Gated communities

People complain a lot about the “gear gating” in Lotro. If you want to fight the new boss, you have to get the gear from the previous raids. We just want to experience the content, even if we can’t beat it with a PUG group.

When I think of it, isn’t almost everything in an MMO gated in one way or another? You can’t do everything in the game right from the get-go. If you want to fight that boss at all, you’re going to need to level up. If you want to get access to the zone he’s in, you’re going to have to do the last quest in a chain of quests that grant access to Moria. If you want to do that quest, you have to do all the pre-quests.

MMOs are all about gated content. You can’t meet Boba Fett until you do all the pre-quests. You can’t try the Battle of Lothlorien until you’ve earned enough reputation points. You can’t wear the cool armor until you get the drop. You can’t fly the cool ship until you save up the cash. You can’t summon the cool monsters until you do the quests to get them, and that’s only after you do the quests to become a summoner and all the leveling needed to start the quests. You can’t ride a chocobo, a horse, or a boat unless you’ve done the quests and have the needed level.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t completely hate gating. It’s necessary in a way. If I play Mega Man, I expect that I’m going to have to beat cut-man if I want to gear-up to kill made-entirely-of-paper man. And I know I need to beat every level and every mini-boss before I kill the last boss. But those are solo challenges.

I’m not expected to wait for a group of other mega men and women so that we can take down cutman. When the boss dies in Mega-man, I’m not typing /roll hoping that I get to be the one who wins the gun I need to fight the next boss. And the length of the levels doesn’t exceed an hour.

Gating of some kind is good. I like that story quest 1 leads to story quest 2. But gear gating with rare-drops, long instances, stupidly difficult bosses, or horrible grinds isn’t fun. It’s frustrating.

17 thoughts on “Gated communities

  1. Syncaine

    Little to no gating exists in most sandbox MMOs. While it’s true you have to wait a while (or a long while) to fly some ships in EVE, being able to fly them and seeing content are not directly related. You could take your frigate into a lvl 5 mission with some friends, just like you can be helpful in that same frigate in a 0.0 fleet battle.

    In UO you could theoretically go anywhere the first time you logged in, and only certain armor had a str requirement. Magic was ‘gated’ I guess, requiring a certain skill level to access all the spells.

    DarkFall is even more open, with only magic really being gated. On the first day someone can hand you a mount, enchanted sword, and full plate, and while your skills would be lower, you could still use all of it and help siege a city.

    Without gating, you run into the problem of the players having to create their own content, and most would rather be told where to go, which is why gating is convenient and easy to implement.

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  3. ninetytwo

    Gating’s purely a content pacing mechanism, like instance timers, or leveling curves, or any of the other devices MMOs use to govern the rate of content consumption.

    Gating away content is a poor substitute for creating difficult, but enjoyable content. It’s much easier to create the Colossal Cave of Colossi and hide crappy game design behind a keying process, or gear progression, or factioning than it is to create content that is accessible and fun, but difficult enough to prevent players from becoming bored with it. The best games are simple and accessible, but have deep gameplay — think Chess, or Contract Bridge.

    It’s probably one of the reasons you see MMOs like LOTRO and WoW embracing modal content. Create content that everyone can use, but then “gate” the harder versions of these same encounters.

  4. Tesh

    I’m decidedly not a fan of gating content behind grind or grouping, but if storytelling is important, gating is crucial to maintain pacing and order of information.

    Then again, I don’t think MMOs are the best place for dev-driven storytelling…

  5. Jaxom92

    I think with the case of LOTRO, it’s a switch in design philosophy for gating and end-game raiding that bothers people, not the gating in and of itself. Before MoM, The Rift and Helegrod could be experienced by people in gear that didn’t require nearly the amount of time and effort as the current raids do (the gear grind through the hard mode instances). And this was a stated goal by Turbine: to make all parts of the game accessible to all the players. If you want to craft at end-game, craft, if you want to raid, raid. If you want to solo, solo. And you could easily switch – the only requirement was that you be at the level cap and have gear that is at least reasonable for that level (quest gear, crafted gear, didn’t matter). Now we’re seeing it harder to get into the raids. There’s no such thing as a “casual raid run” anymore because the process to get the gear required for the raid isn’t in the least casual.

