With our migration to LotRO, our little group (sans our regular fifth) was finally able to convene this weekend with a fellowship of characters at about the same level for some mutual questing and fun. Several of us had done the Open Beta, we had a few characters at least to the post-noob instance level but one of us wasn’t able to get rolling until general release.
In WoW, we were the Delta Force: a highly trained, specialized tactical unit capable of executing the most complicated of situations with great alacrity. In LotRO, we’re more like Bill Murray’s platoon in Stripes. We didn’t get into anything overly complicated, but having spent the bulk of our time in WoW for the last 2+ years, there are lots of things that we did without really thinking in WoW that we have to actually focus on now.
This is the part of a new game that is actually work but still fun. In addition to exploring a new world environment, getting over the hump in learning to play a new class in a group with different tactics makes for many of those little “ah HA!” moments. You don’t get a ding for them, but you can feel yourself getting better with each encounter. With each additional level, each class becomes increasingly specialized and effective at their role in a fellowship. The fog slowly begins to clear.
For example, I was playing my hobbit burglar in our group which consisted of a hunter, guardian, minstrel and myself. Lets face it, at level 5 or 6, we’re pretty much 1 trick ponies. At the low levels, there is really little reason to deviate from our general attack plan A, “There he is, Get him” (I’m not sure why this post contains two references to Bill Murray movies, but take it for what you will). Like three year-olds in pee-wee soccer, the frenzied mass needs only converge on the ball and keep kicking something and something is bound to happen.
As we approach level 10-ish though, we can see the classes start to differentiate themselves: I got my first mez/crowd control skill, Riddle and am able to train in Medium Armor; the Hunter has his trap, the Guardian has its taunt and aggro generating skills and the Minstrel has started delving into Tier 3 ballads which can kill and cure. Its going to be interesting to see how group play style evolves. I’m really looking forward to seeing how my captain will integrate with this group. I’ve had him out with a few of us on occasion and the 1+1=3 in a group factor is pretty encouraging.
One of the biggest difference that is taking some getting used to is applying LotRO’s combat only buffs and debuffs. With the so-called dearth of “magic” in Middle Earth to be consistent with the lore, buffs (with limited exception) can only be applied while engaged with the enemy. No set and forget 60 minute fortitude buff here. This does require a bit of tactical thought and situational awareness which we are slowing gaining. Needless to say, with every few levels bringing a few new “now, what’s this do?” questions, we’re still adapting MMO combat basics to LotRO’s world.
One thing I sorely miss from WoW is the ability to visually mark targets. In WoW, I had a number of raid target “Lucky Charm” icon macros set up for our group so I could tag the primary target, crowd control targets, off tank targets and “danger” targets for the benefit of the group. We’ve played enough, and enough together that we can handle it, but some visual marking scheme would sure be nice. If there is anything like it in LotRO, somebody slap me.
I almost feel like there should be a group noob instance or the equivalent group learning experience. Of course, since you grow into your class skills, any such training would have to wait until we actually obtained some of those class identifying skills, but an opportunity to train those in a group context would be pretty cool. For our group, we’re flexible, patient and disciplined enough to actually experiment and allow each other to practice new skills and tactics, but a group boot camp might be a great way to ensure a reasonable level of competency in group play for pickup groups.
Still, the “everything’s new” factor is really making for an engrossing experience, noob mistakes, fumbling for the controls and all. A little more sargeant-major-marching-up-and-down-the-square (finally, something other than a Bill Murray reference) and we should be on track for fellowship goodness.