Non-Epic Fail, Content, and RMT – Oh My!

Last post I talked about having a peek at LOTRO again, the current darling of blognation. I was drawn to give it a shot because of the handy dandy free trial after their new expansion, Mines of Moira. I had no delusions of grandeur of seeing the new content, but rather was curious of the trickle down effect to what changes this game has gone through since it’s release. I was especially excited to try out their new Warden class – reminded me very much of the 300 spartans – shield and spear. I dl’ed the trial, signed up, and off I went.

Although I saw the selection of the class available in the character select screen, and could see how cool I was going to look as a Warden, it would not let me continue past the tease. Took me only a minute to figure out that you can’t play that class without the expansion. Fair enough. Perhaps they had their own special starting zone a la WoW’s new Death Knight, so the expansion was needed. I mentioned it on the LOTRO forums (very nice and friendly place, by the way. Kudos to the community) and a friendly stranger sent me a MoM buddy key trial to see if that would work. It did! Excited once again to enter new lands as a spart- erm, elven warden, I created my character and zoned in.

This is where there was a non-epic fail, henceforth known as a “regular” fail (thanks CM – I concur!) – I was in the standard starting area. The same one I just did as an elven guardian. So to get this straight, not only would I have to buy the game, but the expansion as well, just to play a character class that appeals to me – to do the same basic content? Seems like an error in judgement on Turbine’s part – which led me to start thinking of what exactly “content” is in a game anyway.

In big MMO’s, the subscription fee isn’t for content development it is for “access” to existing content. The box cost of expansions fully covers the content itself. The “access” we pay for is by and large the profit stream for them. While quests, dungeons, new areas to explore are easily considered “content”, is the avatar you experience that content with itself considered “content”? Would be hard to argue yes. Blizzard did it cleverly with the Death Knight by providing it’s own special starting area, and having the class start over and above the initial content (although, they misplaced a number and started them at 2 year old content instead of the expansion content – the numbers are beside each other on the keyboard so I full understand the error). Charging or limiting character classes under a “content” guise is, well, cheap. I suppose this is also why MMO’s don’t develop old and existing areas too much – even they can’t figure out a way to charge for it.

Which leads me to the final part of my fancy title, a solution to MMO payment models. It is all about choices. Offer full subscriptions for those who prefer buffet, but offer a la carte for those who have more discernable tastes. Paying for content not only is a smart cosumer choice, as you can pay for things that you will actually use, but also makes much more sense from a development angle. Studios can develop content based off of demand, instead of “access”. If everyone is buying 5 man dungeons, develop more 5 man content. If everyone is investing in PVP battlegrounds, develop more of those. Even better, if 20% of your playerbase is investing in A, 30% in B, and 15% in C – you just broke down your development budget into sensible chunks to not only drive revenue, but please your customer base. If people want to pay $15 a month to have access to everything, then god bless them, open the pearl gates of full access. Just don’t leave the rest of us knocking at the door.

11 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Just dropping by to say thanks for the link, and many hearty agreement claps… or whatever passes for “seconded” on the internet. Nice article!

    “non-epic fail” *chuckleshort*

    I’d actually rather people use English more proficiently, and stop using “fail” that way at all. The word is a verb, and “failure” is the noun form, whether it’s epic or not. I know, Chris, that’s not your fault, I just thought of it since the term came up. *shrug* “Epic fail” is itself a failure to use English well. 😛

  2. @Jason: perhaps you are right. We must get rid of the word epic in that phrase. It is time. How about Average Fail? Or, for the MMO cynic, Typical Fail?

    @Tesh: I mean, uhm, Average Fail(ure), and Typical Fail(ure). Oh the irony!

  3. The last time I got my WoW fix with a 10-day Trial I was very disappointed. Sure, I could play for 10 days, and okay, I cannot play a BElf or a Dranei, nor enter the expansion areas, that’s understandable, but while questing I encountered two other 10-day players and…
    we couldn’t invite each other to Group,
    or whisper each other,
    or trade with each other.

    Now we couldn’t actually whisper each other without being on each other’s Friends’ list, but here’s the rub: being 10-day Trials the Add Friend button was grayed out for us. As Trials we couldn’t whisper each other without being Friends, but because we were Trials we couldn’t Add Friends either. However, one of the other two was pretty clever. He told us about the /addfriend command…and suddenly we could whisper each other, although we still couldn’t Group up.

    Still the three of us managed killed all the Troggs in the Gol’bolar Quarry for the two quests there, but without grouping we each had to kill our own Troggs, or at least Tag them, then we helped each other kill them. So we killed easily three times as many Troggs as we needed to.

    Then we moved on and did the Mangeclaw quest, but of course we had to do that three times too, with each of us taking it in turns to Tag Mangeclaw then everyone DPSing him down.

    As a trial, and thus allegedly experiencing what WoW had to offer, I felt it was a really horrible Trial because of all the restriction placed on Trial accounts.

    I realize Gold Spammers were using Trial accounts to spam City Trade Chat, and whisper other players, but that’s no excuse to deny Trials the Add Friend button (you can only Whisper someone if you’re on their Friends’ List, not them on yours). And it’s really no reason to not allow a Trial to buy and sell goods on the Auction House. My Trial’s gold is as good as that of an actual subscriber, so if I have the gold, why shouldn’t I be allowed to buy items? And why can’t I sell them, either? In neither case is anyone at risk of getting ripped off, and yet for some reason a Trial cannot use the Auction House.

    IMHO a far better WoW Trial would be something similar to W101’s “Trial”. You’d get a non-expiring Trial with a level-15 cap which gives a player full access to all vanilla content (no expansion areas & toons, but you’d be a fool to take a lowbie into WPL, anyway, or even STV), with limited Chat/Whisper features.

    I really wanted to play WoW a bit, but as a 10-day Trial I was severely limited in what I could do. All of the restrictions that Blizzard placed on a Trial Account actually turned me off playing the game that I’d loved for 3 years, and even though I was barely 2 days into my 10-day “fix”, I quit the game after killing Mangeclaw with my two new “friends” and never booted it back up.

  4. You could have tried a trial that included the expansion.

    Granted, it’s via buddy keys that come with the expansion (or at least the combo pack). All of my friends are currently trying the game out this way.

    So yeah, sitting from here this complaint sounds pretty weak that you went with an old trial key. I do think Turbine should update those, but mostly this was your own mistake. =P

  5. Ahhh nevermind my little critical comment above, I misread your intro. Serves me right for coming across like a jerk.

    I suppose your right with the situation of new starting areas, but honestly it never seemed like a big deal to me with what WoW did. The Draenei starting areas weren’t as good as the original ones and like many people I just migrated my character over to the old ones, there were still 3 to choose from.

    For LOTRO, it’s my first go through, so I’m more forgiving I suppose. It seems like a minor complaint, there’s so much low level content already.

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