    Like I said, it’s not the gating that’s the issue. You’re absolutely right that every game has gating. It’s the switch, the change, almost as if we were being misled in the first place. I don’t really think Turbine was malicious in the change of design, but I do think they need to reevaluate the choice in direction.

  6. Yeebo

    What Jaxom said, and more clearly than I would have.

    The end game in many MMOs is like a series of rooms, each has one door leading in and one door leading to the next room. Every time you reach a new room you have to spend a lot of time doing something very specific that you may or may not enjoy to see what is in the next room.

    In pre-MoM LoTRO when you hit the cap, it was like stepping into a big round room with many doors. None of the doors were locked, and you were free to spend as much or as little time in the room that each one led to as you liked. Admittedly you really wouldn’t be competitive in the PvP room or Rift room if you hadn’t spent some time gearing up some of the other rooms. However, you were free to try them out whenever you felt like it. In some ways it was like the game became a sandbox when you hit the cap.

    Now Turbine seems intent on switching to the linear chain or rooms approach, and many of the old timers are none to pleased by it.

  7. Anjin

    I think you covered this pretty well. The only time people don’t like content gating is when those gates feel insurmountable. Most of the time, it’s a goal to strive for. For instance, you level up a little and you can take on that orc camp on an even footing. Or complete a quest chain for an amulet to let you into the next dungeon. I’m going to be questing and leveling anyway, so those gates don’t feel onerous. But forcing players to repeat content on the chance the gated content will be unlocked is poor design.

  8. Degwarg is Dead

    ‘Gating of some kind is good. I like that story quest 1 leads to story quest 2. But gear gating with rare-drops, long instances, stupidly difficult bosses, or horrible grinds isn’t fun. It’s frustrating.’

    BINGO! What is going on at Turb? Was there since preorder Open Beta, but finally got fed up and uninstalled last week, just couldn’t stand this radiance torture any longer. If other people think it’s incredibly exciting to do DD 89 times, then more power to them, but it’s not the game I remember and it sure ain’t my idea of fun.

    The old class item grind was kinda lame, but you didn’t HAVE to have that stuff to do Rift/Hele, or even to be roughly equal to everyone else at cap.

    Seems like they’re mostly interested in catering to the bigshot raiding guilds and the gearsnobs these days. Well, those types ruined MP on my old server, so I quit that. Soooo, when I go back to fulltime PvE (60 hunt/cap/burg) Turb cooks up this miserable radiance drudgery. Grrr…

  9. Julian

    It ain’t easy to keep people paying with summer festivals, sugar cookies and /dance contests.

    Was there a switch? Definitely.
    Do I agree with it? Even as an observer, no not really.
    Was it unfair? Who knows.
    Did they have a choice? Maybe not. They’re the only ones who know their real numbers.

    I’m not leaning one way or the other, but just pointing out that switches like these don’t really happen for no reason. Right or wrong as those reasons might have been, I bet they must have been powerful enough.

  10. Yeebo

    I’ll give you one reason. There wasn’t enough for capped players to do in launch MoM. If casual players could gear up by crafting and go directly to the Watcher to get their first ages, the bulk of the playerbase would have felt like there was nothing to work towards at 60 before Turbine could even patch in Lothlorian (much less a real 12 man raid). They really had little choice but to put in some kind of onerous gear check.

    Unfortunately, Turbine seemingly has no intention of removing the radiance requirements for raids now that the end game is fleshed out. It very much gives the game a “gear snob” vibe. Casual players, or those that simply dislike running the same instances repeatedly, can’t see any of the final boss battles and have no way of getting first age items.

    The only way I see that they could let casuals into that content without openly admitting that radiance was an artificial cockblock would be to add PvP, crafting, and solo options for getting basic radiance gear…or at least consumables that can temporarily give you the same radiance bonus as a full set of gear. I don’t see that happening any time soon (I’d love to be mistaken).

