Transferable skills: Raiding in LOTRO

bg_lin1 Note: I am going to be discussing raiding as it is now on EU servers. We don’t yet have the latest F2P patch with the associated rules changes, new content, and so on. We don’t yet have a date for it either.

I now have enough radiance on my gear to be able to set foot into Barad Guldur (BG), which is the big Mirkwood raid instance. It is a change of pace from Moria with more animated suits of armour and fewer mushrooms; but there are still plenty of orcs. The end boss is (dah dah DAH) a Nazgul, and I’m not sure what happens if you kill it but if we find out I’ll let you know.

Me being there at all is only possible because of an infinitely patient raid group which is also in need of warm bodies. I have in fact given up trying to understand how raiding works in my kinship. They are all very nice, but I feel as though the newbie raid group threw radiance gear at me and now  don’t seem concerned whether I raid with them (I have always assumed previously that good raid etiquette was to raid with the guys who geared you). So I’m thrown in with the big boys and girls, into proper LOTRO progression raiding! They have all been remarkably nice about having a noob on board.

So how does LOTRO raiding compare with WoW raiding

Raiding in LOTRO reminds me a lot of raiding in the later raids of vanilla WoW. Obviously we don’t have 40 people, these are 12 man raids, but there are several similarities:

  • Trash mobs need some strategy. The pulls are carefully planned, tanks allocated to mobs, kill order required and use of raid marks and assists widely used.
  • Endurance boss fights. The LOTRO designers like longish boss fights so typically, once you have figured out what to do, your raid has to continue to do it flawlessly for several minutes.
  • There is plenty of movement and interaction in the actual boss fights. This is why I’m reminded of the end of AQ40 or parts of Naxx40, rather than earlier instances. The end boss of BG in particular is an extremely demanding fight which gets significantly harder if even one person dies.
  • Lots of abbreviations. This is probably standard for any MMO, but the LOTRO raids have abbreviations for the different instances, different bosses, different class abilities and talents (I fled to the net when someone gave me advice on how to spec so that I could decode it) and people will expect you to know them if they are mentioned mid fight.
  • The designers aren’t concerned about making fights that favour either melee or ranged to a great extent. But melee seem to get the shaft more often. Maybe this is inevitable in boss fight design but it does my head in to be standing and just watching an entire phase of a boss fight without being able to do anything.

The picture in the screenshot above is a trash fight in Barad Guldur. In this one, the raid pulls a group of wights. Each wight will focus on one player for a set amount of time (20s or so) and follow them around before switching to someone else. So the goal is for everyone to run away from their wights whilst killing everyone elses’.

If this sounds like mad fun, it is. And as an extra spice, imagine a UI which doesn’t announce who is being followed. You just have to keep an eye open.

Here’s some ways in which LOTRO raiding really struck me as different from WoW:

  • It takes a long time to recover between wipes. Between death debuffs (which can be removed) and time to run back into the instance, it’s not unusual to have only 3-4 tries at a boss in a session. Admittedly, we don’t raid long stretches of time, but it’s still very different from a WoW setup. This does however give people much more time to chat.
  • Repair bills hurt. LOTRO allows tokens from daily quests to buy potions and consumables but those repair bills can be fairly pricey. I’m not entirely sure how people make loads of cash in the game but I think I’d be farming a lot if I was raiding more heavily.
  • No boss mods. This is the big one, you have to actually pay attention to spell effects and boss shouts to figure out what’s going on. People are great about calling effects on voice chat but what you will not have are big wodges of text in the middle of the screen telling you exactly what to do.
  • Limited information. This is probably not such an issue now because BG has been live for at least a year, so there are plenty of websites where you can find out about the fights. But it is still a game in which each raid group has to figure things out for themselves. I do feel for the more hardcore EU raiders, because that will all have been done in the new raids by the time we get the content patch.

So does being a raider in one game transfer to the next?

