For a wee while now I have been playing two MMOs: SWTOR (Star Wars: The Old Republic) and LotRO (The Lord of the Rings Online). While there are certain similarities in the games – UI set-up, key features, shortcut keys – they are also very distinct. SWTOR is a Star Wars Sci-Fi game, while LotRO is based on Lord of the Rings, fitting within the Fantasy genre. They are built by completely different companies and from what I can see, different game engines. By this point you might think that they serve two different kinds of audiences, but I know I’m not the only gamer to enjoy more than one game. That being the case, instead of the games competing with each other, what if they learned from each other and improved their service as a result? Let’s walk down this path and consider SWTOR vs LotRO – what can they learn from each other?
This will be a two-part post as there were too many positives of each game to cram into one post! So I want these two posts to be focussing on the strengths of each game, rather than another voice of criticism!
To any readers who don’t play one or other of these games, I thought a quick language lesson was in order! Here are some SWTOR terms with their LotRO equivalent:
|Credits||Gold (Silver and Copper)|
|Cartel Coins||LotRO Points|
|Cartel Market||LotRO Store|
|Class Discipline||Skill/Trait Tree|
|Galactic Trade Network (GTN)||Auction House (AH)|
|Expansion Pack||Quest Pack (Sometimes Expansion)|
So let’s launch into Part 1: What Can SWTOR Learn from LotRO?
Weather and Dynamic Daytime/Night TimeOne of the loveliest features of LotRO is that the world has dynamic weather. From storms, to beautiful clear blue skies and everything in between, the climate changes almost session to session. Middle Earth also has daytime/nighttime cycles with sunrise and sunset to boot. This creates a believability in the worlds you’re questing in. SWTOR on the other hand doesn’t do this, despite Ilum having beautiful starry skies and Imperial Taris being at night time. They could learn from LotRO, adding day/time nighttime into the worlds, snow blizzards on Hoth and Sand Storms on Tatooine, for example. If weather affects graphical performace, this can be tweaked in the graphics settings.
Going Commando’s blog gives a very balanced argument why day/night would not easily be implemented on SWTOR (though in my opinion it would make the worlds more believable) – but also says that weather is something that should be achievable within SWTOR. Interestingly she doesn’t say day/night time shouldn’t be implemented or that it wouldn’t enhance the game, more than Bioware wouldn’t see enough pay off from their players if they implemented it, compared to the volume of work they would have to do.
LOTRO EventsLotRO do events really well! There is a huge variety through the year: group events (Hobnanigans), seasonal events (Spring Festival, Summer Festival, Farmer’s Faire, Yule Festival) and some that repeat more frequently (like Treasure Hunting).
Each event has a variety of activities that require minimal combat. They are there for fun. And using tokens you win through the quests you can purchase event-only gear and mounts.
Players of all levels join in this. During LOTRO’s Yule Festival, levels 7-105 were spotted! And because of that, there’s no gear requirement, or reputation needed for the rewards. There are festival rewards, so there is no advantage to subscribers or F2P members. All people of all levels can earn tokens and get the rewards! For SWTOR to do something similar on cross-faction planet would be awesome. The nearest is Bounty Hunting (minimum level 15 I think?). SWTOR’s Life Day (Yule) was all about throwing snowballs for festival rewards. Although fun for a while, it can get tiring and “grindy”. By contrast LotRO’s Yule area had about 15 different quests which enabled rewards for players of all levels.
Edit: SWTOR’s Rakghoul Event (and Relics of the Gree) do have a handful of missions, but you can be done in 1/2hr if you rush through.
Deeds that Pay LotRO Points
Don’t want to spend real money in LotRO? That’s fine! If you complete deeds you can earn LotRO Points. It might only be 5 Points for killing 60 wolves and 10 Points for 120 wolves, but with each region having many deeds, these small amounts really add up.
It means if you want to unlock a quest pack, you don’t have to pay real money for it, so long as you don’t mind the work involved.
