Vague Patch Notes: I don’t know what the deal is with Throne & Liberty

Thrones and something, I guess?

Let me just state this outright: What in the absolute heck is supposed to be going on with Throne & Liberty at this point? What is this game’s deal?

Like, on paper, sure, I get it. Throne & Liberty grew out of what was originally going to be Lineage Eternal, which was announced in the halcyon days of 2011. (It’s really funny when you consider that this game has been in development as long as Star Citizen. This is not a good look for either of these games.)

The most recent update about the game is that the developers have basically gone back and removed nearly everything that people experienced during the game’s last test, which reads like nothing so much as taking the game back to the drawing board yet again (which NCsoft had already done – more than once – over the game’s long development). And I find myself wondering what the heck the deal is with this game because… why? Why is NCsoft still trying to make this game a thing? And in that regard, I may just not know what I’m talking about.

Let me clarify this a little bit. Obviously I am as qualified as anyone who works in this absurd field to talk about Throne & Liberty in the abstract. That’s just how things are. I know what the game is meant to be about, where it seems to be falling down, and why it appears it isn’t going over well. None of these things is a mystery to me.

What’s a mystery to me is why NCsoft is still so determined to make the game a thing.¬†And some of this is probably because I am not living in South Korea.

This probably does not come as any surprise to readers, but the original Lineage has made a lot of money in South Korea. Lineage II also made a whole bunch of money. Normally this would not mean much to me because back in the day, EverQuest made a whole lot of money, but the franchise name no longer has much mainstream appeal. But the various mobile variants on Lineage II have also made money? So maybe that really is a thing over there?

But maybe it isn’t. I don’t actually know; I’m not enmeshed in that culture. But even if the brand name still has so much appeal over there that people are just nuts for anything that’s labeled as branded as Lineage… that still wouldn’t explain the need to make Throne & Liberty a thing because the powers that be have specifically removed Lineage from the title altogether. So any brand expectations are already gone.

Shock elk.

Now, the obvious response would be that it doesn’t matter if I’m not interested in the game or even if no one in the US is particularly interested. Games I’m not interested in come out all the time and are at least moderately successful, ranging from imports to domestic games that don’t sound fun to me. And if it seemed like a mobile title I’m not interested in, well, fine. Not everything has to be for me. But the most recent round of feedback was from players in South Korea, and they hated basically everything about the closed beta game.

It’s also important to note that what’s being changed deserves more scrutiny. Auto-play and auto-move systems are not inherently bad as a concept; they can be useful systems for automating chunks of play time that are low on active need for input. Grinding, for example, often involves killing things that can’t meaningfully hurt you, and in situations having the game allow you to just click a button and turn it on is nice to let you just talk with friends.

But this is in no small part a holdover from needing a specific place to hang out and talk with your friends that had a game attached. At this point, if I want to talk with my friends, I’m on Discord. And the commensurate problem with auto-play as a system is that if your game is designed from the ground up to make use of it, odds are that this is a big part of your design in terms of combat anyhow.

In other words, removing auto-play when you had already designed your combat to be a brainless exercise that can be automated is not actually an improvement. It just changes from boring combat you can turn on and forget to boring combat you have to constantly baby-sit. In the words of Chidi Anagonye, that’s worse. You do get how that’s worse, right?

And even more than that, if the game is being completely redesigned once again… what is the goal? What is Throne & Liberty? What is the actual point of this game existing in the common era two thousand twenty-three?

This is the part that I just do not understand.

thiberty and lone

There are upcoming MMOs that I am genuinely excited about and ones that I am not excited about. But we are past the point when anyone can realistically think that MMOs aren’t all that expensive to make or release and we’re past the point when everyone is trying to make an MMO happen. MMOs just do not have the cultural cachet or the returns on investment to make them just an automatic investment at this point.

And I can’t imagine that NCsoft doesn’t know this. The publisher has a checkered history, but it does actually know what this business is like. It is not generally in the business of pushing something nobody wants well past the point when business logic is not backing up that investment. If anything, NCsoft is more frequently guilty of the inverse. But yet here we are with NCsoft still pushing more time and money and development into Throne & Liberty.

The last time I can think of seeing a company spend this much time trying to make a project with no actual gameplay into an actual thing was the genesis of Final Fantasy XV, which itself was a gigantic mess of mediocre everything that got an unbelievable pointless push. But even that isn’t totally comparable even though the development time is similar, because that was at least fueled by someone who was such a huge name at the publisher that it made sense and it actually got more of a mainline title status rather than being spun off into its own thing.

But I’m sitting over here and just watching NCsoft try yet again to turn this project into something after another test in which no one liked what was put forth. And for the life of me, I don’t get why. I don’t see what makes this worthy of investment, what is actually desirable about this project that is apparently still so pliable that the developers can just be like, “Oh, yeah, we’ll just throw out our existing plans and start over again, this is just what we do now.”

Seriously. I don’t get what the deal is with Throne & Liberty.

Sometimes you know exactly what’s going on with the MMO genre, and sometimes all you have are Vague Patch Notes informing you that something, somewhere, has probably been changed. Senior Reporter Eliot Lefebvre enjoys analyzing these sorts of notes and also vague elements of the genre as a whole. The potency of this analysis may be adjusted under certain circumstances.
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