On Par with Radiance? What Has the Pursuit of Group Content Cost Us?

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Greetings, everyone! 🙂

From its very beginning, the path to Mordor was fraught with peril for those of the Fellowship of the Ring.  Likewise, the path toward Mordor taken by Turbine also has its risks and perils.  How much development to put toward one aspect of gameplay over another cannot be an easy decision to make!

There have always been some who have asserted that the creation of what would be considered ‘traditional’ group content (Instances and Raids) was a waste of precious development time, money, and other resources.

Recently, some very concrete details regarding this issue, along with a concise statement by Sapience that there will be no more development of this type of content, were given during one of the latest Shield runs through Moria.

Have those who have argued against this type of content been right all along?  Has a mistake, on par with that of the Radiance system, been committed by the LOTRO team with the creation of this content?

Let’s have a look 🙂

So, what was this ‘Radiance’, anyway? 🙂

Radiance was a mechanic solely devoted to raiding.  The idea was that, in the most dangerous places of Middle-earth, you would need armor forged in such a way that the Dread that would otherwise overwhelm you, from being so near to the great evils of the world and within their lairs, could be held at bay.  Radiance armor let you stay standing, and in control of yourself, as you forged ahead into battle against those great evils.

In essence, Radiance was a gating mechanism that guided the player through the storyline of the Instances meant to come before these great battles (Raids).  Players were awarded Radiance armor, piece by piece, by working through the various Instances, until they had earned enough of it to try the Raids themselves.

Radiance was not a very popular system amongst the players, and Turbine eventually issued a Radiance Removal Developer Diary that was essentially an unprecedented level of apology to the players for the instituting of the system.  Some excerpts from the diary:

The request for Radiance was also made late enough in the Moria cycle that we left no time to respond appropriately to what was delivered.  Quickly, we began to slap-patch the system into something that resembled what we originally desired.
We thought we could salvage the work we put into Radiance and have the system gain acceptance. As it turns out, we were wrong –very wrong.
You, the players, hated Radiance. In fact, there has never been such a polarizing and definitively poorly received implementation as Radiance.
At that point we resigned ourselves to pulling out Radiance. We knew it was a failure and we wanted to no longer keep it in the game.
I am happy to report, finally, that Radiance has been removed from the game.
However, this is a point where we need to admit that we made a mistake. And with that mistake in mind we shall forge ahead, mindful of the error that we made and fueled by a desire to never repeat it again.

Clearly, many of these statements closely parallel the decision to no longer continue the production of traditional group content.  Was an error in judgement made in pursuing this content?  Is an admitting to an error in the choice of creating and maintaining traditional group content also warranted?

To my mind, it comes down to the matter of scale…

So, what sort of scale are we talking? 🙂

In one of the threads that developed as part of a discussion of this matter, Sapience gave some details from which I feel we can determine the exact proportion, to the percentage point, of the player base that partakes in this type of content:

Raiders comprise the smallest, by far, group in our game. PvMP players are far larger and even they are small. in fact together the two groups wouldn’t comprise 10% of the total player base and never have (this is important. it’s not a new thing, it’s a long standing historical fact).

So, we know that the sum of all raiders and PvMP players can be no more than 9% of the player base.  In addition to this, we know that the PvMP players make up a ‘far larger’ proportion than the raiders.  A 5/4 split would not account for being far larger.  We could say it is 6/3, but given the fact that the sum might be less than 9%, and the strong wording regarding how much lower the raider count is than the PvMP count, I think we can safely use 2% as our number.  It is likely even lower than that, but we will use that for now 🙂

Now, I am not really a ‘numbers’ person, and many reading this may not be as well.  It is one thing to ‘know’ that only 2% of the players partake in traditional group content, but it is another to understand what that really means, to really have a proper perspective on that number.  So, I came up with some thought experiments to help me, and anyone reading this, to have a better appreciation for what this means.

1.  First, think of someone you know that engages in group content.  It may be you, or someone you know.  Now…

…name 49 other players who never have engaged in group content.  Obviously, it will be harder to ‘name’ them, both due to the number being that much greater, but also because, since they do not engage in as much group activity, they are likely not as widely known.  By ‘name’ I more mean to recognize that they are here in these lands with us.  When you go to the festivals, for the one person you know (maybe yourself) that engages in group content, you will see 49 other players, on average, that do not.

When you or the person you know who engages in group content may be crafting away at a crafting hall, you will (over time and average) see 49 other crafters there with you who do not.  Of course, if you know an additional person who is a grouper, there are another 49 additional players who are not as well.  This ratio has been consistent over the whole history of these precious lands, and so these numbers apply at all times throughout that history as well.

2.  Think of a time when you took part in a 12-person endeavor…

Maybe it was the Giant Turtle in Moria, a run through one of the wings of Helegrod to fetch tokens for armor, or perhaps in taking part in one of the LOTRO Players Adventures.  Now, consider…

…for the 12 of you that were a part of this endeavor, there are 588 other players who never take part in this sort of content.  It is difficult to imagine that kind of scale, but that is how the numbers work out.  And, of course, that means that, for every other group of 12 players that does so, there are another 588 players who do not.  Hard to imagine, no? 🙂

As difficult as it is, however, it is the case given these numbers.

One final one, and the one that really did it for me, I think because it involves another aspect of the game.

