Double the fun

From Loading Artist :

A hopeful sign, on the state of Lotro's music

One of my beefs with Lotro has been the declining state of its music.  On a whole it's never been particularly stellar, especially when you compare it to Jeremy Soule's compositions (I've never played Guild Wars, yet I know all the soundtracks quite well.  And of course one can't forget The Elder Scrolls Series. <3), but it's certainly had its moments of greatness.  I think up until the Lothlorien area the music in Lotro was largely decent with some tracks being better than others.  But afterwards, especially with Rise of Isengard, the music took a turn for the worse.  I believe music should help immerse you in the environment and perhaps create memories or evoke feelings of that area, not jar you out of it. "Ugh, what on earth IS that? *quickly goes to UI Audio and promptly turns music volume to 0*"  It's the later that's been happening to me post-Moria (though I'm ambivalent about the Mirkwood area).  In my opinion, we've gone from music that actually had a regional feel that fit the region it was meant to represent, varied tunes, actual themes and a more complex harmonic structure and counter melodies to music that is bombastic (not in a good way), meandering, unfocused, simplistic and lacking form.

Lotro has rehired Chance Thomas to compose music for the game again which was news I welcomed as this meant the game music should at least be okay with moments of very good. :P  Today they've released a track called "Lotro Legacy":
Not a lot new there, but it's promising nonetheless in my opinion.  There's a reworked Tom Bombadil's theme and the theme I associate with the skirmish tutorial. :P  It's still infinitely better than this.... well... junk:
This is what we've been subjected to lately.  There are more examples such as the music from the Northcotton Farm instance or Lost Temple instance  It's cringeworthy to me when you compare it to other pieces in the collective Lotro score.  I've actually found it difficult to find post-Mirkwood music, especially RoI music, online.  I wonder why? [/sarcasm]

On the whole, I think I might like the Mines of Moria soundtrack the best, specifically what sound to be fleshed out, full orchestra tracks as opposed to the synthetic ones.  Since I've just assaulted your ears with some horrible music, here are what I think the better moments of Lotro music are:
  • My absolute favourite music of the game is the music that occurs in Walls of Moria area.  I always get excited when I begin that epic and go crank up the music volume. The Hollin Gate (love the all the arpeggios!) and Hour of Doom are simply gorgeous.  They both make me stop my gameplay, sit there and just listen.
  • I quite enjoy the Lothlorien music, yet I find it has low replayability.  If I'm questing in the area, I eventually have to turn it off.  Though for a while The Golden Wood, The Falls of Nimrodel, unreleased Caras Galadhon music are all very enjoyable.  
  • Tom Bombadil's Theme - it fits wonderfully to me.  It creates such a light and joyous atmosphere as you exit the Old Forest.  I can just picture Tom skipping around and singing.  Listening to the music makes me want to grab my hobbit, pay him a visit and skip along with him!
  • Hills of the Shire - I always hear this bit of music whenever I cross the Brandywine Bridge into Buckland.  So cheery and pastoral and hobbit-like!  There's also Silent Hope which is a soothing track that to me is reminiscent of the main theme of Hills of the Shire.
  • Lament for Oakenshield - suitably dwarfy with the male choir.  Moving music that fits its corresponding instance.
  • The better bits of the Moria region's music: A Journey in the Dark - this is what always plays first for me when I enter Moria.  It really sets the mood with its minor key and sounds heavy, a bit dark and ominous, yet at the same time grand and evoking a feeling of being in an old, enormous and important location.  Khazad-Dum - this track really brings the depths of Moria to life.  This is the track that's featured in what I find to be the most fun session play of the game yet, We Cannot Get Out, where you play the dwarf Ori.  Archers of the Galadrim - strange name for the track considering it only ever plays in the Morroval area of Moria for me.  I find it quite a fun track!
There's even more good music that hasn't been officially released.

