Monday, 10 April 2017

Managing a ten year old MMO: thumbs up to the LOTRO devs

I've never written so much for Developer Appreciation Week (DAW) before: one post a day. I don't know, I think I just finally found the right format for this thing. When I thought of developers to thank beforehand, I came up with eight, more than I had time for! So I'm saving one for next year (which one will have to stay a secret a bit longer).

Note that this is the last day of DAW 2017, a bonus day (as I was late with the announcement post). I will write a wrap up post with everyone's contributions later this week. If you are too curious to wait until then, you can already check some out in the comment section of the introduction post or on Twitter.

This last DAW entry is dedicated to the developers of Lord of the Rings Online. I know, I've featured them in previous years (read To the people making the sun go up and The things I love about LOTRO), but if you read my DAW 2017 introduction post...
"Have you ever been so critical about a game that you read back that post later and gasped? As in, you start wondering if any dev addressed would jump off a cliff after reading it?"
Well, let's just keep it at that I have opinionated LOTRO posts that would qualify.

Criticism and praise

So, just in case any LOTRO devs are reading this: know that the only reason I write critical posts about your beautiful game is because I feel so passionate about it! And that's the truth. I believe the best gaming blogs voice the authentic thoughts of the author(s), not just a selection of either positive or negative thoughts. This is what I aim for in my writing.

I always try to keep my critical posts constructive and based on facts rather than emotions - although I'm certainly not flawless in my writing. I also make sure to take the time to write about the parts of virtual Middle-earth that I absolutely love as well: the quest writing, the classes, group instances and the gorgeous landscapes. The latter is illustrated with the picture above of a dreamy road through Breeland. It's hard to believe this landscape is ten years old, but it is!

If you want to read any recent articles praising the game, I recommend LOTRO housing updates: a review, Green inspired screenshots from virtual Middle-earth and Fashion Friday: herald of the moon moth. However, my enthusiastic LOTRO articles notwithstanding, the devs deserve more love.

Working with an old MMO

If there's something I've learned from my fellow participants during this year's DAW it's that 1) game developers work extremely hard purely because they love their games; 2) bugs frequently appear in complicated coding and 3) devs are usually aware that bugs exist when content goes live and feel terrible about it. Especially with an MMO that is so old (almost ten years now!) issues may have piled up that make it even more challenging to keep it all working. Not to mention developers that worked on earlier versions of the game, having vital knowledge of specific parts of the game's design, that have moved over to other game companies. So it is the more impressive that a fresh wind is blowing now LOTRO is part of Standing Stone Games. The renewed enthusiasm and love for virtual Middle-earth shines through in the devs' work.

LOTRO community engagement

One thing specifically deserves a shoutout and that's how much LOTRO's communication with the community has improved. Remember, this is the game where "Soon TM" became a beloved meme that was even used by devs themselves. People are still complaining, as they always will, but communication certainly is better than it was. Starting in 2014, the LOTRO devs started doing livestreams, about 3-4 per year. Since Cordovan joined the team as a community manager in June 2016, the amount of dev streams dramatically increased. Indeed, this is when I found out about them existing. After all the more regular the streaming, the higher the chance people will find out about them and keep watching. As I wrote earlier this DAW, streaming is a great way to engage with the playerbase and make players feel involved with the game.

Something else that the devs are doing is actively promoting community streamers by letting them stream on the official LOTRO channel. This is a great gesture that I bet streamers of other MMOs are very envious of! Extra admirable is that attention is also given to content creators that are not streamers - something that is often overlooked by other community managers of other MMOs. In February this year, a weekly community letter called The LOTRO Beacon was initiated, featuring player events, game festivals and fan posts. LOTRO developers have participated in podcasts and regularly retweet blog posts and pretty screenshots posted by fans on Twitter. It's great to know that LOTRO's developers are so well informed and I for one felt very honoured on the occasions that one of my articles made it to the Beacon.


MMOs generally don't age well and it can't be easy to work on such an old game as Lord of the Rings Online. Therefore, the LOTRO devs deserve a big thumbs up for their work, especially when it comes to community engagement.

This post is part of the eight annual Developer Appreciation Week (DAW), running from April 3rd to 10th 2017. Everyone is welcome to join the prompt and spread some game dev positivity (#DAW8).


  1. I really enjoyed this post. It makes me want to jump back into LOTRO even more. :) Now I just need energy and time...

    1. Cool that you liked the post! I hope you'll find more energy and time soon. :)

    2. A bit doubtful at the moment. We got Gemma on Wednesday so I'll be going to seeing her quite a bit. :) I will find time to take part in the 10th anniversary festival though!

  2. I am always impressed that the game keeps going so I want to add my praise to the devs. Compared to some recent games, LOTRO does not feel ten years old - well of course there are elements, but none that would make me put down the great devs. Thanks guys.

    1. To me, LOTRO does really show its creation ten years ago in its base game design. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though. It's when I started playing MMOs, so for me it oddly feels like coming home. :)

  3. "I always try to keep my critical posts constructive and based on facts rather than emotions - although I'm certainly not flawless in my writing."

    Honestly, I think your posts have a lot of emotion in them, and that's why I like reading your blog a lot more than most others. I like reading things that are subjective and messy and that I can either agree or disagree with strongly. Professional, calculated sermons are boring.

    See, that's another thing, as kids we're often taught that we shouldn't make comments like "this is garbage" of things we don't like, but that instead we should simply say "I don't like it". But the big difference between the two is that saying "this sucks" leads to a discussion, whereas saying "I don't like this" ends the conversation.

    As for LOTRO, from reading your blog I often get the impression that it's the old school kind of game with less players but a more enthusiastic community and more compelling gameplay once you get into it, and that SWTOR is the more popular but also more volatile gaming experience. If I had to pick one of the two from reading you, I think I'd have to go with LOTRO. I think it comes across as the best of the two.


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