Shamus Plays: LOTRO, Part 23

By Shamus
on Jun 24, 2010
Filed under:
Column

Amdir was stabbed by a morgul blade and is being tormented by the Dark Lord himself, having his mind torn apart by the Lord of the Ring. That sounds bad, but I still think he’s probably better off than Lulzy.

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  1. Athan says:

    *applause*

    Either I’m just in the perfect mood for it today or that was the best episode yet. I was giggling uncontrollably just from the cave joke in the banner pic !

    Bravo!

  2. tremor3258 says:

    Man, this episode’s good – Though Turbine is providing some sort of bizarre example from an alternate, Gigerian worldview on how to use game mechanics to generate nemesis.

    Is this bit part of the storyline progression? I swear I missed this one and joined back up with Amdir a little farther along the path of Black Cloakdom.

  3. acronix says:

    I really like how you fixed the mess the previous quests had done with Skunkwood. Ten points for that!

  4. Pickly says:

    I can definitely feel your pain on that escort quest. :)

    • Heron says:

      Seconded.

      When I did that quest, I admit I found it easier to pretend it was a bug, especially since she sprinted away at the end.

      It disturbs me that they would do it intentionally.

      • Joshua says:

        *Spoiler*

        The old lady appearance is a ruse. She is actually the main nemesis(Amarthiel) in the Shadows of Angmar plotline. Although it’s very convoluted, Amarthiel had been held captive for a number of years by her father(trying to restore her back to Good), and the real Sara Oakheart(a servant) had brought her food while she was in captivity. She came to hate this poor old woman enough to mimic her appearance and cause a bunch of mischief in her guise as a form of revenge.

        So, for her to hobble around causing you annoyance and then go dashing off in the end does sort of make sense in the plotline.

        • X2-Eliah says:

          Sooo, if the sleeping bandits kill this old lady while on the escort quest, you essentially win the game by destroying the arch-nemesis?

          • Joshua says:

            If only, if only. That thought has occurred whenever you pick up a Sara Oakheart quest, fail to protect her, and then get the message: “Quest Failed, you have failed to protect Sara Oakheart”, or some derivative thereof.

        • Friend of Dragons says:

          Yeah. I actually find it really quite amusing that all these obnoxious quests of hers only exist because one of the most powerful lords of Angmar is wandering the land intentionally trolling/griefing the PCs.

        • Kdansky says:

          While this is not a bad idea, I do not think it works very well like this. I could surely imagine doing it in a pen and paper RPG, where an NPC repeatedly does “stupid” things that are troublesome to the PCs. But in typical MMOs, the NPCs do not have enough personality to get the difference across between “deliberately evil”, “plain stupid” and “horrible game design”.

        • Josh R says:

          that’s actually pretty clever… even if it was probably covering for earlier sins rather then the intention all along.

          I was surprised by a rescue quest in GW where you had to go and liberate a captive only to find he’d run off to join the pirates. (Captured Son in Factions) Only to find he had joined the pirates.
          (the quest is repeated in nightfall though – Suwash the pirate)

          Though annoyingly, the game then wouldn’t let me kill them once they’ve declared their intentions, and left me just to wander off helplessly leaving them to bury every single one of their friends’ bodies.

        • Ross says:

          Well, she’s not *specifically* griefing you. She’s meeting with bad people. When you show up she simply pretends she was a captive. She’s found with goblins and Dourhand dwarves in Ered Luin. Brigands in Bree. Orcs in Fornost. Walking dead in Garth Agarwen. Not to mention Book 9.

          It merely feels like an NPC is griefing you to death. I found it made me hate Amarthiel all the more when the big reveal happened after going through all those painful escorts.

  5. Dev Null says:

    Sooooo…. Evil Amdir sprints off for the exit, and you have a conversation with the old lady, who then creeps at a snails pace through a half-dozen fights, past the front door to another cave where you have some more fights (and a stick), and you get back to the front of the cave just in time to see Evil Amdir make it to the front of the cave? What on earth has he been doing all this time? Or were he and Mr. T chatting over tea until you showed up and inspired Amdir to kill his fellow ranger? Maybe thats it; maybe he’s not really evil – maybe _you_ are, and your evil influence is why Amdir always waits for you before doing bad stuff?

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Was there ever an escort quest that was good?Except the ones in baldurs gate,where the escortees would join your group,then hack your enemies left and right,until you decide to finally pass through the place they wanted to be in.Well,it maybe makes no sense,but at least its not annoying.

    Also,since I said I would,let me laugh out loud.Yay lulzy!

    • Drexer says:

      ICO

      But that was mainly the point of the game. :p

    • Pickly says:

      Guild Wars somewhat reduced issues with escort missions as the different games and the expansion were released, though there were still quite a lot of frustrating ones as well. In the better quests and missions, escorts would either be untouchable (so they at least wouldn’t die), or would be as good statistically in combat as players (so would not be specially targeted by enemies, and could be healed effectively, which in a party of 8 with a couple healers, makes keeping them alive much simpler). Eye of the north had a really nice mechanic where non-party members would automatically resurrect themselves when surrounding enemies were all dead.

