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LotRO’s Cash Shop affects gameplay directly and indirectly

To all the trolls who flamed me when I said that the LotRO Cash Shop would affect gameplay both directly and indirectly, what are your thoughts now that all this information is being released?  I could pick through the comments and start naming people but why don’t you go ahead and read the comments yourself and see who you think was right.  If you want to skip reading all 154 of them I’ll give you a quick synopsis: I was right.  I waited a while before being smug because I wanted to see how it played out.  Now is a good time to comment.

Massively.com has an article up today highlighting a few of the items available in the cash shop.  There’s also a nice list here on the official forums and I’m sure if you’re really that interested you can find some of the uproar over the cash shop on fansites/blogs as well.  Take a look at these and let me know if you think I was right when I said that they would affect the gameplay.

Permanent +30 stats – It’s buying power for your character.  Doesn’t matter if it’s only +30, it makes the characters with it better than those without.  This affects gameplay directly.

Virtues can be purchased – Instead of earning the virtues, you buy them outright.  This circumvents the way the game was meant to be played: earning them.  It diminishes what people have already done for their characters.  It trivializes the actions of earning it yourself even if you choose not to buy them. This both directly and indirectly affects gameplay.

Reputation Mounts – Like most games, there are rewards you can earn by putting in time doing something.  Even if it’s a rep grind, the people who earned them could be proud.  Now they can be purchased outright without the need for rep.  To all those who worked hard to feel distinguished, sucks to be you because now someone who starts fresh has what you worked hard for instantly. This indirectly affects the game.  It diminishes effort, goal oriented gameplay, and the achievement of those who played before F2P.  Trivialize more.

More – Maps that instantly teleport you all around the world, buff potions that give you an temporary edge, scrolls to resurrect yourself. Direct and indirect impact on the game and/or her players.

Instantly buy what was once hard-earned? Check.
Players buy power for their characters that give an edge over those that don’t? Check.
Affect the game directly and/or indirectly? Check.

This isn’t stuff that can be avoided either. This is affecting everyone. It’s not like EQ2x on a separate server or something you can avoid by actually paying a subscription instead of playing for free.  But I’m an idiot right?  Is it still a knee-jerk reaction?  Even after these revelations I guarantee you someone is going to comment that I’m wrong.

My position remains unchanged on Free to Play.  It’s bad for games.  Free to Play brings with it certain elements which alter the way games are played/maintained/designed in order to accommodate its model.  In a subscription game the developer’s interests and the player’s interests are much more aligned.  In a F2P game the developer’s interests and players interests diverge.

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Comments

  1. Im not so sure why so many people consider the monthly subscription such a bad model. I don’t see any problems with it as is, unless the MMO in question doesn’t have enough LASTING appeal to keep people playing.

    With that said, there is a HUGE difference between free to play, and pay to win. Im not particularly against microtransactions that are purely cosmetic. But paying to win – to give a gameplay boost to some doesn’t sit right with me.

    And Free to Play models don’t always have to be that way. Im sure there can be an MMO that is free to play, NOT pay to win.

  2. @Humble Hobo: I have yet to play a free to play MMO that isn’t pay to win or set up where players must use the cash shop. It’s how they make money — you need to use their cash shop.

    They’re not sitting in the board room saying “I sure hope people want to use our shop so we make money.” They’re saying “How can we get people to use our cash shop”.

  3. The funny thing is LOTRO is so non-competitive compared to other MMOs. Pay to win what?

  4. Some type of subscription is the only way a game will work. Im a big fan of what APB did. I actually earned 2 months of game time, myself, in game. 2 free months of playing the game, just from playing it.

    I hate micro transactions. This seems like nothing more than a way to squeeze what little moneyleft they can out of the game.

  5. Don’t be a smug git. The stat boosts are pretty trivial, convenience items are not mandatory, and allowing people to sidestep grind hurts nothing but your e-peen.

    Is it really so bad that people who would otherwise have been frustrated with, say, virtue grinding, will be able to enjoy the game? None of this forces you to change the way you play the game; it merely adds choice for those who don’t want to play it the way you’re used to.

  6. See? Knew it.

    “Just ignore it and it won’t affect you!” /eyeroll

  7. So what ARE they thinking in that board room?

    What is the motivation for a company to take a sub-based MMO and switch to FTP/microtransactions?

    My guess is:

    1. By switching to FTP, they will make more money. If the playerbase stays the same size, that means that they are making more on average per person than with the current subscription model.
    2. By switching to FTP they intend to INCREASE the playerbase, which would have the same effect, even if the average intake per player drops.

    That’s really all I can think of at the moment.

    And I can think of better ways of increasing playerbase than by changing the payment system.

  8. Wow. I sure hope you aren’t as much of a self-righteous prick in real life as you are here. You have your opinions and put forth a good case but holier than thou attitude is ridiculous. You sound like a petulant child gloating over what, an opinion? Sheesh.

  9. @Humble Hobo: I spent several days trying to rationalize why they would do it. The game had one of the better MMO communities this generation and wasn’t suffering from population issues — not a single server closure.

    The game didn’t receive a major update for about a year. Many people think that there were internal issues with Turbine. Who knows, it’s all speculation.

    It’s clearly a money thing. The details, again, are unknown. It only makes sense that they wanted more money. It’s certainly not to make a better game.

    @Kaybek: Read the 154 comments. This is aimed at the trolls and the ad hominem arguments. You may not like my delivery, but what I’m saying is true.

  10. but Keen, as Informis/Jezebeau said – “pay to win what?” LoTRO is hardly a competitive PVP game. what other players do shouldn’t matter to what YOU do. these are all just as Jezebeau says – allowing people to sidestep grind hurts nothing but the e-peen of some players.

