LOTRO Legendarium: Is LOTRO at war with Orcs – or with its playerbase?

    
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LOTRO Legendarium: Is LOTRO at war with Orcs – or with its playerbase?

Normally, I would be opening this column with my enthusiastic explorations of the brand-new content update for Lord of the Rings Online. After all, we only get a few of these every year, and so any such patch day is a big deal. Normally, I’d be sharing my first impressions and analyzing where the game is going from here.

But we’re far from normal, this month, and I’m not just talking about the general state of 2020. Since I last looked at the situation with this patch, my feelings have increasingly soured on it — as has a fair bit of LOTRO’s community, if the forums and Reddit are any indication. What should be a day to celebrate new quests and a new zone and a brand-new system has turned into a day to ask myself, “Do I even want to capitulate to an inattentive studio and pay money for this?”

The answer, at least for me, is “no.” And I’m a guy who gladly covers this game as part of his job.

Folks, I am seriously concerned about Standing Stone Games right now. From where I’m standing, the studio has grown so dysfunctional that it is trying to strong-arm subscribers into paying money for content that they should be given, declining to communicate when it is needed the most, and engaging in questionable marketing practices that point to a cash grab at all costs.

Let’s dispense with the BS here: Only SSG thinks that Update 28 is a “mini-expansion.” It’s not an expansion in any way, shape, or form, and it is disingenuous to the extreme to promote it as such. It is no different in content than a standard patch. In fact, the only reason to suddenly announce — after failing to say anything about this in the producer’s letter earlier this year — that the fall update would be a “mini-expansion” was to circumvent VIP members’ benefits. VIP accounts get all non-expansion content in the game as part of their package, but hey! Loophole! Just call this a “mini-expansion” and deny anyone the ability to buy it with LOTRO Points, and now you are forcing everyone to pay!

It’s clearly obvious that money is driving all of the decisions here. Sure, businesses like SSG and its presumed parent company Daybreak need to make a profit, but usually that is tempered by a desire to maintain good relations with the community, uphold one’s reputation, and stay true to past practices and promises. That’s the best way to keep the community eager to pour their money into a game.

This time around, we got a studio that didn’t show any signs of wanting to talk about this “mini-expansion” prior to its launch, but it had no qualms in expending a lot of effort to whip up a very professional-looking sales page for it. Players are no fools; they know when studios start looking at them more as wallets than as customers, and we’re definitely feeling that in this era of “here’s a $100 special edition of a glorified content update that you could buy.”

What’s weird is that you’d think that if a studio wanted to make as many sales as possible, it would be drumming up excitement about this patch in advance… but it didn’t. It was downright bizarre, but sadly, not out of character for modern SSG. The studio didn’t talk about the new raids, or the mission system, or even the details about what would be in the special editions that it wanted you to buy. Either silence or terse, non-helpful answers awaited players asking about these.

I found it actually sad a day or so after the update arrived when MadeOfLions — one of the very few SSG employees who engages players with depth and candor on the forums — came out to talk up the mission system, and players were falling over themselves with joy that someone, anyone would talk to them. Nevermind that all of that should’ve been in a highly visible developer diary prior to the launch; we’re just happy that someone finally was talking with us.

And let’s not overlook that this rollout was buggy and flawed, with some issues so severe that people couldn’t access the game at all.

Seriously, I don’t even know with this company any more. If LOTRO were a horrible game pumping out sub-par content updates, then I’d have no trouble walking away. But it’s not — if anything, the stories and lands that this small team has created over the past few years have been among some of the game’s best. But when marketing and communications seem determined to negate that quality advantage, it creates disgruntled players who have to make regular gut checks about whether this game is worth the sting from being treated so poorly by its operators.

Maybe this isn’t that big a deal. Maybe it’s a tempest in a teacup, as they say. But I’m just so dang tired of all of this. It’s far from the first time.

In any case, I’ll be glad to talk about Update 28 — if and when I can buy it with LOTRO Points. For now, however, it’s pretty clear that the game wants my money more than my presence, and that means it’s going to get neither.

Every two weeks, the LOTRO Legendarium goes on an adventure (horrid things, those) through the wondrous, terrifying, inspiring, and, well, legendary online world of Middle-earth. Justin has been playing LOTRO since its launch in 2007! If you have a topic for the column, send it to him at justin@massivelyop.com.

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Koga

DDO is arguably the superior game of the two and is still being put on the back burner, standing stone games does not seem fit or ready to manage these games, i really hope they get there act together because there will never be another DDO

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teppic

In breaking news, Gandalf has stepped in to give his view:

https://clips.twitch.tv/NiceFancySwanCoolStoryBro

Karac_Avalron
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Karac_Avalron

As someone who has played lotro for 10 years I am less alarmed by this move then many others. I do understand peoples frustration but I view LOTRO in the prism of I am happy its still operating as a game.

Indeed its a cash grab but people pontificating about their cash position in absolute prose cannot be taken seriously. Care to post their financials or an email from them supporting your claim? Im betting you wont, you’ll likely retort something along the lines of “fanboi hur dur”.

They want to make money, Im not sure why this surprises people. Given LOTRO’s rich history of P2W, loot boxes, and the monetization/F2P model Im surprised they didnt try this earlier. Im interested to see how they handle VIP going forward. Other than the moors I dont see the point anymore, nothing in VIP is exclusive unless future zone are included. Thats the great unknown given this latest move.

