Lot's of new content coming down the pipe:
Massively just posted a story that has a ton of interesting LoTRO news. The next full expansion will be called the Riders of Rohan. It will include mounted combat and raise the level cap to 85. Not very surprising so far, we all pretty much knew this was coming. However two items did come as a bit of a surprise: (1) players will gain the ability to use skirmish soldiers as companions while out questing, and (2) eastern Rohan is going to be bigger than Moria. On companions, I've become a big fan of full NPC companions both in DDO and now SWTOR. Leveraging the current companion system to add this feature to LoTRO makes sense, and should be a lot of fun. However, I also have to wonder how well it will work in a game that is largely already tuned for soloers. On the size of the coming expansion, Moria is a really big place. If the first Rohan expansion really is bigger it will be a heck of a lot of new real estate.
In the mean time, Turbine is on the verge of rolling out a new adventuring zone, the River Anduin. That's good news for me because I somehow managed to run out of fresh solo content half way through the last level on my main in LoTRO. I could finish the level doing daily quests, but if a whole new area is coming down the pipe I'd just assume wait a bit and hit the cap there. More generally, Turbine claims that they are shifting to a model of more frequent and smaller content updates, ala DDO or Asheron's Call. I personally would certainly prefer that to the current model where we get a couple of months worth of content every year or so.
The Turbine Store and the State of Crafting in LoTRO
I've also been meaning to comment on the fact that Turbine recently started selling armor in their item shop. Based on comments in this thread on the official forums I had assumed that it wasn't as good as gear you can craft, so it was really no big deal. However, based a comments on this post over at Bullet Points, over the weekend I logged in to check out the items in the shop and compared it to what I can craft on a maxed out Tailor. What I did not realize at first is that the gear in the item shop is for very low level characters.
The tier III item shop armor can be equipped by level 20 characters. Even critting one shot recipes, there is no way a tailor can make gear that good for a level 20 character. They can make gear that is on par, but not quite as good, for a level 22 character of any given class (keeping in mind that AC doesn't matter much at those levels). To get into crafted gear that is solidly better you are looking at critted gear for characters in their late 20s or early 30s.
While I'm not going to go on a wild rant about it, I have to say this has a several implications I don't like. First off, this is exactly what Turbine said they wouldn't do when FtP was first announced. If this gear sells well, expect to see sets for higher level characters in short order. Further, the fact that the gear is arguably superior to anything that can be crafted for characters of those levels is yet another sign that Turbine just doesn't care very much about crafters.
Crafted items for characters over level 50 have been marginal since Mines of Moria launched. With this latest move, Turbine seems to be signalling that crafters soon may not be the best source of 1-50 gear either. That said, even for 1-20 crafted items it's not yet the Apocalypse. The store sets only include a chest, legs, and boots. You still have to get gloves, shoulders, and helmets someplace, and crafters still make the best ones (barring the occasional epic from a group quest). However, there doesn't seem to be much stopping Turbine from putting full armor sets in the item shop if these new limited sets prove popular.
Edit (update): at some point today Turbine made an official post about the item shop armor issue. Apparently reactions have been stronger than they anticipated . . .