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A letter from Executive Producer Kate Paiz - Looking Ahead to 2014


Falebrindor
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The age of the game shouldn't matter. WoW is almost 10 years old and it's still hugely popular.

 

Well LOTRO peaked in Vanilla.  I think the lifetime subs and population drop killed them by the end of MoM though.  That's why they had to put out a mini expansion in SoM.

 

LOTRO has been in maintenance mode for a while.  Just look at the expansions and what you get for the price.

 

Anyway, I suspect there will be an expansion by mid 2015 but it will be as small as the current one.

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I see she is making copious mention of the Council.  I'm telling you guys - like me or loathe me - you would do well to take my advice and leave the Council before the blamehammer comes down.

But the benefits of being on the council are many: status; pride; access to devs; access to inside and early information; and free vacations overseas. Why would they leave the council?

 

Unless of course they had any honor, or did not like the fact Turbine is preventing them from making any reports back to players. But I am not criticizing any of them - as I am sure some are working to make the game better.

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It's a yearly letter from the Producer, it is what it is, a look back and forward put in a positive light. /shrug

 

I find it interesting that she hints at talking to us again next year about housing. She isn't known for being communicative directly with the community and I'll be interested to see if that changes. There has actually been quite a bit more Dev presence since they said they would be more communicative in general, and since HD Beta for sure. I don't remember seeing so much Dev posting since the Orion/ZC heydays. Verizal and Jinjaah have been pretty active and responsive as well as RockX. Of course some are still very absent live DeviledEgg.

 

Expansions:

 

This is probably the best thing they could do and fits in very well with a lot of feedback from the forums. A 12 month cycle is brutal, on both Staff and Players. My guess is something more along the lines of a 18-24 month cycle which is very similar to what WoW did in it's prime. The problem is that a longer cycle needs regular content updates, something Turbine just isn't know for sustaining. About half of the Updates need to be end-game focused with solid new content. Revamps, scaling, Epics, etc. can fill in the other half pretty easily as long as it's quality. I have serious doubts that they can pull it off to a greatly improved standard, but we'll see. They were very clear when F2P came out that they weren't sure that they'd stick with the standard Xpac model, and I'm actually quite surprised they have so far. Both the Studio and the F2P Model they have seems better suited to few if any Expansons and more regular smaller Updates.

 

More Content:

 

Not a great track record for this, but it would be great if it comes to pass. At least the idea seems to put some focus on making VIP have value which is something they've sorely failed at. If they've secured the licence through 2017, which I think was the target date of the re-up clause, then that gives us in 18 Months the Gondor Xpac and 18 months after that the Mordor Xpac, at which time they could renegotiate or go into Maint. Mode. To me this letter points more to that type of scenario than some I've seen floated about. But either way, I'm happy that VIP's seem to be on the radar again.

 

Inventory:

 

Hmm, really? Someone said a vault style inventory which I guess would be nice. I can see some tweaks possibly, larger uniform stack sizes, etc. but anything large enough to be yearly letter worthy? I must be missing something. No I'm not missing that there will almost certainly be some monetized upgrade options if possible. I'd be more shocked if there wasn't. The basic business model just isn't that difficult to understand. One might not like it fairly enough, but calling it out as some great revelation or proof of whatever is silly. It'll be there, simple as that.

 

Festivals:

 

What's to do here, they took what was, and could have been added to, and made it a grind. The added monetization here was a huge detriment. I doubt that'll change and they'll continue to be something I avoid. This is an area I wish someone would really step up and say let's remove any buying and eliminate as much grind as possible and turn these into community builders again, something for the players just to have fun. Unfortunately, I don't think that'll happen.

 

Housing:

 

At least they haven't let it drop off the radar yet. Even without a full blown overhaul, there are lots of good ideas floating around that would be nice to see implemented. No huge surprise when basic are released and monetized upgrades are offered. 

 

As for the secret? A new class is the likely candidate. However the Trait Trees do open up some other scenarios that could prove interesting enough.

 

Nothing to be overly optimistic about and nothing to be overly pessimistic about, pretty much par for the course, imo.

