Let's Play Champions Online Pt. 15Previous Post
Let’s Play Lord of the Rings Online, the popular MMO based on one of the greatest and most influential works of fiction of the 20th century. As the guy who wrote the DM of the Rings webcomic, I have a history with this material. I think the books are a beautiful work of fiction and a celebration of language itself. I’m also one of those strange abusive fans who expresses his appreciation through satire and mockery, which is the fanboy equivalent of being a wife beater.
If you’re curious what this series is all about, allow me to point you to my series on Champions Online, where I followed the adventures of superhero Star On Chest.
Note that this series originally ran at The Escapist back in 2010. I’m reposting it here because I wanted people to find it again. The Escapist is a news and culture site with at least half a dozen news articles a day. People don’t usually archive binge articles on those kinds of sites. On the other hand, the archives of this blog are a busy place, and people are still reading old content. With any luck, some new people will read and share this and the story will live on.
This series should be identical to the original run, except that I’m going to add mouseover text to the images, and maybe add some scattered footnotes in response to the nitpicks people sent me at the time.
I should also mention that this is poking fun of the game as it existed in 2010, and a lot has changed since then. They’ve even re-worked some of the early game content, which means what you see here might no longer match what you see in the game.
I’m actually a huge fan of Lord of the Rings Online. I say this as the most demanding sort of entitled Tolkien fanboy. Shadow of Mordor was a popular game, but I was deeply irritated and even a little offended by the ugly way the developers betrayed the tone and philosophy of the series so they could slap “Lord of the Rings” on their Batman / Ubisoft mashup. I never got the sense that those developers loved or even understood the source material.
But in Lord of the Rings Online, you can see passion and attention to detail throughout the work. Yes, it’s a WoW-era MMO, but you can see the developers spent a lot of time working to make those mechanics fit with the universe – not just in lore, but in tone as well. No, mob-slaying mechanics are not a great fit for a series of books that’s 90% travelogue, 9% poetry, and 1% armed conflict. I might mock the places where you can see the seams between Tolkien and World of Warcraft, but honestly the developers did better than I would have thought possible. And even when they falter, it comes off as charming and earnest instead of lazy and crass.
So while this series might come off as negative in places, I really do enthusiastically recommend the game. If you’re looking for a mid-period MMO with a strong solo experience, then this is one of the best. Also, the game is now free-to-play, and people tell meI actually have a VIP account so I don’t really see the free-to-play limitations. it’s the “good” kind of FtPIn contrast with (say) The Old Republic, which is kind of lame and pushy in its salesmanship..
Come ON. Get On With It Already!
So… character creation time. I’m going to play as a female, because, hey – if I’m going to be staring at an ass for hundreds of hours, it might as well be…
…shaped like a dumpling? Hey baby you got any fries to go with that bowl of yogurt?
I decided to play a Hobbit because:
1) Dwarves are too awesome.
2) Why play as human? You can do that in any game.
3) Everyone knows that Elves are tools.
4) It won’t let me choose “Balrog”.
Next I choose “Minstrel” as my character class.
And now I just need to pick a name and we’ll be good to go. The thing about LOTRO is that it is the most polite and mature MMO that has ever existed. Newcomers are usually disoriented by this. We’re used to being welcomed into a new game with a duel request from some level 60 jerk named “IGankedUrMom”. But in LOTRO people are polite, helpful, and pick lore-friendly names.
It’s really weird.
What usually happens is that new people will enter the world with the usual dumb-ass MMO name like “MadKilla55”, “AfroElf”, or “Star On Chest”. Then they see all of the appropriate names everyone else is using and they start to feel like the idiot who shows up at the prom in a dirty t-shirt. If you’re too cool for Lord of the Rings, then why are you playing an MMO based on it?
