Turbine, shark jumping, and $50 horses

"This is not a joke." ~ Turbine

“This is not a joke.” ~ Turbine

There’s a lot of eyebrow-raising issues with upcoming LOTRO content, but let’s talk about the $50 hobby horse, shall we?  That’s right: Turbine’s introducing a toy hobby horse to the store (at least on the test server) that costs 5000 Turbine Points, which is mind-bogglingly expensive.

And then they asked for feedback.

Before we talk about the horse in particular, I want to quote the developer here.  This post is a masterpiece of passive-aggressive communication, and I honestly can’t believe it made it through whatever filters the company has for dev-player chat.  I mean, okay, I get that the developers don’t just want to hear nerdrage that’s completely unproductive and just vile, but the whole post starts from the assumption that that is coming and conducts some sort of pre-emptive strike that hits everyone:

“The store wizards would like your feedback (well-thought out, non-crazypants) on this item.”

“Any rants about how evil Turbine is for making store items, even those that are entirely optional and up simply for the fun of those who are willing to pay for them, will be disregarded. This item is an experiment item. We simply want your feedback on the type of item presented and what might be added to it or done to it to make it a better item. We are not forcing you to buy it. No one is forcing you to buy it. It’s something to be there and be fun for those who may want it.”

/pinches my nose and sighs

OK.  Here’s the thing.  If you want feedback, you’re going to have to accept the bad with the good.  What I’m hearing here is “Shut up if you don’t like this, if you think it’s a money grab, if you don’t think it’s appropriate for the game.  Just shut up.  We won’t even acknowledge your crazypants existence.”  You cannot ask for feedback and then tell the people that their feedback will be disregarded if it doesn’t suit the developers.

Here’s one more thing: Taking this passive-aggressive stance with whoever is reading this is going to make everyone who reads it feel like they’re being chastised.  I don’t care what the reader would’ve said, they’re already starting from the position that Turbine’s kind of cross with them and watching them very, very closely.  It starts a “feedback” discussion off on the wrong foot, in my opinion.

Now back to the horse.  From what I hear, it’s a normal-speed mount with no specified extra features.  Maybe that’s coming later. Lore-wise, this runs right off a cliff and does not-good things to immersion.  Perhaps we’re too late to complain about that, but there’s little room in my head for a Middle-earth where the war-hardened inhabitants are prancing around on kids’ toys.

I love how this dev says “This is not a joke,” as if they knew that that would be the very first response.  I mean, Turbine’s got to know that it’s going to get some strong pushback here.  Lo and behold, the first response is incredulity, and it goes downhill from there:

“3. What sort of features might entice you to purchase an item at this price point?”
“Being an expansion?”

“How long untill Flying Mounts seem like a good idea??”

“2. Would you be willing to purchase this item?”
“If I enjoyed literally setting fire to money in my spare time, probably.”

“1. The price is not a joke. That is the proposed price for this item.”
“The 5,000 price point is astronomical for what the in-game toy provides. You call it not a joke and you’re right. I’m not laughing.”

“My constructive question would be,
1a.Who @Turbine/WB actually proposed that price point?
1b. and have they been fired or removed from the item pricing team?”

“Want me to be level headed? Stop making Store-only items that are over-priced and not available for VIPs to earn in-game.”

“I find the opening of such topic insulting toward me and the fan-base.”

“As a matter of fact I will do everything possible to not buy it and Ill personally lead a game-wide boycott on this item and any such other nonsense in the future.”

“3. What sort of features might entice you to purchase an item at this price point?”
“Make it account wide. Also make it not such a humiliation.”

“I’m not sure that it’s entirely fair to set a crazypants price and then ask for non-crazypants feedback.”

How’s that for your community response?  Oh, go ahead and push it onto live, Turbine.  We all know you’re going to anyway.

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31 thoughts on “Turbine, shark jumping, and $50 horses

  1. Re immersion: this is already in game. It’s a quest item in a Harwick daily quest. So I’ll keep riding my evil back horse with my purple cloak while shouting at people to kill them, thank you. Perhaps seeing a person riding this at +68% or w/e i going to be silly, but LOTRO doesn’t have any humor.