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I'm a little curious at calling the 12-month cycle brutal on players.  If you're a roleplayer or a 'real' casual player, I can see being fine with traipsing about the countryside and enjoying the sights and sounds.  If you're an altaholic, I can see wanting to time to get all 9 characters up to max level and equipped.  But otherwise, more than that seems to cause folks to move along to other games with more current challenges.  The nature of the content seems to be the more important aspect to me, not the timing of it.

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Turbine would do well to copy Blizzard's expansion pattern, where it pertains to WoW. They generally stick to a 2-year schedule for expansions, with some end-game content available at launch, and more added over the life-cycle of that expansion. For example, announce Expansion X has 7 raids, 2 available at launch, and one more added every 3 months after launch.

 

This would keep players busy over the life of an expansion, while allowing the company time to develop end-game content after release, which would take some pressure off of the devs to have everything ready at launch. But since they appear to be moving away from expansions, the point is moot. Maybe instead Turbine should just focus on this quarterly content update schedule, releasing either a new landscape area, an Epic book, an instance cluster or a Raid every three months?

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Yeah, moving away from expansions has a lot advantages for them

 

- More smaller updates, which keeps people coming back and less pressure on development

- More content to sell, you can sell a region update/ instances every 3 months

- No new game systems to develop, so less bugs, because only 'old' systems get expanded

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To be honest, I'd rather they didn't release an expansion every year, if it always comes with a level cap raise.

People have complained about level cap raises since MoM, there's no need to keep raising it. What's after lvl95, lvl100? Lvl105? You could keep going forever.

 

If they stick to, and I think there's a lot of people saying it's a big "if", the "promised" update schedule for 2014, I think it could do the game good.

Saying that, currently on an extended break. I'm feeling quite burnt out after beta testing and playing on Live at the same time, so it'll probably be into the new year before I get back into regular playing.

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They can still operate the game without an extension of the license?

 

Yes?

 

If so, that's what this looks like to me.

The old license has been granted by somebody who according to the rights holders does not have the rights to grant a license, so the usefulness of an extension is in question. In fact it is pointless to continue to talk about an extension at all.

It goes back on what we elaborated before: with the lawsuit pending you can not go "land-grab" and expand your business based on the possibly foul intellectual property. A judge would punish you badly for it if you lose later. At the same time it is reasonable to react to the ongoing lawsuit by continuing business as it was when you were operating in good faith, so that no irreparable harm is done to anybody's property - including yours. A game like LOTRO would die and never get back up if you were to -say- shut it down until the lawsuit is settled.

There are many explanations for the new "no expansions" policy and this one is IMHO likely in the mix somewhere.

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The old license has been granted by somebody who according to the rights holders does not have the rights to grant a license, so the usefulness of an extension is in question. In fact it is pointless to continue to talk about an extension at all.

It goes back on what we elaborated before: with the lawsuit pending you can not go "land-grab" and expand your business based on the possibly foul intellectual property. A judge would punish you badly for it if you lose later. At the same time it is reasonable to react to the ongoing lawsuit by continuing business as it was when you were operating in good faith, so that no irreparable harm is done to anybody's property - including yours. A game like LOTRO would die and never get back up if you were to -say- shut it down until the lawsuit is settled.

There are many explanations for the new "no expansions" policy and this one is IMHO likely in the mix somewhere.

 

 

Yes! That is the real impact of the suit, and for everyone saying they can continue indefinitely without a license they don't have a clue.

 

I've worked on many licensed projects in the marketing world, far larger than the piddly little no-talent shop called turbine. There are a multitude of ways to structure licenses, and there is no such thing as a single "intellectual property" license. There will be rules about how copyrights are used, likenesses, trademarks, even design patents come into play sometimes. They didn't just "license the books" as people seem to think.

 

As for leaving a game in maintenance mode after license expiration, I call total bullshit based on wishful fanbois thinking. If it isn't spelled out then it isn't there. Reading between the lines of the lawsuit this will give you an idea about their "tangible product" argument. Remember a service is a tangible product, as is a lease, a license, even a sales mark. It looked to me like TE was forcing WB to present their service as a tangible product to the court, right were TE wants them.  

