Posts tagged Expansion

Turbine Tries to Explain Epic Story Flip-Flop

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In a post that should have come before Sapience made the admission that the epic story would no longer be free, MadeOfLions tried to explain the reasoning behind the changes made with the Helm’s Deep Expansion.  I was pretty harsh on them for this announcement mainly because they didn’t admit the real reason behind the change.  I still don’t think this announcement is really true, but it as at least a better attempt.

I’m not going to re-write the entire post, but I do highly suggest you check it out.

I have issues with a couple of parts of it, first with regards to Isengard.  MoL says that epic story was developed assuming the Epic Story would be only included as part of that expansion, not free like it was.  That’s fine if its true, but that part was never communicated to the community and with the changes to Moria and Mirkwood, as well as Rohan, not to mention multiple Turbine quotes on the subject, we became accustomed to the free epic story.  I don’t understand why the story behind Rohan’s development wasn’t told, but perhaps that’s just because MoL wasn’t a part of it.  It almost seems to me like Turbine is trying to forget Rohan completely.

The other issue I have is that MoL claims the only way they could deliver the story and big battles in all their glory was to charge for the story, I just don’t get that rationale.  If I were to buy the expansion I’d get the story, so why wouldn’t you want to make it as good as possible?  Linking the story to the expansion doesn’t impact those who buy the expansion at all, if purely inflates the amount of people who buy the expansion.  Personally, I think it would’ve been better accepted to charge for Big Battles then the epic line using that same logic.

The final thing I posed to MoL on the forums was why if this is such an epic story with these massive battles that forced Turbine to make the hard decision to break their promise, are they only allowing 2 months to test it?

The reality of MoL’s post is that Turbine doesn’t have the team to do all the things they say they can and have in the past, and unless they start bringing in more money we will continue to see changes with this game.

 

LOTRO Helm’s Deep Pre-Order Debacle

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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.

 

Challenging the Status Quo

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I think I’ve written and deleted this post at least half a dozen times as I’ve really been struggling with this of late.  As a bit of a back-story, I was incredibly upset with how some people handled the recent “Troll” post and I struggled with how I wanted to handle it.  I’ve taken quite a bit more time then normal as I just couldn’t come up with a way to accomplish something useful, without just ranting about someone else’s work.  I’m sure some will be able to figure out what I’m actually referring to, but hopefully this is broad enough that no one takes it too personally.  And if you do, just be happy I didn’t post what I originally wrote.

The core of my concern was that the “Troll” post could (and was) be taken as either a total troll post, or as a joke and just as quickly dismissed without too much more discussion.  Taking one of those view-points and discussing it purely on that concept is doing exactly what you shouldn’t do on the internet – Feed the Trolls, not to mention wasting peoples time  However, if you actually want to dive into some of the questions that were raised in that post, then you can actually start shifting the discussion to something that could benefit the entire community.

The overarching question raised in the “Troll” post surrounds Turbine’s lack of communication with the community.  And we’re not talking things regarding game balance or other tough questions but relatively cut and dry questions, things like do you have a license for the Hobbit?  When do the licenses expire?  What does Turbine gain from NOT answering these kinds of questions, if anything they’ re fueling the fire for the conspiracy theorists?  Now based of of their horrible handling of the past two expansions, I can sort of understand why we haven’t heard anything about Helm’s Deep, but why not at least continue the discussion by tossing out dates when we might hear something, instead of childishly teasing the community that they know something we don’t know.  Some people claim Turbine has never talked about things openly, and while there certainly has been limits it has become even more closed off in recent history.  And while they may historically not talk about things, why not try to shake things up a bit?  Dismissing the argument purely based on the history is passively accepting whatever Turbine wants to put out, and not actively asking for more as a customer.

