A Yuletide and New Year’s Wish for Lotro

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Happy Yule and soon to be New Year to all!

As this year comes to a close, and we look forward to what the new year will bring, I wanted to take a small break from the festivities and reflect on this past year.  It certainly has been a remarkable one!

This past year saw a significant departure from our path in years prior, with class changes and a switch from more traditional group content to epic battles and the like.  Sadly, these changes also resulted in the most divisive period in the history of these lands.

It came to me that any wishes I might have for the new year would be inextricably tied to what had occurred this year past.  This, then, is my wish for Lotro in the new year, in three parts:

~Reconciliation~

Much has been said of our community and how wonderful it is.  We all see signs of this everyday, I imagine.

Yet the changing of our path this past year, and the atmosphere of intolerance that accompanied it, has created a divide amongst us that has yet to heal.  For the good of us all, from the Overlords of these lands to each of its citizens, it is time to come together and move forward.

While this divide can be seen in more than one area, the most recent being the new music system and the divide amongst our minstrels regarding when it should have been implemented, there is one specific area which is most plaintive and poignant, to my mind.  Here are three statements representative of the issue:

  • During the beta for Helm’s Deep, when a good number of testers reported mixed (or worse) feelings on the changes, the community manager coined the phrase ‘vocal minority’, categorizing anyone who had that opinion, regardless of what they said or how they said it, into a group that could easily be dismissed.
  • One player created polls after each of the Helm’s Deep beta builds, attempting to gauge the general feeling toward the changes.  The results of the polls were overwhelmingly negative for each build.  Polls are not normally allowed on the forums according to the Code of Conduct, so when asked why this one was allowed to continue, the community manager stated that he allowed them because they served as a ‘lightning rod’, grouping and identifying which players were only involved to cause trouble and hopefully keeping their comments isolated to that one area.
  • During this time, and many times afterward, in response to the many comments against the changes, the statement was also made that “forum users make up only a small percentage of the player base, yet ‘raiders’ make up an overwhelming percentage of forum users and, thus, were ‘over-represented’ on the forums, further categorizing individuals into a group that could safely be ignored.

Rather than help to mend the rift that had already begun to take root between those for and against the changes, these comments, and the attitude behind them, threw gasoline onto a fire that raged throughout the whole of the Helm’s Deep beta, spilled out into the larger forums afterward, and continues to burn to this day.  The cost to our community, in most every way imaginable, has been enormous.

Firstly, there simply wasn’t a need to engage in the debate.  The Overlords were always going to have their way in the end.  Absent an effort to be inclusive of the players as a whole and try to mend differences, it would have been far better to have simply stayed silent and let everyone have their say.  Instead, categorizing players into groups to be dismissed gave license to the players to be dismissive as well, not only of the opinions people had, but of the people themselves, those who held those opinions.

Even those trying to make well-intentioned critiques and voice honest, reasonable opinions of concern over the changes were left free to have both their opinions, and themselves, swept into the waste bucket of ‘the vocal minority’.  Any debate over a topic where a fair number of posters were against the new changes was dismissed since ‘the vast majority of posters are a certain type of player, so we can attribute the number and substance of these comments to that and ignore them’.

These statements created an atmosphere in which many people felt that, no matter what they said nor how they said it, they simply were not going to heard.  This is the absolute antithesis of what a forum is supposed to be.  Sadly, it did not end there.

In the months that followed, many players were banned from the forums for their posts.  No doubt some deserved to be, but many did not.  I think some did so deliberately, just to have one moment when they knew that what they had said had been heard and noted.  Likewise, I think a good many decided to stop supporting Lotro financially at this point, at least until they saw signs that their opinions would no longer be categorically dismissed once again .  While these steps may seem drastic, desperate times call for desperate measures, and short of leaving these lands entirely, there was little else one could do to try to have their opinion counted.

I am not a business person, but I have to believe that the last thing one would want to do is put a subset of their customer base into a position where the only way they feel they will be heard is by discontinuing their financial support of the company.  When the Overlords decided on this new path, they knew some would leave these lands due to the changes.  They even stated so.  But how many left over these things, the divisive atmosphere created that encouraged individual players to be dismissed due to their shared opinions?