Besides the quality of the music there are three things I wish they'd address, though I'm not holding my breath for any of this to happen:
  • A toggle on/off for combat music.  In the past I have avoided mobs when good music was playing.  It's immersion breaking to have a mob get your character into combat and have some brash combat music with bagpipes start up!
  • Keep regional music regional.  It's also immersion breaking to hear Lothlorien music in Eregion or music you normally hear in Bree city out in the wilds of Dunland.  I'm not quite sure when they started doing this (Enedwaith release perhaps?), but it was quite noticeable once it started.
  • Fix the ambient sound bug.  I highly recommend cranking up the ambient sound to max.  Aside from Angmar and the Nan Curunir area (I'm not sure what the person who made those sounds was smoking at the time), it's fantastic and brings the game to life for me.  But sometimes, the game will trigger the wrong sounds, such as Breeland birds chirping whilst you're in Moria.
Going through the soundtracks has been quite fun and has helped me remember how varied the soundtrack has been in the past and really highlighted how Turbine hasn't been doing the latest regions justice.  There's really nothing distinguishing about the music whatsoever.  Given what Thomas has done before, I'm really hoping that he'll bring back the regional, thematic flavour of the game's music.

Girly Girl

This is something I'm not.  I don't really do flowery clothing and certainly not pink!  But this year's spring cosmetics are strangely an exception. :)

I really like the new circlet.  I was never a fan of the previous flower circlet.  It just looked like a clump of flowers on your forehead. :P  This one is elegant, delicate and beautiful.

 Another variation with the hood from the store:

Pre-Order Drama Update

Whilst even with this news, I think Turbine is still charging far too much for the expansion, credit is due where it's due.  At least now I'm thinking "when" I'll buy the expansion and with cash or tp, rather than "if" I'll buy it.  Sapience on the official forums:

As most of you know, last week we launched the Riders of Rohan pre-purchase program. While initial sales have been strong and overall response has been positive, we have been paying very close attention to feedback from our community, where some concerns have been raised.

First, many of you shared how much you appreciated the inclusion of Turbine Points as part of last year’s offers. While we believe that the Rohan packs already offer an excellent value, we’ve heard your request and are now adding bonus points into all tiers of the Pre-purchase packs!
The updated editions will now include:
  • Base Edition: 1,000 Bonus Turbine Points
  • Heroic Edition: 1,000 Bonus Turbine Points
  • Legendary Edition: 2,000 Bonus Turbine Points
Are you one of the many players who already purchased Riders of Rohan? You get points too! Anyone who has already applied their Rohan key will see points credited directly to their account over the next few business days. You will not need to contact customer service to receive your points. They will be granted automatically.

Additionally, some players had questions about the instance cluster coming after the launch of RoR. While we are still not ready to talk about the details of the cluster we did want to confirm that we will be releasing a new instance cluster in an update after Rohan launches, and that the cluster will be free to all players who have purchased the Riders of Rohan expansion.
Thanks to everyone for your candid feedback about the pre-purchase offers and the Rohan expansion. At Turbine we have always made it a point to listen closely to our players and adjust when necessary to provide the best possible entertainment experience.

Note: There are a large number of accounts that will be receiving a points credit as part of this change. Please allow 3-5 business days for your points to arrive.

Instance News

Sapience on the official forums:

We are working on an instance cluster. Currently it is planned to be part of an update due to release after the Riders of Rohan expansion has shipped.

*sigh* Why? :/ I'm not fond of this method of supposedly giving us new content through the year.  It feels like they're purposefully stringing things out to make it look like they're updating more frequently.  To me that will be a faux update, one that should have come out with the new expansion.

So it looks like we're going to be in for the same problem as RoI.  Hit level cap in a couple of weeks and then have to wait around.  Lame.

My Thoughts on the Riders of Rohan Pre-Order

Mostly it can be summed up into:  What the heck are they thinking?

When I first looked at the different packages my first reaction was astonishment which then changed into disappointment and a bit of anger.  I'm not really disappointed with the game since I like it as a whole.  Sure it has some big problems (non-legendary Legendary weapons and the corresponding grind, boring and neglected pvp, watering down the game, and most importantly the lag and bugs that are becoming frequent) but no game is perfect.  When it comes down to it, I like running around Middle Earth. But, I've found it more and more difficult to enjoy the game in the face of Turbine's increasingly, glaringly obvious greed (or perhaps this is better directed towards WB).  I love Tolkien and his work so it upsets me to see it twisted and used by a greedy company.  A fair bit of what they do is antithetical to his work in my humble opinion.  Yes, I know companies exist to make money and that yes, they should make money.  But I suppose the better ones don't plainly display their greed and usually at least back up the price with a good product and/or customer service.  Turbine has always lacked in customer service but lately its product is becoming shoddier as well.  I feel they're being awfully bold to be charging the prices they are given the current state of bugs we've seen lately.