$20.00? I spend that in a week on coffee but I do realize its a lot of money for some people. Given their enormous generousity this year with free content during Covid Im willing to treat this as a one off. If this is the new business model going forward then I wont be renewing my VIP.

People have been beating up on this game for years, its as small game, run by a small company, with a small player base. LOTRO for me and the people I play with has always been about managing expectations. Example: in 2012 people complained about lag. Lag still exists, they cant fix it. If you log in with the expectation that lag should be fixed 8 years later that’s really on you.

To sum it up: People in LOTRO whine all the time, they have for years. Three peaks is actually decent pve content, I am enjoying it. 20.00? reasonable. You want a boar mount? Thats on you. If however this is the new monetization plan going forward? Then its a problem. Last, be wary of people who speak in absolutes who do not give you facts you can verify to back up their claims. They are talking out of their #$%.

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Paragon Lost

I’m done, I don’t currently have the game installed which is a first for me. :/ I just can’t even when it comes to SSG/Daybreak. Total heartbreaking situation with how they’re operating.

Currently I’m mostly just reading books and occasionally playing WoW Classic as a distraction. :/

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Vlad Matejka

I signed up so I could comment. This is an important conversation for me as a 10-11 year VIPer.

I think you are right on point with this article. This year was the year I finally went F2P. It’s been years of frustration and the salve for the wound has always been my love for LOTR. My love for the universe kept me going in the game every time Turbine or SSG did something dumb. It’s never been about quibbles over content or class changes…but an increasing feeling that money matters more.

When the store was introduced along with F2P I had excitement and hesitation. This would draw new players and provide income for a game with less than others. Overtime, though they’ve increasingly toed the line with pay to win, pay for convenience, pay to remove something annoying, etc. And now most recently it’s pay for a “mini expansion.” What BS.

I thought good for SSG when they put out that coupon code for all the content accounts wide earlier this year. I thought, this is a step in the right direction. And then, Bam… Mini expansion.

Right now I’m playing games where developers actually interact with the community and build the game for players. They’ve all gotten some money out of me…. One of them even has a way better free to play model. I’ll probably go back to Lotro f2p to enjoy the free content I have, but right now I’m enjoying the freedom of not suffering from Stockholm syndrome.

That’s an extreme statement, to be sure, but I think I’ve earned the right to say I’ve had enough. I try to think about both sides and in different ways and stay open, but I’m pretty settled right as it seems SSG keeps proving my theories I hope to be wrong, right

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PanagiotisLial1

If I had to guess, the server outages crippled the income and made them lose part of the playerbase that came with the free codes and because their link with daybreak isnt clearly stated in its nature I am almost convinced they are owned and had to show some sort of profits – still that doesnt excuse such decisions, nor that their CM is an ass and still has a job

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rk70534

On Evernight the server population at peak went down by about 200-300 players as a result of the server issues. You would seee 850-950 players when there could be over 1200 at very best before. But it was starting to increase again before this new debacle.

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Roger Melly

Same here I will only play it when its available for lotro points. If they give up making content payable with lotro points then ultimately I will give up lotro .

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teppic

At least you get some… bonus teeth in the $100 edition, if no real content:

https://clips.twitch.tv/KathishCredulousLasagnaPeteZarollTie

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2Ton Gamer

Thank you Justin for the honest look, even though I know it pains you to write it. I went into more detail below as to where I think the fault lies, but I wanted to share that for anyone considering putting even the bare minimum down, the content is really small. My daughter is one of those who buys the most expensive packs every time (including this time) as this is her main game and she’s been playing since she was nine (she started in 2008). She is a diehard fan and even when I am critical, she defends them and I cannot knock her enjoyment of the game. However, she too said that it was not worth the money and that she finished the quests within a day and a half which was a let-down. I hope the game has many more years left in some form or another, at least for her sake, but this is a particularly dark time for the game.

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teppic

A lot of the game’s fans, even ones who never normally say anything negative, are extremely disappointed with the content (lack of), its quality (lack of), the price (plenty of), and basically everything to do with it.

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Tobasco da Gama

This is why you can’t just throw around the word “expansion” unless you truly intend to provide an expansion-scale experience. And no, adding the word “mini” in front doesn’t change anything.

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Stormwaltz

I am not averse to paying for content. I’m one of those lifetime subbers Roger mentioned below – willing to pay because the game has given me literally years of enjoyment effectively for free.

But it’s difficult to find a reason to pay for this one. My highest level character is only in the 80s, and my current main in the 30s. There’s no compelling reason for me to buy content I won’t be able to play for another year or more. Unlike Moria and Morghul, the extras in the Three Peaks “deluxe” versions are perfunctory and overpriced (riding a boar is not $50 of excitement to me).

The old saw “not angry, just disappointed” is true in my case. I love giving SSG money, but there’s nothing here for me.

Maybe I’ll buy some points instead and make my own expansion from the store.

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Yrys

I’m not defending SSG here, but just wanted to point out that you actually can do the content in this update (so long as you are level 20+). The “missions” they added scale from levels 20-130.

That being said, I haven’t spent money on this pack myself, and I’m usually happy to buy the expansions to support the great work they’ve done.

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Schlag Sweetleaf

.

Your quest stands upon the edge of a knife.gif
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Amorey

And as expected Shlag delivers an other ‘classic’

Always worth the wait <3