Well, one is one too many, isn’t it?  Just one year ago, both resources and players were seen as superfluous, to the degree that class changes were seen as a better option than creating actual content.  Now, resources are seen to be so scarce that there is worry that simple changes to the music system that have already been started might never be finished.

When you think of how we have come to this point in just one year’s time, think of these things.

Our community needs reconciliation, and the increased openness and tolerance that characterize the forums now imply an understanding of this on the Overlords’ part as well.  A good way to further this would be to rescind the bans many were given on the Overlords’ forums during its most divisive period.  Perhaps not blanketly, but with an understanding that this period was a difficult time to keep one’s head every moment, particularly in light of the atmosphere of exclusivity that pervaded during this period.  And with that, I wish for each of us who make up the populace of these lands to understand that we all have value, and that we all are worth the effort to keep.

It is Yule, after all 🙂

~Re-evalutation~

As we ready ourselves to make way further into Gondor and, hopefully, to a final victory over the great evil of this age, this is an ideal time to take stock of how things stand at present.  The new path taken with Helm’s Deep is now a bit over a year old under our feet, and there is enough of the trail behind us to see where it has led.

Unfortunately, there are signs that this new path has led us astray.  There have been two separate layoffs this past year, and resources that once seemed plentiful appear to have shriveled.  Many of the projects the Overlords had announced have had to be delayed or set aside outright.  Most recently, an issue with reputation items has cropped up, with an attempt by the Overlords to greatly curtail their use for gathering Turbine Points.

While this measure does seem to indicate the Overlords’ concern over their coffers, I think it also is a sign of a much greater, much larger concern.

Six months ago, it was said by Sapience that ‘raiders’ and those who enjoy traditional group content make up only a tiny fraction of our populace and, therefore, no more of that sort of content would be developed unless those numbers changed.  At the time, I wrote an article about this statement, and deduced from further statements that the exact percentage of this group could be no greater than 3%, and almost certainly just 2%.

I cannot find the post now, but someone responded to Sapience’s statement with something similar to the following:

  • I do crafting, but only to support my characters for raiding.  If there was no raiding, I would not craft.
  • I go to festivals, but only while waiting for my kin to assemble for instancing.  If there were no instances, I would not go to festivals.
  • I do landscape content, but only to gain levels for raiding and end-game content.  If there was no end-game content worth doing, I would not do landscape content.
  • … and so on

The basic premise was to ask how the Overlords were able to distill the truth from the complexity of their players’ actions, give proper weight to each aspect of their actions, and determine their proper intent.

Unfortunately, this thread seems to have disappeared, so I cannot give Sapience’s exact reply, but it was basically to the effect that they have people that evaluate these things and that their numbers were accurate and constant throughout the history of these lands.  They knew what their players wanted, and that this new path was taken for that reason.

Back to the reputation items…

It seems to be a reasonable assumption that, of even greater importance to the Overlords than the measuring of their players’ actions and usage, a system to insure that no loopholes were open to allow players to earn more Turbine Points than what the Overlords wished to allow was set in place, no?  After all, the latter affects their bottom line, directly.  This is also a much simpler system to devise and evaluate, of course.  It would merely consist of keeping record when players earned Turbine Points, how much they did, and how they did, with no concern over the complexities that make navigating the nuances of player usage the much greater challenge it surely must be.

So, regarding the reputation item issue…

While Frelorn stated that an investigation of the Overlords found that too many Turbine Points were being given as a result of their usage, it is almost a certainty that the Overlords’ measures did not catch this on their own.  For one, I saw open discussion of this in the World channel on Landroval weeks before the attempted change to the items, including the precise number of items required to bring one’s reputation level with a faction from neutral to kindred.

Beyond even this, however, this use of reputation items, and the use of Marks to acquire them, has been engaged in for years, well before Helm’s Deep, and almost certainly from the first day the items were made available for barter in the skirmish camps.

That it was only discovered now, and likely only from being reported rather than through the systems the Overlords have in place to safeguard against too many Turbine points being earned from in-game activities, is remarkable.

