Wednesday 2 June 2010

A man travels the world in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.

The trouble with LotRO’s epic quest book content is not so much the amount of travel, although it is possibly verging on the excessive side, it’s the fact that upon arriving at your destination the task to be performed is often disproportionately short in comparison – speak to Geoff/retrieve Geoff’s glowing object/find Geoff’s mother-in-law/kill Geoff’s slimy scaly enemy – after which you are then required to travel all the way back to the quest giver.

The archetypal MMO moment of misery or madness (MMOMOMOM) comes when you are then immediately sent back to the same location to perform another similarly mundane and quickly completed task – speak to Geoff’s object/retrieve Geoff’s glowing enemy/kill Geoff’s slimy scaly mother-in-law – after which you are then required to travel all the way back to the quest giver again.

The critical thing is this: even if the time spent travelling was equal to the time spent playing the game, the perceived time spent travelling would still be greater. Time flies when you’re having fun, and I think Turbine dramatically overestimated the proportion of the player populace who would rank Equine Buttock Observation in their Top Ten Gaming Greats. If you send someone halfway across the world on a quest, then you really should give them quest content when they get there that’s greater in perceived duration than that travel time, before sending them all the way back again.

I think this is a legacy problem from the early days of Turbine’s design for their game, and they have slowly moved towards the theme park design where quests are clumped together and give the player a great deal to do once they’ve travelled to that pocket of content, along with experimenting with alternative forms of advancement. Perhaps this was always the intended design, that the epic quest book content would require an epic level of ‘dedication’ or ‘work’ or ‘tedium’ to achieve the end goal, the reward for which seems to consist of simply being able to say that you’ve finally done it… I think you get a horse too, a slightly ironic reward for a quest line in which you spend a good seventy percent of the time staring at a horse’s arse as you travelled back and forth across Middle Earth.

I haven’t completed the epic quest content on any of my characters yet. Every now and again it niggles at me that I haven’t managed to slog through it and so, like an itchy scab, I pick at the edges of it occasionally, but as with a scab, I quickly reach the point where the picking hurts more than the itching annoys, and I’m forced to leave it alone again.

Considering their entire MMO is based on a similar idea of epic story content, I hope Bioware are paying attention to this.

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