Saturday, January 9, 2010

LOTRO Travel Satire

In my summary of LOTRO, I wrote about how often quests make players travel to remote enemy camps repeatedly. Frandoc in my LOTRO guild pointed me to a post by a player named Aereana, who has written a fantastic satire of the way LOTRO questgivers think. An excerpt:

Dwarf: Excellent work my elf friend, but the news is ill. Our spies say that Larry, Curly and Moe have doubled their efforts to bolster the orc forces. Return and thin their forces! Defeat 5 siege masters and 5 berserkers and deal a demoralizing blow!
Me: I told you Larry, Curly and Moe are tough. I've fought them twice now, don't you think I should deal with them? Or maybe go straight to the top and take care of Bob - I've fought him twice as well and I can take him.
Dwarf: Such an errand would be folly elf! Thin their forces and they will be driven back!

The sad part is that five followups to the same camp from the same questgiver is an exaggeration, but three is pretty common. Sometimes there's another questgiver with quests in the same camp who might send you back a fourth time if you didn't juggle the two sets of quests in precisely the correct order.

It reminds me of the quest in Evendim where a hobbit says he simply does not believe that there are no boars to eat in the zone. Players need to spend at least 30 minutes supposedly looking for boars (you can do whatever you want with the time) to convince him that there are, in fact, no boars in Evendim. What does Turbine do to follow up on this satirical take on their own quest design? Send you to kill 10 bears instead.


Yeebo said...

I think the quest objectives in LoTRO are pretty typical for the type game it is. In a PvE game where solo quests are the primary way to level, you have to generate hundreds of quests. "Kill ten X" or "gather five Y" is very easy to iterate on. The mere fact that X and Y vary, and the setting that they are embedded in also varies, makes these quests seem more distinct then they really are. Hunting bears in a forest really does feel different from hunting wurms in a tundra to me, despite the fact that the mechanics are identical.

More specfic to LoTRO, I think the writing associated with the quests in LoTRO tends to be better than most MMOs (e.g., WoW, EQ II, RoM) even ifthe mechanics are by-and-large identical. For every quest that does have novel mechanics (e.g., avoiding nosy hobbits, or the boar quest that you mention) there are at least ten that you'd find in any quest based PvE MMO. However, I find the story lines that emerge from the quest chains and the setting they are embedded in much more engaging than any of the competition I've tried. The first 20 levels of AoC are the only MMO to give it a run for the money so far.

Green Armadillo said...

The quest objectives are similar, but the proportion of player time spent traveling is very different. In WoW, a similar quest almost always includes a friendly scout hiding just outside the camp to hand out any followup quests. In EQ2, quests can automatically ding from "loot 10 items" to "destroy Y machine" without the intervention of a questgiver.

By comparison to the other games, having to travel to a town in a different zone (especially the 21st Hall in Moria) only to be told to turn around and return to the same location is far more common.

Yeebo said...

I'm not sure I agree with you. The travel times in Strangle Thorn vale and the Barrens seemed at least as arduous as anything I encountered in LoTRO back when I used to play WoW. LoTRO also has more instant travel hubs than WoW, though not nearly as many as EQ II.

That said, I primarily play a hunter in LoTRO so my perspective may be off. I have a constant runspeed buff and zero cooldown teleports out the wazoo. The highest non-hunter I have is 54 and has barely set foot in Moria. said...

One thing which often ruins immersion for me is the apparant necessity of an NPC for followup quests -- why not impliment some system whereby once you have killed your 12 Orcs your Quest info updates with something along the lines of:

"in their dying moments, you notice some of the Orcs speak of their leader Gruzguul -- you now know it is not merely enough to thin the ranks of these devils, you must find and slay the leader himself!"

or an item could drop which starts the next part of the quest. This at least allows for a game mechanic which gives the impression your character can make intuitive quest decisions on their own, just as players are able to do the rest of the time which engaging in non-quest related, in-game activities.

It is often very strange to me that players are required to go back to talk to NPCs who seemingly have the knowledge to make decisions on your behalf but are powerless to do anything themselves, almost like you must ask permission before talking the next, logical step in a quest chain.