Casual Progression in LotRO

Don't get me wrong, I really like Lord of the Rings Online, and I'm not about to stop playing. There is, however, something oddly... missing. I'm not even sure that it's a bad thing that it's not there. That something is the drive to progress, to level up. I don't mind, at all, that Finethalion the Loremaster is level 16, and has been level 16 for two weeks, and doesn't look likely to progress to level 17 for at least another week.

This is unfamiliar. My experience with other MMOs has been a drive to level up, to get to the next benchmark level, to get to the next cool thing. The level where you get a mount, the level where you can teleport, or summon people to your location, or get the next cool pet. There was a little of this in LotRO; I wanted to get to level 10 to try the Monster Play option, and wanted to get Finethalion to 14 so he could summon a bear.

Now, however, I'm not aware of any other threshold point like that. I have the raven and the bear; there are no other pets. I'm not going to be able to get to Rivendell for quite some time yet, so that's a pretty distant aim. There's no item of equipment I'll suddenly be able to use, and the only thing anywhere in the game that has made me go "Want!" has been a title, A Light From the Shadow - which is got by completing the first 8 book quests. Given that I'm still on the first part, that's also pretty distant.

Some people that I played WoW with are reading this and going "But you took YEARS to get to level 60!". That's true, yes, but I was always aware of the next level, the next target, the next cool thing. Even if I was wandering around as my auction/RP alt, Malamor, in the Undercity, getting screenshots and telling people about the incredible powers of the Prophet Wormson, I was always aware at some level that Wormson himself was still a lowly level 52. The only reason I know Finethalion is level 16 is that I took special note of it last night, so that I could write this article today. Otherwise, I'd be hard put to remember where he was on the 14 to 20 range.

You can't identify other characters' level at a glance, either. In other games, it's clear that if someone's wearing particular armour, then they've not only reached the maximum level, but that they've been raiding for a bit. In EVE, you know that if someone's sitting in a battleship, they've been playing for some time. In LotRO, the coolest looking, most distinctive item I have is a feathered hat - musketeer style. I got it from a 4th level quest, in the prelude area of the game.

Other people are aware of this. There were mildly horrified reactions on the local channels to someone proposing a race to level 50. One guy in our kinship, who came from an allied guild on World of Warcraft, described LotRO as "great for pootling about in". And indeed, it is. You can wander around and collect craft items, and kill off even more spiders to get the next deed, and maybe wander down to this one area you haven't seen yet, and do a bit of crafting, and see what that tower thing up there is, and there's no pressure. The only thing I get impatient with in the game now is the length of time I spend looking at loading screens while entering and leaving buildings, and the lag in Bree (Bree is the new Ironforge).

So it seems to be a game that's not just casual-friendly, but actually, genuinely casual.

Posted by Drew Shiel at September 20, 2007 12:43 PM

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I find it odd it is taking you that long. I started playing from early access ( a few days prior to retail launch ) and quit playing about a month ago. In that time I leveled up 3 toons to 50 and 2 others to around 20 ish, and that was done spending 25% of the time on crafting jewelery and armour.

The problem with the game is lack of content, could have used about another 6-12 months in developement.

Posted by: anrkyuk at September 23, 2007 6:32 PM