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Amenhir

Lotro PvPers...are they really that bad?

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Hey aylwen, this thread is really answering many things that I've been wondering since I picked this game up in SoA and I really thank you for it.

 

 

I've one question that I think hasn't been asked but touched on, would a pure Shadows of Angmar server be possible to make again by Turbine?

I've pondered that myself. It would be theoretically possible I believe although I suspect there would be a ton of technical kinks to address. One would need an SoA build of course. I believe people have established early build servers for Star Wars Galaxies so there might be a way to do the same for LOTRO. Kind of off topic but for years the code for Ascheron's Call 2 was believed lost until, during the move from the Westwood to Needham buildings, an old computer in a box was uncovered in the corner of the storage room. Mostly out of curiosity someone plugged it in and-lo and behold-there was a surviving dev build of AC2. Not saying Turbine would ever boot up a SoA legacy server or allow anyone to do it but again, I imagine it could be done.

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For DDO it was disappointing that WOTC proved such an unfriendly partner that a long legal battle erupted. Mirkwood was disappointing in general (redeemed for me personally only by being a good year of PvMP, at least on BW and depending on your definition of good).

 

As a former TSR/WOTC employee I am curious how they made things unfriendly, if you know?

 

For the record I didn't work in corporate, I was a game tester/designer.... ;)

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Housing It was laudable of LOTRO to include housing at all. And given the engine the interior functionality was fine I guess. But accessibility was the killer for me. The neighborhoods were in the middle of nowhere, the maps (for no good reason as near as I could discern) were on an hour cool down. Basically, showing off your house to your friends-integrating the system into the social realm-was more of a hastle then it was worth. I put in a number of suggestions to reduce the map c/d's and make them fellowship ports but nothing came of it. Instancing individual housing on the landscape (for example sharing a door in a house in Bree with many other players) would have been the way to go in my opinion.

 

Speaking of housing, I've always wondered why Turbine and/or WB didn't allow players access to at least a watered-down free-form housing decoration system.  Was it because it would not have been allowable for the current specs of the player's end of the game, Turbine/WB didn't want people playing with their sandbox tools or simply because of budgetary/scheduling reasons (or something completely different of amalgamated)?  Thank you in advance for your response, Aylwen.

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As a former TSR/WOTC employee I am curious how they made things unfriendly, if you know?

 

For the record I didn't work in corporate, I was a game tester/designer.... ;)

It was always a little hazy to me (I should hit up some old Turbine hands on that one) but the gist of what I heard was that the DDO team felt that WOTC was at best disinterested in DDO and provided marginal assistance in the lead-up to development (I do distinctly remember the QA director commenting that 'they really wanted nothing to do with us'). Not permitting the Forgotten Realms setting for the game was seen as undercutting the game right out of the gate. Maybe there were legal reasons for that restriction? I don't know. But for an old-timey D&D player myself (meeting Zeb Cook on ESO was a starstruck nerd moment for me), the lack of an FR setting turned me off on DDO certainly.

Also, let me say that the actual lawsuit was with Atari, not WOTC, so that should be clarified. All of that kind of blended together to me as an outsider (as a LOTRO person).

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I've pondered that myself. It would be theoretically possible I believe although I suspect there would be a ton of technical kinks to address. One would need an SoA build of course. I believe people have established early build servers for Star Wars Galaxies so there might be a way to do the same for LOTRO. Kind of off topic but for years the code for Ascheron's Call 2 was believed lost until, during the move from the Westwood to Needham buildings, an old computer in a box was uncovered in the corner of the storage room. Mostly out of curiosity someone plugged it in and-lo and behold-there was a surviving dev build of AC2. Not saying Turbine would ever boot up a SoA legacy server or allow anyone to do it but again, I imagine it could be done.

 

Very interesting. Vyvyanne the current producer just denied its possibility in a private message conversation with me. I'm confused on who to believe, but I doubt it matters as Turbine wouldn't have done it anyway.

 

I also have another question that you probably might not be able to answer. LotrO apparently was in danger of being shut down by WB, is that still the case? How long do you think Lotro has timewise? Thank you anyway, and I'm loving this thread.

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Speaking of housing, I've always wondered why Turbine and/or WB didn't allow players access to at least a watered-down free-form housing decoration system.  Was it because it would not have been allowable for the current specs of the player's end of the game, Turbine/WB didn't want people playing with their sandbox tools or simply because of budgetary/scheduling reasons (or something completely different of amalgamated)?  Thank you in advance for your response, Aylwen.

