Even though I live in the South, like banjo music, and dislike superhero comics, there is one thing that I have a strong common bond in with Dragon*Con folk.
Well, to be honest, there are several. But one of them is video games. And another is a love of all things Tolkien. When you put these two things together…. usually you get shit.
That is, I thought that until I tried out Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO).
LOTRO is an mmorpg, which most people just call an mmo these days. MMORPG stand for “massively multi-player online role playing game”. And that is about as far as I will go in explaining these highly scientific technical aspects of the game. I’m working under the assumption that most people who would stumble upon this blog already know what an mmo is, and guessing that my friends who may or may not know what that is, do know how to use google.
I’ve been playing mmo’s for a long while now. I dabbled in Ultima Online, which I have always considered to be the jumping-off point of mmo’s, for a while before playing a little bit of EverQuest (which many people dubbed EverCrack because of its addictive nature). I say that I played these games a “little bit” because at the time (we’re talking mid to late 90’s) I didn’t have a computer, but had a friend who let me have a character on his account.
I didn’t really get into mmo’s until I bought my own computer with a tax refund (this was roughly around 2002 or so) and immediately started playing Dark Age of Camelot because I had some distant friends who played and it was always fun to get together with them in-game. DAoC was fun for me, especially, because it was based on the mythology of 3 different countries and/or areas (Norse mythology, Celtic mythology, and Arthurian legend), and these three areas were always at war with one another. Needless to say, the pvp (player versus player) was intense. In fact, I haven’t played a game since that matched it, and that is including WoW (World of Warcraft). I have always loved mythology (another thing that I have in common with a lot of geeks), and I have always loved Irish history, so naturally my country of choice was Hibernia (the game’s name for Ireland, or the area based on it).
Then WoW came along and ruined everything. Oh sure, I played it. I loved it. There were even times in my life when I can say that I was moderately addicted to it.
WoW, like Ultima, was a game-changer, and I mean that in the most literal way possible. It changed mmo’s forever. The biggest change? It was easier. Lots easier.
See, the folks at Blizzard (WoW’s parent company and developer) figured out that normal folk didn’t have the time to sink into a game like DAoC or EverQuest where it took a year or more of constant playing to reach the maximum level. Yet, there were lots of normal folk out there who may have played D&D when they were kids and still longed for some fantasy adventure. Also, normal folk (including myself) want to try out a lot of different races and classes. By making the game easier, no one felt like they were tied down to one race/class combination. No one wants to spend 6 months leveling to 30 only to realize that they made a mistake and that they didn’t really want to play a wizard. What they really wanted was to be a rogue.
They made WoW easily accessible to these people in many ways (which I won’t get into here), and by doing so, created the largest mmo empire ever.
Personally, I played WoW off and on for a few years, but eventually got tired of how competitive it was. Even though WoW’s design made the game instantly accessible to a lot of people, once you got to the high levels, especially on a pvp server, the game really changed and turned into a highly-focused pvp competition, which a lot of people love. Hell, I loved it! But eventually, boring things like work and family got in the way and I realized that I had neither the time, nor the drive, to stay competitive in the world… of warcraft. I cancelled my subscription to WoW and was idle in the world of mmo’s for at least a year.
Then the itch started again. Faintly at first, like one of those itches that, when you scratch it, it hurts and you realize that it wasn’t an itch at all, but a tumor. Then it got louder and louder…
I knew that I didn’t want to go back to WoW, but I couldn’t put my finger on what I wanted exactly. I tried, fruitlessly, to get a Dungeons & Dragons group going (yes, I mean the pencil & paper rpg), but quickly found that no one these days has the same schedule as anyone else. Then I tried out Warhammer 40k. We’ll talk about mini wargaming some other time, but for our purposes here, suffice it to say that that fizzled out also.
What I wanted, what I really really wanted, was an mmo where I could just sorta “hang out”.
I post on the message boards over at theonering.net (TORn), a fansite for all things Tolkien which I found out about when I went to their “Hobbit” panel at Dragon*Con 2010. On that site, someone mentioned that lotro, which had previously been a monthly subscription game, was going f2p (Free to Play, meaning just that. It was going to be free to download and play). I love Tolkien, as I already mentioned, and had a hankerin’ for some good fantasy rpg action, and since it was going to be free, I figured why not? I had nothing to lose, right?
That’s been almost a year ago.
Since that time, I’ve been playing a decent amount. Some of us over at TORn even started up a little kinship (called a guild in WoW. basically, a group of players in the game who do stuff together and try to help each other out).
We play on the Landroval server (servers are something that are necessary for all mmo’s. I won’t get into them here, but it is basically just your world. People on different servers can’t communicate with each other in-game.).
Landroval is the “unofficial” RP server of LOTRO. RP means “role play”, meaning that people pretend that they really are their character. This leads to a post that I will save for later today…
So stay tuned later today when we talk about RP-ing in mmo’s, and on Landroval server in particular, and also will visit one of the biggest RP events I have ever been to… Bilbo’s Birthday Party in Rivendell!!!