Beautiful Vistas Gone Bad in Lord of the Rings Online

Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO) is a massively multiplayer online game based in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. I started playing sometime in 2009 and was happy with the decent graphics but delighted by the beautiful artistry put into the game. The vast landscapes, in beautiful shades, crafted with majestic features, was pure enjoyment in itself. But something changed…

I can tell you exactly what changed down to the specific graphics options in the game and it’s very simple: Object Draw Distance and Landscape Draw Distance were nerfed.

I have a system that can push the game 50fps on maximum graphics settings.

For those familiar with LOTRO, I have two versions of each video, starting with Distant Imposters Off and the other version will be Distant Imposter On. Distant Imposters is a hack in the game to prevent having to render 3D object models after a certain distance away. You might expect if Distant Imposters were off that you would get 3D objects to your maximum view distance. This is not the case. Instead, what you get is no 3D objects after a certain distance. You get a barren wasteland of ugly.

In the video above, note how the forest below the player pops in bit by bit. It should already be loaded in from the top of the hill. Additionally, there’s a rocky hill on the right of the player, at the foot of the hill, in full-screen you can notice the muddy texture that should be hi-res. Yes, a hi-res texture does pop in – far too late.

Here’s the same video with Distant Imposters On. An improvement, but the pop-in is still completely jarring.

In this video, note the forest popping in out of nowhere as the player runs down into the little valley and then comes up on the side.

The same video with Distant Imposters On.

Watch the textures of the cliffs in the far background. They are horribly muddy. Watch as one section pops in to a new hi-res texture while the rest of the cliff, very nearby, still has lo-res textures. Brutal.

The same video with Distant Imposters On.

The problems shown in these videos are standard throughout Lord of the Rings Online.

My real issue with these graphics problems is that Lord of the Rings Online is such a beautiful game that it really takes you out of the immersion of the game. A large part of the enjoyment of the game is the beautiful vistas which have been ruined by these graphics changes. I thought I would get over it but every time I play I notice the problems.

So, dear Turbine, please reconsider what you’re doing to the graphics engine.

If you’re interested in more examples of these issues, see my youtube videos.