The Future of LotRO?

Loose talk backed by some evidence implies that the next expansion for Lord of the Rings Online is going to be Riders of Rohan. Not only has Turbine taken the trouble to reserve the web address, but it fits with what is, to me, a logical progression within the outline of the novel.

See, The Lord of the Rings is actually not a trilogy. It’s really one big novel divided into six books, split up by the original publisher, and each traditional volume sold in bookstores contains two of these. The content that launched with LotRO more or less corresponded to the story in Tolkien’s first book; Hobbiton and the Shire and the journey from there to Rivendell, covering places like Weathertop and the Barrow-Downs. The first expansion was called Mines of Moria and covers the material in Book Two: the trip to Khazad-dum and the escape to Lorien, and probably Dunland.

It therefore makes perfect sense that the second expansion is going to cover the contents of the first half of The Two Towers, Rohan, Helm’s Deep and Isengard, and introduce Saruman as a major player. It’s also possible that we’ll see a new human starting area, I should think. Furthermore, extrapolating this into the future and assuming that Turbine sticks to this development plan, we can expect that the third expansion will introduce such areas as Ithilien, Emyn Muil, the Dead Marshes, Cirith Ungol and probably Dagorlad. Logically, then, expansion four primarily deals with Gondor, probably in several zones including Osgiliath and Minas Tirith, and possibly Southern Gondor as well, along with such places as the Dwimmerberg. This leaves Mordor and surrounding regions, probably including the Black Gate and Minas Morgul, to the fifth expansion.

After that, who knows? And Turbine might not stick with this straightforward plan – there’s certainly all kinds of other stuff going on during the War of the Ring, including an assault on Lorien and a major conflict between Orcs and Easterlings and the Men of Dale and the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain.

9 responses to “The Future of LotRO?

  1. I think you are dead on about Rohan being the next expansion. I also predict that we will get a system for highly personalized horses, and perhaps mounted combat.

  2. Yeah, Rohan seems like a pretty sure thing for the next expansion. Supposedly the new Hobbit movie is aiming at Dec 2011, which would be around the time of expansion number 3; this would seem to make Mirkwood, Dale, and the Lonely Mountain a likely setting for that expansion. On the off chance that the game makes it to 6 expansions, it makes more sense to go East now than after the Mordor expansion. That said, will they butt heads against the license restrictions if they cover events that weren’t covered in the tril/sex-ogy?

    Also, I will be very disappointed if players get to farm Shelob for raid lootz and run around doing quests in Mordor, drawing attention to there being free peoples’ in Mordor. I am preparing to be very disappointed.

  3. In a post-Moria interview, while describing their plans for content updates this year, they did say that the next expansion would “go south.” On the LOTRO maps, south of Lothlorien would be Rohan. And they’re hinting at mounted combat as well, and possibly some form of boating since the Fellowship left Lorien in their little boats.

    As for the Hobbit, that’s a no-go. Turbine only holds licenses for the LoTR novel trilogy, possibly the Silmarillon too (I forget) but they specifically do not have any Hobbit rights or to the movie trilogy rights.

  4. Actually Dale and Mirkwood are both mentioned in the Appendices of LoTR, and appear on maps. I’m not sure how closely Turbine could adhere to what Tolkien intended for those areas (i.e., what they could reasonably claim to infer strictly from the appendices), however they certainly could have an expansion focused on those areas that comes out at around the same time as the Hobbit movie.

  5. @Scott: You have it backwards. Saul Zaentz owns the rights to LOTR and the Hobbit but not the Silmarillon or anything else (which remain with the Tolkein estate). If it were the other way around, we wouldn’t have a Hobbit movie either. The issue being that there is stuff that we know happened at various times that isn’t explicitly covered by the Zaentz license, and sublicensees have to tread very carefully around that material because the Tolkein estate would understandably like to get the rights back. I don’t remember where the specifics we’re talking about fell.

  6. El Armadillo Verde is correct as to the arrangement of the Zaentz license – the LotR appendices are fair game but stuff from The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales or anything else is right out. Back in the day, ICE, the publishers of the old Middle-Earth Roleplaying (tabletop) Game got away with ignoring this because nobody thought the gaming end of the IP was worth very much. Nowadays, in the era of MMOs and such, the Zaentz folks are not under that illusion.

    Christopher Tolkien is the guy in charge of the old man’s estate – Tollers sold away the media rights in perpetuity for a song before he died and Chris would very much like to hop on any flaunting of the terms of that deal, to get those rights (now obviously worth a fortune) back. Among Tolkien scholars he’s considered kind of a dick. (He’s referred to as ‘Smaug’ in that community – and I have that on rock solid authority. I don’t want to say from whom, but the person in question has written several books on Tolkien and was seen in the documentaries on the Extended Edition DVDs of the movies.)

    As to whether Turbine has the rights to The Hobbit as part of their license, I have no idea, but I suspect that they do.

  7. I’ll need to listen again to the TTH audio interview from a couple weeks ago then. I could have swore someone asked about seeing Lonely Mountain and other Hobbit content and Steefel said they couldn’t go there because of the licensing.

  8. My biggest problem with LoTRO is the lack of speed in which they do things. They follow the Blizzard school of programming alacrity — or lack thereof. Nearly two years into the game and we’re not even to Rohan yet. Even if it is indeed the next expansion (I agree it sounds like that is the case) that would be lucky to be out for the holidays this year, more like next year — at about year three of the game’s life.

    I got a very bad taste in my mouth when I hit 40 on my Burglar after launch and found out that I had no new skills coming at all. I should have realized that, but I didn’t really study that beta information. What game launches with incomplete classes? Sure, maybe not balanced fully yet, but no skills at all? That was bad.

    I want to love this game, it has a wonderful atmosphere to it, but I just feel that while they’re supporting the game I just don’t like the snails pace in which they are doing so. Perhaps this summer I’ll purchase Moria and reactivate my account.