Commentary: End Game Loot, Lootboxes, Update 23, and Beyond

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Severlin: End Game Loot, Lootboxes, Update 23, and Beyond

Originally posted by Severlin: 10 September, 2018, 2PM
I'm writing today to discuss changes we are making to end game loot, and how lootboxes relate to your gameplay. We have been paying close attention to high level gameplay and rewards, and are not entirely happy with the system in place. Now that we are increasing the level cap to 120 in Update 23: Where Dragons Dwell, it's a great opportunity to make some adjustments, and explain how things will work going forward.
We should reward you for playing the game. Progression should come from playing the game, first and foremost. Before I talk specifics, let's talk about our goals with the system, the rules under which we want to operate, and how lootboxes fit into that system:
1. There should be no gear in lootboxes that you don’t have a chance to acquire by playing the game. If gear is in a lootbox, it should also appear on a game vendor or as a reward for content within a short period of time.
2. On the day that new content is released, players should not be able to get the brand-new gear with end game currency or Store purchases. The initial rush of gear needs to come from playing the new content and getting rewards for completing it. As such, the vendors for gear and lootboxes will not appear until a few weeks after that content is released. The exact timing might also depend on how involved the content is.
3. Gear that comes from a new Raid at the highest difficulty, or the equivalent raid completion gated vendor, will always have more power than comparable gear that comes directly from lootboxes.
4. If gear comes from a raid, you need to complete the raid at least once before you can obtain the gear from a vendor using game currency. This remains unchanged.
The above should help you understand how we want loot to work in LOTRO, and set clear "meta rules" for the future. If we stray from this, let us hear it. Sometimes, especially in our preview environment, you'll see gear show up out of order, or see gear that doesn't have its power level set, but if you see something that isn't right, bring it to our attention so we can fix it.
Now, with all of this as the guideline, let's explain how our end game systems will work in Update 23!
Gear will be rewarded for running content while you level up to 120: from quests and deeds, reputation barter, instance chests, and from defeating bosses in the raid (which will be released later this year). In general, instance gear will be better than questing gear, raid gear will be better than instance gear, and content with higher tiers of difficulty will reward better gear than easier content. This is pretty much how things work now.
Our new currency for our end game in Where Dragons Dwell and beyond is Embers of Enchantment. Embers can be earned for doing weekly quests, and by deconstructing gear you don't want. This Disenchantment process may also be familiar to you, as it's what you've been doing with Ashes of Enchantment.
One big difference in U23 and beyond is we will reward Embers of Enchantment to you directly when you do endgame quests, rather than indirectly through lootbox keys. You'll accumulate enough Embers to buy the gear you want from a vendor. This helps fight random luck when trying to get the stuff you want. The Ember vendors won't have gear from the most recent end game group content until around two or so weeks after that content is released. So, the only way to get this gear when content is first released is to play the content. Finally, the vendor may have a requirement that you complete the content before you can pick any of the gear.
Older content will work on a similar system, with its own currency. Ashes of Enchantment are becoming Motes of Enchantment, and you'll earn new Motes of Enchantment by running older content. Older gear will also Disenchant to Motes of Enchantment, and Motes items will have their own vendors. Quests that used to bestow keys or key slivers will bestow Motes directly instead of Black Steel Keys.
How do lootboxes fit into all of this? Lootboxes will continue to appear in-game, and you can buy keys from the LOTRO Store to open them. They'll have cosmetics, gear – with identical gear available from the Ember vendors, and some Embers. The gear and cosmetics will be available on the Embers vendor at the same time it debuts in a lootbox. Both new lootbox items and new vendor items will arrive a few weeks or so after new content is released.
Lootboxes are not required to gear up, but can be used to help you catch up on gearing, and acquire cool new cosmetics. If you don't want to buy a key for a lootbox, you can instead run content to earn Embers for the items. We absolutely want to reward players who are awesome enough to support the long-term success of the game by opening lootboxes, and get joy in doing it, but we don't want players to feel like they are forced to open lootboxes in order to play or excel in the game.
We've been carefully reading your thoughts about lootboxes in recent months, and we've had a near-equal amount of discussion inside the office as well. We’re encouraged by your passion for the game, and want to make sure we support your decision to be here with us.
Sev~

Cordovan: terms explained and commentary

Originally posted by B749: 10 September, 2018, 2:51PM
Thanks for the post Severlin.
So if I understand this all right:
* Lootboxes are staying, but they are no longer part of the actual endgame content (because dailies are no longer awarding keys or key slivers, and instead granting Embers or Motes directly). Running level 115 dailies to acquire level 120 gear is therefore not possible.

