[LOTRO] Expansion pricing, and when points get devalued

Turbine had previously announced the pre-release package for Rise of Isengard, which costs $30 for the expansion zones (including raid and dungeons), some pretty cosmetic gear/ mounts, and 25% xp bonus for all characters on your account. Sounds like a reasonable deal for an expansion, and the xp bonus is a nice perk for people with lots of alts.

Yesterday they also released the details for the expansion pricing if you prefer to buy it with Turbine points, and the forums went wild. The price is points is significantly higher than the price if you buy the pre-order in cash. And not only is the price for the expansion higher, you have to pay extra in points for the raid and again for the dungeons.

Note: One of the vaunted advantages of F2P was only having to pay for the content that you wanted. This advantage does not feel so exciting when it’s a) cheaper to pay cash for the entire bundle including the part you didn’t want and b) the price of the basic content has risen so high that you’re paying more for the part you do want anyway.

Now, it obviously makes sense from Turbine’s point of view to devalue points in favour of cash whenever they get the chance. This being the case, anyone who stocked up on turbine points when they were on special deal with the aim of using them to buy the expansion has lost out here. Player vs Developer discusses the expansion pricing in more detail. As PvD comments, even at the best deal possible, this would still be more expensive than paying cash for the preorder.

(Although if you aren’t in a hurry for the content, it’s bound to be on sale in a few months time.)

But the point cost isn’t for people like you, it’s for people like me

Now to get this into perspective, you have to consider players like me. I have a lifetime subscription, but I actually play LOTRO in fits and starts, a few months here and then a few months there. I very very rarely spend Turbine points but my account accrues them at 500p per month.

I have about 7500 turbine points on my account. Buying the expansion with points is a no brainer for me, there’s nothing else I wanted to spend the points on, I don’t have to buy the raid if I don’t plan to raid (which I don’t) and it doesn’t matter to me how much those points would have cost in real money because I didn’t pay for them. I could imagine that my lifetime sub covers the cost of this expansion – because it basically does.

Now I just have to decide if I want to pay the extra for the 25% xp bonus for my warden alt. I think I might not bother, actually. If it had been an account bonus I probably would have done it but the version you can buy with points is for one alt only.

So my advice with Turbine and Points is this:

  • Don’t buy any content before you need it unless there is a particularly good sale on. The longer you wait, the more chance of it coming up in a sale.
  • Don’t buy points unless there’s something you really want to spend points on, regardless of how good the sale is. Turbine have shown here that if they really want people to spend cash, they can always make that more appealing.
  • If something has been in a sale once, it’ll be in a sale again.
On another note, I do wonder how pricing the raid separately is going to affect raiding in Isengard. I don’t think many casual raiders will be quick to plonk down the extra points for the raid instance unless they are very keen.

The slow but inevitable death of 25 man raiding

As widely reported, yesterday Blizzard released their plans for changing the raid game in Cataclysm.

My bullet point summary:

  • They like having 10 man and 25 man versions of the same raids, so that will continue *cough* lazy *cough*
  • They like the Ulduar/ ICC scheme where raid leaders could decide whether to stick to normal or hard mode on each individual boss. (eg. take the first boss on easy mode, and then hard mode on the next one, et al.)
  • They don’t like that hardcore raiders felt forced to run 10 AND 25 man raids on their characters for optimal gearing up, so ….
  • … 10 man and 25 man raids will share the same lock. This is the big one. No more running the 25 man raids with your raid group and the 10 man raid with your friends in the same week. (Or rather, if you want to do that you’ll need separate alts.)
  • 10 man and 25 man raids will also drop the same loot. Just 25 man raids will drop more of it (more per person, I assume).
  • 10 man and 25 man raids will also be of the same difficulty (*coff* pigs, fly *coff* This is probably a subject for a different post.)
  • There will be two tiers of badges, much like at present. One tier will be available via heroics and will be unlimited, the other will be available from raids and heroic dailies.
  • These badges will also be available via PvP. So now the hardcore will have to PvP as well as PvE (or vice versa), instead of running 10 mans as well as 25.

