Thursday, 27 August 2009


Well, it turns out that the Great Bounty Quest Bonanza is, indeed, the result of a miscalculation by the developers. Responding to complaints on the US forums about overcrowding at the bounty sites, Vastin, a member of Turbine’s online team, admitted as much: “It might surprise you to know that rewards are handled separately from quest design. Our content team designs quests, estimates how long they'll take, and then the systems guys designate the rewards that they will give out. In this case we overestimated how long the quests would take to run, and our systems folks overshot the reward a bit, and both factors combined to provide a hefty dose of IXP love for you folks”.

Whoops. Nice to know just how these things happen, plus it’s a relief to discover that the devs will cheerfully admit to the occasional all-too-human cock-up.

What next? Still according to Vastin, “I'm considering various fixes to reduce the crush at them. The easiest and most logical short term fix would be to increase the length of the quest timers on them to 3 days or so, so that's the front runner at the moment. […]We don't have another patch scheduled for a while yet, so it'll likely stay as-is for a time”.

So gather ye rosebuds whilst ye may. Personally, I would much prefer the other solution Vastin proposed, namely upgrading the two group quest targets to massive, Arch-Nemesis-on-Steroids class, but I think that was tongue-in-cheek. Too bad.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009


The five new Bounty quests available in Esteldin can be repeated daily; between them, they give a total of 465,000 item experience points each and every day. That’s a hell of a lot of of ixp - enough to take a legendary item to l.60 in under a week…

Three of the quests are easily soloable by any competent l.60 player, and the other two represent a mild challenge to any combination of no more than two l.60s; undertaken in any group of three or more, including a Hunter to provide transport, all five can be completed in just over thirty minutes. In other words, you can take two legendary items from zero to sixty within a grand total of six hours playing time.

The bounty quest ixp represents the equivalent of flooding a real-world economy with bad money by printing shoals of banknotes, and results in rampant inflation. All other forms of gaining ixp, including in-combat ixp and the extra quests for the Moria instances have suddenly been rendered utterly irrelevant – at this point, who will care a fig for the measly 180 ixp awarded for killing a l.60 orc?

I admit to being baffled by this development; at a single stroke, the devs have effectively killed off one third of their legendary item strategy. This used to have three prongs: acquiring a LI, levelling it up, and gambling for legacies and settings. The second prong of that strategy has now had its heart ripped out. How much longer before the other two go as well? Is this the beginning of the end for LIs – and would that be a bad thing?

Tuesday, 11 August 2009


Richard Bartle, a British writer and game designer, was the co-author of MUD, the first multi-user dungeon and according to Wikipedia, “one of the pioneers of the massively multiplayer online game industry”. He is also the designer of the Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology, which uses a series of about 30 questions to determine the preferences of games players. Depending on their answers, player preferences are divided between the roles of Achiever, Explorer, Socialiser and Killer, with the score ranking indicating the principal thrust of a player’s interest. As an example, a pure non-consensual PvP game such as the recent Darkfall is clearly designed to appeal primarily (indeed, probably exclusively) to the Killer type of player.

A fascinating recent post in Pearls of Unwisdom argues that the current radiance gating debate in LOTRO reflects a long-standing conflict of interest between Achievers and Explorers: “Achievers and Explorers have been knocking heads together for a while now, especially with regards to gating of content […] Achiever types traditionally thrive in content gating situations […] Explorers [are] forced either to join the numbing grind, or to hang up their hiking boots and call it a day.” The post concludes by asking “given that Achievers and Explorers both seem to enjoy raiding, can they both coexist peacefully? Or is there a fundamental conflict between what they both want from the experience?”.

It must first of all be said that the Bartle test does not really fit in very well with a game like LOTRO, which has minimal PvP content – I tried the test, but kept being faced with questions which really had no application to the LOTRO experience, particularly as regards killing fellow players… More germane to this discussion is the fact that I can see a substantial overlap between Achievers and Explorer goals. However, what I found particularly illuminating was the recasting of Raiders as Achievers. The official Bartle definition of a pure Achiever goes like this: “Best, first and most are the favorite adjectives of the Achiever. They love comparison not only against others, but also with themselves. They enjoy setting goals, surpassing previous performances and hitting new milestones. They tend to have lots of high scores, badges, trophies and other concrete evidence of their successful endeavors”.

If the argument in favour of a very narrow gateway to end-content raiding, and therefore to the highest-quality gear, is that there must always be some concrete, strutting-around, high-status evidence of a player’s ability to eventually beat the hardest challenge thrown at him by the developers, there’s an easy way to achieve this without depriving everybody else (i.e., Explorers and Socialisers) from experiencing environments and challenges such as the Rift and Dar Narbugud.

