Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Mirkwood vs. Cataclysm

Technically I am subscribed to both Lord of the Rings Online and World of Warcraft, only that the LotRO subscription is the "lifetime" deal. So I should be playing both games, and I should be equally interested in both both upcoming expansions, LotRO's Siege of Mirkwood coming out in two weeks, and WoW's Cataclysm coming out next year. But in reality I'm highly excited about Cataclysm, while Mirkwood leaves me cold.

Now you could think that this is because I'm actively playing WoW, but haven't played LotRO at all this year. But there is more to it than that. Imagine my situation was reversed, that I had high-level LotRO characters, but only low-level characters in WoW. In that case the Cataclysm expansion for WoW would still be quite interesting for me: I could start a new Worgen or Goblin, or I could use my existing low-level characters to explore all the massive changes to Azeroth. But for my low-level LotRO characters, the Mirkwood expansion offers nearly nothing, certainly not enough to encourage me to come back to LotRO.

In short, Cataclysm is an expansion which is quite interesting for ex-WoW players, regardless of when they stopped and how far they got into the game. Mirkwood is an expansion which is only interesting to players who already have a LotRO character at the level cap.

I do think that Blizzard is onto something here. We talk a lot about the number of WoW subscribers, are there 11 million, or should you just count the 5 million players who pay a monthly fee, and so on. We talk very little about the number of ex-WoW subscribers. If you look at PC games sales charts over the last 5 years, you'll find that World of Warcraft continues to outsell quite a lot of other PC games. But as the subscriber numbers have stopped growing, that influx of new players must be balanced by an outflow of burned out and bored players. I am pretty certain that by now there are more people with an expired WoW account than people with an active one. And a solid number of those ex-WoW players never made it to level 80, so they wouldn't be all that interested in an expansion which only offered post-80 content.

If you want to be extremely cynical (and hey, I know you want to, this is the internet after all) you could interpret it like this: The active World of Warcraft players are going to buy the expansion anyway, so it is better to design an expansion for ex-players, and even completely new players, than to just concentrate on your existing customers.

And I think that would work on other games than just World of Warcraft. Siege of Mirkwood? No, thanks! If I came back to LotRO for Mirkwood, with my highest level character being under level 30, I'd be stuck all alone, without a guild, without friends, without even a pickup group to be found, with only the announced change of making previous group content somewhat soloable so I could do the epic quest line to comfort me. But if LotRO had a Cataclysm-like expansion which added lots of low-level content, and thus breathed life into the low-level zones, I'd be back.
LoTRO has been updating and redesigning it;'s low level content for the past couple of books (content updates).

Mirkwood will include the new skirmish content that will work with lvl 30+, a new ability to solo Epic quest content and a redesigned Lone Lands area and quests.

I wonder how much of the 'being a current WoW subscriber' effects your view.
Firstly, I wholeheartedly agree with the concept of more low to mid level content in LOTRO. I’ve got high-level characters in both LOTRO and WOW, and I’m a big fan of both games. However, leveling an alt in LOTRO is much less fun for me, primarily because I need to follow the exact same path (after the starting areas).

Having said that, I really don’t think your comment about being friendless, guildless, PUGless in low-level areas are accurate either. My brother has started playing LOTRO recently, and I’m leveling a character with him. Although the level 0-50 areas are not full by any stretch of the imagination, they are certainly not empty either (except Lone Lands – nobody seems to play there!). Also, I usually don’t struggle too much finding groups. I think the limited leveling areas are actually an advantage here – every character and alt of every person needs to go through the same funnel. By comparison, I’ve found the WOW population in the 0-60 areas much sparser (although not empty either).

Finally, it may not be much for low-level players, but I’m actually looking forward to the new skirmish system in Mirkwood. You can participate from level 30; they are scalable battles (from solo to 12 players, taking level of players into account) and apparently have quite a bit of randomness build in. Especially the scaling and randomness are features that can benefit most other games – let’s hope they can make it work!
Arguably the biggest feature of the expansion, Skirmishes, are available at level 30. Ravious at Kill Ten Rats says:

It will change how casual players access Lord of the Rings Online, and it might have a greater effect on the MMO landscape ... This is seriously an expansion in itself.