  11. 1: The Stats tome are also available as rare drops in the new classic instance….

    2: Players will be able to craft those potions

    3:I have to agree with reputation mounts though, not a good idea here and I’d rather if Turbine had made a new type of mounts for the cash shop.

    4: teleport scrolls have been well-received as far as I know.

    I’ll leave it at that.

  12. @Telke: That’s where indirect comes in. It may not directly affect you that someone can buy a level 10 virtue, but it points to a few problems.

    1) Turbine lets people buy their way around a problem instead of working through it. That problem is the time/grind/effort it takes to achieve.

    2) Rather than fix the problem if it is indeed a poor grind (which sometimes the virtues are) they make a cash shop item to circumvent it, thus making it more appealing to buy it and not have to fix the problem.

    It’s a bad precedent, a kick in the teeth to veterans, and it alters the way the game is played.

    @Irenor: okay, so crafters can make the potions. As a former maxed potion crafter in LotRO I can tell you that any incentive that I have to go out and work to create potions and sell them would be diminished greatly by the fact that people are running around with them from the cash shop without having to go through someone who worked to get to the point of selling them. There’s also discussion on the fansite that I linked to where people are discussing how crafting has been diminished in general by the cash shop.

  13. @Jezebeau: Except all the people who still want to play and put in the 20, 30, 60 hours to actually GAIN those bonuses and benefits are being kicked in the teeth. What’s the point in actually playing a game if you can make a new character, buy everything you need right out the gate, and then… what? An MMO is largely about character development, and if your character is really, really well developed at 1st level because you dumped tons of money in to the cash shop then what the heck is there to look forward to? Why even bother playing? … And if you’re not going to play, then why fork out the cash to begin with? That is one of the cornerstone issues.

    “So here’s this mechanic, we’ll make people perform all these tasks that are scaling from easiest to hardest to earn points, the harder the task the better the reward. When they gather up ‘x’ amount of points, we’ll give them something awesome. That will keep people busy for at least three weeks per group we do this with!”
    “Can’t I just buy that stuff?”
    “Uh… yeah, I guess.”
    , now what?

    Furthermore, if you spend a month grinding out all this gear, and levelling your character – working on fine tuning them to their most efficient, you ought to be pretty well familiar with the game by that point, you should be comfortable in the world and know what’s-what, how to play, how to perform in a group. If someone buys their way to power, they won’t be skilled players because they didn’t earn anything they have, thus they don’t know how to use what they SHOULD have, let alone what they actually do have. This will degrade community’s overall skill level and, in games that are heavily reliant on grouping, the community will be severely crippled or collapse.

    Let’s face it, there haven’t been many good F2P games (I challenge you to name 3), and even fewer microtrans games (DDO is probably an exception to the rule, though even I didn’t play it for more than a dozen levels before getting bored) and LotRO is just the most recent casualty. The “Ignore it and it won’t affect you,” approach is bollocks. Try ignoring a dog biting at your ankles and see how it affects you.

    Sorry for the rant, but given the morsels of info released about the cash shop for LotRO, I can’t see how anyone could say, “Oh yeah, ignore it and all will be well. Kudos.”

  14. Long before I ever played LOTRO I did notice Fry’s had a ton of unsold Moria boxes up to a year after the expansion came out. Tons of collectors edition’s also. Did Moria have poor sales? If so maybe that led to the F2P idea. I will continue playing & we will see what happens to the game.

  15. @Wren: MMOs are largely about character development for some people. Personally, I’ve played enough MMOs that what I’m generally looking for is content. I want to explore the art and landscape, see the work of the writers, plumb the game mechanics, and understand the distinguishing features of the game. None of that is improved by a sixty hour grind (or a three-hundred hour grind, if poor luck strikes your quest for radiance).

    The shop isn’t letting you buy a max level character. If someone runs a new character, fully equipped, through the game, they’ll learn to play as well as they would have if they’d done the grinds. Killing 250 orcs teaches me no more about how to play than killing 10 does.

    If character development is what you’re after, then focus on your experience. It shouldn’t matter to you whether JoeBob LuteSmasher is pre-med and can’t spare the time to grind factions. I can’t stop you, though, if rather than attempt to let it go you want to foster an obsession.

    Lastly, I’m just gonna lump F2P and microtrans because they’re basically the same thing in this context and say DDO, Free Realms, Wizard 101.

  16. @Jezebeau: Let’s pretend that I acknowledge people have to spend three-hundred hours grinding for something as a problem with the game’s design.

    Is the answer really to let people buy a cash shop item to circumvent that or would changing the gameplay itself be better?

  17. @Thomas: I think that could be because it’s Fry’s, and not a lot of people go there to buy games.

    I was in Fry’s the other day and they had 57, I counted, fifty-seven copies of the StarCraft II Collector’s Edition left on the shelf.

    At the same time a place like GameStop only shelves a few copies of a computer game at a time – so it’s hard to see their actual stock. BestBuy would probably be a decent alternative.

  18. Dismantled says:

    I recently stopped playing Lotro from all this debacle. Funny thing is I quit due to some cosmetic items I was “grinding” towards that now can easily be purchased once these changes hit. So regardless of the whole “buying your power” , as Keen nicely put it:

    “To all those who worked hard to feel distinguished, sucks to be you because now someone who starts fresh has what you worked hard for instantly”

    Surprisingly I think SoE was a lot smarter with this model change over turbine. Having a separate server was genius on their part.

