I waited on making this post as I wanted to give Turbine added time to release their next round of twenty questions, however if anything those questions further exacerbate the issue as myself and others see it.  I’m not claiming to speak for the entire community, but I know at least many, and certainly I believe the portion of the community Sapience was addressing on Monday.  In answering the posts over the weekend, Sapience was a little bit snarky in responding to the community by explaining how much they’ve pushed out to the community and failing to understand why the community continues to ask the same questions.  I think this comes down to a few things.

The classic quote “I do not think that means what you think it does” comes to mind with regards to communication.  In order for communications to be successful, they need to not only be sent out, but received in some fashion.  One way communication isn’t all that successful, and I think Sapience’s post pretty much points out that there’s a disconnect somewhere.  Turbine needs to realize not all of their players read the forums, I’m guessing a pretty low percentage actually and probably about that same amount follow sites either on the web or through some sort of social media.  However, even those following in some fashion inevitably miss items as it can be hard to catch every single item that is ever posted.  As an example, it is a REDICULOUS process to even try to obtain updates on when a dev makes a post – the ONLY way to do it is check the dev tracker constantly or use a horrendous Yahoo Pipes setup that thankfully someone put up and shared with the community.  Even that dev feed can get cluttered with things like store sales and out of game events.  Providing a way to filter those out and subscribe in some fashion would be quite helpful.

Another aspect is using leading statements without providing any sort of clarifications or follow up information, a few examples:

  • announcing pre-orders for the Rise of Isengard expansion (first expansion to not ship with an instance cluster) and not inform the public that an instance cluster wouldn’t be available for another 3 months.
  • announcing pre-orders for the Rise of Rohan specifying that the cluster would be delayed, but delay the inclusion of that cluster with the purchase of the expansion
  • and just recently – there will be an update between Update 11 and Helm’s deep, but not specifying that it would only be bug fixes and not additional content.
  • these are just a few examples of this

I just don’t understand why Turbine continues to be as vague as they are with these kinds of issues considering how poorly the community reacts every time.  We knew in closed beta for a LONG time there would be no instances in ROI – why not release that and get ahead of it?  What was the point of not explaining how people could obtain the instance cluster with RoR?  And why not just be honest and say the only updates between Update 11 and Helm’s Deep will be bug fixes?  These are all examples of poor customer relations and leading the customer along a false path for fear of upsetting them with bad news.  Well guess what Turbine, while we don’t like getting bad news, we really don’t like feeling like we’ve been lied to.

Then of course there’s the recent – we’ll just ignore this question was ever asked and hope that it goes away as it pertains to things like the content license.  It is a simple factual question, even the question of “what content do you have a license for” took years to resolve and I’m still not sure I know the answer.  Sure it may be a very complicated arrangement and may in fact be in an incredibly nasty negotiation period (purely making this up for dramatic purposes) but you can admit the facts with something along the lines of “Our current licensing deal extends through 2014 and we’re in a constant state of evaluation of the future,” that simple statement acknowledges the question but still doesn’t back anyone into any corner or impact any potential negotiations.  The license issue got even worse as Sapience and the official twitter feed promised to settle the issue definitively in the 20 questions coming up.  Turbine has a history of this kind of teasing, and sadly it is becoming more and more childish and less exciting each time they do it.  Their answer was that they “plan to support LOTRO for many more years to come,” not only is this incredibly vague but there are a whole host of other things Turbine planned to do (or not do) that they went back against:

  • not going Free to Play
  • no gear in store
  • new PvMP map with Isengard
  • more frequent updates with F2P
  • I could go on, but I think you get the point

Not only does Turbine’s track record not speak to well for us just blindly trusting them, but any agreement like this is a two way agreement and who is to say the Tolkien estate wouldn’t grow tired of what’s going on and pull the plug on the game’s license?  After the various tweets, I was really hoping for something substantial, but instead we just got some public relations nonsense that addresses absolutely zero concerns of the community.  What did that statement say that wasn’t something we didn’t already know, of course Turbine wants to continue the game as it is a way for them to stay employed and continue to make money for WB.  I have to question those who think this statement from Turbine is any sort of binding contract with the community.  I would have been happier if they would have hid behind the ongoing contractual discussions and not wanting to disturb them then the crap we got.

While I’m on the list of those questions, I find it incredibly insulting that Turbine has the nerve to redicule the community for asking the same questions multiple times, when they themselves pick and answer the same question multiple times.  Why not keep a consolidated list somewhere (go and find all the dev chats, trust me I tried, its damn hard) not only for the community but for yourselves such that you know which questions you’ve already answered and not pick those unless there’s a significant change.  Let’s pick on the deep meaty answer they did provide this time around regarding instance difficulty.  That same exact question and answer has been repeated numerous times, on various forums including live and bullroarer.  What would have been really interesting would have been how that process has changed as the game has evolved or how they roll in the feedback from Live into that process.

Finally, the waffling back and forth on issues when coupled with all the above completely muddies the water and makes it incredibly hard to understand what’s really coming or planned.  For example, mounted combat instances have been asked about numerous times and each time we get a different answer.  From not on the roadmap (which means no since the roadmap goes out quite a few years), to we’re actively looking at it, to there are much bigger issues that need to be tackled first before we look at that option.  What’s worse is that some of this waffling has been by the same person!  All three responses individually would be perfectly fine answers, as would be stepping up and acknowledging that you’ve provided a different answer before but things have changed for whatever reason.  At this point, while I want certain things in the game and aspects addressed, I’d be happy to have a consistent answer, or if the answer changes own the fact and you could even admit that player feedback caused the change in opinion.  I’m pretty sure there are others like me that keep asking questions (like the mounted combat one) simply because we don’t know what answer we’ll get.

My initial draft of this post was still negative, but this recent round of questions and the buildup to those questions just made the whole problem worse.  I honestly don’t know what Turbine can do to reverse this trend but while some claim (and possibly rightly so) that F2P was the downfall of LOTRO, personally I think this horrendous string of communications has done more harm to the community then anything that has come from F2P.  When you think about it, quite a few of the F2P issues could have easily been lessened (I won’t necessarily say solved) if they had done a better job of getting in front of the issues.

I’m still hopeful the player’s council will help allow Turbine to actually listen to the community as opposed to just randomly blasting out data that they hope we’re interested in.  But I think a more important concept would be to have a little more accountability in acknowledging what’s been asked and what they’ve said previously.