Also, this is LotRO's 2nd expansion in 2.5 years, compared to WoW's 3rd in 5-6. What did WotLK add for low level players?
Good perspective, but as often as I keep seeing positive views on Cataclysm for so many reasons I am beginning to feel like the only one who sees the elephant in the room. New races are not new content. New races are a reskin of what you could do previously. Why has Blizzard only added one class (and a unique one at that) in what looks to be three expansions now?! How can they publish expansions and expect WoW (or ex-WoW) players to shell out more money on "new content" which turns into a few zones and a new look. My mage still casts the same spells whether he's Worgen or Gnome. My Hunter still wears Leather/Mail whether he's Tauren or Goblin. I don't see how new races is content and no one is asking for new classes? Just my 2 copper of course.

I suspect you have already made your mind up on this one Tobold and I am hardly the best ambassador given that I amn't even playing the game at the moment but what the heck, I'll have a go at defending Lotro.

In my opinion Lotro is a game that is worth going back to every six months or so. The game-world is beautifully crafted with attention to detail and to the lore. The character classes are well designed and interesting to play (both solo and in a group), the community is on average more mature and more helpful than I have found in other mmorpgs.

Turbine have added huge amounts of content since the game was launched and continue to add new content. A lot of the lower level content has now been reworked to make it solo friendly although happily it is still relatively easy to get groups for the key quests at any level. Surprisingly pick up groups can be very effective. Many kinships are also happy to take on new members.

I can't really comment on Mirkwood as I know only what I have read in the press releases. Skirmishes sound like an interesting development. Certainly this expansion is not as ambitious as Cataclysm but then again Lotro is three years younger than WoW. The newbie zones are not empty yet - there is still plenty of activity from new players and alts.

On the down side the game does have a fair amount of grind and some of the quests to be honest are downright tedious. However you can avoid a lot of the grind if take a conscious decision to settle for "good enough" rather than "best possible". I heartily recommend the game for a change of pace every six months or so.
I was already wondering why your interest in LotRO is so low. I played the trial some weeks ago out of boredom and it didn't look bad. I'd probably play it now if my fiancee didn't outright refuse to play it because of some Uncanny Valley Effect the game has on her. So why don't you play it? The only negative point I have found so far is that it seems very easy in the beginning, I was able to kill several enemies at once without breaking a sweat even if they attacked me from behind and were above my own level. I heard rumors that it stays far too easy for experienced players, is that the reason?
On the topic of Cataclysm: Right now I'm trying to find a reason to get exited about it, but there is not much. Right now all characterslots on my server are occupied and I have all characters with the exception of a Deathknight (I loathe these..) on a substancial level. So as long as Blizzard doesn't release a new class and an additional characterslot I won't even be able to try the new races. The new Raidcontent is also not good for me as my working schedule is a bit unstable at the moment, I lack the time to show up reliably two or three evenings per week, so no raiding for me.
What I do enjoy at the moment is raising those of my characters that are not already at the level cap and doing 5-man-instances with my maxlevel-characters.
So the list of Cataclysm-features for me is as follows:
- A bunch of new 5-man-instances
- Chance to level my Maxlevel-Characters for some days
- Some precious weeks where everyone is at the same level itemwise and true skill shows

..thats not exactly much for my money.
Let's take a look at what the expansions offer for low level players.

Burning Crusade. Very little for lowbies. Two new starting zones (1-20) and a revamped zone (35-40). A new class is not new content except for the starting zone!

The lich king. If you have a level 55 character you can level a deathknight. Beneath level 55? Nothing new.

So I'm quite pleased to see that the next expansion will give some serious new content. Adding two more races feels like a five day job which adds nothing to me. Revamping the old zones however? Sign me up! After leveling four characters through the old zones I'll be glad to level one again in new zones!
And this is something I wish SOE had done with EQ, but they never really did. Kunark was the last expansion that offered quality content for lower level characters.