This is a wonderful example of just one aspect of why it is not very wise to be dismissive of a group of people that share a similar outlook on a topic, as seen above.  A group-oriented player could have told Turbine ages ago that they were creating a perfect storm regarding these items, and a circumstance that all but demanded we use our Marks in this way:

  • Marks and Medallions given for all endeavors have been increasing over time, while…
  • No additional things to use them for in the skirmish camps have been added in ages.  In fact…
  • The removal of endgame armor sets, since there is no longer endgame content, further exasperated the issue, in addition to…
  • The promise of Imbuing, which should largely eliminate the need for the one last thing players were buying in the camps (Legendary item scrolls and such)

Players were sitting upon piles of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions of Marks and Medallions, like dragons in their lairs.  It is not at all surprising that some would look for a way to make use of them.  What is surprising is that it has been happening for years without the systems Turbine must have in place to catch things of this nature noticing it.  I also believe that what I wrote of earlier, regarding some deciding to no longer support Lotro financially due to the issues above, most certainly served as catalyst and an inspiration to find other ways to earn Turbine Points as well.

But to finally bring this all into focus, I have to believe that one should consider the following…

If the Overlords have systems in place to discover loopholes and unintended ways for their players to earn an excess of Turbine Points, one that is completely unambiguous and need not concern itself with any level of interpretation or nuance, one that even gives a line-by-line accounting, to the minute, of when these events happen, like this:

And this system has failed to notice players earning excess Turbine Points, for years

Is it not at least possible that the methods used to gather and evaluate player usage might also be flawed?

It is my opinion that it is more than just possible, unfortunately.  I believe the percentage of players that engage in group content was underestimated by a factor of ten, if not more, and the new path taken this past year was based upon information that was flawed, both in its method of gathering, and perhaps by a skewed perspective that was more determined to see what it wanted to see than what was truth.  And I think we all, Overlord and citizen alike, are paying for that now.

However, there is cause for encouragement, even now.  From what Frelorn has said about the upcoming Producer’s letter, there is hope for something to come that will please those who enjoy traditional group content, even though the number who engage in it now has shrunk to almost nil rather than grown, as the previous condition for new content of this type once demanded.  Perhaps the Overlords, themselves, have begun to question this new path as well.

As we move forward, I wish for the recognition that it is absolutely vital that the Overlords have a proper gauge on what it is that will please its citizens.  Perhaps a player-wide survey is in order, one linked in the launcher and that rewards some Turbine points to encourage everyone to complete it.

~A chair at the table, for all~

Lastly, and very briefly, I wish for something for each one of us in the coming new year.  May the Overlords find a way to gift us all something in the new year, as we move forward along the path.  We all deserve a little something in our Yule stockings, after all 🙂

Make a wish

What are your Lotro wishes for this coming year? 🙂

15 comments

  1. Baldigar /

    I must say I agree with just about everything you said. It is all very logical to me, and, as best as I’m sure you could muster, neutral-minded in nature, something I appreciate. You may have linked the purpose of re-evaluation too strongly in favor of the misinterpretation Turbine’s player-base, but that is known as much to me and it is to you, so I can’t deny that it is a possibility, and at this point, a seemingly very likely possibility.

    I have never been a hard-core raider, by my own definition or almost certainly by anyone’s, yet I have always tried to be respectful of everyone’s opinions on it, and tried to never rule out any group, whether raider or other. I will say in the past I have gotten frustrated at the use of one’s own person definition of themselves as a specific group in the player-base, which they use to try to push their personal, or the supposed of the group’s, agendas. I really do hope that the schism can be mended through-out the game.

    As for the idea presented here:
    “As we move forward, I wish for the recognition that it is absolutely vital that the Overlords have a proper gauge on what it is that will please its citizens. Perhaps a player-wide survey is in order, one linked in the launcher and that rewards some Turbine points to encourage everyone to complete it.”
    I agree that they should have some sort of poll, however, the cynicism in me tells me that it will be greatly exploited, and unfortunately so. They would HAVE to bar entry to the poll somehow to prevent botting or the making of hundreds of accounts to promote a specific agenda, yet if they barred entry by Premium, for example, that would effectively be doing the same thing as what they did in the first place: not listening to a part of their player-base, potentially a very large and influential part. If they barred it by creation of the account, the same thing could be an issue, (I have like 20 F2P/old-VIP account from the 14-day trial), and even I, a single person, would be able to righteously promote my agenda if I so chose to.

