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Mockingbird

The Blind Leading The Blind

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So I figured we don't have enough threads discussing legal stuff yet :)

I am at a little bit of a loss to be honest. I am working on this report for the Attorney General and I want to bring up some contract law. Now as you are all aware I have zero legal training and have so far been managing with researching on the internet and using my God given intelligence. With a little reassurance from a legal expert I have been confident of being on the right track in regards to the Consumer Protection Act and the ways in which Turbine have not complied with it.

Now I have entered into 'contract law' and wow... where to begin? While the Consumer Protection Law was presumably written to be understandable to consumers, contract law certainly isn't and I am really stretching to develop any meaningful understanding of how it applies. I would like to use this thread to air out some of my thoughts on the EULA and ToS and discuss snippets of contract law (that may be way off base) in the hope some of you responding with your own interpretations and opinions :)

There are a few things that have been niggling me (as you may have read on the Deceptive Marketing thread) and mostly they come down to Turbine not giving those who bought the SoA box access to SoA content if they unsubscribe. The only grounds I can see them doing that on is that the box we bought only allowed access to the game with a subscription to access the server. On that basis those who bought the box and subscribed pre-F2P are still on that original contract where they are paying a subscription to access the servers whereas post F2P subscribers pay the subscription to access the content. With me so far?

So if Turbine are keeping us to our original contract based on the SoA box where we are the only group paying for access to the servers, it stands to reason that we should be paying for the game we purchased - a subscription based game. While Turbine originally promoted F2P as a hybrid subscription model in reality it has become apparent over the past year lotro is turning into a full microtransaction based game. So the lotro subscription based game no longer exists. In particular lifetime members bought access to the subscription based lotro until the day the servers shut down - how does a fundamental shift to a microtransaction based game change this? They bought a lifetime agreement but are no longer being given the product they paid for and the servers haven't shut down...

Having given this a lot of thought, on the one hand I am convinced this is not legal. Unfortunately I am equally convinced that it is legal depending on how the law is argued or interpretted. It does seem to come down to what is in the EULA and ToS and a few legal terms that govern the legitimacy of these legal documents and relevant sections within them.

Wow anyone still with me? :) You can all thank Spheric for this long winded post btw, as it was his link to the following document that gave me this 'angle' on the whole thing;

http://scholarship.law.wm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1300&context=facpubs

Btw, unless you are really into this sort of stuff I wouldn't recommend reading that whole document!

I am examining the US EULA here as I believe that to be most applicable to any investigation made by the Attorney General.

The article is focussed on 'Change of Terms' clauses one of which Turbine has in the EULA

8. Changes to Agreement and Game. Turbine may update this Agreement at its sole discretion, and you will be asked to review and agree to the revised version of the EULA once it becomes effective. If you do not agree to a revised EULA, you will not be permitted to continue playing the Game. If at any time you are no longer able to comply with the terms of the then-current EULA, you must terminate this Agreement pursuant to Section 2 and immediately stop using the Game. Turbine may change, modify, suspend, or discontinue any aspect of the Game at any time. Turbine may also impose limits on certain features or restrict your access to parts or all of the Game without notice or liability. You have no interest, monetary or otherwise, in any feature or content contained in the Game.
(emphasis mine)

I am not actually aware that Turbine have ever changed the EULA or ToS itself in an unacceptable way however they have changed the game which seems to be intertwined with the Change of Terms clause. Therefore I am thinking that changes to the game are subject to the law in the same way that changing the terms are... if so, then it may make things interesting :)

I will post in a follow up email a few excerts from the above document that I think may be relevant. Naturally without a fuller understanding of the law I am clueless as to the nuances of how they may be applied or countered by other parts of law.

The basic point is that in a contract (or EULA) Turbine are acknowledged to be the 'dominant party' and have the right to make changes. The thing is that they are expected to do so in ways that are

Unconscionability

Given the prevalence of change-of-terms clauses, a consumer cannot reasonably avoid them. In that sense then, there is an absence of meaningful choice. But the real focus must be on the dominant

party's exercise of the power granted by a change-of-terms provision. Here, too, there often is an absence of meaningful choice: the consumer may reasonably avoid a particular exercise of the power

given by a change-of-terms clause only by ending the relationship with the other party. Whether this is sufficient to supply a meaningful choice depends at best on the expense and inconvenience in ending

the relationship. If termination entails substantial expense or inconvenience, there is no meaningful choice. Even if there is no expense and little inconvenience, if all (or substantially all) of the

other party's competitors have adopted the new term, there is no meaningful choice. The enforceability of the change then will turn on an evaluation of the reasonableness of the changed term, i.e. whether the term unreasonably favors the merchant.

To break this down a little;

The enforceability of the change then will turn on an evaluation of the reasonableness of the changed term, i.e. whether the term unreasonably favors the merchant.