We can no longer earn Black Steel Keys from dailies, we can only acquire them from the Store after U23 goes live. Keys acquired from dailies before the update will still be usable though?

*The Embers currency can be used to barter for all the new Lootbox rewards on a vendor, and eventually for instance/raid rewards as well -- though deed requirements may/will apply. Even players choosing not to participate in opening lootboxes (which will now require Store purchases) can still earn all of the rewards they offer.
* Level cap Lootboxes will still drop Embers, but will no longer be a path to instantly get the newest gear since a two-week (or so) time window between content release and vendor update will be enforced. Due to the previously mentioned vendor restrictions, getting the best gear without beating high difficulty versions of the content will be impossible alltogether.
* Old Lootbox rewards and gear will be available for Motes, which our current Ashes will be converted into and which we will acquire from running level 115 dailies or disenchanting non-level cap gear.
I'm carefully optimistic about this as it does sound good (allowing players who don't want to encounter Lootboxes ever again to just add them to their loot filter and ignore them alltogether without crippling their endgame experience by doing so). It does leave me with one major question though:
How will you handle updating Lootbox gear and its power in the dot updates? Say you release the gear at the item level you planned to during the last Bullroarer round (which was 370 I think, with the T1 instance rewards starting at 375), then you release the Raid a few months later with, say, level 390 gear in it. Will you update the Lootbox drops to a higher level then, essentially making them more powerful than the Instance rewards? You did this with the Mordor cluster and it made rewards from the Instances feel quite worthless due to them being weaker than Lootbox gear.
I hope this turns out well and appreciate the amount of thought you guys have put into it. It sounds like a big improvement over the level 115 endgame.
Originally posted by Cordovan: 10 September, 2018, 3:16PM
Some of the terminology is a bit complex, but let me take a crack at answering you:
** Lootboxes are staying, but they are no longer part of the actual endgame content (because dailies are no longer awarding keys or key slivers, and instead granting Embers or Motes directly). Running level 115 dailies to acquire level 120 gear is therefore not possible.
Lootboxes may appear in endgame content, so I don't think that quite matches your description, but you are correct that end game content will not be awarding Keys, and will instead grant Embers that will be used to acquire items from a vendor when it is available. Yes, you will not be able to run under-level dailies to get level 120 gear.
** We can no longer earn Black Steel Keys from dailies, we can only acquire them from the Store after U23 goes live. Keys acquired from dailies before the update will still be usable though?
Yes, and yes, previously-acquired keys will still be usable on both the new and older lootboxes.
** The Embers currency can be used to barter for all the new Lootbox rewards on a vendor, and eventually for instance/raid rewards as well -- though deed requirements may/will apply. Even players choosing not to participate in opening lootboxes (which will now require Store purchases) can still earn all of the rewards they offer.
Yes and no, in that we intend to put gear available in a Lootbox on a vendor at the same time they are released, which will be a little while after content is released. We are, however, leaving open the possibility that we might want to put rare or special loot in content (like rare raid or Instance loot) that might not appear on a Motes or Embers vendor.
** Old Lootbox rewards and gear will be available for Motes, which our current Ashes will be converted into and which we will acquire from running level 115 dailies or disenchanting non-level cap gear.
Correct, your current Ashes will be converted to Motes, and Motes will be used to barter for older lootbox rewards and gear. In general, Motes will be available by running older content that used to provide Embers, but I don't think we want to get locked down forever on a specific 115 daily.
Added: On the second half of your post, regarding timing of lootbox items during point updates; the plan is to release items in content, then release it a few weeks or so later in lootboxes and vendor(s). So that will apply both to main updates and point updates.

