Spinks the Wise has a nice rambling post up about hitting the level cap in LotRO, which reaches a surprising but very insightful conclusion:

“It’s amazing how free you feel once you decide that you don’t want to get tied into the endgame grind.”

That made me rock back in my chair a little. What a concept: reaching the endgame and then…  enjoying the world. No badge grinds for gear, stat upgrades, LFD or PUG raiding.  Just fishing, crafting, noodling around. For this approach to work, the game has to support that kind of play. And it sounds like LotRO does exactly that, with a combination of epic lore based book quests, virtues and deeds, and the well received skirmish system (that scales the same content from solo to raid groups).

“Go play a single player game” you might argue. But one of the attractions of an MMO is chatting away to friends online whilst you noodle. And MMOs have the huge advantage of being an ever (slowly) changing landscape - each new addition to the game gives new content to explore and share. This is especially true in LotRO, where the new content advances the Fellowship storyline. If you’re not tied up in endgame progression and ‘keeping up’, MMOs allow you to  park your toon for a while then come back when some new content is offered up. DLC can offer some of that for single player games, but the sharing and social aspects aren’t there.

Between Spinks’ post and Syp’s re-entry into Middle Earth, LotRO sounds very tempting. My gamer group tried it briefly once, but quickly retreated back to Warcraft, mainly due to not having the energy to reinvest in a new MMO. But the Spinks perspective is enough to make me consider rolling around Hobbiton solo-MMO style. If it was free-to-play I’d be in there now, but committing to a sub takes a bit more consideration - and I can’t turn off WoW, I’ve got to keep up ;-)