As to Blizzard, I still can't believe they are re-vamping the older zones to give players who hate raiding another chance to enjoy the game.

As to LOTRO, wake me up when Hobbits can be Champions. It's the only race/class combo that really interest me.
I think the problem itself is not where content is added but the levels themselves. These games need zones that can be done irrespective of progress and neither Cataclysm or Mirkwood gets that right. Content needs to have no restrictions to be fully successful in attracting both current subscribers and ex-subscribers. I think the best way would be by eliminating levels (someone needs to think hard on what would replace this incentive). Then WOW for instance could revamp say "The Barrens" every expansion with new quests, continuing stories, and changes to the landscape. Both new and old subscribers could then come back to the zone without having to meet any level restrictions.
I think people are getting their hopes up for Cataclysm (and to some extent I am too) but I have my doubts about it's viability.

Raiding has largely been reduced to the lowest common denominator. The margin between being in an awesome guild surrounded by great players and being in a facerolling guild of casuals has never been slimmer.

The facerollers will kill the bosses the hardcore kill a few months after.

Levelling in WoW is superfast now even if you don't spend an extra $15 a month to triple your exp with your auto-following healer alt made under the recruit a friend programme. The notion that levelling will be amazing fun because they've reskinned a number of quests is pretty suspect.

Desolace will still suck. Dustwallow will still suck. High levels will still come gank you because they're bored.

Hopefully cross-server pugs will revitalise the low level instancing. I loved doing Wailing Caverns and so on, it's with considerable regret I saw WoW become a game where people skip all that and solo to cap.

The new races both look great and the starter areas they did for TBC were great fun. I'm sure I'll at least take one of each to 20.

But after a few months will it all get just too old? How many times do you want to level alts in Stranglethorn Vale 2.0? How many sucktastic raid ideas are going to be based on old bosses? Naxx, Hogger, Onyxia, I'm not interested in paying to do a boss I did 4 years ago retuned for level 85.

And the casual stuff is, well girly. Cooking, fishing, daily deliver a love note quests. Bleh, no thanks.

I'll buy Cataclysm but I really don't expect it to have much replay value.
I've long argued that there are more ex-WoW subscribers than current players, and I think it's a big part of Blizzard's shift to a longer patch cycle.

"Patch X.6 includes one new feature" doesn't get much press, and, even if it does, will only interest former players who wanted that one thing. "Patch 3.3 is a once-in-six-months extravaganza that contains something for every playstyle" gets significant coverage on both regular and social media, and former players who check it out are more likely to hear about something that's relevant to them.
Mirkwood adds quite a lot, though it is not a full scale expansion for sure.

It might sound cynic, but LOTRO even copied some of the less glorious WoW ideas like the "daily chores" quests that give "players something to do". The low level content of the Lone Lands and the instance there will get revamped, too, basically a mini-cataclysm.

So much fuss about Cataclysm. Before it is even released. Siege of Mirkwood is released in december, and Cataclysm is still far away. Nearly as Guild Wars 2 and Diablo 3, scheduled for 2011.

New and completely revamped zones, so that you can start playing the very same game again. Is it really that exciting? I wonder if this really works out, if levelling will be as fast and something to get over as soon as possible, as it is right now.

The german LOTRO servers have more players that are in the low and mid level ranges than I can recall having found on the WoW servers Taerar (medium population) or Frostwolf (high), by the way.

I needed some time to get into LOTRO, but I think it was worth it. Maybe you should crawl out of the WoW shell for some time, too. I am not really sure if you are really that much enticed by the daily WoW routine you described here some time ago.
I always thought that 11 million were people paying every month...I never thought that half have expired.

Good Point
I always thought that 11 million were people paying every month...I never thought that half have expired.

