LOTRO: Heading off a riot

gravvesYou know what’s worse than no information at all?  Giving only sketchy details about something people are already nervous over.  Half-information leads to wild speculation, and when that’s aimed at a major change, the results can be a stampede of panicky, anxious gamers.

That’s what I feel may be happening in Lord of the Rings Online right now.  There’s a LOT coming with next month’s Helm’s Deep, but when you look at the forums and read the comments sections on related news posts, the subject everyone keeps bringing up are the sweeping class changes.  People are nervous and scared about massive changes to their beloved classes, and the way Turbine is handling it isn’t helping at all.

In short, Turbine is doing two things that, coupled together, spell disaster:

(1) The studio keeps trumpeting these huge changes through glossed-over dev diaries and a somewhat defensive post about its reasons for these changes.

(2) The studio is not, however, simply releasing the full trait trees and specifying what skills are going to be consolidated.

Now, I know that we’re in beta with a month to go before launch, and since things change all the time in beta, the devs could be holding back the specifics of these class overhauls until testing is complete.  But it’s a mistake to do so because it’s freaking people the heck out not knowing (unless they’re in the beta, of course).

This makes Syp feel dismayed.  I’m actually really excited for class changes because they’re things I’ve been asking for for years: fewer skills, faster combat animations, and more defined and interesting builds.  But when you say “Massive changes are coming but we’re not going to specifically tell you what those are yet, you just need to get on board!” it’s too little to avoid tipping the scales from “excited” to “fearful.”

I’m not saying the community should panic, riot, or trample over Farmer Ted and eat his blueberry pies.  Calm and patience are always in short supply, but oh-so-needed.  I am saying that the best thing Turbine could be doing right now is to stop pussyfooting around these changes and give us solid, specific details.

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34 thoughts on “LOTRO: Heading off a riot

  1. I think this is just a reflection of the polarised relationship that exists between Turbine and those customers that publicly engage with them via the official and unofficial forums, Twitter and various blogs.

    The sad thing is a huge amount of LOTRO players do not go to forums, read the developer diaries or websites and are simply left in the dark as to what is coming in Helm’s Deep. If that translates into enough of them holding off pre-ordering then it could have a big impact upon the game.

    Both customers and Turbine need to meet each other halfway although I fear that it may be too late for such a change.

  2. I suppose the question to ask yourself is, is it really preferable to release the full extent of the changes now, when in all likelihood they will be almost completely different to what comes when the expansion goes live? Yes, you avoid people freaking out over what *might* be, but then you invite people claiming that ‘Turbine lied’ about the changes they are making, and the extent of them when they log in on launch day.

    From where I’m sitting there isn’t really a win-win solution here. At least not this deep into the whole thing. Perhaps if they’d been clearer at the beginning of the announcement about the class revamps, things would be a lot smoother now.

  3. Why would you ask for fewer skills? Why would you want people who do utilise all those skills to have them taken away from them? If you don’t want to use all those skills, there’s a simple answer: take them off your skill bar. Then those of us who are very happy with the amount we have can continue to be happy as well. You played GW1. You know what it’s like to have loads of skills available, but choose which ones you want. I can’t for the life of me understand why Lotro couldn’t be somewhat like that.

  4. @Lothirieth – Because there are way, way too many skills at present, and the skill bloat increases with each expansion. I agree with the dev diary where they say it’s a nightmare to keep balancing all of those and that the skills we have tend to be watered down. If you can take two skills and condense them into one, giving roughly the same effect, then I’m all for it. Four hotbars of skills is an eyestrain and has always felt cluttered to me.

  5. I’m just glad there won’t be another “Hytbold”. I’d rather slaughter orcs at Helm’s Deep as the endgame instead of doing dailies for 50 days so some town can have a new library.

  6. Does a skill overhaul matter when most of the regular overland mobs are one or two shot-able? I play a Warden, and I rarely even make it to the three hit combo. :-p

  7. What I don’t understand is why doesn’t the media start asking these kinds of questions of the studios, and holding more of a hard line? Recent video “previews” with Turbine have netted zero questions, as mentioned over on LOTRO reporter.

    However, my guess is that the large majority of the existing player base doesn’t care about any of this and just wants to see the next area Turbine rolls out.

    Personally I’ve grown very tired of how Turbine has handled this expansion and without my Lifetime points, I would have to seriously contemplate not buying it.

  8. I bought the pre-order. This is the first time I used cash and not saved tp. I am anxious about what they are going to do to my class. I am optimistic that we will all see improvements. We will have to wait and see, I can only conclude that the information provided is not as detailed as we would all like, because the complete changes are not yet finalised.
    -Lilikate, (with fingers crossed).

