Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lord of the Rings Online - Moria launches, fanbois rejoice..

Tobold made a post about Moria, that went something like this...

"I don't have the time to play this, I don't have the level to play this, and I don't know anyone who plays this. I haven't even read anything about Mines of Moria on any of the MMORPG blogs I follow"

Note the bolded section.

Why is this?

Recently as "some" know, Turbine released Mines of Moria to ...well, I am not sure.

Seems someone posted in the comments..

"Turbine can release Moria so close to WotLK because they are confident that there sizeable current player base simply won't be playing WotLK. We are seeing jam packed servers at the moment, as busy as I've ever seen them."

LOTRO players always good to get a WoW dig in...

I decided to post a comment...

"LOTRO is what they call a "wanna be' in the biz!
Moria is only good for those who play LOTRO already."

I feel the last point is valid. Moria was made for the current player base. Moria has nothing to offer to bring a new player in. All high level content. Two new classes, but it has been argued that one of the classes is a travesty to the Tolkien lore even. But, it is an MMO, and not having a proper "Magic using" class was unheard of.

The commenter I was discussing this with feels I have lost touch with reality though...

"The fact of the matter is, you are simply not in touch with reality when it comes to LotRO. It's a solid, very playable, fully featured MMO, and it has been a huge success for Turbine"

Yes, I agree actually. The game is solid, playable and stable. I do argue with the fully featured (the class selections for example are definitely questionable), the models are ugly, the animations are 30fps in the 60fps world (even the latest videos show the jerky movement, kinda like G.I.Joe's in 3d).

I guess I need to ask. Is LOTRO really relevant in our MMO stable? It definitely has done better than Vanguard, Tabula Rasa, Hellgate and quite a few more (Age of Conan has had better sales, yet retention has been crap).

So, why is it not stomping WAR or even getting close to WoW numbers (and for that matter, what about Guild Wars, whose play times on XFire and overall sales has been crushing).

I looked at Xfire for LOTRO which really shows the player base stomping down on this game big time. It placed 16th overall.

But, when we compare this to WAR which is placing above (15th actually) we see something amazing...

The overall number of players is considerably lower for LOTRO than WAR. So, we are mainly seeing Expansion envy by the current player base if anything.

You would think with such an IP, that it could garner a larger audience.

There is no doubt that Turbine has to be happy with it's current base.
But, why not go for the bigger pie?

When you go in search of loyalty to the game, by way in regards to blogs, news stories, etc...it just seems to be a small part of the overall genre universe.

As I originally stated...is LOTRO an MMO wannabe?


Hudson said...

You better put the flame suit on, the DDO and LOTRO fans are gonna come at you like a spider monkey.

All 12 of them!

Ok that was mean. But oh well.

Brendan said...

I think LOTRO can be explained in a few ways.

The first is that the lore issue is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, Middle Earth is a very attractive and well-known IP. On the other hand, it's really damned restrictive and cramped in terms of what is doable in a game due to the one main difference it has from most gaming IPs: it isn't a high magic world. This impacted not only the lack of any real caster class in the initial release, but also the healing class as well (playing the lute to damage and heal is interesting, but quite odd for many players who are used to playing caster healers). The same holds true for the PvP system, the lack of the ability to really play an evil character and the like. The lore restricts LOTRO a great deal and can make the game feel cramped.

The other issue, which impacts not only LOTRO but other games as well, is that another level-based, quest-based fantasy MMO is really not going to blow the doors off the market, due to the predominance of Warcraft in that particular space. Warcraft does the leveling/questing/raiding model of game quite well, people have level capped characters in that game, and so forth -- it's very hard for another level/quest/raid based game to attract a large number of customers, particularly when it comes saddled with as many restrictions as LOTRO does. LOTRO really had nothing to distinguish it from WoW in a any great way, other than its different setting and much more restrictive mechanics.

I think it may be the time for developers to see that the way to compete with WoW is not to make games that are like WoW, but not done as well as WoW is or more restrictive than WoW is.

Bildo said...

I'm confused... how can the #3 NA MMO (if Xfire is to be trusted) be a wannabe?

The expansion definitelty caters to returning players and not new ones, though. The same can also be said about Lich King and Shadow Oddyssey for WoW and EQ2 respectively.