3.  Imagine those 12 players that took part in that one 12-person endeavor all have houses in the same housing neighborhood…

Not as a kinship in a kinhall, but separate houses, one for each of the 12.  This is certainly not unimaginable as I know more than one kinship who, between their members, owns all or nearly all of the housing in their neighborhood as well.  For ease of thought, let us assume their district is the first one on the alphabetical listing.

  • If we assume that every single house is occupied by a different player in all of the districts, and…
  • You were to send someone to look at every single house, both their lawn and inside of each home…

…in the rest of that first district, and in more than the next 22 districts on the housing list, you would not see a single housing item earned through group content play.  This one blew me away, especially when you consider it would actually be a far greater number than 22, due to the following:

  • Housing items from group content are quite rare.  Very few instances have them, only one person per group endeavor can get them, and many of the items are very, very rare
  • Some may have won such trophies but choose not to display them for a variety of reasons.  I am in this group.  Who wants some nasty thing in their house, right? 🙂

So, we know that only 2% of the player base engages in this type of content and have an appreciation for that number.  But there is still one more thing to consider before we can come to our final analysis.

What percentage of that 2% is here for group content solely and remain only due to that content?  How many of these players would have left these lands if the creation of traditional group content had ended years ago?  How many will leave now that it has?

Take me, for example 🙂

This is a snapshot of my barter wallet from nearly a year ago…

I also am co-founder and leader of the Skirmish Repertory Company, which performed a full season of all the raid-skirmish theatricals (even Icy Crevasse!), finishing the year with many encore performances of Why Hoarding a Horde of Coins is a Drag on the Economy – The Draigoch Story 🙂

Clearly, I belong in the 2% who engage in group content 🙂

Yet, at the same time, I also:

  • am a member of one of Landroval’s oldest bands, the Green Hill Music Society, winner of Weatherstock’s Crowd Favorite title in past years and which celebrated its 5 year anniversary last year 🙂
  • while I do not compose or arrange music myself, I write lyrics for the songs composed by others to sing at our concerts and other gatherings
  • keep a journal of my travels in these lands and many other aspects of my time here as well 🙂
  • am currently running The Spirit Gauntlet, a solo perma-death campaign told by way of a pictorial journal [Maybe 900 pictures and 60,000 words so far?  I do not have the current count 🙂 ]
  • was awarded the Fashionista’s Choice award for 2012, have contributed numerous outfits to the Show Your Outfits thread on the forums, and also have a Fashion page with my journal as well
  • have participated in many of Turbine’s Screenshot Contests and even won a few 🙂
  • am a heavy role-player as well, ever trying to unite the Sun and the Moon, the two aspects of these lands most often seen as diametrically opposed
  • contribute to the Free Peoples’ side in the Ettenmores (though the state of my looking-glass precludes this for now)
  • write Guides to aid the community, Tales to share with others, attend festivals, gatherings, fishing contests, and I had best stop now or this list will go on forever 🙂

My days are filled to here with so many things to do that it is forever a struggle to even see to half of them. While I am certainly a ‘grouper’, part of that 2%, I certainly cannot be defined by that alone.

It is the same with most every person I know who participates in group content as well. They are also musicians, role-players, attendees of social gatherings and festivals, hosts and hostesses of parties, contests, and so much more.

While I am sure there are some who care only for group content and, sadly, will leave, I cannot imagine that very many will. If we use a very conservative estimate, saying that only 50% of the group content audience would/will remain in these lands now that no more ‘traditional’ group content will be developed, we can come to the conclusion that…

…less than 1% of the entire player base would have been lost if this content was never developed. 1 out of 100, 10 out of 1,000, 5,000 out of 500,000.

It is a sad day when even a single person leaves because they are not fulfilled in these lands, of course. Neither the developers, nor the players, should be happy for it. At the same time, what was the cost for producing 7+ years of this type of content in order to retain less than 1% of the player base?

In the Final Analysis…

 Radiance…

  • Affected, at most, only 2% of the player base, and likely much fewer than that, as it only came into play during the most difficult raids
  • Affected only three small areas out the entire landscape of Middle-earth:  the Watcher’s Lair, Dar Narbugud, and Barad Guldur
  • Was in existence from the launch of Moria (November 18, 2008) until March 18, 2011, so only 2 years and 4 months out of 7+ years so far 🙂
  • The in-game effect of Radiance was very, very slight.  The development time was greater, of course, but all in all, it was a very minor system
  • Not everyone in the 2% who were affected by Radiance hated it.  I thought it was a good measuring stick to determine how prepared you were to face tougher challenges.  A good many went to battle with the Watcher straightaway once Radiance was removed and did not fare very well

When you consider that there were, at least, 588 other players for every 12 who ever ventured into places where Radiance was a factor, and account for the time taken for the battles in those three lairs (maybe 30 minutes, 3 hours and 3 hours, respectively), the cumulative effect on player-time from Radiance has to be so small that it could hardly be measured.  Maybe something like .000001% of all the seconds spent by all of the players in LOTRO have been affected by Radiance [that is a wild guess, but you see my point 🙂 ]

Looking back on it now, given all of this, it is difficult to imagine that the complaints against Radiance even measured highly enough to be noticed by Turbine, really.  It would be only small percentages combined who would have complained at all:  at most 2% of the player base, then the percentage that actually disliked it, then the percentage of those whom actually took the time to complain about it at all, and so on.