Simple. Widen access to the big, multi-boss instances which everyone wants to experience, not by making the fights easier, but by providing several pathways into the instances: forget radiance gating, and offer alternatives such as crafted armour, drops from several different kinds of quests, and epic book rewards. At the same time, provide another 12-man raid which need not have more than one or two bosses, and which will not require spectacular new settings (scenery is for wimps!), but make it fiendishly, almost impossibly difficult. The rewards for completing this instance should be impressive, even flashy. They should immediately stand out in a crowd, offering instant status for those who crave it, but (and this is important) they must not be in any way functionally superior to the top rewards for finishing the other end-content raid.

Result? Genuinely rare, high-status display items for the Achievers, satisfaction for frustrated Explorers and Socialisers, and, at the end of the day, a level playing field for all.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009


The following quote is lifted from Turbine designer Orion's blog of 4 August. There really isn't much that can usefully be added to it, apart from noting that the issue is obviously being taken seriously at a high level. As the man says, wheels are in motion...

"I am looking at the generators, resets and other scripting bits that make up the Grimbark fight when I am asked to come to a meeting on Radiance Gear. Being that I wrote a spec on how to deal with the issue, I am being asked for input on the solution. Now, I cannot go into great detail - because it is still not in implementation and I would rather let Amlug discuss this with all of you; unless of course he asks me to do so. I will say this, the changes are going to be for the better.

The meeting includes Avon, myself, Amlug and Raskolnikov. We banter back and forth, each of us expresses our understanding of the core issues with the system. They have been at it for a while when I come in the room and there is a split on the best course of action to rectify, refit and make an attempt to satisfy the issue. We know that we are dancing on a very thin line. On one hand, we need to do something to rekindle Hope to the casual player base (pun intended) in the other we still need to provide enough bragging rights for achievers. We continue the discussion until everyone has their say. The solution is on the board with some minor tweaks being added as we draw the meeting to a close and realize that it’s not the elegant solution that we each desire, rather it is an amalgam of what can be done and what we all reason can be accomplish in the time frame we have with the tools and technology at our disposal. The past and the decisions made by those who are not us haunt us ever forward. Still, we have a solution, one that dances on that fine blade and only time, concrete specs, implementation, testing and player feedback will answer if we got the solution right, partly right, mostly right, right enough, nowhere near right or some mix of all of the previous.

If I can convince Amlug to blog about the system or get his leave to explain the solution in the coming weeks I will. For now, know that wheels are in motion and the world is turning, that is the sunlight you feel on your face. We know that this is an issue and are dedicated to doing something about it. Period."

Saturday, 1 August 2009


According to The Telegraph newspaper, addiction therapists are creating their own avatars in online fantasy games such as World of Warcraft in the hope of treating youngsters addicted to virtual worlds.

“We will be launching this project by the end of the year”, said Dr Graham, a consultant psychiatrist at the Tavistock Centre in London. “I think it’s already clear that psychiatrists will have to stay within the parameters of the game. They certainly wouldn’t be wandering around the game in white coats and would have to use the same characters available to other players. Of course one problem we’re going to have to overcome is that while a psychiatrist may excel in what they do in the real world, they’re probably not going to be very good at playing World of Warcraft. We may have to work at that if we are going to get through to those who play this game for hours at end.”

The mind gently boggles. As I drifted off, the following dialogue played itself out on the GLFF channel of my mind…

[GLFF] Shatterhand: 9/12 for Watcher, looking for mincer, dps and experienced champ.
[GLFF] Lacan: Well, hi there, Shatterhand! Want to talk a bit?
[GLFF] Shatterhand: What class?
[GLFF] Lacan: Well, you could think of me as a healer.
[GLFF] Shatterhand: Mincer, cool. What rad? Must have +50 min.
[GLFF] Lacan: How nice. Minimum 50 what, exactly?
[GLFF] Shatterhand: Radiance, man. +50 or you cower when we go for suchi.
[GLFF] Lacan: To be honest, I’m not that fond of Japanese food myself, but hey, it takes all sorts… I’d like to talk to you about cowering, though. Why do you think you have to cower?
[GLFF] Shatterhand: ???
[GLFF] Lacan: Do you think it might be because your social skills are a little, let us say, rusty? How many hours a day do you stay online, hmmm?
[GLFF] Shatterhand: One sec, inspecting… You noob, you’re l.5 and your pointy stick only does 1-3 damage!
[GLFF] Lacan: Now, what leads you to express yourself in those terms?
[GLFF] Shatterhand: *&%£@!?X!
[GLFF] Lacan: Oh, too bad, he’s gone. Never mind, I’m sure I must have helped him to a better understanding of himself…