Upward moving expansions aren't always the answer, and I wonder when developers will instead just keep fleshing out more and more content for the whole game, rather than raising the ceiling.

Openedge1 said...

I would disagree.
For example, the last expansion for EQ2 added a whole new beginner zone. Shadow Odyssey did add new recipes and crafting instances....


EQ2 is on it's 4th year, long in the tooth, and has pretty much stabilized any player base it may have or get.

WoTLK. Sorry, I DO believe ANY expansion from Blizzard garners new players. WoW's player base is so large, and still adding. The fact new content is being added is their cup of tea there.

But, I digress with those.
My issue is why is MoM such a low radar release. They are still early in their life, and treating the game like it is massive..
Why release when such a high profile game is releasing an expansion (and yes, I know EQ2 also did this, but they have accepted that they are at their current critical mass).
And at THIS time LOTRO is #3 thanks to higher playtimes from the current base (as the play minutes are quite high, but the amount of players is low).

Sales wise, we will probably never see it post to the NPD charts again.

But, hey, maybe I am wrong, and maybe more than just the LOTRO fanbois think the game is relevant.

For example why are YOU not trying it?

Scott said...

Ok, I'll bite...

Other than you don't like the game, why single out LOTRO? I could very easily point a finger at Age of Conan and ask if it's a Wannabe based on any number of statistics. I could ask if AoC is even relevant whatsoever. I could do the same of EQ2. In fact I was shocked at the EQ2 number on Xfire. I figured (mostly from the people I know on my server and from OOC and GLFF chats) that tons of LOTRO players either don't know what Xfire is and/or have no reason to use it. But EQ2 is showing 440 people who even use Xfire... I was actually expecting LOTRO to have a lower number of people using Xfire than it did, whereas I suppose I automatically assume WAR with its "ZOMG PEE VERSUS PEE" gameplay would also attract the Counterstrike or Call of Duty FPS players who DO use Xfire.

So Tobold doesn't know anyone who plays LOTRO. That matters why exactly? Neither do I. Nor do I know anyone still playing WoW. My friends and I moved on. I don't need my friends to move with me to an MMO and I don't need to move with them either. There are thousands of players on each server from which I can make in-game friends or acquaintances.

EQ2 just pumped out an expansion too, but is Tobold writing about that? No. He's a WoW Player and an MMO Dabbler, like most of the bloggers out there. EQ2 is just as much of a "levels/quest/raid" game as WoW is, as Brendan thought of LOTRO (and LOTRO is *NOT* a raid game, just to clarify that).

Expansions are always for existing players; that's kinda the point of them. If advertising plus word of mouth from existing players brings in new players, great. On my LOTRO server, I'm seeing a good amount of returning players as well as some brand new ones, but Turbine also advertised and got shiny boxes on shelves. There aren't many EQ2 blogs out there but I'm not reading of *any* NEW players, just those returning to check out the new content before they re-cancel and go back to whatever they've been doing.

It's all in what grabs you, man. WoW, EQ2, LOTRO, and AoC are all traditional Diku-MMORPG's but look how different they all are. For me, EQ2 offered everything I wanted *on paper* but did everything possible to turn me away once it was installed and I will probably never bother with it again. I'm doubting that Mythic can "fix" WAR into what I personally was hoping the game would be in order to bring me back. WoW offers me nothing whatsoever. LOTRO, for whatever reason, has more of what I'm looking for in ways I want to do things. I have a laundry list of negative comments about some mechanics of the game but overall it "grabbed" me where EQ2 utterly failed. WoW grabbed me too, as it grabbed millions of others, but I'm not falling for its bait and switch from fun leveling game into grinding raids or battlegrounds as an end-game anymore.

I will wholeheartedly agree with Bildo, however, that vertical movement is not the answer. That is the one single sticking point I have with Moria -- raising the level cap. But... that comes along with games based on levels so we just have to accept it until studios finally move on from broken and restrictive levels. Look at Guild Wars where (even though it *has* levels) 95% of the game is all lateral expansion and advancement. You still get more and more challenges, you still progress your character, but there's never a need to raise a level cap.

Openedge1 said...

Ok, lets start with AoC.

I already gave a prognosis there.

The relatively newness of the game gives it some leeway. As well, the game is still on peoples minds of what they did (major screw up of course) and where they are heading (can they actually fix it?).

