Finally, some time to play! Cue much happy sighing and wondering if I’ve forgotten some work I should be doing. When you’re really busy, playing can seem like a bit of a guilty pleasure – which only enhances its appeal as far as I’m concerned.
LOTRO remains very fun and will always be exceedingly pretty to look at. I don’t think I’ve taken so many screenshots in years, but since most of them are landscapes and the like I won’t inflict them on you (much).
Speaking of you, hello and welcome to the nice new people stopping by! Thanks to those who haven’t abandoned me for greener blog pastures — not that I can blame them, an un-updated blog is like cheese with no wine.
So yes, while I don’t have any deep thoughts about MMOs for the time being — wait, hold on. I do. I have some thoughts about FF XIV but since they’re based on hearsay and not personal play, I’ll keep them to myself for the time being. (Mostly.) Nonetheless, FF XIV really throws into sharp relief the fact that we don’t play the games we want to play but rather the games we’re given. If the designers decide that everyone should have purple hair, that’s how it’s going to be. If the designers decide that the only way to advance is to stand on your head and recite the Bhagavad Gita, that’s how it’s going to be too.
I really don’t like the idea of being told how much I can play for xp before I get slammed by penalties and how many quests I can do in a given day. Which still doesn’t obviate the fact that I play as I’m told in every other game too — I just don’t dislike it. The difference is my approach, not the fact that we do — whatever we may think — for the most part play the game that’s designed for us. They make the mazes and we run through them.
This isn’t a bad thing per se. Games need rules. I don’t play Monopoly using Scrabble rules (though that might be interesting now and then) and I don’t play poker using canasta rules – if I did, I’d be playing canasta, not poker.
So before you start yelling at me that actually we play the games we want and not the games that are designed for us, I’m not painting a dark developer conspiracy. I don’t do that and I’ve spoken against it before (somewhere here, find your own damn links).
We are the conspiracy. We get used to expecting certain things and when those things are designed differently, we usually react — at least initially — with dislike. As I’m doing with FF XIV, sight unseen. I never did get a chance to get the patcher working and check out the open beta, work being what it was. However, Pete at Dragonchasers has some interesting writeups so check that out if you’re on the fence about FF XIV as I am.
In the meantime I’ve been faffing around Middle Earth, mostly on my own, sometimes with the spousal unit, and it’s been fun. The No-Quests week really did remind me that even though the maze may be created for me, I do get the freedom to decide what particular path I want to take through it — which is a not inconsiderable freedom and one we might want to make use of more often. There is nothing that says I have to hit level X by day Y, or that I have to do Activity A instead of Activity B. Most MMOs, however theme-parkish, still don’t insist that you do the same thing all day every day; that’s usually our choice.
So I’ve been harvesting and selling and mooching around and visiting places I may be just a little too high for — and it’s been a lot of fun. There are so many quests to do in most of the established MMOs these days that you absolutely can’t do them all while they’re still challenging. (Not unless you can level-lock, which some games like EQ2 allow you to do.) But since I’m not a gigantic challenge-chaser anyway, I’ve been happy to visit the Barrow Downs even though the mobs were mostly conning green and pale blue — and, in contrast, to run through Evendim and suddenly realise that everything was conning either red or purple and that I should probably watch my blithely mining step.
Maybe Heloyse and Mortormur will visit the Barrow Downs — they’re already a little high for most of the Old Forest, at 17, but the Downs should still be quite the challenge. Even I like a little danger now and then.
As I said, I’ve taken a ton of screenshots. I’ll throw some up because they’re fun – to me, anyway – and hopefully illustrate how atmospheric LOTRO can be and how profound the attention to detail is in almost everything you look at. (For instance: the snowy landscape around Thorin’s Gate has beaten-down, mulched-up areas where people take shortcuts through the snow. It took me a while of seeing those to realise how natural they looked and how much they contribute to the illusion of a world where stuff does go on whether your character is there or not.)
If you’re lucky I’ll be able to post a little more regularly now. Or maybe that’s unlucky.