Cordovan Drops In To Dadi’s LOTRO Guides For Another Interview – Part 2


Cordovan, LOTRO Community Manager, has agreed to do another interview with me.  This time we focused on upcoming content with U19 but circled back to follow up on some of the questions asked during my initial interviews with the Dev Team back in August.  In case you missed them:

August Interview Part 1
August Interview Part 2
October Interview Part 1

October Interview Part 2

The following transcript is paraphrased and transcribed from the audio recording and continued from Part 1.

Dadi: Okay. I guess leading into that – as I mentioned earlier, I think the LOTRO team is more engaged now with the community than I have ever seen it. Again congratulations on creating what has been lacking for so many years; and I think the community is buzzing. It is that approach that has got the community buzzing. The release of the raid certainly helps as well, but by and large the community has come back alive; they are more engaged, and that is great! Has there been any thought to creating some threads, or maybe a section on the forum, that are specifically there for seeking some focused feedback on singular topic, or maybe even adding some polls? I think this could be modeled after what was happening within the Players Council. I did spend a couple of terms in there so I don’t want to break any confidentiality, but part of the approach there…

Cordovan: I’m sure its fine.

Dadi: Part of the approach there was to, you know, create a Hunter class balance focus thread. So everything on Hunter class balance would go on that focused thread, and there may be some polls created to get the pulse of what the community is actually looking for. Is that a consideration or something we might see in the near future?

Cordovan: It’s always a consideration when it’s the best way to get a result. For example, if we were to just create one thread saying “okay we are going to hyper focus only on this forum thread until its everything we need to know about Hunter…go!” I don’t think we would necessarily get as good feedback as if we looked over what people have been saying about the Hunter for the past six months. But there are times where I do think it’s appropriate to have a central thread where you get targeted feedback on, and yes, that’s why we have that section of the forums. If we haven’t used it enough, well perhaps that’s something we will need to deal with in the future. I would say yes, when appropriate, but it’s not always appropriate. Sometimes, like I say, especially with a class balance change, you don’t want to always start from ground zero, especially when you have years of feedback already. So you don’t want to just suddenly ignore all that feedback and start fresh. If there is a benefit to starting fresh, starting over for example, or starting at a certain point saying “okay we’ve done X and Y, tell us what Z is”, then perhaps a focus thread on that is the best way to go. You talked about the Players Council, and given the small size of the Players Council, it tended to be more of a focus directed thread format like that but I don’t think that it would necessarily work if you took it outside of the Players Council. One: Because you are probably just looking at the forums and ignoring the hundreds and thousands of people who communicate with us who aren’t on the forums, but you would also perhaps lead to a situation of people saying “hey I’ve already told you what I want, why didn’t you read it?” Well the answer is that we have read it – we do read it, and we are consistently putting together lists to address that stuff. So there may be times where it simply wouldn’t be beneficial to hit the restart button and start over on a one thread that matters. I know we have the One Ring concept in LOTRO but ya know, it caused some problems for Middle Earth. A one thread might be the same thing.

Dadi: It sure did! I guess probably an example of what I am thinking about is when there was contemplation about whether Burglars should have a bow or not. Something like that, you are looking for some specific feedback on.

Cordovan: Sure. Just quickly on polling. For basically all of Turbine’s games, historically we have had a Community Manager and community team that has not really allowed polls on the forums and that’s something that I am actually doing this week, a test run of over on the Dungeons and Dragons Online side and may well do for Lord of the Rings Online as well. The big trick about polling though; particularly on website forums is you could create a poll saying “should Dwarves be taller? Yes/No”.  By the nature of the way forums work, people who are most interested in Dwarves being taller are more likely to go into that thread and vote. So if you had a result say of 50 % of people saying no Dwarves shouldn’t be taller and 100 people saying Dwarves should be taller, you cannot, therefore, conclude that players wants Dwarves to be taller. All you can really conclude by that is there are somewhere up to 100 people that want Dwarves to be taller; assuming there are not multiple accounts voting multiple times. But when you get into binary should we/shouldn’t we on polls on the forums, there is sort of natural sociological tendencies that make them pretty unreliable, unless you hit a critical mass of truly tens of thousands of people voting perhaps; something of that nature. So it is a valuable piece of feedback that we can have as a community person who can say “there are more than a thousand people interested enough in this subject to vote yes on” but I don’t know that you can use it to come to some sort of final conclusion in the community about whether something should or should not happen.

Dadi: Ok fair enough. With the new premium housing that is coming out, I think the community has come alive with that. Those that are in to housing are really digging the fact that this is something that is available. I am not sure if you have had chance to read yet, but on the forums P.K Crichton has laid out some I think pretty valid concerns that he has about the things that are going on with the premium housing and with the release pending for Monday for U19 [edit: now known to be Tuesday], unless something has changed, there may not be enough time to address the concerns that he has brought up. Have you had a chance to read it? Do you share some of his concerns and if so, is he correct that if we go live with launch on Monday [edit: Tuesday] that there is a bunch of those things that likely will not get corrected?

Cordovan: I have read the thread but if you are asking me to say what exactly was in it, I couldn’t tell you. I would have to relook at that right now. Give me some examples here.