So, for now as an MMO, it has "maybe gonna be" written all over it.

For EQ2, as I stated, it has already played it's cards, and has it's current player base. As such, any further growth for an old game like that, which has had issues in the past, may never grow anymore. It is also is not built for the future with it's old engine (even though they did make some adjustments to fix that). It also has the EQ name, and will be historically remembered as such...
"I call it a "has been" or "coulda' been" instead of Wanna be.

LOTRO is still relatively new, but not so new that most anyone who plays MMO's should know about it. But, so many seem disinterested to write about it.
It also, as Steefel has noted, has a chance to reach "Critical Mass" like WoW. But, how is it to do this when it sticks to the current base of players for it's income or does not have a ton of bloggers discussing it, or major gaming sites talking?

As to the Tobold remark, what is important here is he is a "Lifetime" member. In so many words, he has played, and paid for the longevity of the game...yet has no interest in playing now.

This is why he does not write about EQ2, he has not really put anything into it. He does not write about it, but has written about LOTRO many times. This is why his post IS relevant.

Is it really going to hold out? Maybe for that 250k playing I guess it will.

But, it can never really make a name for itself, and feels more like a cheap knock off.

But, that is why we are discussing it. Does it really offer something that can make it more prominent in the MMO genre? Could it reach that effect or is the IP limiting it's future, and is it just going to stay niche.

Bildo said...

Is 250,000 suddenly a bad number? I mean in a genre dominated by one big guy, and a bunch of stalwart little guys right now, 250,000 is a great place to be.

LotRO, like WAR and AoC, simply aren't claiming to go up against WoW. They all 3 want to be the #2 MMOG because (rightly so), that's likely all they can hope for right now. Blizzard is Blizzard, and there's no beating them at their own game currently.

So in that sense, it's good of LotRO to keep those 250,000 people playing and looking forward to new content. It's profitable, has a ton of subscriptions for your average MMOG, and gets consistent critical scores. The only thing they could want more of is subscribers, but no one knows that magic formula. It even got Blizzard off guard back in 2004.

If LoTRO's a niche game so is every other MMOG except WoW, at which point the term "niche" becomes cliche and pointless.

As to why I'm not playing it? WAR obviously, and out of the 3 recently released expansions Lich King holds the most water for me. LotRO 2nd. TSO 3rd.

Hudson said...

Remember when EQ1 announced it broke 500,000 players? I was online that night, on Povar, and thought to myself: wow I will never see this again.

So then WoW comes along and ruins the industry by making these games so mainstream and watering everything down. Blizzard did it so well that it has almost turned people against its own product (especially among jaded bloggers).

Now we cannot even have a game with just over 200,000 subs and consider it be remotely popular. I don't think we can look at these numbers as something that has to be "WoW level" because it just will not happen. Bildo is right, second best is still up for grabs at this point. But as for XFIRE I mean I don't even use my XFIRE when I log in, sometimes I just forget to run it honestly.

To me it is kind of like Twitter. It is popular, but I have no idea why. So those numbers may be off.

Bildo said...

RE: WoW and the hardcore hatred of it.

People love to hate what's popular. Like hating on Playstation because it does well, or Microsoft simply because they're so massive, or even Apple now because they're trendy.

Blizzard and WoW are the MMOG Industry's Microsoft (or Apple if you play it and hate Microsoft and will kill me for saying that).

Scott said...

I'm not giving AoC any leeway whatsoever simply because it's "newer" than any of the others. Tabula Rasa is also "newer" than LOTRO and look where it's going...

Funcom isn't exactly swimming in money right at the moment, terminating 90% of their US staff recently. It's conceivable AoC could shut down sooner than TR did -- less than a year in operation.

Tobold having a lifetime makes his comment relevant? Why? We ALL have a "lifetime membership" to Guild Wars, but are we playing it at the moment? No. The lifetime makes it easy to take a break without guilt and without hassle. Just like GW does -- it's always there when you come back. Tobold is a WoW Player. He's in a guild, he raids, blahblah yadda yadda. That's where his base of gamer friends are, he will ALWAYS choose that over going strange new territory alone and having to make new friends all over again. Sorry, but as a LOTRO Player, anything Tobold says isn't really relevant because he doesn't truly play the game; at best he dabbles. Just like anything I say about WoW I have to preface with the fact I haven't played in two years now. While I highly doubt any of the actual gameplay has changed since my departure, I can't be expected to be accurate about a game I don't play.