By contrast SWTOR’s Achievement system has very few rewards. Occasionally killing 5000 mobs on a planet might give you 20 Cartel Coins, but the rest of the achievements are purely for feeling completionist, and the occasional title.
To this end I think LotRO gives real-world rewards for working your backside off for deeds. SWTOR could do this, you’re not giving away much, even 5CC any time you complete an achievement still involves a lot of work, but may actually encourage people to do the achievements in the first place.
Currency Cap can be Lifted
If you were an ex-VIP in LotRO then your Gold cap is lifted. If you’re an F2P player then you can pay LotRO points (or actual money) to have that currency cap lifted. I think this really honours people who have, in the past, parted with cash to play the game. Interestingly all players are limited to 9999 Gold which encourages people to spend, and not hoard. (F2P has a 2 Gold Limit until you unlock it).
SWTOR might even find they can make money on this unlock in the Cartel Market. At L60-70, having a 350k Credit limit for ex-Subscribers is very limiting. Why not allow people to pay in Cartel Coins for this to be unlocked? Since coming off VIP on LotRO (due to personal circumstances) I have been able to earn gold and begin saving currency for later in the game. Ex-VIPs don’t have access to Quest Packs that VIPs get automatically, and there are other restrictions, but it hasn’t stopped me being able to enjoy the game. And I used some LotRO points to unlock a few Quest Packs recently too!
Cosmetic Gear and Cosmetic Weapons
As with SWOTR, LotRO gives you the ability to create outfits that aren’t linked to what I call your ‘stat gear’. Both games allow you to unlock additional outfits (although in SWTOR you can use credits as well as Cartel Coins, which doesn’t apply in LotRO).
But one of the beauties of the LotRO system is that once you’ve paid for your slot, there are no costs to incurr when designing your outfit. I still don’t understand why SWTOR charge credits to change a piece of cosmetic gear. Although you can use real gear as your appearance, LotRO has a specific cosmetic-only gear, which is often bound to account (SWTOR use Bound to Legacy). But not always! You can actually create some cosmetic outfits then sell the items to an in-game vendor or on the Auction House if you want and keep that outfit there to use. And because it’s bound to account (‘Bound to Legacy’ in SWTOR) you can share appearance gear across all your characters!
And I think last year sometime LotRO introduced cosmetic weapons. Want to keep the stats of your weapon but prefer the design of another weapon? Then you can do that!
Especially at events, the cosmetic weapon slots can be used for fun appearances: giant flowers, beer steins, and sparklers are just a few examples.
To change your weapon in SWTOR you have to extract all your mods (at a credit cost, of course) and re-insert them into your new weapon. It would be really neat to be able to introduce cosmetic weapons/off-hand into SWTOR to save us credits on trying new weapons apperances and sounds out!
“Luxuries” in the Auction House
In SWTOR, those who have more real money as disposable income are likely to be those that have huge credits in their account. This is because players can buy packs and sell what they don’t want on GTN. As far as I can tell, this doesn’t happen with LotRO Store items. The upside to this is that ‘luxuries’ are more affordable in gold. I purchased some black dyes from the Auction House for about 800 silver (less than 1 gold) recently, whereas the Black/Black and White/White dyes are exorbitantly-priced in SWTOR. You can make more gold by trading through the Auction House, which is fine but it at least feels like some work is involved, rather than just selling stuff from real-world purchases.
(Almost) No “Random Packs” in LotRO Store
As far as I can see there are no packs governed by Random Number Generation (RNG) in LOTRO. You want an amour set? Here’s the price. You want a specific mount, you know the LotRO Point price. You want a quest pack? Done! In short to spend LotRO Points (whether you earned them through deeds, or added them to your account via your credit card), you know what you are buying. You wouldn’t want to hand over £50 to your supermarket and get a random selection back from the shop would you? That’s what Cartel Market packs are like.