I think this basically raises the question of whether Turbine were 'reasonable' in switching over to an F2P model. Was it favourable for their existing subscribing customers? I think if lotro was a sinking ship at the time then the switch to F2P may be considered 'reasonable' as the only alternative would be to close down the servers in the near future. However, at the time the switch to F2P was made Turbine stated on several occasions that lotro was doing fine revenue wise but they think by going F2P it could do better.

This could additionally be split into two parts. Originally Turbine reassured the player base it would be a hybrid microtransaction model and that the store would only contain fluff and convenience items. In putting it forwards this way a lot more players found the change to be acceptable. If Turbine had kept to this hybrid model in this way then the gameplay itself would not lose integrity. It is the switch to the full microtransaction model that has caused the game to lose integrity for pre-F2P subscribers.

Whether this is sufficient to supply a meaningful choice depends at best on the expense and inconvenience in ending the relationship. If termination entails substantial expense or inconvenience, there is no meaningful choice.

This is another key part. Do lotro customers have a meaningful choice to leave lotro? If someone has invested only a small amount of time and money, didn't take to the game or plays multiple MMOs and doesn't get particularly invested in any of them then leaving is clearly an option.

For players who have played lotro over the long term - perhaps their first mmo - perhaps they only play it at all because its Tolkien's world, then meaningful choice can perhaps be questioned. If someone has played for 3 years, have invested time in developing and progressing their characters, have built up friendships and integrated into a community setting and play primarily because lotro is the only mmo based on Tolkien's world, then these factors may be enough to present a case that these players do not have a meaningful choice to terminate the contract and stop playing the game. They cannot take the time invested, their characters, the community elsewhere and there is no other Tolkiens world MMO game as Turbine are the only licence holders.

The Right to Switch To Premium

Although the phenomenon of unilateral adjustment of contract terms is not a new one,2 the uneasy fit between the dominant party's ability to change terms and the weaker party's interest in the certainty and enforceability of the original terms has come into particularly stark relief as the fabric of consumer transactions is strained during challenging economic times. It is one thing to become upset with your credit card issuer and pay off the card by accessing your equity line; it is quite another when you become upset with your credit card issuer at a time in which the available credit on your equity line is reduced to the point that you cannot pay off and walk away from the

credit card issuer. So once you lose the ability to walk away from new, less attractive terms, the right to do so is illusory.

Players are supposed to be able to easily switch from VIP to Premium, however since a long term VIP (particularly one from before F2P was released) would need to spend over $100 as a lump sum to maintain the same level of play as they did as a subscriber, for those on a tight monthly budget this is an 'illusory right'... perhaps?

There is also a 'Good Faith' element assigned to the contract. In this one you may want to read the final section of the document as otherwise I would end up quoting half or more of what is there. In short there is a question of how the change of term clause can be used and reasonable expectations are a key point here. I do find the nuances of this section particularly difficult to grasp, however my argument regarding the complete switch from subscription based game to microtransaction based game is based on the following two points;

1) At the time of purchasing the box, lifetime subscription or during the first three years there was no way a customer could anticipate that the game may at some point fundamentally change its payment model in such a way that would change the nature of the gameplay itself.

2) Turbing reserving the right to change the game is something that consumers agree to when buying the product within the scope that the game will need to change and develop over time in order to follow the story through to Mordor. We know that classes will change over time, combat mechanics may change and that storylines will develop. Perhaps even that regions will get revamped, new technologies added etc. This is the implied scope that this clause contains.

Turbine have taken that implied scope of gameplay changing throughout the lifespan of a subscription based model and extended it to include fundamental changes to the fabric of the game itself for no other purpose than to shift its focus from supporting a subscription based model to a microtransaction based model. While an extreme analogy this could be the equivalent of Turbine shifting the focus of the game from Middle Earth and the war against Sauron to one based on a space race. The potential for changing the gameplay does have limits - the question is whether gameplay change can reasonably be accepted when based not on developing content and the story, but to suit an entirely different payment model.

And if you made it this far, thanks for reading :)

And if you skipped most of the way to the bottom and thought 'wow, I will give this post a miss' I don't blame you! :)

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A lot of companies will have their lawyers create elaborate (and sometimes contradicting) verbiage in their EULA contracts and Terms of Service, as a way to daunt those who might complain. Many will ask, "Their lawyers probably have a defense for all of this, so why bother trying to buck the system?" However, as some companies have discovered, these things become weaker under legal scrutiny, and the gamble they take is that no one will go to that length.

The SoA question is a good one. When they change the rules, they will put the set out en masse, with a button to either accept or decline at the bottom. If you don't accept the new rules, you can't play. But, that begs the question of whether or not they can deny you the ability to play, since the rules from SoA are, ideally, still in force. If the SoA rules are still in force, can they force you to sign a new contract to continue to play? And can you go back to the prior agreement, after you accept the new one? Interesting questions.

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Nah, I think this is all not anything you could sue about.

Always remember, for a judge it should always comes down to money taken for service provided and then not providing the service. Or taking money for a product when misrepresenting what the product is pre-sales.

