UPDATE: Standing Stone Games has responded to player feedback on this controversy. In a message on the forums, Severlin states:

Our goal is that you can earn – while playing the game – all statistical bonuses that you can get from lootboxes. In the case of the vendor rings, they will also have a chance to drop in the upcoming raid. That drop can also upgrade, so upgraded rings will be possible to obtain in game. We realize that having a short period where they are in the lootboxes before the raid is available is not ideal, but players will be able to get upgraded rings in game.

If players find other statistical bonuses in lootboxes that cannot be duplicated in game they should definitely bring them here.

Sev~

Edit: One point of clarification; there are upgraded items in the raid that are better than anything a player can get with a lootbox.

Whether these clarifications match up with Turbine’s previous statements regarding the ability to buy gear (summarized below) is certainly a point that can and will be argued.

Original story: Why complete a dungeon to get the best gear when you can just buy it from the cash shop? That’s how it goes for many a shady free-to-play game, and — if players on the test server are to be believed — the same might be coming soon to The Lord of the Rings Online.

As reported by Massively Overpowered, players are reporting on the forums that high-end, best-in-slot gear is coming up as drops in loot boxes on the test server. I’ve been out of LOTRO long enough to not quite grasp all the terminology being floated around, but if the gear is even close to endgame-level, that breaks a promise that the LOTRO devs have made … twice.

In 2012, Turbine offered high-quality gear for low-level (around level 20-30) characters, after insisting in an interview around the time of the F2P transition in 2010 that they would never sell gear. When called out on the forums, Turbine expressed ignorance at those earlier comments, saying that they were just one of a million things said in interviews over the years. Understandably, that didn’t totally win over players, but it was low-level gear, so things mostly blew over.

In response, and to mollify players at that time, Community Manager Sapience said the following:

“To make it perfectly clear: We will not sell end-game gear.

I use a regular font there to stress that the bold and underline came from Turbine/Sapience. It was worded about as strongly as could be implied, by a Turbine employee.

Here come the caveats: Turbine isn’t running the game any more; it’s Standing Stone Games and everyone’s favorite villain, Daybreak Game Company. Sapience is no longer with the company. And, technically, they aren’t selling endgame gear directly in the shop. Rather, they’re selling keys to open the loot boxes to give you a chance at getting the gear. And everything can be gained by farming up LOTRO Points, if you have a few years to spare. And, as stated in big red letters on the test server forums: “Everything here is subject to change before reaching the live servers.”

But SSG wouldn’t have implemented it in a test environment if there weren’t at least tentative plans for it to make it to the live servers. And apparently Executive Producer Dan “Severlin” Ciccolini said just three months ago:

“There will never be a design that has loot from lootboxes that is statistically better than what you can gain someplace or somehow in game. Finding that loot in game might be hard, but it will be possible.”

So if this is what it appears to be, players are unlikely to give SSG the benefit of the doubt. Toss in the ridiculously bad Mordor trailer and gating the new high elf race behind an additional paywall, and it seems like LOTRO might be in worse shape than Faramir after he tried to retake Osgiliath.