To remove Radiance and write a developer diary of an apologetic nature regarding it, under these circumstances, cannot be termed anything but extraordinary.

The Development of Group Content…

I do not think it is a stretch of the imagination, in any way, to say that the development of group content has affected every single second, of every single player, from the very first day of these lands.  The time spent developing this content was time not spent developing content for the other 99% of players who would enjoy it.  And that development time has always been considerable.

Consider the comments of Sapience and HoarseDev when the question of what it takes to create and test a raid came up in the same Shield run:

 “A huge amount of time and resources. It takes animators, it takes artists, it takes QA, it takes play teams, it takes repeated play testing, it takes huge and massive amounts of tech to get all hooked up and tested out. It is incredibly time consuming, most people would be shocked at how time consuming it really is.”  —  Sapience

 

“Raids are an order of magnitude larger and are vastly more risky than anything else. They are definitely on a level all their own.”  —  HoarseDev

I realize he may have just been using ‘order of magnitude’ as a figure of speech, but it is likely true that the development of traditional group content takes ten times as much of an effort, more or less, than any of the other systems developed for these lands.  The question is, knowing this and knowing that, at most, 2% of the players were using it, consistently over time, why did Turbine continue to pursue it?

That is not all, however.  It is very likely true that the development of group content affected virtually every single second of time even before the first day the servers opened.  From the initial idea to create a world based on this story, and to the very last day of development before time began in Middle-earth, the developers’ mindset, time and actions were affected by group content and how to bring it about.

How many more regions of Middle-earth would have come to life if the time to produce traditional group content pre-launch had been used for that instead?  How many additional hobbies might there have been?  How many more musical instruments, quests, story-lines, and,cosmetics?  Well, around ten times as much for every moment spent on developing group content, it would seem.  But that is not all.

Even though no more new content of this type will be developed, how much time will be spent to maintain it, time spent that could have gone to other things?  But that is not all, either.

What has been the cost of gating the best armor and items to wear behind this content, alienating at least some of the other 98% of the player base that does not take part in group content at all?  What has been the cost of having currencies like Marks, Medallions and Seals be earned at either a far greater pace or outright exclusively from this content that less than 2% of the player base uses?  That is not all either, but it is enough to give an idea of the cost.

In fairness, you cannot blame Turbine for trying this, of course.  After all, other games have developed ‘traditional’ group content, and done so successfully.  It would not be termed as ‘traditional’ if that were not the case, right? 🙂

But, given what we know, regarding the tiny amount of players who actually used the content, and that it was known that so few used it even back then, why did its production continue for so long?  While the developers were wrestling with the relatively small issue of Radiance, an issue infinitely larger had surrounded them that they either could not or would not see.  Sadly, it was a costly one for us all.

We are at a crossroads.  Looking back we can see what might have been.  But, looking forward, now that this difficult decision has finally been made, we can see a brighter future as well.  Sadly, some will leave us, and something that a very small percentage of us enjoyed will no longer continue to be renewed.

But, with that time devoted to things that the great majority wish to see, we can look forward to a great increase in those things to come!  More regions developed, more quests and stories to be told.  More systems that we can all share in as we continue on our path toward Mordor and beyond!

Onwards, to Gondor!

36 comments

  1. Fredelas /

    I think it’s a mistake of Turbine not to consider LOTRO as a connected ecosystem of players. While it may seem cost-effective to focus only on activities the largest segments of the community participate in, alienating the smaller segments will eventually affect us all.

    For example, I believe the lack of attention to group content and PvMP led directly to the low quality of the class trait and skill changes introduced with Helm’s Deep. Without considering situations where using these skills really matters, the resulting implementation was hasty and not nearly as good as it should have been.

    This may not have had much practical effect on players just leveling up, or even participating in Epic Battles, where the precise choice and balance of class traits and skills has less of an impact. But players of all types still noticed the decline in quality.

    Group combat in PvE and PvP are also considered by many as hallmarks of a “real” MMORPG, regardless of how many players actually participate in them. When Turbine ignores these types of game play, I get the sense that potential future players and even the media regard LOTRO as nothing more than a novelty. It’s no longer worthy of serious consideration, except perhaps by a few die-hard Tolkien fans.

    I’m not implying that raiders and PvMPers behave like sharks, but if you removed all of the apex predators from the ocean, the entire ecosystem would gradually collapse.

    • Tinybel /

      If you look at WOW, a game heavily pushing raids, i think there is some truth to that.
      Raid participation on difficulties higher than LFR is really low there too, on normal and heroic modes we’re approaching the single digit number of Lotro according to some Armoury extrapolation at MMO Champion.
      Yet it’s not inconcievable WOW would lose more than half their players if they scrapped raids in total.
      It’s basically like a carrot to people even if they never participate.

      That being said what i think Lotro is missing is not so much group content in itself but challenging content.
      After the class changes and gear changes you have all that nice gear that is completely pointless outside of PMVP.
      So far I’ve not seen a single duo or solo quest you would need anything like good gear for.
      And even in Epic battle it’s at best a minor help.

      • Tinybel /

        And yeah no matter what Turbine says I’m pretty sure the whole thing is about resources or at least about justifying resources.