    EQ2x is the first F2P game that I’ve actually enjoyed so far, and that’s mainly because I know my F2P gaming is in no way impacting those who have spent years developing their characters on the main servers. It’s not perfect, but it’s a crap load of content (1-70) for not spending a dime, whereas LotRo F2P is basically just an extended trial.

    It’s a shame too because I have a lifetime sub with Lotro and will probably just collect dust now.

  19. @Keen: Changing the gameplay itself would be better. Given the avenue they took, that’s not likely to happen. This is still an improvement over the old state of affairs, at least for people who can pay and are willing to.

  20. @Dismantled: SOE certainly discovered a lesser evil. While not every developer will be able to pull this off financially, it’s much more ideal imo than what happened to LotRO.

    It still suffers on the whole from the F2P problems though. Buying power, high turnover, disconnected community, gameplay impacted by the cash shop, etc.

    @Jezebeau: That’s what it ultimately comes down to. If you’re someone who just doesn’t care then power to you and congrats on a free game you’ll enjoy. For those who simply do not care about how it changes the game or don’t care about F2P, you’re the real winners. For the rest of us, it changes things.

  21. Keen, from your own twitter page:

    “Turbine sells power in their cash shop and renders character development meaningless yet some people defend it as a good idea. Derp.”

    that’s just hyperbole. if Turbine were selling level 65 characters decked out in purple gear, you’d have a point. but none of the things on sale are ultimately more than small assistance.

    We defend Turbine because they’ve shown, with DDO, that they can create a very successful microtransation-OR-subscription based game. one where buying these XP boosts or Virtues isn’t necessary. by contrast, take a look at SOE’s plan – currently it shows that even current subscribers will have to purchase races, and it stinks of money-grabbing in the way it’s laid out.

    You’re vilifying a company that, overall, has been a pretty good company in the MMO genre, in comparison to many others.

  22. and, as Jezebeau points out – does killing 250 orcs really teach you anything more than killing 20 for a quest, and buying the Virtue from the shop? it’s solo levelling grind, not a difficult thing to learn.

  23. I like how grinding is the only thing associated with levelling – because there aren’t level-appropriate dungeons with bosses or enemies that have specific game mechanics that reappear throughout an MMO that are helpful to know and learn that you would end up skipping entirely if you level too fast and don’t need to explore the dungeons.

    Also, If you can level up very quickly on your own then the incentive or need to party up (ie – for dungeons) is no longer necessary or a viable way to spend your time. Thus, as a potentially new player (not everyone who ‘tries’ or plays a F2P MMO has played 6 or 7 of them before), you won’t learn the grouping etiquette of the game until you near whatever the game’s cap happens to be. At which point people expect you to not be an idiot and/or jerk. If you don’t know what’s going on you may be less likely to get groups – esp. in games with smaller communities.

    Furthermore, I would argue that the more things you kill (regardless of what they are) the more opportunities you have to learn something new and try different things to figure out what works. You also get more practice with controlling your character in a very general sense which can make the difference between a precise player that manages his resources well (not just HP and MP/SP/Mana, but pots and buffs), knows instinctively the size of their hitbox and can avoid damage with minimal time wasted on movement, knows the limits of their character’s power (Can I take 3 of these guys at once, or just 2? Only 1?) and one who does not. If you level up 3 times faster than the average player because you’ve got better equipment and better stats, you’re losing out on 2/3rds of the opportunities to really feel and master your character, which will then have to be made up in the endgame (assuming you even play that long).

    As someone who spent a long time playing various MMOs, playing with veterans and then having to deal with / teach newer players, watch them become seasoned, and then deal with more new players again, I am of the opinion that those who travel through the breadth of an MMO faster are less likely to be as familiar with what’s going on as those who didn’t have any shortcuts to aid them, resulting in more selfish, sloppier players overall that refine their play way later than it ought to have been.

  24. @Telke

    The point is this.

    If WoW, say, wanted to remove a killing 250 orc grind, they would just remove it or trivialize it for everyone. They might leave the grind in for anyone who really wants to, but most people will probably just skip it and move on.

    But, as we see here, suddenly LotRO has no motivation to remove killing 250 orc grinds for everyone, because the option to skip them will get them money. You don’t want to spend money? Have fun killing orcs.

    In fact it’s not inconceivable that LotRO will implement more grinds so as to further try to convince people to spend money to skip it.

  25. Maybe this is inapplicable and off topic, but I feel like the Theme Park MMO’s player is hurt by the fact that they can only work with a limited slice of the community at any given time, and for me and my experience that has had a much bigger impact on my long term commitment to and enjoyment of games than the effects of a Subscription vs. Free to Play model.

    Mind, all the games that have done this have forgone the traditional Experience per kill/quest setup that the typical theme park game has, the one exception being Guild Wars, and that has a very fast leveling process and a single shared server for all the players, so even with all the instancing you had access to any player who played the game (Points go to EVE for persistent open world and Single Server). One of the most frustrating things for me with regards to WoW is that I know plenty of people who play, but they’re all scattered across a half dozen servers, again, this effects the ability to interact with the whole community and limits your partying options.

    The Persistent world games that have kept my attention best are the ones where advancement is a fluid experience that can just as easily expand outwards as upwards, and even while expanding upwards the 1st tier still serves a vital roll in the game. Eve provides a great example of this because even a 4 day old character can have skills trained that make him or her an asset to someone who has played the game for months or years. Certainly, the older character can do more damage in their battleship of choice than the new guy can in the frigate. However the frigate has faster speeds of targeting and maneuvering, so is much better suited to keeping the enemy from moving via use of modules to slow down the opponent’s speed and prevent their escape.

