I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, ever since the WarCry Dev Chat mentioned the fact that Radiance as a system was going away.  I first want to cover my thoughts on the current system, what I’d like to see happen, and what I think will happen.  And yes, my asbestos suit has arrived in the mail so I’m prepared for whatever comes from this post ;)

As for the current system, I’m actually pretty happy with it.  I don’t think the grind to get radiance gear is all that hard at all.  Now getting the top tier radiance gear can be more challenging, but the lower tiers really aren’t that hard if you consistently run group content.  And that’s the key – you need to consistently run end game group content, which for many (myself included at times) just isn’t feasible.  The fact that they’ve opened it up to the 3 man groups makes it insanely easy to find groups to run the content and while it may take you more runs, it still isn’t as difficult for smaller or more casual kinships.  The only issue I really have with the current system is that it forces you to wear certain gear to complete certain content.  Now we do have more options available with a total of 6 radiance sets, but I really wish there was another way to implement it to allow for more customization.

In all honesty, my biggest frustration with radiance is the argument itself.  I just don’t follow the argument that radiance is bad for the game because it prevents people from doing content.  The only thing radiance prevents you from doing is raiding, and if you don’t have the time or dedication to get the required gear, I’m really not seeing you being successful at running the raid content.  So while you’ll be able to see it, in many cases you won’t last past the first pull – which from personal experience, isn’t fun.  Even with the lack of radiance gating in the Shadows of Angmar days – what percentage of players even saw the Balrog in the Rift, let alone kill him?  I’m going to go out on a limb that it is less then 25% of the total population.  The gating mechanism in LOTRO is not a single entity it is and always has been a combination of gear, traits, skill, communication ability, time, and patience.

As an aside to the argument, I’m not claiming that getting gear is always an indicator of a quality player.  However, there is a very important distinction between a quality player and a quality raider.  I will be arrogant and state that I see myself as a quality player and am very confident that of the classes I play, I’m one of the more competent players on the server.  However, I am no where near that level when compared to raiders.  I have many of the key components but lack time and a routine schedule.  A big part of raiding is generating a rhythm with the team and although I have subbed in for folks, the feel is never quite the same.  Also, due to my real life commitments, I don’t always have large dedicated time blocks available which raiding does require.  I have no inclination of expecting Turbine to make raiding fit into my schedule and feel that argument is identical to the radiance argument.

With all that being said, what kind of system would I like?  I would like to see radiance morphed into the relic/rune system of legendary items.  Now before you flip out, let me explain what I mean.  For each raid tier (Moria, Lorien, Mirkwood) you can barter using the current token system for Radiance Inlays that can be attached to any armor piece you want to.  You could combine lower tiers together, maybe 3 +10s result in 1 +20, or just run higher tier content.  I’m not sure I’ve flushed out how to remove such an inlay but perhaps you can remove it but you destroy the item it is attached to.  This could then be expanded to include Cloaks but I wouldn’t want to see shields included as that would create a class imbalance.  This idea would still require you to run end-game group content such that most would get an understanding of how to function in a group and be more prepared to start raiding.  But, this would also be a huge boost to crafters as it now makes crafted gear instantly on par and easily interchanged with the raiding gear.  You would now be free to pick gear based on all that stats, not just a single stat.

With all that being said, I believe Turbine is going with a trait or deed system as the replacement for radiance.  The template for this new system, in my opinion, is how they’re currently gating the end boss Thorog of the Helegrod raid.  In order to even fight Thorog every person in the raid needs to have cleared the other 3 wings of the instance.  I actually see this as being a worse system in regards to accessibility in that that many groups will only do content they need to and focus their efforts on the most rewarding and challenging content.  So once they’ve completed those wings on their various characters and alts, they will focus more of their efforts on Thorog and finding groups for the other wings will be very challenging.

The other possibility would be a deed that would track how many end-game bosses you’ve killed (similar to the Ettenmoors kill deeds) and you need to reach a certain tier before progressing to the next content.  For example, to proceed to the Watcher raid (high end of Moria content) you need to kill 10 end-game bosses from either Moria, Lorien, or Mirkwood.  Completion of this would unlock Tier 2 of that trait which would require 20 kills to proceed into DN, and so on.  This probably is the best compromise, but I’m not sure I see Turbine going this direction.

Coming from someone who really enjoys raiding and has been in very successful raiding groups (not just in LOTRO), I’d like Turbine to tweak the system but still provide a mechanism that doesn’t force you down a specific path but gives you flexibility in how you get there and customization options in how you play your character.  This is a very fine line that Turbine must walk in that they need to make the content hard enough to keep the hard core raiders entertained but accessible enough for the casual folks.  Perhaps adding a third raid tier that’s the super crazy hard mode would help not only drive the raiders, but give folks more goals to try and accomplish.  While the raiders make up a smaller portion of the player base, they help continue to push Turbine to create content that’s challenging and not a total boar-fest.

I’m sure my thoughts aren’t alone on this nor will people necessarily agree with me but I would be curious to see other thoughts or perspectives.