  2. Eirlog Musclegut /

    I wonder if some of the numbers put forth by Turbine are fully accurate, or if they may be somewhat misleading.

    What exactly do they mean by “active player base”? For example, I have 13 toons on 2 different servers. I do regularly group, but only on 3 toons due to a variety of reasons. Some toons are only crafters, some I don’t play that often, and some (such as my lvl 95 warden) I avoid large groups because it’s difficult to play the character properly (e.g., gambits) on my antiquated computer with the amount of lag I get. Am I considered one “active player” or am I considered 3 of 13 who group.

    How active do you need to be to be considered active? My 9-yr old daughter has her own account (I know, we have probably broken some rules there – shhh don’t tell), she has gotten through the intro, but hasn’t played all that much. She hasn’t run any group content as she finds the game as a 9-yr-old too complex and will try again when she’s a bit older. Do they count her toon/account? How about all the characters who have tried it out as a f2p game, then decided to leave? If you add up all of those accounts/toons over the past 3 mos (6 mos, year? we don’t know how long you have to go without logging in to be considered active) that could considerably skew the data. It would be interesting to see the stats involving accounts who have spent real-world money in the last 3 months or something like that.

    They have repeatedly used the term “raiders”. Does this mean players who run traditional 12-man raids? I have only run 12-man raids on 3 of my 13 toons in the last year, but have run other group instances or skirmishes on most of them (apart from the crafters) whether it’s 3-mans, 6-mans, or 12-mans with less than 12 (over-leveled Rift/ToO runs for example). I wonder if this data counts as the less than 10% raiders & PvmPers. There are many people, and until quite recently it included me, who run 3 & 6-man content regularly, but avoid the raids (lag, difficulty getting one going etc…).

    I fully understand that producing instances is a remarkable undertaking that requires (probably) more resources than Turbine has available. And, you know what, I’m OK with the new content not including new instance clusters (as long as the scaling ones they do have continue to scale to the level cap).

    Clear data would be informative, but I also understand that as a private business, Turbine isn’t under any obligation to disclose their data. They will do what they feel is the best business practice for their business. Some of the player base (and probably some of the devs) will disagree with their decisions, but that’s just the way of things and we’ll just have to “suck it up” and play what’s available – or find something else to play.

    I’m staying right where I am.

    And I’m very jealous of your barter wallet.

    Eirlog Musclegut
    Co-leader of May it Be of Riddermark
    Member of the Adventurers of Braxwood of Landroval
    Wearer of Cakehats

    • Baldigar /

      I think that how they interpret the data is the most important part of all of this, but at this point, I don’t think they will change how they read it. And I don’t think the outcome will change either way.
      -Is each player counted, and how is a player counted? By level?
      -Are only accounts that have a player at an appropriate level counted?
      -What about accounts that dont even have access to the content?
      -Is the only thing looked at how many times an instance is run, or is it how frequently, or what?
      -Is build-up content to get ready for instances considered?

      We will never know this, but it absolutely can skew the data at a horrific rate. An example of the worst case (if Turbine looked at the data as looking at each player, regardless of level or owned content):
      I have about 15 total accounts (for more housing and such) all of them (give or take a few) are Premium, thanks to the free 14-day trial VIP they gave a while back. Only one of them is actually used for playing, yet all of them have characters at or above level 15, and have at one point had content to the group content. If they looked at all of these characters to see how often the group content was played, they would be very wrong in their readings. Of my probably 40 or so characters, I only group on like 3 of them (yet I have about 12 characters above level 50), and I haven’t grouped in a long time because there isn’t much reason to. So I alone could give the sense that only 3/40 players do group content, when I am only 1 person, and I don’t want to and cant play on all of those characters.

      Sure, some of these such as the content not being owned can be interpreted as players being uninterested, but the fact that they see no one running the instances will of course lessen the likelihood that the content will actually be bought.

      The point is, unless they tell us how they interpreted the data, which they may not be allowed to do, we will never really believe it, or at least not be content with it. I think that’s all I have to say and there could potentially be obvious flaws, but what’s done is done, and I will still play no matter. (To be cynical, that might be another reason they are doing it; they have a fan base that will stick through whatever, so they will just make the cheapest content :P)

      Thank you for writing this article. It helps to put the situation into perspective, no matter how outrageous that seems. 😀

  3. Thraorin /

    I’m just wondering how Epic Battles fit into this. Does this mean those will be only solo/duo from now on?
    So far I guess they haven’t been received that well … is it worth for Turbine to put further development work into those or are they just as doomed as everything else instance-wise?

  4. Leafblade /

    It would be a grave mistake to take those numbers put forth by Rick Heaton at face value. When asked what the ‘other 91%’ do, no answer was given. When other clarifying questions were asked, answers were not given. When you consult the research done in the Daedalus Project, over half of all players have a tendency to group. I think you’ve put a lot of effort into pondering a theory that is, unfortunately, based on faulty, misleading, and misrepresented data from someone who had an agenda that didn’t include being straight with people.

  5. Goblinsbane /

    I also wonder how they count it. For example I am not big fan of group content. I hate specially fs quests put inside quest line that was mainly solo, which was happening very often in old times. IMO special fs areas are much better (like Limlight Gorge).

    I have played 12 person raid only once, cause my kin needed one more man. 6-mans I played only when I needed some deeds (almost exclusively in Moria). I have many bestowed fs quests that I have never made. Some I have just soloed some time later.

