I thought I’d put down what happened from my first moments in this new game world in case any one else is interested in joining in and trying it out, but before I begin I should explain that I’ve never played a MMO before, not one one, never. SL was my first ever foray into an online world of any sort so you’re going to have to expect some “Well dur!” statements from me, especially if you play WoW and the like. But hey, you’re grown ups and I’m sure you’ll cope 🙂
Once the software had downloaded & installed (a frankly very long process, although I suspect a Saturday afternoon on a Bank Holiday weekend may not have been the best time to judge to be fair. Also I was tweeting whilst an upload was in process and crashed the install meaning I had to start again (d’oh!). Anyhoo, once done & installed I jumped in and created a character. I had read a fair bit about the game before the install had finished so I knew a little of what I was going to do but I still managed to chose a poor character class given I was going to be playing alone. Not that The Captain is a poor class, just that given the game is a lot about beating monsters and baddies to death, a better choice is the Champion. The free account allows two characters to be created so after a while with El Capitano I started again with a Champion and immediately noticed the difference in battle – where the Captain rallies others and demoralises the enemy making him better in a team, the Champion just twats the daylight out of anyone daft enough to stand in front of him which is perfect for lone exploring in a MMO (and better fits my clumsy gaming style if I’m honest 🙂 )
The character creation was a breeze – all the customisations beyond body/head/hair type are in game meaning you can be up and running in a minute or two if you know what race & class you are going for. If not there are extensive notes and even videos for each to help you choose – but choose wisely as they can’t be changed and a free account can only create two characters. Take a look under “Getting Started” here for some excellent help: http://lotro.mmorsel.com/. For my second choice I plumped for a male Man and made him a Champion from Dale (I’ve always felt an affinity to the North of Tolkien’s Middle Earth… but then I *am* from the North of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth) and made him a wee bit Viking-ish. From here the next step was to actually jump on in and start playing. I have read that each of the four races (Man, Elf, Hobbit & Dwarf) have their own starting point/town & storyline (I’ve only played a Man so far and can’t say, but I intend to play at least one of each to soak up the scenery and all the quests on offer) and as a Man you start out near a Bree-land hamlet called Archet where you help Strider rescue some Hobbits caught by brigands for the Nazgul looking for Frodo and the ring(1) before coming to the aid of Archet itself.
The first part, the Hobbit saving, is just a training exercise to get you used to basic moving, interacting & fighting and as the end as the Hobbits are saved you end up going to the town of Archet where your tasks and quests begin. Quest structure seems standard fare – talk to people who ask you to run errands which result in rewards and experience points being awarded. Along the way you fight various beasts or bad guys for more XP and loot until you can level up and improve your character’s stats, etc. Of course there is a little more to it than that as there are various ‘degrees’ of quests with some being designed to help your character learn things like skills and hobbies, some designed to keep you interested in the game and to level up, and with some being part of the actual “epic” storyline. Each help you level up in one way or another but you’ll be unsurprised to hear that levelling up hold no interest for me – I want to be part of the various story lines (not just the ‘epic’ arc of the game itself, but the smaller local dramas unfolding in the towns you visit. I also wanted to be interacting with other (real) people so I could join up with a group and play with them – but more of that in a bit.
So far so good – with the Hobbits saved & basic training done, Archet proved to be a well paced training ground where you can get to grips with the flow of tasks, the UI, combat, skills training and a ton of other things to get your head around. It’s testament to the company & testers behind the game that at no point in this did I feel over-whelmed or under-skilled as I had done in Call of Duty: Black Ops. In that game I quickly lost interest as all that happened was my constant, repetitive (& boring) pwnage whereas in LOTRO I *didn’t* get my arse handed to me in a basket yet I still felt a frisson of danger with every fight. Also worthy of a note is that the company behind the game (Turbine) are quite adept at giving goodies to you to encourage you but then also lead you to their online store where you can spend your real life moolah with them. Case in point being the horse whistle you get after the Battle of Archet (see below) that calls a stead to you enabling faster travel – only it runs out after 24 RL hours and whilst you *can* get by without a horse, travel in Middle-Earth is certainly faster and (even) more gorgeous on horseback. So kerching! Here’s four English pounds for one of your basic Bree-land ponies, Mr Turbine… oooohhh look at his lovely mane… look at it! It’s lovely!
But back to Archet, which proves to be a town in a great deal of trouble – Blackwold brigands are set to strike but the town constable isn’t in the mood for listening to doom-mongers like you & Strider and so it falls to you to pull various people together in an attempt to save the town. This sees you running about town and out in the countryside (killing wolves and giant spiders and other insects as you go, not to mention a few surly brigands for good measure) until you finally find yourself standing in the burning town fighting for your life. It seems these set pieces are created just for you so I didn’t see any other players in the battle (or in the saving of the Hobbits) where as the section in between (pre-battle) and afterwards (post-battle) was full of other people all running hither and non, all on the same quests as you, all figuring out how the hell things worked just like you and it was here, after the battle, I met my first friend who turned out to be an oldbie running a new av (sorry, character 😀 ). Lirwen, or rather her typist, has been in the game since the beta-testing days and as such a brilliant help to me as I blundered about and only managed to survive fights with blind luck rather than any actual skill. She started a Fellowship with me (A temporary group of adventuring friends – I’m still reading up about Fellowships & Kinships so I’m not too sure what the differences are yet) and came adventuring with me through the final stages of the Archet quests before we moved on to the larger town of Combe together. I’ll cover Combe later but it’s fair to say that I wouldn’t have had half as much fun in LOTRO if I hadn’t have met Lirwen (and if Lirwen hadn’t have been so patient with my noobness! 😀 )
So there you have it, my first day or two in the game and I’m a fan. Having been in SL for so long does help, but really they are very different beasts. One odd think I have yet to figure out is why I can not stand a cluttered UI in SL, yet the huge bastard screen art that passes for LOTRO’s UI doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Very strange.
In my next post about LOTRO I’ll tell you a little about Combe and my adventures with Lirwen – we are planning to do the next ‘epic’ quest together tonight (another great thing about LOTRO is that I chose a European server so most of the folks using it are in my timezone. Imagine that – people from my part of the world online at the same time as me and *not* just stood somewhere in another bloody dance!
(1) It’s worth saying at this point that unlike the old ICE MERP books I played through in various kitchens as a squeaky voiced youth, this online game is set very much in the universe & time of the Lord of The Rings books and the designers have been very clever to write you into the plot in such a way as you get to meet and interact with key members of The Fellowship. You help with missions that happen ‘off camera’ in the book, some mentioned or hinted at, some made up but fitting with the logic of the original storyline. So it is that as a Man you are asked to save Hobbits captured in error and thwart the Witch King’s attempts to locate the ring and destroy the old lands of Eriador. You can see a map of these places here: http://dynmap.ruslotro.com/.