Tales of a Loner:
Soloing and Lord of the Rings Online
Once upon a time, a lone wood elf
druid made her way down the treacherous ramps and across the swaying
bridges of the tree city of Kelethin and ventured out into the wilds of
the misty Faydark forest. She quietly and steadily defeated her foes
through the clever use of her spells, and as she continued to gain
strength, her adventures took her further from home, into the towering
Butcherblock Mountains and onward to the Oasis of Marr and the Lake of
Ill Omen. She traveled alone, and this was how she liked it. She took
pride in her independence, and found joy in using her wits to bring
down her enemies against incredible odds.
That druid was named Shayalyn, and she kick-started my MMOG career in
EverQuest. Although Im fully capable of working and playing well with
others, I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoy soloing. Dont get me
wrong, I do like groups--some of my best times have revolved around
getting together with a few guildmates and taking on some bigger
challenges--but I also love having the power to go it alone. My druid
excelled at being a loner, and its one of the reasons I grew so
attached to her. She was scrappy and fiercely independent.
href="http://lotro.tentonhammer.com/files/gallery/albums/LotRO_Screenshots/Troll_Fight_01_LOTRO.sized.jpg"> alt="Troll fight"
style="border: 0px solid ; width: 150px; height: 110px;" align="left"
hspace="5" vspace="5">Whether soloing will be a viable option in
Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (LotRO) remains a matter of
speculation. The games current FAQs state: Our goal is to make the
game playable for both solo players and those who choose to form
Fellowships. Fellowships will of course provide certain advantages in
some situations, but a fastidious solo player can always buff up enough
over time to make it through. From the sound of this, soloing in LotRO
will be challenging, but not impossible. Meghan Patience Rodberg,
Turbines LotRO Community Manager, has also stated that, ...the team
is trying to make the classes viable for solo play. Just because the
[class] description doesn't mention solo play, and gives some info on
group dynamics, it doesn't mean you can't solo with a class.
It would seem that Turbine Inc., the developer of LotRO, has recognized
the MMOG gamers desire for solo content. The record-shattering success
of Blizzards World of Warcraft (WoW), a game where players could
arguably solo all the way to the top of the food chain, has proven that
if you build what gamers want...they will come, and come in droves. (At
present, Blizzard boasts more than 5 million open WoW accounts
And yet, one could argue that Lord of the Rings lore isnt particularly
amenable to solo play. After all, even when Frodo attempted to strike
out on his own, he ended up in the company of the loyal Samwise.
Kinships, fellowships--these are central themes in Tolkiens trilogy.
And for that reason, among others, I believe Turbine will craft LotRO
into a game where soloing is an option, but its perhaps not the best
or quickest option for gaining experience.
In order to remain competitive in a crowded fantasy MMOG market, LotRO
will have to strike a href="http://lotro.tentonhammer.com/files/gallery/albums/LotRO_Screenshots/LotRO_soloing_2.jpg"> alt="Troll bashing"
style="border: 0px solid ; width: 150px; height: 110px;" align="right"
hspace="5" vspace="5"> delicate balance. In order to foster
community building, the best and fastest experience should belong to
groups of players (called fellowships in LotRO). But some people enjoy
striking out alone. LotRO will need to cater to that crowd as well in
order to remain competitive.
Often, when fans bring up the need for solo content in MMOGs, those who
prefer group content argue that without group interaction a MMOG is
nothing more than a single-player game that happens to be online.
Thats true to a certain point, but theres much more to soloing than
running around the game world alone. I remember when a friend of mine
turned me on to Morrowind: The Elder Scrolls III, a single-player
fantasy role-playing game. I was accustomed to playing EverQuest, and
even though I soloed much of the time in EQ, I found myself feeling
very lonely in Morrowind. There were no people chatting in /OOC or
/shouting Train to zone! There was no guild chat. I couldnt join a
group if I was feeling social. I couldnt raid. It was me against a
very empty world with NPCs that said the same old things and either
stood stationary or walked the same old paths day in and day out.
href="http://lotro.tentonhammer.com/files/gallery/albums/LotRO_Screenshots/LotRO_soloing_1.jpg"> alt="Soloing Orcs"
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Being a soloer doesnt
necessarily make me antisocial. It doesnt mean that I dont enjoy the
company of others. What it means is that I enjoy the gratification of
being able to handle my battles alone when I want to. It means that
sometimes I have limited play time, and I want to make a little
progress with my character without looking for a group. It doesnt mean
I want the rest of the world to go away. (Well, okay, I admit that I do
have days where I want the world to go away, but those are few and far
The most successful MMOGs of 2006 will offer a good balance of group to
solo content. I dont want to feel that, in order to play my MMOG, I
have to find a group or not play at all. While the best items and the
fastest progress should belong to groups, and the elite items should
belong to raids, Im counting on Turbine to realize that there are
plenty of independent spirits; players who enjoy going it alone.
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