It started small at first. A few reputation items, some gems to trade in for Rift armor, the anniversary coins. It made sense from a game design standpoint to not have the Rift bosses drop the actual armor. Since you never knew for sure what classes would be present, and want to avoid dropping items no person could use. But these barter items were vaguely annoying to me, pulling me out of the immersion in the game.
My unfocused discontent has bubbled up to the surface in the last year or two.
Over the years Turbine has added an almost innumerable menagerie of barter items to the game. The number of tokens, symbols, medallions, marks, gems, etc has gotten ridiculous. I have assigned my bank chests to groupings like armor, LI, and Crafting. My barter chest has the most items in it by far. It has gotten to the point that is rare to even see actual loot drops. Almost all end game armor comes from turn-ins. Weapon drops are useless due to the LI system, which is also based on intermediate items like Symbols of Celebrimbor. About the only gear which remains as loot drops is jewelry.
The Skirmish system has taken this to a whole new level. Now we have an entire system built around the concept of not dropping any loot, but rather marks of an overwhelming variety. You then barter all these widgets for the real loot at a store. It is like the entire game has been turned into some kind of theme park or county fair.
To me, it ruins the feeling of wonder and exploration. You go to some ancient dungeon where, supposedly, nobody has been for ages. You defeat the evil that has resided there collecting all the relics and weapons of power in the area. You loot the chest expecting to find some powerful artifact, instead some weird currency drops which you take back to town and trade in for the armor they should have given you when they asked you to go fight the bad guys. It makes no sense for the story. How in the heck did he get this ancient armor?
I understand it solves problems of the wrong loot dropping, or giving everyone something to take home to feel like they made progress, but it has gotten ridiculous. When you kill the dragon, there should be a pile of loot. Not a Skirmish Mark.
Turbine added this skirmish system like it was a new idea for a universal barter system. Instead of provincial currency for each faction you can now have one system which binds them together, Skirmish Marks. But we already had one… it’s called gold. That’s why God invented money, so we wouldn’t have to trade beads and shells. There is no good reason to subvert the players stored up game-time which that gold represents.
Lest we forget, these barter items grew mostly in answer to the problem of the Elves. That fair folk does not use money, so they could not let us purchase the reputation reward items from them for gold as previous reputation vendors had done. But now that we are out of Elvish lands, somehow it has stuck. Maybe there is some reason for Enedwaith not to use gold, and opt for the Tokens of the Wild. If so I hope we will return to the gold standard when we reach Rohan.
In any case, reputation barter items and Skirmish Marks have drastically bloated the whole barter widget scheme. Here are some of the arguments used to support this system:
Players did not like the original method of armor distribution in the Moria instances. Each challenge mode would drop one barter item for one armor piece. Everyone else got diddly. You could end up running the instance a dozen times before you got lucky and won the role.
So Turbine changed it so that the challenge mode would drop a token for everyone, but now you needed a certain number of them to get the armor. So now every run brings you a little closer to getting the armor. This allows players to see their progress and hold it in their bags.
We are missing that class
Another reason for the Barter items is to prevent the situation which used to happen in the Helegrod raid. The bosses in that instance would drop actual armor pieces. Sometimes nobody in the raid would be of that class, or need the item. Everyone was frustrated by this, however, the item was Bind on Equip so it could be sold and the money split between everyone.
I guess Turbine did not like this so they went to a system of barter gems for the Rift. Each boss would drop one or two gems for a specific armor piece, and then you would run back up the NPC’s in the camp and trade it in for your class armor. The barter gems were Bind on Acquire so they could not be traded or sold.
Another less obvious reason for the creation of the alternate currency systems which all these tokens represent is to preclude gold-sellers from being able to trade in the new currency. Since all the barter items are Bind on Acquire there is no opportunity for trade in them.
This reason initially eluded me (thanks Goldenstar), in part due to how well turbine has done to combat gold-selling the last few years. It does seem a good reason to have at least some barter systems in the game. But i still don’t think it worth the current situation.