The construct with removing SoA quest access in exchange for not paying VIP money anymore is something that any judge will swallow, sorry.

Changes to the game during times that you signed up for, for money, are a different matter. But regardless of what you argue, the changes would have to be material. As long as you can run around and beat up the same orcs in more or less the same characters for the same money that will on first sight be sufficient. There is little hope arguing about -say- a dozen out of thousands of in-game items in front of a judge. Much less a small claims judge. Much less the AG.

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Nah, I think this is all not anything you could sue about.

Not suing, or trying to make any claim at all. I am writing to the AG to request an investigation. The AG then has a number of different actions she can take against Turbine where she finds that they have not complied with the Consumer Protection Act.

The AG's job is to protect the people from companies who do not comply with the law and to enforce such laws. The main point is how to put across what has happened to the AG in terms the AG can understand. If Turbine did not either comply with contract law and / or comply with Consumer Protection law then the AG can and will take action against them as she sees fit. Naturally she cannot interpret the laws in such a case without having some understanding of how they apply to the product being sold.

The way I see it, if someone has invested time and money into lotro for three years and then Turbine switch to F2P and fundamentally change the game in a way not supported by the EULA (which is what we are questioning here) then they are at fault. Under such circumstances they would be responsible for material damages (if claimed) of the entire amount invested in them by the customer and potentially three times as much if intent was shown. The point would be that anyone who bought the original SoA box (and possibly others too) could have started lotro with the intention to play it over the long term. We accept the risk that the game play will change (within the structure of the subscription based game we bought) and that the game may close before we reach Mordor. The question is whether Turbine had the right to change the game purely to adapt it to a different payment model that offers lesser (or at least different) gameplay value. If they do not, then they are at fault and there is material loss.

Headway seems to have been made over past years with such situations as applied to telecommunications, second hand sales, all sorts of credit and banking issues. As far as I am aware these particularly issue in relating to SoA and subscription turning to F2P would be a new one, but I doubt it would be open and shut for someone invested in helping develop consumer law.

I wouldn't have a clue where the dust would settle, but it seems to me that their actions are in the very least questionable.

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I don't think making your point to the AG is any different from making your point to a judge.

Another problem is how much of a monthly subscription payment is for that monthly service, and how much is going into development of your characters as an investment into future game run. We here know that the point about a RPG game is investing time and (via enforcement by the provider of the game) money into building something that you then use to have more fun later. That "wrecking" the game would invalidate your investment (if you went to a competitor's game you would start from zero time invested and zero money invested). However, I am sure that it will be very difficult to convince a judge or AG of this aspect. They would much prefer to view a monthly payment as compensation to provide one month of service and that's it. This isn't lazyness on part of the judge or AG. Their job is it to find the easiest view of the situation just like a software developer is supposed to find the easiest solution to a bug. By making the case easier they shorten the process and save taxpayer's money.

It is different for lifetime members, and it would be different if you pre-pay 12 months subscription in advance. If they were to "wreck" the game you would have valid expectations to get "unused" parts of the money back. Turbine can close the game, that is what the lifetime VIP agreement said. But they can't wreck it and they cannot start charging you for the same things they didn't charge for at the time when your contract went down.

But regardless of that, any "erosion" in game things available to you would have to be material.

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I think this is correct. You could have bought LoTRO back in the day, decided you didn't like it, and you wouldn't have expected to get your money back for the box.

Has gameplay changed? Yes, and to be expected of any game over time. Do you still get to play LoTRO if you pay your fees every month? Yes.

That's about it. I'd look for places where they're violating law on microtransactions, perhaps, but I know that's not your point.

It's infuriating when we know they're wrong and they've outright lied to us so many times I can't keep count, but I'm not sure it's illegal. Just...really sleazy.

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The way I see it, they are on record as having said you don't need to use TP to play the game. However, with the advent of barter items that are bound, have no cash value, and don't end up in the barter wallet, I myself have more than 15 slots of slowly accumulating barter items in my vault. I could increase vault space using TP, but it's 895 TP to do so (think it was cheaper pre ROI). And that's per character, not account. Compared to the static max of 5g per increase after the first 3 or 4.

Now with the lifetime account purchase, I assumed it meant I would have access to the total game experience without ever giving them money again EXCEPT for expansion content. What is obvious to me right now is that unless I'm willing to wait YEARS for TP to accumulate, my characters will never have all the vault space or wardrobe space or shared storage the game offers (and contrary to what some of the official forum posters claim, storage space is DIRT cheap these days). That hardly seems to me to be a complete game. These things WOULD have been 'free' for all players paying a sub fee OR it's lifetime equivalent. So yes, we are not being given the game in the manner that the lifetime contract was offered, which was a whole and complete game, with no gates in our way to access it beyond those already expected in an MMO, like levels, or the Radiance they had, or now Finesse, or quest content that unlocks the next quest.