So, I want to pick a good name for my lil’ hero. Let’s see, the character creation screen says that Hobbit women are named after flowers, and gems. Okay then. Just give me a minute here to try the name of each and every flower, only to find out that they’re all taken. And then the name of every gem. And then the name of every flower, but sticking an extra “y” on the end. And then every gem…
Okay, I give up. Fifteen minutes is where I draw the line. There just aren’t that many flowers and gems in the world that work as girl names, and I’m not all that keen on naming myself “Tourmaline” or “Orthoceras”. It’s obvious all the good ones were taken about five minutes after the game went into open beta.
Screw it. I type in:
And the game launches. If any of you veteran players don’t like me slumming about your legendarium paradise with the name Lulzy then feel free to delete your level sixty “Rosie” to free up the name for me. Then maybe we can talk.
5) Shoes (Actually, clothing in general. But especially shoes.)
5) Armed conflict
7) Fetching things for people
Great! As long as she can avoid those things, she’s sure to have a super-fun time in Middle Earth. Let’s get started.
Except, they actually do! The Stoor Hobbits live in the boggy lands west of the Brandywine river, and while the books don’t cite a specific reason for them keeping footwear, one imagines they do so to keep sure-footed on slippery ground, and to keep the mud off their feet. The point is that shoes on Hobbits are probably a lot like hats on people: Usually optional, most people don’t wear them, but they’re not against using them when need arises and a few people really love them.
Like all truly great and epic legends of heroism, this one begins…
…in the post office.
According to my Quest Log, Celandine Brandybuck has sent me a distressing letter warning of troubles beyond the shire.
I have a letter here. I wrote her back. I told the daft bint to keep her gob shut about it since I don’t give a sod about what’s going on in foreign parts. I’ve got my lute, I’ve got my supper, I’ve got a pint, and Bad News about the Tall People doesn’t concern me in the slightest.
Now I just need to get this thing mailed so I can get back to minding my own business. Maybe have a bite before bed.
Tending the office is Postman Took. Beside him is his trustworthy assistant “Townsperson”. Also here are my dear friends “Townsperson”, her husband “Townsperson” and their nephew-neighbor “Townsperson”.
You know, good folks.
Postman Took gives me the bad news:
The postman tells me he can’t deliver the letter. Ruffians are vexing the town of Archet, and so he’s afraid to send any delivery-hobbits in that direction. Sensing my annoyance, Postman Took helpfully suggests I could go there myself.
It’s actually kind of an outrageous suggestion, but I humor him anyway. I mean, I could do it. I could just roll right out of here and deliver the letter myself. It occurs to me that the swiftest way to shame these cowardly postman would be if they were bested by the town minstrel. And I’d get to see Celandine’s face when she read my letter.
It’s settled then. I’m off to Archet. The only thing I don’t understand is…
…why in the name of Sauron’s fancy jewelry am I making this trip at night?
I walk a little ways down the road. Man, this walking gets a little boring. Do I get my mount soon?
And speaking of mounts:
A black rider! The Nazgul! One of the nine devils of the world. Is that right? Something like that. Okay, I’m not really sure what the hell he is. I’m not up to speed on my legendary evil beings, but that’s because I didn’t expect to meet any of them while trying to do a mail run.
A little ways ahead, I run into Bounder Boffin, who is busy being chatted up by the Nazgul:
The Nazgul, having wounded Bounder Boffin with nothing more than the World’s Tamest Insult, rides off into the distance.
For those of you keeping score at home, “Boffin” is his name and “Bounder” is his job title, not the other way around. It’s kind of an all-around cop / handyman position. They also deliver the mail, which means this is one of the pants-wetters responsible for me having to make this trip in the first place.
As I approach, I can see that Boffin is quivering and wiping snotty tears off his face.
Hello Boffin. You look as as brave as you are tall. How can I help you during this difficult time of faffing about instead of delivering my mail?
Boffin is scared and wants me to escort him to safety. Sure, no problem. I mean, since I’m already out and doing your job I might as well take you for walksie, right?
Boffin has me look in his satchel for a… weapon?