Slowing down consumption of new content
Barter items also solve the supposed problem of players saving up gold/items to finish new content too quickly. Many players would hoard gold in order to buy up Bind on Equip items like the Helegrod Armor from the new content, and thus “finish” building their character with previous saved up playtime (gold). The tokens and barter widgets make sure this cannot happen.
The problem is once this mindset takes over, the developers cannot stop themselves from making newer widgets for every release.
Dev 1: “We can’t let players use the IXP tokens from Moria… they will have completed level 65 items too fast.”
Dev 2: “I know.. We will make new IXP tokens that must be used on the new LI’s.”
Dev 1: “But what about these Skirmish marks? They can just buy these Symbols with their pile of Third Marks!”
Dev 2: “NO silly, we will add ….. Superior Third Marks”
Every avenue the player pursues to try and keep advancing or to get ahead, Turbine invalidates with the release of the new content. Are you ready for Fourth marks, Superior Fourth marks, Veterans Fourth Marks? Are you ready for a new batch of IXP tokens? Another set of rep barter items? Scrolls of Greater Empowerment and Greater Delving?
Some of this is to be expected, but Turbine seems to have gone nuts with it. And it has backfired. Many players would gladly grind out IXP tokens and Marks and any other barter widgets (including good old Gold) if they knew it would be useful. But since they now know it will not be of any use in obtaining new content items, many players will just not play, and cancel subs till the new content comes out.
Better to let players, who are disposed to it, save up for the next release. They will “complete” the new content quickly, but then they will keep on saving for the next release. By invalidating their previous playtime, you drive players away from desiring to spend any extra time in game once they have achieved their immediate goal.
One big issue I have with this Barter Widget mentality is the amount of space it takes up. Turbine has limited our bag and vault space, but then gives us scores of these widgets which are of no use in themselves, but which we must save to progress.
And it seems to go against the common claim they make for not being able to add new items: Database space is too precious. If database space is so precious why do you keep adding dozens of new items to the game which nobody really wants nor can equip. Get rid of all these widgets and add some new armor and weapons.
Reducing the minimum trade in quantity to 1 would help a lot. I should be able to trade in one Moria Medallion for something, even if it were a tier 2 relic. This alone would get rid of half of my stacks of barter items, which I only have because I can’t trade them in for anything till I get a few more.
The barter wallet does help clean up our inventory, and it is a godsend, but doesn’t really solve the base problem. I don’t need Turbine to have a reason to make even more barter widgets.
I am no game designer so I don’t have the solution. All I know is the current system has run wild and risks pulling players out of the carefully crafted world of Middle-Earth Turbine has created. Maybe increasing the variety of jewelry in raids and instances to make them more desirable to run multiple times would allow you to drop a few real class armor pieces instead of trade-ins. Maybe the daily rep quests could drop an array of the loot which is now on the rep vendors in Enedwaith, or have the boss mobs like the named giants and gwibers drop some of the items. Maybe 2nd ages could drop in the world instead of just symbols.
It just seems like the devs have gotten too comfortable with this kind of county fair booth mentality. They make mobs and quests give us tickets and then all they have to do is run this little shop to trade them in. I’m sure it makes it easy to add new items to the game not having to worry about loot tables.. but at what cost?
I miss the days of a Helegrod armor piece dropping from a random mob in Angmar. I miss scouring the orc camps outside Lothlorien for 2nd ages. I want loot drops back. I want the excitement of seeing a rare drop. I want Bind on Equip items to come back, give me a reason to save all this gold. I would also like to see everyone in a 12 man raid come away with a new item. But most of all, I don’t want to see any more Barter tokens, emblems, gems, marks, coins, sticks, feathers…..
I’m not saying all Barter items are a bad idea. I just hope Turbine begins to see what their game is turning into and uses that type of system much more sparingly in the future. It should only be used where no other option presents itself.
This article was written before the patch notes were released. It appears Turbine has taken some steps to remove some of the clutter. The IXP tokens will now all be for level 65. But they have also added in new trade-ins like the new armor token system for the new raid.