Can LOTRO Survive the MMO
On my first day of appointments
at E3 I was able to sit in a room with Jeffrey Steefel as he
enthusiastically talked about Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of
Angmar, the game we've been waiting for...for over 3 years. I can tell
now that I have seen
it--there is a game. And although we're still going to have to wait a
while for launch, we've finally approached a point in the game's
development where we'll be seeing it sooner rather than later.
As disappointing as it is to hear the word "2007" uttered in conjuction
with "projected launch," the game is looking beautiful. And although I
didn't have the time to actually get my hands on LOTRO and play it
myself, I at least talked to someone who did. I met John
(Methost) from LOTRO
Source outside of the
Turbine booth. He'd been able to play the Weathertop instance, and
was more excited than ever about LOTRO. In fact, there are many people
who are excited about the game and can't wait
to get their hands on it, myself among them.
But I have to wonder how LOTRO will compete with some other
up-and-comers due to launch within the same time period. Vanguard:
Saga of Heroes, another fantasy genre game from the original makers of
EverQuest, is predicted to launch in the winter of 2006. Vanguard was
one of my most anticipated games of E3, and though it will launch
earlier than LOTRO, it could also capture a significant portion of the
audience. Vanguard recently took up with Sony Online Entertainment, so
there's no doubt the game will have serious commercial clout.
Warhammer Online is certainly a different style of game than LOTRO, but
it's also spawned out of a large existing playerbase, the millions who
play Warhammer, the tabletop game. This is another game I saw at E3,
and it looked impressive. Not only is it connected with the
Warhammer universe, but it's in development by Mythic, the people
behind the successful and enduring Dark Age of Camelot. This game
ranked high on The
Next Big Thing list when our Ten Ton Hammer editors met to discuss the
games we'd seen during E3. Warhammer is planning a 2007 release.
style="border: 2px solid ; width: 150px; height: 110px;" align="left"
hspace="4" vspace="2">Amid the many announcements made during the
week of E3, Turbine dropped a bombshell related to its other game, target="_blank" href="http://ddo.tentonhammer.com">Dungeons &
Dragons Online: Stormreach. We learned that instead of focusing on quests and fixing what's broken or lacking within DDO, Turbine
opted to begin developing PvP conten, no doubt to
increase the game's commerical appeal and draw in new players.
While there are indeed different development teams behind DDO and
LOTRO, and they're two very different games in terms of content and
structure...they do share Turbine as a common development company. I'd
by lying if I said I wasn't concerned that Turbine might force some
unnecessary features on LOTRO in the name of commercial mass appeal.
When a niche game like DDO or LOTRO suddenly sets out to appeal to the
masses on a much broader scale, we begin to see things that compromise
the game's integrity and, instead of making it more playable, serve to
strip away what makes it unique.
Does LOTRO have a lot of competition in the MMO marketplace?
Absolutely. Will it succeed in the marketplace by trying to be all
things to all players? In my opinion, no. Turbine needs to keep its
focus narrow and make LOTRO the best game possible for what it is--a
faithful online rendering of Tolkien's Middle-earth, with engaging
quests to drive players through the storyline. I hope that Turbine will
remain true to its original vision for LOTRO. Meanwhile, I continue to
wait in anticipation.
Think I've got it all wrong? Talk about it here!
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