Turbine just rolled out a medium-sized bugfix patch for LOTRO. One change struck me as odd:
"The monster kill XP buff inside Skirmishes now has a buff icon associated with it. The Skirmish Monster Kill XP buff will remain in effect until the release of Volume 3 Book 1."
Personally, I didn't even know that there was a buff to skirmish monster kill exp - nor did Doc Holiday. I ran a skirmish to observe the promised buff icon, which claims that exp in skirmishes has been boosted by 25%. The patch note makes it sound like this number is temporary, in order to encourage use of the new skirmish feature, and will be removed in the future.
Pulling the rug out from under skirmish rewards?
First of all, this is a bit of a communication fail. In this particular case, many people wouldn't have realized why the experience simply dropped when the Volume 3 patch hit, and now will be wondering why their exp buffs are suddenly missing.
The bigger issue, though, is whether players will simply give up on the feature when the rate of reward suddenly slows down right at the point where they're starting to notice that it's all randomly generated content that has reward scaling issues. The silent majority of gamers may not see the forum posts decrying the removal of the buff as a "nerf" to skirmish exp, nor will they necessarily realize that they are gaining 25% fewer exp per kill. What they will notice is that it suddenly seems to take more and more skirmishes per level, enhancing the feeling of grindy-ness.
Was an incentive even necessary?
Ironically, I'm not sure that this kind of buff was necessary to get players to try the feature in the first place. In hindsight, I realize that a boosted rate of skirmish exp may have been part of how I ended up gaining so many levels before I actually tried Mirkwood content, but I wasn't running the skirmishes for the exp - I was trying them for the skirmish marks and soldier rewards. (Here Turbine was a bit more clever, artificially inflating the mark reward levels for early skirmishes with some easily attained entry-level deeds to get players into the system.)
Also, because of the completely scaling nature of the skirmish feature, it had the potential to be used to boost players past areas of content that were sparsely populated with content. Don't like the quest options in the 30's (really the last part of the leveling game that Orion has yet to address)? There's a skirmish for that. Want three-man content to level with your static group? You were probably out of luck until skirmishes arrived, but now you can generate a 3-man instance on the fly. Does Turbine really want to discourage the use of this feature to pave over the rough spots in their own content?
(P.S. Also included in the mini-patch was a fix to a bug that treated healing done by your skirmish soldier as an attack that deals a negative amount of damage. This AI shortcut meant that your armor was mitigating your incoming heals. Suddenly, my herbalist is healing my Champion for a lot more, to the extent that I'm no longer challenged by some of the encounters that I previously needed to burn cooldowns for.
P.P.S. I understand how the Captain/bannerguard "encouraging shout" type skill fits into the "morale as hp" concept, but how does a herbalist improve your morale? Are they handing out the "special" brownies or something? The lore says that no player character is ever actually injured because there's no means for them to heal in a timely fashion, so they're clearly not disinfecting wounds or anything.)