[LOTRO] Flogging a dead horse

Psychochild commented on my last LOTRO post that he was disappointed that one of the old Winter Festival horse rewards had been removed as an in game reward and moved to become a cash shop ‘store exclusive’. At the time, I was less bothered by this trend than he was. After all, the horse had been available for players at the time, and anyone who had gained it in game had at least a year to show it off before it went onto the shop.

But this week, Codies and Turbine have gone a step further. A scant couple of months ago, the hot holiday rare drop of the Halloween Season was a horse with skeleton-type markings (don’t ask me why, I thought it was hideous and unthematic). People spent days farming for the thing. And now guess what is on special offer this week in both Codemaster and Turbine stores? Yup, a skeleton painted horse could be yours for a mere 1495 turbine points.

It’s not the end of the world, a cosmetic mount is still a cosmetic mount. But evidently they are taking the position that any desirable in game reward should be available to buy for cash as well. This is really a logical extension of the F2P ideology, that people should be able to choose whether they want to get an item by paying cash or grinding in game. In fact, it’s probably a decent sales technique to introduce an item via the game, making it rare and distinctive so that players are aware of it and talking about it. Then slip it onto the shop later.

But I can’t help wondering if it diminishes the meaning of in game rewards, even meaningless ones like cosmetic skins for your horse …

11 thoughts on “[LOTRO] Flogging a dead horse

  1. There was a huge thread on this over at CSTM a few days ago too.

    Bottom line: personally, I think it’s fine. Perhaps the whole “it’s too soon!” argument that we hear in the non-MMO scene about releasing DLC so quickly after launch holds a tiny bit of water here, putting the mount in the store after only a month.

    BUT — and this is an important but! — the people who are upset are the ones who logged in 7 characters per day, every day, and may or may not have gotten the mount, or if they did, they may not have gotten it on the character they wanted it on. The clincher is that the horse was a RANDOM DROP. The RNG determined success or failure, not skill, not “our kin hasn’t beaten this boss strategy yet” or anything else that would make the horse a legitimately “rare” item. I know people who got the horse the first time in. I also know some who (in my opinion, foolishly) attempted 200+ times and did not get it. It was all about the RNG though, for opening a chest after a couple quests that didn’t take more than a few minutes.

    The people who made 200+ attempts devalued their own time for the sake of collecting pixels, but only get upset when an actual price tag is affixed to it. I suspect a lot of the “anger” is at themselves, but this is America and we prefer to point fingers rather than look in the mirror.

    • In the context of the game, the mount was priceless. Then it was mass-produced to be bought by anyone. It would be as if you bought a Monet and a month later someone had figured out a way to make absolutely perfect copies of it, so perfect that no one could tell that yours was real.

      Or another way to see it, is that when people spend huge amounts of time on something, they will often rationalize it by increasing their perception of its value. The cost of this is normally not realized, since people got what they wanted and the value of it increases proportional to the time cost. Then another cost is made, most likely a cheaper one, and the perceived cost is shattered. The problem isn’t that the players did something wrong or unusual, since inflating value based on time is central to MMOs, but that the inflation was removed so suddenly and significantly. If it cost a bit more, that would ease the blow, perhaps even remove most of the complains.

  2. My take on it has everything to do with in-game functionality and the decision’s affect on the main content, theme and storyline. If the shop transfer don’t break anything related to the above in-game, given the F2P model, I think they have all the right in the world.

    However, if it significantly changes content, or gives players with deeper pockets access to content that other players will not have access to, then it is most certainly a problem.

    In this particular case: meh.

    • My feeling is that while I’m not that interested in grinding for cosmetic things myself, the people who did made a judgement about how much time it was worth spending, and it was based on that being the only way to get the mount. So it was a bit of a switch and bait, there.

      In future, anyone who remembers this will probably be weighing up whether they want to grind for it and take their chances, or pay for the thing instead later. For some players, that’s going to affect the fun of future events. I’m not sure how I feel about it – I liked the diversity of seeing all the rare items in the game and knowing that some had come from old instances, others from festivals 2 years ago, some from cash shop, some from ultra rare drops etc.

  3. In the context of affecting player participation in future events, this could certainly be a negative. But it’s possible they won’t bother having random mount drops in future festivals.

    Or again, as I (and many others elsewhere) argued, *because* the horse is random, it doesn’t specifically matter if it’s in the shop or not.

    If it’s RANDOM then it isn’t SKILL or EFFORT. It isn’t like buying a Monet then someone buys a forged copy. It’s like going to a casino one weekend and losing a thousand bucks while your buddy wins a thousand. You knew the “risk” going in and chose to play anyway.

    • Random doesn’t eliminate effort, it randomizes effort. The guy who got it first time probably doesn’t care if it’s in the shop. The guy who tried a hundred times, he cares. So sure, skill is a non-factor, but don’t pretend that random means zero effort.

      I get something which I consider valuable. The next day someone gets the exact same thing at a much lower cost. What part of the analogy did you not understand? The casino thing, that works if all we’re talking about is random drops without the drops moving to the cash shop.

      • Klepsacovic is entirely correct here.

        The real issue, I think is one of changing the agreement with the players. In the case of the winter horse, I assumed the agreement was that I would be able to get the old horse this year. That assumed agreement was changed, and I think it’s pretty obvious it changed because of the cash shop model adopted by LotRO.

        This new horse is another change in the agreement. The agreement was that if you tried enough and were lucky, you’d get the horse. Getting one was a bragging point, even if the only real point was that you were a lucky bastard. With the item being sold in the cash shop, completely out of season mind you, that agreement changed.

        Now, yes, there was no explicit agreement. But, I’ve learned in pratice that there are a lot of assumptions made by players when playing your games. And, you violate those assummptions at your own peril. I suspect quite a few people shared these assumptions and are going to be cranky. It usually takes a while before the wholesale complaining starts, though, especially if it’s something minor that doesn’t affect the individual.

        I think I’m particularly disappointed because I’m a fan of Turbine’s games. I was really excited since it seemed they were doing the “free to play” thing right, but these particular events have left me disappointed both as a developer and as a player.

      • I’m come round to this point of view also. Originally the reason I didn’t agree with you is that I felt the people who did the holiday event to get the mount had every reason to think this would be the only chance to get it, so when it came around the next year and was identical, I was mildly disappointed anyway. I think it’d be cooler never to offer the same reward twice.

  4. I got the mount before it come into the shop.
    Guess what, the fascination quickly waned as the World Renown and Elf Ambassador Horse are much faster and have 250 instead of 100 HP.
    OK, some might like it more… and they might be tempted to buy it for 1495 points.

    I hereby invoke the “Slippery Slope” argument.
    Item Shops always start innocent and small, see Guild Wars, by now there is no month where not at least one fluff costume gets sold. It will not only be fluff in GW2, I am afraid.

    If the droprate for something I can sell for 1495 points is 5%, how far can you push it? I would reduce it to 3%… to make some more people buy? :>

  5. Pingback: Psychochild's Blog » A tale of two free to play games

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s