All those EULA changes aside, what has effectively been done to at least the lifetime holders is that the product they purchased has been radically changed. It no longer is a total and complete game experience contained within the account, and easily accessible according to the terms of the original lifetime game while the store did not exist. Having to wait months or years to have all my characters access all available vault storage alone is a huge inconvenience they did not make known to me when I purchased the account, let alone everything else the game has to offer but ONLY from the store. And that doesn't even count the relic removal scrolls which used to be a game mechanic, which can be viewed as quite necessary for holding onto original relics that are still better overall than relics created in game now, or bought out of the store. These are shifts from the game pre-f2p that were not part of the original contract. Now they can change the game, and if they wished to remove the ability to recover relics from deconstructed items, then they can, BUT, they didn't, they now offer it for sale in the store. That to me suggests the change is solely a profit based motive. And is in my view a way to attempt to draw more money out of the pockets of lifetime account holders who were led to believe that the one time purchase was all that would EVER be expected of them.

Someone could argue that switching from VIP to Premium is essentially ending a subscription, which in effect terminates the original agreement, and they would be correct. The moment you stop paying, Turbines contract obligations cease. If you decide later to resub, then you start again with most likely a NEW contract. This is why landlords are given ways to increase rent unilaterally every time a rental term is up for review. If you don't like it, you can leave, but it's a bit illusory because moving is very expensive and there may not be other cheaper units available. In the same fashion that gas stations normally have prices within tenths of a cent locally, the competition really doesn't exist, so the consumer is trapped with little real choice but to pay what could be exorbitant costs. That alone speaks to wholesale collusion among gas retailers and wholesalers, but as long as the government take (tax) goes up in lock step, there is no real reason to enforce a true market into that economy. Ask your rep next time there is an election and see what kind of answer you get using that language exactly. You will probably get a response that points to differences that are geographic, with cities hundreds of miles away from your home used to defend what is essentially a locally controlled market. Every city suffers this except for border towns.

Turbine is the only Tolkien MMO, so consumers who wish this product have no where else to go. And for lifetime account holders, who have paid hundred of dollars, you can't just walk away from that investment. And since when we were sold this product, we were under the belief that only expansions would cost money, not updates or fixes, certainly not game mechanic expansions like vault space that already used game coin as the medium to enhance a players game.

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And I'm sure Turbine can find dozens of real players who play the game without spending TP. It's your choice to store other things in your vault, etc.

Just playing devil's advocate here.

The technicalities on storage is the transfer when you go from one 'world' to the next - from Shire to Bree, or Ered Luin to Loth, whatever. That's why pack space is limited - with the client they're using it'd choke on much more than what we can already carry, if I understand the problem correctly (I haven't tried to reverse-engineer the software).

As for standard vault storage, I can't think of a reason for it to be so small, either, unless there's another software limitation I'm not aware of, or of course - that 895 TP per 15 slots per character business.

ETA On the day they start selling a fully functional barter wallet in the cash shop, you just might have a lawsuit.

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You dont need to buy the extra storage space to play the game, it is just a nice extra. I have only just bought 10 extra shared storage, using my free points, so I dont have to keep relogging different characters to move items around. So far there is nothing in the store that a VIP needs to buy. Items like the relic removal scroll are handy to use but not needed, but they should be available in game even if they had a low drop rate when you decon a LI

As for the vault limit, it is not a software issue but a memory one. The more storage people use the more hard drive space you need so asking people to pay for a little extra storage is not unreasonable.

Also rather than spending 895 TP for 15 slots, you would be better off buying another character slot and making a mule since you can unlock all the vault slots with gold as soon as you finish the intro

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You dont need to buy the extra storage space to play the game, it is just a nice extra. I have only just bought 10 extra shared storage, using my free points, so I dont have to keep relogging different characters to move items around. So far there is nothing in the store that a VIP needs to buy. Items like the relic removal scroll are handy to use but not needed, but they should be available in game even if they had a low drop rate when you decon a LI

As for the vault limit, it is not a software issue but a memory one. The more storage people use the more hard drive space you need so asking people to pay for a little extra storage is not unreasonable.

Also rather than spending 895 TP for 15 slots, you would be better off buying another character slot and making a mule since you can unlock all the vault slots with gold as soon as you finish the intro

By the same reasoning, since you can grind TP, you don't have to pay money for it, so to use that as an example of defense of their actions won't stand. They don't FORCE a money transfer to upgrade a vault space, it's TP only, so they clearly don't value it as such (or if they do, then the way they charge for it and the small allowance by comparison is deceptive in the extreme). Therefore, by gating it that way, they are making it very difficult for lifetime holders to enhance their game in a fashion similar to the original pre-f2p vault increases, which was drop 5g and get 15 more slots, maybe a days effort or less using the AH. In other words, they make it possible to get vault space for free using the allowance, but at a very slow rate (two months for one, two months for another, and I have 9 characters on one server alone). Since they can't tell a lifetime holder 'give us 5 bucks and we'll give one character 15 slots', they adjust the game in a manner that makes it impossible to further enhance it, but they do offer a way to do it using TP very slowly, so the only reason it is done in such a fashion is to attempt to force a money transfer. The game enhancement property is still valid along the original terms, but the manner is now wholly out of proportion compared to the original effort, and would require immediate cash to get it as quickly.

