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:
October Interview Part 3 (final part)
Dadi: That’s a nice segue talking about drop rates. I know that during our last interview we talked about the loot system perhaps being revamped towards a personal loot system. Any indication on what this might look like? I know there was a thread that got started on the forum shortly after my last interview with you talking about the pros and cons of a personal loot system. Do you guys have some sort of road map for that?
Cordovan: I don’t know that I would say that we have a detailed roadmap per se. But I can kind of give you a general direction here. We did read that thread as well and it is not necessarily a consensus that we should have either personal or group loot. There are people who like both and see advantages and disadvantages of both so that makes it a fair challenge to find a system that everyone can like. But I would say that in regards to a more personal loot system, I think for future raids, that would be something we would consider over, say, a group based loot system just based on the current level of feedback and direction we are hearing from you folks.
Dadi: I think that the community would be more interested in is to allay the random number generators as much as possible and to do so not at the expense of effort. As you know, everyone can get whatever item it is by doing two or three things, then it really devalues the item. Perhaps something like the hilt for example, maybe it could be tied to a deed. If you’ve done the run and completed challenge 250 times, you are guaranteed to get it. If you’ve invested the time and energy and the “loot gods” have been terrible to you in terms of the random number generator, the RNG could still be there but as a side, once you’ve done it 200 times successfully, I think you’ve earned it.
Cordovan: Right. It’s a tricky subject. I think you are right. Ultimately there are systems and again I am sorry to sometimes talk about the other game, but in Dungeons and Dragons Online for example, there is a form of safety net where for more raids after you have run it 20 times most of the named items will show up for you on that end reward list. Unfortunately what we found there and why I bring it up for Lord of the Rings Online here, is that sometimes it can incentivize people to only run it on the easiest difficulty possible in order to get the most runs in, rather than one that will challenge them or provide a fun game play experience. So you have to be careful when you build a safety net that you are not dictating essentially “the way to get stuff” because that can open up some problems. You also, if you get into a coin system where every time you run it you get X amount of coins; lets day one to three coins and if you turn in 100 coins, you get to pick an item. That may seem a little bit more grindy than if you put a random number system in. Random number systems tend to have winners and losers right? You can get it on your very first run! You can also run it, as you say, 300 times and not see it. So trying to find a balance that makes everyone happy is difficult. Particularly when we are coming to a game that has a history like Lord of the Rings Online does where some people very much like the group based loot because that means “hey I already got the thing, it dropped for me. Anyone else want it?” and that goes away with a personal loot system. Additionally, by having a tradable system that has an effect on drop rates as opposed to one where the only option to get a thing is if it drops for you, that does play into the numbers game that designers have to deal with. So there is a lot of factors involved. It is not an easy question that can clearly be seen by any forum thread on the subject but I think you raise a good point that perhaps in the future…like I say I think our intention in the future is to lean a little more where appropriate on personal loot systems over group loot systems for future raids. That’s not a hard and fast rule. There may well be times that it will have be to be done on a case-by-case basis, but I think as a general philosophy, what we are hearing from most of the community is that they would prefer a more personal loot based system for raiding with the understanding, then, that it carries a somewhat larger chance to get them.
Dadi: I can’t say that I agree with that. Simply from the fact that you begin to alienate kin systems where there are kin points that are being amassed by participating in groups. It really takes away a lot of the basis for a kin to be able to complete runs….
Cordovan: That is exactly what I was trying to get at here. Trying to say yes from now on you will always do X, you are never going to make everyone happy in that situation because there are reasons for all these systems. So ultimately you need to quantify what is the problem and then how to we solve it. So if the problem ultimately is that people want more personal loot systems then it is something we are going to have to say is it worth the tradeoff which is, for example, as you state that kins may have one less cool thing that they can do together.
Dadi: Look, I don’t envy your position, or the dev’s positions to try to balance how many different points of view there are on every singular topic that is involved in developing a game but there may be a happy medium there for allowing group looting but to have a deeded system as I described earlier. I know you have said that they don’t want to have a system like that where someone would just run it on the easiest to complete it, I think you can still gate a deed where you have to complete T2 challenge on something X times before you would be granted a choice at a piece of loot. This would then allow for a personal loot system to exist within the parameters of also having a random number generator system based on group. So the group loot is there so it can be assigned or rolled on or what not to members. If you have been unlucky and the “loot gods” hate you, then as long as you continue to run them, then at some point down the road there is a light at the end of the tunnel and you will eventually get the item if it has not dropped for you randomly.