Well, normally 11 million people ARE paying every month, albeit only 5 million of them in the form of monthly fees, the other 6 million in a pay-by-hour game card system in China. But currently the 6 million players on Chinese servers are apparently locked out again, for the second time this year, due to some regulatory difficulties Blizzard has with the Chinese authorities.
From a friend living in china, apparently most of the serious chinese WoW players have been playing on the Taiwanese servers for some time now - since taiwan gets patches the same schedule US/EU do, they see content as we do. as opposed to the chinese servers being patches behind.
This is a strangely biased and, to be honest, uninformed post, which is very rare for this blog. As the first comment says, they have been redoing a zone with each content update since moria arrived, that includes all the starter zones (apart from hobbits, they felt hobbit starting zone was by far the best). Lone lands comes with the expansion, and they plan to do all the original zones, so it won't be the last. All done far sooner than WoW, who has had the same old world zones for what will be nearly 6 years come cata.

Additionally skirmishes kick in from 30 that scale from solo to small raid size, with rewards appropriate to the challenge (and even solo will be challenging).

And let's not forget the 'Hero' system. The epic quest line is central to the games story, and to ensure everyone can enjoy it, the system will let you essentially solo the group parts if finding a group is tough (and Book 1 is hard to finish even now).

That's alot of new stuff for low to mid level players and all from a company with far less resources than Blizzard. People praise blizzard for listening to their community, but I think Turbine are doing a fantastic job on LOTRO in that regard.

Bottom line, LOTRO is doing far more, far sooner to keep low to mid levels fresh and fun than WoW is.
If I came back to LotRO for Mirkwood, with my highest level character being under level 30, I'd be stuck all alone...

Your entire post is incorrectly based on this single assumption.

First, if your highest level character is under 30, do you need more "low level" content to bring you back? You don't have a high level character yet, so isn't *all* the rest of the content new to you?

Second, as everyone else has mentioned, LOTRO has (so far) differed from WoW in that the leveling areas still have plenty of players running around for grouping, chatting, etc. I very rarely have difficulty getting a group on any level character. The exception is usually the Lone Lands, which has also been mentioned. (When they call it the Lone Lands, they mean it!) But the zone is getting a total revamp much like the starter zones did, which by the way, contained that *new content for low-level characters* as well.

...haven't played LotRO at all this year.

Pretty much explains why you don't really know what you're talking about here...
I'm not sure it's a given that the current 5m will buy the next expansion regardless of what it offers. I think if it completely ignored those who play at the cap, and who don't enjoy alts, they might pass or at least hold off. That's also risky because you might end up trading some of your more dedicated players (who have been waiting for new content for a while) for new players, ones that might level to the cap and leave. Give then long-term model of an MMO, that's not a good trade.

(Although overall I agree, it's far smarter to chase those who have left WoW than those currently playing, especially since 5m have stuck around despite Blizzards sub-standard patching rate. To them ANYTHING new will be a plus)
Thought you might be interested in this interview with Rob Pardo Tobold; I quote a particularly relevant excerpt below:

"Another thought I have is that you have to also remember that the subscriber base of WoW today is not just the one we had when we launched. There's a whole bunch of people who tuned out of WoW two years ago or four years ago, but who really enjoyed it, and when another MMO comes out that tickles their fancy, they'll jump into it. I don't know what the exact number is off-hand, but the total number of subscribers we've had is easily more than double - maybe closer to triple - the current subscriber base.

So looking at it logically, if we can get them interested, you could have the same subscriber base without cannibalizing WoW too badly."
Until they change the avatar animations and graphics, I will never go back to Lotro. The characters just weird me out! Turbine has some odd 2d cut-and-paste feel to their games. It's horrible.

Cataclysm is essentially a reboot of the old Azeroth world. This is a great idea. Even ex-subscribers who did not buy expansions will be able to play in the revitalized content.

Will I try it out? For sure! I'll try a worgen, a goblin, level the new archaeology skill, grind achievements, and explore all the new regions. I could easily see them sucking me into another 6 months of playing!
I always thought that 11 million were people paying every month...I never thought that half have expired.

Yes, 11 million are paying but many millions more have played and quit over the years. Tobold is suggesting the total of active plus ex-players is much higher. ie. 20 million.
Bree, Erid Luin and with Mirkwood - the Lone Lands have all had a makeover, and from a recent dev chat, North Downs is next. I've been lvling an alt in preparation for Mirkwood and was pleasantly surprised at how much better these zones were after the redesign - a lot more quests, new NPC's and mobs, some quest locations changed, more interesting cohesive content all around imo.

