Going With The Flow In The LOTRO CommunityJune 8, 2010
I logged in to Lord of the Rings Online yesterday, the first time I’ve done so since the news on Friday that the game was going free-to-play this fall. I was curious to see if the announcement and all the buzz would have brought some renewed interest to the game, and well, it could have been my imagination but the Landroval server did seem a little busier than normal last night. Still, discussion on the matter was sparse, and for the most part it was business as usual.
As always, I had quite a relaxing play session. Like I’d mentioned before, LOTRO is my virtual spa where I can de-stress and do things at my own pace, and I think this no-pressure feeling has a lot to do with the community. At least on Landroval, I get the general sense that the playerbase is serious and dedicated to the game, but not obsessive.
It’s hard to explain, but I contrast it to logging into World of Warcraft, a game where I feel like I’m hit in the face with a sense of urgency right from the get-go. The atmosphere is charged with it, because most of the people in WoW storm through the game world with only one thing on their minds: to get to end-game. I think about the implications of that. For instance, it’s quite possible that a person may be affected by the overall mood of a community, be swept up and carried along with its undercurrents. I know for a fact that when I log in to WoW on my main, I am immediately fighting with a sense of being left behind if I don’t get right back on that treadmill. Sometimes, when I find myself in a competitive mood, I actually like that…but WoW is certainly not the game I’d go to for a relaxing escape.
On the other hand, I get none of that urgency in LOTRO. In fact, most people on Landroval don’t seem in a hurry to get anywhere at all. I know this might have something to do with a significant role-playing population, but in general, the feeling I get from this community is that it’s okay to have goals, but it’s also totally cool to take a break every once in a while and smell the roses. Sometimes, I too get pulled into this lull without even realizing it, but when it happens I’m always glad for it.
I think about the many times I’ve charged into an inn armed with a determination to level and half a dozen quests to turn in, only to be distracted by someone playing a gorgeous little tune in the corner by the fireplace. Aaarrgh, player music gets me every time! And I’m sure I’m not the only one — invariably, a small gathering always forms around the musician, other people who have decided to take a few minutes out of their schedules to show their appreciation.
I’ve come to love that about LOTRO, the fact that people will spontaneously engage in social activities that offer no tangible reward or in-game achievements, or that they do things just for the experience’s sake and nothing else. And this is the aspect of the community that I really hope will remain intact once the game goes F2P. Most opinions I’ve read are generally optimistic, and I’d say I’m in that boat as well, despite my concerns. A game’s playerbase has a way of adapting and coping to big changes, and I have no doubt LOTRO’s will survive. Playing last night, however, made me ponder the fragile nature of a community, and how its quality goes beyond just player manners or content in zone chat.
Anyway, inspired to take a little break from the leveling grind myself, I took a good chunk of time off from questing last night to decorate my house. As you can see, it’s no longer just a bed in an empty room. I had enough money to afford all kinds of furniture for Kiskadee’s sleeping chambers, though the main room and the front yard is still quite bare. I think it’s time to start thinking about other ways to acquire furnishings for my little hobbit.