Sunday, 19 December 2010


I like to think that some of my readers are interested in what goes on behind, and beyond, games such as LOTRO, and I'd like to point those readers at a fascinating online essay by Edward Castranova, who teaches telecommunications at Indiana University. Entitled "An Exodus Recession", it's posted here, on Castranova's equally highly recommended blog, "Terra Nova: A Blog about Virtual Worlds". It's a relatively long text, so I'll just quote the opening paragraph:

"The economy continues to move slowly and economists seem as uncertain as ever about the causes and what to do. Months ago, I began to wonder – could this possibly be the first “exodus recession”? In my first book I sketched out the idea. Suppose economic activity moves from the real world into the virtual world. Human happiness is unaffected or even goes up, however, the goods that produce the happiness are now produced and consumed in a virtual environment rather than the real one. Measurements of economic activity, being all based in the real economy, would begin to show weakness. I argued that contemporary political and economic control systems do not tolerate much weakness, thus, there might well be some sort of crisis in the real world, for no good reason, simply because production and consumption was going “off the books” and into virtual environments. One term for this would be an "exodus recession" - an economic downturn caused by the movement of human attention and energy into virtual environments. Are we in an exodus recession right now?"

"The movement of human attention and energy into virtual environments" - ring any bells? Read the rest of the essay.

Sunday, 5 December 2010


From the latest Turbine news release, this: "Radiance & its removal in Q1 – We’ve received a lot of feedback on Radiance gating since its introduction and are pleased to announce that Radiance gear will no longer be a requirement for any of our instances or raids. In fact, with the release of our Q1 update next year, we will be removing Radiance from the game entirely. It will not be present in the new Instance Cluster or Epic Book and will be removed from all current instances. You should get your first look at a Radiance-free LOTRO on Bullroarer in early February of next year."

You have to love corporate double-talk. A solid year's firestorm of complaint, grumbling, reasoned argument against, violent objection and outright abuse, reduced to a nicely bland "we’ve received a lot of feedback". I'll say you have... Corporations are like governments; they would rather die the death of a thousand cuts than ever, ever have to admit, in so many words, that they were wrong. Given sufficient outrage in the population, they may eventually take action ("we will be removing Radiance from the game entirely"), but god forbid they should admit to error.

Oh well, never mind. The main thing is that the issue has been conceded and that there is to be an unqualified retreat. I can't help wondering, though, what the actual mechanics of removing radiance will be. Obviously, the simplest way of dealing with it is just to remove that particular parameter from the game, so that armour no longer has a radiance rating. The problem with that approach, however, is that it will introduce a serious imbalance: the two rarest and hardest to acquire armour sets, Dar Narbugud and Barad Guldur, are notoriously poor in everything but radiance. Remove radiance, and at a stroke you will have completely devalued the game's most valuable assets. Perhaps the designers will compensate by increasing or adding stats to these items - but economic history teaches us that devaluation is never pain-free...