Spare a thought for the devs who spend hundreds of man hours thinking up names for all of those quest rewards, reputation items, trash drops, and other widgets that players will take one look at, say ‘enh’ and immediately sell back to the vendor.
There was a time when a simple “sword +1” was enough to get any regular D&D player to bounce up and down on their seats with excitement. Even a dragon’s hoard might have no more than two or three magical items, and there was a good chance that one of those would be cursed. That simple “+1” held a wealth of meaning.
An item that was actually named was the stuff of legend (not counting player-named items which usually went by something basic like ‘kobold slayer’ or ‘my favourite axe’). In fact, giving players a named item was a hint that possibly adventures might ensue if they wanted to investigate the item’s history and lore.
By the time MMOs took off, players wanted something more (or less, depending on your definition). Giving a fancy name to a quest reward made it feel more important, even if the item was stolidly non-magical, and there was never any chance for the player to find out how the item got its name.
LOTRO devs have an even trickier job because many of the items in that game are named in Tolkeinesque languages.
Many, but not all. This is Arbitrary’s Banner of Hope. Who knew Captains got the ‘cynical’ trait?
This naming of quest items and random drops has been on my mind while playing LOTRO because the trash drop naming in Mirkwood is decidedly odd. In fact, creatures and monsters in a murky marshes and dimly lit ancient forests seem to drop bizarrely gorgeous trash. (I think they share loot tables with the Lothlorien mobs, where it is still odd but slightly more comprehensible.)
I’m not entirely sure what to make of this as a player.
Gorgeous twigs, gorgeous bark, and gorgeous heartwood. They didn’t look especially gorgeous to me, but maybe I’ve made a terrible mistake. Maybe that tree was gorgeous on the inside all along.
This pattern is mirrored for spiders (gorgeous webs), cats (gorgeous paws), and just about every other creature in the area. So maybe someone just likes the word gorgeous? Or elves just think that everything is gorgeous anyway …
Mirkwood vs Angmar
I’m really enjoying my travels through Mirkwood. The LOTRO team has learned a lot about quest layout since the game was launched and while it isn’t as fancy as WoW’s phasing and vehicles, the flow and the storylines are generally excellent. There’s a nice mix of kill quests, scouting quests (brilliant fun for a stealther like me), collection quests, and exploration, with the odd group quest that you can save up for later when a friend is around. The links into the lore and to the LOTRO story are well done and interesting.
I’m on a hunt to find Gollum in Mirkwood at the moment – even though as the player I know he’s probably off with Frodo et al, it’s still fun to find out first hand how the rangers get all their information and work together across Middle Earth.
Another place the game has improved from launch is in the zone design and artwork. I’m comparing a few shots below from Mirkwood, and from Angmar which was the original high end zone.
These are shots from Mirkwood. What I love about the zone is the quality of the light. It is all quite murky and even tends to be brownish, but it is also a very inviting area to explore.
And these are taken from shots in Angmar. Yes, it is supposed to be a barren zone, but riding around there was soul destroying (and not in a good, immersive way). It’s all very brown and yellow and tedious, even when they vary the pallette.
And in which my skirmish minion does me proud
I have struggled with skirmishes on my burglar. I love the concept and I like the skirmishes, but damn if they aren’t hard work for me. It’s a struggle when your character relies on crowd control to handle more than one mob and the CC either breaks or doesn’t apply to the mobs in the skirmish. Not to mention when the NPCs joyfully break any crowd control which you do successfully apply.
But recently, as I was able to sink more marks into improving my skirmish minion, it seems to have been paying off. He’s a dwarf guardian (ie. a tank), the idea being that he could tank mobs while I killed them. This took some practice for both of us, I was never sure he was all that keen to tank, and I certainly wasn’t.
But looking at us now, it’s like poetry in motion. And every time he taunts (the correct mob), I want to cheer.
This is me attacking skirmish mobs while Oddi the dwarf gets in their face with his shield. Go team!