The Power of IP

lotro [The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar] I was listening to Brent’s 53rd podcast from VirginWorlds last night and he brought up an interesting point about The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar. While I did not agree with some of his impressions, his comment about the Intellectual Property (IP) being powerful is very true.

He questioned the fun of the game, if you removed the IP. I have to admit, the setting has been a huge appeal for me and I think he is right – if you remove The Lord of the Rings from The Lord of the Rings Online, the game does not stand up all that well. Personally, I have been enjoying the setting a heck of a lot more than the actual game. I did not really understand that before. I have decided to spend more time playing the game and not being so into the setting and see if I can find some other reasons to play the game.

You should not ignore the setting as it is a big part of these games. However, the underlying game should be fun – no matter what the setting is. I’m not sure that this rule is satisfied by The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar. I’ve spent so much time running around trying to see the “places” from the books, that I have not paid that much attention to the actual game play. This will change.

– Ethic

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17 thoughts on “The Power of IP”

  1. That’s a good point.

    I’ve been running around in game as well, vicariously, as I watch the wife unit play. I kinda get the same vibe as you, but I think I’m interpreting it differently. I wouldn’t go as far as to say “There is no *game* underneath if you remove the IP”, because the game certainly is there. I just think the game, from what I’ve seen so far, doesn’t bring anything *new* to the table. If you wanna talk about the game-game, there’s nothing there we haven’t seen before, with the exception of the traits/achievements system, which is interesting and I’m sure will be a motivation to “grind it”, so to speak, for many.

    It feels at many points like a mod or a TC for WoW, which is not entirely a bad thing, mind you, but the flipside of that is that there’s very little in there that you haven’t seen done or attempted elsewhere. It’s another MMO-lite, and I think that’s a good thing. This sort of dissatisfaction when you open the hood and realize it’s just like WoW underneath is just that. A feeling that some people will consider as a virtue or a hindrance.

    There are people that will play it for a while and get bored because it’s just like WoW and they’ve done that. And there are others (like my wife, for example), that loves to play it *because* it’s just like WoW, so she knows what to expect, how to play, what things do, what metaphores are used and felt right at home from the first minute.

    Maybe the game is attempting by design to catch and retain players like my wife, and not the so-called hardcore and the disconnect is coming from us. Maybe faulting the game for not attempting to do something it never set out to do. Who knows.

    Making it WoW-like was probably a wise move in the long run, considering the (casual + WoW-familiar) to hardcore player ratio around.

  2. I didn’t mean to imply there is no game underneath. I agree with you Julian, it’s just not much more than any other MMO.

    If the entire draw to this game is the setting, they are in trouble.

  3. Eh, true. I’m hoping Turbine isnt (a) Shortsighted, (b) Stupid or (c) Both as to make the setting their entire game.

    They do have a good shot with the endgame, though. As it stands today, no one has seen Angmar. And we know Turbine are more habitual updaters of content than Blizzard. Put those two together, and hope for Turbine to heed the lessons of WoW’s endgame, and there is LOTRO’s silver lining.

    You know as well as I do of the huge chunk of WoW players that were completely disgusted with Blizzard regarding their “Raid or die” mentality at the endgame. If Turbine manages to make the endgame interesting, or at least provide another *viable* avenue of advancement other than raiding at LOTRO’s endgame, then that’s their staying power, and that’s what will capture the crowd of WoW’s raid refugees.

    If they don’t, or can’t, then LOTRO becomes just like WoW: A wonderful ride to a crappy destination. I hope they can pull it.

  4. “A crappy destination”, of course, for those who don’t enjoy raiding, or can’t raid for whatever reasons. For raiders, then it’s just fine, and more real, ultimate ninja power to them.

  5. That depends on how good the delivery of that setting is, I suppose. As long as the game machinics don’t screw it up… I think the important thing is whether it ‘feels’ like Middle Earth or not. (This was where Star Wars Galaxies screwed up…. it looked and sounded like Star Wars, but felt completely different. The makeover came way too late, IMO.)

    I was originally keeping an eye on the game, but got into WoW about two years ago while waiting. I’m not looking to leave it anytime soon.

  6. According to one the dev chats, Moria will be HUGE, like monumentally so. I think the driving force of LotRO will be in its updates and story-lines, a la AC1 and 2. I think it’ll likely see a high early sell-rate, with tapering off subscription numbers peaking at less than 1 million. And that, regardless of the 500 pound gorilla’s numbers, would be a tremendous success for Turbine.

    As some of you have put it, LotRO really isn’t much different in the MMO world from what we’ve seen. But it’s key difference, at least in my book and many others, is the IP. The fact that it’s Lord of the Rings IS my reason for playing. The decision to follow the route of WoW in terms of gameplay and even UI is a conscious decision no doubt, as that’s what worked for them to draw in millions of subcribers.