Also, all those items are called barter items, the wallet is a barter wallet, yet they aren't in it? WTF?! Clearly this is intentional, and not an accident. The barter wallet is also unlimited as far as I can tell. It's bottomless. So the only reason more things don't end up in it is intentional, and IMO purely for profit.

It does matter how much they've adjusted it, and what kind of defenses people might use for it really doesn't (don't store stuff? really?) The simple fact is that the product I bought no longer applies now. I cannot access with the same degree of effort game mechanics that existed prior to the switch, and that switch was done solely to generate more money. In contradiction to the whole premise of a lifetime account. It doesn't matter if YOU don't need the space, the manner in which I game dictates that I do. You can't use gamer behavior to defend corporate actions. You can only look at the manner in which the game functioned both pre-f2p and post. That's it. And those are two different games now from a lifetime perspective. And since ROI is an expansion, it stands to reason that such expansions practically demand increases in base game function like housing, storage, etc. Why aren't those being made available as part of still recurring subscription fees? They should be. And that is a matter that should be looked at. Really, why offer all these decorations in game, that are bound for some of them, unique, but give us totally inadequate space to show them off and also make it so we can't put them in a vault even. If SWG can do this and have homes with hundreds of items, what is Turbines excuse? Coders don't know HOW? Are they going to be selling housing decoration increases in the store soon?

I'm sorry, but I can clearly see that they are adjusting the game to remove the benefits of a lifetime account. I don't even know how all those people who STILL pay a sub fee can stomach it.

Short version. They have updated base game function but do not make that function available as part of a sub fee as they should. You can increase bank space, but no longer for game coin. The game needs that space, particularly for crafters. Jumping through hoops to store things being an option still doesn't remove the fact that Turbine is changing the game from a hybrid to a total MT game. Or that vault space would be available for sub payers to increase using in game coin due to that being an established method. Not only that, they could easily make the game check for account status, and have f2p and premium gamers have to use the store, and allow VIPs to use game coin to enhance these things. That part is what really showcases what is going on.

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Wow anyone still with me? You can all thank Spheric for this long winded post btw, as it was his link to the following document that gave me this 'angle' on the whole thing;

http://scholarship.law.wm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1300&context=facpubs

Oh yeah. Nice touch. Blame me. :*)

By the way, I posted a few (and only a few) thoughts on this in the I have more, but lack time.

7(8)7

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Short version. They have updated base game function but do not make that function available as part of a sub fee as they should. You can increase bank space, but no longer for game coin. The game needs that space, particularly for crafters. Jumping through hoops to store things being an option still doesn't remove the fact that Turbine is changing the game from a hybrid to a total MT game. Or that vault space would be available for sub payers to increase using in game coin due to that being an established method. Not only that, they could easily make the game check for account status, and have f2p and premium gamers have to use the store, and allow VIPs to use game coin to enhance these things. That part is what really showcases what is going on.

I'm right there with you (9 crafting toons, 2 mules, deluxe house, maxed shared storage), but you have read the LoTRO forums, right? You know all those OTHER folks who have nine crafting toons and all kinds of space?

I can't figure it out, either. But that's what they claim.

You know, I know, everyone who hasn't been utterly brainwashed and has been around the game for a while knows. Proving it legally - different kettle of fish, I fear.

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I have supreme master for all crafting vocations, currently working on tier 7, but I dont have issues with space. I would guess that is probably because I dont group up very often so I dont have many different barter tokens taking up half my vault. I have a delux house and only just bought 10 extra shared storage and have not bought any other extra storage for TP

Edit: I am also kinless so I dont keep multiple stacks of each level of crafting ingredient to help others out, just what I collect via playing.

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Short version. They have updated base game function but do not make that function available as part of a sub fee as they should. You can increase bank space, but no longer for game coin. The game needs that space, particularly for crafters. Jumping through hoops to store things being an option still doesn't remove the fact that Turbine is changing the game from a hybrid to a total MT game. Or that vault space would be available for sub payers to increase using in game coin due to that being an established method. Not only that, they could easily make the game check for account status, and have f2p and premium gamers have to use the store, and allow VIPs to use game coin to enhance these things. That part is what really showcases what is going on.

Short version... perhaps I should try that sometime :)

OK so personally I am of the opinion that vault space is exactly the kind of fluff that belongs in the store and up until now would have said that in regards to vault space we have no case at all. I would much rather reference the other things that have changed the game we experience not to enhance or develop gameplay but taking away from the gameplay experience to encourage store use such as relic removal scrolls, reputation grinds that are worse than even in SoA days (I thought Mirkwood had a good approach and that is an example of them improving the game for subscription reasons rather than MT).

