About two years back we hit the era of the insta levels, at least in MMORPGs. It was an attempt to fix the “levels” problem, where the distance between the core player base and any new players grows increasingly daunting over time.
SOE was out in front with level boosts, first in EverQuest II and later in EverQuest.
Blizzard first offered an insta level boost as part of the Warlords of Draenor expansion, then as a separate $60 options.
Star Wars: The Old Republic came up with their own twist on the whole thing later on.
And then there was Turbine and their Gift of the Valar plan.
The Valar aren’t what they used to be…
In the face of their core population being distant from the newbies and seeing their competitors offer options to grant direct access to their latest expansions, Turbine chose to offer a boost that would bring people to level 50 and their first expansion, The Mines of Moria.
For 4,995 Turbine points, or somewhere between $38 and $75, depending on discounts and bonus points, you could jump past the 2007 content and straight to the then five year old 2008 expansion. Specifically, you would get:
- Character boosted to level 50
- A set of level 50 gear
- 1 Gold piece
- An LIXP rune, worth enough XP to bring one LI to level 10
- 4 ranks of each virtue
- The Riding skill
- A Dusky Nimblefoot Goat
- A 25-stack of food that scales with your level
- A 25-stack of Morale and Power potions that scale with your level
- 5 +100% XP Boosts
- A single-use map to Rivendell
- 25 Mithril Coins
Some nice stuff in that. And sure, it would get people past those first 50 levels. But, in my opinion, it really did little to solve the “levels” problem in a game where the level cap was at 95. (The cap is 100 now, isn’t it?) Turbine’s major innovation seemed to be to make the Gift of the Valar only available at special times as opposed to being a regular item in the LOTRO store.
The only real excuse I could see for this was that Turbine’s business model involves selling content, so boosting somebody close to the level cap would leave them without all the content and expansions between the starter zones and where they landed. Of course, they were not exactly slick on that front either, as boosting people to 50 means that they immediately need to buy the Mines of Moria expansion.
Life with Turbine.
I have no idea if the Gift of the Valar was a big success or not, it was just an option I would never consider, feeling very much like a half measure as it did.
Well, apparently something… slow sales, customer complaints, a need to boost revenue… changed Turbine’s collective mind on the insta levels front. In their current patch notes for update 17.1, the following two line items sit:
- Blessing of the Valar – Level your character to 95, catch up to your friends, and jump into the Epic Quests to help defend Gondor!
- Blessing of the Valar Upgrade – Already over level 51? Level your character to 95 with this option.
There is no elaboration in the post, just those two items, but they seem like a step in the right direction. And since Turbine has gotten out of the expansion (and presumably the level cap boosting) business, this will be a solid offer to get people into the latest content additions without much effort. Turbine’s plan this year has been focused on consolidating their population after all.
We shall see what they end up offering with this new Blessing of the Valar when it goes live. There is a video up (hat tip: Massively OP) that shows the price (5,995 Turbine Points) and what is currently offered on the test server, but that may not be final.
Of course, here is the point in the post where I generally poo-poo whatever Turbine is up to lately. I personally disliked the Gift of the Valar in part because I thought that at least to 1-40 experience in LOTRO was both smooth and swift as well as being something of a necessary introduction to how to play your classes. Maybe there was a bit of shaking my fist at kids these days skipping past content I quite enjoyed on multiple passes, but not much. It was more that the whole thing was, as I said, a half measure. It didn’t jump you far enough ahead to be worthwhile.
With the level 95 boost, this seems like a much better plan. I’m not sure I would buy it, but I wouldn’t completely rule it out as I did with the level 50 boost. And I would sort of like to see the new stuff in LOTRO.
That said, I still think they have the wrong plan. Here is what I would do.
First, I would go back and make sure that all of the book quests were really doable solo, and add in a solo option where there is none. (There were still a couple of those the last time I passed through.) And not just a half-assed checkup, but a real deep look to tune the whole thing so that an average player can do it solo.
Then I would steal the SWTOR twist… I don’t know if a 12x experience boost would do it, or maybe just auto-level you up to the same level of the book quest you are on… and put a package in the LOTRO Store that would allow you to level up a character by running just the story line book quests.
That’s it. You start at level 1, buy the option, start in on Volume I, Book I – Stirrings in the Darkness at one end and finish up where ever they are in Volume III (Book XIV?) or wherever, after which they are at or near the level cap and free to carry on from there. No side quests, nothing blocking your way, all travel between areas worked into the package, and no need to buy the additional content.
The standard arguments against any insta level scheme apply to this as well. But, as with other such offers, the most likely buyers are people who have already done the grind, or a good portion of it, already. The core player base is much more likely to buy this sort of thing for an alt than a new player trying the game for the first time is.
Anyway, that is my thought. If nothing else, I am glad to see Turbine coming to grips with the reality of their current insta level situation.
Others opining on this:
(I will add more, if I see any, as they appear)