A bargain is something you can’t use at a price you can’t resist.

The general unwritten rule of polite society in Lord of the Rings Online has been that if you are a high level character killing mobs in a low level zone in order to complete a deed, you should give way to characters who are at the correct level for the content if they happen upon the group of mobs you are grinding. It’s basic courtesy of course, although the more green-skinned among us might question the nature and personal gain of being polite or generous to another person, but the community in LotRO is one of the few places where I’ve often found the rule to be adhered to in the main, without even the need for peer enforcement.

Until the game went free to play.

In part I think this is because there are a great many more low level characters running around in this new freemium era. In addition, however, there now exists an item in the LotRO store that accelerates deeds, making each valid kill count twice and thus halving the number of kills required; when the item is activated it creates a temporary buff on the character that has a relatively short duration of around fifteen minutes and which, as far as I can tell, cannot be paused in any way once it has been started.

MMO players have a hard enough time being good to one another as it is, and now there is the potential for them to have an item – for which they paid – ticking down its relatively (in MMO terms) short duration and doing them no good if they happen to stand aside and let someone else go first. It’s a bit like those game-shows where a contestant has a set amount of time to run around a supermarket and fill their trolley with as many items as they can, and if they make it back before the clock runs down then they get to keep whatever is in their basket.

“Right, Lego Lass, you’ve made it to the final. How are you feeling? Excited? No need to be nervous, you know what you’ve got to do: you’ve got fifteen minutes to kill as many wolves as you can. Okay my dear, take yourself to the starting line. Can I have fifteen minutes on the Kill Deed Buff Timer please? Thank you. Ready? Then let’s play Shopping for Slaughter! Three! Two! One!”

[A claxon sounds and the audience begins to bellow encouragement]

[Lego Lass runs around one-shotting wolves and shoving them into a shopping trolley, occasionally shoulder-charging a low level player character into a stack of baked bean cans and grabbing the wolf they were about to kill]

To my mind Turbine have created an item that actively encourages the sort of selfish behaviour that a large part of the community had been resisting. Perhaps it’s more an indication that this is an item that one should steer clear of purchasing? Deeds are tiresome tasks, however, and although that shouldn’t really be an issue to any dedicated member of the MMO Player Party (motto: ‘Entertainment through repetition! Repetition through repetition!’), they do become an excessive drain for each successive alt you create, and as an avid altoholic I can certainly testify to the temptation that such an item presents.

I believe this is another one of those areas where a company engaging in cash shop dynamics needs to tread with care and consideration, because as with any change to the dynamics of a game’s fundamental design in a certain area (no matter how small and insignificant that change may seem), the chaos effect of such a change can have a much wider ranging impact on the game as a whole, with ramifications that are often surprising in their nature, but predictably deleterious in their effect. The difference is that the subscription of a standard MMO is constant: players know that no matter what they do, the cost per unit (in this case one month of play time) remains the same; in addition, the duration of one unit runs in the order of a month or months. Cash shop items, however, tend to have units of duration that run for at most days, more often hours, and possibly even in minutes, and yet everything in an MMO such as LotRO, which has converted to F2P, is generally set up to require activities based around the original subscription unit of months. The final issue is that having to make a purchase for an item from the store impresses on the player that they have spent their money on this item, and thus if that item is wasted because, say, the mobs they intended to grind away at have suddenly become inundated with other players doing the same, and the next nearest spawn is five minutes away, the player has a far more immediate perception of loss than if they had had to waste five minutes of their £15-a-month subscription travelling to another spawn.

Crafting accelerators, for example, seem like a good use of this mechanic: halving the materials and time required to grind out the various tiers of crafting professions, and which can only be spoilt if you have failed to gather the correct amount of raw materials beforehand; crafting accelerators will not bring you into direct competition with other players in an area where the game has not been designed for such competition, which stands in contrast to the kill deed accelerators.

In conclusion, with the urgency demanded by these short-term purchased buffs, I predict a rise in the number of shopping trolley related accidents in Lord of the Rings Online in the near future.

4 thoughts on “A bargain is something you can’t use at a price you can’t resist.

  1. Klepsacovic

    The easy fix would seem to be making it based on kills rather than time. Figure out the average number of kills for the current time and convert it to that many kills. If you get one kill an hour it’s just as effective as ten kills per minute. Same cost and benefit, but without triggering the urgent competition for spawns.

  2. Melmoth Post author

    Yes indeed, I considered the same option myself. I imagine the difficulty is that – seeing as they’ve implemented it as a buff mechanic – they’d have to leave the buff up for however long it took the player to kill those mobs, including if the player decided to wander off and do something else.

    Perhaps a combination, where the item remains in your inventory until you have achieved X kills, and you can use it to re-apply the 15 min buff at will all the while it remains in your inventory.

    Of course, that’s all far more complicated to implement and test than the current system, which is probably why they’ve lumped us with a simple one-off 15 min buff.

  3. Llokki

    Could you not simply invite said low level player into a grp? Sure, they’ll lose the xp involved in killing the mobs, but at least they’ll still get the mobs for their quest/s (and faster too).

  4. sean

    it’s not really that much of a burden on the new areas: all slayer deeds in the starting areas are a total of 90 kills – so max 45 with deed accelerator – and almost everyone doing a slayer deed is starting with more than 0 kills. getting 90 kills on grey mobs takes 15 mins or so; getting a max of 45 is trivially fast.

    there are only a few places where this might be an issue: Slugs in the Shire; Hendroval and Wolves in Ered Luin; Orcs in Bree-land; possibly Sickle-Flies in Bree-land as well; and even then, there’s a strong incentive for the Deed-Accelerator-User to find a patch of mobs to farm *not* being quested on by newbies, as you’ll kill all mobs faster than they can respawn anyway, even if there’s no-one else there questing.

    the really horrible deeds, the ones that make you pull your hair out – such as Crawlers or Worms in the Trollshaws (360 in total, and with crawlers you start with close enough to 0) – aren’t part of quest chains, so you’re only ever competing against *other* people grinding deeds, so there’s always been strong incentive to co-operate.

    if anything, Deed Accelerators make it *easier* and *more polite* to grind deeds in low levels, because you’re only there for half the number of mobs now.

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