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LotRO: Leveling with friends

MMOs are, from my perspective, games you should experience together with other people, preferably friends you’ve known for some time.  It’s what I’m doing myself, and it sure as hell is fun.  This post relevance is not much of a guide on how to level while grouped, but rather a recollection of what I’ve experienced so far while leveling together with mates as opposed to leveling solo.

It all comes down to fun, and boredom.  You’ll experience both in higher dosage.  Leveling together will most definitely be more interesting than doing the content on your own.  You’ll often chatting up while doing common quests which may not be too interesting which makes the time spent playing definitely more interesting.  Hard, annoying, time-consuming quests can easily turn into easy, rewarding, efficient quests which you’ll enjoy going through.

Fun

Many times, doing something stupid converts itself into something amusing and funny when in a group, as opposed to frustrating and a waste of time when soloing.  I clearly remember attempting to reach the Orc Watch and instead of following the RK I trusted the Warden with my life, and got ourselves killed about 3 times before we made it there, while the RK cheerfully jogged to the stable master after dying only once (Flattened himself on the graveyard I believe).

Were I to be on my own back then I’d have most definitely halted the game and try again the next day, instead I ended up laughing hysterically along with the Warden (Darkaran) at the common failures.  And I was kind of wishing for another failure just to make it all more fun.  Sadly, we succeeded after the orcs ripped us 3 new ones each.

Regardless of how fun leveling together may get, there are times where frustration and boredom is born, and sometimes being a bit too trigger happy and not having enough consideration for your friends (or sometimes too much), can cook up a not-so-entertaining episode.

Boredom

The main source of boredom is when real life butts in and someone has to leave.  I level in a group of 3, so it isn’t too bad.  We get enough time every day to at least make the subscription worth it.  2 hours of leveling is good enough for me, and I have plenty more things to do to fill up the rest of my time, of which I have plenty to spare.  I wouldn’t mind going 5 or 6 hours straight every once in a while though.

Still, it’s a huge difference compared to 12/14 hours gaming which I’m more used to myself.  Leveling marathons are my specialty and it simply won’t happen when you’re leveling together.  When has to leave, what you can do in the game on that particular character greatly diminishes.  When you’re aiming to maximize that character no matter what, it’s a total killer.  What I end up doing is one of the following:

  • Log off, wait till everyone’s on
  • Deeds.  We need them, we’ll do them eventually.
  • A few skirmishes, so at least I did some progress…
  • Log an alt and get kicking.

Frustration

The newer you are to group leveling the more this will happen.  Especially when you’re playing with opposites compared to you.  When they know what they’re doing and you don’t, when they can play longer than you can.

Consideration is what makes the wheel go round when it comes down to group leveling.  Doing quests you’re meant to do together is considered lame, and in LotRO, quest tracking is quite advanced, so your partner will know exactly what quests you did and how far ahead you are.  In the end, you’ll most probably end up helping him with the quests anyways, and the exp you gain from possible mob grind will push you further ahead.

Dinging before your companion and building a huge experience gap is the second problem.  What I notice is the will to play diminishes when you’re behind.  On my minstrel, I had it very hard leveling, my companion was a hunter, whose speed buffs, nuking and teleports give him a very sharp edge over me.  When I noticed the level difference was only increasing I started giving up on the class, switched to PvMP and eventually left the game.

Many times I brought up arguments with him on how to wait for me, and I was continuously taking less time to level, only making the other one annoyed.  If it’s your first time doing group leveling you’re bound to go through these situations.  The more you do it, the more used to it you’ll become, and the less issues will arise.

The Process

As I recall it, it starts out as “We’re doing stuff together, let’s have fun”.   It eventually turns into “Anything we do must be done together, don’t rush ahead, don’t get left behind”.  Arguments at this point start brewing.  This is the point where you learn how to play correctly without wasting time nor making it harder for your companion to catch up to you.  While going through this, you seek perfect synchronization.  If your companion even dares go past you, you’ll rip his head off and shit down ‘is neck.  Damn right you will.

Once you’re more used to group leveling, you’ll become more flexible and adapt quicker to any situation.  You’ll know more ways to make up for a gap which might have come up, and you won’t have issues catching up or waiting a bit on the other companion.  It will proceed fast.

Agreement

The key word in group leveling is agreement.  It is built upon the pillars of consideration and game knowledge.  The more you know the game, the more you can make up for mistakes, and the higher your consideration towards your companions, the fewer mistakes you’ll do.  The result is to make a simple agreement beforehand on what to do and what not to do:

  1. LotRO consists of quest hubs.  Whenever we’re working on a particular zone, rushing ahead on quests in that particular zone, or future zones is a no-go.  Wait on the rest.  Feel free to do lower-level quests in zones we already visited.
  2. A gap is acceptable.  The gap must be small enough to not break game content we’re progressing through (aka, quests you’re doing are useless, and catching up to you is out of discussion).  An acceptable gap would be:  2 levels if below level 50, otherwise no more than 1 level.
  3. If you “satisfy” the gap but you’re right on the edge of it, you cease activity on that character until the rest catch up.  (If you’re the same on quests, the others should catch up through skirmishes to avoid messing up the questing experience).
    The list is pretty simple, and following it never really presented us with trouble this time round while leveling.  It’s generally not advised to do strict group leveling if it’s your first main character and you have plenty of time to spare.  If barely any time is spent leveling the character with the group, rolling a second character and focusing on it when the companions are AWOL is the best thing to do.
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