      It is better than WoW at least (I don’t remember doing any escorts there that were any fun.) Other than that, Idon’t have any actual experience (Despite the above “feel your pain” comment, which is based on having done some similar WoW quests.)

    • Rosseloh says:

      Further along in LotRO there are better escort quests. But, you won’t see them until Moria at least — it seems that was the point where the designers figured out “hey, this isn’t fun after all”.

      The best one is when you have a support crew of NPCs, and you can tell them to heal you, or help fight, etc.

      At the very least, they’ve gotten smart enough to give escort NPCs enough health to survive until you can get the aggro back.

      • Joshua says:

        I don’t know, one of the worst escort quests I saw was one of the later ones(Siege of Moria), where you have to escort a prisoner through dangerous areas while keeping him alive. And by “escort”, I mean run after him as he’s constantly sprinting away from you and into potential danger.

        To add insult to injury, taking this guy prisoner was the first time in the entire game where you had a dialogue option to make a choice: take him captive or kill him on the spot because he’s too dangerous. Unfortunately, opting to kill him results in the asking NPC overruling you, which makes you wonder why he asked you in the first place.

        It gets worse. That whole instance was a flashback, and occurs after Lord Celeborn(of Lothlorien) had taken you to task for making the foolish choice of keeping the prisoner alive. So, your “choice” gets insulted by one of the high-ranking elves, and then the game has you do a flash-back to the point in time where you made the choice, only to nullify any option but to make the one where you get insulted. Talk about Turbine griefing the PCs.

        I’ve had previous thoughts about this subject, but it’s risky enough in game design to railroad the PCs into making a bad choice(see TVTropes’s Stupidity is the only option), but it’s just flat out bad game design to mock you for being so stupid.

    • Viktor says:

      Dead Rising. Half the game is escort quests, but the vital NPCs can survive fairly well, the non-vital ones can die without too much of a penalty, and the easiest way to keep them alive(kill everything, ever) is also the most fun.

    • ehlijen says:

      Most flight and space sims are choke full of escort missions :p

      Though I must say the best escort mission I’ve yet to see was in Starship Troopers: Terran Ascendancy; if only for the simple reason that the player was alloed to tell the escortee to ‘wait here’ at any moment. That badguys were spawned by either the escortee or the players units (and not just one of the other) also helped.

    • Robyrt says:

      About half of Resident Evil 4 is an escort mission. Ashley is super annoying, but you can tell her to hide until all the enemies are gone and she’ll do it. She has a nasty habit of getting captured in cutscenes, but the player can generally protect her well.

    • NotYetMeasured says:

      One function the escort quests fill is to allow the soloer a little bit of group play. Tanking, crowd control, or even the most judicious use of your DPS are used in different ways when you have an underpowered (or useless) companion. In LOTRO I enjoy them because there are few enough of them that they are pretty novel.

  7. Bit says:

    “And with that she takes off sprinting for the front door. I actually couldn’t catch her if I wanted.”

    I laughed until I choked on my own lungs, and I wouldn’t blame Turbine for doing the same. It’s just… beautiful.

    Excellent job this week Shamus, your writing was twice as sharp as usual. Although you probably could have just given me a dry synopsis of events and I still would have laughed my ass off. Oh MMOs, will you ever learn?

  8. Caffiene says:

    “You have a stupid name” “Duly noted”

    lmao. That conversation was both hilarious, and probably the most sensible and insightful exchange that an NPC has ever had with Lulzy.

  9. RTBones says:

    You have a stupid name. LOL!

    I do love this series. Whether the silliness of the game itself, or the quality of the source, or just your own writing, Shamus, whatever – it works.

    Then there was the old lady who ran into the wood. Yeah, escort quests…ugh. Just…say…no. I am sure somewhere, some developer is rolling on the floor with laughter, not because she (the old bat) sprinted into the forest and left her (Lulzy) in the proverbial dust and the player (duh) frustrated, but because he (the developer) knows she (Lulzy) would dearly like to take it (the stick) she (the old lady) so desperately could not live without and place with considerable prejudice up her (the old bat’s) backside — and she (Lulzy) cant because it (the stick) is really a Walking Stick of Race Walking +4 and she (Lulzy) cant catch her (the old lady) to save her own (Lulzy’s) arse.

  10. Jep jep says:

    They should really add somesort of control panel a lá the Loremaster’s pet panel (or the hunter’s in WoW, same thing really) and let YOU control the escortee instead of griefing the player to no end. That’s not really even the worst escort mission in this game. When you come around the end of Book 4, you’re gonna wish you could cut the legs off that crazy elf with the way he keeps running ahead with no real concern of his own well being. Only good thing he’s nowhere near as frail and can actually take a little beating. It’s a group quest too so god forbid if your healer or your tank gets left behind.