    People will always try to find exploits in any system, and I have in the past, but that is what I think Turbine fears, and rightfully so. They fear that the data they receive will either match what people say because it is right, and they were wrong, or the data from this sort of poll would be skewed via the exploit/botting, and they would have to ignore the result anyway because it was just not right. (Not to mention granting TP as a reward for taking the poll could be exploited since TP can somewhat effectively be passed between accounts via the MC mail.)

    So I suppose my wish is that they find a solid and truly inclusive way to solve the issue. Whether it is in favor of my agenda or my friends, or my enemies, I don’t have feel I have the right to try to change the truth, but I really want to know it so I can be at peace with it, and not have to worry. I hope that we can all feel trusted and safe, and that Turbine really extends their hand to us to make us feel welcome, and that most importantly, we have fun.

    • Baldigar /

      typo (paragraph 4, end): “able to righteously promote my agenda if I so chose to.” righteously = unrighteously. bit of a change in meaning 😀

      • Kaleigh Starshine /

        Thank you for your kind words 🙂 I did labor very much to present things as neutrally as I could and yet still make the points I wanted to make.

        Such wonderful comments! I think you are right about the polling and its potential pitfalls. I wonder if there are other online entities that have found solutions for these, something Turbine could adopt, somehow.

        In any case, I think there would be far fewer problems if everyone shared your outlook on things. Thank you, again 🙂

  2. The Nimrodelian Tale-Spinner /

    *claps for Kaleigh* Have a happy new year Miss Kaleigh. Another brilliant article by you and one that should cause a lot of discussion and thinking over.

  3. Thanks for the nice article. I really enjoy this game and recently went VIP as my way to help this game get to Mordor. I wish that raiding was still viable in new ways, but it’s not…. Oh well. Please remember it’s a GAME and if you don’t want to support it any longer… then don’t support it. Getting angry and having hissy fits in the forums is immature and irrelevant to the people who determine the future of this game. Only one thing matters to the makers of this game and that is $$. To think or say otherwise is a mistake. There is no altruistic or charitable spirit at work here to make sure we get into Mordor eventually. We should all come together as a group to support each other and this game so we can get to the end together. Have a great year to all.

    • Kaleigh Starshine /

      I agree. It is just unhealthy to let the divide remain, and I hope it will be seen that it is worth everyone’s effort to move forward together, and that all players are worth holding onto. 🙂

  4. Thraorin /

    Absolutely spot-on, Kaleigh!

    I really hope Turbine will find a way out of this mess and *soon*, because when it comes to group content and this being an MMO after all it’s extremely frustrating to see how most of it has basically died or been reduced to just occasional Pelargir runs (and no, that does *not* mean BBs are a big hit) on servers that aren’t exactly Brandywine.
    Server transfers aren’t for everyone, and transfers have hurt at least the server I mainly play on pretty bad, too.

    • Kaleigh Starshine /

      Thank you, Thraorin! 🙂 Let us hope our wish is granted this year!

  5. A lengthy article with substance, well done 🙂 Made me feel especially lucky not to be involved in the whole community thing, because it’s the same everywhere: it makes you want to tear your hair out.

    My wish would be to just sit back, enjoy the game, don’t sweat the small stuff and look for the things that make me happy and excited about the game. In 7 years the game changed a lot for me; if I can learn to roll with it, anyone can.

    And i wish that players stop thrusting their kinship-invites on me without any explanation. Please, at least try to convince me you’re fun to be with first. 😉

    Happy new year and make sure you have something to smile about at least once a day!

    • Kaleigh Starshine /

      That is wonderful advice, Daenelia 🙂 Thank you for your wish and kind words!

  6. I promised myself I wouldn’t comment on this, since I was marginally involved in some of the community drama back in 2013. However, the consistent use of the word “Overlord” in this article strikes me as distinctly more confrontational than conciliatory.

    I think the fraction of the community Turbine has left after almost 8 years now is probably exactly the part it has always wanted.