I was actually quite surprised at how many people I saw while lvling. I have just come back after a 6 month or so hiatus and was happy the game wasn't dead when I got back.
Imagine a system where you could level in battlegrounds from level 10 on up. I'll compromise and say it takes longer than questing exp wise. Its not that hard to figure out the formula.

Imagine armor upgrades through honor rewards every 5 levels or so in pvp. I'll compromise and say it should be green level gear. It's not hard to figure out the formulas and use existing gear models/stats.

Imagine a title and/or achievement and/or mount and/or pet for leveling 10 to 80 "primarily" in battlegrounds. Potentially the 2 million honor mount. and 3 million honor title. You dont spend the honor on the items you get them for earning that much.

I imagine giving a significant portion of players what they want -- more would give you $15 a month.

I sure hope rated battlegrounds do the trick. It's the ONLY thing I'm hanging on for in Cataclysm.
Dear LotRO fanbois,

I'm talking about expansions, and how they are marketed to target either veteran players or ex-players. It is totally possible that LotRO did various things to low level zones in patches, but that is not at all the subject matter of this post. I'm looking at the advertised feature list of Mirkwood, and don't see much which is specifically designed to bring players like me back into LotRO.

You are of course free to keep thinking that LotRO is the best game ever, and that the 98%+ of MMO players who are not currently playing LotRO all are sadly mistaken and don't know what they are talking about.

Most that have posted here weren't evangelising on behalf of LotRO. LotRO has many problems and WoW does indeed do many things better. We were simply correcting several incorrect statements and assumptions in your post.
Ditto what AP_Erebus said already. I've been replaying the lower level content and there are so many different and new quests and hubs that its almost totally different, except in the Shire, they haven't touched the Shire.
Tobold: "But if LotRO had a Cataclysm-like expansion which added lots of low-level content, and thus breathed life into the low-level zones, I'd be back."

Of course, the problem with that is the Lore. It seems that LotRo could never have a cataclysm and still be LotRo.

Yet another weakness of using a liscenced property?
To provide a less fanboi like opinion, I agree that what Blizzard is doing is exciting and something they should have done, and an ingenious move. In Fact I'm surprised this doesn't happen too often in the MMO sphere after a couple of vertical expansions, do a revamp to revive things. I'll be interested to see what happens to their subscriber numbers as well as their next MMO.
Dear Tobold,

Perhaps if you read the replies a bit more carefully you'd realize that the LotRO "fanbois" have been pointing out that the premise of your original post is incorrect.

You carefully point out that you are talking about expansions and whether they're marketed for veteran players, but fail to take into account that there are approaches to this problem other than the one that the almighty Blizzard chooses to implement.

Had you read the "fanboi" posts carefully you would realize that one of the things that Turbine has done is put considerable effort into refreshing their low level content with nearly every update. On the other hand, Blizzard chooses to do nearly all high end content for their content releases and use this expansion to revamp all of the low level areas.

Really, both companies are doing the same thing...the only difference is that one is giving low levels and charging for level cap and the other is giving level cap and charging for low levels.
Don't listen to the LOTRO fans...

I mean, we really know this much...why would anyone but the most diehard of LOTRO fans buy the expansion in the first place.

I have not played WoW in close to 3 years...and I am interested in Cataclysm much more than LOTRO...

Of course, everyone, their brother, their sister, their dog AND their spaghetti cat know how I feel about LOTRO...and zero has changed on every return offer.
The game is just not fun to me...and so many other MMO players.
I think the point though Tobold is LotRO with Mirkwood does not NEED to create as much revamped content (even if they actually have) as WoW because Turbine has already been doing that, where Azeroth is 95% exactly the same since 2004. So yes, Cataclysm SEEMS like a huge deal because finally, after 5+ years, Blizzard is actually going to change something in their old 1-60 game instead of just tacking on 10 more levels (this time they tack on 5). Over a shorter period of time, Turbine has already done that with LotRO, they just don't hold it off for 5 years and charge $40 for it. I think that's rather understandable, but if you have so little interest in LotRO that you only glance at an expansion bullet list, Cataclysm seems like a bigger deal.
After about 4 good months in WoW, I've stopped playing it. I got to the mid-60s but I was losing interest. I played several alts, highest to 50, and then I tried the Fallen Earth trial and basically haven't played WoW since.

