I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread
There was a lot of optimism when EG7 announced their plans to purchase Daybreak Games. It was a heady moment for many of us when EG7 gave us a bunch of data about the various titles.
There was also statements from EG7 about investing in titles like Lord of the Rings Online, including what seemed like crazy talk about a console version. It felt like good things could be coming.
Almost five months down the road the, now that the afterglow of the announcements has passed, some of us are now getting a little impatient to see what changes, if any, the coming of the new Swedish overlords actually bring. As with other such transactions, you only get so much goodwill time before the old problems become your problems.
Unfortunately, the message coming from the LOTRO team seems to be the usual litany of deferral and excuses. Last week the community got a Q&A with the executive producer and to say it was a disappointment would be something of an understatement. All sorts of things people have been asking after for years like a scalable UI or wide screen support to make the game playable on larger monitors are nowhere in sight. They mostly seem to be on about bugs and whatever new content they can scrape together.
Most disturbing to me was the response about legendary items, a horribly grindy feature that should have been left behind in Moria:
We want players to have things to do while they are leveling. I know that some players are ‘Oh, this is too grindy and sometimes we overdo it,’ but ‘grindy’ doesn’t scare me as much as ‘I don’t have enough to do.’ I don’t have enough to do is worse because players want to play the game but they don’t really have goals to pursue.
This betrays such a basic misunderstanding of what makes people stick with these sorts of games that I despair for any future for the game, even if EG7 decides to throw some money at it. This is all of the worst conspiracies about MMO devs confirmed, that they make things purposely grindy to keep us with the game longer. Have you met your players? We do stuff just because we can. We don’t need enforced mandatory grind, we’ll make our own thank you.
I honestly thought we were past that somewhat when WoW launched as was relatively easy to level up in compared to the industry as a whole and yet people still found things to do in the game. I guess not.
The legendary items thing really strikes home for me. Despite my enjoyment of Lord of the Rings Online over the years… I bought a lifetime subscription back at launch and own every expansion… I have never made it very far past Moria in the game. Part of the reason is that Siege of Mirkwood is just an uninspired expansion where Turbine was clearly just mailing it in while they threw resources at some of their fruitless projects. But it has been mostly due to the constant need to attend to the legendary weapon… and not the one legendary weapon I got back before Moria, but whichever drop I happened to get that was an upgrade.
Yet somehow they are worried that if they dumped legendaries that players wouldn’t be able to depend on drops to keep up with DPS… though we pretty much have to depend on drops for that anyway. I guess maybe I should be happy they aren’t planning to make them more grindy, which was pretty much the message back in January, but adjusting the “suck” setting back 10% still means things suck. And they’re talking about challenge modes that will make grinding your legendary even more of a requirement. They seem 100% locked into “grind makes the game” as a philosophy.
Leaving aside my personal investment in the demise of legendaries, the whole tone of the Q&A was as depressing as any of the worst periods of the Turbine or Daybreak eras. Even the positive bits, like the new bit of content, The Further Adventures of Bilbo Baggins, turned out to be hollow, being made up of reused assets and mechanics.
A development team that was going to get an infusion of resources to help it along would surely be able to offer a more convincing vision for the future. Instead I am beginning to wonder if EG7 isn’t simply perusing the Gamigo business model of buying up tired titles and milking the last bits of life out of them before shutting them down. I previously dared to speculate as to what LOTRO needed. Now I wonder what the game can even hope to get.
It should be a good moment for the game. It is celebrating its 14th anniversary and a major potential competitor, the Amazon funded Middle-earth MMO, has been cancelled. (Though the LOTR series under development is still on, so there may still be a renewed interest in all things Middle-earth.) Instead, the game is starting to feel like Bilbo at the top of the post, stretched too thin for the resources they have with no relief in sight.