The answer to this is yes and no. The only reason I’ve been able to transition so smoothly to the LOTRO raids is that I have been able to apply playing skills from other games. Once you learn what the fire looks like in the new game, you already know how to get out of it.

And when I say smoothly, I don’t mean that I’m some kind of amazing all-star. I just mean that I can follow basic instructions without wiping the raid. It’s only the lack of damage meters which mean no one can really compare performance easily.

The skills which do transfer best are situational awareness and being able to figure out what is going on in a fight by watching it (or particularly, what went wrong in a failed attempt). Those that need to be relearned are UI dependent – like watching for debuffs or checking the chat for boss shouts.

But one thing to bear in mind is that I’m playing a melee/utility class in LOTRO. I don’t have to wrestle with the default raid UI for healing, or the clever Warden/ Runekeeper mechanics. For those classes, this really is like raiding in hard mode.

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12 thoughts on “Transferable skills: Raiding in LOTRO

  1. Yay, you got an awesome pic of me all lit up with my Jolly Roger banner and pirate gear all for Speak Like a Pirate Day. I usually raid looking a lot more serious.

    It says quite a lot about raiding in general that people love the mad, chaotic fights and always speak of them warmly. I wonder if it’s because we all want to have something to do, even if it’s just running away… a lot.

    I hope the raiding skills work to transfer the other way :-)

  2. “But melee seem to get the shaft more often. Maybe this is inevitable in boss fight design but it does my head in to be standing and just watching an entire phase of a boss fight without being able to do anything.”

    I wonder if this is a Turbine thing, as it were. I can think of several raids in DDO too where my Monk basically just had to stand to one side and let the mage classes DPS the boss down because the boss would pretty much one-shot any melee class that wasn’t a tank.

    Maybe the raid designers at Turbine were subjected to one too many meleeings in the playground when they were at school…

    • I’m not sure it’s just a turbine thing. Melee tends to not do well all over, with it tending not to be a terribly forgiving position to be in.

      Until very recently on WoW, for example, melee tended to get the shaft. In Vanilla and a fair chunk of BC, I recall it wasn’t so much a matter of if the rogues and fury warriors would die as when.

      I actually wonder if it’s simply a function of the way mmo fights work.

      • It’s a general game design thing and I think it’s a reflection of designers not being entirely comfortable with simulating reality.

        In medieval times, upon which the weapons technology of fantasy mmos is based, archers got absolutely slaughtered if melee or cavalry got amongst them. I guess the way to represent this in a strict simulation would be would be by detailed encumbrance rules. Arrows are heavy and carrying fifty would certainly stop you also carrying much in the way of melee weapons. Plate armour helmets are really hard to see out of and would make it difficult to shoot. Another element is to make things crippling expensive. If you think some guy is likely to spend the entire battle safely out of melee range shooting arrows you wouldn’t want to waste a good suit of armour on him.

        Now these would be horrible in game. Realistic encumbrance that stops you carrying much (in MMO terms). Wealth is owned by someone else who does not have you as a priority. Plate means you can’t escape (unless mounted). Formations of troops absolutely murder lone heroic figures.

        That is why partly range doesn’t have serious drawbacks.

        Then you come to the design. If you don’t think about class balance the likely powers you might give a raid boss will have varying ranges and will hurt close range more than long range. You might give a dragon a bite attack (melee), a claw attack (melee), a tail swipe (area, behind, close range), a fiery aura ( close range) and a fiery breath (long range). So that’s a horribly imbalanced mob arising simply from simulating the archetype.

        That is partly why simulation encourage encounters punitive to melee.

        The last part of the equation is the Holy Trinity/Single Big Boss design. If a raid was against a hundred red indians with tomahawks who could suddenly appear right next to you bows and arrows would be horrible weapons.