I am just about to cancel, but I will re-sub for Cataclysm, because it should offer lots of content that I can use with my under-WotLK entrance level characters. Had it been aimed solely at max-level characters it's possible I would be done with WoW for good after just a few months.
If it was true that LotRO has quite full low-level zones and no problems finding a low-level group, then why is Turbine making previous epic book quests soloable?

Sorry for the snappy response, but I get somewhat annoyed when people call me clueless. Who wouldn't? Even if I'm not playing, I'm keeping up to date on many different games by reading blogs and MMO sites.
I'm totally with you on this one, Tobold. Cataclysm excites me a lot whereas Mirkwood seems pretty bland and boring. I love expansions that provide low level content or something to entice back players rather than just cater for existing ones.
"If it was true that LotRO has quite full low-level zones and no problems finding a low-level group, then why is Turbine making previous epic book quests soloable?

I think this post by a Turbine dev addresses this question specifically, fyi.
"If it was true that LotRO has quite full low-level zones and no problems finding a low-level group, then why is Turbine making previous epic book quests soloable?"

For a couple of reasons. First off, they're catering to the very vocal mass of players who prefer not to group but don't want to miss out on the EPIC storyline. Giving them a solo option allows them to have experience what many players feel is some of the best content in the game. I personally love grouping but I don't mind Turbine creating this alternative for those who don't.

Secondly, the way the epic quests are set up is problematic from the get-go. By the time you're an appropriate level for Vol. I, Book 2, for instance, some players are already heading to the North Downs or are hanging out in Bree hoping to find a group for the Great Barrows quests. (With the Lone Lands revamp I doubt this will be a problem for a good long while.) Also, in Volume I, Books 6-15 are basically level 45+, and people at that level are spread out all over Middle-earth -- they could be in Forochel, Angmar, Misty Mountains, Eregion, Moria, Lothlorien -- and advertising on the "Looking for Fellowship" channel only transmits to your current zone. Of course, there is the player created "Global LFF" channel, but I tend to avoid it as its where the more chatty/obnoxious types tend to hang out. ;-)

So I honestly don't think it's hard to find groups in general - I've been leveling a hunter from 0 to 52 over the past couple of months and have had no trouble finding groups, even before I joined my current kinship. Granted, I'm on a more populated server, so that might have something to do with it. But from what I've read about WoW (haven't played it myself) it can be just as difficult to find groups there, too. I think that's just a function of MMOs, really, and not something exclusive to LOTRO. I certainly don't feel like it's a dead place, and I haven't even gone to Moria yet.
Cataclysm has my interest as an ex-wow player. I haven't played since BC so its been at least 2 years.

I haven't really read up on the new races, or even know which classes are currently fun to play.

I just think it will be fun to level up a toon in a whole new world. Will Barrens chat still be filled with Chuck Norris jokes?

After trying so many games lately I have to say WoW still has most games beat.

I will definitely be buying the expansion for WoW when it comes out, but secretly from all my WoW coworkers since I have turned them down for 2 years to come back.
Ouch Tobold. Where on earth did that insulting outburst come from? I just can't seem to justify it from the comments leading up to it. Most of them are very reasonable expressions of opinion.

You say that somebody called you clueless - that is certainly unwarranted and that person deserves a rebuke but why rebuke me and the others who made polite and honest comments?

Bit of hurt feelings going on here :(
"Of course, the problem with that is the Lore. It seems that LotRo could never have a cataclysm and still be LotRo."

But even in LotRo Turbine could eventually leverage parts of the lore like the scouring of the Shire to for a similar effect to what Blizzard is doing with Cataclysm. They're not at the point in the story where this is an option yet, but maybe a few expansions down the line?
I honestly can't say I'm excited for either expansion. Cataclysm in particular sure looks cool and while it would be nice to see all the new zone changes I just don't think it's worth the price of admission for me.