    So do they count me to that 2 prc or not? Or do they count only that toon on which I made that 12 person raid? Or maybe they count how many people active in a given month made some raids? Then I wouldn’t have been counted cause I havent raided for many months. No idea.

    The biggest problem with group content is finiding a group. I am in biggest kin on my server and even my kinnies have sometimes problem with finidng 6 people (12 is rarely done). The same is with finding people for fs quests. I still haven’t finished Limlight Gorge with even one toon cause there is usually not enough people interested with it.

    In my personal opinion group content is bad idea. When I reached 95 I soloed Fornost in which I never played. Beatiful, awsome instances which would be great as part of solo questline (maybe with a few npc’s to add drama). I was really sad that these instances are not normal part of ND because I love questlines in that game, they are often well written, nicely planned (specially areas released in last 2-3 years or redesigned). IMO many MMO RPG’s should learn from LOTRO how to design questlines, how limit needless travelling. Not long ago I decided to try Age of Conan – nicely made game, but quests are extremely chaotic and travelling is in some cases very stupid.

    But I understand that there are people who like raids and instances. So I would never demand removing that content. Although I will be always sad that Fornost is not normal questing area 🙂

  6. Goblinsbane /

    Forgot to answer that one 🙂

    “But, given what we know, regarding the tiny amount of players who actually used the content, and that it was known that so few used it even back then, why did its production continue for so long? ”

    Maybe because that raiding/instance players are most active group. Maybe that content keeps people longer in game. In Age of Conan which has terrible solo content IMO, some people play already a few years. They all raid and PvP. Top level is 80, like 6 years ago, but there are added new tiers of raids and equipment (tier V was announced last month). Solo content is used by players only to grind new toon. So game is alive because of group content and as I noticed devs invest only in that and PvP.

    Personally, I prefer Lotro approach. I am RPG type of player, I love stories, like reading them. Running every day in group and fighting with bosses that have stupidly high morale is not interesting for me :). For me fighting is just an addition to stories.

  7. Bango /

    An an avid raider I too was dismayed with raidance and, via the codemasters forum I used to make by views well known on the subject. It’s always been my opinion that radiance did more to fragment the community and create a “them and us” than any other aspect of game design during MoM and SoM.

    That being said, this entire article is based on a false premise, which is of course that this “less than 5%” of the entire lotro playerbase partakes in any form of group pve content.

    Really? The vast majority of people I’ve known on Laurelin have grouped in one way shape or form.

    This “2%” is just a convenient smokescreen that too many in the community have swallowed without any backup of the evidence. Far more probable is that Paiz’s strategy for LOTRO was an utter failure, the total player base now being much smaller cannot they just cannot afford to develop any content that they can’t churn out as the lowest possible price.

    So, in keeping with Easy Jet and Buget RentaCar, this once great MMO is now a budget version, catering to the lowest common denominator – store items, rep grinds and other mechanics to stretch out a story until 2017 when the licence will be renewed – assuming of course that the settlement between WB, Saul Zantez Enterprises & the Tolkien Estate does not make even this limited option unprofitable.

    Rather than get obsessed around the 2%, why is the community not demanding from Turbine a long term vision for the game that delivers solo & group pve content (don’t count the farmville’esque big battles) that it’s main competitors seem to be able to do without having to resort to such nonsense.

  8. RedMaggu /

    “Was an error in judgement made in pursuing this content? Is an admitting to an error in the choice of creating and maintaining traditional group content also warranted?”

    IMO Turbine admitting to an ‘error of choice’ in creating grouped instances in an MMO game is pushing it a little. This is one of the defining points of the genre, if Turbine made a mistake in including group content, the game as a whole should never have been an MMO, rather a single player RPG.

    Further I agree there are other things to do in LOTRO, but they all work together; ignoring any one element can be detrimental to all aspects of the game.

    Personally I enjoy all aspects apart from PvMP; but the main thing that keeps me playing is grouping, after all, this is an MMO. With this off the table I’ll likely just treat Lotro as a single player story based game and only play when new content comes out, un sub, wait for next update etc.

    What saddens me is that it could’ve been so different; other MMOs like Rift release loads of group content, have tons to do and have an insanely generous F2P model… so Lotro must’ve done something wrong somewhere

  9. Fredelas /

    I think it’s counterproductive to squabble over exact numbers or to ascribe potential motivations to theoretical revenue streams.

    Whether it’s 2% or 20%, I believe these minority play styles are important to the overall health of the game and its diverse community.

    • Andang /

      Agreed. If they ignore all the small groups, there will not be a big group left.

      • Kevin /

        one thing to consider in all this is the layoffs that occurred earlier this year. I was listening to an interview of a a couple of developers who where doing a kickstarter campaign. These developers worked on Lotro and were let go go during the layoffs and one of them made the statement that Lotro’s dev team was effectively cut in half. And if that is true then there were a lot of hard decisions that had to be made and probably shelving raids and instances for now was one of those.

    • JeremyR /

      See, I’m the opposite. I think raiders essentially ruin the game for the rest of the player base, and the game will be better off as soon as they stop the incessant whining and move on to another game where they are actually welcome

      • Baldigar /

        Stopping development of raids does not mean that raiders are not welcome; if all instances were removed, then maybe, but they wont do that. As for who ruins the game, I think it’s whoever attacks another group. I really don’t see raiders wanting less landscape content, but I see a lot of solo’ers/RP’ers and many others(although not as outspoken) being more polar than raiders. They want raids gone completely… that is very hostile and detrimental.

