Once again, a session of LOTRO has left me thinking about how different people approach these games in different ways. The most frequent complaints I see aimed at LOTRO are that there is too much running around, and too much grinding. I disagree with both of these complaints.
And granted “too much” is a very subjective number, but I felt like there had to be more to it than that. And then I thought about my session this morning, at the same time I was replying to Ysharro’s post about immersion.
I was having coffee, listening to some music and feeling pretty mellow. So I figured I’d take my 33 Champion to Ered Luin to start on some of the deeds there that I’d never done. For the uninitiated, this is the starter zone for Elves and Dwarves, I think the mob level caps out at 13 or so.
I arrived at Celondim and started my task. The next hour or so had me running around in Ered Luin, discovering locations, killing enough wolves, goblin and brigands to get those deeds going, mining lots of ore for my ‘younger cousins’ to practice on (or to sell), also got some good loot off the brigands and goblins for the youngsters. I chased deer around just to watch them run. Admired flocks of birds swirling through the skies. Climbed ruins to see how far I could see. Caught snowflakes on my tongue. Splashed through ponds full of lilly-pads. Picked some berries for cooking later.
At the end of the session, I’d completed a couple of deeds, earned a modicum of coin, and gained about 100 exp (less than I’d get from killing one mob of my level). And I was quite content; I’d had much fun.
And I think that’s pretty significant, particularly when you hook this experience into Ysh’s post. I was *in* Middle Earth. I wasn’t worried about what I was accomplishing…I was immersed. I was role-playing, even if it was only in my head. There’s no “catch snowflake on tongue” action in LOTRO.
At one point, a dwarf asked me if I’d make him some roast pork. I needed yellow onions for that recipe and the vendors were all out. So I switched over to my Captain, who is a farmer, and he grew some onions. While in the midst of this, he struck up a conversation with a minstrel about what a good life the farming life was. The minstrel took a break from his own farming to play a song to help pass the time, and my Captain gave him a round of applause for his efforts before wishing him well, but explaining that he needed to ship off his produce before it spoiled.
And that’s why I play MMORPGs even if I don’t often group; for people like that minstrel. I add this just to head-off the “why play an MMORPG solo” contingent. 🙂
Now if I played LOTRO to watch my experience bar move and get to the next level, today would’ve just been a huge waste of time. And if I played it to be “uber” and have every trait completed, so I felt like I *had* to go back and kill 60 wolves, I can see where that’d be pretty distasteful. And in fact I do sometimes play other games that way. When I played WOW originally, I played it the way I do LOTRO now (back then, people really *did* roleplay, and some nights I’d play for hours and never leave Stormwind), but after a few years of that, when I start a new character on a new server, as I did to join CoW last month, *all* I care about is leveling as fast as possible. So I do get it.
I think there are two significant facts to expose here. First, I grew up on Lord of the Rings. I first read it at 14 or so, and re-read it every few years. It influenced my life in many ways: specifically, it nurtured this sense of imaginative play that led me to become a fan of fantasy in all forms, and to gaming and RPGs in particular. So being in the world is its own reward, in a sense. Also, I have a Lifetime Membership. This means if it takes me 5 years to get to cap, I don’t care. As a solo player, cap is more or less Game Over in MMOs. Time to start a new character. A monthly fee would probably add some sense of urgency to the experience.
For me personally, these times of playing games just to “be in the world” are the best times I have playing, and I actually feel kind of sorry for people (including myself, when I get caught up in it) who are driven to push that experience bar, or accomplish some other explicit goal every time they log in. That to me seems too much like out-of-game life. Rush, rush, rush, push, push, push. Get ahead of the other guy. I have enough of that in real life; in an ideal world, games are about play and imagination and relaxation to me. (At the same time, I recognize that to many people, games are all about competition.)
This is getting long and less and less focused. But I wonder if the people who find LOTRO slow and grindy are more driven, accomplishment oriented players, and those of us who enjoy the game are more about the experience of being in a fantasy world?