In my predictions for 2015 I did not have a lot to say about Turbine. I basically called it as another slow year for Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeon & Dragons Online and expressed a good deal of skepticism that Turbine could pull off their idea of free versions of Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 with WB looking over their shoulders. Reality just won’t respect good intentions.
Then we got a couple of Producer’s letters from Turbine for 2015, which were enough to make me consider which game might be the big fish at the company.
- Legendary Weapons: More bling for those at the level cap.
- Fellowship Challenges: More small group content, though no mention if it will be new or recycled.
- Episodic Content: I don’t think this means what it means in Guild Wars 2. I read this more as “There will be no more big expansions, so this is how we’re going to move towards Mordor now.”
- PvMP: A new map for monster play, which surprises me a bit since just six months ago the word was that raiders and PvMP players made up less than 10% of the population all combined.
- Quality of Life: When you have to add bug fixes to pad out your list, you might be reaching. The letter literally says bugs, so this doesn’t sound like CCP’s type of quality of life changes. It sounds like they’ll just bet getting to stuff that probably should have been fixed already.
- Server Populations: They want to get everybody onto more populated servers. This will involve closing some servers as well as hardware upgrades and location changes for remaining servers. This was described as a “large and complicated process.”
That was fairly weak tea compared to the DDO Producer’s Letter which was all about new monsters, new storylines, new festivals, a new class, and more levels. No bullet points for fixing bugs or closing servers there. (The DDO Producer’s letter didn’t get a spiffy graphic at the top to make it seem bigger either.)
I have always considered DDO to be LOTRO’s somewhat impoverished cousin… Turbine was willing to gamble on free to play with it first… but the tone of the two letters makes me wonder if that is the case. Of course, DDO might just have a better producer… or at least one better at writing updates… than LOTRO. But DDO certainly seemed to shine in this instance, whereas LOTRO felt a bid sad.
Still, some of what was said can be seen as encouraging. The lack any further expansions and the limited scope of initiatives going forward might incline one to think that Turbine is just riding things out to 2017 when the current contract extension with Tolkien Enterprises comes to an end.
But does a company upgrade hardware and move servers… moving some back to Europe even… if it is just running down the clock and trying to milk the last few Turbine Points out of players?
The one thing that did sort of left me hanging on the whole server population front was how the transfers will be handled and, more specifically, will they be free?
I mean, my gut says that if a company closes my server so that I have to move to another one in order to play, of course that transfer is going to be free.
But it also seems like an obvious reassurance that a community manager might give as part of a message where they mention closing servers but not doing server merges… at least by the second clarification. I appreciate them saying they want to make this as seamless as possible, but if such moves are anything but free, prepare for an explosion. Not heading off that speculation now is only going to cause the pot to boil on other topics.
Anyway, the future is not certain. We shall see how this plays out. But if you want to enjoy Middle-earth some more, it might be wise to follow Roger Edward’s advice in his look at the LOTRO Producer’s Letter; live in the moment and play the game now.
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