Jason said...

A. I don't know anyone who uses Xfire.

B. I don't know anyone who plays LOTRO.

So that must mean that:

A + B = Neither exists.

My twisted logic is flawless!


Jason (resident drunken idiot of Channel Massive)

Openedge1 said...



Openedge1 said...

Tabula Rasa is also "newer" than LOTRO and look where it's going...

Right, and look at where it was ranked on the charts as well.
Tabula Rasa NEVER sold to start, and never gained momentum, and always ranked low.

AoC charted higher to start on Xfire than LOTRO ever did, due to popularity of the license and what the game has to offer...

AoC had the good pleasure to sell more copies of AoC over a 30 day period than LOTRO did FOR A YEAR!.
SOURCE: 2007 NPD charts sales, with the #10 game, The Sims 2: Pets Expansion Pack (Electronic Arts) - charting 236,000.

Look at it this way...based on those initial sales..this means AoC has a "potential" of 800k+ players if they fix their issues. 800k players who bought a box, and if given free time after issues are repaired, COULD regain some of those players.

Add in Korea and Russia (LOTRO kept saying that LOTRO would launch in Korea and Chine, but has not made any leeway on this), we could see the game make some sort of comeback.

Again, I digress. The difference is AoC has potential...TR never had it, so the two do not compare.

LOTRO HAD potential. But, certain issues that many claim is the problem with the game were never addressed, and not just that, the game has a stale IP with no way to make too many adjustments.
The STORY is held together by a thread that exists within the lore and within the license itself that will hurt it gaining more than the average number of players.

As Bildo stated, 250k is good and profitable. But, it is not a "relevant" title. Just because it makes a profit does not make it a game that has potential, or a game that has a chance to reach that MASS EFFECT that Steefel ranted about.

But, hey ...a year from now, I will be willing to eat these words if LOTRO can chart more than 500k players. THAT will be momentous.

For now, LOTRO is not even close to anything feeling like a "hit".

They are the Wendy's of the MMO's (3rd place is better than nothing...)

Scott said...

... we could see the game make some sort of comeback...

I wasn't aware of some huge loss that would require a "comeback."

The difference is AoC has potential...TR never had it, so the two do not compare.

Every game *has potential* otherwise they would not get greenlit and funded. Paper potential vs. actual execution is another story, and both AoC and TR failed to deliver the goods in the eyes of MMO gamers.

800k players who bought a box, and if given free time after issues are repaired, COULD regain some of those players.

Count me as one of those 800k players who bought a box. It's still in the shrinkwrap with the war mammoth card, mind you. (I forgot to cancel the pre-order in time, so... it's bought and paid for.) But the odds I will ever crack the shrinkwrap are slim to none. Name me ONE single MMO to EVER make a "comeback" after a disastrous first month... we, the fickle and jaded gamers, won't allow for it. We give an MMO one chance then we bash it for life and I don't see that attitude changing anytime soon.

Hudson said...

"Name me ONE single MMO to EVER make a "comeback" after a disastrous first month... we, the fickle and jaded gamers, won't allow for it."

You have a point there. I don't see WAR recovering even as it REWRITES its entire damn RVR system while people are paying to play it.

Bildo said...


Hudson said...

Dammit Bildo, stop making sense!

Bildo said...

Both sides of a story are good. I think between you, Edge, and I... we've learned that much. :)

Openedge1 said...

Stop...making me agree with you dangit.

But, yes, a lot of games have tripped and not made a return.
But, this does NOT mean a game cannot.

we could see the game make some sort of comeback

That was for AoC, not LOTRO, which I think you believed.

Every game *has potential* otherwise they would not get greenlit and funded

But, then there is "wasted" potential. TR is a sign of "wasted" potential thanks to following the core mechanics of other MMO's, but placing it in space, and then letting it wallow away.
Also, we know SOMETHING happened that made the game turn about, and start from scratch. Something was already amiss in the game.
NCSoft also could have picked it up as a package deal like SOE, but did not. Why? Did they know it would never succeed?
Sci-Fi is the final strike against it, because as we have seen...only EvE has been able to make a Sci-Fi game work.

