Reputation in LOTRO represents two things:
1) In lore/story terms, it represents how indebted a faction is to you for favors you have done for them in the past. In some cases, a faction might not deal with you at all until you've managed to curry some favor with them.
2) In gameplay terms, it represents an alternate ladder of advancement, a form of gameplay that players can pursue to give them access to high-end rewards that might otherwise only be accessible through group play.
The amount of effort required to pursue reputation rewards tends to be fairly high, but we try to keep it as accessible as possible. Most of the reputations can be pursued by solo players fighting non-elite monsters on the landscape - indeed, they can even be pursued by crafters or simply by buying faction trophies from the auction house and turning them in. Call it the "slow but steady" approach to end-game rewards, if you will.
Most factions also have a way for fellowships to woo them, by fighting elite monsters in various dungeons throughout the game. This isn't meant to be any faster or slower than the solo approach, it's simply meant to allow fellowships to work together towards a goal rather than forcing them to break up and solo to do so.
Up in the northern portion of Middle-earth, everyone is more or less on the same side, and the level of mistrust between the races is low (they get along pretty well since their co-victory at the Lonely Mountain), so you won't see any factions that actively dislike you yet. They just like you more - or less.
Of course, that's not counting the orcs - orcs hate everyone, and are notoriously difficult to curry favor with.
In any case, as we move south we'll begin to encounter factions that really have issues with each other, as the distrust bred between Men, Elves, and dwarves by Sauron's machinations becomes more evident.
Now, I do know that a number of folks on our test server have raised concerns about the reputation system and have questions that need answering.
Q: Why are you adding a grind to the game!?
A: Let's call a spade a spade: reputation ladders are a system that encourages you to go out and kill monsters and/or collect objects in large numbers, and they can take quite a bit of time. There are generally going to be faster ways to get serious loot in the game - and those of you who prefer grouping may want to give it a pass for the most part - but for the portion of the player base who either don't or can't group much of the time, this sort of gameplay gives them long-term goals they can pursue between their usual quests and activities.
Another advantage of these relatively simple activities is that they can be picked up and put down quickly. Only have 20 minutes to play? No problem; go earn a little reputation before dinner and then log out for some quality family time. For many players with uncertain real-world responsibilities, this can be a much more relaxing style of play, and that's the kind of play-style it's designed to support.
In practice, it really isn't much different from the Slayer deeds, but it operates via different mechanisms.
Q: Do I have to grind through reputation in order to enter dungeons and play with my friends?
A: In a word: No.
The reputation system in LOTRO is an optional method of advancement; it isn't being implemented to require players to grind in order to gain access to group content.
We don't like the fracturing effect such requirements have on fellowships ("Our fellowship can't do the Carn Dûm run until Bob finishes grinding his Council rep - get the lead out, Bob."). That would generate the kind of peer-pressure play that we're trying to avoid with this style of content.
I can't say that will never happen, but we have implemented the system with the conscious decision not to use it that way for the foreseeable future.
Q: Why can't crafters sell or trade their crafted reputation tokens!?
A: There were a few reasons for this. First, any item crafted using a commonly available formula tends to offer little or no markup for the crafters who are making them, because competition between those offering them quickly drives the price down to the cost of components or even lower - this is because the crafting process itself offers more value to the crafter (in terms of raising skill) than to the buyer, who can buy their items from any available crafter.
Another reason was one of flavor: I wanted reputation benefits to accrue for the crafters who were capable of making the items rather than anyone with the cash-on-hand to buy them. Those with cash can always purchase the kill trophies instead, which has less market knock-on effects than the crafting components, which leads me to my last point...
We had some concerns about over-inflating the market price of the components related to reputation crafting tokens if they were tradable - those components have other uses, and we don't want them to become prohibitively expensive. If that turns out to be unfounded, we may in time alter them to be tradable, but for the time being they will not be.
As with so many elements of an MMOG, the reputation system shall be a work in progress for some time to come as we explore how it operates in live play and what aspects of it are the most - and least - attractive to our various player segments.
My ultimate goal is to be sure that we have forms of content that are available for all our different groups of players, from the most relaxed and casual, to the most optimized and hard-core. Here, if you will, is one of the more casual elements.
For you folks at the other end of the spectrum, I *do* also happen to be working on raid housing trophies and similar content - but that's a matter for another discussion. :-)
Jesse "Vastin" King
Game Designer 1995-2005 (Cyberlore Studios, Inc) Content Designer 2005-Present (Turbine, Inc)
Prior releases include: - WarCraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal - HOM&M II: The Price of Loyalty - Majesty: The Fantasy Kingdom Simulator - Santa Strike