Shamus Plays: LOTRO, Part 19

By Shamus
on May 26, 2010
Filed under:
Column

Part 19? We’re really on part 19 already?

The game is structured so that the epic quests (the “main plot”, if you will) are broken up into books. The first is the prologue. This is made slightly more confusing by the fact that there is more than one prologue. There’s actually one for each stating area. (Dwarf, Elf, Human, Hobbit.) We’ve just finished off the Hobbit prologue. It’s been a bit long because we took a detour to do part of the human section in entries 6 through 8, and in fact we’re going to do a little more of the human stuff in the next few entries.

A bit about the Golfimbul thing:

I can’t really tell if the writers at Turbine actually intended the skull to be Golfimbul’s skull or not. The logic behind it – as I pointed out in this entry – is howling LSD-driven bowl-of-cocoa-puffs brand madness. I want to believe that this is a story of a silly bunch of hobbits who happen to repel an invasion in the process of jumping at shadows and telling each other ghost stories. But I never detected the wink from the writers. Halros is, like most rangers, portrayed as very wise, patient, and circumspect. (And useless.) He takes the invasion seriously, but he never takes an official position on the authenticity of the skull.

One thing I do notice about the writing is that they are far more careful about language than writing. Which is understandable, considering the nature of the source material. There are a lot of different groups in the game, and each has a distinct style of speech which is clearly conveyed in the quest text. This is particularly evident in your dealings with humans, where there are at least four styles or accents: Commoner humans, educated humans, rangers, and ruffians. There may be more and I’ve either overlooked them or I haven’t reached them yet in the game.

But while they’re very careful with language, the writing itself suffers from a lot of the same blandness and Plan 9 logic that is common to all MMO games. I suspect they write the quests normally (“normal” in this case being “while in the midst of a self-destructive heroin bender”) and then hand off the dialog to a writer who will then “Tolkien it up”. It actually does a lot to make the quests seem less silly.

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202040 comments. (Forty is the only number whose letters are in alphabetical order.)

From the Archives:

  1. Henebry says:

    I like the notion that English grad students are finding jobs in today’s competitive market.

    By the way, I’m always initially confused by the words your site generates when no one has commented on one of your posts yet: “No comments. At ALL.” My first impulse is invariably to think that you’re forbidding comments. Then I see the h1 heading right below, “Leave a Reply.” That leads to a moment of confusion, thinking that you’re forbidding comments in the same way that an unwise parent forbids the kids to pillage the cookie jar: by stern words alone. And then finally it occurs to me that you’re just commenting on the lack of comments.

    • Shamus says:

      Hm.

      Maybe:

      No comments… yet.

      And it’s about time I updated that list of faux-witty comment number reports. Some of them are getting friggin’ OLD.

      • ToastyVirus says:

        I always kind of liked them, makes it seem a bit more..personal? I don’t know.

        They’re nice anyway.

        • Mari says:

          Update them, by all means, but don’t get rid of them entirely. They add flavor. Not that your site would be bland without them but they’re a (reasonably) unique and identifiable bit of extra seasoning. Getting rid of them would be like…marinara sauce without the garlic. It would still be marinara but there would be something key missing.

      • RTBones says:

        I like them. They add a little, oh, whats the word…personality? to your site. So, by all means, please update them (while youre in the middle of doing your other eleventy billion tasks)!

        I can see where the “No comments…At ALL.” could be confusing. Never bothered me personally, as I am rarely first.

      • SatansBestBuddy says:

        Well, just don’t replace ALL of them, I still haven’t seen some yet.

        Actually, that would be a good idea for a post, detailing what the current set of witty-comments are, where the idea came from, how you went about coding them, and maybe how you’ll go about replacing them.

  2. Josh R says:

    He deserves some thinks for that
    :P

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Hey,morte is a cute looking skull.

    The chipped skull comment made me laugh out loud.Keep up the good work.

  4. Meredith says:

    Sorry if this is a silly question, but since Lulzy is just now about to encounter the characters/events from the book: Where have Frodo&co. been all this time she’s been running around Bree and the Shire? She met a Black Rider her first day who I assumed was looking for Frodo/Bilbo, but it’s been ages since then. Surely the heroes aren’t just now getting to the Prancing Pony; are they? Or have all her adventures occurred inside the week it took them to get that far? She’s been seriously busy if so.

