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Where LotRO’s Cash Shop Goes Wrong

This has already been said before, but it’s worth saying again: the problem with F2P is that it encourages developers usher you into a store rather than revise broken mechanics. LotRO is guilty, plain and simple, but let me elaborate.

For those of you who don’t play the game, a big part of LotRO’s character advancement comes in the form of virtues. These are permanent buffs to your character’s stats and, in the case of tanks especially, are near mandatory to do well in a group. Ranking up requires you to kill a certain amount of a specified mob and usually gives you the option of a couple different zones to accomplish it in.

Ideally, you reach max rank in the virtues that interest you as you level up. Realistically, this doesn’t happen. That’s because the virtues are designed to be one of the worst grinds in MMO gaming today. I’m not exaggerating. For example, to get the first rank of Discipline, you have to kill 60 hendroval (birds) in Ered Luin. To get another rank in Moria, you have to kill 240 gredbyg. If you were to take on one rank per zone, you would wind up grinding 1,340 mobs for that single virtue. To max out the recommended virtues for a guardian, I’d have to grind 4800 mobs – taking the short route, picking up ranks for exploration and completing quests – before I was done.

This has been in place long before anyone considering taking the game F2P. Before Moria and the other expansions came out, a lot of people complained that the game simply wasn’t long enough. Considering the blatantly grindy nature of one of the game’s key pastimes, I’d have to wonder if the developers didn’t agree.

But, fast forward to the here and now. There’s TONS more content and the game has been fleshed out into one of the best, most polished MMOs on the market. It’s the leading example of the potential for F2P in a subscription climate. Other than looking to the future, what reason is there to have not revised this system to reflect the current state of the game?

The unfortunate answer seems to be “why bother.” I can grind those 4,800 mobs or pay $2.99 per rank from the store. It’s a “convenience item” and I’ll give them that. It sure is convenient to not have to spend hours upon hours in unbridled suck! For somewhere under $135, you can skip this system entirely and buy your way past it.

Even for someone like me who doesn’t mind grinding, LotRO is not a game that supports it. It doesn’t give good XP. It doesn’t give good rewards. Fights last too long, and short of stopping the adventure entirely and returning at max level, completing deeds pulls you away from story and anything most players would consider fun. There is no carrot at the end of the stick, other than a paltry numbers boost you can’t do well without.

Unless you’re DPS. One more reason not to roll a Guardian or Minstrel, I suppose.

Forgive me for this little rant. Here’s the thing, though: I don’t like the idea of having my class be useless if I don’t pony up or embark on the most epic grind this side of EQ1. I’ll continue on and go for the level cap. I’ll try my hand at what I can. But I won’t be doing this and I won’t be buying my way past it either. I’ve ignored it so far because nothing pre-Moria says it’s important. It hasn’t hindered me and it’s not focused enough to let me progress what’s important for my class as I level. If I get into the “endgame” and find out I need it, well, I guess I’ll be on my own until I put the game down. Frankly, I haven’t encountered a game yet that would justify that much unmasked grinding and LotRO certainly won’t be the first.

The single biggest problem facing LotRO today? The insidious virtue system that lies hidden 48 levels in, waiting until just the right time to say “oh, hey, guess what you need to do…”

14 comments

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  1. Spinks

    I’ve raided in LOTRO and never found it really mattered to be maxed out on virtues. I certainly never have been. They were always an optional extra for hardcore achievers who can’t bear to see a number without maxing it out. (And if you fall into that category … I’m so sorry.)

    1. Chris

      Well, like I said, I’ll run with whatever I have but I’m not going to go out of my way to a massive grind. I’ll certainly try everything I can get my hands on, though. I was talking with some guildies today and reading on the forums about how important it was at endgame. Maybe I’m too used to the “be stat capped or gimped” tank style of WoW. Do you play a tank in LotRO too?

      The main issue I think is the system is faulty and most players decry it for the pain it is. Instead of changing it, they offer a cash shop option. For as much as I like Turbine and how they’ve done other things, that’s an example of the bad side of cash shops.

  2. hunter

    All that and it was designed without a cash shop in mind. Imagine if there was a cash shop in mind. Welcome to Runes of Magic.

    I’ll give RoM one thing, they mostly have endgame in mind for their cash shop. So lets change that to…

    Welcome to Allods.

    The funny thing is I’m not against cash shops.
    hunter recently posted..Viddy Well- Awesome Trailers Are Awesome

  3. Bariwyn

    I think the importance of virtues can be more dependent on the class or even the instance itself in LotRO. At this point, when the expansion has been out for a while, kins are less and less likely to make 10 a requirement.

