We Don’t Need You Anyway

A month or two back Lord of the Rings Online’s former community manger Rick Heaton, also known as Sapience, made the following statement on the games official forums:

“Raiders comprise the smallest, by far, group in our game. PvMP players are far larger and even they are small. in fact together the two groups wouldn’t comprise 10% of the total player base and never have (this is important. it’s not a new thing, it’s a long standing historical fact).

Forum posters comprise a slightly larger group than the combined group of PvMP and Raiders. However, Raiders and PvMP players make up the overwhelming majority of forum posters (More than half. Though raiders are the smaller group of the two (PvMP/Raiders)). So you have a tiny group, inside a small group that is grossly disproportionately represented on the forums.”

He posted this as part of a response to a discussion about the fact that LOTRO would not be including any new group content with their latest update. This caused many people to shrug their shoulders and say “see we always knew raiders were noisy and pointless, we don’t need them anyway”.

Ever since then I’ve been pondering this, and wondering just how much games, especially ones like LOTRO, really need their raiding and PvP oriented players. The presumption on the part of many players seems to be that if only a small percentage of players are engaging with those kinds of content, then persisting with development for them is a waste of time, money, and resources which could be better spent on designing content for their larger playerbase. As The Ancient Gaming Noob points out however, these numbers are potentially a little dodgy, and have perhaps led to some extrapolations about MMO endgame content in general that aren’t supported. He also goes on to capture the mood quite nicely:

“Doesn’t this just confirm something you have long suspected?  (Unless you’re a raider/PvPer.)  Haven’t there been times when you have just prayed for somebody from any given MMO developer to show up and say that?  Raiding and PvP aren’t the most popular activities in the game, so stop bringing them up in every single thread.”

I think a lot of the reaction of players, particularly on this Massively thread about the news, comes from that kind of place.

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However, let us presume Rick Heaton is right about this. Let us assume that, at least in the case of LOTRO, a very insignificant number of players ever get involved in raiding or PvP. It seems a reasonable utilitarian argument to state that continuing to develop for raiders is a waste. Yet I would argue, that in these times of MMO tourism, where playerbases are incredibly transitory, raiders and PvPers are likely two of the types of players who are invested for the long term, and have probably been playing  and paying for a while. That’s got to be worth something right? What sort of community are you left with when a large segment of your long term players are gone, effectively told the game isn’t for them anymore?

LOTRO may be in a slightly unique position as it tends to attract quite a lot of non-gamer/MMO players, and also many players with an interest in role playing, or just plain larking about in Middle Earth, so maybe they are better placed than most MMOs would be without raiders and PvPers. Yet I still feel that any games community is going to be considerably worse off without its most long term and long invested players. Something from the tapestry that makes up a good MMO community could be lost irrevocably, and you’re effectively left with a bunch of people who are into solo questing with some roleplay thrown in. Maybe I’m wrong, but that doesn’t sound like as strong a basis for a community.

So in a roundabout way the point I’m trying to make is this, do raiders and PvPers bring something to a games community that other groups don’t? Something less tangible than raw numbers. A certain dedication, a love for the game that’s been borne out over long periods of time, and a willingness to draw up guides to help new players, and post on the forums, and generally be vocally involved in a community, that can’t otherwise be replaced. In LOTRO’s case I guess we’re about to find out, but I think most games that aren’t LOTRO would certainly struggle to maintain this new development plan of Turbine’s.

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3 thoughts on “We Don’t Need You Anyway

  1. To be fair, I think Turbine does hope to retain these players, albeit through alternate means of end-game group content. They are willing to try new forms of this type of content like epic battles and fellowship landscape areas. Even as far as traditional raid content is concerned, they have not closed the door on it completely. Just for the immediate future. They’ve always said that they’d use the tools that made sense for the sake of telling the LOTR story.

    I’m sorry to be so picky, but I’ve just seen the reactions to Rick’s comments spiral so far out of control. So many folks have taken them out of context of what’s been communicated over the last year or so. For those of us who have been reporting on Turbine, the comments came as no big surprise at all.

    As for the rest of your sentiments, I agree that isolating even s small segment of players can disrupt the ecosystem that makes MMO’S great and unique.

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    • No, I don’t think that’s picky at all. I’m sure you can bring a different perspective as you’re much closer to the game than I am. I’m interested in this particular subject because it intrigues me that it is a generally held view amongst MMO players that raiders in particular are a huge drain on resources relative to the percentage of the player population engaged in that content.

      This particular incident which was widely reported, I only mention as it’s effectively the first time, that I am aware of, that an MMO dev has seemed to confirm player suspicions about the sort of numbers engaged in raiding in MMOs in general. Or at least, as I mention, that’s what people extrapolated from it. I’m interested in what cutting loose raiders does to a game, even if its just theoretically. This is effectively the debate that was taking place in the community when this occurred, and especially at sites like Massively, and this was what I wanted to comment on.

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  2. I’m with you. I think it is important to mostly satisfy your most hardcore players, though that makes the balancing act difficult. There are long-term aspects to consider. For starters, is the interaction between long-term players and short-term players always toxic? If not, then it seems to me like you’d want a happy bunch of people who are interesting in getting other players to lay down roots too.

    For classic World of Warcraft, I was not a hardcore raider or top level PvPer. I did both, but only for the passing fun of it. I wasn’t paying solely to do one or the other, and I could walk away from the game if I chose. However, seeing those players in the well-known gears sporting their excellent gear inspired me to try my hand at raiding more and more. By the time The Burning Crusade hit, I was ready to jump in on a more serious note, and I stuck around for most of the expansion because of it (rather than dropping in and out).

    To me, what’s the most important is to have an idea of what you want your game to be and to communicate that to your players with every change or addition you make. I am completely unfamiliar with LOTRO, but if the well of new group content suddenly dried up without warning, then I think that is definitely a lack of communication on Turbine’s part.

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