Wednesday 22 June 2011

Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

I made a bit of a Middle Earthian faux pas the other day while talking with m’colleague. I was burbling garrulously about my Warden’s adventures in Lord of the Rings Online’s most recently added zone, Eregion, and how it was a pleasant diversion while the Volume 3 content remained out of service due to the Rescue in Nûrz Gâshu skirmish needing repairs.

As a brief point of order, Rescue in Nûrz Gâshu was available for me last night, thus I was able to… ‘happily’ is possibly the wrong word… ‘doggedly’? I was able to doggedly continue with the Volume 3 content. Rescue in Nûrz Gâshu is definitely a skirmish that cries out for the player to increase the difficulty and then intensively farm the heck out of it. It could become a sort of ranch for skirmish mobs, where orcs and goblins are bred, corralled and slaughtered before their carcasses are shipped off in exchange for skirmish marks. There’s even the standard bonus reward the first time you run the skirmish each day, like some sort of agricultural subsidy from the governor of Middle Earth. But now I have an image of ranks of orcs all connected to milking machines in unseemly ways, and I won’t tell you what’s coming down the tubes, but suffice it to say that the thought of Weetabix coated in Crème de Menthe is even less appealing now than it was when I first conceived of it. So let’s move on.

More observant players of LotRO, having read my first paragraph, may have noticed the deliberate mistake contained therein. Some of those readers may have rushed off immediately to the Comment Cave, donned their spandex outfits, and begun drafting the latest in vigilante justice against the evil forces of Being Wrong on the Internet. Let’s wait for them to finish posting their comment, which probably starts ‘I think you’ll find…’ and should, as always, be delivered in the tone of someone wearing a cravat, stood on a hearth rug, and pointing reproachfully with the bowl of their pipe while looking down their nose at you.

So yes, the new zone is Enedwaith, not Eregion. I quickly corrected myself upon realising that I’d been blathering on about an entirely different zone:

“Sorry, I meant Enedwaith of course, Eregion is an entirely different place.

I mean, they both start with the letter ‘E’, of course.

And both have a quest flow progression that starts at the top and works its way slowly down the zone, branching off left and right for quest objectives as you go.

Stopping at new quest hubs along the way, each with its own horse point.

With many of the quest hubs called Echad SomethingOrOther.

And swift travel available between quest hubs after you’ve completed a certain number of quests in the zone.

The points between quest hubs being populated by angry wolves, humanoids, boars, and crebain.

With green flowing plains punctuated by improbable impassable landscape features.

Rivers splitting them in two, although admittedly Eregion’s has run dry.


Possibly it was an easier mistake to make than I had otherwise realised. The zones are even placed side by side, and I pictured the newer Enedwaith as the sort of neighbour who moves in next door and promptly steals all your design ideas and renovates their house so that it looks exactly the same as yours, only newer, and with more expensive furnishings. The people of Eregion must have been mightily annoyed when they woke up one morning and found an entirely new region next door that wasn’t there the day before, and which was eerily similar, except everything was new and shiny and unexplored. I suppose it explains all the bumper stickers that I’ve seen sprouting-up on horses in Eregion recently:

“From the home of the ORIGINAL legendary item drop.”

“Eregioner’s enter Moria from behind.”

“My zone’s been Ranger free since 1248.”

“Eregion: our goats won’t get your goat.”

“Honk if you’ve got an E-rection for E-region!”

“Remember: ‘Enedwaith’ rearranged, with a bunch of letters taken away and others added, spells ‘Rubbish’!”

I also imagine that, like rival college fraternities or sororities, the two regions are constantly performing pranks on one another; Enedwaith placing traffic cones down the length of Eregion and thus forcing the horse routes to ride adventurers off the cliff at the top of the Misty Mountains, or into the side of The School at Tham Mírdain; Eregion taking revenge by painting all of Enedwaith’s goats black then rubbing itching powder onto each goat’s genitals.

Still, at least Eregion is a nice zone in which to play, or so I found on my multiple runs through it, and so Enedwaith has been similarly pleasant so far, in a ‘dating a person who has an appealing personality but looks spookily like your ex’ sort of way. I do keep getting them confused, however, where I’ve found the best way to tell them apart is to look at the level of wolf that I’m fighting. Then again that’s a dangerous precedent to set, next we’ll be coding all zones by the level of wolves they contain, and we’ll have conversations like

“Yeah, we were in ‘Wolves 23 to 29’ last night, got a bit bored with running around ‘Wolves 15 to 22’, really. I suppose we could have gone to ‘Wolves 17 to 24’, but there’s not so much to do there.”

Not to mention the fact that they sound like section quotes from the Book of Wolf in some strange bible.

“And now a reading from Wolves 8:14

Be strong and of a good courage, fear not though thou be constantly spammed with stupid fear effects. Nor be afraid…for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee to stab a wolf in the nose; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. But he may let you limp for twenty to sixty seconds if he has run out of wound salves.”

Then again, classifying zones by the level of wolves found there would certainly be an easy way to standardise zone description across nearly all fantasy MMOs…

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