I never thought to ask anyone about the thinking behind the housing system's functionality. And actually there probably wasn't anyone to ask. Housing was one of LOTRO's orphaned systems, a case where the dev who owned it left the company and the system sat parent-less. Hobbies, incidentally, was another such orphan. Apparently the hobby dev had some follow up hobbies he was working on but whatever those might have been left with him. I assume housing was, as you suggest, an amalgamation of considerations of tech and time.

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The trend towards easymode gameplay was really more of a reaction to the problem of low new player retention than specific player complaints. We found that many new players would play through the trial period or until maybe level 20 and then fade away. So the thinking generally was, if we speed along new players further into the game, they'll consequently become more invested and stick around. It didn't seem to matter to anyone that even WoW had a massive new player turnover rate. In fact their average player 'lifespan' according to a study done around 2010 was six months-three months less than LOTRO and a full year less than City of Heroes (those CoH players loved their game!)

Well I know that what Lotro achieved in terms of playerbase retention was less than enough, but from layman perspective it has done a whole lot better in this than basically all big budget western MMORPGs released in 2005-2010.  Bit titles of that era - Vanguard, Age of Conan, Warhammer Online, Tabula Rasa, FF XIV 1.0  they all lost majority of their populations in first few months after release, sometimes with dozens of servers becoming ghost-towns really quickly.

 

Lotro was basically only western big budget MMORPG in this timeline that avoided that.

 

Hell even post 2010 there are barely any that achieved better retention rate.  Rift?   How long it took to close/merge first servers and adding free unlimited transfers so players can run from deserted servers? 3 months? (oh sorry it was converting game servers into trial only servers)

Swtor?   Hell they had started to have population issues in first month of operation, and they went from over 200 servers to below 20 in first year if I remember right.

 

Not many outstanding success stories out there.

 

Anyway I personally don't think that easymode helps player retention in MMORPGs and seems that mmorpg history kinda support that view. 

 

Looking back on the whole MMO scene in that era, WoW's mass success really distorted the picture. While the lure of WoW riches brought in the investors you needed to make the games in the first place...they were going to expect a return before long and 40 or 50 or 60 million dollar development costs take a while to earn back. So you end up in a situation that comes dangerously close to being a ponzi scheme...using new investor capital to pay off your old investors. And the company execs are going to be pretty darn anxious to see revenue coming in, no matter what market reality suggested. That anxiety is going to be kicked down the ladder: get those numbers up.

Yeah.

I have no idea how it really was behind closed doors, but I think that pre 2004 many investors and high managment of companies making or interested in making western MMORPGs were looking at South Korea and seeing that Lineage 1 in this 50mln population country has rising population that peaked at 3 mln subscribers.

So many of those minds propably were going high on how potentially huge that can be in USA+Canada which have over 350 mln and EU that has 500 mln. (then 400).

 

Yet biggest western MMORPG had 400k (EQ1) and second one peaked at 250-300k or so.(UO).   So I kinda have to imagine what happened when WoW climbed and climbed and managed to peak at ~6mln subs in west.

 

On SoA... I have wondered sometimes what it would be like to start up a toon on a pure SoA server...if it would be a happy return to the good old days or a shock ('you want me to grind how many leather for my next tier!?')

I don't think it would work as well as some might hope.

 

Been there done that.   One of big draws of MMORPGs is mystery and discovery.  That would be missing.

Other thing is that players would know that they are gonna stay in this limbo forever.  Either no good amount of new stuff or old updates again.

 

There were games that tried to do that.  (EQ1 or EQ2 dont' remember) but those are not really big successes.

 

Anyway I know I would not play.  At best I would hop in for one afternoon to ride around for nostalgia sake but that's it.

 

 

PS. Hope you're not gonna disappear suddenly ;p  Still have few questions, but it's getting late here and this post is already huge wall of text. (sorry)

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Hello all. Who would thought I'd ever post something here, hehe. But this thread really caught my attention. Nice insights from you, Aylwen.