      • Fredelas /

        Will you quietly run off to another game as soon as Turbine decides that the kinds of activities you enjoy in LOTRO are no longer cost-effective to develop and support?

        Or will you present the case that the activities you enjoy add value to the game as a whole?

  10. Eirlog Musclegut /

    One of the things that drew me toward LOTRO, as opposed to WoW or other MMOs was the collaborative aspect – Players were genuinely trying to help each other, rather than inhibit their progress.

    Group content only helps that sense of community (which Turbine is, quite rightly, apt to promote).

    Whether it’s grouping in a 2-man “fellowship” on the landscape to grind slayer deeds, or trying a (gulp) T2 Challenge Flight to the Lonely Mountain run at level cap, the ability to find a friend, or multiple friends, and join together to battle evil is the heart of this game. Hopefully, as we venture into Gondor and beyond, that spirit does not change – no matter what form the grouping takes.

  11. Jim /

    For a different perspective, it’s been the recent move towards making the game more solo friendly that has really made it a success for me. My first attempt to play LOTRO ended up with me running into the mandatory grouping and giving up in frustration. I tried playing it again recently and have been loving it – I couldn’t be happier with the focus being on solo and small group stuff.

    • Kickman /

      But that is where you are wrong. It is not recently that they were making the game solo friendly. They started doing that 4 years ago when they made the epics aoloable. The group content was still being generated at that point as well. It was only recently that it wa decided No more raids and instances. Then a number was given (thrown out) to me as a an excuse. No one can explain why if that number ha been the same for 7 years did it take 7 years for them to notice it.

      What they have done i segregated their own community where I feel it i beyond repair. There are people on Turbines official forums that as soon as the words raid and or grouping appear it is as if the power of Sauron summons them to the thread to throw that percentage in peoples faces. These posters demoralize the official forums more so than any troll ever ha because it appears as if they go on unmoderated while those who ask simple questions have threads closed.

      It also appears that Turbine is going for the quickest dollar. The drive by gamer who only spends 6 hours in game a week but pays 100 bucks a month for mounts and cosmetic pets. These players do not care about raids, and usually when they get to a certain point they move on to another game. So the players whom helped build this world and were with it since the begining are essentially ignore for a quick buck.

      So now we as players are stuck with a grind for pets that may not cause server lag but unless you turn off the option your machine needs to render them causing you lag, so, if you have to turn them off, most players will only see their personal pet. Where is the fun in that… You have a grind of 5 random quests to stand before the ultra flawed RNG and pray to the gods of RNG rolls that you are lucky enough to get something, and a faction of forum posters who love rainbows in the shire and will denounce anyone that wants to see others in a MMO. Sadly… when these players can spread flase information such as “Lotro is marketed as a single player game” and nothing is done, it shows the true direction this game has gone.

      Sadly, it is a direction I was not headed.

    • Meramir /

      Giving up in frustation is indeed a valid point, and I can imagine that has happened for MANY players. The solution however is very debatable IMO. Turbine chooses to give up on grouping rather than improving grouping so people can play together without getting these frustrations.

  12. At the risk of being called a naive fanboi, I’d like to point out that all of the conclusions about traditional group content *never* coming back are based on us trying to “connect the dots” on two separate pieces of information given at two separate times that Sapience specifically said should not be connected.

    Each time the question about traditional group content has been asked, the answer has always (that I’ve heard, anyway – link me if I’m wrong) been qualified with “for the foreseeable future”, which does not include the non-foreseeable future, or the period of time beyond the near-term roadmap.

    The statistics that everybody is debating were specifically called out as *not* the sole reason that traditional group content is being avoided currently. You can choose to believe that or not. I’m strictly looking at what we’ve been told.

    Not only that, but we’re extrapolating the theory that the statistics *are* in fact the reason for the change in direction further into the future than even Turbine themselves can see.

    The entire statement that “we will never again see traditional group content in LOTRO” is based on several assumptions being made by people without access to any data (us) and only a handful of questionable assumptions. Personally, I think it’s a shaky foundation upon which to build a conclusion that seems to be causing so much angst. I’m not saying that the conclusion will end up being incorrect, but it is not what we’ve been told to this point by Turbine. I have yet to find a single instance of someone on the Turbine payroll who’s told us that LOTRO will never, ever, have traditional group content again.

    • slight clarification, I went back and looked again:

      > The statistics that everybody is debating were specifically called out as *not* the sole reason that traditional group content is being avoided currently

      Actually, it was the economic feasibility that was specifically called out as not being the sole purpose for abandoning raids in the short term. However, since the statistics being quoted are directly linked to the basis of the financial decisions being made, I believe the rest of my post still stands.

