Thursday, February 16, 2017

Exclusivity Preservation

From February 6th until March 13th, Standing Stone Games (SSG) is giving to any current or new VIP an Alabaster Lioness figurine, similar to the Onyx Panther figurine.  Does this violate Turbine's promise of the Onyx Panther's exclusiveness?

The Onyx Panther was an exclusive item given to those who pre-purchased the Menace of the Underdark (MotU) expansion.  It was stated that it would never be available by any other means - not even as a marketing "give away" item.  Those who did not pre-purchase the expansion pack were simply out-of-luck.

Since the release of MotU, however, players who were either not around, could not afford, or otherwise simply did not pre-purchase MotU have asked if there were any way to get one.  They have always been told "no".

Turbine is no longer part of DDO (or LotRO, though that is irrelevant for this post).  However, the same people who were part of Turbine's DDO/LotRO section have started their own company, SSG, and are now running DDO (and LotRO; again, irrelevant for this post).  And as the anniversary for DDO approaches, they have decided to offer a "thank-you" to current VIPs be giving them an Onyx Panther clone - the Alabaster Lioness.  It has the same stats, the same AI, is the same level, and in every way acts like the Onyx Panther.  The only difference is the color and name - even the text on the item is the same, except for the name (which includes the color) of the figurine.

But it is not the Onyx Panther.  The difference may only be cosmetic, but that's enough.

At least, for me it is...with a caveat.

I am completely OK if SSG were to ever again give out another cat-like figurine provided:
  1. It is not called a "panther".  Call it a cougar; call it a mountain lion; call it a puma; call it a striped, over-sized house cat - just never call it a "panther".
  2. Regardless of what it is called, do not make it black or any color close to black (e.g. dark gray, dark blue, dark purple, etc.) *OR* any other black-like-related color name, such as "obsidian".
However, if they wanted to make an "obsidian" non-cat-like figurine, go for it.  (Obsidian Pseudo-Dragon, anyone?)

Further, since they have not stated (as far as I know) that the new, Alabaster Lioness is 'exclusive', I would be perfectly OK with them giving them out as marketing items or offering another, similar promotion like this one*.

Now, I will admit that I would have preferred a minor change of some type - a simple, single stat change (say, STR, for example), where the stat was 1 less than the panther's would have been sufficient.  Or perhaps a lower level (which appropriate adjustments to the stats and other traits).  But honestly, the cosmetic change is enough.

And it's not like making a cosmetic change to an 'exclusive' item, and then making that cosmetically different item to players is unprecedented.  On the contrary, it's done a lot and by many different game studios.

The Onyx Panther is instantly recognizable and easily distinguishable from the Alabaster Lioness.  And it needs to remain that way**, as well as never be offered to anyone who did not pre-purchase MotU.  Because promises were made and promises need to be kept, or what's the point?  However, I believe the people running SSG are honorable and - as far as I know - have never broken an actual promise†.

Hopefully, that will always be the case‡.

Otherwise, there could be blood...

* I would assume the Alabaster Lioness is an 'exclusive item' in that a character can only have one, so any future promotions would need to clearly state that "if you already have an Alabaster Lioness, you will not get another one", or similar disclaimer would be needed.

** Same thing with the exclusive Owlbear Defender(s).  They need to remain visually 'unique' from any other possible owlbear 'defender' so they are instantly recognizable.  New ones can be some strange, off-color (like green [jade?]) or maybe even be albinos.  I could live with that.

† Yes, I am aware that Turbine had promised to release the servers for Asheron's Call (AC) and AC2 to the players and that it has not - and apparently will not - happen, now.  But that was a different division of Turbine and AC/AC2 is not part of SSG.  I am also aware that Severlin was, at one point, a producer for AC/AC2 (but not the executive producer, as far as I know), but since he left that position long before Turbine broke their promise, he cannot be held responsible for their recent decision.  If asked, I'm sure he would have sided with the player-base and strongly recommended that they do keep their promise.  But I doubt they asked, and I doubt he would have any 'pull' in getting that decision reversed.  However, where the Onyx Panther's exclusivity is concerned, SSG is honoring that commitment of keeping it exclusive to MotU pre-purchasers.

‡ There is always the possibility of some unknown/unforeseen circumstance that changes everything, but short of a complete turnover of staff to the point that no one who remembers any promises remain at SSG, I choose to believed they will be kept...right up until the point they may not be any longer (hehehe).

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