All that said, I think you have hit the nail on the head. It doesn't really make any difference whether I think vault space is a good store item or not. The legal aspect can only look at one thing as you say and that is subscription value and whether it has been maintained. If the subscription value were maintained then everything in the store - even fluff would be accessible in game for VIPs AND adding reputation grinds like they have done in Enedwaith and Isengard would be unacceptable as they are adding grind to play purely for MT reasons.

I am not suggesting for one moment that Turbine should make the above changes. Allowing VIPs free access to the store would be very unbalancing for the game. Then again, anyone willing and able to throw money at the game has just that 'unbalancing' advantage so from that perspective it just depends how many players are willing to throw money at the game. It makes it very arbitary to say 'well this is unbalancing if we allow VIPs full access to the store, but its okay if its just the minority of players...' Let's face it - if half the playerbase suddenly had enough cash spare to start throwing $50 - $100 a month on the store, Turbine isn't going to change the way the store works just because it is creating an 'imabalance' - they will be too busy popping open the champagne!

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I don't think making your point to the AG is any different from making your point to a judge.

If I were to go to a judge I would be looking for some kind of compensation or money back on the basis they haven't held up their side of the original contract.

The AG on the other hand doesn't have to show that money is being lost, only that Turbine have not kept to the contract they agreed to when the game started and that a subscriber who bought the original box and subscribed during the days leading up to SoM (pre Turbine starting their F2P venture) is no longer getting the same value from lotro as a result of Turbine moving to F2P to increase their own profit margins. They are the dominant party and any changes they make to the contract need to be balanced and within reasonable expectations of the terms laid out in the original contract.

The AG's job is to ensure Turbine is complying with the law - in this case, particularly the Consumer Protection laws. Let's take an example. ROI was heavily promoted as including;

- level to 75

- explore three new regions

- new raid

Did they break the law? Yes they did. The marketing of this product was deceptive as levelling to 75 and exploring three new regions were not part of this paid product - you can't charge for something that is free!(why didn't they just advertise the quests themselves???).

Now according to your argument about material damages being shown where are they? There are probably plenty of customers that Turbine could parade who bought the product and are happy with it. That does not negate the fact that Turbine has used deceptive marketing tactics and it is the AG's job to bring them into line on this kind of thing.

Going to a judge on the other hand someone who bought the product and wants to keep it and have a refund on the grounds that the advertisement didn't comply with the consumer protection act is not going to get very far. Someone who bought the product because they were lead to believe by the advertisement that it was the only way to get to level 75 would have legitimate grounds for a refund based on deceptive marketing.

Short Version Time: The AG's job is to show that Turbine's actions are illegal. Damages are not directly relevant. Something is either legal or illegal - there is nothing in law that says 'you can do illegal things and there will be no penalty so long as you don't cause material damage' :)

Another problem is how much of a monthly subscription payment is for that monthly service, and how much is going into development of your characters as an investment into future game run. We here know that the point about a RPG game is investing time and (via enforcement by the provider of the game) money into building something that you then use to have more fun later. That "wrecking" the game would invalidate your investment (if you went to a competitor's game you would start from zero time invested and zero money invested).

I am not sure if I am understanding you very well here. I don't think Turbine can be held accountable by players (or a judge) for how they choose to spend the subscription money. So if that is what you are saying, I completely agree :)

Turbine also have the right to 'wreck' the game through game development decisions they make or simply by switching off the servers. However they are the dominant party in the contract and any changes they make to the contract have to be 'reasonable' and within the scope of expectations and intent when the contract was first written (and as per consumer law they cannot intend one thing - to eventually go F2P and imply to the consumer it will always be subscription based). If Turbine changed to the F2P model because subscriptions were not covering costs they could argue it was a reasonable change to the contract that benefitted both parties. The fact they changed to F2P because they thought it would make more profit and is to the detriment of the subscription based game their existing customers had committed to means that they have abused their power as the dominant party in the contract and it can be recognised as such by the courts in this context.

Turbine can close the game, that is what the lifetime VIP agreement said. But they can't wreck it and they cannot start charging you for the same things they didn't charge for at the time when your contract went down.

I think those who stopped and started their subscription since F2P was implemented are on shaky grounds. However anyone who was subscribing Pre-F2P and has continued to do so since are still on the original rolling contract and therefore still have a right to the subscription based game. As for those who switched between Premium and VIP (and were on subscription pre-F2P) they can claim that they were misled by Turbine on the grounds that Turbine have said it is flexible and easy to switch between the two and have negated to point out the change in terms between pre-F2P subscription and post-F2P subscription - they never acknowledged the change in contract.

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It is very interesting when the subject of kinships is brought up. I belong to one, lots of people with LOTS of alts. Alting is what you do when you need a change of pace or simply require the ability to craft without the burden of that AH and it's onerous speculators. Also, being in a kin, it's practically required to have a LOT of raw materials for crafting, and ready made goods for sharing. It's part of the game, they actually advertise joining a kin as a good thing for the game. And it is, it increases your gaming exponentially having a support group available. But, it has negatives, storage space being the over-riding one.

