[Diablo 3, LOTRO] What were they thinking?

Two examples this week of devs making some unexpected decisions.

Diablo 3

Now there’s no launch date yet for D3 but we’re assuming that it will be ‘soon’ since it’s only taken Blizzard about 12 years to get this one going. And yet, even as recently as this week they are announcing that they’re still making major changes.

It’s good to see a company respond to feedback received during beta testing, but when you get to “we’re going to be iterating on designs we’ve had in place for a long time, making changes to systems you’ve spent a lot of time theorycrafting, and removing features you may have come to associate with the core of the experience” then it all starts to sound a bit major. That’s not an issue, if they’ve got ideas for making things better then it’s a good idea to implement them. Just the new builds will also need a good soak of playtesting to make sure that they haven’t introduced more problems than they’ve solved. Especially when you are reitemising everything.

I think the comment about ‘systems you’ve spent a long time theorycrafting’ is quite telling. That’s what some beta testers do these days, and whether it’s for fun, or for profit (ie. prepping some future game guide), there’s a strong commercial element for players who are up with the newest game information and wish to package and sell it. Tobold commented on this with reference to D3 also.

I don’t think D3 will be especially commercialised just because of the real money AH (although it’s bound to attract the “Make Money Now” sites/ ebooks), I think any large and popular game released now would do the same thing.

The other raised brow from D3 this week is around bannings from the beta. Now I’m not uptight about devs banning players (actually I laughed like crazy when I heard that Bioware banned someone for using a stupid meme about ‘I am 12’ on the bboard, because the boards are restricted to 13+ – that was actually and genuinely hilarious), but the only reasons I’ve known people to be banned from betas previously have been around harassment or breaking NDA.

So when Stabs commented on Markco’s banning which was around gold making in the beta, I was surprised, since D3 doesn’t have an NDA on the beta and I very much doubt he’s been harassing anyone. I don’t know the details, but I do wonder how ready they are for the prime time.

LOTRO – the money pit

It’s clear that Turbine have been thinking about how they can get some more cash out of LOTRO players. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if it means selling items/ content that people will want to buy.

It’s behind the recent announcement of the next expansion, Riders of Rohan, which is said to be huge. And also that they plan frequent content updates afterwards. If paying for content is your preferred form of F2P, this is good news, assuming the content is fun and all. I’ve always enjoyed LOTRO questing, especially the epic books, so I don’t see much of a downside here. They’ve found that the player base is more willing to throw money at them for expansions than for fripperies. Is this a move away from the ‘whale model’ of F2P payers, I wonder?

And then there is adding gear with stats to the item store. This is lower level gear, and the notion is that lower level players were having trouble gearing … or something.

“Lower level players are telling us that they are having difficulty obtaining good gear. This is us coming up with solutions to problems players are reporting to us. We’re trying to create solutions for players”

Fine, but there is a solution for players. It’s called crafting and the auction house, it’s called skirmish gear, it’s called doing quests. It’s called playing the game. So why is that not working? This is one of the issues with F2P, the devs have very little motivation to figure out what’s not working and tweak it, if players will just pay for a band-aid instead. Or maybe they have thought about what’s not working and decided it’s a structural issue with the way the entire game is made. Maybe it’s inevitable that the lower level game gets left to its own devices, that crafters can’t be bothered to keep crafting for alts, that gold gets less important so no one cares about that in-game market.

The other LOTRO innovation that I thought was quite smart was selling class-specific mounts on the item shop. I think there’s a lot of mileage in cosmetic class-specific items. They’re fun. They’re thematic. Sadly not as fun as having an actual class-based quest in game associated with them, but there’s also the notion that players might buy a different mount for each of their favourite alts. It’s all quite smart.

12 thoughts on “[Diablo 3, LOTRO] What were they thinking?

  1. Thanks for the BioWare ban link. The comment thread took me to The Internet Meme Database, of which I was previously unaware and now I’m running an hour late 😛

    I’m not sure if BioWare have a very acute sense of humor or no sense of humor at all. If pushed I’d veer to the latter.

    • They being owned by EA, I’d go with the latter too. Plus, as somebody commented in the original thread: if they tried to be funny, wouldn’t they make it a 1-year ban? :p

  2. Bhagpuss – at least some people at Bioware have a very dry, evil sense of humour. Witness one of the guys who started a thread claiming he’d been banned for some trivial reason, and who got a dev response of “we’ve not taken any action against you. However, I have now passed your details to the community team for spreading misinformation and THEY will take action” 😀

    As someone who actually wants to find useful information and intelligent discussion on forums (yeah, I know, fat chance) I heartily endorse sending all the 4chan wannabes howling back into the outer darkness.