    Re price: as long as I don’t need it, with need being very subjective, I don’t care. I do want to see this type of stuff. They should have ultra-expensive Rolls Royce type luxury items.

    Re community managing: Fail. Straight up. You do not sink to their level. You maintain professionalism. It is one thing to guide feedback and tell fan what feedback is requested. It is another to write it like you are speaking to grade schoolers who use their allowance for LOTRO.

  2. I had to follow the link to make sure it wasn’t an April Fools in December.

    Yeah, F2P and the need to drive the cash shop has killed immersion. Price would just keep me from ever buying it even were I to think it worthwhile.

    But the community relations aspect… simple a “dude, WTF?” moment. As you say, way to make an audience hostile right from the get go.

  3. I’m not disagreeing with your points (I agree, this is ridonkulous of the highest degree), but xRaina is just a Quality Assurance person – she is not a developer. She just helps run the beta stuff with Kehleyr.

  4. That makes the EVE monocle seem like a masterpiece of design. Sure both are overpriced, but at least the monocle doesn’t kick the lore immersion of everyone that encounters you in the face. Rohan is among the best expansions I’ve ever encountered in a MMO. As if terrified of not sucking, Turbine follows it up by taking a dump and proposing to sell it to us for more than a mini-expansion like Mirkwood. Brilliant…

  5. When they said they were going to add pets that buffed (or mitigated?) fights for everyone the community was quick to jump and make post after post asking them not to introduce those pets. So far they haven’t. I really hope they listen to the hobby horse thread and drastically lower that price as well as make it more a toy like the festival stuff rather than a mount.

    As to the way they worded the post about the hobby horse? Makes me want to not spend anymore TPs. Don’t appreciate being treated as if my thoughts may not count before I even have the chance to form them.

  6. Look at the feedback the player base has been leaving just for this U9 preview, and then look at how xRaina’s postchanged in tone.

    Again, the player base brings it upon themselves. We ask for more communication then $&!@ on the developers when they give it, then wonder why they aren’t talking to us anymore.

  7. That this hobby horse toy should improve your travel speed is beyond lorebreaking. It is completely stupid. I, for one, hate this idea.

    If this item goes into the game as is, the price should be way higher than $50, to decrease the chance that I ever see one of these abominations.

  8. The feedback has not been that bad Abney unless you categorise disagreement or unhappiness with a product to be inherently bad.

    Anyway, I was pretty shocked by the tone of xRaina. It was rude and inappropriate. The responses to her are so full of win though. I laughed so many times reading through them all. I think the feedback is well deserved and entirely appropriate.

  9. That is an insane price of course, It is more disturbing that there are people at WB/Turbine who think like that. As a festival item that you can easily earn, say like horses used to be (remember 20 tokens?) and with no added speed over on-foot running, they could be fun the way tankards and pretzls are. But this is insane. This is representative of the kind of mindset which will destroy the game.

  10. I like it, I was hoping they’d make it available some way. The price is too high of course, this IS beta, part of beta is to feel people out. They’ll likely drop the price twice before offering it LIVE. As for lore immersion being broken, please ok, just please. As for it being a cash grab NEWS flash this just in, the whole GAME is a cash grab, guess what so is EVery thing else, get over it. The devs make a game to get paid to feed their famillies and buy awesome stuff. There job in life isn’t to selflessly cater to every possible person. Please people have some dignity, you have choices in life if you don’t like this hobby horse don’t buy it, if you don’t like the game don’t play it, even for free.

  11. “Oh, go ahead and push it onto live, Turbine. We all know you’re going to anyway.”

    If they follow their recent pattern, they’ll cut it down to $20 and claim the change was a response to player feedback, when that was in fact the price they were always aiming for.

    The story does drive home how little majority opinion matters when it comes to cash shops. It does not matter that 99% of people are either opposed on principle or unwilling to pay, only what (if anything) they can make off of the people who do pony up.