Cordovan: Yeah, you are right. There probably is a happy medium there that you could do. Again it sounds like you are talking about a safety net approach which is don’t change the way loot drops but on top of the way it drops, include a safety net system so that those who are having that experience where they are not getting the thing they want can feel they are progressing towards something.
Dadi: Absolutely, and I think if it were put that way to the community, I think there would be a resounding YES let’s go in that direction. The let’s-go-to-a-personal-loot-system was probably because “well I roll on stuff and I never win” or something like that. The item is there, the “loot gods have been good, it dropped, but when I roll on it I roll a two every time”. So now that random number generator hates me and I never get the item. So it is a bit of a tease. You are right, if they have something to work towards, then eventually they are going to get it. Will it seem like a grind? Not if the random number generator is still there in that maybe on their 10th run they get it, but if they don’t the safety net is there. I think that if we put it like that to the community, I think you would find that resoundingly that is the system they would like to see.
Cordovan: But here it the gotcha on that though. Right now if you have just a group based loot system, you have a certain percentage drop rate on things that are targeted toward that group rate. If all of a sudden you have a much larger chance to acquire the loot through an addition tier, say coin collection trade ins, whatever you want to call it, however it works, that means you are dropping more of a thing. So if the design goal is so that we can’t really drop more of the thing, then that means you have to lower the ability to get it from the group based loot system to compensate for the number of people who are ultimately acquiring it through a progression based system. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be 100 % equal drop rate there but you have to be careful if you are talking about alternative ways to get things that also does impact the drop rate which is often based on how powerful an item is, how much of a deal would it be if everyone in the world had it, if every raider had it, if every PvP person had it. You know, there are factors at play that determine those drop rates and by making it easier to get, say T2 raid loot, then adding a new system that would be an alternative to a group drop rate, would impact those drop rate numbers.
Dadi: I think you are probably correct. If the number of runs required to get it was low. If you set it at 200 Silent Street T2 Challenge completions, in a deed format – I’m not talking about coins, or I suppose it could be coin based as long as that’s the only place you can get the coin from. For example, the Morgul Crests that are dropping, right now you can get those from multiple sources, so that particular currency doesn’t work for what I am describing but a deed system would. So physically you would have to complete Silent Street T2C X times before you would be granted that piece of loot.
Cordovan: I am using coin in the generic sense. I could say widgets or completions or however you want to term it.
Dadi: It’s an interesting discussion and one I am sure you and the dev’s have pored over and tried to figure out how to appease the community, but I think that some sort blended approach might be the best way to go rather than eliminating one thing altogether to move towards another. I think that’s not just my opinion but I do talk to a lot of people in the community and after the interview we did last, there was an awful lot of people that contacted me in game to say “I hope they don’t do that, that would be terrible”. Very few people said “yes I want it 100 % personal loot”. I did read the forums and like you said, you stick a poll out there and you are going to get folks that are going to lean towards it from a psychological standpoint one way or the other.
Cordovan: Right. There are probably people asking what kind of hot dogs are the best, except I don’t eat hot dogs so I don’t care.
Cordovan: Probably. We do recognize that crafting needs some love. However we are able to bring that about is something we would like to do. Again with everything that hasn’t been plugged into a calendar, or allocated X amount of development hours, I can’t really make a promise as to when, but we do recognize that we need to do more to update crafting for the current state of the game.
Dadi: During our last interview we discussed the possibility of new raids being implemented perhaps annually or every 18 months. Given conversations that we have heard from past dev teams and Executive Producers, there is an awful lot of work that needs to go into a raid so it seemed almost like it was a 12 month kind of process to develop a raid which means that if the statement of if we are looking to do this every year or 18 months holds true, you would have to be working on a new raid almost now to get that out in the next 12 to 18 months, is that a fair assessment of the development time and if so, is that something that is being worked on, is this something that your metrics are leaning you towards?
Cordovan: We would like to do a raid in 2017 but it all depends on the mix of content. At the very least we will be doing a bunch of group content in 2017. Whether that’s the form of a raid or something else, I think it is yet to be determined. Again, I can’t so much state to past statements as I can future expectations but my understanding is that it is not so much that it takes 12 to 18 months to do a raid, as much as it is it’s an all hands on deck process to bring a raid for an update. So when you are doing a raid, you are not doing X, Y, Z, A, B, C, D, E and F. So you have to make a decision of “are we going to do a raid or are we going to do these other things”. To that extent that we want to carve out let’s say, one update a year to do a raid, that would fall in line with that past statement. But I don’t know that I really want to commit the team to that kind of cadence at this point. I think it depends on really what works best for a given piece of content. I will say this though, that I would definitely expect to have further raids in the future. I just don’t know that the former statement that “yes we will do them every 12 to 18 months” exactly fits with something I would want to be held up as a promise written in blood. I also don’t think it takes a year to do a raid but it does take a lot of work to do other types of content that you can do within a certain time period.
