I’ve been waiting a little bit to absorb and digest the releases yesterday as there are certain things that just don’t make sense to me.  We saw 3 main pieces of news that I wanted to go a little deeper into.

After a delay hit last week, Update 11 finally makes its way over to Bullroarer for public testing.  I will admit that I’ve only popped on the server for a little bit, so this isn’t any sort of thorough review of the update.  For the most part, we knew much of what is in this update but I wanted to touch on a couple of things.  I was a bit underwhelmed by the changes to mounted combat, as Rowan made it out to be a pretty significant change to the mechanics as well as giving the mount trees more options.  At first glance, it really just seemed like the removed many of the basic traits and rolled them into the base mount.  While I appreciate the change, I was hoping for more of an evolution.  But, I will reserve full judgment until I play with it more and see the new content in case they added something spiffy there.  I am (as always) happy to see new zones and am VERY curious to see where the story continues, and visually it appears that the new zone doesn’t disappoint.  I did check out the new Hobbit Presents, and I really don’t have any personal issues with it – but at least now we should be able to get confirmation regarding non-VIPs and gold boxes.  On my first roll I did win 50 Mithril Tokens, so I used those up for research purposes.  The main thing that jumped out to me is that the gear in there maxes out at level 80, but there are Teal and Orange drops.  Below are some shots of what’s possible to get, notice the orange item is not that far off from my Hytbold gear. In addition to this use of coins, there are new ways to spend them, which is all well and good but I’m just not entirely sure the rationale behind the change.  We shall see how much of this build stays the way it currently exists and how many BR builds we get before live, but for the most part I’m liking the Update for what it is.

Hobbit Presents OptionsHobbit Presents OptionsHobbit Presents Options

The announcement that shouldn’t have shocked anyone was the “official” announcement of the Helm’s Deep expansion.  My biggest issue with this is that there’s NOTHING new in the announcement that we didn’t already hear last year from Rowan or earlier this year from Kate Paiz.  Why make such a big deal about a “huge” announcement around the anniversary that you’ve already made?  This announcement is almost identical to the ones for Isengard and Rohan, (Isengard Release & Rohan Release) but those were both a few months earlier in the calendar year.  I was thinking possibly they might announce pre-orders and beta, but for each of those last 2 expansions (Isengard and Rohan) those announcements didn’t come until July – so this would certainly be early for that.  I’m not sure what else I would have wanted to know, but this announcement just didn’t excite me much at all.  Getting to the few details they did announce, I’ve mentioned before that I”m not a big fan of level cap increases so I’m not excited that they included one, but it probably is best with all the class revamp stuff going on.  Probably the most confusing part of the announcement is the mention of Helm’s Deep content available starting at level 10!  I’m not sure how this will actually work, but it smacks of a money grab that just wants to give everyone a reason to get the expansion and not just those at level cap.  However, I can see this happening in a number of ways, but here’s my speculation.  For those who’ve been around for a while, you may remember Book 14 of Epic Volume 1 (thanks to twitter for helping jog my memory) had a server wide quest turn-in gate on finishing the rest of the book.  Essentially once enough people did enough of a certain group of quests you were able to tip the scales of the battle enough to un-lock the rest of the story.  I’m reading into what’s in the release in that Turbine is doing something similar here with this expansion.  Notice, no where in the release do we see the mention of instances, raid, skirmishes, etc. which I do NOT expect to be part of the expansion just like they haven’t been for the past 2 expansions.  However, this server wide un-lock, could provide a neat tie-in to better “explain” the time gap between the content.  They’ll know when the instance cluster should be ready, so they can just adjust the math such that it isn’t possible to unlock the content until it is ready.  This would provide a way in which everyone could participate in some way without tossing level 10 players way out into Rohan.  Another possibility would be to include session plays in some form, but I’m just not sure how they’d introduce those for folks that early on in the story.

The piece of news that’s probably getting the least amount of publicity is the changes coming to the forums.  They’ve been hinting and talking about the change, even going so far as to tell people to export any blogs, but we’re now getting details of what’s coming.  Long story short, everything not on the forums is going away.  This includes My.lotro blogs, character data, programmatic access to the item and character databases, PvMP and skirmish leaderboards, the Lorebook, and probably a few other things that I’m forgetting.  Everyone realizes that the whole system has issues, but this seems like a pretty drastic step.  Sapience does reveal that the merging of NA and EU systems has caused a huge assortment of problems so it seems like this is a necessary evil.  However, the more concerning part about the announcement is there’s no mention of any sort of upside for players, or any mention of doing something to address players concern over security.

One thing that these 3 announcements all have in common is a very confusing PR strategy that Turbine has embraced.  Why roll out the bad news together with the two pieces of good positive stuff?  Why wait all this time to “officially” announce the expansion?  Why nothing addressing huge security holes that have already been compromised once as part of this forum apocalypse?  I think many of the issues the community has stems directly from this lack of quality communication.  I don’t know what specifically has changed, but I don’t remember them coming this frequently.  Hopefully the Player Council can shake something loose, but only time will tell.