  12. Who is that devilishly handsome minstrel in that pic? ;)

    Honestly, this has become a pattern with Turbine. Remember the Store Armour? Then the Rohan xpac not including instances but still charging $70 for the “Legendary” package? (I’m never doing that again…) Warsteed colors and now… this.

    And then there’s the layoffs to consider. If buying a $50 mount would bring back Clover and the Warden Dev, I’d put off my impending purchase of Guild Wars 2 and do that. But it wont.

    What I’m seeing is WB treating LOTRO just like every other product in their franchise: Charge as much as they can get away with because they have a stranglehold on the IP. What they seem to fail to realize is that LOTRO came out in 2007 and is now rather old by industry standards. Usually, when people talk about LOTRO these days, it’s because of incidents like this. Even the Rohan xpac largely saw coverage outside of the community itself because of the price tag. Not entirely, but largely. This game is no longer an internet darling. Mistakes like this may end up hurting the game in the long run, even if it brings the company some short-term profit.

  13. If they’d like their most devoted fans to make donations, they could just, you know, post a PayPal link and ask for donations. They don’t need to dick around with $50 hobby horses.

  14. Re the comment on flying mounts, surely those would be solidly within the lore.

    I wouldn’t pay $50 for anything in a video game other than content (and it would need to be a lot of content) but $50 is a significant amount of money to me. If $50 was to my personal income as, let’s say, 50 cents is, then I might well not even think twice. This is the thing about pricing – it’s relative, not absolute. Same with value.

    On the tone of the dev/QA person in question, it’s mild compared to Abashi on a good day or Absor on a bad one and they were specifically employed as Customer Reps! It never worked for them either.

  15. I don’t think they’re not willing to hear negative feedback (why open the thread in the first place, otherwise?) it’s just they’d rather not be hit by a wall of insults instead of something more reasoned telling them why they’re doing something outrageous… Sounds a bit scared to me, Like a child that broke a window and knows mom is not gonna appreciate it. It’s not Raina’s fault after all…

  16. I think the idea is crazypants, and the opening post is there to provide Turbine with a way to say “We asked for feedback, remember?” when the inevitable happens and this goes into the store.

    Of course, the way they asked for feedback allows them right up front to delete or disregard anything that doesn’t fit into their comment criteria.

    That approach to opinion-gathering is more disturbing to me than the hobby-horse, to be honest.

  17. As long as players keep paying, developers will keep pushing the boundaries for what can be sold through in-game item-stores and for how much they can charge. This item looks very much like something pushed through by marketing/business-people to “test the waters”.

  18. This just makes me lament even more that the game I enjoyed for 2 years is well and truly gone now. Too much of the free-to-play changes to LotRO just hurt immersion too much for me to keep playing. (I wrote about this over a year ago, in fact: http://psychochild.org/?p=1051 Still playing DDO, as it’s a lot less obnoxious in general about reaching into your wallet.)

  19. Despite the heavy criticism and the fact that everyone has been saying ‘no’ to this idea, Turbine will go forward with it. They’ve spent time and resources turning it into a “horse” as well as putting it up on the store. Even if, on the rare chance, that they do pull it, they’ll just pull it for awhile until they “deem it necessary to release at a later time of choosing.”

    Everyone remember the “steed of the night,” a.k.a. Sauron’s evil horse? Did they stop that from going to the store? Nope. So this will go through as well regardless.

  20. Here’s me thinking $25 for a sparklepony in WoW was expensive. At least that saved all your characters a ton of in-game gold, it’s a speed-scaling + flying mount all in one. But if this is $50 for a mount for one character then that’s way beyond just an inflation adjusted sparklepony…

  21. Pricing any single fun item higher than a full expansion like Rohan debases the hard work the devs put into that expansion.

  22. Follow up on this; it seems so absurd I wonder if it’s not in fact an experiment in another direction entirely. I’m probably giving Turbine as a corporation too much credit, but you never know…

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