  9. To think how Blizzard handles it, releasing updated talent trees on their website at open beta or before (even if some traits were marked as ‘TBC’, or whatever the acronym they used) and then to release some of the changes a month before the expansion for players to get to play around with and not being lumped with all the changes on day 1 of the expansion.

    Two things I dislike about the proposed talent trees in Lotro, there sounds to be a lot of passive stats based traits at the lower end, so how imaginative the (filler?) traits are in the rest of the tree is a concern, we’ve only been told about 3 or 4 per tree so far. The other concern is about features that I thought were integral to a class being locked in the trees and not being told, e.g. it is suggested captain marks are linked one to each tree, somewhere in the middle, which begs the question is it possible to have 2 or 3 or just 1.

    In the end I’m still shaking my head as to why they didn’t keep the old system, add a 7th trait legendary capstone, add about 4 new traits per line, increase the number of class traits chosen to 11, legendaries to 4. With the old system there was so much deadwood that could have been replaced to give exciting choices, I doubt the new system will be anymore exciting because of it’s structure without a host of new ideas in the trait design.

  10. To be fair, I do agree with you that Lotro has been pretty hush-hush about the whole situation and that they are saying it’s life changing updates/changes when it’s not that bad

    And for anyone that’s scared/nervous/panicky/rioity then there is a simple solution…. Beta is open via Facebook, they are giving out keys 1 per account, that way you can go have a look and familiarise yourself with what’s happening to your beloved class

  11. I share your concerns.

    OTOH, what I don’t agree with is the common perception is that studios should be “more open.” I think it is a way to cause more confusion and unrest. I think most companies should manage their PR and info. But considering how “special” (cleaned that up) the typical MMO commenter/poster is, I think this especially applies to MMOs.

  12. If you follow the development of the expansion, which you can do on the non-official Lotro Community forums – you can see the reason Turbine is not releasing much information or letting people demo HD and then review it.

    Turbine has been moving experienced staff off of Lotro and onto games like Infinite Crisis. They want to make a lot of money off this Lotro expansion, but have minimal staff (especially QA staff) working on it. From people in the Beta we know that this Big Battles are not very good and not at all ready for release. Also, there is almost universal dislike of the new skill trees by the beta testers who are playing with them. Turbine suddenly has started to make some last minute changes to try to fix things but it is way too late. The expansion will be small and have a lot of bugs. I do not think the skill tree changes will be well done. Players testing the Big Battles are not liking what they are seeing. So it is really in Turbine’s best interest to hide as much as possible and not let there be any real reviews based on actual game play come out before the launch of the expansion. In the end, we see once again Turbine has missed an opportunity to put out good content and make the game better. The best parts of the game are in the original lands and Moria – after that quality takes a huge down turn.

  13. Just less than a month and a half before a major expansion launch and beta is still ongoing (worse just started!), TURBINE’s history of launching bugged code does not instill any hope that this is going to be painless…

    The lack of information and concrete information is shoddy beyond belief!

    That change is likely in this minimal time is indicative of the shakiness of the product…

    Final fixed details of how the expansion should have been out by now and ongoing beta at this stage in the process should be a bug hunting exercise…

    LOTRO needs this to be QUALITY it’s passionate fanbase is also super critical, it must succeed. It cannot ride on its laurels of being the flashiest, newest, funkiest or most innovative MMO out there as we all know it is NOT!

    Lots of players are hanging onto LOTRO, mainly I guess because of the LOTR content, HD flopping may well buck many of these off, indeed worst case scenario is that many will simply choose to let go…

  14. I really think that it’s a no-win situation. If LOTRO did release the information, just as many people would be complaining and freaking out, simply for different reasons. All the speculations and assumptions just fan the flames. Once HD comes out, we can give Turbine constructive feedback to improve the game and fix bugs. Until then, all the white noise is probably just making them put their hands over their ears.

  15. Ecstatic about the changes! Much, much, much needed. The skill bloat is out of control and the system is incredibly uninspiring. Each class feels a lot like the next. Whatever they come up with on the skill trees, it cannot be any worse than what we have now.

  16. Trait trees are not finalized yet. It’s that simple. Beta is still ongoing and there is plenty of time for feedback.

  17. The dev diary that they just released was good, but it should have been released FIRST, before the class dev diaries. People have been panicked for a while now, and while I am being cautiously optimistic about the changes and definitely agree that they need to be done, the way in which they’ve communicated the changes has been poor.

    I don’t know whether it would have been better for them to release the prospective trees or not – it’d probably be 50/50 between players that love the changes and players that hate the changes, and people would throw fits with every revision.

  18. Regarding “Because there are way, way too many skills at present, and the skill bloat increases with each expansion.”:

    For the Champion, there have been all of three new skills added in the last two expansions (Seeking Blade, Battle Acuity, and Horn of Champions). I believe that the other classes have had a similar amount of skills added in the last three years, not counting Hunter and Warden ports. I didn’t find having three new skills to be unmanageable, especially considering that two of them proved to be exceptionally useful.