Edit: Shintar reminded me that technically there are random packs. “Loot Boxes” drop from mobs and unpon completion of deeds. These require a “Solid Steel Key” to unlock – and the contents are a random selection. You can buy these Steel Keys through the LOTRO Store with real money (or accumulated LOTRO Points). But you don’t have to. Keys also drop from mobs and on completion of deeds – and you can purchase these keys using Gold, via the Auction House.
Oh and as a bonus: The LotRO Store is available in-game and you can add LotRO Points to your account in-game via your credit/debit card. SWTOR could probably make more money if they allowed in-game Cartel Coin top-ups, because it’s convenient.
Mostly Self-Sufficient CraftingDisclosure: My highest level is about L40 out of 105 levels so this observation needs seeing in this light. You can craft all you need to in early levels without purchasing items from other players or starting a new character just to harvest materials.
You can level your crafting faster if you do share resources but there’s no rush to do so. On the rare occasion, you might pick up a crafting schematic from loot that requires a rare shard. You can harvest these yourself, but they are rare. But interestingly, when I have had to purchase the rare items on Auction House, they’ve been really affordable, compared to the extraordinarily high prices you have to pay for some crafting materials in SWTOR. But you can craft most of your gear yourself.
In SWTOR, to craft the best gear for yourself you usually need to have an ingrediant you can’t gather yourself “to encourage a market” I think was the official line. But not being reliant on what other people charge to make your own gear is relaxing in LotRO.
One of the strengths of the LotRO system is a speedy despawn/respawn rate. This is especially helpful on bosses in shared areas. So if you have a quest, say, in the North Downs to defeat a certain sorceror, you can kill it just once and it respawns within a few minutes. In SWTOR you can kill a shared ‘boss’ over-and-over. This prevents other users completing their mission and some shared bosses have long respawn time (thinking the Heroic in the Dark Temple). The respawn time in LotRO means no waiting around.
Auto-Loot / Temporary Inventory
LotRO has an ‘auto loot’ system. When you kill an enemy, if it drops loot, it goes straight away into a temporary loot box (no bending down to pick it up).
This allows the defeated foe to be despawned within a few seconds (improving FPS) but it does not immediately clog up your inventory. You can keep items in the temporary loot box for an hour, allowing you time to get to a vendor to sell any trash/gray items.
Other Great Features in Summary
- Free Daily Gift: any day you log into LotRO you get a free gift! This might be a potion (‘Stim’ in SWTOR), a random stat boost, or shared currency. VIP members can also get an additional Gold-Level gift which maybe gear or even a mount. This is based on RNG but as VIPs get too free gifts, you don’t turn down anything that’s free! And these are bound to character too, so you just enjoy having them rather than selling them.
- Level Speed: Levelling is a slower process on LotRO. You have to either do a lot of quests in one region to overlevel it, or partake in Skirmishes or Festivals to out level. This is how SWTOR used to be before Level Sync. Quests or mobs you’re overlevelled for give paultry XP, meaning usually you can only get up to 5 levels over the region target. This allows you a certain level of challenge.
- Self-Crafting: you do the crafting yourself in LotRO, rather than getting your companions to do it for you. As someone who suffers from hand pain, this is invaluable rest time. You gain actual XP from crafting as well as working towards better crafting skills. Plus that down time enables me to chat to people, make a brew or catch up on Twitter if I want to. This won’t appeal to everyone, but taking time out from questing is better for me than multi-tasking.
- No Weekly Reputation Limit: If you want to focus for one week in earning the highest reputation with a particular group then you can do just that. You don’t have to amass reputation consumables in your inventory. If you put the work in, you can get the reputation.
TL;DR What SWTOR could Learn From LotRO
Despite its older engine and, in some areas, lower graphics quality, LotRO has a number of strengths that SWTOR could learn from. They give things away, allow you to earn account upgrades in-game, run events that don’t rely on being well-geared. And they don’t charge in-game currency for things that don’t really need it.
If games cross-pollinated more, they would be better for it.
This post is only Part 1 – Part 2 will be looking at the strengths of SWTOR and seeing what LotRO can learn from them too!