Ok, so I’ve had a chance to digest this a bit with the help of everyone on Twitter and the various blog posts so I think I have my thoughts reasonably gathered on this topic. Up front, I wanted to highlight the work Patience (@70ms) and all the other Turbine community folks are doing on twitter as they’ve been all over this responding and clarifying all the various tweets and questions posted.
I think the first thing everyone needs to do is relax a little bit and give this time to not only sink in but time for Turbine to release information on the pricing structure as well as the in-game point reward systems. These two will have a massive impact on the effectiveness of this change and will most likely be the focus of the upcoming beta test. If you haven’t read up on it, there are quite a few posts out there summarizing the change including my previous post which has all the official Turbine posts in it as well as the excellent summary from CStM. And of course, I’m sure I’m missing about 50 other blog posts out there but I’m sure everyone in my blogroll will have a post up shortly on this topic 😉
With that being said, my initial take on this is nothing but positive. Assuming the points are well balanced (ok, that might be a big assumption) everyone wins in this move. Just to clarify, I’m a lifetime subscriber and have been a part of this game since closed beta. My subscription has long since paid for itself, and even better is that now I have the option to use saved up or the Loyalty Reward points for expansion packs such that I can continue in my exact play style without spending another dollar on LOTRO. Now I will admit, for those that recently signed up as lifetime members this might be a larger pill to swallow but I do think this will pump some serious life into the game and make that subscription even more valuable. Looking at this another way, with all the new “micro-transactions” coming out ($25 sparkle pony) one can only imagine that Turbine would’ve hopped on this trend as well and now current subscribers can get those items for free.
I love the fact that the items they’ve mentioned so far (storage, cosmetics, wardrobe, and mounts to name a few) are all fluff items that won’t impact gameplay but also are some of the most annoying aspects of the current game. I’m tired of deleting items or selling them because I’ve run out of space and I’d love to be able to store more then 2 cosmetic sets so these will be great for me. I’m sure as we learn more there will be more things available, but it will probably be very similar to what is available from the DDO Store. You can get a feel for the points pricing as well, which look pretty reasonable to me. There are some things that I don’t agree with, but it actually looks like just another alternative to the skirmish points system. The only real questionable item for me in the DDO store would be the “Tomes” which offer a permanent stat buff, otherwise most are temporary and as such are just like in-game food. Now the ultimate would be some way to trade or convert all the barter items we currently have into Turbine points!
There’s been some concern about DDO having items available to trivialize the game but my belief is that LOTRO is a different enough game that while those might exist it really won’t make much difference. And honestly, in some cases I might like something like that to help level up alts quicker and easier. At the end of the day, I envision that the only people really upset about making the game easier would be those raiding or out in the Moors. And both of those areas are so heavily dependant on player skill that items most likely wouldn’t be able to compensate. Seriously, do I really care if someone can get through the lone-lands easier then I did? However, it could provide those same players an option to get other toons of theirs up to the appropriate levels quicker which would give them more reasons to play more. The main reason I have many alts I don’t really play is that the thought of just leveling all that way is quite daunting, so any “buff” I could get would be quite welcome.
This move will open the game up for more people and also provide folks with a more casual option to play, which will allow people to come and go as they please. This will overall boost the general player base which is always a good thing. You’ll be able to bounce back and forth between the tiers as you please without having to worry about losing anything, some months you might stay at the free option and others you might pay for. Sure there will be some people that we wish weren’t in the game, but with user channels and such you can pretty effectively block that crap out. Plus, notice that on the chart chat is limited for non VIP players, so perhaps user channels will be a VIP feature only? I’d much rather have the option to block the annoying folks, then not allow the “good” people the option to experience more of the game.
They’ve also set up a nice balance such that people can customize their account how they want. So if you want to just have one toon experience everything you could stay on the free model and upgrade with in-game points to see the different content as you level. If you absolutely love the shire and just want to check out all the class, you can do that too. If you want to buy a horse, you can earn off your gold cap such that you can save up to buy your pretty mount.
Overall I”m very excited about this shift, sure there will be some growing pains, but hey that’s what beta’s for!