Lotro Promises That Riders Of Rohan Won’t Hit Progression Servers Before Next Year
I’ve been weighing up writing this forum post for a while now. I want to start by saying I love this game. I love it’s community, it’s story and world, it’s gameplay, and I especially love that you as a developer stepped up to look after it in it’s hour need. I recognise that this game has probably had many occasions where it could have easily gone under, and the fact that it hasn’t for so long is pretty astounding. I have a lot of respect for that fact, and I long to see this game continue forward into the future.
That is the reason however, that I’m writing this post. I believe there are some fundamental issues in the way the game is currently being handled, especially regarding the legendary servers, that is doing damage to the community that plays on them. I’m writing this post out of a genuine fear of what will become of that community if these issues aren’t addressed and fairly swiftly. This is compounded by the knowledge that the legendary servers require a subscription, so I would imagine that everyone who plays on them forms a significant part of your revenue stream.
1) The pace of content release is too fast.
Over the many years that LotRO has been active, there has been a vast amount of content added to the game. The idea of experiencing all of that content, at the various level caps through the years was, and still is truly exhilarating.
In practice however, it’s proving quite exhausting. The pace of content being released is remarkably fast. In the last 6 months, we have been fed 2 large expansions worth of content, Moria and Mirkwood. That represents approx. 2 years and 10 months’ worth of content as it was during their release.
Now, I’m not suggesting that they should take as long as they did originally, but that’s a lot of content to get through in the space of 6 months, especially if the community wants to get the most out of it. This is also pretty far from the advertised ‘every 4 months’ cadence as originally stated when the legendary servers were announced.
For context, I am on the leadership of There and Back Again, which is one of the largest kinships on Anor. We are consistently finding it a struggle to level our characters, raid on those characters and run any social events we’d like to do as a kin within the timeframe allowed between each release. The pacing certainly doesn’t allow us to particularly take our time with any of the above. At Rise of Isengard’s release, many of our players still had alts, and in some cases, main characters that they wanted to complete the In Their Absence questline on. They now do not have the opportunity to do so at the 65 cap. If Rise of Isengard also has a similar content cycle, the top tier of players will only be able to run around 12 times due to the content locks. For our raid teams, this will be a lot less as people take longer to level.
These concerns are not only being voiced by those who play a lot either, we are consistently hearing this within our kin from players who play remarkably casually and wouldn’t ever reach a point of raiding, or that would come to the forums to voice that opinion. But these are all players who are paying a subscription and who are also voicing their discontent to us consistently. The players who do rush to the forums to express their opinion are generally the players who already rush through the content and probably require the faster pacing, but that is far from the majority within the player base, and I believe that majority is struggling to keep up.
2) Give us room to breath.
Following on from that, I’d really love to know what is considered when releasing a new piece of content onto the legendary servers. Is it based on a strict schedule?
If so, it would be helpful if you could simply adjust it to give us some more room to enjoy the content. I believe that a 4 month cadence would be ideal. This gives us more time to play alts (a great proportion of the player base just levels and has a lot of alternate characters), it gives us more time to do endgame instances together, it gives us more time to run events and social activities within our community that build kinship unity. All of these things are really important to us, but we cannot achieve them all. Let alone if any of our players takes some time out, takes a vacation, or plays a different game for a while.
If it’s not on a strict schedule (which I’m guessing it isn’t as the schedule has clearly changed since legendary servers were announced), is it based on the player activity numbers?
If that is the case, is it really so bad that the number drop a bit towards the tail end of the content cycle? Many of us also play other games which we really enjoy. Most notably this time around, WoW Classic had released less than a week prior the Rise of Isengard release. Many players in the LotRO community would have also had this on their radar. I’m sure you all at SSG would have also had this on your radar. Would it have caused such an issue with your business to have given us a couple of weeks, or maybe a month to play it? If this was a factor, and perhaps you were in fear of losing players to Classic WoW, there is a key solution you can use to prevent this, which brings me onto point 3.