Reading about the Player Council being a gimmick quite fits my own experience being a member of the first round. In hindsight that year was a good waste of my time. Especially when I compare all the input we gave and what actually was implemented. Boy, when I think back of the housing ideas thread on the PC forums. If you can dream it it was on that list. Fully customizable houses where you can move your furniture around as you wished. Pets that would roam the house/garden. New floor plan layouts, even completely new housing instances that started right there in Bree. Or a whole town that you as a player would come often by while playing te game. Or a hobbit hill with all individual hobbit holes inside it like it exists in Buckland. A dwarven city inspired directly from Erebor as it was depicted in The Hobbit movie. And elven dwellings like Caras Galadhon. There was an idea of quests that would direct players into the housing areas to improve knowledge about them. And of course crafting stations, weapon shelves to display your collection of cool swords (any weapons) and other ideas. As I said: If you could dream it it was on that list. Nothing of it ever was and most likely ever will be made. To me this was very disappointing. But the sad reality was that it all was not seen as feasible to be made. We will have to wait and see but chances are that the closest thing to all those dreams may become a reality in EQN, where the base-tech for fully customizable player housing already exists (currently in Landmark).

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Very interesting. Vyvyanne the current producer just denied its possibility in a private message conversation with me. I'm confused on who to believe, but I doubt it matters as Turbine wouldn't have done it anyway.

I also have another question that you probably might not be able to answer. LotrO apparently was in danger of being shut down by WB, is that still the case? How long do you think Lotro has timewise? Thank you anyway, and I'm loving this thread.

Yeah I don't think Turbine would actually do it (as fun as it would be...level 50 PvMP would be worth the price of admission alone for me). But again, as a hypothetical, I don't see it as being technically impossible.

Based on comments from friends at the company since RoR LOTRO has been under the gun for a long time. As I mentioned elsewhere I was told over a year ago that LOTRO would be lucky to see another twelve months and yet it remains. But at this point the LOTRO team has been so gutted that it is hard to see how any more cuts could be made short of just pulling the plug. When they do finally kill it I wouldn't expect much in the way of a warning: nobody is going to drop money on micro transactions for a game slated to shut down in two or three months.

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I've pondered that myself. It would be theoretically possible I believe although I suspect there would be a ton of technical kinks to address. One would need an SoA build of course. I believe people have established early build servers for Star Wars Galaxies so there might be a way to do the same for LOTRO. Kind of off topic but for years the code for Ascheron's Call 2 was believed lost until, during the move from the Westwood to Needham buildings, an old computer in a box was uncovered in the corner of the storage room. Mostly out of curiosity someone plugged it in and-lo and behold-there was a surviving dev build of AC2. Not saying Turbine would ever boot up a SoA legacy server or allow anyone to do it but again, I imagine it could be done.

Star Wars Galaxies early build servers are I believe like most of so called "private servers"  build from scratch by those or/and communitues that operate and play on those private servers.  Well not entirelly from scratch as game client helps a lot  (data mining, packet listening when client communicate to official servers,  etc)  but what I meant is that private servers almost never are build on "stolen official servers"  like some players seem to believe.

 

And game client well,  usually one player or another does have old version lying somewhere and that one is distributed amongst other players.  Unoffical patches made if/when necessary.

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Do you know who was responsible for some of the nickel and diming changes like moving Relic Removal to cash store only?

 

I was so pissed when I found out I could only remove my max level relics (which took forever to grind) from weapon I was going to deconstruct if I went to LotRO store and bought the Relic Removal scrolls. Back in SoM/MoM that was a free feature available at deconstruction of max level weapon.

 

edit: Also Stat tomes which were impossible to get ingame. Whos idea that pay-to-win was?

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New floor plan layouts, even completely new housing instances that started right there in Bree. Or a whole town that you as a player would come often by while playing te game.

I think those in particular would have been great ideas. I always had this dream of 'player' town, a big area near Bree that starts off with empty lots and maybe a few basic little houses. Every lot, be they deluxe houses, apartment buildings, an AH, bank, music stages, etc, would have a certain number of global turn-in's (kind of like the global turn in system in book 14 SoA) of timber, hides, metals and whatnot. When the requirements are met the structure appears. Players share housing: when you actuate a door, you would be prompted to either enter your own space or visit a friend who also occupies that particular structure. No seperate housing layers to complicate server merges, unlimited housing as each player's own space is individually instanced. But ah well...

Thanks for sharing your own experience btw-I love hearing stories and insights from other players. And to be honest I do feel sometimes that my having focused so much on the PvMP community left me with an incomplete appreciation of the LOTRO community as a dynamic whole.