The reason AoC has "further" potential is
1. Major forward looking graphics engine.
2. Variance on the standard lackluster MMO mechanics with combat as one example.
3. Trying to make a game for both PvE AND PvP.
4. Straying away from the gear reliance of other MMO's.
5. Fully open world to work with, with no constraints of the lore...

Count me as one of those 800k players who bought a box. It's still in the shrinkwrap

So, I am confused. How much did you play? What opinion of yours is based on FACT's of how the game plays or how it is in actuality?
Is your opinion based on what you have read?
Were you in beta? And THAT is what your opinions are based on?

Look at myself and LOTRO. Besides over 9 months with 3 in Beta format, and continued returns for EVERY SINGLE book update, I WANTED to give the game a chance.


I loved the license.
But, the license is what really killed the game overall.
Also, the restrictions on questing, and Turbines inability to make a decent engine to play in or a UI that is worth a darn all make for a game that is not that fun.

We do not know for sure how AoC will progress, but we DO know how LOTRO will.
Growth is not on it's plate, and that is the major problem.
It has already hit that Mass Critical Effect!

Scott said...

Regarding AoC's "forward-thinking" graphics engine. Funny, that's the same thing the EQ2 fanbois say about its engine. I prefer to call it an unoptimized piece of shit, but hey... to-may-to, to-mah-to... To get the eye candy to show blood and boobies in gory glory, Funcom had to sacrifice having a seamless world. Itemization was nearly non-existent in beta and correct me if I'm mistaken, but didn't the New Guy in Charge just say they're going to revamp it and make the game more gear-dependent than the original design called for?

It's graphic engine is the reason Funcom ended up making AoC a series of population-controlled public "instance" zones rather than a seamless world. I wouldn't exactly call that forward-thinking when *it seems* the overwhelming majority of gamers prefer a seamless public world like WoW or LOTRO. I'm a little iffy on whether I would truly consider Vanguard to have a seamless world since everything is in a "chunk" even though there's no zone portal to load through.

Ya know what probably would have guaranteed success for TR, AoC, DDO and Hellgate? All of them share the GW philosophy of public lobbies and instanced worlds (each zone in AoC could be considered a public lobby, for sake of comparison). Maybe if they'd gone with a GW business model and stop trying to jump on the subscription bandwagon, they'd be doing better.

I'm iffy on the Tolkien license quite frankly. I just mean in general, not specific to LOTRO. But what I can say about the players on my server is that some are knowledgeable about the lore, but I don't recall anyone being obnoxiously so. I'm just barely familiar enough -- mostly due to the movies -- to get by and I learn a little more from time to time just by reading the quests and playing the game, reading what the NPC's and the new cinematics say. And a LOT of people At least they've been consistent with the Tolkien lore and the lore they've created to fit within in UNLIKE Blizzard who changes and screws up what little lore they have willy-nilly. In that sense I put LOTRO up their with GW for actually having a story to play through. As a reader and hopeful writer, I'm intrigued by playing through stories (just as we do in single-player RPG's where we don't have to contend with sloppy Diku mechanics) which is probably why I rate LOTRO and GW so highly.

If it's already hit critical mass that's fine by me personally. I've stated numerous time my difficulties in finding groups or whatever because of my off-peak hours of play, but even at 7am there are people grouping and chatting away on my server, and it's supposedly on the lower-population end of the scale. Even in WoW on one of the busier servers I had more trouble getting things done others, so I'm "pleased as pie" (I think that's a southern expression?) with the way things have been going. Recent months the server has been even busier, with the "server load" icon frequently showing in busy areas during peak hours, though thankfully my server hasn't had login queues like the busiest ones have. But then, they've had a few "welcome back" weekends as well as advertising Moria so we'll see how it pans out over the next month or two. But I was having a fine time before the recent increases. If people stick around, great! If it goes back to the same population as in August or September, that's great too as far as my own personal gaming experience is concerned.

Melf_Himself said...

The real question is, who really gives a toss about subscriber numbers? Do you think that the quality of a game is well correlated with subscriber numbers? Or are you trying to analyze this from a business perspective?

If you're analyzing from a *game quality* perspective, you'd be much better served comparing various game design decisions.