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Anyone else think that Sapience/Turbine is intentionally trying to get players excited about things that may not happen?

 

There are two threads up for feedback on: 1) housing - what should they do with housing, and 2) inventory - which is a major flaw of Lotro (too many items of value and limited bag space).

 

Of course, their housing update will be nothing like what it could be (think Rift's housing system). But by having players post ideas they are getting people excited imagining all of the possibilities.

 

So it's basically: tell players that there is no housing update, and that they will only "discuss" housing more later in the year. Who knows when we will actually get the promised 2013 housing update.

THEN, make a thread to get players excited about potential housing changes, that for the most part will never happen. Seems kind of intentionally manipulative to me. Do they really need ideas on what they could do with housing? There are plenty of model out there for MMO housing, and they already have good feedback and input on housing. So why have a new feedback thread - unless it is to distract players and get their hopes up.

 

As an example:

This sounds really cool - but there is zero chance Turbine would do this:

One idea I've had in the past is that the housing actually be in the existing world. Doors exist everywhere that go nowhere. Turn those doors into instanced housing. The door on a farm house in Bywater becomes a door to an actual house. Mutliple players can share that door and go to their own house instance. The same with all those unused doors in Bree, Thorin's hall, Celondim, Rivendell, etc. You get a choice of all the styles you like this way. This means the housing is integrated into the world itself instead of replicating 1960s gated communities.

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I'm a little curious at calling the 12-month cycle brutal on players.  If you're a roleplayer or a 'real' casual player, I can see being fine with traipsing about the countryside and enjoying the sights and sounds.  If you're an altaholic, I can see wanting to time to get all 9 characters up to max level and equipped.  But otherwise, more than that seems to cause folks to move along to other games with more current challenges.  The nature of the content seems to be the more important aspect to me, not the timing of it.

 

Nature is indeed an important factor, and not something I was trying to downplay.

 

At a 12 month cycle a portion of people have either not quite gotten, or have just gotten, through the end game content. Which leaves them with a very short time to get a space on farm and/or enjoy their rewards for beating the content.

 

There are a lot of factors that go into making an extended cycle work. To again use WoW as an example since I played it for several years I'm most familiar with it:

 

Their expansion cycle was 22 months between BC and WotLK, 25 months between WotlK and Cata, and, 21 months between Cata and MoP. It was also 26 months between Launch and BC. They've always been close to a 2 yr. cycle, but indeed that alone didn't and wouldn't keep players.

 

End game players of all calibers could look forward several things, a large, and generally difficult end game at launch. As the cycle progressed new end game content is added, while the launched content was toned down a bit, deeper into the cycle content would usually get another pass at down tuning, and often a third pass. What this allowed was for progression raiders to keep moving forward into new difficult content. By tuning content down in it gave a boost to the much larger mid range raiders and allowed them to complete the content, albeit after the progression groups were done with it and were farming the launch content to gear alts or new guildies. By the time the cycle was done even if you weren't a "raider" chances are you could see the content via a guild run or pug.

 

This wasn't an official company policy, nor did it apply in all raids, but it was a general cycle flow that was easily observable.

 

Add to that WoW's itemization. Post Vanilla, Raid Sets were not the end all be all of gear. It was good gear but often you would only want a couple pieces for a specific set bonus, instead wearing drops which allowed greater control over stats to min/max. Often a BiS piece or two would come from some 5 mans with the rest raid drops. Medium armour wears often had to make decisions between light or medium, esp. true with Druids, because the itemization allowed for such decisions.

 

Even then progression raiders were done with the cycle early, but the larger percentage of the player base was constantly busy.

 

Turbine isn't Blizzard, nor are the games the same, however Turbine could easily make great things happen with a larger cycle, unfortunately their track record with long cycles, Moria/Mirkwood, is more about letting us languish with little new engaging content.

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2) inventory - which is a major flaw of Lotro (too many items of value and limited bag space).

 

How long do you think it will be before they implement a salvage sink for vendor trash?

 

You only buy added storage once, but you buy deconstruction kits in bulk forever.