Dadi: I think the statements that it would take a year were while we are developing other stuff and working on those things you said would have to be put to the wayside if they were doing them concurrently, then they would be able to push out the content but still be working on the raid in the background and maybe that’s what they meant. As you said you can’t go back….
Cordovan: I don’t know of any scenario in which you can sort of…let’s say you had 100 hours to do something, and a raid is going to take an additional 15 hours, that you can suddenly find a way, that if you already have 100 hours allocated, set aside and you are working on, that you can magically fit an extra 15 in there. So you have to put that 15 at the expense of something else. I don’t think there is a way you can do it over a long period of time that doesn’t still involve spending X amount of time to do a thing. So if you are spending X amount of time to do that thing, what are you NOT doing instead.
Dadi: Absolutely and I think the community is going to be extremely pleased to hear you say that raids are definitely in the future, just not every 12 to 18 months.
Cordovan: I don’t know, like you say, there have been a lot of personnel changes over the past couple of years here. So when I asked Sev about “hey what about raids in 2017”, he said “well I’d like to do a raid in 2017” and then explained “but we also have to do X, Y, Z, A, B, C, so don’t promise that we are going to do a raid in 2017”. So that means, probably, maybe, stay tuned, you know.
Dadi: I wouldn’t want to hold you to it anyway, or at least get you to say on record that it’s a time frame with any certainty, because the community will absolutely lynch you if it doesn’t come true. So I certainly understand your position.
Cordovan: You can only be lynched so many times because you start to take it personally.
Dadi: Absolutely. I don’t want to keep bringing up the past but Vivienne had mentioned during her time at LOTRO that one of her visions was to bring in some more interactivity to the servers by getting the dev’s and game masters involved with the community by having live events. So maybe an attack on Bree or something to that effect. Is that something that you would like to carry forward with? Is that a vision of yours as well?
Cordovan: Yes. I personally plan to do two things; the first thing I am going to be doing is further getting the word out about existing in game events being run by the community. Lord of the Rings Online, one of its key gifts – one of the things I think frankly that it does better than a LOT of other MMOs on the market, is that there is a massive number of in game player run events. Whether they be music concerts, roll playing events, storytelling events, dances, festivals, gatherings, tributes etc. LOTRO is just GREAT at this sort of thing. When I looked at what we as the Lord of the Rings Online team have done to get the word out about those events over the past year, frankly I don’t think we did a good enough job of that. We depended too much on the fan sites, which to be fair to a great job of that sort of thing. I don’t want to take over that role from them, but I do want to further amplify the work they are already doing regarding getting the word out about events. I don’t know whether that means a weekly news letter, perhaps a section of lotro.com, perhaps a special section of the forums – I don’t know exactly what form it is going to take but the first thing I need to do is do a better job of getting the word out about what is already going on. The next section is to start carving out some time for us to do things as well. I don’t know that I can commit, say, our Customer Service team to hold a day long in game event on all the servers; I just don’t think that that is a realistic proposition. But it is certainly something that I have the ability to do to go into the game world and have some fun with folks within certain boundaries and I absolutely want to do that at the very least for our 10th anniversary. If I can bring other dev’s and other folks in with me, then yeah we will definitely want to do that.
Dadi: That sounds fantastic. I’ve looked at the calendar that you have tried to revitalize on the LOTRO forums and I think that’s a great starting point. I know, myself, I have tied to post some things to it and it says you have to await moderation. We are five days later and it’s still not there. So we’ve got the calendar there but I don’t think its functioning the way you have envisioned.
Cordovan: It suxxors (with 2 x’s)
Dadi: I was trying to be polite.
Cordovan: You are right. Some of that may be just a permission issue. I will have to go in and see. I didn’t realize that you were being put in a moderated state. Sorry about that. I will double check that. It’s probably to prevent spam. Although I’d rather have people be able to post and then deal with it if spam becomes an issue on the calendar but I will have to see what I can do. Like I say, if not that…here is the two sites that I personally know are doing a great job right now. On the music side, lotroartists.com do a really good job of keeping a concert listing put together and Lotro Players News once a week does a here is the week ahead and in game player run events. Both of those have been just full of useful information that I have been able to use to identify and spread the word about things. I need to do a lot more of that in the near future. I would love it if everyone used the calendar because it would just make my life easier. But if the calendar is a pain in the butt for everyone, then we will just have to find a better way to do it.