Since you can be running content practically at any level with a character who's at or near the top, you will accumulate a lot of tokens that may or may not be needed at some future point. Some of those possibly unwanted tokens end up in the barter wallet. Others do not. Some that are necessary end up in the barter wallet. Some do not. Either they have implemented the barter wallet it in a very poor fashion, or the intent is clearly to glut players vaults and force a store purchase. And arguably, without the MT switch, those vault increases would have been coming as part of content updates for sub fee payers and lifetimers. They've been needed since SoM came out really. With the added legacy removals to build needed relics, just a LM could end up with 16 odd scrolls of legacies, awaiting final usage. A Guardian or Warden, or any of the tanking classes really, plus the RK, can end up with more. Simply because those multiple weapons (one hand vs two hand, and stones with different affinity) have different legacies on them. Curiously, the barter items that do end up in there are for barter items that aren't required in large amounts. The ones you need a lot of never go in there, and that seems contrary to reason to me. You would think those things that take up the most space should be placed somewhere so they don't negatively impact on a gamer, but they've implemented the total opposite of that.

I don't believe at all they did not clearly think this through, and play-testing on Bull could never test this properly, you can jump to top level and get a 1st age without progressing at all through the grind, and the grind is what is clearly out of sync. So they should make vault space something included in the game proper, because part of sub fees pays for such things that end up being needed. As has been mentioned, sub payers should get more than simple access, they are paying Turbine a guaranteed amount each month, and beyond a TP allowance which really doesn't take into account the money value, 8 bucks gives more than 500 TP in the store currently. And that's if you pay by the YEAR, which is not what I would call the standard. At some point, we as consumers that paid (or paid large sums up front for the RIGHT to be considered as permanently paying until the game shuts down) a fee should be getting value for that. Beyond what f2p gamers get. Enhancing the game WITHOUT charging extra for it seems only reasonable. Since Turbine is increasing the grind, adding bound tokens for bartering that cannot be stored conveniently (the game is inconvenient to play since f2p), doing the same thing with decorations that can't even be stored in a vault, well, it would seem they are just developing the game as a MT, not as a sub game hybrid, as they claim the game model is. Where is the proof that paying a sub gets you things that f2p gamers must pay for BEYOND zone access, or small one time fees for account enhancements like gold cap or character slots than can be paid using earned TP easily. I don't see it. It seems like the things that are necessary come with extra fees. Not at all what you would expect were the game still a sub fee game.

Now I know some might come and say, But the game isn't a sub game anymore, to which I respond: In making comparisons, you have to make conclusions based on what might have occurred both before and after the hybrid adjustment to the model. Is anyone going to logically tell me and expect to be taken seriously that the extra storage space would not be totally necessary at this point in time with ROI, and available in game for game coin if the game had remained a sub fee only? Because that is the only way to make that comparison. People like to say you can't compare apples to oranges, but this sort of comparison must be dealt with like that, because currently, the former is supposed to be existing alongside the latter. Yet the way the game content is provided does not support that. That is what the term hybrid means, MT with optional sub that should be the same as a pre MT sub.

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Something that may or may not affect all subscribers (pre or post F2P). I don't know for sure, but I have heard an awful lot of reports that if you don't skirmish, you cannot get to 75 with the new quests - unless you buy that nifty levelling stone in the shop for 995 TP per character.

Was it ever part of the contract that to be able to get to maximum level, you'd have to use store items? They started selling quest experience items as well, which seems to go with the idea that they purposely designed the quest shortfall with the store first and foremost in mind.

I realise they put as little money as possible into the expansion, but not even giving people enough quests to get to the new level cap - that seems pretty shady, too.

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Yes, that's a whole other point. BUT, prior to the whole skirmish system, I'd made it to 60 as the LM had reached level cap prior to SoM. Still in Moria too, hadn't even stepped out of there yet. After SoM, and with Enedwaithe added, I'd run through the quests (and repeatable quest as those are the only real way of generating rep). I ran a few skirmishes, but it's a bit hard when you are lvl 60, and your skirm soldier is lvl 19. Bit of a punk there. I had to actually grind out skirm marks to lvl up the soldier, which was a pain, let me tell you. [bit of advice; run a skirm every now and again if only to lvl up the soldier if you ever intend to use it at later levels, it's a chore otherwise.] So I did a few SoM things, went to Ened to follow the EPIC, and only a couple days ago finished that up and went to Dunland. Now, after that short of a time, the LM is almost 71. Couple of days! And not even running all Dunland either. I think the LM will be 75 prior to finishing up Dunland. Still have to go back and do the other entrance quests. And a lot of older things I can revisit and do that will grant xp still, even if a small amount, it all adds up. And of course the only way to get a proper legendary item is to grind content out for Ixp. So I think there's sufficient content for that, even if you don't raid much.