I have a feeling that there’s some serious pressure over at Turbine and they’re at a real crossroads with the LOTRO franchise.  It has been making money for them, but we haven’t heard any sort of “ra ra” news from them in a long while.  Nothing regarding sales numbers, activity, expansion pack orders, etc. and before you chime in that Turbine doesn’t share that, they will when it is good news.  They were quick to point out how big a success the F2P transition was and how awesome the Isengard XPack sold.  Personally I feel that Rohan sold significantly less copies then Isengard and Turbine is trying to figure out how to best position Helm’s Deep to right that ship.  If you look at some the only updated source of speculative data (Rohan launched at week 121), there’s no significant jump with Rohan like there have been at other times.  While Rohan had some cool pieces, it didn’t splash big enough or in a big enough pool to really make enough of a difference.  Another area Rohan missed the mark was their pre-order as there just wasn’t anything worthwhile for many people, and again I think that’s why they’re “delaying” the announcement as they want to make sure it comes off better then Rohan.  The inclusion of level 10 “content” is a direct attempt to not restrict the Helm’s Deep buying pool to people at level cap like Rohan did.  However, I think a bigger issue for them of late has been the complaints that there hasn’t been enough meat to justify the price points, and the handling of instance clusters has been a significant sticking point as well.  But here’s where Helm’s Deep is in a tricky spot, they’re also unleashing the class apocalypse (aka skill trees) and the complete revamp of every class is quite a daunting task that coupled with not only creating new group content for but also verifying all existing group content would be a massive effort that would require an extended testing period.  And of course, added into all of this is the horrid job Turbine has been doing lately with rolling things out without breaking unrelated items or just having to take multiple passes to actually fix something causes additional delays.  And again, we still don’t have information on whether things have been truly addressed (launcher) or why certain issues appear to not be correctly resolved (retroactive Wildermore deed rewards).   Another opportunity for Turbine to get ahead of things would be this new forum system we’re rolling to at some  point, as it sure would be nice to have some idea of whether or not there will be better security for these forums, or if we’ll still be tied to using the same user name and password as our live accounts.  Again, we know very little about these new forums other then “they look cool,” and not anything like “we’ve heard your issues” and this is what we’re trying to do to resolve them.  Overall, there’s a ton of things Turbine needs to be worried with and it seems as though they’re taking the ostrich path as opposed to having some level of communication.

Turbine appears to be trying to sweep certain things under the rug, and with their ability to pull things off their forums whenever and however they want, it falls to the community to attempt to keep them honest.  There are a couple of places that do this, the main one being the unofficial forums, but at times they get a little too “tin-foil hat” for my liking.  Unfortunately there seems to be either the all is well forums, or the tin-foil hat community site, without too much in the middle.  I haven’t been posting too much of late due to other restrictions on my schedule (new baby and new job) but I have been trying to seed others with information in hopes that they could pick up the slack.  However, it is evident that either they don’t want to or are afraid to burn any bridges so I will be reverting back to more activity here.  I can’t promise too much, but it is pretty easy for me to say that I’ll post more – simply because I really haven’t been posting.  But I’m going to try to post more questions and thoughts about the news and really not talk about things that are just information, or where I don’t see anything of interest to talk about.  I’ll also toss out the offer to folks that I’m more then happy to post thoughts or articles on subjects if you’d like another voice and don’t want to deal with forums.

Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I’m not doing this purely to bash LOTRO or Turbine or to get any enjoyment of such activity.  I truly do love this game and the community (for the most part) that has grown with this game.  I feel that with the all that has happened lately the community is in a bit of flux, and I want to try and do what I can to support and foster this community.  I personally don’t feel that there have been enough folks challenging Turbine but far to many either parroting them or making wild baseless accusations and not enough rational, thought out, and properly researched discussions.  That’s what I’m working to better provide for the community, and of course this will not be limited to just Turbine.

 

Turbine with an Interesting News Day

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I’ve been waiting a little bit to absorb and digest the releases yesterday as there are certain things that just don’t make sense to me.  We saw 3 main pieces of news that I wanted to go a little deeper into.

