Skirmishes System Part 5

Skirmishes System part 5

Developer Diary: SoM Skirmishes: Accessibility

From A to B

Travel time has always been a hot topic in MMO design. Can players teleport anywhere in the game instantly, or does walking from one end of the world to the other take hours? There are supporters on both sides of this debate, and both approaches have their own benefits and drawbacks. A large world makes the game feel more massive and makes the highs and lows of the game experience more exciting; for instance, fighting a Nazgûl or dragon should be a very, very rare occurrence or it loses something of its mystique. Sprawling landscapes feel vast and filled with adventure because they ARE. On the other hand, fast-travel allows players to immediately do what they want to. It makes a wide open landscape feel less daunting and allows players to jump into the action whenever they want.


For Skirmishes, we decided to come down firmly on the "quick and easy" side of the spectrum, while at the same time trying to keep the decision from making the rest of LOTRO feel less grand. In addition, all Skirmishes are instances so we needed a way for players to get inside them. Doors, like those we use on existing instances, would be awkward in a lot of places, as Skirmishes are often outdoors. To serve these goals, we developed Skirmish-join. Once you have completed the Skirmish tutorials, you will be able to open the Skirmish-join panel (by pressing Control-J or through the UI) from almost anywhere in Middle-earth, select the Skirmish you wish to join, and instantly travel to it. There are a few restrictions on Skirmish-join to help with balance and server stability. You canât use Skirmish-join from inside an instance or in PvMP, nor while youâre in combat. Additionally, during times of high server volume you may be placed in a queue. Lastly, upon completion (or failure) of a Skirmish, you will be returned to the exact spot in Middle-earth where you started from.

Details! Give me details!

A picture will help a lot here. I'll explain what each of the entries on the Skirmish-join UI represents, from top to bottom. Much of what youâll find in the Skirmish-join panel are the features we talked about during the scalability diary.

  1. Level - Each Skirmish has a level band that it can be run in, but this only indicates the level of monsters in the Skirmish. You may set levels above or below your characterâs level as you see fit, though it will have side effects. (See point #4.)
  2. Difficulty - Ranges from Tier I (easy) to Tier III (hardest).
  3. Size - Solo (1), Small Fellowship (3), Fellowship (6) and Raid (12) can be selected. It is important to note that you do not need a full group in order to create a Skirmish; new players will be able to join later, up to the limit set here.
  4. Skirmish Marks - This represents the modifier for the amount of Skirmish Marks you will gain with the selected settings. Playing in a Skirmish below your level will greatly reduce this number. Increasing difficulty and size will increase it. In groups of two or more, each player can end up with a different multiplier if they are different levels. The Skirmish has a set level, which is tested against each player to determine their SM acquisition rate.
  5. Skirmish - The ring indicates a daily quest available to be completed. The red exclamation mark indicates you have never played this Skirmish before. The name and level range of the Skirmish is also shown. 6. Create - Pressing Create will lock in your current settings and give you the "Travel Now" UI. Note: if any settings are not valid, the create button will be grayed out. Hold your mouse over the button and it will tell you which settings are not valid.

After pressing Create, you will see the "Travel Now" UI. It mostly serves as a confirmation box, though it is also how other fellowship members will enter the Skirmishes you create. The fellowship leader will use Skirmish-join to select the Skirmish and settings. After pressing Create, the "Travel Now" UI will be sent to all fellowship members so they can follow. Any player who joins the fellowship after initial creation will also be extended an invitation in the form of this alert:

  1. Skirmish - The name of the Skirmish. Note the ring icon, which means the daily quest is available to you.
  2. Description - The plot of the Skirmish you are about to enter.
  3. Details - The level, difficulty and size as selected by the fellowshipâs leader (or by you, if you are soloing). Note that the Skirmish Marks entry only shows YOUR multiplier. Each member of a fellowship could potentially see a different number, if their levels are different.
  4. Options - Travel Now immediately teleports you into the Skirmish! Travel Later will minimize the window, and place the Skirmish alert on your UI. Cancel will abort the Skirmish-join request. There is also a timer here that will cancel your request if it runs out.

Skirmish Defeat Penalty

Weâve decided to not use Dread as the defeat penalty in Skirmishes. The extra difficulty that Dread represents is not in line with the short playtime design we have for Skirmishes. Instead, retreating or being revived in a Skirmish will apply a debuff that reduces Skirmish Mark acquisition. This debuff will increase as defeats pile up, but will be completely removed when the Skirmish is completed. The notable exception to this is in-combat defeat removal, which will not increment the debuff. With this change, we hope to encourage players to avoid defeats while not harming their combat effectiveness, and to encourage completing the Skirmish. The Daily quest rewards will not be affected by this debuff, as the daily is awarded after the Skirmish is completed.

Stat-tracking? What's that?

Take a look at this...

We are tracking a lot of stats in Skirmishes. Many of the things you do in Skirmishes will be logged and recorded for you to look at, compare, and discuss. You can look up things like:

  • How many Lieutenants do you kill on average when in the Gondomon Skirmish?
  • Do you get more Skirmish Marks per hour as a solo or as part of a Raid in the Bree Skirmish?
  • How many Soldiers have you lost in all Skirmishes?
  • Which Skirmish takes the longest for you to finish? And so very much more...

Not only can you view this information while in the game, but it will also be available through Weâre putting together a wide variety of tools for you to parse through and compare this data on the web. Charts, graphs, and lines will be ready for those of you who like looking at data to play with. For those of you who arenât into hardcore analysis, we are creating leaderboards for you to compare your accomplishments to those of other players, Kinmates, and friends. This aspect of Skirmishes is our most free-form, and we are excited to see how you will utilize

Free for all, but more if you upgrade!

Skirmishes will be available to all LOTRO subscribers, but those who do not purchase the Siege of Mirkwood⢠upgrade will have only limited access. Specifically, non-Mirkwood players will have their trait ranks capped, will be limited in the number of Skirmishes they can play in a week, and will only be able to participate in a limited selection of Skirmishes.

That's it!

That's everything. That's the Skirmish system! There will be one more dev diary, where I'll talk about the experiences of making Skirmishes, plans for the future, expectations, shout-outs and an FAQ. It's been a blast!