Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mixed News from Turbine Q&A

Turbine has published the first set of questions from their official 'Ask the DEVs' thread awhile back . The full article can be read here.

Once again, instead of using actual questions, they generalized based on the themes of the incoming questions to create a marketing-friendly article. There are a few tidbits of good information, such as the inclusion of an auto-complete feature for mailing (still no multiple attachments though; gah). However, one answer in particular stood out as very disappointing:

Q: Why was the decision made to go the route of radiance gating? Were there other options on the table other than gear? Couldn’t it be placed on a trait?
A: The team wanted a means of gating content behind a progressively difficult barrier that could be overcome. At the time a popular method to gating raid content was to require players to go through long sequences of quests strung throughout instanced content. Instead LotRo chose to have players acquire tangible rewards in the form of radiance-statted gear.

We think that the look and the attributes of our “Tier Sets” are rather rewarding in and of themselves. That they further unlock the ability to acquire even more powerful gear is a big plus. Trait-based gating feels less rewarding as players progress through the various milestones of the process so we’ve decided to stick with using radiance gear to gate access to our raids.

That said, there is a rather significant change to radiance coming with our next update that should give players a better means of gearing up to more easily defeat the encounters of our raid zones:

Players will no longer cower at anything less than 8 dread levels. Starting at 8 dread players will cower at the same rate as they currently do at 5 dread on live. All current penalties to attributes and skill levels still apply as they do currently on live though so you’ll still have to do some level of gearing prior to entering the new raid zone. Only the cowering behavior is being modified to allow for greater discrepancy between the radiance level on a player’s gear and the gloom level of the raid zone.

Further, content is planning to somewhat relax the amount of gloom experienced throughout raid zones while incrementally increasing it for boss encounters and challenge modes. The amount of gloom experienced from cluster to cluster will gradually increase as it has in the past; but it should be easier to gain initial access to raid zones as well as overcome the gloom of a given raid zone in order to get back on the hope side of the scale via consumables.

Coupled with the upcoming changes to make dungeon-rewarded radiance gear more easily obtainable, we hope that this change to our dread system provides an easier ramp-up to those frustrated with the old means of radiance gating. At the same we expect to provide a suitable challenge for top-end kinships looking to push the envelope. Again, more success should equal more gear which in turn should equal an easier time overcoming our raid content.

I am at a loss to explain why Turbine continues to defend this mechanic, when it has been almost unanimously derided among the community. I can't think of a more universally despised feature in this game (other than perhaps Hounding Fear), and yet Turbine insists upon pushing this Radiance gating down our throats. If they would but embrace traditional gear-gating, they'd find that a much larger percentage of their population would be able to participate in and enjoy raids, and there would be more freedom in content and encounter design.

Barring that, there are several other ways to implement a gating mechanic that are LESS contrived and polarizing.