The Neomedieval(?) LOTRO

 

My colleagues have spent a good deal of time discussing the LOTRO as neomedieval, so I hope I’m not treading ground that is too familiar here. First of all, I find LOTRO a bit of a disappointment from a neomedieval perspective. While, for example, WoW tries to have fun with its source material (e.g. putting in Star Wars references), LOTRO seems to be a pretty straight-laced affair. I haven’t, though approximately 40 hours of gameplay, caught a single pop-culture reference. Why might this be? I wonder if the idea behind LOTRO is immersion, and so that limits its neomedieval purposes. People have pointed out that Tolkien himself is a bit of a neomedievalist, creating a whole fictional world surrounding his vision (languages, etc). However, it might be argued that what the makers of LOTRO are doing is a poor imitation of what Tolkien himself wanted to do. They are taking his world, and maybe trying to out-Tolkien Tolkien, but they succeed only in creating a life of mundane people doing mundane things that surround the real adventure. I don’t feel like I’m helping all that much with the actual Fellowship; in fact, I feel a bit like I’ve missed the adventure, but am tasked with cleaning up the mess that others (namely the Fellowship) made. So, I’m not tasked with helping Gandalf; I’m tasked with helping his pitiful friend Radagast. How did this game ever make money? I think the lackluster storyline here is probably a testament to how effectively LOTRO has been monetized as a “Free to play” game…just think what it could have done with a better-executed world.

On Time

 

We’ve been thinking about time lately thanks to Dinshaw, and so I thought this blog post would be oriented that way. For one thing, time has flowed differently as I returned from Virginia; I suddenly found myself shifting from an atmosphere where I had little to do but think of my next LoTRO blog post to one where I had 6 children and 3500 miles to transgress (is that the right word?). Suddenly, I haven’t had the time to play LoTRO like I did, let alone blog about it. However, I can talk about the way time passes a bit in the game.

It is difficult to say what makes time in LOTRO pass most quickly. On the one hand, exciting quests seem to fly by, while the grinds tend to make the game feel slow. However, it is pretty common to look at the clock after grinding midge flies and realize you’ve been doing it for three hours. So, it seems like one of the mechanics of the game is to manipulate time in certain ways. I wonder what the purpose of trying to keep a player playing longer than he intended might be.

One motivation is definitely financial. For every grind, you have the option to “accelerate this task” by paying real money in the LOTRO store. This seems to be an attempt to monetize time, which is an area that Dinshaw didn’t much care for. Interestingly enough, players themselves don’t seem to mind this, rather being happy to speed up a game that they are ostensibly playing for fun. Strange.