    As for the easiest way to do them? I wait until I outlevel an area and then go back and grind. It’s much faster this way. I’m a subscriber though, which means I get plenty of free points each month, enough to buy 2+ levels of a virtue.

    1. Chris

      I was thinking that would probably be the best way to go about it. I’m not going to embark on any “kill 300 goblins” quests but some of the “kill 60s” or “complete 75 quests” ones I’m probably a decent way through anyways.
      Chris recently posted..Where LotRO’s Cash Shop Goes Wrong

  4. Green Armadillo

    “The single biggest problem facing LotRO today? The incipient virtue system that lies hidden 48 levels in, waiting until just the right time to say “oh, hey, guess what you need to do…””

    The irony here is that I originally canceled my LOTRO subscription back in 2007 because I had hit level 48 and there was nothing left to do for solo exp BUT grind traits. 😉
    Green Armadillo recently posted..Malygos and Wrapping Wrath

  5. Longasc

    The system is silly.

    A char can equip 5 virtues at max. You want at 5-7 that apply to your class maxed so that you can adjust for different areas.
    People have to find out what is appropriate for their class on the forums or read guides, so that they can focus on grinding the desired set of class appropriate virtues. That alone is already somewhat silly by design. People should not be forced into research that early on what they will need at much laters levels 60+.

    LATER expansions (Moria, Mirkwood) of the game abandon the need to grind for virtues. Moria kill deeds like kill 240 Orcs are much simpler than kill 240 Salamanders or so – as the place is crawling with Orcs. You get those virtues en passant, while levelling, while just playing.

    Players are fairly early on confronted with virtues. And suddenly they hear “kill 240 wolves in a specific zone” and think WTF.
    Now Turbine does not revamp this silly system, but adds “deed accelerators” to the store. Kill one, score two. Or buy the virtue right way. But they forget something: This system alone scared players away for sure or at least frustrated them before F2P already. Now they combine this grindy system with a cash shop boost. I can only speak for myself, but giving the option to PAY to get over the pain might be a relief, but it also sends a clear message: “This system sucks, but you can pay your way out of it!”

    I wonder if they will not rather scare players away with that than win them to spend more cash in the shop.

  6. Daria

    I understand your point. As a subscriber though, I don’t have much to spend points on. Since the virtues just went on sale for half off, I did break down and buy a few points on my alt. I felt a little guilty. One thing I wouldn’t mind, is to make the virtues account wide, because it really is silly to have to do the grind all over again on alts. What is bothering me more is the next update, which will make all that new crafted stuff they are adding to the game also purchasable in the store, along with resources. That seems like it will hurt the market.

  7. Eliot

    To be fair, this isn’t really the cash shop going wrong so much as the initial design going wrong. The cash shop just removes the incentive to change the system as a whole, which (if the game prior to the free-to-play conversion is any indication) the design team wasn’t terribly keen on changing in the first place. Allowing players to buy their way past is more of a graft than anything.

    I’ve long wondered, idly, if these mechanics are the sort of thing that gets left over from thinking of MMOs as being the same species in single-player games. If you’ve just got one player, you can throw in the Sword of Good along a player’s path and the Sword of Quite A Bit Better as something to grind for if the player so desires. In MMOs, of course, there will always be people willing to grind for the Sword of Quite A Bit Better, meaning that the Sword of Good winds up being useless. Then again, removing the grind from MMOs is removing part of what players like in the first place, so perhaps there’s no magic bullet after all.

    1. Chris

      I’d agree with that. It didn’t look like they were going to remove or change the system before the conversion. The cash shop just kind of highlights the flaws in it.

  8. Docholiday

    This to me is a matter of time versus money, some do actually enjoy grinding and some have money and/or VIP points to spend. The pre-f2p system put in a big time requirement that was prohibitive for many. Virtues can be very beneficial and I’ll agree the system could use some improvements but I think having them in the store is a great first step as it levels the playing field.
    Docholiday recently posted..LOTRO – Rise of Isengard Announced

    1. Chris

      Agreed. Having them purchasable is better than not. I’m just not a fan of the system in general.

  9. Dany

    I’ve raided in LOTRO and never found it really mattered to be maxed out on virtues. I certainly never have been. They were always an optional extra for hardcore achievers who can’t bear to see a number without maxing it out. (And if you fall into that category … I’m so sorry.) free zombie shooting games download

  10. Mr Nhi

    I’ll give RoM one thing, they mostly have endgame in mind for their cash shop. So lets change that to…

    Welcome to Allods. fun games for kids online free to play

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