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It was always a little hazy to me (I should hit up some old Turbine hands on that one) but the gist of what I heard was that the DDO team felt that WOTC was at best disinterested in DDO and provided marginal assistance in the lead-up to development (I do distinctly remember the QA director commenting that 'they really wanted nothing to do with us'). Not permitting the Forgotten Realms setting for the game was seen as undercutting the game right out of the gate. Maybe there were legal reasons for that restriction? I don't know. But for an old-timey D&D player myself (meeting Zeb Cook on ESO was a starstruck nerd moment for me), the lack of an FR setting turned me off on DDO certainly.

Also, let me say that the actual lawsuit was with Atari, not WOTC, so that should be clarified. All of that kind of blended together to me as an outsider (as a LOTRO person).

 

The early 2000s were when tabletop D&D was experiencing a resurgence in popularity, it may have been that someone else was granted rights to produce video games for Forgotten Realms, not sure. From my perspective, the WOTC aquisition of TSR was a mixed blessing. I never really felt their influence on design decision on more than a cursory basis. However, I hear plenty from people working above me that did... One of the reasons that I left was because I wasn't a fan of the directions game design was going and the corporate money culture that seemed to permeate everything. The samething happened to WizKids when I worked there, and again, is why I left.

There was nothing cooler than stepping out for coffee and a smoke with guys like Gary Gygax. ;)

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The early 2000s were when tabletop D&D was experiencing a resurgence in popularity, it may have been that someone else was granted rights to produce video games for Forgotten Realms, not sure. From my perspective, the WOTC aquisition of TSR was a mixed blessing. I never really felt their influence on design decision on more than a cursory basis. However, I hear plenty from people working above me that did... One of the reasons that I left was because I wasn't a fan of the directions game design was going and the corporate money culture that seemed to permeate everything. The samething happened to WizKids when I worked there, and again, is why I left.

There was nothing cooler than stepping out for coffee and a smoke with guys like Gary Gygax. ;)

You can't get much more legendary than Gary Gygax! What Tolkien did for fantasy, he did for gaming.

I returned to LOTRO in the fall of 2011: the company I had been working for, Meteor, in LA, abruptly folded and I got call from my old lead saying they were planning big things for PvMP and would I come back to help? I was really nostalgic for Turbine after ZOS and Meteor so said, sure-it was a big pay cut from what I'd been making since leaving the first time but that was fine. But I found that WB's corporate influence, just barely nascent in the summer of 2010, had permeated the place. Basically all of the old headaches were still there but all the magic-the sense of family and genuine warmth you felt in Westwood-were gone. For the money offered it just wasn't worth it; I managed about four months and then put in my resignation.

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Do you know who was responsible for some of the nickel and diming changes like moving Relic Removal to cash store only?

I was so pissed when I found out I could only remove my max level relics (which took forever to grind) from weapon I was going to deconstruct if I went to LotRO store and bought the Relic Removal scrolls. Back in SoM/MoM that was a free feature available at deconstruction of max level weapon.

edit: Also Stat tomes which were impossible to get ingame. Whos idea that pay-to-win was?

I can really only speak to the initial F2P offering in 2010. And it should be said that the approach was pretty moderate. To her credit in this case Kate was chiefly concerned with just getting the transition complete and on time. Although she didn't say this openly, coming straight from DDO she didn't understand LOTRO well enough to push for this or that to be on the store. So she was always willing to accept the advice of the LOTRO team on those questions. In truth when Patience said that the LOTRO store would not offer advantage, she wasn't misstating the truth in that such was the philosophy of the f2p transition scrum. Of course they had to make some compromises but I must admit I was relieved at how much thought was given to striking a reasonable balance. And Kate herself was perfectly fine to work with during that scrum. Certain execprods would scarcely condenscend to acknowledge the existence of the lowlier members of the team whereas Kate, at least in my experience, was entirely professional in our stand ups. But all that being said I understood (and doubtless wasn't alone in understanding) that once you turn on the money spigot...turning it back or even leaving it alone just isn't going to happen.
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Aylwen, you said earlier that Turbine were running 3 mmos with similar staff levels of companies that only run 1 mmo. How did they manage to do that? Do you think Turbine stretched themselves too thin and should've just focused on one game? 

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Man...I feel bad for anyone currently subbed. Lotro has felt to me like a sinking ship for a very long time now and I guess she's about to keel over.

 

Thank you for taking the time to answer all this, Aylwen.