Dadi: Both those sites that you mentioned are absolutely fantastic for supporting different community events that are being run. I go to those sites myself regularly to see what is going on. If there was something here, you have a captive audience here on lotro.com, it would be nice if there was a way for the community to interact on your own site without having to rely on third party sites.
Cordovan: We do have a player events forum as well, so at the very least you should please post in it.
Dadi: Unfortunately when I do that…like the event that I was doing was called Raiding With Rare Breed and essentially what we are trying to do is help people that have had difficulty getting into raiding, either because they are just afraid, or they are not sure about their gear or they have no clue what a raid is or….we want to start building the raiding community but I can only do it on my home server of Arkenstone. So I post in the Arkenstone forums and it has had some traction there. We had our first inaugural event last night and it was absolutely great with great feedback. I am trying to find a way to put it on a calendar for signups for people that are interested but there just doesn’t seem to be…there is something lacking.
Cordovan: For sure. I will tell you one thing that is lacking AND THAT’S YOU! Why didn’t you email me about your stupid event? I could have had it out on social media about it. What the heck.
Dadi: lol. I figured that I would put it on the calendar and it would pop up there but it didn’t. I will definitely for the future…we’ve got another one coming up on actually this Sunday (past) is our next one. I am trying to do it once a week and see if we can get people out there involved. It is a no strings attached kind of thing. I want people to feel like they can come out without being persecuted or feeling like some elitist is going to tell them that their gear sucks or something like that.
Cordovan: Once we are done with the interview here I am going to start doing some social media work for the weekend so you have my email address. Send me an email with some details and I will make sure we get the word out for Sunday.
Dadi: That would be fantastic! That was all the questions that I had in terms of some follow up with what we talked about last time and with update 19 there were some things that I was curious about from a Game Master standpoint that I know we had discussed back and forth a little bit.
Cordovan: Yep, hit me with it.
Dadi: If you’ve got time, sure I would love to!
Cordovan: Go for it.
Dadi: With the Game Masters and for those that aren’t sure what I am referring to, this is the folks that are live in the game that if there is a problem and you submit a report, these are the people that are responding and typically they have a + sign in front of their name. You have probably seen them on your server time to time popping in. At least I have on Arkenstone. They pop in from time to time and interact with the community via the world chat channel and sometimes it’s quite humorous. So I had some questions about the actual Game Masters themselves. Are they distributed on a specific server? Is Game Master “A” on a specific server during a specific time, or is there a system that allows them to see all of the servers at once, so if a bug comes in, it just gets a ticket number and they tackle them on a priority basis? How does it work exactly?
Cordovan: That’s right. It is a centralized system so when you go through the Help Menu and submit a ticket, it does to basically a gigantic pool and all the Game Masters on duty at a given time will pull and prioritize as best they can among those tickets and just go down the line. So they are not assigned to a specific server, they are just answering LOTRO tickets. Typically in addition to perhaps even some other games as well. Although that depends on the particular GM and what they have been assigned to do.
Dadi: Are there peak hours for GMs that are there or is it spread out? Is there an equal number of GMs on at 4 am eastern as there are at 7 pm eastern?
Cordovan: Well not 4 am, right? You could go to our support page to figure out what our hours are. Our hours are, what, up to midnight or something like that; noon to midnight is that right? When they come back, they will take care of tickets over night.
Dadi: How exactly do they prioritize? Is it just a first-come-first-served? Or is it prioritized on what the issue is?
Cordovan: I don’t really know that one. My best guess would be that there is a minimal amount of prioritization that has to take place. If one person is “I need to talk to you about a bug” and the other person is “oh my gosh I’m killing the server!”, you know then you probably need to deal with the server thing first. I do think in general they try to get to the people that have been waiting the longest first, the people next in line next – that kind of thing. They don’t pick favourites or whatever but there may well be a time where if, let’s say for example, an item is 12 people submitted tickets where they didn’t get item X and they thought they could, and if that GM has the ability to help all 12 of them at once, they will do that, regardless of the order. Typically that is going to be done in the order in which it was received with some leeway to deal with issues that perhaps may be more pressing.