PS Only hardcore gamers use XFire, so any conclusions you draw from that should be along the lines of "The number 1 game played by hardcore gamers is..."

Brendan said...

LOTRO has close to a seamless world (if I am remembering correctly, the transition from Ered Luin to The Shire is a load screen, and the housing zones are broken into instances), but they do that by dumping the storyline quests into forced group instances. There is a TON of instancing in LOTRO in terms of the Book and Chapter quests -- a ton of it, really. Heck, you start the game in an instance. AoC has instances, but it never felt obtrusive to me, really. Perhaps I don't mind them as much as others do.

But I think that the main thing about LOTRO was/is that the lore is very restrictive on the game. It makes for very odd classes and mechanics, which I think a lot of players found odd and/or less than satisfying. That right there I think its the single biggest issue with the game -- well, that and the forced grouping at all levels of the storyline quests.

AoC has potential to grow back because its issues are, as far as I can see, more fixable than some other games. The main issue is a lack of content -- that's certainly fixable. Another issue is broken classes and itemization -- again this is fixable. Now that doesn't mean that Funcom will adequately fix these issues -- they very well may not, but the issues are fixable because they are mostly content-related issues.

I contrast that to Warhammer, for example, where the game has all of its content, but there are glaring design issues that really impede enjoyment of the game, and will require major surgery by Mythic to work around. It's not as simple as adding new content (as time consuming as that can be) -- it's about redesigning key game systems such as the RvR system, the endgame zone control system and so forth in a way that creates balanced play and fuels the intended endgame. I give Mythic credit for working on their game, but honestly I have to think that the major surgery WAR needs will be devilishly hard to implement. It seems far more likely to me that WAR will end up having had some nice ideas on paper, but to have been tripped up by the devil in the details of its various design elements.

Openedge1 said...

I guess we should have discussed WAR a little more here as well.
I would feel that WAR would be less likely to make an impact on the industry due to it's backwards engine, broken mechanics that call for major overhauls..
And too PvP centric as well.

I am keeping an eye on it, as I wonder how it will progress in our market.
It was unimpressive when I played, and it seems to only be good for select players with specific styles (always want to group or PvP ALL the time)

It's downward spiral still has not stopped on XFire, so it may be one of those "how low will it go" deals.

Will be fun to see.

Unwise said...

I suppose I should say a few words since it was me you quoted in the OP, but since I am a visitor here I will strike a somewhat conciliatory note :)

I understand fully that LotRO isn't everyone's cup to tea, and while we could argue forever on the finer points of which game does what better, the fact is that most LotRO players are perfectly reasonable people that simply prefer the way Turbine do things to other MMO developers.

In my experience, most LotRO players couldn't tell you what xfire is, and indeed, in my Kinship, which has continued to grow since launch, the vast majority of players have never played WoW, and have no interest in doing so. For the most part, we are talking about a very different group of people to those that float around the MMO blogsphere. Most LotRO players are absolutely attracted by the IP, and for the most part they aren't disappointed with what Turbine have done with it.

LotRO may not be growing exponentially, but the servers are busy and there hasn't been a single closure or merger since launch. The game is indeed launching in Asia this year, and I would expect it to do modestly well there.

I am almost certain that LotRO will be as popular in 12 months time as it is now, if not more so. If Turbine stick to their schedule, we'll have a succession of very appealing expansions over the next few years. Rohan, Gondor/Mordor, and perhaps a Erebor themed one to cash in on the Hobbit movies. LotRO isn't going anywhere any time soon, because no MMO offers what it does. SWTOR has the potential to put a dent in its numbers, but that is at least a couple of years away.

For the record, I thought AoC had massive potential, and I found the first 20 levels or so to be a huge amount of fun. If Funcom had been able to manage another year of development before releasing, they could have had something very special on their hands. The combat system is great, and I'd like to see more like it in future.

WAR needed another 6 months in development. Why choose to launch an unfinished and unpolished product a couple of months before WotLK, when they could have launched a finished and polished product a few months after WotLK burnout?

WoW's brilliance is difficult to deny, but I quit in protest at Blizzard's endgame strategy back in 2005 and it's only now 3 years later that they seem to be moving in the right direction. I will certainly consider picking it up again sometime next year when I've exhausted the new LotRO content, if only to experience the WotLK levelling content that has been getting such good press.