    • Baldigar /

      “Personally, I think it’s a shaky foundation upon which to build a conclusion that seems to be causing so much angst. I’m not saying that the conclusion will end up being incorrect, but it is not what we’ve been told to this point by Turbine. I have yet to find a single instance of someone on the Turbine payroll who’s told us that LOTRO will never, ever, have traditional group content again.”
      I think we don’t want to believe that it is so that wholeheartedly, but I think interpreting it as so will spare grief if we don’t get any at all or even soon. We can rejoice if it comes back (if we’re still here), but we can move on (from the game, or from group content) if we believe it isn’t coming back.
      Also, it wouldnt make sense for them to outright say they never will, because once they get to Mordor, they might need to make this game more traditional (meaning raids) and less about lore in order to pay the bills and get new people (which actually might be a good move). Plus if they promise they wont have any, if they don’t keep that, that’s yet another promise we wont see kept, so I think they’re intentionally being conservative; it’s just annoying because we do want a definitive answer. To be cynical, they probably wouldn’t ever say they are completely stopping traditional group content forever, simply because that would cut the last ties with anyone still having on for hope, as well as not bringing in anyone new that wants group content, because I’m fairly sure that would be publicized and word would get around.

    • Triski /

      Braxwulf, this post on the official forums is where Sapience said “no more raids and we’re not going to allow any more questions about this topic”. It’s from June 26.

      https://www.lotro.com/forums/showthread.php?550043-SHIELD-Dwarf-Runs-through-Moria-Q-amp-A-Notes-on-What-Was-Said&p=7190182#post7190182

      • Triski /

        Further down in that same thread, Sapience talks about the 8 years of data that they are using as a “fact” for their “no more raids ever” decision.

        https://www.lotro.com/forums/showthread.php?550043-SHIELD-Dwarf-Runs-through-Moria-Q-amp-A-Notes-on-What-Was-Said&p=7190211#post7190211

      • Thanks Triski. Those words certainly seem to indicate a finality to the issue. I just wonder why that answer is inconsistent with the other 20-30 times the question was answered, when they were always so careful to qualify it? And is a clearly frustrated and fatigued community manager really the one who should be delivering a direction change of this magnitude?

        It seems that Sap is saying 2 different things. 1. No raids (or clusters, outside of the occasional random 3-man?) unless the percentages change drastically, And 2. The answer is the same as it’s always been – which is not true if #1 is true, because they’ve always said “in the forseable future” before. So which do we choose to believe?

        At this point I’m not sure, but I still think it’s far from clear. I’d surely rather hear news like this from someone who is actually involved in setting strategic direction.

  13. Lewis /

    Can I ask where 2% came from? the original quote from sapience said each accounted for <10% each. I.e. Total up to 20%. Now subsequently chose 2% and the resulting maths from that. (we use maths in the UK not math).

    Ask not what group content has cost us over the years, ask what its absence is costing us now. eg. Player numbers at an all time low, developer resources at all time low. Game quality at all time low. Raids and group content is seen by many MMO fans as an essential part of the game and each expansion. Its seen as a massive whole in the LOTRO repertoire now. They chose to change our traits into generic trees to attract players from other MMO's, because they would be used to them. However lack of raids means the retention of those players is low.

    They didn't want to abandon raids and grouping, they though Epic Battles would do it instead. They just made really unpopular epic battles, and won't go back on that decision.

    • Runesi /

      I believe the original quote from Sapience said that raiders and PvPers combined make up < 10% with the majority of that group being PvPers. At the very least that would mean "raiders" being only 4%.

  14. Onno /

    It’s interesting that Turbines so called community manager managed to turn the focus away from the oliphaunt in the room: that most of the servers are empty, that there’s hardly anyone left in the game. Instead, everybody still interested in LoTRO is now asking, how were these so called facts established, and if it’s 2 %, or rather 6 %, or even up to a shocking 20 %, or if it was much higher 6 years ago. But this really does not matter, because LoTRO is on it’s last legs, and some new landscape (which is rather small and was shaped mostly with old Shadow-of-Angmar-assets) will not change that. (That’s a fact, and there’s a less than 10 % chance that I’m wrong ^^)

  15. davidt /

    Can instance/raid development in an MMO be compared to racing development in an automotive company?

  16. The Nimrodelian Tale-Spinner /

    A few things.

    1.) Another interesting thought provoking article Kaleigh on par with your LI article.

    2.) I am a little curious on the statistics as well because there seems to me to be a difference between raiders/pvpers and casual groupers. And while I am willing to believe that only 2% of the player base takes or took part regularly in the high end raids. I am less willing to believe that only 2% took part in your vanilla 6 person/3 person instance on a regular basis. So I wonder if Sapience’s comment was only meant for the high end raiding kins and not your casual grouper?

    3.) The problem with Lotro at the moment as I see it and the reason that I am seeing less playing time, is that it is a journey without a destination. It is all fine and good to add 5 or 10 levels of landscape/casual content with each release and it’s great while it lasts but what then? If there is no end game content to strive for(And I don’t care what you decide what that the end game is), what did you do it all for anyway? What I am personally seeing more and more is that with a new update or expansion, people will stick around for the landscape content and then disappear for months until the next update occurs.

    This is a sad thing for me because I LOVE group content, what ever it is. I don’t even need a reason to do it, just friends to come on and say ‘Lets conquer this’ and I’m there. Isn’t that the whole point of an MMO? To get together with friends and take on some kind of challenge and have fun doing it?

    I suppose the problem with an endgameless model isn’t that it’s a journey without a destination, it’s that it’s a journey that there is no reason to take. To put it another way, when Dol Amroth comes out, there will be 5 new levels of landscape content to go through, new lvl 100 LI’s and an all new armor slotting system that will let you customize some of your gear(Something I am very interested and excited for).