They released a video Riders of Rohan Teaser Trailer along with this pre-order announcement:

Okay, so there's some mounted combat, which I didn't find too exciting looking unfortunately, and a few shots of new areas.  And what else? What about endgame content? Instance clusters and raids?  Class updates?  New class skills? Crafting? How many quest hubs?  I've seen the arguments that Rohan will be three times the size of Moria!! Okay, so... that doesn't mean much?  Moria was vertical as well which made it feel even larger but this land will be flat.  Also I can look to areas such as Dunbog or Forochel and find a large area with lots of dead space.  When I look at that video I sure see a lot of space... a lot of open space with not a lot in it.  I'm thinking they need all this open space for the mounted combat.  And perhaps areas are not finished (yet with a September release date, I find that quite worrying in regards to polished content.) So size tells me nothing.

Aside from the lack of information, I'm struggling to see why the legendary edition is worth $70, which would buy you a whole new game such as Guild Wars 2.  They seem to be charging a lot more for a lot less  In the past we've had new game mechanics introduced:  Moria and its legendary weapons or Mirkwood and its skirmishes, shared storage and wardrobe. Yet those expansions weren't this expensive.  I believe RoI's top tier package was $50 and people got a lot more goodies.  Let's take a look at the extras on the legendary edition:
  •  Armour of the Eastemnet - It's sorta cool but I can do without it. Not paying $30 extra.
  • 6th Inventory Bag - I'd wanted this and was glad to hear of its arrival, but I can do without it. I honestly think this should have been in all pre-order versions as supposedly this was one of their incentives to get people to pre-order.  Instead this is just like the expanded wallet.  "Oh we're listening to our fans and what you've asked for is finally coming!" *a few weeks later*  "Here is it but you need to cough up money for it! Hurrah!"  Apparently you can buy this as a stand alone account-wide purchase for 995TP.  More about that later.
  • Crystal of Remembrance - It would be nice to have an extra major legacy, but this pay to win stuff turns me off.  You receive no extra points on your weapons to spend on this legacy, so really they're a glorified legacy replacement scroll or stat scroll. This will also be available in the store.  The store version will be per character though whilst if you buy the preorder, you get one per character I believe.
  • Exclusive Rohan Content - Now this is the only thing that makes me go hmmmmm, because this content eventually leaves you with a skill for your warhorse.  We've not heard what it will be and a lot of people are worried about it being a pay-to-win skill for our horses.
All  in all, this expensive edition doesn't look that exciting and has left quite a few people upset that Turbine is charging so much for even more in-game advantage.  But many of us are upset at the $40 for the basic version because at this point it seems we're being sold a glorified quest pack. 

So why is Turbine going against somewhat industry standard for expansion pricing?  How can they justify the increasing costs in the store? Jadzi on the official forums made some great points:
What bothers me is that here we have a pretty clear-cut comparison between RoI and RoR, which make many of the same kinds of offers. Yet, one is exponentially more expensive, despite giving comparatively less. It just feels like we're being charged a premium without getting much to show for it.

Moreover, how on earth is it justified to charge 495 for Bags 4 and 5, then suddenly double to 995 for Bag 6? Yes, vault upgrades get that high, but at least those are relatively consistent, and inch up by 100 TP per box. How did we just suddenly jump to 995?

And Crystals of Remembrance? 995 a pop? Why? Scrolls of Delving are 195, while Star-lit Crystals and Empowerment Scrolls are 495? What is the justification for these sorts of pricing jumps?
For all of the negative that I've ranted about, the one thing I'm positive about is Turbine's ability to make a great looking area with a good storyline.  They most definitely did that in the Great River area.  I was really pleased with it.  I think that's what makes this all so difficult.  I don't want to give in to their greed but I want to keep playing in Middle Earth.  So I'll wait.  I'll wait for more information.  It seems that's what most are doing.  Let's just hope it's forthcoming and that they can show us that this is all worth it.