    It’s like how even an “unskilled worker” can still stock shelves or work the produce isle at the supermarket. It’s not a super rewarding job in a lot of cases, but nevertheless it’s an important part of running any operation. More MMO’s need to create oppurtunities for low level and high level characters to work together for mutual benefit.

    Closer to topic: I must say I am disappointed with a number of the aspects of the cash shop that you’ve listed here. Of course cash shops will have an effect on gameplay, however these are effects that are… Well, DDO does have the reincarnation system which allows similar gains in power for cash, but that’s only after max level and you have to level up all over again upon paying… I’ll give LotRO a trial anyways when it goes F2P, the only reason I’m really interested in it anyways is because I want to check out a European friend’s RP guild, and apparently Europe’s LotR is in a much better state than the US one.

  26. And yet another free-to-play item+shop that fails.

    BIIIG surprise.

  27. I think what Keen means is that it will affect HIS gameplay. It will affect my gameplay in LotRO only to the degree that currently I am not playing it, and never would have played it again had it not gone F2P. Once it does, however, it will join my MMO rotation and get layed as often as I feel like playing it.

    In a decade of playing MMOs, what other people are doing in them has been only of amusement value. The great majority of other players in any form the backdrop against which I play. They’re scenery. They’re NPCs with unpredictable AI. I never meet them, get to know them, do anything in game with them. The people I do end up spending time with are by definition enjoying playing the game in the same way I am. We all gravitate into cliques in which we fit and a change to the ruleset won’t do more than cause a few new cliques to form and some people to move from one to another.

    Changes like the ones coming in LotRO may affect some people’s gameplay negatively, but to assume it will have a negative effect on everyone just shows a lack of empathy, imagination or both. Obviously Turbine are gambling that a lot more people will like the changes than the other way about and I would expect that to be proved correct.

  28. er… “played” not “layed” – unfortunate typo you might like to edit :P

  29. Your post is full of how you “earned” things and how hard you “worked” to get them. That doesn’t sound much like fun to me.

    If you can’t enjoy your game because other players may not have “worked” as hard as you to “earn” the same level/skills/loot/whatever then that’s a problem with your attitude or with your choice of game.

    A cash shop is just like viagra for your epeen, I wonder why that makes so many other people feel inadequate?

  30. Keen, you seem to have forgotten that trolls never admit when they are wrong, they just keep on trolling.

  31. The fact that you can get everything you mentioned in-game undermines your point. Now excuse me while I go have fun in my new, shiny, more convenient LOTRO.

  32. Sisyphean says:

    Keen @ 12 is really the big deal here.

    Being able to buy stats is bad enough. But once you start allowing people to buy their way around grind, designers have a direct, perverse incentive to make a bad game by default.

    I am generally happy to accept certain micro transactions. Things like unique costumes, armor skins, mounts, in-game pets. As long as they seem like they were actually extra work some designer did, I’m happy to pay for that work. But once you start selling fixes to your regressive, backwards game design, there is no hope.

    If this becomes common practice, we get to look forward to an entire genre of game which is purposefully designed to be irritating, grind-heavy, and generally even more gated than we saw when monthly fees were the norm. As long as they think that making content a pain to get = motivation to buy your way past the inconvenience, that will be what they design for.

    This is actually one of my big concerns with GW2, as well. As excited as I am for that game, and as good a job as Arena Net did with the GW cash shop, I’m worried what they have in store for their new system.

  33. Grinds are commonly accepted as a means of extending subscriptions. It’s ugly but it works for them. Getting rid of the grinds entirely isn’t good business for them. Letting people buy their way out of them means they aren’t losing money on people who will be playing for shorter periods of time.

  34. @Wren
    I agree with you. Fry’s is the last store besides Best Buy that really has a large section for PC games.

    @F2P haters
    If LOTRO & EQ2 extended do well, its possible that most future MMO’s will be F2P. F2P will become accepted just like paid DLC is now common in so many other games. We all got over Oblivion’s infamous “horse armour”.

  35. 1. It’s Turbine
    2. They did the same sort of thing with DDO – though admittedly, they had some content options.
    3. See #1

  36. Here is how it affects me.

    Ive always loved LOTRO, Ive played it off and on for years now. I wont be playing any longer with these changes though. For me it just cheapens the whole experiance of playing the game.

    No sense of accompishment comes when you can circumvent the grind/content. Yes I know I dont have to buy the cash shop items and could still play the way I always have but it still makes me feel this way about the game. It also bothers me because I cant be convinced that with this subscription model that the developers wont be more interested driveing the cash shop than they will developing content thats good for the overall health of the game.

    I see the arguments a lot about ” how is earning and grinding fun? I want to log in and just play” Makes me wonder how far away we are from an mmo that you create a charater that is instantly max level with the best gear so you can just “log in and play” and avoid the no fun leveling/grind. Last I remember those were called single player games…

  37. As others have asked, how exactly do you “pay to win” in LOTRO? It’s a PvE game. As for “affecting gameplay” none of this does. What it does affect is certain players’ attitudes, nothing more. Buying stats? Who cares? There’s a stat cap and you’ll cap it naturally just playing the game. Buying virtues? Again, who cares? They are minor buffs at best and the virtue cap per level bracket still applies. I’ll admit I’m not overly fond of selling the existing reputation mounts without requiring the actual reputation to ride them but guess what? LOTRO is a traditional Diku-based MMO, and like all DikuMMO’s before and after it, content gets obsoleted. In the end it doesn’t matter if I spent 50 hours grinding reputation for a certain mount or gear or if it’s taking me well over 100 hours to get Radiance gear because the next time they release an expansion that increases the level cap all that “effort” is immediately removed and on we go to the next treadmill.

