Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lotro: Quick Impressions after one week of Free to Play Transition

I love the new zone of Endewaith. Even though it is pretty much optional from a levelling point of view it is the prettiest region of the game since the Shire. There are even some hobbits hidden in there if you look hard.

The scale-able dungeons are also a big hit with plenty of groups being organised for once neglected zones of the Great Barrow, Helogorod, Annuminas and the Eregion 3 man instances.

My thoughts on the cash shop are generally positive so far. Some folks have compained the "Go to Store and Buy Stuff" buttons that crop up all over th game now but hey, shopping is fun so I don't really mind. I got a generous allocation of free points as a lifer and I am some way from spending it all yet. I did buy a permanent discount on horse travel, some scrolls to speed up deed grinding and  horse riding skill for a low level alt.

I have previously expressed concerns that having cash shop items which allow you to bypass grind creates a moral hazard for the developer to increase grind in order to force people into the cash shop.  I feel a bit ambivalent about these items in Lotro at the moment because the game was not immune to grind before the advent of the cash shop (deeds, crafting  and legendary weapons being the most obvious examples).  I can see the virtue of being able to pay to speed up some of the grind that is already in the game. On the other hand I hope this handy source of revenue doesn't overly influence the design of new content.

 Even more controversial than paying to speed up grind is that fact that you can buy stat increases in the cash shop. Tomes of +10 stat cost about 495 points each (about €5) and you can increase each of five basic stats by 50 points each this way (for a total cost of about €125). The tomes do drop in game but the drop rate is extremely rare and you need to find the lower level tomes in low level instances before you can use the higher level ones. For most players the only realistic way of getting these tomes is buying them. Do you need them? For most players the answer at the moment is no. Stats have a hard cap of 650 at the moment and a moderately well geared player will already be hitting the cap on their most important stats especially when buffed up for raids and instances. If you adopt a min-max mindset though these tomes could be seen as essential and that is likely to prove expensive. A longer term concern is that new content will be designed assuming that players have these stat increases. That would be very untypical of Turbine though who have always taken pains to ensure that content is accessible to players who don't have maximum gear and stats. Indeed the whole radiance gear initiative, flawed though it might have been, was an effort to avoid gear and stat inflation.

One final point about the cash shop. I think Turbine made a big error in automatically filtering the cash shop to only show items that are relevant to the currently logged in character. This is annoying for players who have multiple characters. It is also annoying if you want to plan ahead because you cannot see items which you are not yet qualified to purchase. I think is it is a basic error of salesmanship too because people love window shopping and even if folks aren't qualified for an item yet putting it on display increases anticipation.

1 comment:

Thallian said...

I didn't even know they were doing that. I agree, and I better keep that in mind as I start my own businesses.