Testimonial (Not that brief, apologies)
I first began playing LOTRO in May 2007. I joined the Vilya server because it was recommended and chose a burglar as my first class because, of course, it’s Lord of the Rings. My character’s name was Balculus. A funny name, I know, but it came from a combination of two books I had sitting on my shelf at the time: The Ballplayers Encyclopedia (about baseball) and Calculus (a college textbook; as you can imagine, the subject was calculus). Baseball and math were two of my favorite things back then so Ball + culus became Balculus. Simple.
The first thirtyish levels were tough, but, once I started grouping in Garth Agarwen, I fell in love with the class. There were so many things it could do! Dps, CC, FMs (nee CJs), debuffs, off-tanking, and on and on. Someone I grouped with once called it a strat class, and it seemed a perfect label. It was a class you had to think about. A lot. I spent hours doing so. I would read tooltips over and over, calculate how cooldowns might fit together, and ferret through the forums looking for nuggets of information. Even when I wasn’t playing the game, I would strategize when I had down time. How would I tackle an elite master that couldn’t be mezzed? How effectively could I influence threat management in a group? Every skill seemed to have a secondary effect; how would they fit together? The class had been designed so deeply, there seemed an endless combination of strategies to try.
The joy came in applying all of that research and practice in group play. A minstrel and I (back when minstrels were the only healers) would pug quite a bit for things like Carn Dum and Uru. Time and again, the research and practice I’d done allowed me to save the group’s collective asses. Things like emergency FMs, getting aggro off the mini, helping out that bonehead who kept targeting the wrong mob, and taking pressure off the tank and mini. CC had to be done properly or someone in the pug would inevitably break the mez. These were the things I had spent time honing my skill at. As a burglar, I could adapt to almost any situation, but it took thought, research, practice, and timely execution. When it all came together, it was the ultimate joy I found in the game. The developers had created a class with so many complex tools that mastering their use felt like a real, honest to goodness accomplishment.
After almost two years, well into the Moria release, I started a thread called Burglar Strategies. It was the first thread I ever started. I wasn’t sure how folks would respond, but the class still felt so complex that I felt there was more to learn. To my shock, it got a great response. Turns out others had the same passion for the class that I did. Even more shocking, I learned a lot. I was by no means an expert, but, after two years of steady play, I felt like I had a pretty good grasp on the class. Turns out there were still techniques I had never considered. After two years! That was how deep the class had been designed. It was a delight and kept me playing and thinking about how these new techniques could be applied.
Unfortunately, a few months afterward, time commitments forced me to stop subscribing. I missed the game, but it was for the best. The game never quite left me however. During slow moments, I would find myself reminiscing about particular experiences. Finally, about nine months ago, I had the opportunity to come back.
I immediately returned to Balculus. Burglaring had been a lot of fun after all, and that fun had brought me back. The game had changed a bit though. Aggro ranges had become ridiculously small which marginalized sneaking. Avoidance and mitigation mechanics had changed so much that I felt a lot squishier than before. Weapon speed had disappeared which removed the endless dagger/mace debate. I actually missed that. The biggest disappointment, however, was how much more the class seemed to have come to depend on dps. I had spent a lot of time fighting to justify to myself that the class was more than just a single-target dps class. It still wasn’t completely, but I didn’t feel like fighting against the current anymore. I wanted to be able to focus more on support like I had fought to do before. So, begrudgingly, I turned to the lore-master.
I say begrudgingly because, when it came to lore-masters, I’d always had a chip on my shoulder. I guess I’d always seen them as competition. They still come up today, but I remember a lot of threads back then asking the question: ‘Lore-master or Burg’? It was like a constant battle about which was the better strat class. Both were and still are excellent classes of course—they just go about things different ways. However, I’d fallen in with the crowd on the burg forum who felt underappreciated and slowly resigned myself to the belief that, given the choice, a group would take a lore-master before me. It wasn’t true of course, but I guess there are just times where we get a little crazy.
On the positive side though, I knew exactly where to go to find that support niche again. I remembered starting a few classes on other servers and found I had created a lore-master named Berewen on Firefoot. She was level 28 which was good since I never really cared for leveling and wanted to do it as little as possible. So I logged her in and gave the lore-master thing a try.
I immediately fell in love again. Everything I had missed about the game came rushing back. There was so much to do! Debuffs, CC, healing, aggro management, everything I had worked so hard to learn on Balculus was right there again. Even better, the adaptability I had grown to love as a burglar was there in the lore-master as well. I won’t go into detail since you all know what a lore-master is capable of, but let me opine once again about how the lore-master can do just about anything given enough time to prepare.