After leveling one or two characters through the new zone changes I know I'll get bored and end up going back to my maxed out characters.
I think I have a slightly different idea of what a “fanboi” is. Most of the posts I read here do not qualify (according to my definition, of course :-)). The posts were articulate enough, arguing their points in a civil manner and very few actually explicitly stated that LOTRO is a better game. I know it is probably implied, as they are defending the game, but I didn’t see the “WOW sucks, LOTRO rules!” posts I would usually associate with a true fanboi.

As I said, I’m playing both games and like both very much. As I also said, I really feel LOTRO should add more, new low-level areas (Dale would be great!). The revamped areas are fine, but you still have only one path between levels 15 and 35. However, what most posts also pointed out was that your statement about empty zones, not able to find groups are simply not true. Except if you meant directly after the release of Mirkwood – I’m sure people will leave their alts for a bit to play the new content.

One of the differences between WOW and LOTRO is the endgame – WOW has got a lot more of it. I know it is often repetitive, and people can argue the pros and cons of it forever. However, because of it LOTRO players tend to roll more alts (level, do a bit of endgame, roll another and repeat). It may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it results in a lot of low-level players. A comment on Epic quests – they are great! The first time, that is – after that it’s a lot of effort for very little reward. I have no problem doing any of the open world and instanced group quests in LOTRO, but I will not do the Epic storyline again. Which is obviously a problem for new players trying to complete the story, and hence the move to make it soloable.

Finally, I would really like to hear your views on the skirmish system. There have been quite a few posts (here and elsewhere) about some of the stuff they’re trying to implement - scalable instances, a bit of randomness, henchmen. It would probably need a lot work before being balanced, but surely it’s a step in the right direction?
Ouch Tobold. Where on earth did that insulting outburst come from?

What I was writing about is my personal feeling towards two expansion announcements, the one exciting me, and the other not. I would say I'm entitled to personal feelings, and that such feelings can't be "right" or "wrong". So when I get comments like "you don't really know what you're talking about here", I'm feeling hurt.

It's like if I had said "I am sad", and somebody replied "You are wrong, you don't know what you are talking about".

Why can't I, on my personal blog, not mention any game I'm not excited about, without certain people feeling the need to attack me to defend their game of choice?
I think they are worried because your opinion is so respected by many that it will sway those people to also feel the same way. You are certainly entitled to feel and share what ever you feel though, that's what blogging is all about! :) I like hearing your opinion even if I don't always agree with it.
"It's like if I had said 'I am sad, and somebody replied 'You are wrong, you don't know what you are talking about'."

That is fine, and entirely true.

"Mirkwood is an expansion which is only interesting to players who already have a LotRO character at the level cap"

This is not fine, and is entirely untrue. That's what the "fanbois" are calling you out on.
As an aside, you're going to pay for this one later... :)

Tobold said, "Even if I'm not playing, I'm keeping up to date on many different games by reading blogs and MMO sites."
Like many people I am sure, I have played WoW for years and have multiple characters at the level cap, and raid actively with one of them. I can't wait to see the new zones and new quests and lore that will come with Cataclysm. They've made questing much more engaging and fun than the pre-BC days and they will be applying that knowledge to those new quests.

I tried LotRO and I just couldn't find it compelling enough to keep playing for more than a day. I can't exactly put my finger on why, I hear everyone saying what a great game it is, but it bored me to tears. I suspect that if I was a big Tolkien fan, my impression might be different, so maybe I just don't "get it".
1) "What I was writing about is my personal feeling towards two expansion announcements"

Much of the piece is indeed merely expressing your personal opinion. Perfectly fine and acceptable, no issue there.

2) "In short, Cataclysm is an expansion which is quite interesting for ex-WoW players, regardless of when they stopped and how far they got into the game. Mirkwood is an expansion which is only interesting to players who already have a LotRO character at the level cap."

In this paragraph you are claiming to speak for others. These claims are quite debatable and I suspect, the source of most of the friction.
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