      • Simon Jones is right, melee DPS has usually gotten the short end of the stick. I think the initial problem is that melee is by default more difficult than ranged. In many cases, your positioning is important, even if it’s just to stay near an enemy (if not get behind it). Plus, DPS is usually squishy. I still remember the “nerf” to Champions (plate wearing melee DPS) to incoming healing in our main DPS stance, in addition to not being able to parry or dodge.

        Now add in things like PB-AoE attacks, arc attacks, and the fact that you get beat on immediately if you pull aggro for a moment. It’s not so easy to have special attacks that only affect ranged. The only example I can think of is the Void Reaver in The Eye in WoW:TBC. I remember our ranged DPS getting wiped repeatedly because they just weren’t used to having to get the hell out of the way of an incoming attack.

        Yeah, I’ve mostly played melee DPS. The one exception has been when I went Boomkin during WotLK, and my RK alt on LotRO. I notice how it’s so much easier to do raid DPS with a ranged character. Of course, it’s generally harder to solo with them, too. :)

      • I think (as a dedicated melee DPS kinda guy), that for me, it’s a matter of considering/ reconciling yourself to be almost totally expendable. We tend to be the 1st to go down, and lowest priority for a healer’s attention. We just don’t bring enough utility to a raid compared with other classes, we generally just make the fights shorter:)

  3. It does sound fun. Still think it’s probably a steep learning curve to get there. I hang out in globallff, and the abbreviations are doing my head in.

    I need to find a fellowship for Garth Agarwen soon, which will be my second instance. We’ll see how that goes. The boss mechanics in Great Barrows all seemed to lean very heavily towards ‘boss summons a gazillion adds, handle it’.

    • What I find is that although I enjoy it and it’s a nice way to hang out with some of the kin, raiding isn’t really the heart of this game in the same way that it is in WoW.

      I’m also looking forwards to scaling instances, if only so we can come join you in some! I actually avoided most when I was levelling (tried barrows and thought it a bit long and dull) so it’ll all be new to me. The Moria instances are also a lot of fun.

  4. I raided in WoW during the TBC era and really enjoyed it. I raided a bit in LotRO, and found it a very different experience. The two big “raids”, Turtle and Watcher, were focused single boss battles. Kind of like half of Gruul’s.

    When we got to DN, which is more like a traditional raid with multiple bosses and trash, it was quite a change. What’s interesting is that the first boss, two troll brothers, is perhaps the hardest encounter given the strange mechanic and sheer variety of stages. As mentioned, it requires a lot of organization, and I think the kinship I’m in got a bit frustrated with people not staying organized and wiping a few times every week to the troll brothers.

    Did my WoW raiding help prepare me for LotRO raiding? Perhaps on a basic level, where I knew what to expect. But, I think my GF who didn’t raid in WoW (but who gets an earful of MMO design issues on a regular basis) picked things up just fine.

  5. I’ve never been able to get far enough in LOTRO for raiding, so I really enjoyed this look at how the game handles it! I’ve never raided in an MMO other than WoW (mostly in vanilla and TBC), and it’s interesting to see how things differ.

    I may take advantage of the new F2P to try to get interested in the game again.

    (And as a side note, I know this is the Internet and no one is supposed to ever be offended by anything, but “red indians?” Really? Didn’t think the random racial slur added anything to the discussion. Ugh.)

  6. “It’s only the lack of damage meters which mean no one can really compare performance easily.”

    I think the lack of a boss mod is what does this. The dps doesn’t seem to be a big issue in this game. There is no way you can stand in “the fire” and live in many cases (HoC for instance). If you step in a puddle in carn dum, a level 40 dungeon, you are instantly killed. Situational awareness and ability to play your class seem to be more important for LotRO raids. Dead dps is no dps.

    I think the reason you get the feeling that raiding isn’t the heart of this game is because you don’t have to be at level cap to enter them. Radiance and virtues are more of a barrier than a players level. So a level 62 who has the proper radiance and virtues up to around 8 would likely be allowed to join most raid groups. Imagine being level 78 in WoW and taken in ICC or even Naxx.

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