We caught up with the Turbine team at E3 to discuss some of the changes in store for Lord of the Rings Online as it makes the switch to Free to Play this Fall. The game remains a very popular MMO with a strong community and Turbine has done a great job in maintaining content, posting updates, and giving players what they want. Now that the turn to Free to Play is here, they answered some of our questions on how it will impact the community, what will become available for players, and how the new model will help bring in players who may have wanted to adventure in Middle Earth.
Turbine started to explain that LOTRO and DDO are two very different games. The Dungeons & Dragons Online model was much easier to convert because it would end up similar to the D&D system from old. You bought the game, and then bought modules to play in the game world. DDO worked in a similar fashion. Selling content blocks in DDO is similar to the old D&D modules you used to buy in the past. This trend has gone on in other games outside of Turbine like Dragon Age, where more and more content packs are starting to become available. LOTRO works differently because it is a game based on an epic story line. There are not modules that you could sell because players want to experience the story.
Lord of the Rings Online will offer the epic storyline for free up to the Mines of Moria expansion. The in game shop expands from there and players will be able to buy content packs. Once you purchase a pack, every character on the account will have access. Turbine is also very serious that the Free to Play model is not a Pay to Win model. They sell no gear in the game shop and nothing that can disrupt the balance of the game.
We asked about how Monster Play will be impacted and they explained that it is there for the VIP players. They are looking to expand the Free to Play model into Monster Play at some point in the future. Overall they want to keep LOTRO’s core systems from being impacted by the model and also to keep veteran players happy with their VIP accounts. The system will not impact the ability for players to make legendary weapons. They also do not want the new model to disrupt the community they have already built.
Two of the areas in the game store that Turbine feels will be popular are the Deed Excelerator and the Rank increases. It is almost as if instead of paying for Power Leveling, you are paying the game company to allow you to achieve things faster. The MMO audience continues to battle against the grind that has been set down by some MMOs. LOTRO is looking to offer players with less time a way to advance. The other area is the ability to buy Rank Increases. Again, the advancement is up to the player whether they want to spend some money to move up or if they have the time, continue gaining ranks at a normal pace. Also Turbine made it clear that there is only one price for ranks.
Overall Turbine has seen a lot of changes in the past year. DDO has moved to a FTP model and have been doing very well. LOTRO now looks to make the leap this fall; the question is will it have the success that DDO had. With Warner Brothers now on board it will be interesting to see what becomes of these games. Also if Turbine has any other games up its sleeve in the coming months. For now the game shop in LOTRO looks to be a good move for Turbine. How the community will react no one can tell, but being able to join the game and try it for free is never a bad thing.