Best of all, Berewen seemed even more complex and took just as much practice as Balculus had. I moved fast as a burglar, but I’d never had to use the keybound quickslots beyond 1-6. I soon found though, that to do everything I wanted to do I not only had to use 1-6, I had to use all of their shift, ctrl, and alt counterparts as well. This took time and practice to master. Further, the very nature of the debuffs meant I had to learn more about how monsters applied their damage. Is a mob melee? Ranged? Are their major hits tactical? Dividing the debuffs added complexity, the very thing I was looking for. Then there were the types of CC. Burgs only had one mez when I first played (they have two others plus a root now), and it only affected humanoid and dragon type enemies. As a lore-master, I had more options. Will a root take a mob out of a fight or does it have a ranged attack and require a mez? Better do my homework to find out. Again, layers of complexity. Then there there were the different abilities of pets, the endless combinations of traits, and the varied damage types skills did. On and on, more and more to think about it, and it was great fun. I found myself researching, strategizing and practicing again and had a blast.
The most beautiful thing is it fit so perfectly with what a lore-master actually is. Don’t we learn about the game just like the Wizards, those the class is based on, did about Middle Earth? The melee/ranged/tactical separation of debuffs nudges us toward acquiring a better understanding of the enemies we encounter in the game, do they not? The types of crowd control do the same. Our role—to watch, assist, and manipulate fights to our advantage—requires us to develop a good understanding of said fights. Knowing which pet to summon requires a good understanding of fights as well, as does knowing the capabilities of classes in your group. The wide range of damage types our skills do nudges us to learn a particular enemy’s weaknesses. In summary, the very mechanics of the class urge us to develop a wide knowledge of the game so that we can know which small changes will have the largest impact, just as the Wizards would develop their knowledge of Middle Earth to learn the impact of their own actions. It is a beautiful synergy that both lends complexity to the class and adds a sense of role-playing to the game.
Sadly, there came a point when I had to leave LOTRO again. When Rohan came out, my computer couldn’t handle it. I was still running Windows XP 32-bit with only 2 GB of ram; not nearly enough. I still wanted to play an online game however, so, after researching a few, I chose to try Star Wars: The Old Republic. Let me tell you, that is a beautiful, beautiful game. The graphics are great. The story is very well done with lots of production value. Plus, it’s set in the Star Wars universe. Who wouldn’t find it neat to plunk themselves down in a galaxy far, far away? I played the game for a couple of months and tried three characters: the Vanguard (tank), the Jedi Sage (CC/healer), and the Gunslinger (dps).
In all honesty, there were a lot of things I liked more about that game than LOTRO. Like I mentioned, the graphics were better. The story was better (Rohan excluded, excellent job there devs). The instance system seemed a bit more streamlined as did the flow of the quests. The companion system was refreshing and very convenient although I do like having more control of our pets like we do here. Still, for all these things, I got bored after a couple of months.
I got bored because the classes didn’t have nearly the depth that they do here. Everything was so straightforward. As a Vanguard, all I had to do was stand there, get pounded, and do as much damage as I could. If a mob broke free, throw out a taunt, then go back to spamming damage buttons. As a Sage, it was hit my one mez button, keep an eye on health meters and then, again, back to spamming damage buttons. No thought required. Once the novelty of the game wore off, all that was left to do was start grinding for levels and gear. Not fun and not something I am going to pay monthly for.
Eventually, I was forced to upgrade my computer. I chose to spend a little more to buy one capable of running LOTRO and installed the game the day after the computer arrived. My first time logging back in, it felt like coming home. I had missed playing a lore-master that much. Finally I could get back to exploring the intricacies of a deep, interesting class and finding joy in applying my knowledge and skill in time critical situations.
So please, please understand what you have here devs. All MMOs have some form of grinding. They have to in order to keep customers paying, I understand that. But please understand the type of grinding you have that separates your game from others. It’s not mindless deeding, questing, or gearing. All of those are simply checking boxes and can be done in many other places. The grinding that separates your game from the others is the grinding required to gain actual skill. You have created in your game a few complex, advanced classes that require patience, research, and practice to master. That’s the grinding that makes this game interesting and fun. That’s the grinding that this class revamp has me nervous will get lost.
I hope you know that. You probably do seeing as you were the ones that made the game in the first place. But if you don’t or if you've forgotten, please follow the links below and see that I am not alone.
You have something precious here, devs. Please, treat it with care.
Christopher Charlton aka Berewen of Firefoot
Last edited by kriskrosed; Feb 22 2013 at 11:48 PM.
85 LM Berewen, 85 Burg Balculus, 85 Guard Benferth