Dadi: That brings up an interesting thing, because when we were having issues with Silent Street for example, when Silent Street would not spawn the chest for completing challenge, all six people would submit a ticket. We were told by the GMs to please don’t do that. Submit just one ticket.
Dadi: So you are saying if 12 people submit it saying we have this issue that they would be more likely to respond because they can help 12 people at once, but the GMs are saying the opposite.
Cordovan: No, because that is not related to that issue. What would happen if all 12 people were in a raid and submit a ticket, they are going to have to be evaluated as 12 separate raid groups having an issues. So the GM is going to have to look at a ticket, resolve it, go to the next ticket, say ok that person was already in the party for the group that I just helped so that issue is resolved. Okay now what is the third ticket? Okay, that person was also in the party from the ticket that got resolved so all that work that is going to be done is going to delay their ability to get to the next person who actually needs help. So absolutely please do not have everyone submit a ticket at the same time. At the best case scenario it is going to slow down the ticket response rate, at the worst case scenario, it is going to add a level of confusion and really just mess up the ability of GMs to react quickly to things.
Dadi: Okay, I think I misunderstood what you were originally saying. So what you are saying is that if it is a 12 man raid and one person submits a ticket, it shows up as the raid so that GM knows that there is 12 people that have been affected by it, so submit on ticket and then that will help to create more efficiency for the community.
Cordovan: Yeah, absolutely.
Dadi: Okay that makes sense and I think that is something that would be good to share with the community so they understand that by submitting extra tickets, they are slowing things down for everyone else.
Cordovan: The same would go for submitting a ticket every five minutes for example.
Dadi: Of course. If someone wanted to be a Game Master, what qualifications do they need? How do they apply? How do they get in to that?
Cordovan: I can’t speak to the qualifications because I don’t work in that department, nor do I do anything related to their hiring, but I can tell you that I can find out the qualifications by going to turbine.com/careers. When we have openings for Customer Service, they are going to explain what the minimum expected requirements are for the job. My guess would be familiarity with customer service, if you worked at a call center you are probably ahead. If you are familiar with the game, that’s great. If you are familiar with a whole bunch of games like that, that’s great. Can you work well with others, can you take direction, can you multitask, all the other aspects of the job, frankly can you take some abuse and smile and help them anyway. All those things are a factor in working for customer service. In terms of the specific career path that is a little outside of my scope. I just don’t know.
Dadi: I think probably the bulk of the other questions I had concerning the in game support are something that really only they would be able to answer so I will cut you loose from having to answer those ones.
Cordovan: I’ve never worked customer service. No I did! In some ways community is customer service right? I worked at a call center when I was in college. I was raising money for an environmental group and I lasted five days! Then I realized I hate asking people for money over the telephone so I stopped doing that. It wasn’t really customer service but more telemarketing. But still having to sit there and deal with that was a difficult thing.
Dadi: Maybe just to wrap up, I see a lot of players concerning about Update 19. Just to circle back a bit, the flower drop rate and where they are dropping. I think that things have been tweaked if I am correct at look at the build notes for U19. Has that been addressed?
Cordovan: I know that we increased the drop rate by actually added intended places to get them between the various Bullroarer updates, however there is still further work to do. I think we will know as we get further feedback from the community when we release Update 19. There was definitely work done during the Bullroarer process to significantly increase the number of places to get things.
Dadi: Has there been a link put between North and South to allow or facilitate travel?
Cordovan: I don’t believe so.
Dadi: Is that something that may be coming in maybe a dot update?
Cordovan: I don’t know, sorry! I saw that question come up in our live stream chat yesterday too and I just haven’t had time to follow up on it.
Dadi: I think I have taken up an awful lot of your time today and probably went past what you had envisioned. I really appreciate you taking the time. I know the community does. I see on lotroplayers that you have another interview, I think, tomorrow. Is that correct?
Cordovan: Yep, I am going to be on Lotro Players News on Saturday. I am going to be joining Bludborn for Echoes in the Dark on Sunday and then I am in talks with a couple other LOTRO related podcasts and websites and that to do some U19 stuff in the next couple of weeks.
Dadi: Absolutely outstanding! I am very impressed with your commitment to actually communicating with the community.
Cordovan: I appreciate it. Come on! You are inviting me to talk! I’m not going to pass that up!
Dadi: Well I guess that’s the whole point. I would love to do a follow up interview after U19 has had a chance to hit live and has been out for a bit. If you are open to it, I will contact you again.
Cordovan: Sounds good.
Dadi: Have a great night and we will chat soon.
Cordovan: Thanks everyone for listening.
Dadi: Take care.
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