    • Yar Kramer says:

      I think it operates on the same principle which allows Batman to have been active “for about ten years” even though the character has existed since 1939. (Speaking of which, in the process of looking that up, I found out that Wikipedia has an article called “Comic book death.” Ah, the things you won’t find in Brittanica …)

    • Padyndas says:

      The first place that you see characters from the book is actually at the Prancing Pony. It is there that you first see Strider and then later Gandalf. Frodo and company are supposedly at the Prancing Pony at one point but you don’t actually get to see them there. The first time you actually see Frodo and the others is in Rivendell. You then see them again later on in Lothlorien. It is kind of funny that you can see them in Lothlorien and then go back to Rivendell and they are still there but being as this is an MMO some players are not progressed to the point where they have seen them in Lothlorien while others have so that is why this problem happens. I’ve even done a quest where I saw the company as they left Rivendell only to go back in the Last Homely House and they are still there, lol. Ah well, I’m sure technology will advance enough eventually to take care of this but until then it is just one of the quirks of MMO’s I guess.

      • Wayoffbase says:

        I hate to bring up the “W” word, but WoW already came up with a system for this sort of thing in WotLK. They call it the “phasing” system; you seamlessly enter a public instance in certain areas where you haven’t completed a quest chain yet. It is used extensively in Icecrown to simulate the different steps in the advance on the citadel, and in some other places as well. There are two factions that don’t have bases yet when you first arrive, you help clear out the scourge and get them set up. The only way you can tell you are switching instances is if you are near another player that is on a different step; you’ll see them fade in or out of view like they were just logging on or off.

        • Ross says:

          LOTRO does the same thing, except in Lothlorien (at this point in time, anyway). They originally had all the famous folk out in public in Rivendell, but later moved them into public instance areas as you describe.

        • Ian says:

          Phasing is quite annoying when you are gathering materials. I love walking up to a Titanium or Lichbloom node only to have it disappear while I’m gathering it.

          Also, it’s kind of annoying trying to interact with people who aren’t in your phase. When my ICC10 raid group was assembling I tried to summon people at the stone, only to find out that I was one of the only people there who actually got to the final phase in Icecrown.

  5. RTBones says:

    I’m sure I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating – I am really enjoying this series, and hope you have at least a few more episodes left of it.

  6. Dev Null says:

    Now you actually seem to be having a bit of fun with this game, and are mostly just giving it a bit of extra mocking for laughs, but I think this post really drives home one of my biggest problems with turning something like LoTR into a game.

    The rangers in the game are feeble. Laughably so. They almost have to be, because the entire point of most games is for the player to be the hero, and in an MMO based on a book it isn’t really possible for everyone in the game to be playing the hero of the book. But at the same time I have these memories from the book of the rangers being pretty badarse, so the feeble game-rangers kind of break the immersion – or at least the sense that what I’m immersing in is the same as the book.

    I wonder how hard it would be to script a sequence where you came in _with_ the rangers at your side and faced like a hundred goblins at once. Most of the gobbos would immediately track rangers, with two or three coming after the PC at a time – so the pace of the fight is roughly the same as what you did, but theres this huge battle going on around you. Every time you finish up with your current batch of foes, another ranger bravely falls in battle and his opponents come after you. Maybe if you’re getting stomped a ranger could come help you out for a bit. At the end, you’ve done almost exactly the same thing, but instead of a ludicrous fight where the enemies come at you one at a time for no apparent reason and your allies do nothing, you get the feeling of having been the hero of a major battle, and your allies seem slightly less like dorks.

    • NotYetMeasured says:

      I was going to make the same “who’s the hero?” point.

      Shamus gets good humor out of analyzing the implications of the quests, but I think the designers finessed the ranger issue pretty well: they are very busy and spread incredibly thin. Those that remain have duties of watching and protecting and being where they are supposed to be perhaps for purposes of maintaining communication, which is why it might be irresponsible for them to leave their post and do the dangerous things you are doing.