    As Loth said, if you feel like you have too many skills, just remove the ones that you’re not using. It’s a fairly safe guess that you’re not engaging in content which actually might require you to use more than a few skills anyway (if you were, you’d understand that every skill has a use), so I’m not sure why your (and others’) inability to manage your skill bars should be a reason to nerf or limit the gameplay of those people who are actually capable of doing so.

    It’s a moot point now though, since there will no longer be new content that requires skilled groups, and the trait trees are here to stay, in all their “we’ve cut way back on the number of skills you can access at once” glory.

    I wonder how many folks in the “we have too many skills and it’s confusing” camp are descendants of the gentleman who allegedly criticized a Mozart piece by saying that it had “too many notes”.

  19. I am in Beta, and I can say emphatically that things are NOT final yet. There are still significant changes being made to skills and trees based on user feedback (YES, testers ARE being listened to and feedback IS resulting in significant change). It would be irresponsible and disastrous for Turbine to release detailed information about the trees at this point, or at any point previous. Things are still subject to change. In a couple of weeks I’m sure there will be an appropriate time to release more information. Now is not that time.

    As for the people who are freaking out, they are the type of people who would freak out about anything. They seem to love drama and love stirring it up. Unfortunately those of us in Beta are not allowed to talk about it, so the only voices you’re hearing are the voices of leakers who don’t respect Beta, and who are just throwing up half-baked and often outdated information to stir the pot, or else people who’ve not even seen any of the changes with their own eyes yet, and are just talking out of their a**.

  20. Thank you, Anon. It’s rare that one gets to see Doublethink so clearly displayed.

    In two paragraphs, you manage to say that you’re not allowed to talk about Beta and the only people who do talk about Beta are leakers who don’t respect Beta, yet manage to confirm that you’re in Beta (in violation of the NDA that only those “others” don’t respect) and leak information of your own to us – namely, that the devs are responding to feedback and making significant changes thereon.

    The only takeaway from your post is that you’re a typical authoritarian: leaks are bad if they embarrass authority, but leaks are benign (nay, even good!) if they are in praise of that same authority. (In the interest of fairness, please – explain to us how your violations of the Beta NDA “respect Beta”.)

    Nice touch at the end where you throw in a baseless accusation that some of the people leaking bad news are probably just people who aren’t even in Beta, as well as the tired “anyone who complains is just the sort of person who always complains” intro to that paragraph.

  21. Thanks for confirming that you are more interested in drama than in facts, ‘Thunderloin.’

  22. I highly doubt it breaks the non-disclosure agreement to say that the Devs are responding to feedback. That’s their job. Also, not everyone is breaking the NDA to admit that they’re in Beta. The identity of Player Council members and the fact that they’re testing is public knowledge.

    Take a deep breath, it’s going to be okay!

  23. I’m quite interested in facts, Anon. Pointing out inconsistencies and noting your willingness to cast aspersions on an entire group of people is not “being interested in drama” – it’s called challenging someone’s statements and asking that person to defend what s/he said.

    Perhaps you can supply some facts to back up your assertions in the paragraph quoted below:

    “As for the people who are freaking out, they are the type of people who would freak out about anything. They seem to love drama and love stirring it up. Unfortunately those of us in Beta are not allowed to talk about it, so the only voices you’re hearing are the voices of leakers who don’t respect Beta, and who are just throwing up half-baked and often outdated information to stir the pot, or else people who’ve not even seen any of the changes with their own eyes yet, and are just talking out of their a**.”

    Or maybe you can tell us what “significant change[s]” have occurred as a result of feedback. (I also wonder exactly what feedback is spurring these alleged significant changes; after all, you seem to paint everyone who doesn’t like the changes as people who are just “freaking out” and basing their complaints on “half-baked and often outdated information” – so I can’t imagine that the devs are listening to those people. Whoever the devs are listening to, the simple fact that they’re making any changes at all lends credence to the legitimacy of the complaints about the skill tree system.)

    @Xina – fair point about Council Members. If Anon falls in that category, s/he has no reason to post as “Anon” instead of his/her publicly known Council name.

  24. @anon: dude you can’t even answer his question or explain yourself. you’re better off staying quiet if you don’t want to embarrass yourself more. hypocrite fanboy

  25. The devs are listening to constructive, rational feedback. And yes, I imagine they are even listening to some of the more strident feedback as well, if/when it’s coherent enough to be actionable. Unfortunately some people are just throwing ‘IhateitIhateitIhateitIhateit’ tantrums, but thankfully there are at least some people who are articulate in their feedback and giving pretty intelligent suggestions, some of which are being implemented.