 

Make them all tradable on the AH and both camps spend money.

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The sad part is, I patched Lotro, and logged in twice to the player select screen. I love the idea of getting back in to the game, finishing some epic quests, maybe trying to solo some instances with the PVE nerf.

 

But then I think about the new toon grind, and the LI grind, and the inventory mini-game (too little bag space, too much time swapping items), and I just can't get my self to actually get into the game. Thinking about the bad game systems is keeping me away.

 

So instead I just resubbed to WoW. It is just that much better of a game in terms of basic gameplay. I want to go back to Lotro's world - but I don't want to play that MMO. Thoughts of the store alone and the choice of grind vs. buy a store item makes me shudder.

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Turbine would do well to copy Blizzard's expansion pattern, where it pertains to WoW. They generally stick to a 2-year schedule for expansions, with some end-game content available at launch, and more added over the life-cycle of that expansion. For example, announce Expansion X has 7 raids, 2 available at launch, and one more added every 3 months after launch.

 

This would keep players busy over the life of an expansion, while allowing the company time to develop end-game content after release, which would take some pressure off of the devs to have everything ready at launch. But since they appear to be moving away from expansions, the point is moot. Maybe instead Turbine should just focus on this quarterly content update schedule, releasing either a new landscape area, an Epic book, an instance cluster or a Raid every three months?

 

I think something like that is a good fit for Turbine and they could do a lot of good work under those conditions. I just wonder if they can stick to it, they have this knack for switching gears constantly.

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Nature is indeed an important factor, and not something I was trying to downplay.

 

At a 12 month cycle a portion of people have either not quite gotten, or have just gotten, through the end game content. Which leaves them with a very short time to get a space on farm and/or enjoy their rewards for beating the content.

 

There are a lot of factors that go into making an extended cycle work. To again use WoW as an example since I played it for several years I'm most familiar with it:

 

Their expansion cycle was 22 months between BC and WotLK, 25 months between WotlK and Cata, and, 21 months between Cata and MoP. It was also 26 months between Launch and BC. They've always been close to a 2 yr. cycle, but indeed that alone didn't and wouldn't keep players.

 

End game players of all calibers could look forward several things, a large, and generally difficult end game at launch. As the cycle progressed new end game content is added, while the launched content was toned down a bit, deeper into the cycle content would usually get another pass at down tuning, and often a third pass. What this allowed was for progression raiders to keep moving forward into new difficult content. By tuning content down in it gave a boost to the much larger mid range raiders and allowed them to complete the content, albeit after the progression groups were done with it and were farming the launch content to gear alts or new guildies. By the time the cycle was done even if you weren't a "raider" chances are you could see the content via a guild run or pug.

 

This wasn't an official company policy, nor did it apply in all raids, but it was a general cycle flow that was easily observable.

 

Add to that WoW's itemization. Post Vanilla, Raid Sets were not the end all be all of gear. It was good gear but often you would only want a couple pieces for a specific set bonus, instead wearing drops which allowed greater control over stats to min/max. Often a BiS piece or two would come from some 5 mans with the rest raid drops. Medium armour wears often had to make decisions between light or medium, esp. true with Druids, because the itemization allowed for such decisions.

 

Even then progression raiders were done with the cycle early, but the larger percentage of the player base was constantly busy.

 

Turbine isn't Blizzard, nor are the games the same, however Turbine could easily make great things happen with a larger cycle, unfortunately their track record with long cycles, Moria/Mirkwood, is more about letting us languish with little new engaging content.

That makes a lot more sense to me.

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If they would simply introduce an acceptable scaling mechanic and revamp mob AI slightly they could re-use a ton of wasted content, allow mentoring and redefine the meaning of "end-game" without any new maps, trees, currency, or questlines.

 

I would be sorely tempted to pay in order to have a good on-level simulated experience using my lowbies tagging along with my kinmates end-gamers. And all I'd like to see is a great assortment of purple drops, really. and some cash to cover consumables and repairs. They, on the other hand, would have a more accessible player available for whatever they dreamed up. And I don't care if they re-use tuck or T&M maps. Hell why not?

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