While wandering around near Bree last night, I noticed it was dark; Lord of the Rings Online has a day/night cycle, and it can actually affect the game. In this case I remembered a quest I’d picked up many levels previously, a farmer who’d been having trouble in his fields, but only at night. It was marked as a fellowship quest (usually needing a group), but as I’d significantly outlevelled it, only having been around Bree during daylight for a while, I thought I’d head up and take a look.
Following the farmer’s directions, I wandered through the area, expecting a bit of lonely sentry duty, but on cresting a hill I was suddenly confronted with a vast multitude of men, hobbits, elves and dwarves… a muddy farmer’s field, crammed with people, minstrel’s lute-riffs ringing out? I’d obviously taken a wrong turn somewhere and stumbled upon Glastonbury. At that point, one of the crop-spoiling ruffians I’d been sent to dispatch leaped from nearby undergrowth, but before he could say “Hello Staddle! Are you ready to rock?”, he’d vanished under a hail of arrows, sword blows, and lute chords with some really nasty diminished sevenths.
On a busy server, LotRO suffers from the old “camp the named mob” problem particularly badly in a few quests (or “camp the lost hobbit you’re supposed to escort to safety”); if there’s a few of you in the area, it’s easy enough to team up so you all qualify for the reward, but as most of the quests are marked as being for fellowships, chances are you’ll bring a few friends along to start with, and when there’s seven or eight people standing around it’s not quite so straightforward forming up groups:
“Is everyone here for the ancient spider queen, yes? Let’s team up to take this hideous foe on! Right, who’s in a group already? You are… and you… is that in a group together, or with… right… “
*the ancient spider queen appears in the background*
“…and then… oh, wait, we can only have six in the group, so… you’ve already done the quest, but you’re here to help your friends?”
*the spider queen taps a foot (or five) in boredom*
“Well how about if you’re not in the main group, but help out once the mobs tagged, OK? Right, well I’m going to kick you, but don’t take it personally…”
*a loremaster turns up, and Alan the Chaffinch pecks the spider queen to death*
“So! The current team here is Team A, we’ll tag the queen and defeat her for the quest objectives, then reform as specified into Teams B and C with these other people here who need the queen but couldn’t fit into Team A, and…”
*someone points out the dead spider queen, and another group arrive*
Once you get ten to fifteen people clustering around, there’s no hope of grouping or orderly queuing, it’s just a race to tag the mob first. I was going to make the suggestion that named mobs should have one of those numbered-ticket dispensing machines next to them, and the mobs spawn with a *bing*, “Group number seventeen, spider queen now being killed by group number seventeen, thank you”, and we’d all laugh uproariously at the comedic juxtaposition of the supermarket queuing system with heroic fantasy questing… but then I thought “why not?” Say, have a quest NPC you talk to in the area, he adds you to a queue of groups wanting to kill the mob, when the mob spawns on your “turn”, it’s automatically tagged for your group. You still have an incentive to kill the mob before your turn, as that’ll speed up the time until “your” spawn, but at least there’s a bit of order to the situation rather than a desperate tag-race.
I suppose such a system would actually take considerable effort to actually implement *well* (apart from anything else, making sure there’s no griefing potential, and that the system’s obvious enough that GMs aren’t inundated with tickets about mobs not spawning or not getting credit for mob kills), and for relatively little benefit; it doesn’t go anywhere towards tackling the root problem of the constantly respawning weeble-mob as a game mechanism. Personally, in the case of the impromptu festival I just ditched the quest as it was so far below in level anyway, and for a few others I’ve just joined the tag-fest and got the credit for the quest eventually.