The other day Angela expressed an interest in giving Lord of the Rings Online a try. As I have a Lifetime Membership, I was delighted by the prospect of having her playing too, so immediately send off a Trial Key. She downloaded the client, created a character and got to level 2 while I was at work (so basically she was testing that the game would run). Tonight she decided to play again, and I had the chance to watch her.
Now, I really enjoy LOTRO a lot. Looking at the game through my eyes, it’s a thing of beauty. But the difference between Angela and I is that I play tons of games and feel compelled to at least try every major MMO that hits the market. And I’ll often randomly download and install a F2P MMO just to try something new. I’ve seen dozens and dozens of MMO HUDs and GUIs and I jump around from game to game very easily. Angela, on the other hand, has been playing EQ2 pretty much non-stop since it launched in 2004. She doesn’t play single player games on the PC and only very very rarely will she get into a console game.
So there I was, watching her play LOTRO. Problem one, of course, is the intro segment. I have all my character slots filled so I couldn’t roll a new character to play with her, but I did have a Rune-Keeper who’d just left the starter area (he was level 7), so I was waiting for her. But from the time she logged in at level 2 until the time she left the starter area at level 6, all I could do is watch and advise. I know she could have skipped the starter area, but that brings its own set of problems and let’s face it: the point of it is to teach you the game mechanics. Now it takes me almost no time to zoom through the starter areas, but I know all the quests and where to go when. I’d forgotten how long it can take when you don’t know that the rubble is actually in the cave under the town, not in town itself (for example).
None of the ‘big stuff’ was a problem for her. Getting quests, looting, fighting… all that is similar enough that she didn’t have to give it a second thought. What did bug her, a lot, was the sensitivity (or lack thereof) of the keyboard when it came to turning her character. As she ran across the world, she appeared to be a bit intoxicated, veering back and forth slightly as she kept under, than over, steering. After a bit of discussion we determined that LOTRO has a bit of an “acceleration” feature to turning. You press the Left key and you turn slowly, then faster the longer you hold it down. At least, that’s how it felt to her; I’ve never noticed it but again, I play skillions of games and I’m used to adjusting. But it drove her crazy.
Also, she didn’t like the constant location of the tooltips (though I think that might be tweakable); she prefers them to be right where the arrow is pointing. See what I mean? It’s the little details that make a new game feel strange and unfamiliar after a long time spent with an old favorite. I could tell that LOTRO just felt awkward to her.
One of my favorite aspects of LOTRO is the lore. I drink in every paragraph of text quest. I sit transfixed during the infrequent cut scenes between Chapters in the book quests. Angela was playing with the sound so low I don’t think she even heard the voice over during these, and when she got a new quest she’d immediately scroll down to see what the reward was and hit accept. Later she’d skim to figure out where to go, but she didn’t seem to care about the ‘color’ text one way or the other.
On the other hand, she seemed to like how you can hide or show you cloak or helm from the character panel, rather than digging into the options panels to toggle them. She stopped to stare at flocks of birds bursting out of trees to fly off into the distance, and asked me how to hide the UI so she could start taking snapshots. And once she finally got out of the starter area and we could group, she seemed to enjoy the actual gameplay. Deeds were something new to her, but I advised her to play like I do; to not really worry about doing them at first, and to get your kill counts up ‘naturally’ and then go back and top them off if you need to, before you leave an area.
It was a fun change of pace for us that she was playing a Guardian (Tank) and I was playing a Rune Keeper (hybrid healer). When we play EQ2 together, she’s almost always a healer and I’m always a Melee DPS class.
I still love LOTRO, but I’m not at all convinced the game is going to “stick” with Angela. We knocked out 5 quests or so (maybe 20 minutes of playing together), and then she’d had enough. And as a write this, she’s back in her beloved Everquest 2. But even if she decides not to continue, it was a neat experience seeing LOTRO though another person’s eyes. LOTRO seems to be the “Hater Flavor of the Week” now that everyone is done trashing Warhammer and my instinct is always to defend it since I feel its a great game. But seeing someone I care about play it and not being immediately enchanted really gives me perspective; we really are all different when it comes to these games. Knowing that on an intellectual level is a lot diferent from experiencing it on such a personal level. Here’s someone who I care deeply for, and share many, many interests with, and she’s seeing the game in a totally different light than I do. Hopefully from here on out I can be better about ignoring the haters (they’re entitled to their opinion and nothing I say is going to change their mind) and just enjoy talking about the game with my fellow enthusiasts.