Dadi: Yeah I’ll give you some Cole’s Notes. One of the things for example, we pay mithril coins for the house but we can be evicted, rather than just locked out. Is that a concern? Somebody has paid real cash for something, they get evicted and then they have lost it.

Cordovan: My understanding is it’s not very easy to get evicted from a premium house. So that may well be something we will have to deal with if it becomes an actual issues but I’m not sure it’s a likely outcome for most folks. That was frankly part of the reason why we added upkeep; besides making upkeep free for VIPs, we allowed a gold upkeep for premium housing after that first Bullroar in part to address that issue because it is frankly probably easier to pay with gold than it is necessarily to pay with mithril coins. Although we wanted to keep that an option. Premium housing IS premium housing so if people are expecting to have a gold option to purchase premium houses, that is unlike to happen. You do raise a good question about eviction though. I brought that up after the first Bullroarer saying “okay, well, I’ve spent X amount of money on my house. How do I lose it?” The answer I got was it is pretty hard to lose your premium house unless you really truly walk away for a very long time.

Dadi: Maybe the thing to do if eviction is not going to change, is maybe lengthen the amount of time before you get evicted. There are players that will disappear for six months at a time and then come back. Do we really want that to be gone when they return? I think it would start them off on a sour note if they have just returned to game and it’s gone.

Cordovan: Six months is what it takes to get evicted?

Dadi: Honestly I am not positive. I haven’t looked at that myself. If it’s a year, that’s probably fair but that is something that you and the team are going to have to look at. Right now kinships can only have one house, so it’s either in the old housing system or it’s in the premium housing system, not both. By doing that, if you do have a kin leader that may have the means (and that brings up another point I will get to later) to purchase the home, then they move to that, you now potentially break up the kinship neighborhoods. So in the old housing system right now, there are plenty of kins who have a kin house, and their members all have the houses in that same neighborhood. They have functions in the kin house and visit each other’s houses and so on. So if they want to move to the premium housing area, you completely destroy that community feel in the old housing, which is a bit of a concern. If they move to the new premium housing, if they want to maintain that community feel, that means that other people have to spend real life cash, or earn those Turbine points via deeding or whatnot, to spend them to go to the premium housing area which might not be an option for all of the kin players that want to partake in that…

Cordovan: Let’s stop there and address those two points. You are right, but that is ultimately a choice kins are going to have to make. It is possible to under the new premium housing system to basically buy up a bunch of properties so you can have that community that you have under the classic housing system. You are right. Ultimately kins that were in that position are going to want to evaluate what are our wants and needs and does our premium housing system meet that and can we do it? If the answer is no, that is something you guys are going to have to figure out.

Dadi: Okay. Then to add to that, let’s say they want to move to the premium housing; they like that model better and they want to do it, there is no way currently to gift mitral coins within a kin or Turbine points etc. How would the kin members be able to contribute besides maybe setting up a PayPal account which people may not feel comfortable sending or donating money to a PayPal account? At least to my knowledge, there is no way to do that anonymously. How do we deal with that? Ultimately the kin leader would be on the hook for paying for it, but not have a way to funnel some funds to them.

Cordovan: You do mention some options that guilds could PayPal the leader. They could mail them a cheque, drop 50 cents in the mail; there are multiple ways they could do that. If ultimately you don’t trust your guildies enough to PayPal them a buck, then I guess that’s a choice you are going to have to make. Overall you are saying we should be able to trade mithril coins and I don’t know that is on our short term agenda. I think that this is a good example of a case that it would be beneficial to do so. but opening up that can of worms where all of a sudden mithril coins become tradable currency brings with it a whole bunch of other factors that we are going to have to consider before we make such a change. Some kind of guild contribution system for mithril coins might be possible in the future but I don’t know that we have any plans to go that route.

Dadi: Lets lead into kins. There has been, and as you have said, you do go back and read historical threads and posts and feedback from the community, there is a kin revamp proposal thread [on the forums] and I am sure you must have seen it. It has been on the LOTRO forums since 2011 and it has been revived again. It gets revived pretty much every single year. This thread is at 165,000 views, it has 1,200 comments. By far its probably one of the most electric single threads on the LOTRO forums, so to me it is very clear that the community as a whole is screaming for more kinship perks and functionality. Is there something that the team is going to work on? Is that in the timelines in the near future?

Cordovan: It is not in the timeline in the near future, but it is certainly something that we haven’t ruled out. We see those mega threads as well. Is it going to be in 19.1 or 19.2? No. Is it something that we would like to do in the future? Sure! Clearly if the community wants us to do it, then that is something we are going to try our best to do. So we are not ruling out any changes and improvements to kins in the future; perhaps even 2017, but I can’t promise a date at this point.

Dadi: Would that be something that might be coupled into an x-pack? There was some rumblings that there may be an x-pack coming. Is that still on the table?

