Today Turbine posted a new Developer Diary talking about the itemization coming with the Rise of Isengard expansion.  One of the big encouraging things for me was the intent to incentivize all sorts of player types including solo, crafters, raiders, and casual groupers.  Of course, we still have to actually see it, but I was encouraged that they’ve identified there is a problem and are working to try to fix it.  The pure fact that many still raid OD (all my characters do) with numerous pieces of the Moria sets highlights that we’ve been stuck in an item rut for a long time.

The first two points of the diary were to identify the big problems they’ve been facing:

  • Stat caps and how players would hit them caused all sorts of problems and confusion.  This forced Turbine to put certain stats on certain items, and because of the removal of that cap we will see all sorts of options in Isengard.
  • Incremental upgrades were just too small as there just really wasn’t a need to upgrade your armor sets.  Why spend all the work to get that next higher set when you’re only getting a stat boost of a few points?  Coming with Isengard will be a significant jump in these benefits and I’m expecting that we’ll all be upgrading our current gear VERY quickly.

After those assumptions and fixes were laid out, they continue with how these changes will be applied for the various player types:

  • Solo players will be able to get four out of 6 pieces of their raid set from skirmishes in addition to all the other upgrades available from questing and the epic line.  We’ve already seen some great epic line rewards lately with the Orange items most wear and the 2nd Age Class Legendary Items in Volume 3.  This for me is great and I love the options get the gear and it still nudges folks to group up to get those last 2 pieces to complete the set and get the really cool bonuses.
  • Crafters will gain additional reputation recipes (not surprising as they’ve been doing this with each new reputation added) as well as trade-able recipes dropping from raids.  Hopefully this will bring crafted items back into the fold as viable items as I really like the ability to mix and match items for what I want to focus on and what I enjoy in game, while still maintaining some level of overall statistical quality.
  • The big change for the “casual grouper” is that in addition to the options for the solo players, you will be able to loot actual gear in skirmish and scaled instances.  This could be the biggest part of the diary for me as now you will want to run these instances to get specific items to upgrade your characters as currently there’s just too few good items that drop.
  • And of course for the raiders, they get all the above benefits but the ability to complete their class raid armor sets.  This sounds very similar to how the Moria set worked in that the 4 pieces were from the 6-mans and the last two from the raids.  With Isengard, those 4 pieces can be achieved in any sized group (including solo) with those last 2 being part of I’m assuming the Draigoch raid.

Two last things they touch on before wrapping up the diary are “yellow items” and Finesse misconceptions.  In short, the yellow (uncommon) item drops will be buffed significantly such that you’ll actually care about them again.  They’ll still be less powerful then purple drops, but much closer then they currently are such that they’re not automatically vendor trash.

As for finesse, the main goal with the system is to not go back to the Radiance grind but to make it desirable for people to have at least 3 on-level items to sufficiently contribute to the raids success.  This means you could solo grind it, craft it, or raid for it which to me reminds me of what radiance was supposed to be.  I’m all for this system as I like the idea of making people do something to be raid ready, but not force them down any specific path to get there.

Overall, I love the concept of this diary and am very excited about what all this means.  There are still lots of details to be worked out, but the concepts get us back to where we were during the Rift raiding days that many point to as the glory days for LOTRO end-game.

To go a step further, this provides real reasons for people to run the scalable instances like Helegrod, Annuminas, etc and skirmishes at the level cap for more then just those set armor pieces or marks.  If done right, this re-opens all this content back up to people even at level 75, adding a TON of end-game content without tasking lots of developer resources for new space design and spending those resources on new cool shinies!  I’m totally blown away with the concept of having all these raid and end-game spaces available that will provide meaningful rewards for every level character and can’t wait to see the new cool stuff!