to put up with quantity to (grind) time over quality of game play.

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