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Absolutely we stretched ourselves thin (and as previously mentioned not just with the MMOs) and I often wondered what could have been achieved if we had focused all of our energies on a single game. Needless to say, which game that should have been depended on which game one was working on! But it was almost as if it never occurred to anyone that we really shouldn't have been able to do what we did. Three MMOs, a console project, downloader that would let you start playing before the installation was complete, LOTRO China...from a small company in a building sandwiched between a car dealership and Frugal Fanny's discount clothing...make it so!

Whatever may be said for the quality of LOTRO's development team (mixed to say the least) and leadership (or lack thereof), Turbine was blessed with some incredible talent, particularly on the technical side of things. Our NetOps guys worked wonders and by the time WB came along they had encountered every problem you could possibly experience and developed strategies to deal with them. It was hard earned wisdom that paid dividends constantly. Once again I have to say that while as a LOTROer it was incredibly frustrating to see the quality of LOTRO diminish in large measure because we didn't have enough of the right people at the controls, on bar Turbine was an incredible operation. Note how I always say 'we' in referring to Turbine: for a long time the words 'Turbine family' weren't just an HR slogan: they really meant something.

 

It really does sound incredible that Turbine could do all that with such a small number of staff. It kind of makes the decline of LOTRO even sadder realising that they actually had the talent right there, they just needed better leadership and a defined, more realistic focus. 

 

I'm loving everything you write. Your time there sounds very bitter sweet. It must've been awful going back there to see how WB had tore the heart out of the place.

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Interesting stuff, Aylwen.  I remember when Jalessa became the name associated with PVMP, there was another person too, and I can't remember his/her forum name..  But I think it started with a 'J' as well.  Was it you?

 

Your comments about SOM being a "budget" expansion strike home as I remember being flayed alive on the OF for saying there was a distinct lack of content curve from SOA to SOM, and I was not impressed with the 5 levels and Free Content Update-sized expansion zone that we had to pay for.  

 

Question:  What do you know about "The Lag"?  The game always had performance issues when numbers congregated, but it seemed like when they launched the Great River Free Content Update, they broke something.  Heaton said it was our ISP's.  But especially in the moors, we could no longer bring large numbers together without game crippling skill-lock, rubber banding, and a host of other server related phenomenon.  Any idea why?

 

Liked your comments about Orion too, he was always my favorite dev (and ZC my least).

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 But all that being said I understood (and doubtless wasn't alone in understanding) that once you turn on the money spigot...turning it back or even leaving it alone just isn't going to happen.

4041d7d49af7e95a61c3e8c015395e3c.jpgOnce you taste it, you can't stop eating!

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Here are some old school Turbine pictures I had kicking around.

'Downtown' Westwood MA, 2008.

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Turbine sunrise.

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Hallway in the visitor's area, the most well-lit part of the building.

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Front hallway done up for that year's Halloween party. Beyond the wall on the left was the tier that included QA, CS, billing, SQL. Jim Crowley's office to the right. Our game room was at the far end.

1780078_356703834470565_1733405315_o_zps

Our BVT (build verification) team, Bill, Tim, and Todd, fine fellows all. Company kitchen area upper left. To the left of the shot would be Aaron Campbell's office and the 'Star Wars' room (where launches, updates, and prod reviews would be conducted).

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Systems QA (Team Ramrod) row, team lead Mark foreground.

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Peter, who was a QA lead at Turbine for over a decade and one of the most decent guys you could meet.

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I thought this was a joke at first! Oh Old Turbine...

318224_103270709813880_181332432_n_zpsi6

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(Hi new peoples. What's going on here? There's like over 100 visitors at the bottom of the forum; it's not usually hoppin' like that.)

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(Hi new peoples. What's going on here? There's like over 100 visitors at the bottom of the forum; it's not usually hoppin' like that.)

 

There's an article about this thread on another site, and this is probably one of the only interesting topics that this forum has produced in a long time. Also cool to talk with an ex employee

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I'm loving everything you write. Your time there sounds very bitter sweet. It must've been awful going back there to see how WB had tore the heart out of the place.

Thanks...and it really was. I guess it's just where the industry in general has headed but it's sad to see.

Somewhere on this forum was posted a link to a website where company employees rate their places of work, in this case Turbine. I felt kind of reassured to see many of the employees who posted there echoing my own impressions. In the same vein this forum-reading the words of people who feel as strongly about LOTRO as I do-reinforces that however it all turned out Turbine created something very meaningful and brought together a community the likes of which I highly doubt we'll see again.

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