    • That smackdown was truly a thing of beauty and a joy forever. They really need to do more of that. I’d swear some people are paying 15 bucks a month just to troll the forums, not actually play the game.

  3. The whole notion with the ‘whale’ model is that Turbine will design any new system with the goal that a certain small amount of players will cave in and pay for the convenience, but there is going to be a (larger?) group of players that will never pay but resent the added grind. I suspect that will apply to the new mounted combat system, what could be a fun addition for those who buy the expansion, is going to be yet another grind. And levelling skirmish soldiers is going to become more important when they can be used on the landscape, so that makes the gear grind, LIs, soldiers and war-steeds, I think there is a tipping point fast approaching. You have to let your players have fun sometimes and enjoy the actual content.

    As for the class specific mounts, if those skins can’t be applied to the new ‘war-steeds’, they’ll be introducing a mechanic that makes them less desirable in the new expansion content.

    The low level gear as a band-aid is ridiculous though, they revamped the stat system without reworking low level gear, lazyness, maybe they’ll get around to it in a few updates time but more likely there’ll be additional tiers of gear before then.

  4. Turbine elaborated that new players can’t actually buy stuff if they did implement it and put it on the auction house, because prices are set by what level capped players are willing to pay for their alts.

    Personally, I’m not buying this approach for two reasons. First, they could have put the same items in game and in the store – when DDO got low level gear, it was identical to in-game drops. Second, and more to the point, when prices get high on the AH, that includes prices on raw materials. I had no problems using the auction house to “craft” ore into gear for my character when I played the low level game in LOTRO. Nor, for that matter, did I encounter difficulty playing with the gear that was present in game.

    All that said, I do think they’re in a challenging situation because LOTRO isn’t actually all that well suited for content sales. DDO’s content is short, scales for the number of players/difficulty, and is reusable, which means that they can create value in the sub-$10 range and still release stuff often enough to make a steady stream of money. In the year between Isengard and Rohan, Turbine is planning to release one instance cluster (included in Isengard) and one outdoor solo zone. That’s a very small amount of recurring revenue, even if they do have many more paying players than they did before F2P.

    • I’m with you. When prices rise in the AH, new players can usually sell raw materials for enough to buy what they need. I think the other issue Turbine have is that lifetime members get 500 points a month. So if they want any extra cash out of that part of the playerbase (which probably includes many of the hardcore), they need to be selling the equivalent of 500 points worth of stuff per month. So I fully expect the point-cost of new expansions to rise out of proportion to the cash-cost.

  5. The recent news from the Diablo camp frankly has me a little worried. I have been in beta for some time now, and some of the feedback does make sense. However, it is almost as if they tweaked a system until they thought it was perfect, only to realize that it didn’t work in the long-term. Instead of tweaking it and taking their time (which they are notorious for), they are just scrapping systems and trying to maintain the deadlines (whenever that is). That, to me, is very troublesome!

  6. Pingback: Oh, Blizzard. Is it this same rollercoaster again? « thade's Hammer

  7. The Diablo 3 changes would make more sense if they were the result of tester feedback, but as far as I can tell (being in the beta and visiting the forums) Blizzard really just up and said “hey, we’ve decided we want to do it differently” based purely on internal decision making and nothing to do with beta testing.

    If it ends up making a better game, then fine, but some of the systems they’re changing I actually quite liked and what they’re changing them to makes little sense. For example, you used to be able to salvage white (non-magic) items for crafting materials. Now you can’t, the only thing you can do with whites (short of using them for a few levels at the start of the game) is sell them, but they sell for very little compared to whites in Diablo 2. So they’re now useless. And that’s “by design”. They seem to think filling your screen with useless loot drops will make the occasional blue drop feel more special. Sigh.

  8. I was in the Diablo 3 beta and was banned for saying ” people said jesus was the son of god but they cant prove it” in response to hecklers talking about how good the end game was but hadnt played.

    I had started the post As what I didnt like in the general forums which included features I felt shouldve been implemented like Ladder and better boards.

    My account was banned for life, so I had a bud get on his comp and put a negative post about features he didnt like.

    He got banned for 30 days after 19 pages of people calling him names he fiinally posted ” your a bunch of retarded fanboy clones” and was banned for 30 days

    negativity is being banned, none of the other people who heckled him or called him countless names in the name of D3 was banned….

    They have bigger issues then just your blog.

  9. Both of us had questions about people hacking the RMAH or game and whats being done differently than D2 where their lack of caring allowed the game to be swallowed in a cesspool of farmers.

    Any intelligent computer savvy guy will tell you code will get cracked….just give me a gander.

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