    As for a “sense of accomplishment” again, that is purely the individual player’s attitude. Personally I would view it as MORE of a “sense of accomplishment” knowing I “worked” for my reward. But then again, no one would ever know if anyone paid for a reward or “worked” for it unless they actually tell you. What other people do in a PvE game has no affect on your own game.

    Myself? I will more than likely continue my own personal habits of “working” through stuff the original way on my main. But if I decide to bring up an alt? No way am I going through all those grinds again; I will happily pony up a few dollars for the virtues or whatever. Time is money, and that is true in both the real world and the virtual.

  38. You tell em Keen!!

  39. Regardless of opinion on LotR or most F2P cash shops (I can understand why a lot of people are upset, and while it’s good for me what LotR is doing, I’m a bit annoyed that they’re doing things that are hurting their long time crowd in the process). There is one subscriptionless MMO-style game that doesn’t require players to use a cash shop in order to succeed, in fact its cash shop is essentially just the kind of microtransactions that we see in WoW. Character customization, name changes, that sort of thing. Guild Wars had the initial purchase for the game and each expansion, but there was no monthly fee or stat boosting enhancements or xp buff potions or anything like that in the cash shop.

    The most that the cash shop has that directly effects gameplay is a couple of max level weapons that are unique that initially were part of the Game of the Year edition (but their uniqueness mostly extends as far as their names and stops there), Character Slots, which you have 8 of in total if you’ve gotten the first 3 Guild Wars Titles, so even before forking out the 10$ per slot there’s plenty of room for alts, and lastly you get Xunlai Bank upgrades, meaning that you can buy extra tabs to increase the carrying capacity of your bank.

    The difference is that there is an initial out of box purchase, and this is largely what they seem to be intending to do for Guild Wars 2. I’m just throwing it out there, but this appears to be the online subscriptionless game where the cash shop has no effect on gameplay. But instead the game still has an out of box fee. This may not work out for failing MMO’s that have already existed for years, however for MMO’s that are being designed to not include subscriptions, why not use this model?

    It proves there is a form of subscriptionless MMO that can work, in my opinion.

  40. Belated addition: I suppose the microtransactions can effect PVP though, not in that you have access to overpowering goods, but you can purchase skill packs that unlock all the skills from campaigns for pure PVP characters. This, however, only applies to PVP dedicated Characters. (In GW at the start of creation you can create char’s that just have the ability to do PVP arenas and whatnot).

    PVE capable characters, however, must progress normally through the game in order to obtain gear or skills, and there are several other ways for PVP characters to gain skills, such as PVE characters on the same account learning them, or spending points gained in PVP on unlocking skills/upgrades for pure PVP characters.

    It shouldn’t take anybody who wants to unlock something particular in PVP long to unlock it for their dedi-pvp character, it’s just another option where in all my time playing I’ve never met anybody who takes advantage of it.

  41. Sisyphean says:

    I just want to add that I don’t care about trivializing accomplishments or the monetary side of things. I would probably never use the micro transactions in the first place, so I’m in the “it would ruin my experience” camp, not the “it hurts my wallet” group.

    But for me, good design is the highest possible accomplishment in a game. I appreciate well designed games like I do a well made wine or beer, on some level. And I’m not trying to claim I’m some great Connoisseur, just that I appreciate craftsmanship more than value, or whether something fits my taste perfectly.

    So my problem here is not that this sort of design cheapens my accomplishments or costs me more money, but just that it creates perverse incentives that damage the designer’s ability to find a well crafted, or at best sublime solution to their gameplay problems.

    To me, that’s what makes some games more than just entertainment or a stimulating mental challenge. In a game like Shadow of the Colossus, or Braid, or Portal, I believe the design solutions are truly sublime and illuminating. In the way they perfectly blend concept, subject matter, form, and gameplay, these games allow us to think, act, and feel in truly visionary ways.

    I’d argue that DaoC, UO, EQ, and even WoW achieve many of these same things to one degree or another, even though they all had their issues. On the other hand, while I still think it’s *possible* to achieve such visionary solutions in a F2P game, once you’re designing with these perverse incentives in mind, it becomes much more difficult and much less likely that you can achieve such brilliance.

    And don’t think I’m saying so because I believe trying to make money taints the process. I’m not the kind who thinks art and creativity is poisoned by commercial needs. It is the design goal itself that spoils things: “Design a game that makes you want to buy your way around playing it”. That is blatantly wrong on its face.

  42. dynaformer says:

    use the f2p model for what it is. i’m having a blast being a tourist in eq2 and pvp’ing in t1 warhammer. neither of those games will see a dime from me. now i can add lotro to the rotation.

    i will use gw2 rmt’s heavily to support a company with a business model that makes sense.

  43. Cacheelma says:

    @Parenon: You forgot to mention the lack of contents and overall depths of GW. Not to mention many missing basic MMO features that got left behind because the dev can’t afford to have them.

    With all those combined, the business model that GW uses CANNOT replace the Pay-2-play model.

  44. I think the future holds a lot more F2P style games and, honestly, I think it’s better. Most people aren’t interested in carrying more than their WoW subscription, so the only way for competing games to get a chance is to adopt payment models that are compatible with players’ current obligations. There will be a period of pain as the old school players wrap their heads around the new cash options, and the designers adjust their designs. In the long run more people playing more MMOs more often is not a bad thing for the industry.

  45. Music-chan says:

    I’m not trying to say “just ignore it” but I do wonder why this is ending up beind such a big deal for people. I browsed through the cash shop on Bullroarer and after purchasing some things that were completely incidental to my gameplay (a couple of outfits, some emotes, extra bank space), I was pretty much done with the shop.

