I don’t really like making my first post in a long while a rant, but I just couldn’t help it.  There are so many things I feel are wrong with this announcement that I needed to write about it.  I have been expecting this news pretty much any day since the middle of June, so I can’t be terribly surprised it came yesterday.  I’m also not surprised by what was actually in the announcement, but I was really hoping that Turbine would change its model from previous expansions.

Sure, Isengard was their best expansion ever, and one that I snatched up the legendary pack for immediately.  However, we’ve never heard a peep about how Rohan did and one can only guess that it didn’t do all that well.  I know from my own highly scientific polling, most people were either not getting the pack or using their Turbine points for it, like I did.  What Turbine failed to do with that pre-order was include items that people really cared about and wanted.  After 6 years, I think players are getting tired of titles (does anyone still care what title they show?) and have more cosmetic items then they know what to do with.  Combine that with the fact that we can only show off one horse at any given time, it makes it hard to really need all these extra things.

With Helm’s Deep, I was really hoping they’d include some other sort of item in the pre-order packs.  To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what that would be – but I feel they should have tried something to switch things up from a model that clearly isn’t working.  One highly controversial item that would’ve tempted me is the rumored XP item that has been leaked.  I personally would love a way to bring a couple of my alts up to level cap but the prospect of leveling them is more then daunting and not something I have any intention of doing.  That to me would be the perfect “convenience” item, paying real world money to shorten my time in game.  And while they may not have learned anything about previous pre-orders bonus items, there’s more later about a trick they did pick up on

Next up would be the pricing, I again was hoping for something more along the lines of the Mirkwood model.  Not necessarily as confusing, but the base pack around $20 with a fluff option for another $20.  Instead what we got was a base of $40, a few more cosmetics for $60, and a horrifically overpriced Hobbit themed add-on for $40.  That hobbit pack includes:

  • 3 Star Lit Crystals which is 1195 TPs in the store
  • Scroll of Delving which is 195 TP
  • Relic Removal scroll which is 195 TP
  • and a Premium Relic pack which is 2000 TP (updated for all characters this is 3495)

So that totals 3585 TP, which is roughly $35 and if you’re in the US toss in an extra $13 for the movie ticket and it’s a pack valued at around $48.  It does appear that these items will still apply for your level 95 LIs, but no answer from a dev to the forum questions on this explicitly.  Even though the community has answered that store versions currently are not level bound, I would like a blue-name clarification that it will be that way with Helm’s Deep as well.  Clearly, if you’re not in the US this pack is not a good deal, and even in the US if you get a sale and/or a double point weekend (or stipend) it is probably better for you to pass on this.  After a twitter comment, if you play multiple characters, the relic pack is actually 3495 TP for all characters, so this does become a $63 value which is a better deal.

We still don’t know all that much about the expansion, even with the flurry of press articles.  If you actually think about those articles – what additional information came out that you didn’t know prior to the article?  At least with this expansion we don’t have to worry about the price and/or inclusion of an Instance Cluster since there is none.  However, at this time we still have zero information about the availability of using Turbine points to pay for the expansion, something we learned very quickly with the Rohan launch, later that day even.  This part doesn’t make sense to me since Sapience said they held off on the announcement to figure out a way to make the Hobbit pack international – so they had all this ready a good time ago and had to know this question would come immediately.  And after thinking about it a bit more, the fact that they’re floating the story that they didn’t announce the pre-order based purely on a freebie tie-in for a portion of the community is also a tad insulting.  If they really wanted to announce it, they would have (like they’ve done before) and make changes or inclusions along the lines.  But based on these prices and the fact that I’m sure there are many lifers like me with a healthy stash of TP, I highly expect the TP price for this expansion to be very high.

Getting back to Turbine learning their lessons, they did have an ace up their sleeve that they didn’t roll out until specifically called out on it, and this of course is that the Epic Story line which has been available for Free for a long time now (not quite since F2P launch) will only be available to those who purchase the expansion.  Here is Sapience’s initial response to the question as well as his follow up justification for the change.  <Update> Significantly after the fact, a slightly better explanation has come from MadeOfLions.  <Update> Initially I jumped to the greedy thought, but I’ve now come to realize what really bugs me isn’t that they’re being greedy (I still think they are) but that they’re not being honest or consistent in why they’re making the change.  If they had admitted it was a business decision to make the change, I would have been totally fine with it.  However, they are claiming that because Big Battles are such an integral part of the story, they need to charge for both of them.  Never mind that Helm’s Deep isn’t that big of a part of the books that LOTRO is based on (unlike the movies) as posted elsewhere but Turbine previously has included new technologies for free since they are so integral to the Epic Story line.  Legendary Items, many skirmishes, and Mounted Combat were all new technologies that significantly changed the game but since they were tightly integrated into the Epic Story line they were included for free.  No matter what real reason you think is driving this decision, the public answer clearly doesn’t make sense or justify what they’re doing.

The final piece of this announcement that truly boggles my mind is the date, November 18th.  If we look at past expansions, Rise of Isengard had almost 5 months of closed beta testing, without an instance cluster, before its launch, Riders of Rohan had 3 months but still pushed that launch a month and split up its instance cluster into 2 pieces to be launched significantly later.  This expansion will only have 2 months of closed beta testing, which is incredibly short considering that they’re introducing a “new” instance and rewards system as well as a complete and total revamp of EVERY class.  They haven’t updated every class at the same time since Moria, and not since Mirkwood have they actually succeeded in rolling out any kind of instance cluster at launch time, let along one that’s using “new” technology.  History shows us that both of these are both things that Turbine historically has trouble with so you’d like to think they’d want to make sure they did it properly.  I look at this in two ways, one cynical and the other incredibly pessimistically.  The truth is probably neither of them, but we’ll never know that.  From the cynical side, this is done to ride the wave of the Hobbit build-up to the second movie and get in before the holiday season kicks off in full gear, and was a date set by WB long ago.  Even if it launches at that time, I expect numerous patches and various things to be quickly closed off due to bugs and/or exploits.  As for the pessimistic view, this game is turning into an easy daily facebook style game, where difficulty has no place, so they don’t have to worry about class interactions or Big Battle difficulty at all.  They can just make sure classes work on their own and make the battles super easy and they’re done and ready for launch.

Riders of Rohan was the first expansion I didn’t pre-order on the day it was announced, and in fact I waited and bought it with Turbine Points.  Initially I wasn’t even planning on buying the Helm’s Deep expansion at all, even with Turbine Points, but now I’m not so sure since they made the epic chance.  Part of me thinks this is a clean time to part ways, but after almost 7 years in this world that is a hard thing to do.  Depending on how they handle things going forward I may cave and buy it with Turbine Points, but this announcement has really shown me how little Turbine understands the community.  The Player’s Council certainly has their work cut out for them.