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Dev Diary Round-up as LotRO's Rise of Isengard Goes Live

Posted Tue, Sep 27, 2011 by gunky

Isengard is here! The servers are updating and the clients are patching as of this writing, so during this downtime, let's have a look at what's about to happen by digging into the slew of developer diaries.

First off, have a look at the Release Notes. This is your starting point, outlining most of the tweaks and changes in small, digestible nuggets. It's fairly extensive and covers a lot of stuff not outlined in the dev diaries (e.g. changes to Skirmish Traits).

We've looked at Burglars and Captains already, but all classes are getting some tweaks. 

Champions

LotRO's vanguard melee DPS class is seeing some significant overhauls. While I was personally alarmed to note that Champs would be losing the use of shields, this hasn't seemed to cause all that much of a stir among dedicated Champion players. Champion tanking will follow a different path than Guardian tanking - while Guardians are built to absorb and mitigate hits from behind a wall of iron, Champions are evidently meant to absorb hits and self-heal from behind a wall of blades.

Glory stance has been reworked so that skills that generate threat only do so while in Glory. Rising Ire and Ebbing Ire have been consolidated - it is Rising Ire while in Glory stance, and Ebbing Ire otherwise.

Ardour stance now focuses on power conservation and area-effect attacks. Cooldowns on many AoE skills are reduced while in Ardour, and this stance will be best suited for "landscape grinding" against large groups of regular mobs (for example, when deeding).

Fervour stance has had the healing penalty removed, and all the extra threat generation has been moved to Glory stance. This is still the big-damage stance, and the removal of the incoming healing penalty means that it won't totally suck for belabored Minstrels and Rune-keepers running tough instances with aggressive Champs.

Lore-masters

The biggest changes here seem to come from the consolidation of similar skills. Warding Lore, for example, consolidates all of the Warding Knowledge skills, with new creature types added to the lore pool at higher levels. The curative skills (Leechcraft, Tend the Sick and Ancient Knowledge of Cures) have been all lumped into one cure-all skill, Knowledge of Cures, and the Signs of Battle have been mashed into one skill.

Two noteworthy changes have been made to other skills: firstly, Blinding Flash now works against all creature types. Secondly, Back From the Brink can no longer be used to punish the weak - range has been increased to 25m, there is no longer a big debuff or a material requirement, and the target revives with 30% morale.

Guardians

Guardians are believed to be "in a good place" as of the launch, and as such haven't undergone too many jarring changes. They are still the go-to tanks, and the focus seems to be on bumping up Guardian DPS, and threat generation has been increased for all tank-spec classes.

Of particular note: improved versions of some of the skills that generate threat will now cause enemies to be snared when they stop attacking the Guardian. Hunters everywhere will rejoice. Also, Protection can now be used on escorted NPCs, and a new version called Protection: By The Sword (available while in Overpower stance) gives the subject an increase to melee damage. Guardians are encouraged to double-check their trait lines the first time they log in - some class traits have been swapped around and builds may need minor tweaking.

Minstrels

The changes here are fairly extensive, and this dev diary is 7 pages long. Right off the bat, Allan "Orion" Maki tells us that Minstrels will no longer be able to wear medium armor - a change that will profoundly affect a small subset of Minstrel players who eschew traditional class armor sets in favor of something more rugged.

For the rest of us, the most jarring tweak comes in the form of reworked ballads. The old Tier 1/Tier 2/Tier 3/Anthem system is stripped away and the skills replaced by more generic buff/attack skills, which can be sequenced to perform different roles. Playing 3 Minor Ballads, for instance, will give the Minstrel a significant increase to tactical DPS, while 3 Major Ballads will provide a significant increase to outgoing healing. Once 3 ballads are played, Anthems are unlocked, and after the Anthem is fired, the whole sequence is reset by a Coda. The Anthem and stance determine the effect of the Coda.

Which brings up a third item of interest: Minstrels get a new stance. Technically speaking, Minstrels now have three stances - War-speech, Harmony and Melody. War-speech is the same as before and makes the Minstrel a war-machine. Harmony stance is new, focusing on buffs and splitting the difference between DPS and healing. Melody stance is the default (i.e. no stance), and the primary focus is on healing.

Most Minstrel skills got a bit of a tweaking, and even instruments got a bit of re-working done. Overall, the Minstrel seems to have been tweaked the hardest.

Hunters

The biggest change here is the disconnect between the trait lines and the 3 stances - traiting deep into any of the lines has equal effect on all stances now. There's the usual consolidation of skills and the shuffling and re-purposing of class traits that are the hallmark of these class updates, plus a couple of dandy new skills that can be added into the Hunter's rotation: Split Shot (a 2-target minor AoE), and Hunter's Art (moderate damage plus a self-buff depending on stance).

One particular aspect that some Hunters will find potentially alarming is the reduction of DPS or attack speed from 4-set bonuses. For example, the reduced induction times for going 4 deep into the Huntsman line are less than they were, but can be increased by traiting slightly deeper into the line. Each Huntsman trait equipped adds a further percentage to reducing induction times. This is not unique to the Hunter, either - Rune-keepers get the same thing.

Rune-keepers

This is another big, 7-page update. A large amount of attention was paid to the class tools (chisels and rifflers - a Riffler of Writs, for example, turns Master of Writs into a toggle skill and reduces the power penalty), and to increasing the area-effect abilities of this hybrid class, both in terms of damage-dealing and healing. But, to keep things in check, some important healing skills (Mending Verse, for example) have been hit with a nerf bat - smaller heals and increased power costs.