His bag does indeed have a “knife”, which I’m pretty sure is just half of a pair of safety scissors. I’m talking about a knife so dull it would be better to use my hands, even if my foe was a slice of hot toast in need of butter.
Thus “armed”, I join Boffin and we head on through the nearby door in the hedge wall. (Don’t ask, it’s a Hobbit thing.)
Boffin looks down the path and sees large, troublesome webs strewn about. Really large. We see large, un-Hobbit-like shapes with a suspicious number of legs. I don’t claim to be a ranger or anything, but it’s entirely possible we’re about to have a spider problem.
Boffin looks out towards where the Nazgul had been, then back down the path at the spider webs, and he thinks for a minute.
Finally he suggests that I go on ahead and clear the way while he stands in the doorway and “keeps watch”.
I raise an eyebrow at him, “Boffin, you know I’m a musician, right? And that I hate violence?”
He keeps looking back out towards the road and pretending he can’t hear me.
Just a handy tip: If at any point in your life you find yourself asking a musician to kill things for you, then you have screwed up somewhere along the way.
“Boffin”, I say in my most calming voice possible, “Let’s just say you stand here and keep watch.”
He nods his head vigorously.
“And let’s say that Black Rider does come back, as you fear. What exactly are you planning on doing about it?”
He slams his eyes shut. Maybe he’s telling me he can’t bear to picture such a scenario. Or maybe he’s showing me he plans to close his eyes and not look if it comes back.
I hate violence, but there’s no sense in both of us standing in the doorway until the sun comes up.
I march down the path kill a couple of gigantic spiders. It’s nasty, smelly, crunchy work but the spider screeching (did you know spiders screech?) drowns out Boffin’s sniveling, so I don’t actually mind all that much.
Boffin perks up when the last spider succumbs to my safe-for-children-under-three knife. Then he leads me down the path to a farm.
Farm? This is a farm? There’s no farmland. No crops. The only thing here is spiders.
Is this some kind of Hobbit spider farm?
Boffin has decided that in order to reach safety the two of us must kill every single four-foot spider in the Shire. Actually, that’s not true. He wants me to kill the spiders while he supervises from the fetal position.
Boffin, you simpering hayseed yokel, did it occur to you that we could just go back the way I came? The post office was perfectly safe, assuming you don’t also have a phobia about people named Townsperson.
Eventually I finish killing off this year’s bumper crop of spiders. Boffin wants to hide in the farmhouse, but he accidentally breaks off his key in the lock.
Great, so I guess we go in the back? Or a window? No? We’re leaving? So, I guess this tiny wooden Hobbit-house with a thatched roof is some sort of impenetrable fortress?
Fine. Let’s just run further down the path like a couple of ninnies and see what we run into. I mean, it can’t be worse than the spiders.
…unless it’s another Nazgul.
Through sheer willful stupidity Boffin has managed to lead us all the way around and back to the main road, where we have met the Black Rider again. Or another one. I don’t know. It’s not like they wear nametags.
The Black Rider is miffed now, and decides to off us. Sigh. I’ll probably end up as a withering shade in eternal service to the Dark Lord of the East, which is really going to suck.
Stupid post office.
 I actually have a VIP account so I don’t really see the free-to-play limitations.
 In contrast with (say) The Old Republic, which is kind of lame and pushy in its salesmanship.
Let's Play Champions Online Pt. 15Previous Post
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When the source code for Doom 3 was released, we got a look at some of the style conventions used by the developers. Here I analyze this style and explain what it all means.
Overused Words in Game Titles
I scoured the Steam database to figure out what words were the most commonly used in game titles.
Diablo III Retrospective
We were so upset by the server problems and real money auction that we overlooked just how terrible everything else is.
Quakecon Keynote 2013 Annotated
An interesting but technically dense talk about gaming technology. I translate it for the non-coders.
Crysis 2 has basically the same plot as Half-Life 2. So why is one a classic and the other simply obnoxious and tiresome?