Kinship Contest

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I love contests, and when I saw something about a kinship contest, my curiosity was perked even more. There are some awesome kinships out there, but of course my own holds a special place in my heart. We might not be the largest, we might not be the most organized. We might not be a lot of things. But what we are is a family of sorts - and that's a bit of a rarity among online groups, in whatever form. (Not saying here that other kinships aren't close.) A contest where the group of friends I've come to know could win something? Score!

Then I got to reading the details and my enthusiasm departed. The contest earns points for kinships who gain new members and when those members gain levels. Only during the contest period. That makes sense, but my problem isn't with the contest itself, but the unintended consequences.

First off, this contest will encourage the creation of kinships whose sole purpose exists to win the contest. The players don't join because they see some value in the group of people they're going to be playing with. There is no connection beyond earning the reward, half of which is simply bragging rights.

Secondly, the contest encourages rapid leveling of characters - in other words, power leveling. It encourages playing in a manner that ignores the value of the content used to level instead placing greater value on the destination. Certainly we see this already, but it's never manifested in a mechanic purposefully designed towards rapid leveling.

In other words, I see superficial relationships (kinships) as a possible result. This is not to say that the contest will be approached in other ways that doesn't exhibit the behavior I mentioned. However, the optimal methods to reaping the reward isn't using the traditional kinship mechanics (by mechanics I mean motivations for the creation and sustaining of kinships).

So what are the rewards for this? A kinship house and 6-months rent if the kinship doesn't already have a kinhouse, or a years worth of rent if they do. Plus a badge on my.lotro. Bragging rights in other words. I have no problem with the rewards. I'm obsessive about getting titles in the game and those are bragging rights after a fashion. (Not that I change my title much. Had "Lord of Fangs" for quite some time.) And the kinhouse reward is pretty sweet. But what use are such rewards, especially the kinhouse, if the winning kinship's sole reason for existence was to win the contest?

The forum thread announcing and discussing the issue goes back and forth between positive and negative reaction. It also has a few dev responses to the negatives. They mention that even small kinships with active members can gain many points. That's true if your small kinship has players below the level cap. My kinship is mostly comprised of players at the cap, at least those that play regularly. Furthermore, we're a pretty close knit group, rarely adding new members beyond our own alts (many of which are at the level cap as well). The dev's points are valid in a small subset of the population. Like I said, the most effective and efficient way of winning is to behave in the manor I mentioned above, which I would consider "not intended". And there will be a group of players who will do this - there always are, especially in gaming.

Nice idea, good intentions, unintended consequences. I hope I don't have to say "I told you so."

2 Responses to "Kinship Contest"

Raegn Says:

I hadn't thought about these possible negatives but I think you're absolutely right. On the whole, I think the promotion is indicative of a larger issue that needs addressing, which is the difficulty finding a kinship for new players.

In that regard, this promtion will help but it's really more of a bandaid until something better comes about. I'm wondering if we won't see a new LFK tool in book 8?

I go into a little more detail on my blog in this post. Great article, Jaxom.

Jaxom92 Says:

Thanks for the comment and your perspective as well, you bring up some motivations behind the contest that I hadn't really thought about.