Daily Archives: November 18, 2010

Dev Diary: No Such Thing as “Free”

Oh...no...I think I may cry...

Update: just when I was about the get a little doom-and-gloom, Turbine had to go and announce Isengard…oh well, this post was almost complete, so here goes. I still have hesitations over class items in the Store, and it does feel a bit like Turbine is covering mediocre design decisions by distracting with a big, yet completely vague, announcement for something still a year off.

I had another post in the works when I saw that a new Dev Diary had posted to the LotRO site. This most recent post covers one of the new mechanics for the November Update – class consumables. My initial reaction to these (when I read the November Update patch notes) was fairly optimistic; as a Scholar, the more items I can create the more valuable I am to other players and to the economy, and a lot of these class consumables are created by Scholars.

However, for a few reasons, this update now appears to me as a possibly dangerous idea. But more than the fact that I’m not convinced that these items are an outright “improvement” to the game, the whole thing makes me a little nervous. Has Turbine turned a corner here and begun to show us what “Free To Play” is really going to be about? Are items such as these what we can look forward to in the Store? Have we taken that first step on the path to Pay To Win?

Here’s what got me twitching in the back of my brain:

  1. First, the addition of even more consumables that we’ll need to carry around with us just strikes me as Turbine moving in the wrong direction. As if we didn’t already have a metric ton of items taking up what little inventory space we have. And it creates yet more buttons on an already crowded screen. I mean, really? This isn’t too terrible, however, until you consider what it could mean about the future of the game, and the kind of ideas that are either being tossed around the design meetings, or being handed down from on high. For example…
  2. The difference between the crafted versions of items, and those bought in the Store make me very nervous. Take the Overpower Tactics pictured below.

    Store-bought on the left, crafted on the right

    Notice the difference? Look closer:Now, there is the obvious difference in level requirements (15 vs. 25), but both of those items are Tier 2 consumables, and the Tier 2 Store-bought item provides a better buff than the crafted version; that’s an 86% increase over those made by Scholars. What about the highest tier of items? Both will presumably have similar, if not identical level requirements, yet if they follow the example above, the items bought with hard cash could very well be far superior. Can you see why this makes me a bit nervous?

  3. “But, Drannos”, you say, “players can use both of these items simultaneously to double their buff! Players will need (or want) both!”. Exactly my point! Is that a good thing? Again, it hints at a direction in gameplay with which I’m not entirely comfortable – the Pay to Win scenario. What player isn’t going to walk into endgame content without these items? Both of these items? By making both usable simultaneously, could Turbine be creating a scenario where raid leaders require their players to purchase cash shop items?

Doom! DOOM I tell you!

I don’t mean to be a complete naysayer; it seems like most of my posts about LotRO recently have been full of negativity, and that’s not intentional. I’ve been having a lot of fun in the game, it’s just that the aspects I’m enjoying aren’t much different (if at all) from what I’ve already written about, and Turbine isn’t giving us a whole lot of new things to discuss. It remains to be seen how these items will play out in the actual game. And, of course, it’s always up to the players to decide how to spend their money, and what items to leverage in the game. It’s not the class items that bother me so much as the specific differences between the crafted versions and the cash shop versions, and the indications this kind of setup could have for Turbine’s feelings about the future of the game. It’s beginning to feel like Turbine is cornering us into cash purchases.

As always, I give Turbine full marks for listening to their players; they do a better job than most in this industry. And, according to the Dev Diary, these items were designed after listening to us players. However, as a father of two, I can tell you that handing over that which is requested can often be worse than the alternatives.

I think Turbine means well with these items, but you know what they say about the road to Hell? What’s it paved with? That’s right.

Class consumables.

(Or good intentions…whatever…)