Editorial: Buying Skills From The Store
With the launch of Rise of Isengard Turbine are planning on allowing creep players to purchase their class skills and traits from the LOTRO Store. It’s arguably the biggest change to PvMP since the game launched and one that has thrown up a huge amount of debate. What is this debate and why does it exist? Both are valid questions and we need to look at both before we can move on with this issue.
There are a fair few folk who don’t like the idea of creeps being able to purchase any skill they like from the LOTRO Store. The main reason that is given is because it a) diminishes the time and effort existing high ranked creeps have put into the game to gain those skills and b) because it creates a ‘Pay to Win’scenario whereby anyone with enough money can create a fresh creep character and instantly have access to all the skills that would otherwise take years of gameplay to unlock. On the face of it both are fair points.
Unfair To Veteran Creeps?
Let me state that I have played my warg since the game launched. That’s around four and a half years of gaming spent on my warg ranking him up, gaining new skills and traits and seeking to advance him further. Will I, someone who has invested literally years into his warg, be upset if I see a freshly created warg with skills that it took me over four years to acquire? Absolutely not.
Some of the high ranked skills are gated behind ranks that require such a long grind that they are effectively unreachable for many players, at least within any reasonable time frame. What exactly is the point in having these skills in the game if next to no one can obtain them? Now it is true that all skills will be made available by rank 10 when Isengard launches, but rank 10 isn’t a magic bullet. Rank 10 still requires a significant amount of time to achieve for those who play what one might describe as ‘regular hours’. People have jobs, school, families, etc and simply put many people do not have the time to play enough to achieve even rank 10 within the space of a year. A year. Regular gameplay will allow you to reach the current level cap within a few months. With an ‘average’ amount of gameplay you will probably not be able to achieve rank 10 within a year. It may even take considerably longer than that on low population servers.
I don’t like where some of the lines of argument in this area are going. They smack of elitism to me. Essentially some people seem to be saying that because they invested a certain amount of time into gaining a particular skill everyone else must do the same and it is unfair to them if it is ever made easier. I hold the opposite view. I think it’s ridiculous that it has taken me four years or so to attain some of my skills. I want to see other players have an easier time of acquiring those skills so that they can go out and have fun with them. This is a game remember, not a job.
Pay To Win?
I really dislike this term because it is nothing more than a jingoistic catchphrase used when no real analysis of the situation has been performed. For one thing these skills cost Turbine Points, which cost money. How many people are going to splash out real world money to buy every skill? Even if they do are they gaining anything that any other player doesn’t have access to? No. The skills that can be bought from the store are the exact same as those gained through ranking. There are no extra abilities or effects. They are gaining nothing more than speed of access.
Think of it this way: if you are a freep and you are tracked by a warg using the rank 10 stealth track ability, does it matter whether that warg is rank 0 with a store bought skill or a rank 10 warg with a skill gained through ranking? Both are doing the exact same thing and you will need to deal with it in the exact same way. There is no difference whatsoever in the implementation of the skill.
The basic premise of this argument rests upon the notion that more creeps will suddenly have access to skills they otherwise wouldn’t be able to use. So what? Again what difference does it actually make? These skills already exist. Nothing new is being introduced here. What is actually happening in this scenario is that more creeps are gaining access to skills that are factored into the calculations made on whether each side is balanced with the other. I see the opening of these skills to more players as a mechanism to balance PvMP rather than the situation as it exists now where only those with enough free time have access to these skills.
It’s A Game People!
The whole point of PvMP, like the rest of the game, is to have fun. It isn’t to gain ranks. It isn’t to gain skills. It isn’t to gain titles. Those are mechanisms used to direct the flow of play. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t. For more than four years the creep side has been hampered by the fact that many of its skills have been, for all intents and purposes, unavailable for use because of the steep requirements needed to use them. That isn’t much fun. If some players do buy skills it may have another unforeseen consequence. Investing Turbine Points, and potentially real money, into a toon gives the player doing so a much bigger stake in that toon. Perhaps they will decide to play it more as a result. That means more people sticking around in PvMP. That means more action.That means more fun.
A valid question to ask here is what incentive there will be to play if one has already bought one’s skills. Well there are Battlefield Promotions at each rank and of course you gain a new appearance and title with each rank. However, the single biggest incentive to play is for fun. Why are we playing right now? The higher ranks are so far apart that quite frankly logging in each day for a fraction of the infamy needed for that next rank can’t really be said to be a great incentive. You might be playing with a far reaching goal of attaining that next skill, but why is it you play on a given day when you know that all you will gain is a tiny fraction of the infamy you need for rank 11 or 12 etc? Probably because you want to. Probably because you find it fun to play whether you are gaining infamy or not.
The only thing to be lost by allowing players to purchase skills in the store is the horrendous grind it takes to use those skills. It means that every creep has the potential to come out guns blazing and have fun right from the start without feeling gimped, inferior or as if they have a mountain to climb before they can start enjoying PvMP. Bring it on I say!