A lot of what's happening with Rune-keepers boils down to minute details to basically every skill and trait - the dev diary is fairly comprehensive.

Wardens

This dev diary kinda screws around a bit before it gets to the big stuff... kinda like Wardens themselves, really. Build up, build up, build up, BAM!

In a nutshell, Wardens are getting a boost to their DPS, some new gambits to pick up and dump threat quickly (making them viable for jobs like Durin's Bane or other fights that require two tanks to instantly swap and pick up boss aggro), a 10-second stun-immunity gambit, across-the-board power reduction... and an entirely new 2-part battle mechanic.

First is Potency. Use any of the three improved simple gambits (Improved Goad, Improved Deft Strike, Improved Defensive Strike) and you have a chance to become "potent." A "potent" Warden can then work out a gambit and commit it to Battle Memory, a combat-permanent skill which allows the memorized gambit to be recalled instantly without first building it up. This has a morale cost of 1% per "builder," so a length-5 gambit would cost 5% of the Warden's morale. Ouch, but also awesome.

Of course, this is a fairly major expansion, and the classes aren't the only things getting tweaked and discussed in dev diaries.

Crafting

Over the years, the crafting tiers have been ramping steadily up to culminate at Supreme. How does one climb higher than Supreme? Simple! You don't! You just abandon the stepping stone naming convention and call the next tier something else - in this case, Westfold.

Tier 7 crafting is a bit different from lower tiers. For example, there is no longer a separation between common smithing metals and precious jewellery metals. It's all one glorious metal with the not-so-glorious name of skarn (as in "Agent Michael Skarn," Michael Scott's dramatic alter-ego on the Office? Actually no... it's An Old Swedish Mining Term). Skarn deposits contain more or less everything you need to make any metal items, from heavy armor to fine rings. The new wood is birch... expect a lot of censored typos, because the T is right next to the R on standard QWERTY keyboards.

This new tier is also sort of streamlined for Metalsmiths, Tailors, Weaponsmiths and Woodworkers - if you want to make a Westfold sword, for example, you only need raw ingots, and not blades, hilts or other components. The ingots are used directly, and no components need be crafted first. In theory, this cuts down crafting time - it's only a 2-step process instead of 3-plus. There is, however, one small drawback - with the lower tiers, the component was worth 4 crafting xp and the crafted item worth 6, for a total of 10 per item. Since there are no more components to craft, you get less XP per item (the screenshots in the dev diary show 8 xp for a pair of Westfold gauntlets - not much less, but less). And mastery of the Westfold tier is a long, long road. You're going to have to make hundreds of these things to master the tier.

Not mentioned in the dev diary is the fact that some crafting components from the gathering professions are not made immediately available. You need to earn standing with the Dunland reputation factions to learn the recipes for some prospecting and foresting components. The materials for making these rep-required items are the same as for anything else of that tier and can be found in the same resource nodes, but you can't make them without rep.

PvMP - Freep and Creep

PvMP changes are generally intended to keep the two disparate sides more or less balanced with the increased level cap. Both sides have had their quests converted to dailies and reward players a combination of Infamy/Glory, Destiny and coin. Both sides will receive veteran rewards for players Rank 10 or higher prior to launch - the reward is a special title, and the quests will be available until October 31st. Additionally, the session-play classes (Ranger for Freeps, Troll for Creeps) are tweaked a bit to make them more accessible.

Most Creep classes are being reworked at least a little bit - rank-dependent skills re-leveled so you get everything by Rank 10, new skills added, etc. - and they get Finesse ratings as they rank up. Freeps get shiny new PvMP class armor and jewellery sets with jacked-up Finesse ratings and ridiculous stats. With potentially loads of new level 75 Reavers to fight through, this may be badly needed.

Itemization

This is an older dev diary, but still worth looking into if you haven't already. In a nutshell, yellow "trash" items will still basically be trash, but some of them will be worth hanging onto for a while; solo players can get 4 of the 6 raid armor class-set pieces by doing solo skirmishes; many new items, crafted or looted or bartered or rewarded, will have Finesse ratings; and chests in classic instances will once again drop awesome loot instead of just skirmish marks.

Stat Changes

Stat caps are being removed (it will be possible to have 1100+ Vitality on your Guard with level 75 gear, though this will likely mean that your Will, Fate and/or Agility is ridiculously low); mitigations, resistances and critical hit ratings are being consolidated; many classes will be using their newly-determined primary stats to calculate all offence ratings; and a new stat called Finesse is thrown into the lot. And Finesse is not the new Radiance, because the mobs will have it too.

Dragioch 

Some interesting information here. For starters, the 24-man raid is the Tier 1 EZ-Mode version, and the 12-man version is Tier 2 Challenge mode. Without going into too much detail, this dev diary gives a peek at the strategy for defeating the gargantuan wyrm: one piece at a time.

Fellowship Manoeuvers

Burglars everywhere threw up their hands and snorted in derision every time a new endgame instance was announced since the Mines of Moria launched - all of the bosses and many of the tougher mobs are stun- and FM-immune, so the Burglar's role in the fights is hampered. This dev diary discusses the potential of restoring this feature to boss fights - at least in a limited capacity - and adding some new features (sub-categories within the Fellowship Manoeuver UI) to make them more flexible. It's all a matter of balance - will making bosses susceptible to FMs cause them to be too easy? Will theoretical changes to the FM system make them too difficult to complete? It should be interesting to follow these ideas as they develop... and Burglars will get a nice preview of things to come in the Dragioch raid.

Reading about these changes is all well and good, but the real acid test is in practical experience. Get your client patching and get ready to experience the changes first-hand.


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