    In my opinion, were they to take the massive IP of LotRO and try to reinvent the MMO-wheel when making the game, as Middle-Earth Online was originally attempting, we would have ended up with a piece of crap game, because it likely wouldn’t feel like Lord of the Rings at all.

    With such tremendous license like LotR, it’s just too hard to take risks in the gameplay department. We saw how it ended up for SWG, as one poster said.

  7. JoBildo says: With such tremendous license like LotR, it’s just too hard to take risks in the gameplay department. We saw how it ended up for SWG, as one poster said.

    Or, like SWG, they will assume the IP will be enough to carry players through sweeping gameplay changes (twice!), and they will pay the same price SOE did.

  8. The IP could carry them through quite a bit, IF they’re true to it. My point was that SOE was not true to the SW IP; so much so that though a die-hard SW fan (I saw the original movie over 30 times in the theater…. not counting video or the special edition release) I completely wrote it off once I saw how it played even though I’d been highly anticipating it before release.

  9. Interesting. My early impressions so far have been that the game isn’t that lacking in game play… it really lacks that Lord of the Rings oomph. Mainly because it is such a departure from how Middle Earth actually works. They took far too much liberty with everything and it really ruins the feel.

    I don’t think the underlying game is “great”, but it’s not bad. It feels like Dungeons and Dragons Online all over. An OK underbelly for a game with a hideous mutation of the IP for it’s backbone.

    Not to mention LotRO is slow, awkward, and for the most part it resonates a “blah” feeling. From crafting to adventuring; there just isn’t anything that screams “play me”. It is an average offering at best and any success from the name sake will be quickly dissipate within a year. I still don’t see it breaking 200,000 subs.

  10. Games that rely on an IP to draw folks tend to make me nervous. I willfully avoided both SWG as well as the Matrix Online games for that very reason. Gamsof that type tend to focus more on “where’s the faimialr stuff” than true mechanics.

    I guess that is why I was such a fan of AC1. Turbine really hit a home run with that game. It was not dependant upon the typical toolbox of enimies and heroes found in most fantasy games (elves, orcs, etc). They stepped outside the box on that game, and it drew more focus to the actual game within the game.

    When a company releases a title that is based on some popular IP franchise, there is almost always an inherent weakness in it. I put forth examples of the old console games (Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET, and others on the Atari systems) that were complete drek. Not b/c of the platforms they were released on… they were about as good as it got at the time… but b/c the games were trite, shallow, and ultimately unfun.

    WoW came to terms with that. Blizzard realized that to make a game, they could base the genre on their previous games. However, they had to make a game that was able to stand on it’s own merit, and then overlay the genre. I mean, do you think that WoW would be any more than slightly less popular had there never been any Warcraft games before it?

    If you think so, then why has there not been a Starcraft Online done? Or god forbid a Diablo Online?

    Franchise does not make a game… ever. However, it has killed quite a few due to marketting weenies that dont understand the market to which they are trying to peddle to.

    My $0.02

  11. I agree with you on your point about Blizzard making WoW a good game that stands alone. In fact, I had never played any previous Warcraft game, knew nothing about the IP when I started playing. I got the game and have kept playing it because of the gameplay.

    Oh, learning the lore is also kinda fun. That’s the cherry on top of the gameplay.

  12. Getting both perspectives of Brent as well as you is interesting. I mean, we can analyze it all we want, but it just breaks down to play style.

    Some MMO players are crafters, explorers, raiders, alt-a-holics, levelers, economists, pvp’ers, and so on. It’s interesting how certain games have lent themselves to catering to different parts of these interest groups. All in all, there isn’t just one way to address it.

    LOTRO will do fine pulling in players who are there for IP reasons, and leaning on the WoW style probably isn’t such a bad thing. It’s a reliable game that is sure to provide for your basic WoW related gameplay needs. The devs of LOTRO can focus on letting WoW set that precedent and expand in their own directions. I think it all works fine.

  13. Something else I thought of while I was in the shower today… no kidding: We can’t discount the “Oh, honey, look!” factor that LOTRO will most definitely have attached.

    Young couple or modern pairing equivalent, 21-35, enough disposable income walks into your friendly neighbourhood Best Buy, CompUSA, Whathaveyou in late April, early May, and one of them sees a nice big box.

    “Oh, honey, look! It’s Lord of the Rings!”

    I’m thinking LOTRO will do a good job at pulling many of those that have no idea about new games, betas, tasty preorders or things like that. And now I’m thinking the fact that LOTRO is basically emuWoW was a deliberate design decision to retain these people after install.

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