    • Padyndas says:

      There are actually quests that you do that you fight along side of the Ranger’s (as well as other NPC’s) and they generally are quite strong, meaning stronger than your character is. There are even some session play quests where you actually play as an NPC from the past and that is really quite fun as you get a different game mechanic for atleast the time of the session play. That said, there are Ranger’s and other NPC’s in the open world that basically just stand by and do nothing while you fight so yeah I see your point in regards to that.

  7. Rosseloh says:

    Yeah, that junction pull in the cave can be a pain. I have lost “The Undying” on several characters there.

    Now that I’ve been playing for 3 years, I’m able to breeze through it. But it’s not easy.

  8. Robyrt says:

    Maybe there is an intricate tunnel system, created by the local super-sized fauna, and the skull just fell into a pit and rolled right through the hill, not up it?

  9. WoodenTable says:

    Shamus, you may want to put those last 2 paragraphs into your LP at some point (perhaps abbreviated a bit), for the benefit of people who read the Escapist but not your blog. While the constant snark is quite funny, it does seem more fair when you occasionally bring up the finer points of what you’re playing through in your yellow OOC Boxes. Based on Lulzy’s adventure so far, I thought the writing for the quests was quite terrifyingly weird. But the idea that they’re basically standard-gameplay quests run through an English major’s Tolkienify Filter puts them in a somewhat different light (I’m sure it doesn’t relieve the tedium of many, though).

  10. Marlowe says:

    “while in the midst of a self-destructive heroin bender”

    I want to see a game written in the style of William S. Burrough’s Naked Lunch. Attack of the mugwumps could be juicy.

  11. Pickly says:

    Small nitpick:

    “Proscribed” in one of the first few pages should probably be “prescribed”.

    Nice article otherwise, though I don’t have much to add otherwise.

  12. Joshua says:

    Makes me curious if you’ll do one of these where your character is nuttier than the actual quests instead of playing the straight man attempting to adapt to the lunacy around them.

  13. LachlanL says:

    Hey, maybe you said something about this in the first entry, I can’t remember. Anyway, is this whole LP going to be a solo affair? I know it kinda works with how you are writing it up, but I do find it kinda weird that we never see any of these mysterious “other players” in your screenshots. Is the game really that sparsely populated, or do you have a crew of hobbits with stop-go signs keeping the noobs out of shot? Also, how is that going to work as the group instances get harder?

    • Joshua says:

      Although there are exceptions, I think some of the larger group quests have more effort put into them. There are more scripted NPCs, and more interesting things going on. This may result in less silly quests. Plus, playing with others will really kill the RP unless you’re making up all of their dialogue.

      Also, like most MMOs that have been around for several years, starting areas tend to be very sparsely populated except around crafting zones. Everyone is moved on to where the large group instances, raids and general plot roadblocks are.

      • LachlanL says:

        Well, maybe there could be one or two regulars who are willing to RP? LOTRO sounds like a game where there’d be no shortage of players willing to play a role in the “adventure”!

        I don’t play any MMO’s, but I see what you mean about starting areas.

    • Shamus says:

      Well, I’m in the early game, which is sparsely populated. And I think we’re over halfway done. We’re not going to be reaching the parts of the game where things get crowded.

      If other people show up, I usually cut them out of the shot or wait for them to leave.

  14. Your scenes with Harlos are superb. They are the best parts of the entire Let’s Play you’ve written so far. The sarcasm is so viscous, it slows my internets.

    Ben

    • Abnaxis says:

      Agreed. The snide comments are so scathing I almost feel sorry for the guy at this point. It’s come to the point where it’s akin to lampooning the mentally handicapped.

  15. Rack says:

    When I was playing the game I never noticed the LCD fuelled insanity plots as I was far too used to them by that point, I just enjoyed the nice language they used. It makes this series far funnier.

    Oh and you really need to introduce a DMotR crossover when you reach Aragorn.

  16. Blackbird71 says:

    Are we really sure that’s Golfimbul’s skull? Maybe it’s really Murray, Harbinger of Doom (http://miwiki.net/Murray) filling a stand-in role?

    Whenever there’s an evil skull in a computer game, always suspect Murray!

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