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…)

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3 responses to “Dev Diary: No Such Thing as “Free”

  1. Drannos, I think most of your concerns can be allayed with a closer look at the consumables.

    1) This is accurate; these items will take up more of our precious bag space. Hopefully we get a full-fledged currency wallet someday. 🙂
    2) Take a look at the name difference – “Simple Overpower Tactics” vs “Journeyman Overpower Tactics”, and the accompanying level requirements (25 vs 15). The difference in names and consumable power reflects the level difference, and I think Turbine mislabeled that particular example – it seems that the store item is a higher level and therefore a non-equivalent item. (See this line from the Dev Diary: “The “Overpower Tactics” leaflet is available at level 15, with more potent versions available every 5 levels.”) In fact, the DD noted that the store consumables would exist for every crafting tier (1-6). Also, in every on-level comparison of a store item and a crafted item that I found in the DD, the crafted item had superior stats. In sum, don’t worry, I think there was a typo of sorts – the items are not meant to be equivalent.
    3) Players cannot use both a crafted and store item simultaneously. The item description says “Cannot use with effect: Overpower Tactics”, implying that if the buff from one Overpower Tactics item is up, another one cannot be applied.

    These class consumables are not the beginning of the Lotropocalyse. (In fact, I’m looking forward to using some of the captain consumables – the potion gives the equivalent of a 20 minute skill every 3 minutes! How cool is that?) Also, this might make some of the other crafting classes more useful — since Woodworkers, Weaponsmiths, and Cooks all have new consumables to produce (and Scholars of course). I hope this info helps you reconsider your dour position on the End of Middle Earth!

    -Jodryt, 65 Captain, Nimrodel

    • You’re right – if it’s a simple typo in the Dev Diary about both of the Overpower Tactics being Tier 2, a good number of my concerns go right out the window. I did notice that that example was the only one where they compared two of the same tier… Hopefully it’s just a small mistake on their part.

      And if the crafted versions are equal (or better) than the cash shop items, that also does a lot to make me feel better.

      And, you’re right, they can’t be used at the same time, but they can be used back to back:

      “A new feature of the consumables created for this update is the ability for players to use craft- and LOTRO Store-bought consumables back-to-back, effectively doubling the duration of the buff!”

      From the first paragraph of the post.

      And I’ve heard that a true currency wallet is coming, so that should help. With inventory. But not with an already crowded UI…

      Thanks, though. I hadn't thought about the possibility of a typo, and it does make me feel a bit better! Here's hoping!

  2. The worst thing to me in that Dev Diary was that there were three store buttons on the crafting panel.

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