The “One Kinship” Promotion and the Underlying Problem

Big Mouth Billy Bass (noun): A mechanical rubber bass that sings and dances on command.

Big Mouth Billy Bass (noun): A mechanical rubber bass that sings and dances on command.

Turbine recently began their “One Kinship to Rule Them All” promotion. This, like so many other programs, always makes me feel like a Billy Bass just one or two steps before he hits the taxidermist. I’m swimming happily along and then bam! Hook in the cheek. Next thing I know, Jeffrey Steefel is dropping me into a bucket laughing like a madman in baby blue waders.

Yes… give me your money, Billy Bass. Sing for me – sing niiiiiicely.

I love how they do this. These little promotions do a lot to form a sense of connection with the community. If they do nothing else, they reflect an awareness of the players and a devotion to the game.

This program is aimed at getting kinships to open up recruitment to new players. This is an area that many people agree needs addressing. It can be hard to find a good kinship in LotRO, especially so if you’re looking for something specific. I’ve seen many forums posts from newcomers complaining that they can’t find a kin to be a part of and, as a consequence, lack a sense of attachment to the game that such groups bring. The grind seems grindier and the pace seems slower than “that other game” they probably came from.

This program is tailored specifically to answer those people’s concerns. Kins don’t earn any brownie points (no soup baked goods for you!) for recruiting level 60s during this time, they earn credit by accepting those that have been created only recently. So, newcomers and alternates alike will benefit. This kind of thing has been sorely needed and should help the lost and lonely out there quite a bit. Likewise, it should help make Billy Bass out of the older player base as well by encouraging them to roll a new character. Some of those players tottering on the edge of burnout may well find the game brought back to life with the advent of that new character.

A promotion like this is indicative of a larger issue, however. Why is it so much harder for people to find matching kinships than on other games? Is it the smaller population, the reliance on chat? Or is it that the forums are a primary recruiting tool and only the minority of players even visit them?

Whatever the reason, that is the central issue that needs addressing. While this promotion may be good, it’s only a temporary fix. A band-aid, if you will, until the developers break out the Hydrogen Peroxide and really clean up the wound.

Come on, buddy. You know you want to subscribe.

Come on, buddy. You know you want to subscribe.

Honestly, I think an in-game message board could do a lot to help fix the problem. It’s a feature that was common during the days of MUDs and I don’t know why it disappeared. Since most people won’t see the official forums, why not bring pieces of that to them? The content of the posts could be an issue, I suppose, but I’m sure that there are content filters that could be put in place to help address that issue. Hell, with a little organization, a message board could be put in place reminiscent of the Auction House. Looking for a kin? Alrighty, switch to the kinship tab. Looking for an event? Social tab.

There’s just one possible solution. For the time being, I’m happy that Turbine is aware of the difficulty the new players are having. MoM was huge for getting people’s attention and bringing “fresh meat” out onto the fields. If we can teach them how to sing, maybe they’ll let us hang em on the wall too. Now, who wants to sing some blues?


2 Responses

  1. I think there are more problems with this contest than just the necessity to have it (read: two of the three categories are heavily weighted toward large kinships, where power-leveling your alts is easier), but you’re right that it’s quite difficult to find a kinship.

    Now, I will admit that I did not actively look for a kinship, but it took me until well after I’d reached 40th level to find one. I’d been invited a few times, but only be people who seemed incredibly gung-ho (a bit of a turn-off, frankly) or by kinship spammers. (Or, once, by someone who helped me with a quest, but who seemed to only do so in the hopes of recruiting me.) That’s a problem, definitely.

    Aside from the abuse it incurred early in its life, I think the system in Asheron’s Call was quite effective: Anybody may recruit another into their monarchy. The recruiter is patron, the recruitee is vassal. Simple feudal system, right? Well, the vassals would pass up a certain percentage of XP gained to the patron. So, it was beneficial to you to find vassals and help them learn the ropes. (There was a limit to how many vassals a player could have — twelve, I think — so things didn’t get out of hand.) Initially, the patron would pass XP up to his patron, and so on, until it reached the monarch. Unfortunately, that turned out to be a broken system, as people formed “XP chains,” with leveling requirements, in order to level faster. Turbine eventually fixed that, though!

    The fact of the matter is, most people are not selfless. I know we like to thing well of our community, and it *is* one of the kinder communities I’ve found in MMORPGs, but it’s still not selfless. That means that people need some motivation to recruit people into their kinships. In WoW, a lot of that is for endgame content. In LOTRO, without significant end-game content, I’m not certain what the reason to recruit is — for crafting? Sure, but once you’ve got enough people to have SM in every craft, why bother to recruit further for that? Ability to buy a kin house is based on lifespan, so that’s a no-go. (In AC, ability to buy a mansion — a shared house for the monarchy — was tied to your “allegiance rank.” I don’t know exactly how the system worked, as it was rather complicated, but it was a combination of total members and how they were arranged. I’m not saying that’s a good way to do things, either, because then that screws over smaller guilds/kins/whatever, but at least it provided another incentive to recruit, eh?)

    Back in the heyday of AC, everybody had a patron. Everybody. You couldn’t be around other players without someone asking if you needed a patron. Of course, there was no recruit-spamming, since vassals paid fealty to patrons, rather than patrons forcing vassals into service, and I’m sure that helped reduce the amount of rejections. (As a rule, I reject any invite someone gives me if they haven’t talked to me beforehand. Don’t know about you.)

    Again, what I’m getting at is this: There needs to be incentive. With this contest, we’ve got some of that. But, people are selfish, and if you can’t offer anything to them, they’re not going to bother with you — that’s how it will be when this contest ends again.

    (There’s another trouble which I noticed with LOTRO as soon as the game left beta: The community, while kind, is not outgoing. Because we are primarily casual players, there’s an insular feel to the game, where people have no interest in meeting new people. It’s especially bad, since so many of the kinships in this game seem to be based upon real-life relationships and friendships. It’s the reason why I stopped playing for quite a while after release — all of the outgoing sorts seemed to have gone elsewhere, and the folks left were the sort to tell you to stop joking around in OOC. That’s gotten better, but the insularity hasn’t.)

  2. I think that the real need is for an incentive to be in a kinship. What is the advantage of joining a kinship? In LOTRO as in WoW, the only thing it does for you is provide a (potential) ready group of people to team with. In City of Heroes, being in a supergroup (guild) actually had the potential of providing a buff to the individual members. This may not have been often realized but that was the idea.
    So let’s have a real benefit to joining up and you’ll see people banging down the door to be a member.

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