John "The Gneech" Robey (the_gneech) wrote,
John "The Gneech" Robey
the_gneech

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LOTRO and MMO Structure, Random Thoughts

There's a reason they called it "EverCrack."

One of the key features of the MMO structure is that everything is fed to you in tiny, easy-to-swallow bites that gradually pull you further and further "in" to the game. Instead of one big quest (say, "Defeat the Witch-King") you are actually given one tiny quest after another, each of which gradually pull you from your starter town at Point A, to the next town at Point B, at which point you start to get quests that pull you to the next town at Point C, etc. And since by the time you get back to town after one quest you've pretty much healed up from any damage you took, when the quest-giver hands you another one, it's easy to say, "sure, I can do that in just a few minutes," and off you go.

Thus, the entire structure of the game is basically feeding off the gamer impulse of "just one more room" -- except in this case, it's "just one more quest." And because the quests are short, if you have one that's not your cup of tea, it's a fairly simple thing to just slog through it and it'll be gone shortly. If course, if it's a quest you like, you burn through it quickly and go running back to town hoping to find another one like it. This, of course, is entirely deliberate on the part of the game makers: they want you to be hooked into wanting to play it "just a little more" so you're willing to spend the next month's $15 and the next month's $15 and the next month's $15 ad infinitum...

All of this, I'm sure, is old news to longtime MMO players; I've certainly read about the effect before, but this is the first time I've ever actually studied it in practice.

MMOs also have the social aspect, which some people really get into. As you've probably noticed by now, I do not, and this is the thing that's most likely to keep me from getting "addicted" to LOTRO. My first character, Galadhalan, finally got to his first "party-only" quest ... and stopped dead. I don't want to join a party full of strangers. I certainly don't want to put out a call "'Champion' looking for party members for 'Quest XYZ'." It's only been by mostly ignoring the other players that I've been able to enjoy the game at all -- finding myself required to interact with them just makes my introvert soul go "HELL NO."

Not that I've had any problems with other players ... the few times I've interacted with any have been pleasant enough, such as one gal (the character was a gal, anyway) who popped up when I was a little over my head, helped me at random, then wandered off again with little more than "NP" when I said thanks. A few have asked me for clues on a quest; a few have offered me clues on a quest. Only one person I've encountered has been slightly off-putting, because their behavior suggested a mind not entirely in a legal state -- or at the very least operating in that severe sleep-dep mode where everything (including "#character# moos like a dire wolf, then cries") is funny.

It is more or less at this stage that I wish somebody I already knew was on the game and at roughly the right level ... or failing that, that I could just play the thing as a single-player game like I'd prefer. It's not like I can just keep building new characters and taking them from 1-10 over and over again. (Well, I mean, I could, but I doubt I'd enjoy it much.) But as it is, when I had ~45 minutes to spare and played it last night, I didn't want to play Galadhalan because I didn't want to muck with a party quest. So I created a 1st level human from Rohan and started his low-level (and single-player) quests.

So, we'll see how it goes from here. I don't expect to have a lot of time to play it this week anyway.

-The Gneech

EDIT: Oh, and I need to find "four rowan bowstaves" for some quest, which I gather I need to get some other player to craft for me. Cry.
Tags: gaming, lotro
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