Book 8 Patch 1 saw the introduction of 5 new daily quests for endgame players. These ‘bounty quests’ involve heading out to various locations around Eriador and killing named mobs for item experience rewards. A player can obtain over 500k+ IXP in just over 30 minutes of questing, sufficient to fully level a legendary item in just 6 days. This is far and away the most efficient way to accumulate IXP now.
3 of the bounty quests are soloable, and the other 2 simply require small fellowships of 2 or 3 players. However, there is no reason not to do all 5 quests in a full fellowship of 6 players. Just find a Hunter to provide some group swift-travel to speed things up, fill up with interested people, and you’re good to go. In my Kinship, there are several of these groups happening on a daily basis. They are just so convenient and rewarding, and with so few restrictions, that there is almost no reason not to do them when the opportunity arises.
As well as the lucrative IXP rewards, I’m finding that there are huge social benefits to this kind of quest design. About 50% of the time doing these quests is spent travelling to the next location. This provides amble opportunity for spontaneous chat within the fellowship – light roleplaying, a bit of banter amongst friends, established Kinship members getting a chance to get to know newer members. With the frequency of PUGs forming to do these quests, I can imagine new social connections being formed all over the server on a daily basis. Challenging content has its place, but it usually requires focussed concentration, and can often be somewhat intense and stressful. In contrast, these bounty quests provide easy collaborative tasks that allow relaxed social interaction to flourish.
The actual quest locations are usually quite busy, but not in a competitive way. The mobs only spawn for those with the quest, and there is a trivial delay between one group finishing and the mob spawning again. Queuing etiquette, at least on my server, has been exemplary. Indeed, excessive politeness seems to be causing more delays than queue-jumping – “Please, after you.”, “No, I insist, you first.” It has given me a new found appreciation of my server’s community. A nice counterpoint to the minority of players that tirelessly flood the custom GlobalLFF channel with their inane bilge.
With these bounty quests, Turbine have found themselves in the strange position of being able to offer rewards that are equally desirable to a casual solo-orientated player as to a grizzled raiding veteran, and without promoting financial inflation. Both players get something nice that feels like a healthy chunk of ‘progression’, and so both are happy. Almost every level capped character – main or alt – has a legendary item that needs levelling, and this quest will therefore remain popular until other factors change.
As a minor downside, these quests have the effect of creating a huge disincentive for running some of the older IXP rewarding content. The most lucrative of the original Moria IXP instances gave somewhere in the region of a paltry 20k IXP, and these instances are now only useful for the occasional legendary item scroll (those that add a particular damage type to a weapon, for example). The previous best method for obtaining IXP, the crafting resource instances, will now mostly be used for their main purpose, and also for a slow and reliable method of obtaining gold leaves (Lothlorien barter items). It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea for Turbine to go back and adjust the numbers a little for the sake of consistency.
The Turbine dev responsible for the bounty quests has admitted that he didn’t anticipate them being as popular as they’ve turned out, and indeed, a different developer was apparently responsible for assigning the surprisingly generous IXP rewards. One possible prospective change that has been hinted at is to increase the quest cooldown to 3 days. This would be a shame in my opinion, because it would reduce the number of social occasions that the quests currently facilitate. If they really must be nerfed, my preference would be for a straight IXP reduction. I reckon most people would still happily run these quests for 200k instead of 500k IXP.
Of course, looking at this more cynically, it could be suggested that this is Turbine’s attempt to pacify the casual majority for the radiance mess. Also, assuming the next expansion is on schedule, we are now entering the final phase of the Mines of Moria era. It has became somewhat of a tradition for MMO developers to start handing out rewards like candy as an expansion cycle draws to a close. Grinds become less and less compelling as a gear reset approaches, so ‘bribing’ the player base with easily obtainable rewards becomes a more effective method for distracting attention away from the ‘cancel subscription’ button. We’ve also seen this with the introduction of crafted 2nd Age items and 1st Age item bartering.
Whatever Turbine’s reasons for furnishing these quests with such compelling rewards, it seems fairly apparent that content such as this has many positive social consequences at any stage of an expansion cycle. Promoting social ties and feelings of community amongst players on the endgame treadmill must be a more effective way of prolonging subscriptions than just providing the treadmill alone. Indeed, I’d like to see more such content in LotRO, preferably with increased variety and the potential for a larger number of participants. I can only hope that the forthcoming ‘skirmishes’ – the scalable instance content likely arriving in Book 9 – will provide such an experience.