Happy Being A Part Of It

September 21, 2010

Some people like to avoid crowds, but not me. I love them. Maybe it’s a preference I developed from living in big cities practically all my life. From Bangkok to Hong Kong, Toronto to Shanghai, these places were always crawling with humanity no matter the time of day, and I find myself feeling a little awkward and out-of-place now in the tranquil quiet of suburbia. Not surprisingly, I am the same way with my games. There’s only one thing worse for me than having to live with the belligerent riffraff of a bad community, and that is having no community to live with at all. The thought of going out into an MMO world encountering next to nobody is a depressing thought, and I’ve stopped playing games before on the sole basis of having no one to play with.

So while some were staying away from Lord of the Rings Online hoping to wait out the flow of F2P players, I braved the server queues (which thankfully weren’t all that bad even at peak times) and couldn’t wait to jump right in to try and take advantage of the population increase.

I’ve only experienced benefits, much to my pleasant surprise. In the last week, I’ve had no problems finding groups, and not a single encounter that made me cringe. People are still spontaneously role-playing and making music and all that good stuff for no reward but the experiences’ sake. In all areas and especially the early zones, I see helpful answers in the Advice chat. In other words, nothing’s really changed. If anything, more people on the Landroval server have meant good things for my little Hobbit Minstrel, who has gained so much experience from all the group quests.

I’ve always thought of an online gaming community as a fragile thing, difficult to cultivate but extremely easy to destroy, not something you can fine-tune. Perhaps that’s why most MMO communities today are utter crap. But LOTRO has surprised me with the way its adapted to the influx of people so swimmingly. When it comes down to it, I truly believe the players shoulder the bigger responsibility. Developers can only do so much to provide the tools to encourage a good community, and maybe intervene occasionally to weed out the unwanted behaviors. The problem is, there are tons of ways to punish the bad but not enough ways to reward the good, especially when it’s those good behaviors that are the grassroots of a great community.

That’s where I think the players come in. Apathy is what erodes away a community’s foundation, people pointing fingers or counting on someone else to take care of the problem. Too many are also quick to call someone an asshole or do unsavory things, and then turn right around and wonder why the community is so piss-poor when someone else decides to call them names or act like a jackass. On the other hand, you can definitely see a difference when enough people  take the time to care. One of the reasons the community on Landroval is such a good one is because its members take such great pride in it. You can read it in the forums and you can feel it in the game. There’s a sense of personal responsibility and self-discipline without being overly prudish or stuffy, and I think it’s an awareness that spreads to everyone who comes on board.

In the end, what we have around us is what we make of it. I’m looking forward to spending more time in-game and in my new kinship, going forward with F2P LOTRO.


  1. I was afraid the community would take a nose dive as well. However it simply hasn’t happened on my server. In fact, for all their reputation as being cesspools, I have have yet to find a particularly bad community in any FtP MMO I’ve tried. LoTRO certainly has an above average community in my experience, but it seems like the community will at least be decent in any MMO that isn’t WoW.

    • The really bad experience I had with F2P community was Allods. What I saw and heard in the first few weeks just made me completely sick. It wasn’t just apathy or rudeness, people were actually pointedly encouraging each other to act like dickwads in chat, people advising each other to kill steal instead doing the logical thing which was to group up. Advancing into the higher level zones only alleviated it a little.

      • Allods definitely had a craptastic community near launch. I forgot about that one, I think I blotted it from my mind 🙂

  2. I usually find that bad portions of community come from PUGs or hardcore end game players. not from people just randomly trying out the game. that’s me though. but it doesn’t surprise me LOTRO is benefiting not suffering from f2p

    • Myself, I’ve actually played some games in the past where that’s actually happened. Usually it’s while the game is still new, and I’ll inevitably see a few people who seem to be there for no other reason than to tell everyone else how much they think the game sucks. I really can’t understand that. Though I agree, LOTRO doesn’t seem to be the kind of MMO that would attract those types.

  3. So far it’s been very pleasant for me. Lots of helpful advice and really not much in the ways of people being rude. I am thoroughly enjoying myself. The game seems really alive too, which is nice.

    What’s your name, in game? I’d like to add you to friends 😀

    • Ahh you know what, I should have asked you for yours ages ago too, I keep forgetting *smacks forehead* Anyway, my hobbit is Kiskadee. Add me up and let me know if you ever need any help!

  4. I completely agree – and I think that the reason LotRO has done so well with the shift is because it started out with a community that was, shall we say, overall more mature BEFORE going F2P. The existing community will set the tone for incoming players, and if existing players are treated with respect and welcomed to the game in a warm manner, they are more likely to continue that kind of behavior. Unsavory players will be ostracized and quickly leave because they are clearly unwelcomed.

    I have to admit, I was a little nervous, but apparently for no reason. Things on Vilya have been great, and it’s really nice to see the older areas filled with players again.

    • Couldn’t have said it better myself. There’s something said for pride in maintaining the community as well, and it’s a cycle that propagates itself as long as people still care.

  5. The community just seems so much more “mature” in Lotr on my server. It’s so nice to see a starter area with toons bustling around. People coming up and helping others finish off a kill and then going about their business. What a nice change from the goofy behavior I see in other games.

    BTW: I’m kinda confused on how mounts work in the game. Are they just rentals the whole game? (in the cash shop they last 5days or 30 days etc)I’ve tried googling it, but I still can’t wrap my head around it.

    • LOTRO does feel like it has a more mature playerbase. And I’ve noticed a lot of helping too, and grouping up to share a kill, I haven’t experienced any of of the “Me! Me! Me!” mentality.

      As for the mounts, I’m not sure. I didn’t really notice the cash shop, since I’m still a VIP member, but I gotta look into that sometime. 5 days or 30 days? It does kinda sound like a “rental” system.

  6. I’m a long-time Lotro player… haven’t played in the f2p era though… ran out of end game content (which, unless you are into pvp, is the only real flaw with an otherwise tremendous game.)

    Mounts traditionally are just like in WoW (except less fanciful.) You train em at 20+ & buy them for a pretty fair bit of cash.

    I understand you can rent mounts at the store now too, and I also hear you can buy some very nice faction mounts permanently for cash (a poor choice on turbine’s part imo.)

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