    So there I am with my new level 100 guard who still has his 95 LI’s and mostly 95 gear. What now? I mean I suppose I could update my LI’s to level 100 but since I could probably conquer the landscape content wearing paper armor while wielding a stick, what would be the point? The same goes for the essence system, it’s a great sounding system, but what is driving me to go through what will probably be a significant grind, if there is nothing to do it all for? I could run some old scaled instances I guess, but that will only last so long before the rest of the ‘2%ers’ get bored and take another extended leave and I’m left with only alt grinding to tide me over.

    There has to be some kind of endgame or reason to take the journey, whether it’s raiding, big battles, gated content or a house cosmetic pool that has sharks with freaking laser beams attached to their heads, something. If this sounds like an angry rant, it is not, more like concern for where things are headed. When a casual group player/ sometimes raider, who loves the game for what it is starts to feel…bored, there is a problem that I hope Turbine is able to address. Because I’d very much like to see this Middle Earth tale to it’s conclusion and it would be nice if I had a group of my friends with me when it happens.

  17. Triski /

    This is in reply to Braxwulf’s reply to my links above (I couldn’t see a reply button next to that one). He said

    “Thanks Triski. Those words certainly seem to indicate a finality to the issue. I just wonder why that answer is inconsistent with the other 20-30 times the question was answered, when they were always so careful to qualify it? And is a clearly frustrated and fatigued community manager really the one who should be delivering a direction change of this magnitude?
    It seems that Sap is saying 2 different things. 1. No raids (or clusters, outside of the occasional random 3-man?) unless the percentages change drastically, And 2. The answer is the same as it’s always been – which is not true if #1 is true, because they’ve always said “in the forseable future” before. So which do we choose to believe?
    At this point I’m not sure, but I still think it’s far from clear. I’d surely rather hear news like this from someone who is actually involved in setting strategic direction.”

    I’ve thought for a long time that while these events were a nice thing to do from a community-building standpoint, taking live questions all the time could lead to a case of something being said that, on reflection, could have been phrased better or more carefully worded, or perhaps would’ve been better left unsaid.

    Threads on the forum that point to massively’s news article on raid population numbers in LOTRO (which essentially points right back to Sapience’s own words), are being deleted each and every time they appear now, despite having nothing controversial or rule-breaking in them.

    It appears that this subject is one that Turbine is attempting to bury and stifle discussion on.

    It’s unfortunate but the cat is out of the bag, the words have been spoken, and players deserve more than the wall of silence they’re being met with.

  18. Zimzeebo /

    So what is Lotro going to get in the future instead of new group content? Is it going to be more Hytbold/Fangorn grindfests? Is that what the other 90% like to do? Do they like Super Skirm….I mean Big Battles?

    I will soon be able to level to 100 and get new LI’s. What do I need them for? What is the point of progression ? There’s nice jewelry to be had in BB, but why?!?

    Look, I understand that Turbine probably doesn’t have the resources to continue to develop “traditional” group content. To come right out and say it though, and while saying it, marginalizing that portion of the player base (you’re only 2%, screw you), is Turbine shooting themselves in the foot.

  19. Denard of Meneldor /

    I’ve been waiting for this shoe to drop for quite a while. As a hardcore-ish (ha!) raider, I realized about two years ago that Turbine wasn’t making this game for me anymore. For a whole host of IRL reasons, I’m pretty good at seeing things from other people’s perspectives and assumed the lack of PVE endgame was because as much as I loved raiding, I must be in the minority. So while I spent a lot of time hoping that it was always going to return in the next release, I feel a whole lot better now knowing I can cancel my subscription and move on (as so many of my raiding friends have). I’ll keep my account because I care about the story and want to throw the damned ring in the fire, but no more kitting out alts.

    And the best part is, I have no hard feelings about this at all. I hope it lets Turbine focus on the game that makes them the most money – because that’s almost certainly the one that’s going to make the most people happiest. I just happen to not be one of them. Hopefully they can deploy those resources on things like a modern housing system, better cosmetics, and continuing to build a beautiful landscape and telling a great story.

  20. Amenhir /

    This information may be accurate and raiders may comprise the smallest percentage of “active” players. However, regardless of any traditional endgame content eg, raids and instances, what is there to work towards? Every expansion and now future updates will almost certainly have some kind of bump in cap or additional gear to grind. Creating these grindfests for gear or other goodies to make you stronger becomes all for naught. There is no content other than scaling the tired old raids and instances we’ve been doing for two plus years. This lack of incentive to even reach cap, as there will be nothing interesting to do but grind some more, is going to drive off players. Not everyone has a shopping list of exploits and accomplishments to brag about. Not everyone is into hard core rp or the music system. Some of the players get to cap to play with the friends and do “endgame” content. Epic battles are a fail, imo, and need a tweaking to even be enjoyable. Doing a reworking of hytbold everytime there is an update is going to drive me off as that was a mindless chore. I suppose if I had altitis and wanted 15 characters to lvl up I would be in heaven, but, unfortunately, I have 3 toons and only one is cap. Unless Turbine creates some interesting, challenging, and fun content for me to do at cap then I will take my money elsewhere. Although they probably don’t care because I am only one out of the 50 or so raiders on my server.

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