Once upon a time, there was a development studio named Sony Online Entertainment, which was known far and wide as SOE. The studio was located in the sunny southwest, where the wildfires roam. Its members were hard at work building a game - an enormous voxel-based MMO called Landmark. To help spread the game's message, SOE made use of falconers and carrier pigeons, known as Twitter. It also collaborated with town criers across the land, known as Twitch streamers. It’s goal was to share the joyous news of this unique and magical game called Landmark.
It came to pass that the studio did give many of its town criers special items to distribute to the masses each month in a random lotto. In order to receive the bounty from these criers, the citizens, players of Landmark, were asked to attend their live streams and listen to their messages. Although the special items - some offered magical abilities such as tall leaps and astonishing double jumps - did make the players who were unable to receive them envious, there was (mostly) contentment across the land. Until, one day, SOE brought to light a very special item - not one with magical properties, but a wonderful gate for decorating one’s homestead - an Iron Portcullis.
O, the Portcullis did raise the ire of the kingdom! The players wanted it, and they did not wish to be forced to listen to the words of the criers in order to receive it. Why could they not also have this special portcullis, which would raise and lower magically and make their castles and keeps worthy of home and garden shows (like Landmark’s Extreme Homes)? Across the land there was much whinging.
The Problem of the Portcullis
I’ve told you the beginnings of a tale of woe; now let’s get back to plain English. (But let’s also keep the British term, “whinging,” in play. To whinge is to “complain persistently in a peevish or irritating way.”) In the simplest of terms, SOE creates an item each month that they distribute to a few lucky players via “sponsored giveaways,” primarily through cooperation with Twitch streamers, and occasionally through fansites using other means of social media (mainly Twitter.) In the past, they’ve given out stat items that allowed Landmark players to do cool things like double jump (Feather in a Bottle) or leap higher (Lunar Anklet.) But when they gave away a prop, something used for building on a claim, the shit hit the proverbial fan. Suddenly, players realized that they needed an Iron Portcullis in their lives, and they didn’t want to have to sit through Twitch streams and pray to the random number gods to get one.
Dave Georgeson, King of All Things EverQuest (aka - Director of Development for the EverQuest franchise), took to the official forums to address the concerns of Landmark players. He decreed:
Reactions to the Iron Portcullis giveaway have ranged from “so cool…hope I win” to “meh…don’t build fantasy…don’t care” to “omg…that’s a MUST HAVE item and everyone should have it”. All these reactions are valid as opinions, but let’s talk about that last concern briefly. A portcullis is not a “must have” item. It’s cool. It animates. Many folks will want it. That’s exactly what we intend. Trade for it. Win one for yourself. But if you don’t get one immediately, there will be many, many more objects in the future. Get one or more of those and start trading. Chances are you can get one if you want it.
And market stalls are coming. When that happens, these items will be hot commodities and the trading can really begin.
Fans are crying out that it’s not fair of SOE to give away an item primarily as a prize for sitting through Twitch streams. As one player said:
You've just said [to] us: "Do not play the game, watch how others play on Twitch!"
So, who’s right here? Is SOE’s play to get more attention through social media flawed and exclusionary? Or are the players simply looking for something to whinge about?
They’re Both Right
Here’s how I see it. For starters, there’s no reason why SOE shouldn’t drum up business for Landmark (and for the streamers they cooperate with) by giving away special items. They design something cool, create a limited number of item codes, and distribute them as rare, cool, tradeable things. This keeps them unique, and sets apart the players who invested their time in getting their hands on one.
The players also have a point. (Why it took an Iron Portcullis to bring this thing to a boil is beyond me, however.) Like them, I prefer playing Landmark to watching Twitch streams of others playing it. Yes, there are streamers who invest a lot of time into educating Landmark players on how to build better, and those streams are well worth watching if you want to level up (figuratively) your voxelmancy chops, but you have to invest time in finding the streamers you like to watch, and then you have to remember to attend the streams, and then you have to hope that you’re lucky enough to actually win an item code. If you’re one of those people who just has to have a big iron gate that animates, I can see the frustration and the flaws inherent in the system.
Life’s a lot easier if you just let go of that sense of needing everything, isn’t it? In the end, do any of us Landmark players need an Iron Portcullis that badly? Is it worth the righteous indignation? Take to the official forums if you like and give constructive feedback, yes, but forego that notion that you’re entitled to a big virtual iron gate. Keep in mind that Landmark is still in closed beta, and there will be many more cool props (doors especially, according to Dave Georgeson in a recent Landmark Live stream) coming down the line. There might come a day when Landmark players feel a little silly about raving over one simple portcullis when so many other cool options exist in-game.
That said, SOE should also take heed. Yes, they’re fully within their rights to release limited items to promote their game (and the live streamers who champion it), but it might not have made much sense to drop a cool Iron Portcullis into that exclusive giveaway program at a time when Landmark itself only has one prop door option. Had they really thought this through, they might have anticipated that some players would experience a case of door envy.
Making the giveaway items available through means other than watching Twitch streams (the primary means for scoring one) would also help SOE’s cause. (Speaking of which, I should go ask SOE for a few Iron Portcullis codes for EQHammer, shouldn’t I?)
Are We Entitled to Everything?
We’re gamers. We want to be cool. We want to have the most badass, desirable stuff. We’re envious (or at least suitably impressed) when other players have that stuff and we don’t. It’s only natural. But what makes that stuff badass and desirable in the first place comes through a couple of factors: the item’s rarity, and the time a player needs to invest in order to get it. In the end, there’s really not much difference between sitting through a bunch of Twitch streams praying to the RNGs for that unique item and hotkey-mashing your way through endless raids praying to the same RNGs that you’ll win the roll on an epic gear drop, is there?
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