Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Monetary Value of a Mistake

I've been wrapping up the old Enedwaith content in LOTRO - if nothing else, I'm embarrassed to show my face at the Turbine booth this weekend if I'm two years behind on content - and one of the epic quest chapters awarded a Second Age legendary item for my rune slot.  This should have been a huge upgrade - it was a ten level jump in quality as I had been using a level 55 rune from the Moria era, and a jump in quality from purple to teal (LOTRO's equivalent of blue to purple, or legendary to fabled).  Instead, it proved a bittersweet learning experience.

Cash Undo
LOTRO's legendary item system provides six slots for items, and it is generally advantageous to have items - even if they are low quality placeholders - in all six slots so that they can gain exp and transfer it to better items as you obtain them.   The shuffle to break down some old items for legacy scrolls and exp runes to kit out my new rune led to the predictable result - I slotted two tier 6 relics in a throwaway placeholder item that I put in the slot to bank exp. 

Something about this pairing does not go together.
Many LOTRO players have probably screwed this up at some point, and for the first few years of the system it was a relatively easy fix - you could pop your relics back out of your item every ten levels as part of the re-forging process, and you could recover all the relics when destroying a max exp item.  Turbine argued that this had to go due to relic inflation - everyone would eventually end up with maximum quality relics.  They're not wrong on this point, but their motives were called into question by their decision to implement a cash store scroll to replace the previously free-in-game unslotting feature.

In many games, a bone-headed mistake like this one could be sent to customer support.  Not so for the non-subscriber to LOTRO - customer service access is limited to 30 days after the paid purchase of Turbine Points. 

Which brings us back to the cash shop.  The relic removal scroll costs 195 Turbine Points.  The value of Turbine Points varies widely depending on how you obtain them.  Some VIP subscribers think of points as "free", even though they are part of the subscription package and are used to purchase things that would otherwise cost the player real money.  The smallest quantity of points Turbine will sell you in a bundle is 500 TP for $8, which would value the TP at $3.12, while there are larger bundles (for those willing to pay their "micro"transactions in $60 increments) and sales that can drive the exchange rate.  Then there is the ability to earn points in game, for those who value their time at pennies per hour.  Suffice it to say, the undo button for my mistake costs less than three dollars. 

Want to sell compromise on our principle against relic inflation, PST Turbine with your credit card number.
I could write more on this topic, but it ultimately boils down to this.  The relics that were in my inventory were gone.  I can buy replacements from the store for 195 Turbine Points, or I can save those points for something I actually want, such as new content.  The fact that the "replacements" are only available for sale at that price because I screwed up does not change the fact that I don't pay money for this sort of thing. 

A not-so-legendary epilogue
Having written off a pair of high quality relics, I sighed and proceeded to apply some scrolls from my bank - it wouldn't ordinarily make a ton of sense to invest in a level 65 item when the cap is now 75, but all of these scrolls were obtained from previous expansion items and capped at the lower level.

The good news is that the new rune, once scrolled and reliced (with my second choice relics), had all the legacies that I had on my previous rune. The bad news is that swapping out legacies leaves the new legacy at tier 2 out of 6, which greatly increases the cost of purchasing higher ranks.  The end result of this shuffle is that I ended up with a worse item than the massively out of date one I had, because I ran out of upgrade points much sooner. 

I suppose the only silver lining is that it will be that much easier to write this level 65 item off for the inevitable level 75 version.

I had assumed the new rune would be an upgrade due to double the base incoming healing rating and a bonus legacy that reduces power cost of some skills.

4 comments:

Yeebo said...

It's always a bit painful to slot up a new LI. I generally just blow the TP to remove my best slottables from what I'm using and get the abilities I want on my main. Alts have to make due with whatever they have on hand.

On the "free" TP, for me as a lifer they are as close to free as possible. It's like I am being paid interest on a $200 deposit I made five years ago. I can't say I'd be willing to go lifer in any MMO these days, but I seemingly lucked into the single case where it was a good idea.

Green Armadillo said...

@Yeebo: Your comment on "free" TP is exactly what I'm talking about. I assume you pay cash for the expansions as they're released? If so, that's cash that you could still have in your pocket if you'd saved your "free" TP.

Yeebo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yeebo said...

I do pay for them, but I do it mainly for the pre-order bonuses. I had more than enough saved up to get the last expansion with TP if I had cared to do it that way, for example. But the horses and outfits were more than I could pass up.

I think your point is pretty valid with those spending $15 a month for "free" TP. However, as a lifer the value of my account grows every month whether I pay anything or not. At the very least, I'm operating in LOTRO at a substantial permanent discount compared to anyone that isn't a lifer. I got all the content you most recently played through for free for example. I also got all the content in the last river expansion without having to pay TP. Given that I intend to play as long as the game is live, I'd say I got a good deal.

We all know "free to play" is a misnomer. If that's the point you are trying to make, I don't disagree (that's what I mneant when I said my TP are "close to free"). For example, I might be tempted to buy TP for bank slots and such if I wasn't already sitting on a giant pile of them (due to paying cash for expansions instead of dipping into my stash). But did going lifer a few months after launch provide one of the best values among the MMOs I've played? Hell yes.