Someone set us up the 25 man time bomb

Leading large raids is a harsh job at the best of times. It isn’t just due to making sure 25+ people each know what they are supposed to be doing and then checking that they are doing it. Nope, much of the difficulty and challenge of leading large raids is behind the scenes work, making sure that 25 people of appropriate classes and specs turn up on a weekly basis and are ready to raid.

And as if this wasn’t a harsh enough time to be a 25 man raid leader, they now are all aware that if this scheme proceeds as planned, Blizzard is setting them up to fail in Cataclysm.

The particular dilemma of rewards for different raid sizes is this:

  • for the individual raider, 10 mans are often more challenging. Each individual carries more responsibility.
  • for the group as a whole (and specifically for the leader), 25 mans are hugely more challenging. 25 people have to execute the fight correctly, as opposed to just 10. And the logistic overheads of 25 mans are a lot higher. Plus there is often more going on just due to the number of players wandering around.

But WoW is moving towards rewarding individuals for individual effort, and away from rewarding groups for group effort. If 10 and 25 man raids give the same rewards, then the 10 man raids offer by far the easiest path to getting them. At least for the stronger raiders, without whom more casual 25 man raid guilds will flounder.

So raid leaders will be asking themselves now whether enough people will still want to run 25 mans to make 25 man progression viable. To put this in context, you have to understand that for the majority of 25 man raid guilds, there will be a core of players who are more hardcore and a core who are less. It is significantly easier to put together a hardcore progression 10 man raid than a progression 25 man raid because you only have to find 9 other people (assuming that you are one of them). Any time a 25 man raid falters, or wipes more often than people would like, the temptation for the more hardcore 10 people to go it alone and ditch the guys who are holding them back will be there for the taking.

So how many of those more hardcore players will choose progression above 25 mans. The answer is … unknown at present, but never bet against people choosing progression. Or how about people ditching the 25 man because some friends just joined from another server who want to run 10s? Or ditching the 25 man because they found a 10 man group which raids on more convenient days (easier to organise when there are only 10 of you)?

In Wrath, no one had to choose. You could run 10s with your mates or hardcore set and 25s with your usual raid comm. In Cataclysm, everyone will have to choose. Some will use alts for different raids – but still, whenever the 25 man has a hiccough, the danger of people fleeing to the easier to arrange 10 mans will be there, like the elephant in the room.

And now, because hardcore raiders are unable to control their work/life balance – yeah seriously, just say no if you felt you were being ‘forced’ to raid too much –  we’re being forced to choose by being given a choice that isn’t really a choice at all.  The current setup is far better for casual raiders than what Cataclysm offers. There are plenty of PUGs (bored 25 man raiders running 10 mans for kicks or vice versa), casual 25 man raid guilds can flourish … wave goodbye to all of that.

All this has happened before. All this will happen again.

My first reaction to this news was one of those cold flush style flashbacks, you know where you get shivers down your spine? I’d put the trauma of the guild dramas that followed the end of 40 man raiding to the back of my mind.

And now here it is, all over again. People will be ditched from the core ‘clique’ because “sorry, you’re not one of the 10 best.” Guilds that had grown around a 25 man social dynamic slowly losing raiders, bleeding them away until there is nothing left. Drama laden guild break ups.

Will there be a typical Cataclysm guild?

Myself, I view the news with mixed reactions. I have loved running large raids, whether they be the old 40 mans, or the newer 25s. I hope that we can keep running 25 man raids into Cataclysm – however silly it is, I still think there’s a cachet to tanking 25 man raids.

And yet. And yet.

Imagine being in a small scale, tight knit guild with friends which raids together and runs rated battlegrounds together. That will be the Cataclysm model. It does sound fun. But is it worth the number of eggs that Blizzard will have to break?

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