3) Communicate to your player base
It isn’t an issue for players to take a break from LotRO as long as they know when to come back. The trouble is, we don’t know anything about the release schedule, at all. The last two expansions have been released with less than a days’ notice on the forums. This is easily the biggest complaint I have, and the one that causes us the most strife within our community. We cannot plan our own kinship organisation around releases, because we are left completely in the dark. Genuinely, we ran a social event on the day of the Rise of Isengard’s release, which had more notice than the major release of content by the developer. We had kin members logging in for the event who were surprised to see Isengard now released. I cannot believe that a game developer sees no issue with that.
I don’t believe I am exaggerating when I say that SSG currently has the worst community interaction that I have seen within the video games industry. It is truly appalling, especially considering it involves a product for which people are paying a significant subscription to play, and has a significant community focus.
Please, communicate with us. Give us some notice about when you’re going to release the content. We would ideally love to know what your plan is NOW regarding Riders of Rohan. It doesn’t matter if it changes, or gets pushed back, simply update us. Talk to us, we aren’t going to judge you, or rise up in riotous vitriol if you need to change something. That’s fine, but right now we are at the end of our rope trying to organise things as we know absolutely nothing.
Giving us a regular schedule helps everything. In his fairly recent talk at GDC 2019, Chris Wilson who is the Lead Developer at Grinding Gear Games made an incredible point about ‘Making sure users quit with a plan to come back’. You can watch this point here. If users know when the next piece of content is coming, they know they can take that break, play that other game, take their time with levelling that character, because they know the plan. Instead, with our current experience in LotRO, we don’t know the plan at all, making all that impossible, and causing our players to burn out hard when they burn out.
4) Basic testing
Another key area of issue that is consistently an issue is the lack of testing before releases. Whether it’s raid/dungeon balancing at lower level caps or purchasable LI symbols at skirmish camps, there’s consistently bugs, exploits and imbalance that drastically effect the gameplay for the legendary servers.
Please do some testing, especially where loot is concerned. Heck, put up a testing server specifically for the new legendary cap a few weeks beforehand, let us help you iron out the problems before you launch it. But right now, consistently these issues are occurring and shouldn’t, especially when a subscription is mandatory for Legendary Servers. This comes essentially to my last point.
5) This is a premium product.
Well, apparently anyway. You are charging us a premium to play on these servers. If anyone wants to experience the content in the way provided by the legendary servers, they either must pay the monthly subscription, or have got the deal of a lifetime back in the day. Either way, these are the top tier investment players who engage on these servers, and I strongly feel they aren’t getting the service they deserve from the company, not the sort of service that a subscription model should provide.
It doesn’t seem like the legendary servers are getting the attention or consideration they deserve from the development team. When Cord tells us on a Friday stream that the Rise of Isengard release will be ‘perhaps next week’, it doesn’t suggest that it’s been especially thought through, not nearly enough at it should be. If I’m wrong about that, I have no way of knowing as the development team are not telling us anything about the plan ahead.
When we pay a premium, I think it’s fair to expect a premium service, and whilst I do understand that the team and resources are limited, there seems to be plenty of money enough to spend on vales of anduin, new races and new expansions, but seemingly not enough to maintain a quality legendary server experience. That doesn’t seem right to me, not when it requires a subscription.
In conclusion, I really do adore this game. I adore all the friends and connections I’ve made throughout my time here. Heck, next year I’m likely taking a vacation to Canada in order to meet said friends. But I am seriously worried about the games future, and I’m certainly not happy with the quality of service I’m getting for my money at the moment. If you, SSG, as a developer can consider, take on board, and put into practise some of these points, I believe it would go a long way to improving your game, improving player retention and engagement, improving your companies relationship with it’s community, and improve your ability to make revenue. I want to see all of those things improve, as ultimately it will help continue the game I love into the future.
Yours in deep love and respect,
Eadon – There and Back Again on Anor.
P.S. This has been discussed alot in our kinship. If you are open to the idea, I would happily arrange a time for us to discuss this further on our discord with whoever would like to, be it Cord or any other developer. If that’s something you’d be open to that, please feel free to send me a private message.