    My suggestion: wait until live and see how things feel/play, give it a fair try. If you don’t like it then, well at least you tried the finalized changes and your dislike is based on actual facts and not speculation and half-baked drafts of things.

  26. @anon
    When I read your first comment, I wondered why you neglect to mention such facts as the poll done of beta testers which showed a result of 76.5% of participants said gave the skill trees a “poor” or “dread” rating with other choices being “love” or “like”. Love was only 1%. Like was 22.5%. You can see the poll and updated results at: http://lotrocommunity.com/forum/topic/2218-br-skill-tree-poll/

    So basically there is a lot of information that shows the problems and weaknesses of the expansion. It is not in a good state now and should be this close to launch. You can read about actual reviews of the expansion and the main feature “Big Battles” at http://lotrocommunity.com/forum/topic/2240-anybody-try-a-bugged-battle%E2%84%A2/
    I would encourage anyone to actually read 1) facts about the expansion and 2) players opinions on the expansion.
    Lastly, it is pretty significant that this expansion has no traditional instances, raid, or dungeons; and the group content of Big Battles only offers 1 12-man fight and one 6 man fight. Pretty weak for an MMO expansion. There are serious legitimate concerns about this expansion by players in beta who are playing and testing it.

  27. I’m in beta as well and I can say that Anon is pretty flat out wrong about what’s going on in it. Changes have been marginal (we’ll see what the next build will be like when bigger changes are promised), we’ve been told the trait trees are coming whether we like it or not. There’s been an overwhelmingly negative (yet polite and constructive) reaction to the new trees and it’s a fact that they allow for less choice (yes, a mathematical fact) than what we have on live. The devs are quite frankly engaging in false advertising about the new trees offering more options. I’m saying this as someone who intially thought the trees didn’t look so bad but discovered that yeah, they are, will all the changes they bring after playing my main for a bit. I’ve done my part to give constructive feedback as well. So no speculation or half-baked ideas here.

    Then there’s the Big Battles. Oh dear, what a boring mess they are. So yeah, it’s a bit easy to see why Turbine isn’t sharing more. Their product is being very negatively received by testers at the moment with a few people who are happy.

    And btw, you can’t talk about respecting Beta then and go break the NDA yourself.

  28. Turbine has gotten away with cards-close-to-the-chest pre-saling for years now. Many of their customers have wised up to their shenanigans and opted out of pre-purchase. For a game in such heavy decline and definitely showing its age, they’d be best served to offer info up on a silver platter for all to see. Instead, they keep details sketchy and the feelgood PR machine in overdrive. The reason we don’t get details, quite simply, is because it’s become a generic game with low-budget development.

    They completely revise the essential connections between player and character in the name of making you more effective and your role better defined, yet withhold development of really any content that even a monkey could consider remotely challenging. What use is your “role” when immersed in a primarily solo-oriented game? When the modes of play where a role even matters (raiding, PvP) are given as much attention as a red-headed stepchild… Helms Deep will cement the fact that Turbine’s store vehicle that is LotRO is not worth any self-respecting person’s precious time.

  29. Why is it OK for Turbine to try and make presales on this quest pack and not even sure how the skill trees are going to work or are making changes? All this is pointing to yet another massively buggy release and a 10 hour hotfix 2 days later. This is getting old, how about doing it right Turbine???

  30. While I agree that we would all like more, I don’t think that they realistically can release as much as we want. The changes are still being tested. As Sapience said in a post in the community, they are changing things in the trees in Beta almost every day–skills are being added, skills are being removed, names are being changed, requirements for skills are still in flux, etc.. And with the way that the community sinks their teeth into every fact like a starving dog on a bone, no one wants to promise something that they can’t deliver. I expect that as we get closer to release date, more information will be available to us. And, as with all other changes in the game, once we get to play it live, it will be changed yet again. That’s the way things go in an MMO.

  31. i’m in beta, i still hope it will change for good. after logging in into latest version of beta with all the love i had to the game, i felt like my beloved characters are eviscerated and mutilated so i even couldn’t play. maybe next iterations of tests will improve it. a week ago i was staring at the screen and physically feeling like want to throw up as if my avatars -a part of me in a way – were raped . it happened after a month which i spent providing feedback , and the changes were not yet taking anywhere directions towards improvement just fiixing random things nowhere to a direction it should go.

    it seems there is new team of devs working and they have much less experience. everything in general in new expansion looks cheaper. some locations do not match their descriptions in books, or just dont have enough detail.

    i really hope not, but many people will either be furious or leave after seeing how much their beloved classes were flawed. also there is no end game content and again ,no challenge anymore. RIP?

  32. When people demand a company give information immediately, even before a product is finished being developed, then complain that the info isn’t complete and accurate, there’s no way to win. It’s the Kobayashi Maru. Patience, Grasshopper!

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