    I know that on my server and in my kin alliance, the potions and deed grinds are just not going to be that big of a deal. We play to enjoy the game, not to get everything maxed out and better than everyone else. I’m sure I don’t mix with any large part of the server population but I don’t see people in SH or SG berating me because I don’t have all my virtues maxed out. People just seem more laid back then that.

    The way I see it, I can either GET Turbine points for completing deeds (and you do. 5-10 points per deed, from what I’ve seen so far) or if I really want to, though I probably won’t, I could spend some of my alloted points-per-month on something that does the same thing. Does it trivialize it? I don’t know. I think virtues are pretty trivial anyway. I still have to do the work to get all my class traits. How much of the player base in LOTRO feels the way I do? I don’t know. But at the end of the day, I just don’t see myself caring whether or not someone managed to buy a virtue from the store instead of killing 400 spiders.

  46. For me, its not “Free to Play” any more, its “F**k the Players”. It seems to me over the last 10 years, MMO’s have gone from games designed by geeks for geeks to games designed by accountants for idiots.

    Sadly though, it works well financially. Advancing your character in power is something we all strive for in our MMO’s and if an easy way is offered, people will pay for it. This is the hard truth of it and if it makes money, then games companies will do everything in their power to exploit money from their customers. Its business, it sucks but they have to keep the shareholders happy.

    If you have bought into the crap about free to play offering you a greater choice in your gaming life, well then I feel sorry for you. Keep eating the bullsh*t these companies are feeding you, I hope it tastes good.

  47. silvertemplar says:

    I’m confused, show me an example of something that does NOT “influence gameplay directly or indirectly” ?

    The ONLY example i can think of as VANITY ITEMS [like some pet or fireworks or a pink shiny cloak with no stats on it].

    Now tell me why oh why would a company make a game FREE only to sell those items to make the money?

    So to put it short: If you do not expect a F2P game’s cash store to “influence gameplay” AT ALL then you’re living in a dream world. Do you think these devs make games for charity?

  48. Who exactly is being disadvantaged here? The pure free player?

    Under the old model, in order to stay competitive and not lose your raid slot and win at pvp and generally rub all your sweet grindhorses in people’s faces, you had to go to the evil Turbine store and BUY A SUBSCRIPTION. Every month. The people who didn’t buy a subscription at the cash shop were hugely disadvantaged in things that directly and indirectly effected gameplay, such as LOGGING IN or PLAYING.

    Under the new model, the subscriber does just as before, except buying her sub also gives a pile of points in addition to access, points she can use to select new stuff, like stat boosts, or radically repriced stuff, like previously super-hard-to-get mounts. If for some reason she is a masochist, then she can refuse to spend the points on the stat buffs or the virtues or the horse, and insist on earning them the “old fashioned” way, refusing out of principle to acknowledge that the price of these items has changed over time in their MMO. Because that never happens right?

    However, that same subscriber can now choose NOT to plunk down the sub money, and instead buy only those things that she is truly interested in. If she buys the stats only, is she “buying power” relative to a current subscriber, who is free to buy the same “power” with his large allotment of points? No.

    The only person disadvantaged in this equation is the pure free player, who is permitted to play some portion of the game without paying anything. While that is his or her right, in reality, they are accessing large swaths of what was previously paid AAA content for nothing. Plus, they are hugely advantaged, from a pure price perspective, relative to both the subscriber and the cash-shop browser. It all more-or-less balances out.

    Your arguments are all ill-fitting here because they really apply to standard free-to-play games, not to a AAA subscription game offering a free-to-play option. In those instances, you don’t have a standard subscription model running alongside a free-to-play model. It’s (1) shop in the shop, or (2) suck. In LotRO it’ll be (1) subscribe like you always have, (2) shop selectively in the shop, or (3) suck. Furthermore, the standard free-to-play game’s gameplay was designed around funneling players to the shop. LotRO was designed around funneling players to the subscription page. So any argument that it is built from the ground-up to punish players for not hitting the shop just doesn’t apply.

    Lastly, are people seriously defending the noble sanctity of the grind — one of the most cynical crappy keep-you-paying design philosophies out there? Anything that burns grind to the ground is more than fine with me.

    I’m happy with Turbine. They’ve shaken up the business thinking behind MMOs a little and found something that works for them. In a market littered with still-steaming AAA corpses, that’s a good thing. For them and us as lovers of the genre.

  49. Please name me a subscription MMO that doesn’t have brutal grinds? MMOs are all about the artificial timesink that keeps you subscribed from month to month so the developers earn more cash.

    Developers have been getting more and more lazy over the years by throwing in more and more timesinks/grinds instead of creating a fun and dynamic gameplay experience.

    They crapifying of gameplay started long before the free 2 play model came about. At least F2P offers an alternative to crappy grinds: pay your way around it.

    Trust me, game devs are more interested in creating a game that hooks you in and turns you into a mindless grindbot (from EQ1 to Farmville) than anything else because it maximizes profit.

  50. Exactly. Grind is a far bigger game-killer than the option to buy out of the grind will ever be. You want to complain about business models suffocating the fun out of MMOs, I’d take a long look at the cynical grind as the main culprit. AoC’s Godslayer xpac, to take just one example, was an awful, cynical set of endless, crawling rep grinds wrapped in a kimono. Sorry. I just don’t have that kind of time or patience in 2010.

    Don’t defend the grind. Making horsies cheaper and allowing people to opt out of a rather pointless grind ain’t that big of a deal.

    The one concern I have is that the F2P crutch allows developers to wriggle out of fixing boring stuff in their games. Don’t kid yourselves: those horses were rare because it was BOOORING to try and get them. Same with virtues. They’re a pain. The F2P’s flaw is that it allows the P2P developer to leave in these broken unfun grinds rather than requiring them to revisit and tweak them to make them more entertaining.