Cordovan: I don’t know, I don’t know. An x-pack? Yes it’s still on the table. What exactly will be in that x-pack, I don’t know. You are right. It would be great to put it in an expansion pack, although it would also be something that would make a lot of sense to not put in an expansion pack as well and just roll it out as an additional feature for the kin system. That is tied to purchasing an expansion. When we are going to be able to prioritize that over other priorities, I just can’t say at this point.

Dadi: Okay. Any thought to the new dye colours? The ones that are currently tied to the festival. Is there any thought to having those maybe purchasable maybe with mithril coins or maybe opening them up through recipes? Maybe single use recipes in the crafting system?  [Minaliul from Arkenstone; AKA the Dye Lady would like to know]

Cordovan: No. It is intended that seasonal festival dyes are connected to seasonal festivals. You can choose to take part in the seasonal festival to get the dye, or you can choose not to. We do have a bunch of dyes available through Lalia’s Market, but I think you are talking about the seasonal festival dyes and no the intention is that you can choose to run the seasonal festival if you want the dyes.

Dadi: When we last spoke we talked about the raid locks in the Throne raid spreading from T2 to T1 and it is understood that correcting that seemed to be tied to the loot system, and perhaps a longer term project. However, is there any update on the progress of fixing the bug where the T2 boss 5 locks will spread to the T1 group, and then prevent that T1 group from completing the raid altogether?

Cordovan: I am going to directly quote one of our QA people when I took that question to him and said “whaaat?” lol. That is on our list of things we need to do. Sorry I don’t have a better answer for you. It is clearly something we understand is an issue, and it sounds like in general our raid lock system is perhaps a bit cumbersome, and in need of a more holistic look, but we will have to see when we can carve the time out for it. Clearly it is something that is a current pain point in the game and something we are going to need to work on.

Dadi: Absolutely. If you do have that boss 5 lock and you join a T1 group, you just can’t complete the raid and so it really destroys the group. It prevents you from being able to participate and that is something that needs to be looked at. So I am glad to hear that at least someone is looking at it. [Hopefully] in one of the .1 or .2 of U19, because we are now a full update later and it has not been corrected.

Cordovan: (takes a knock at the door and a couple minute afk). I have some news. A technical issue came up and it looks like we are not going to hit Monday after all for U19.

Dadi: So U19 will not be Monday?

Cordovan: Yeah it looks like we are going to be doing a couple of fixes over the weekend and then taking Monday’s build. We are going to have to see what happens there. But no unfortunately it looks like Monday is out.

Dadi: So potentially later on that week or a week later?

Cordovan: Probably however long it takes to check it out, stage it and get it published internally, do further checks and announce the downtime to do it. So we will see but probably that week.

[edit:  U19 will be Tuesday]

Dadi: The Hilt or Earnil has what I could call an impossibly low drop rate. I know myself I have probably run Silent Street T2C in the 200 to 300 range now. During those times I have seen a hilt drop three times, and I haven’t won any of them. Let me preface this with; I like the fact that there is some exclusivity, and difficulty completing a pinnacle item in the game, but is there any thought to just adjusting the drop rate slightly?

Cordovan: No.

Dadi: Is there a reason for that?

Cordovan: Ultimately typically items like that are given drop rates based on their power level, on their desirability; things like that. So if it’s a particularly powerful item then it may well have a very low drop rate. You had mentioned that you ran it about a hundred times and saw it three times from other player in your group, then it’s not a great drop rate but that doesn’t mean….

Dadi: No, I’m 200 to 300 times running it and seen it maybe three times within the groups.

Cordovan: Alright so is it a powerful item then?

Dadi: No, I wouldn’t say it’s a super powerful item. It is certainly desirable because it is a slotted pocket item…

Cordovan: It’s enough that it has you running 300 times.

Dadi: Absolutely! It has others running it too, but it has also got us banging our heads against the wall in frustration.

Cordovan: Sure. I don’ know. Ultimately I don’t know about that particular item’s drop rate, nor would there be any desire to change it. But typically when we get those “can we make those simpler to get”, the answer is probably no.

Dadi: Listen, I don’t disagree with that. I think the game is far too easy in terms of achieving end game gear and loot. I think it’s way too easy. That’s my personal opinion, and I know there are plenty who disagree with me, but this particular item, I don’t think I have ever seen anything in LOTRO in the coming on 10 years of me playing now that has had a drop rate this low, and I am wondering if that’s intended, or if this may be a bug that just hasn’t been looked at.

Cordovan: I don’t know. I will have to talk to the person who implemented it if I can. It is always difficult to take a personal experience on an item and say something doesn’t drop. Ultimately there is kind of a random number generation that is at play here. What you would ultimately want to do then is a server query on that item. How many of those exist on that server and if the answer is 2, then maybe you need to increase the drop rate. If the answer is 2,000 then maybe you are fine. It depends on the item, and that sort of thing. But it is really hard to determine whether something should drop based on individual experience. Ultimately it is better to take a database query on that sort of thing.

Dadi: I am hoping that will get followed up on because anecdotally anyway, I am pretty active on the server and I do participate with multiple kins and PUGs and it seems the consensus is pretty clear. This has an abnormally low drop rate.

Cordovan: Sure, sure. I will take a look at it.

Stay tuned for Part 3 (coming soon) !!!

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