  11. Yeebo

    Edit: I should add that allowing players to effectively get 2/3 of the bonus of a full set by running three mans is a move in the right direction. It definitely means that anyone in a remotely active KS can make progress towards a gear set, as long as they don’t mind farming instances (which, unfortunately, some of us do mind).

  12. Hess

    I’ve been in LotRO since public beta and I share the same opinion with many people commenting here. When LotRo launched I really appreciated it not being all about what gear…I’m left wondering what happened.

    Don’t get me wrong, the Moria expansion is a blast to level through from 50-60 but the endgame content vs the SoA endgame is two completely different beasts. I didn’t so much mind the radiance gear grind when all you needed it for was Vile Maw but this new (and completely sub-par) partial set from book 8 feels totally lazy on Turbines’ part. Run the same 3-man (or 2-man if you’re feeling sassy) instances over and over again in order to get barter items for 3 more pieces of gear that give you a whopping 1.5 more radiance (and negatives everywhere else) just to participate in the new 12-man raid???

    “Turtle” felt lazy, Lothlorien (though pretty) has to be the dullest rep-grind in the history of gaming and all book 8 did was retrace a gimmick mechanic we’ve already dealt with. I agree that they likely have their reasons but I certainly hope it’s not sheer laziness.

    I come from one of those “big-shot raiding guilds[kinships]” and only about 10% of the really active people (daily players) are excited in the least about the direction the game is taking. We went raid heavy months before MoM dropped because it was the thing to do at end game. At least a dozen people stopped playing when Lothlorien opened, stating they’d be back for book 8. Now, post bk8, even more people have vanished.

    I’m keeping my account going with the hopes that the upcoming Mirkwood content actually brings endgame out of Moria but other games are slowly starting to lure me away.

    /end_rant

  13. Degwarg is Dead

    Interesting you say that Hess, as I’ve talked with a few pals from major raiding guilds on my oldserver (Windfola)and don’t seem too happy with the new direction either… Lot of folks pining for SoA and the Rift days.

  14. Julian

    You know the numbers I’d love to see (and probably don’t exist)? The correlation between lifetime subscribers and casual/hardcore players.

    Intuition tells me the bulk of lifetime subs are casual players, the bulk of the monthly subs less casual, more “gamery”, less “middle earth experience” kind of players.

    I’d also love to see the historical numbers on lifetime subs. I have a feeling there was one large push of lifers early on, and by now they don’t “matter” any longer, financially speaking, and are just sucking resources.

    If anyone wants to go all Solid Snake into Turbine and come back with the numbers, I’d be tickled pink I would.

  15. Jeremy S.

    Wow, lots of content…sorry didn’t read them all.

    Part of what you call gating is what I call vertical gameplay. whether through player-enforced raids, it starts with game mechanics binding elements together in different ways forcing a vertical climb.

    Two good examples of “Horizontal” play were already mentioned. EVE is a good example, and Runes of Magic is shooting for more horizontal content as well.

  16. Hess

    Julian,

    Myself and a few of my LotRO friends have been wondering about that as well.

    Our going theory is that the core of the “stable” player base are the life-timers that signed up pre-Moria(being mainly hardcore raiders, creep grinders and Tolkienites). The number of new players attracted by the 2nd anniversary pricing and online MoM media blitz are where the money is really coming from. It behoves Turbine to keep those new month-to-month (or three month) subscribers not only interested but happy enough to spread the word to friends.

    It’s of our general opinion that those fresh subscribers might not be terribly impressed with the feel of the game at 60.

    Perhaps it’s because we’re on such a highly populated server that doesn’t see much new blood (Brandywine) but even at lower levels you aren’t able to find a group, even for the book quests that need one. Most low levels characters are alts (of alts of alts) being power-leveled up the ranks as quickly as possible, so it would seem. You can find PuGS (pick-up groups) within Moria but they’re in for quick hard-mode instance runs, just to get the radiance gear rolls, which can be a hectic and deterring experience to someone that hasn’t played much in a group.

    That doesn’t make for a very friendly world to brand new players if you ask me.

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