As part of my contribution to our group project, I had decided to look into Lord of the Rings Online. I knew several people that played the game already and all spoke highly of it so it had been on my radar for some time. This course and its recent change from a subscription model to free-to-play with micro-transactions provided the impetus for me to finally get around to checking the game out. Sadly, it wasn’t until after a 7 hour download time. 10 gigabytes of data takes a long time to download.
Setup was uneventful and within minutes of install I was in the game and creating a new character. Each character class and race has a little in game video to provide you with some information on their strengths and weaknesses although it was a little disappointing to see just how low resolution these videos were. In the end I wound up with a Human Guardian; a basic tank style warrior who focuses on defensive abilities.
I’m not new to this style of game, so it took only a few moments to familiarize myself with the controls and I was soon off exploring the starting area. The first thing that got me was the number of people around and the weird disconnect with the lack of sound. This was the oddest thing I ran into. Seeing so many people, but not being able to hear any of them makes the game world feel dead. The chat box was full of people asking questions and chatting, but text doesn’t replace sound for drawing you into the game.
After a few hours the main experience I took away is that no matter what game you are playing, the tutorial quests are always boring. “Go kill 30 spiders for me!” is not my idea of good quest design, especially when it is repeated ad nauseum with varying creatures replacing the spiders. I had to get out of that area and find something more interesting to do! It was time to graduate from the starter area.
The capstone quest was more entertaining as plot related quests tend to be, but what was really interesting was what happened as soon as I re-entered the world. Two people were just finishing a fight so I stopped to watch. Soon enough it ended and the two players went their separate ways, one off into the distance and the other straight to me to challenge me to a fight! My opponent was the same level so I was feeling moderately confident that I could beat him. I accepted his challenge. It was going quite well until he healed himself, something I had yet to figure out how to do as I hadn’t found need of it yet. I lost, but my opponent congratulated me on a good fight and went off in search of more people to fight. It was an odd experience.
There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the next couple hours as I found myself performing more menial tasks and killing X numbers of Y enemies for people I didn’t care about. At one point I found myself wandering in a forest and stumbled upon a bandit camp that would have been beyond what I could handle alone. A passing Hunter offered to join me. He was considerably above my level, so he ended up killing most of the enemies while I did what I could to help out. With the area cleared, we headed back to the nearest village when he stopped me and made an offer of gear to help me out. Free stuff is free stuff, so I took him up on his offer. He had stuff that was of no use to him, but was still considerably above the level of equipment I had at the time, even if the pants looked kinda fuzzy and were bright neon orange. After passing me this bounty of goods, he parted with an offer to look him up when I leveled up some more when I could finally start running skirmishes, which were instanced combat zones.
After his departure I looked at the clock and realized just how long I had played and decided it was time to quit for the day. It was moderately fun while it lasted, but I really couldn’t see myself paying monthly for such an experience and didn’t touch the game again until a month later when I had to get down to the business of finding people who were willing to be interviewed for the group project.
I had thrown myself into the game, but unlike the kings of man, I was not tempted by thoughts of power and riches. Turbine’s one game client to rule them all just didn’t have the same magical pull to keep me interested past that first day.