Vastin furhter explains

Originally posted by Vastin: 10 September, 2018, 3:55PM
Heh. It's unlikely we'll achieve a 'universal' currency at any particular point, and to be honest that isn't really our goal.
Alas, keeping MMO currencies from inflating and devaluing over time is a surprisingly difficult feat given that we don't have the checks and balances of supply and demand or any kind of currency value anchors that you might see in the real world - heck, keeping real-world currencies balanced is a bit of a trick, as anyone who likes to keep track of such things is likely aware.
Honestly the only MMO I know of that even tries to maintain something approaching a single stable currency is EVE, and they claim to have to keep economists on staff to achieve it, which is cool, but it's not the focus of a game like LOTRO.
So as much as we'd like some currency or other to be a stable and enduring thing forever, that's not generally how it works. But it would certainly be nice if this one lasted a good while? We shall see how it goes.
-Vastin

Cordovan answers another question

Originally posted by Cordovan: 10 September, 2018, 5:01PM
** Will keys randomly drop in landscape like the older keys do? I like the older system of keys and lootboxes, so I am hoping so. Will there still be lootboxes with keys available from meta deeds in new areas?
No, keys will no longer appear in in-game content, whether it be a landscape, instance reward, whatever. Instead, you'll earn Motes or Embers of Enchantment directly, and use that to get the things you are interested in from a vendor.

Severlin continues his comments

Originally posted by Severlin: 13 September, 2018, 11:56PM
Some answers, updates and a HEADS UP on some upcoming changes:
(A few changes are coming from some edge cases as a result of this – these are outlined below. )
~ The current plan is that everything from lootboxes - cosmetics and gear – will be available in game. Gear from the endgame lootbox will be on a vendor that accepts Embers of Enchantment. Cosmetics from the endgame lootbox will be on a vendor that accepts Figments of Splendor. Gear disenchants into Embers, and cosmetics – including things like mounts and pets – disenchant into Figments. The Embers of Enchantment vendor also sells Figments of Splendor so you can convert Embers of Enchantment into Figments of Splendor. (Players will not be able to convert Figments into Embers or Motes.)
The reasoning for having Figments of Splendor is so players playing higher level characters can pursue cosmetics on vendors in lower level content without feeling that they need to do older content, and lower level characters can still get the cosmetics from the endgame by earning Figments of Splendor. Another cool thing about Figments of Splendor is that we could eventually make other content provide Figments of Splendor; for example various festival quests might have an option to provide Figments of Splendor so festival participants can pick up items from the Figments of Splendor vendor. To clarify, we don’t have plans to allow all cosmetics in game to disenchant into Figments, but we do have that option for various areas of the game as time goes on.
~ Our plan for older content that is no longer considered end game is to convert the system away from keys as well. Older content will drop Motes of Enchantment, and the game will have vendors that accept Motes of Enchantment for older loot. The new leveling lootbox would drop loot that scales to the level of the character opening the box, with a minimum level of 30 and a maximum level of 115. Gear would disenchant into Mote of Enchantment, and cosmetics would disenchant into Figments of Splendor. We will still honor the Sturdy Steel Keys and have a way to get older lootboxes so remaining keys can still be used and players will find a use for them. We are working on a way to do that.
~ We are trying to determine how much of the older game we can convert before the next update, so I don’t want to get into specifics about what will be in place until the team has a chance to assess the progress of those efforts. Some older areas might not be converted until a later release.
HEAD UPS:
~ There are a small number of cosmetic items that currently disenchant to Ash of Enchantment. With the new system these items will disenchant to Figments of Splendor. If you would rather have Ash and have it convert to Motes, disenchant them before the update!
~ In the new system, cosmetic pets that can be earned from the lockboxes will have an Account bind status but they will also disenchant into Figments of Splendor.
Cordovan will be working on a separate post explicitly outlining the HEADS UP information to increase the chances of people seeing it.
Sev~

Cordovan summarizes

Originally posted by Cordovan: 13 September, 2018, 1:14PM
** Originally Posted by TheGeekGirl
** I completely agree. We shouldn't need a damn currency conversion chart in order to play and enjoy the game.
TLDR; Endgame lootbox gear will return a gear currency, endgame lootbox cosmetics will return a cosmetic currency, you can swap gear currency for cosmetic currency but not the other way around. We intend to put both cosmetics and gear obtained from the endgame lootbox into the embers vendor. Sturdy Steel Keys are going away, but it'll take a bit of time, and you'll be able to do something with your deprecated keys. Non-endgame lootboxes will be useful throughout most of the non-cap level range.