After a delay hit last week, Update 11 finally makes its way over to Bullroarer for public testing.  I will admit that I’ve only popped on the server for a little bit, so this isn’t any sort of thorough review of the update.  For the most part, we knew much of what is in this update but I wanted to touch on a couple of things.  I was a bit underwhelmed by the changes to mounted combat, as Rowan made it out to be a pretty significant change to the mechanics as well as giving the mount trees more options.  At first glance, it really just seemed like the removed many of the basic traits and rolled them into the base mount.  While I appreciate the change, I was hoping for more of an evolution.  But, I will reserve full judgment until I play with it more and see the new content in case they added something spiffy there.  I am (as always) happy to see new zones and am VERY curious to see where the story continues, and visually it appears that the new zone doesn’t disappoint.  I did check out the new Hobbit Presents, and I really don’t have any personal issues with it – but at least now we should be able to get confirmation regarding non-VIPs and gold boxes.  On my first roll I did win 50 Mithril Tokens, so I used those up for research purposes.  The main thing that jumped out to me is that the gear in there maxes out at level 80, but there are Teal and Orange drops.  Below are some shots of what’s possible to get, notice the orange item is not that far off from my Hytbold gear. In addition to this use of coins, there are new ways to spend them, which is all well and good but I’m just not entirely sure the rationale behind the change.  We shall see how much of this build stays the way it currently exists and how many BR builds we get before live, but for the most part I’m liking the Update for what it is.

Hobbit Presents OptionsHobbit Presents OptionsHobbit Presents Options

The announcement that shouldn’t have shocked anyone was the “official” announcement of the Helm’s Deep expansion.  My biggest issue with this is that there’s NOTHING new in the announcement that we didn’t already hear last year from Rowan or earlier this year from Kate Paiz.  Why make such a big deal about a “huge” announcement around the anniversary that you’ve already made?  This announcement is almost identical to the ones for Isengard and Rohan, (Isengard Release & Rohan Release) but those were both a few months earlier in the calendar year.  I was thinking possibly they might announce pre-orders and beta, but for each of those last 2 expansions (Isengard and Rohan) those announcements didn’t come until July – so this would certainly be early for that.  I’m not sure what else I would have wanted to know, but this announcement just didn’t excite me much at all.  Getting to the few details they did announce, I’ve mentioned before that I”m not a big fan of level cap increases so I’m not excited that they included one, but it probably is best with all the class revamp stuff going on.  Probably the most confusing part of the announcement is the mention of Helm’s Deep content available starting at level 10!  I’m not sure how this will actually work, but it smacks of a money grab that just wants to give everyone a reason to get the expansion and not just those at level cap.  However, I can see this happening in a number of ways, but here’s my speculation.  For those who’ve been around for a while, you may remember Book 14 of Epic Volume 1 (thanks to twitter for helping jog my memory) had a server wide quest turn-in gate on finishing the rest of the book.  Essentially once enough people did enough of a certain group of quests you were able to tip the scales of the battle enough to un-lock the rest of the story.  I’m reading into what’s in the release in that Turbine is doing something similar here with this expansion.  Notice, no where in the release do we see the mention of instances, raid, skirmishes, etc. which I do NOT expect to be part of the expansion just like they haven’t been for the past 2 expansions.  However, this server wide un-lock, could provide a neat tie-in to better “explain” the time gap between the content.  They’ll know when the instance cluster should be ready, so they can just adjust the math such that it isn’t possible to unlock the content until it is ready.  This would provide a way in which everyone could participate in some way without tossing level 10 players way out into Rohan.  Another possibility would be to include session plays in some form, but I’m just not sure how they’d introduce those for folks that early on in the story.