  51. @tarinoque/Keen – “The F2P’s flaw is that it allows the P2P developer to leave in these broken unfun grinds rather than requiring them to revisit and tweak them to make them more entertaining.”

    That would be a good point if only it were true… The subscription model has been around a lot longer than the F2P model and yet MMOs have been getting more grindtastic as time has progressed.

    You can’t blame F2P for lazy gameplay design because gameplay was lazy and getting lazier long before F2P came about.

    Before F2P came around, what was a subscription developer’s incentive to get rid of the grind? None. What is their incentive now? Still none. :P

    Actually, you could look at it this way: This whole F2P thing might shine a light on lazy design / grinds and light a fire under players’ butts to demand better game design.

  52. So… then I take it you won’t be playing it anymore? I see that you’re claiming victory before the “battle” has been decided in Beta. “Mission Accomplished”?

    But really, don’t you do anything for your own personal satisfaction? So someone else bought a horse, and I fought hard for it. It doesn’t lessen my own accomplishment. You went ahead and bought a virtue, I fought hard for it. You went ahead and bought the tomes, I waited for them to drop. Again, it doesn’t lessen my accomplishment. Its not a PvP-heavy game, so I truly don’t care if someone buys them or not.

    The only point I agree with are the potions, but only on the cooldown part… make them be on the same CD’s as other potions and make the cooldown a lot longer than 10 seconds, and not just the store ones, but the craftable ones as well, otherwise the game itself will be a joke at high level as everything becomes soloable with those pots.

    But if they keep the $ high, and craftable in game, then people will PREFER to buy them from crafters instead and those crafters will make a VERY nice profit. So whether you buy them from the store or you buy them off another character? Meh.

    But again… its still beta and they could change. Heck, they could change outside of beta, too.

    If you don’t like it, though, especially this much, then show Turbine you mean business: don’t play.

  53. @Snafzg: That’s only one angle of this argument which you can’t really single out and try to disprove the entirety of the argument against F2P.

    Did you get a job working on a F2P mmo?

  54. @Keen – Definitely not working on _any_ games here, just commenting. :)

    The grind part is only one part of the argument, but it stood out as the weakest link to me based on the whole sub vs. F2P conversation going on here.

    Personally, F2P games aren’t to my taste, but if they’re going to be viable at all of course they need to charge for convenience/power items. It’s the only real way they can make money because their ship will sink if their only revenue stream is coming from vanity items.

    Obviously, this creates a bit of an interesting dynamic when your game’s audiences is a hybrid of time-rich and cash-rich players. Each have their own set of ideas on how gameplay should be rewarded. The former thinks time and effort should pay off while the latter thinks they should be able to pay to compete.

    Interestingly, I feel that time-rich gamers treat their games like more of a job than cash-rich gamers, while the latter focus on making more money at their jobs so they can afford to make their games LESS joblike.

    Weird, innit?

  55. The grind was mentioned in a comment, not the original entry, so I’m not really basing anything that I have against F2P upon it.

    LotRO has a grind element built into their virtue system. Killing lots of salamanders, for example, is part of it. It’s just an overly simple and blatant grind which isn’t always necessary.

    Grinds can be masked. Trust me.

    A F2P item to skip the grind acknowledges the grind they have is a problem. Regardless if it’s a grind or not, that item allows players to circumvent PLAYING the game.

    Using your terms, I consider myself a “time-rich” player. I don’t consider it a job. In fact, I don’t really figure my time into it at all. I enjoy the part where I earn, progress, immerse myself in, and build a character in the game and world.

  56. “Regardless if it’s a grind or not, that item allows players to circumvent PLAYING the game.”

    You have to admit, it’s marketing genius. Imagine McDonald’s started selling the McNot: for $3, they’ll sell you the privilege of not eating a cheeseburger.

  57. I refuse to judge this without playing. The label F2P is total BS, I’m not going to argue. I’m going to keep paying my subscription, enjoy my monthly shopping on the store, and wait to see if this revives the game.. If it somehow destroys the community, I’ll leave.. But somehow I don’t see the community I play with being effected. If the updates that come after F2P starts are somehow worse than the content since Moria.. I’ll call it a failure. If we get more content more often, then for me it will be a success.

    Also.. I have the misfortune to be the kin jack of all trades/alt-o-holic. I provide my kin with the flexibility to bring whatever toons we need if our raid is not balanced. I should be REWARDED for the time I’ve put into haveing 4-5 raid ready toons (radiance and all). At least I can use my free points to cover a little bit of deed grinding.

    Also- did you hate DAoC allowing veteran players to auto-level alts? Skip what, 20 levels versus skip killing 240 wargs?

  58. The monthly subscription is a bad model for a number of reasons:

    1) You basically can only play one MMO at a time.

    2) If you have any sort of busy life, your choice is to get ripped off most months, or just unsubscribe altogether.

    Cash shops aren’t “bad for games” any more than money is “bad for life.” In life, people use money as a shortcut. Why should it matter if they do the same in games?

    The whole attitude that someone who buys something you earned through time “trivializes” your accomplishment is stupid. Focus on your own fun more and what other people are doing less.

    The fact that it takes 100 hours to get a certain piece of gear trivializes my life and my family by virtue of the fact that I have to farm a boss 200 times to get a single item.