Admittedly some of the quest content doesn't even qualify as content to me; go to B, pick up item, return to A. No challenge at all. And the reward is out of proportion to that challenge. Quests should be a balance of reward and challenge. But that's something for designers to ponder, should content be a challenge even out of a raid, or should it be spoon fed as some of the Dunland content is? I don't think something that has zero risk should grant any kind of xp. Rep sure, but not character growth. But that's from my days in the pencil and paper RPG world. Us old timers had to earn our shizzle.

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Something that may or may not affect all subscribers (pre or post F2P). I don't know for sure, but I have heard an awful lot of reports that if you don't skirmish, you cannot get to 75 with the new quests - unless you buy that nifty levelling stone in the shop for 995 TP per character.

Was it ever part of the contract that to be able to get to maximum level, you'd have to use store items? They started selling quest experience items as well, which seems to go with the idea that they purposely designed the quest shortfall with the store first and foremost in mind.

I realise they put as little money as possible into the expansion, but not even giving people enough quests to get to the new level cap - that seems pretty shady, too.

I am just trying to figure out the legal side of this one. So far I am leaning towards thinking that not including enough quests to get to level 75 is shady and certainly borderline to deceptive marketing but not sure it makes the cut. The quality of the expansion that I have been reading about on the main forums seems to indicate a lack of the usual innovation that we have seen throughout the gate and a serious drop in quality - the exception being the graphics that I have heard good things about - but even then some players seem to think while the graphic quality is good, the landscape itself is repetitive of other landscapes.

So we could say it is ultimately a poor quality expansion and certainly doesn't live up the hype, but poor quality / poor content issues tend to be reflected back by consumers voting with their wallets but I think this one is a stretch as a legal issue. Not to worry, its not like we are lacking for examples of where Turbine clearly have been unlawful...

All things considered I am seriously questionning what Turbine's plans are. Perhaps they think there are enough fanbois to keep the game going. I find it hard to believe they are expecting to shut the game down in the near future and are just trying to squeeze cash - it wouldn't look very good on them as a company considering how they have shouted success from the F2P switch from the rooftops or the whole industry to hear. That said, the way they have handled the whole ROI thing it is hard to believe they are taking any pride in the quality or content of the game beyond milking money out of customers via the store. It's all rather sad really :(

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While not aware of that thread, I am not surprised to see this wholesale removal of standard game function. They keep taking away with each adjustment, and players who continue to pay are seeing less and less for their money. They'd get more TP just buying points with that 15 bucks a month, but those points would only buy 3 recipes at most, depending. I saw that in Beta too and figured they would adjust for live. Surprise surprise, full on MT game. What a shocker. You could argue they've sold one form of game (lifetime) and now deliver a different one (MT). The product some of us bought doesn't exist anymore. We no longer receive the value that should be present, because anyone can play the game for free.

Surprisingly, I just posted to a thread over there, and now I can't even get a page to load. Think I just got banned for expressing my opinion, without saying anything that would run foul of their TOS or EULA or forum guidelines. No email as of yet.Game still works though, maybe the forum is crashed while they prune it of negativity. 'Error: An unexpected system error has occured. We apologize for the inconvenience .' _O- I think I'm being sent to Coventry as we speak. Wouldn't that be something. {It's strange that I leap to such a negative conclusion, but then the blame for that falls squarely on Turbine and Sapience, and their combined past practices]

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Surprisingly, I just posted to a thread over there, and now I can't even get a page to load. Think I just got banned for expressing my opinion, without saying anything that would run foul of their TOS or EULA or forum guidelines. No email as of yet.Game still works though, maybe the forum is crashed while they prune it of negativity. 'Error: An unexpected system error has occured. We apologize for the inconvenience. .' _O- I think I'm being sent to Coventry as we speak. Wouldn't that be something.

taint you...all the lotro coomunity sites are down or bugged.

if you were banned from the sites you would default to the login and would get a message saying you were banned.

trust me i know :x

ddo sites are still working, wonder if it was a denial of service attack

ya just went back and tried to get on forums from a variety of countries and got the same error.

really seems like the lotro sites went big-badda-boom.

lol...lotro's twitter site is over capacity

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Well I'm glad my LOTRO induced negativity is wrong for once. d;)b Timing is kinda suspicious though. Random convergence of events?

I went to LOTRO twitter, nothing since Sept 30. Quite as a tomb really.

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Well I'm glad my LOTRO induced negativity is wrong for once. d;)b Timing is kinda suspicious though. Random convergence of events?

I went to LOTRO twitter, nothing since Sept 30. Quite as a tomb really.

as of an hour ago they tweeted that they were aware and working on it.

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Id guess Turbine have had their Lawyers study the EULA VERY carefully indeed before they switched to f2p.

Do I consider Turbine to be honouring the lifetime agreement with me I made with them via CM in 2007?

No.

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