The piece of news that’s probably getting the least amount of publicity is the changes coming to the forums.  They’ve been hinting and talking about the change, even going so far as to tell people to export any blogs, but we’re now getting details of what’s coming.  Long story short, everything not on the forums is going away.  This includes My.lotro blogs, character data, programmatic access to the item and character databases, PvMP and skirmish leaderboards, the Lorebook, and probably a few other things that I’m forgetting.  Everyone realizes that the whole system has issues, but this seems like a pretty drastic step.  Sapience does reveal that the merging of NA and EU systems has caused a huge assortment of problems so it seems like this is a necessary evil.  However, the more concerning part about the announcement is there’s no mention of any sort of upside for players, or any mention of doing something to address players concern over security.

One thing that these 3 announcements all have in common is a very confusing PR strategy that Turbine has embraced.  Why roll out the bad news together with the two pieces of good positive stuff?  Why wait all this time to “officially” announce the expansion?  Why nothing addressing huge security holes that have already been compromised once as part of this forum apocalypse?  I think many of the issues the community has stems directly from this lack of quality communication.  I don’t know what specifically has changed, but I don’t remember them coming this frequently.  Hopefully the Player Council can shake something loose, but only time will tell.

 

The Secret World January Game Director Letter

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Joel Bylos put out another Game Director Letter today and there’s a good mix of the good and bad, but one thing I love about Joel (and the whole TSW team) is that they’re not shy about admitting what’s going on.

He starts off with describing what’s going on with corporate Funcom and how it relates to The Secret World.  I really appreciate this transparency into not only what’s going on but how it has impacted the TSW team specifically.  Essentially Funcom has decided that it wants a single studio for all of its live games based in North Carolina.  This means that many of the teams supporting TSW, AoC, and others will either have to move or find other jobs.  I’m sure there will be some turnover with all of the teams but it sounds like the core of the team will continue on the game.  However, once again this is another corporate shift that will cause issues and delays in how TSW roles out content.  Hopefully this is just a small near term hurdle that they team can power through.  They’ve been through bigger and worse hurdles, so I am confident that the team will push through.

I know many will (and already have) indicate that this is a sign that TSW is in trouble and will shut down.  It is still quite early for that kind of talk since this move is just part of the restructuring that they announced back in December BEFORE TSW made its business shift.  This move is a corporate decision and has nothing to do with TSW specifically, granted it will have an impact but it isn’t a move based on the performance of any specific game.

I don’t like talking about this kind of stuff and I’ll admit it really bugs me when people jump to poor conclusions based on at best incomplete information or at worst inaccurate or stale information.  I prefer to keep things on what we actually know and what the studios are actually releasing as opposed to rumor-mongering.

On to more fun stuff, what about Issue 6 you say?  The bad news is that we are still a month out for when we’ll see it as it is slated for late February.  With all the corporate restructuring this doesn’t surprise me, but still I was hoping for an earlier release date.  I’ve loved the existing Egypt story, so the updates there and the inclusion of an “Indiana Jones” theme is great.  I’ll be curious how the Whip works as an auxiliary weapon, especially from a graphical perspective.

In addition to the new story stuff, there are also some VERY cool system changes coming too.  I love that they’re showing love to the Cabal system, and not just the standard things (logs, custom ranks, notes) but also adding a Cabal news feed which sounds quite intriguing.  Also key is that this is just the “first step” on improving the system in response to community response.  I’m consistently impressed with how well this team is able incorporate what other games have done with their community feedback and roll it into the game.

PvP is also getting some updates, but we’ll have to wait for the upcoming Developer blog to learn more about what’s planning.  I haven’t done too much out there, but I’d really like for this system to do well in TSW as I think it could be a huge factor in overall game enjoyment.

Finally, Joel confirmed that the Veteran rewards will first appear with Issue 6 and that it will be a system they consistently add to and improve.  Personally I’m most excited about the repair consumable, the portable vendors, and of course the new cosmetics and pets.

Overall I think this is a positive letter from Joel and once they get through this corporate mess, I’m confident they’ll continue to pump out quality content.

 
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