  59. I really don’t get it at all. The LOTRO/DDO ftp model does nothing but give the games more exposure to an otherwise dead audience. I have several friends that have never tried either game as they have played WOW forever and really don’t care to get involved in another subscription. Both these friends are now part of DDO and we play the game weekly. This would have never happened had the game not gone free to play. We all work, have families and simply don’t spend hours and hours in these games on a daily basis. Its refreshing to be able to jump into DDO or soon LOTRO without worrying about paying a fee to do so.
    Yes I have purchased a few modules in DDO and ran through them with my friends. Its been much cheaper in the long run than a sub, and I can get what I want out of the game when I want it. I have no interest whatsoever in 90% of the things they sell in the DDO store it effects me -ZERO-.

    For someone to sit back and look at what OTHERS can purchase for their characters is just silly IMO. It doesn’t effect you whatsoever. The game is perfectly playable without spending a dime. I don’t give a rats ass about anyone else and what they have spent on the game, I just play my toons and if I’m having fun doing so then thats all that matters to me.

  60. Joy-Energiser says:

    Wow some people just don’t get it.Free to play(or pay to win) is fundementally different from the Monthly subs in that it is designed to make money for the publisher, at the expense of World Balance.END OF STORY!

    Just stop talking shit and think for yourself for second, its stairing you right in the face.

  61. moonmonster says:

    Seriously, who cares?

    So someone blows $1k and has all maxed virtues on a level 20 character and is riding some absurdly rare mount.

    Are achievements only achievements if everyone else has to do them your way? Is your climb of Mt Everest pointless if someone can fly a helicopter up there?

  62. Joy, YOU don’t get it. How is “pay to win” any different than “no-life to win.” Is the direction we want games to go that only no life, no job, no family cat-assers who play 14 hours a day should experience the majority of the content? Really?

    F2P removes barriers to entry and re-entry, removes the stress of having to make sure you are justifying your monthly sub with how much you play, and lets you choose which areas of the game you’d like to enhance with either more content, more customization, or some boosts.

    Its that simple.

  63. I’m a level 65 hobbit minstrel on Silverlode (Along with 8 other characters). My character is fully equipped except I still have my Rift hat and legs which I need to change the legs but there’s no better hat as far as I know, maxed my virtues (Well basically did every deeds except a few in moria and misty mountain).

    I find the CS system to be fine, sure they’ll get valour rank 10 the easy way (who wants to kill trolls in MM? Eww). But at least we can feel good about earning our things the proper way, you don’t need to look at how other people achieved things, you just play the way you like it. Even if they do buy it, it’s their loss as YOU got it for FREE. I do have to agree however that having reputation items in the CS is pretty lame, it sends the message of “If we don’t like you, you can bribe us for our pony”. Like what? Lol.

    Overall the CS seems fairly stable. The only hick is that one +30 stat tome which I have no idea how that will work out, but someone mentioned we can find these in-game.

  64. Also as I will start with 4500 Turbine Points, plus a ridiculous amount if they give us TP for deeds we already did, I’ll be able to spend them on rare emotes haha.

  65. For those unaware, Reputation Mounts have been removed from the shop due to player feedback. :)

  66. “If you have bought into the crap about free to play offering you a greater choice in your gaming life, well then I feel sorry for you.”

    lol. I probably wouldn’t be playing ANY games right now if it weren’t for “F2P”. The $ itself isn’t the problem. It’s the feeling of getting ripped off if I don’t play much that month. …which then makes me “want to get my money’s worth,” so then I’d probably opt not to play At All to avoid playing too much. …so does “F2P” give me more gaming choice? Absolutely. It’s ala carte`. Of Course it’s giving me more choice.

    The “pay2win” argument is flawed on a PVE game because it has little bearing on other people’s gameplay. You can’t buy uber stuff in LOTRO anyway, but let’s say you could. …so what? You’d have to try pretty hard to come up with a situation that it even matters much to someone else. The only way you’d know if I EZ-moded to level 100 and my purples is if I told you anyway.

    Do you guys despise God mode in single-player games too? Do you want me to waste 10 hours or simply quit in frustration trying to get past some bs part of a game? Does it make you all upset knowing I finished Doom faster than you did because I “cheated”? Well, hey, too bad.

    I’ve considered going back to WoW because I heard the bs attuning to get into various raids is easier now. Making the game easier so casual players will play and have some fun… oh noes! At least they didn’t make it F2P, right?

  67. Well Keen, I should’ve have listened to you instead of trusting Turbine/WB.

    The coming update seems to be built entirely around increasing cash shop opportunities…for subscribers!

    The LI system is being 100% monetized…oh, and there are awesome new “cure all” pots for sale as well.

    Never mind the game never being f2p…I figured end game for me as a subscriber would cost $30 a month. Ha!

    It means I left the game I loved last week feeling a little older and a little bitter.

  68. Sorry to hear that. :(

  69. The Merovingian says:

    I’ve been flamed to hell by the “fanboys” and even got a warning on the official European forums when I warned about how much the cash shop will affect gameplay.
    Sadly, I was right. I was even rather optimistic compared to reality.
    So I totally agree with you, free to play dumbs down games badly. I also consider it as a betrayal towards loyal customers who pay to play the game for years. If Turbine had been even remotely smart, something I don’t they there were since Asheron’s Call 1, they would have made only specific servers working on the cash shop model, and left the others on the old “pay to play” model.
    I have a lifetime account on LOTRO Europe. I used to play on a RP server, too, Laurelin. That’s another thing F2P ruined. I had also warned about that, said that the “F2P” crowd is a totally different animal than the usual crowd. I got flamed for that too, telling me to be tolerant, give them a chance, etc… and again, I was right. The RP server is totally ruined by kiddies and people who didn’t even read server descriptions, and of course, codemasters do nothing as it means more money for them.

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