    • Kaleigh Starshine /

      Actually, I have used the word ‘Overlords’ in my writing as a term of endearment for Turbine and its developers for years and years, back to the MyLotro days, and long before any of these events had occurred. I can see how it could be taken in the way that you did, however, and I am sorry for that. I can promise you I meant no negative connotation with it at all.

      I guess I see things like this:

      Some were going to leave over the changes with Helm’s Deep alone. This was not really preventable.

      Some left due to their treatment on the forums, for a variety of reasons, with the main one being they felt they had no voice at all. I believe this was entirely preventable.

      Some left due to both, which also was entirely preventable, else they would be in the first group.

      I do not see how those who left, paying customers from the latter two groups, helps Turbine or anyone with an interest in seeing the game thrive.

      Beyond that, this one issue has become the most fracturing, most polarizing issue amongst the community in Lotro’s history. I can think of no other issue that has caused such widespread infighting or negativity on the forums. It still rages on to this very day and likely will continue until some solution is found.

      If the fraction of the community that Turbine has always wanted is what is left, it is a most divisive, most contentious community. Again, I do not see how this helps Turbine or anyone involved with the game.

      As painful as it is to do, you cannot really solve an issue without first framing what it is. I think a very poor example was set for how we should view our fellow players, those with whom we may disagree. What I am suggesting is that we first recognize that issue for what it is, so we can then work toward breaking it down and see the value in one another once more.

  7. Great article, Kaleigh.

    And once again people rush too quickly to judgement on your writing style. It’s quite obvious the Overlord term is a tongue-in-cheek and affectionate way of saying devs. It’s a shame that people focus on that too much.

    I just found out about this article by listening to the LOTRO Players News podcast. Cithryth trying to dismiss the entire article because of the overlord term rubbed me the wrong way.

    And when they started talking about the beta forum discussions on class changes in the podcast they completely dismiss all the players who tried to get their points across to the class devs and really only one dev (RockX) would spend the proper time on things. The other devs were mostly absent or unhelpful and onesided. (Minstrel dev anyone?) There should have been a constant back and forth between players and the devs to make the class changes RIGHT and not rushed, simplistic, overpowered and ridiculous.

    All of that spilled out into the public forums because of the devs and community manager’s behavior. Had they been civil and respectful of their players it would have never happened that way.

    It truly was the worst I had ever seen for any MMO that I had played and leaves a gaping hole of missing friends, kinmates and community who are now former players due to it.

    It’s good to point out that Frelorn has made an almost 100% turnaround from the horrible treatment that Sapience gave the community. I hope that Frelorn and gang can help listen to the players and actually make some meaningful changes in the coming year.

  8. 7h3C47 /

    Thanks very much for posting. It’s refreshing to know *someone* out there thinks about things like these other than myself from time to time. Seemingly contradictorily, the whole of the ‘reconciliation’ segment was a total surprise to me, as I don’t frequent the forums and generally am not active in any community outside of the game. I.E. I think about these things a lot but don’t know anyone IRL who plays nor do I read others’ opinions online very often. I can’t believe something so seemingly trivial [to me] resulted in what it did, but it totally adds up. What a shame. I’ve kind of resigned myself to loving this game for the rest of its life no matter which direction it goes, but to learn of an entire pro/con community resistance and abuse of authority and so on is disheartening. It reminds me of high school or something like that. I think, most of the time, everyone would benefit from taking a step back and looking at things at the macro level–similar to your post. People tend to get too caught up in things I’d imagine, and so far, it hasn’t resulted in too much objective good.

  9. It’s a welcome sight to read such chewy analysis when I’m just recently re-entering Middle Earth. It’s the first time since just before the launch of the Rohan content, and I’m often scratching my head: entirely new game mechanisms, from trait-building to horseback-battling; an odd xenophobia toward refugees that mirrored, often day to day, real life current affairs; and a wallet so full of strange new currency that it appeared that some globe-trotting adventurer had dropped her purse in my inventory.

    I’m still getting used to the changes, but once upon a time I spent a lot of time in LOTRO — leveling slowly, immersing myself in the storylines, hitting the F-12 key frequently — and I imagine I will again. So it’s refreshing to know that people are engaging in thoughtful discourse; hopefully I can help with that. As soon as I figure out how things work!

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