Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Thoughts on LotROCON

As my computer has been without internet for the past couple of days, I've had time to just sit and mull things over. One of those things was the proposed LotROCON by Moormur over at the LotROCAST. In theory, it sounds like a great idea. Lots of people that love the same game getting together to talk about it together, play it together, and interact with the people that make it happen (the developers, hopefully). However, in practice, there are some huge obstacles that need to be overcome. I hate to be the storm cloud in the bright blue sky, but here we go:

For starters, attendance needs to be guaranteed. The last thing anyone wants is this huge thing planned (theoretically with some substantial money involved) and then 15 people show up. That, however, is exactly what I see happening. This game (in my opinion) doesn't have the player base yet for this kind of event. If you take the total number of subscribers for the game, there is a minority (some may say an extreme minority) that will have the dedication to invest the time/money/resources in general to come to an event like this. Talking about the number of subscribers as a whole, from what I've seen we are too spread out over a large area to make one event at a single location a success. At the moment, that location is looking like Westwood, Massechsetts (where Turbine is headquartered). New England isn't exactly the most desolate place in the country for computer gaming, but I don't think that's going to cut it.

Just as a side note, here's a data point: I'm a (fairly) avid LotRO player living in SE Pennsylvania. The drive to Westwood, Massechusetts is about 350 miles and at the worst about 7 hours of driving time. Would I be willing to come? Yeah, if I could be assured that it would be worth it (number of people attending would have to be more than 7 for instance).

So for the moment we're going to assume we have enough people ready/willing/able to come to this thing to make it happen (feels pretty good, doesn't it?). The next thing is getting the word out. That means advertisements on the main page up the wazoo, forum reminders, LotRO Tracker announcements, and in-game announcements at the very least. I'm no wizard at organizing things like this, so I have no idea what other means people use to advertise that something like this is going to happen. However, using only those methods mentioned seems pretty flimsy to me. I can't explain why, but for some reason I can't see only those getting enough people to come. Not a very flushed out argument, but there you are.

Next comes the issue of the all-important dollar. Something like this costs money. A lot of money. Renting out a convention center or some such venue is not cheap, and someone has to be willing to do it. Aside from that, there are countless other expenses to cover. Food (getting vendors to come isn't free), computers for people (a lot of them, ideally) decorations, people have to do stuff and get paid for it, I could go on and on. Would Turbine be willing to do it? Maybe, if they could be guaranteed a healthy return. You could argue that somewhere the money has been paid already by the subscribers, but these people get paid to make the game as well (Lorien didn't get made on prayers and nachos). I seem to remember hearing that Ten Ton Hammer funded something similar to this a while back (although I think it was on a smaller scale than we're thinking about, or maybe I'm getting ahead of myself). But someone has to come up with the money. Maybe there would be an admission fee. Is that normal for these sorts of things? I have no idea, I've never been to one, much less organized one.

Finally, this stuff doesn't happen by itself (I actually like that prayers and nachos thing I came up with). You need people who have the drive to put this kind of thing together. From my chair, I see some incredibly well-motivated and well-connected individual or group getting something like this together, with Turbine on the sidelines maybe supplying things like banners and stands where you can buy the game. Do we have that? Maybe. I know I don't know anyone like that, but my connections inside the community are pretty limited (getting into closed beta a community guru does not make). I would do it if I knew people who knew people. And I would help if I could, but I'm all the 350 miles down here. Holler if you really need me.

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