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LotRO's Update 5: the Instance Finder

Posted Thu, Nov 17, 2011 by gunky

LotRO Update 5 Instance Finder

Update 5 for the Lord of the Rings Online will ship with a handy little chunk of new tech: the Instance Finder. The idea is familiar to many - something like it has been used in lots of games, like Rift, World of Warcraft, EverQuest II and Dungeons & Dragons Online, but it's new to LotRO, and it's currently undergoing beta testing on Bullroarer. Bear in mind that this is the early-beta version of the Instance Finder, and the version that launches when Update 5 goes live in December may be significantly different.

Pros and Cons

There are a number of reasons to use the new Instance Finder, first mentioned in our Update 5 Interview with the Devs, for running group content. Firstly, there's the morale and power bonus - players get 5% more morale and power when joining an instance through the Instance Finder than they would get using the traditional method. Players also get 1.5 times the number of marks, which is fairly important if you're saving up for one of the six new armor sets for your class. If you have pre-formed a group and don't care which content you end up running, the whole group can queue up in the Instance Finder and get tossed into a random dungeon, and everyone receives the power/morale and mark-acquisition bonus.

There are also a few downsides. First and foremost, it's a random match-up system, and players who queue up alone have no real control over who they get grouped with or where they are sent. For example, I queued up on my Hunter as Damage, and got paired with a Lore-master (Support) and a Minstrel (Healer), and we got tossed into a new 3-man instance (The Pits of Isengard) that very clearly required a proper tank. It was not an issue of the players not knowing or understanding their roles - all of us knew what we needed to do, and the same group would have worked just fine in certain other instances - but rather a situation where a Hunter or bear pet makes a lousy tank regardless of skill level (because he has no heavy armor or colossal morale pool to soak up the beat-down from an angry troll boss). The Instance Finder has no way of knowing this.

Step 1: Confirm Your Role

Open the Instance Finder with Shift + F (ore use the caret ^ on the lower left of the toolbar to open the menu). At the top, you will see what roles you can sign up as:

LotRO Update 5 Instance Finder - Options

Roles will be limited according to character class:

Burglar: Support, Damage
Captain: any
Champion: Damage, Defense
Guardian: Defense, Damage
Hunter: Damage, Support
Lore-master: Support, Damage
Minstrel: Healer, Damage
Rune-keeper: Healer, Damage
Warden: Defense, Damage

The Instance Finder does not recognize specific trait setups, so if you are a solo DPS-spec Minstrel, for example, and that's how you want to roll in an instance, it's up to you to select Damage rather than Healer. You can select as many roles as you want, or feel you can fulfill. Most classes have 2 options, but Captains - being ultimate awesomesauce rockstars - can pick all 4.

Step 2: Select Instance Criteria

The next step is determining what type of instance you want to run. The Instance Finder is currently a bit limited in this respect - you can't pick specific instances, but rather general categories. These are arranged by Type: Skirmish, Isengard or Instance. "Skirmish" means any skirmish from the Skirmish Join Panel. "Isengard" means any of the new 3-man or the 6-man instances in the Update 5 instance cluster: Fangorn's Edge, the Pits of Isengard or Dargnakh Unleashed for the 3-mans, or the Foundry for the 6-man. "Instance" means any of the scaled instances - Halls of Night, Inn of the Forsaken, the Annuminas cluster, School and Library of Tham Mirdain, and the Great Barrows cluster. 12-man raids are not supported by the Instance Finder as of Update 5, but may be added in a future update. Turbine also expects that they will incorporate the ability to select specific instances at some point in the future.

Next, select the group size - solo, duo, small-fellowship or fellowship. Selecting all of the sizes means the Instance Finder will start at the largest group size (6) and try to find something in that range, incrementing downwards as needed until it finds a suitable group according to your criteria. If there are no groups queued up and you have "1" selected, you will be thrown into a random solo skirmish.

Lastly, select Tiers. Only skirmishes support Tier III difficulty, so if you don't have skirmishes selected as a Type, Tier III will be greyed out and unavailable.

Once you have all your criteria selected, click the Join button and wait for the group to assemble.

Step 3: Forming the Group

As players are matched, they will need to confirm their roles one more time to accept the group and start the instance. When a group is matched up, you can see the other players only by their role - you won't know who you're matched with until everyone confirms his role and the instance starts. If you have selected multiple roles, the Instance Finder will pick the one it calculates to be most appropriate for the situation and ask you to confirm the choice:

LotRO Update 5 Instance Finder - Confirm

Once the instance starts, you may be in for some surprises - the healer may be a Captain traited all red, and the DPS guy might be a Minstrel in War-speech. Theoretically, the group could be all Captains. The group in the picture at right turned out to be a Captain as Healer (me - I checked all the role options), and Overpower-spec Guardian as Damage and a Warden as Defense - definitely a sturdy group and more than a match for the Tier I instance we got thrown into.

If you leave the queue here, you'll have a 10-minute wait until you can use the Instance Finder again, and the rest of the group will need to wait for another person to queue up in the same or comparable role, for matching criteria, and within the same level range.

The group leader will be assigned randomly, and has very little control over the group. The leader can assign target assists and fellowship manoeuvres, and can transfer lead to another player, but can't boot players or change loot rules (the default is Roll/Pass with Uncommon quality).

Once the instance starts, the group is "locked in." If someone drops, the Instance Finder cannot be used to fill the spot - players will have to fill the spot the old-fashioned way by posting on LFF channels.

Instance Finder or LFF?

Players looking for random groups, to just get into the game quick and do whatever, or regular teams looking to run something together with a bit of a bonus, will find the Instance Finder quite handy. Players looking for something more specific will have better luck with traditional methods. The Instance Finder is not a be-all, end-all replacement for finding groups, nor is it intended to be. According to Turbine developer Ransroth in his forum post:

I'm pretty sure that even the version of Instance Finder that will be coming out in U6 will not be "better LFF tool" - if by that you mean completely replacing lff and glff functionality. My hope is that it will still be a useful tool that will make a bunch of players happy.

And since it only supports scaled instances for up to 6 players, you'll still need to use LFF channels to run stuff like Grand Stair (which doesn't scale), or any of the 12-man instances. One other limitation: the Instance Finder is not cross-server, and likely never will be. You'll be drawing talent from local pools.

The Instance Finder is a tool that fills a specific need, and not a catch-all replacement for LFF.

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