Damn my column being on Thursdays. It makes me a week late to the "Lord of the Rings Online going free-to-play" discussion, and that makes me sad. Still, a short passage of time isn't going to stop me from sinking my teeth into this subject, so be prepared for an onslaught of opinion!
So, I read a lot of opinions last week. I read the opinions here, I read the opinions on the blogosphere, and I listened to the chat room, Facebook, and Twitter. I was all over the place. While there was a lot of criticism and praise being flung around for Lord of the Rings Online making this absolutely crazy move, it's the criticism that I want to tackle in today's column.
Specifically, there's one piece of criticism that I feel needs to have bull called on it -- the concept that the Lord of the Rings Online community will fall apart the second the free-to-play crowd is mixed in.
Woah, strong language there, Angry McOverreactington!
Of the many opinions I read, I think there's one that really stands out to me as being a little over the top and a "heart-of-the-matter" summary of the problem many people are having with this F2P conversion. Keen, over at Keen and Graev's Gaming Blog, wrote the following regarding this whole situation:
"LotRO had one of the tightest communities we've seen post-SWG/EQ era, especially on servers like Landroval. Your communities will now be inundated with the free-to-play crowd which will infiltrate and destroy you from within. I hope this destroys the game so that Turbine, and the rest of the industry, learn a lesson that should never have been necessary. Find yourselves a new game, LotRO fans and community. Find one that deserves you because you really are a good lot."
First, let me agree with Keen for a moment. The LotRO community is amazing, period, end of story. I'm a Landroval-er myself, and I've always enjoyed my time on that server. It's thrilling for a player like me to be able to walk into The Prancing Pony and see people actually sitting down, smoking pipeweed, and talking about the matters of the land. Only one other server has even come close, and that's World of Warcraft's Wyrmrest Accord.
However, Keen's opinion and my opinion are going to have to split ways from here on out. I think he's given the LotRO community the worst possible advice -- abandon ship -- and I think he's engaging in a needless "us vs. them" mentality.
Those dirty, dirty F2Pers... may consist of some old friends
Many people are jumping on this whole "us vs. them" mentality when they think of the F2P community. All they can envision is a horde of 12-year-olds storming Middle Earth, jumping up and down on every Hobbit they see like an Italian plumber, all while screaming, "ROFLPWNNOOB!"
While, certainly, there are going to be some n00bt00ls in the F2P group that joins up, there are going to be some happy surprises. Namely, I'm talking about the people who had to close their accounts due to financial reasons, but were amazing community members. People tend to forget that some of the people coming back are friends of current subscribers, RPers of yesteryear who could no longer justify the subscription fee, or old players who want a game on the side.
Those people certainly aren't going to tear down the game's community -- they're going to further empower it. I don't think the former guild leaders or former RPers are going to "infiltrate and destroy you from within." Come on now.