    The whole Volume 1 is for the most parts soloable now though, and they give you all sorts of buffs to morale, power and damage if you try to do book instances alone, so it just might be soloable if you’ve got enough levels. Problem is none of the NPCs get any bonuses, so that can really limit your choices. If you haven’t got any healing skills, and the fact that you basically have to tank the whole instance, and with the crazy escortee.. fun times?.. Not!

    That being said, it can be fun to run the instances if you’ve got 50+ levels behind your back and some Moria gear on you, when you’re basically a Gandalf-on-steroids with all the bonuses you get, though it sadly breaks the point of even trying to get a group for most of them if you didn’t finish the book before they made the changes. With all the in-combat regen bonuses, it’s a challenge to die at all.

    • Joshua says:

      Yeah, I think the quests are much easier with the solo buffs now. However, what alternative is there with the progression of the game and near impossibility of finding someone else on the same quests?

      • Jep jep says:

        Yeah I didn’t mean to say it was bad thing per say. It’s just the fact that having played Volume 1 all the way through once before the changes, then once afterwards doing the solo route when I was leveling an alt, I’d say doing it “vanilla” style was more satisfying gameplay wise. Of course, with the alt it was more of a relief really, since it speeds up the progress of your character a whole lot. Took me only a few nights to run it all from around Book 11 till the finish.

        It just sort of takes away part of the charm that the Volume has I think. I can’t imagine how it would feel like now if I was going through it the first time. But I guess it’s good that the option is there, if it’s too hard to get a group.

        • Joshua says:

          “Took me only a few nights to run it all from around Book 11 till the finish.”

          And I’d say that most of that was probably spent traveling back and forth. My main is a Hunter, and it still took a ridiculous amount of time to do the last few books.

  11. Thom says:

    Excellent! As always :)

  12. eers says:

    thought i’d share this important piece of retcon from Mass Effect 2’s ending

    http://urbanator.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d2qal1h

    http://urbanator.deviantart.com/#/d2p5hmb

    the new ending of Mass Effect 2 will be patched into the game via DLC… the pricing of the DLC is yet to be announced but expect to pay somewhere around 599 bazinga points…

  13. somecrazyfan says:

    Maybe the stick is magical?Stick of speed x2

  14. Jarenth says:

    I, uh, don’t have anything more insightful to say than “Nice episode, I really enjoyed Skunkwood’s dialogue“. So I guess I’ll say that, then.

  15. Hal says:

    Ugh, escort quests. Aside from what’s mentioned already, there’s a few right ways to do this:

    -Enemies are already spawned, allowing you to run ahead and kill them off while the NPC drags on slowly

    -The NPC directly follows you, rather than moving on a pre-defined path, and moves at the same speed as you

    -The NPC is at least semi-competent in a combat situation, able to assist you in some manner, or at least stay out of the way

    I’m sure there’s more, but it just amazes me that game developers still can’t figure out how to make these sorts of things fun.

    • Jarenth says:

      Making an escort quest fun is like making a pile of doggy doo into tasteful haute cuisine. It’s probably possible, with a massive investement of time and resources, but I’d seriously question as to why you’d want to.

      Attention, MMO developers: Just drop escort quests already. Nobody likes them.

      • Joshua says:

        I *think* the whole point is to add tension so you can’t just idly mosey through what’s supposed to be a dramatic scene. When doing a lot of other quests, for example, the tendency is to slowly and methodically kill everything in the immediate area, rest until your morale and power are full, move on to the next group of enemies, rinse and repeat. Having an escort takes you out of your comfort zone and tests your skills at having to work at a brisker pace where you don’t have all of the time in the world.

        That being said, there might be other ways to accomplish this.

  16. Falcon says:

    This discussion shows exactly what’s wrong with escort quests. Escort questscan be fun, if done right. Here’s how:

    -The game is designed with escort quests in mind, a la Ico, so enemies and allies behave accordingly.

    -The game gives you the tools needed to make the quest reasonable

    -The escortee displays basic survival instincts. No trudging along so slowly that progress is painful, and no sprinting ahead wildly into danger. Both of those deserve to die horrible deaths

    -The escortee either tells you what they’re going to do, or (preferably) you tell them what to do

    -The player must have a way of avoiding traps and ambushes. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing a trap, knowing to avoid it, yet having to trigger it on yourself, because otherwise the stupid NPC will get themselves killed.

    There’s probably more needed to make it fun, but that’s the minimum I see to not make it suck

  17. Clint Olson says:

    Spelling error:
    Her lips part into an even boarder smile, giving me a view of her gray sinking teeth.

    Pretty sure you intended that to be “broader”, and maybe “stinking”?

  18. Marlowe says:

    Can you at least shoot arrows at the suddenly nimble old lady’s retreating back?

    It was pity that stayed his hand.

    “It’s a pity I never took bow as a skill”, he thought as he watched her vanish round the corner.

    • Jep jep says:

      Funny thing is, minstrel is a ranged class for the most parts. I’ve been waiting if she’s going to discover her talents of screaming and singing people to death any time soon.

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