What goes on behind closed doors…

By Evan Schrager

In the extended version of Lord of the Rings, The Green Dragon is a loud and merry bar full of cheerful hobbits. It’s an uplifting experience watching Merry and Pipin jump around the table belting out their song. Everyone is cheering them on, and the mood is very happy and wild. You are watching as if you were standing inside the bar cheering them on along with the audience.

On the other hand, The Green Dragon in LOTRO was a mild disappointment when we arrived. It was empty and seemed almost abandoned, aside from the tavern keep and another straggling hobbit. The point of view is interesting though, because you get to control your avatar. You can run to one side of the bar, and back to the other. You can talk to the tavern keep, and leave and come back in. It just happens to be empty when you enter-who knows what goes on inside when you leave?

In Chapter 2, Sam and Ted Sandyman, the miller’s son, had a friendly argument in the Green Dragon about the strange things happening around the Shire. Ted Sandyman represented the general population of hobbits that wished to ignore all the strange happenings.  ‘Ah, you do if you listen. But I can hear fireside-tales and children’s stories at home, if I want.’ Ted is referring to the “queer” events that have taken place. He makes an assertion that talking about such things is unnecessary and frightening. Hobbits enjoy themselves, and make sure above all else, that they are happy and satisfied. Merry and Pipin’s table dance in the movie also shows the hobbits’ ignorance to the dangers that were about to unfold.

Jim’s point about imagination in relation to LOTRO makes a lot of sense to me. If you want to really experience the game as if it were real life, you must use your imagination. When you are out completing your Epic Quests, maybe the workers and the Logging Camp aren’t cutting wood anymore. Maybe they went to sleep! Maybe they are drinking ale at The Green Dragon! Who knows!? It is Middle Earth-each and every citizen has a life, and hobbies, just like Tolkien describes. Sam likes to garden, Frodo enjoys a walk in the woods, and Bilbo enjoys an adventure. I really like the refrigerator analogy as well, because while we know that the button controls the light, we can still imagine what’s going on inside. LOTRO allows the player to make what he/she wants to out of their experience. You can power level your character to 50, or you can experience the life of a citizen in Middle Earth at your own pace. Taking it slow really allows you to absorb the reality of Middle Earth as a world. It differs from the novel in that you can see it first hand, instead of creating a picture in your mind. Neither perspective is better- they just present the world in a different way.

“Imagine if you will…”

~By Jim B. on 09/25/08

The Green Dragon, as we read about it in the novel and see it in the film, seems to be a lively pub frequented by the busily gossiping residents of Hobbiton and Bywater after a hard day’s work. When you visit it in LOTRO though, you might be let down just a bit. Sure, you can see the room is pub-esque, but from a first impression it doesn’t exactly live up to its counterparts in the other media; the crowd of chatting hobbits is replaced by a small group quietly talking in a corner. Indeed, you might ask, where is the pub-itude ?!

Well, luckily I happen to have an answer to that question. Probably not the right answer, but I like it. Anyways, I’m going to compare the LOTRO Green Dragon to a common household fridge – yes, you heard me right… Small children are sometimes confused as to what happens to the light inside the fridge when you close the door. They’ll repeatedly open and close the door, trying to get a peek of what it looks like inside the fridge when they can’t see inside. Some of these children discover the small button that the door closes on top of and realize that it controls the light. The rest of the children are (bad pun alert) left in the dark. As far as they know, any number of spectacular things could be happening inside their fridge while they’re not looking.

And this is where my analogy comes into play. I invite you, as we in English 115F often enjoy doing, to “imagine if you will” that the Green Dragon of LOTRO is but a common household fridge… While your character is inside – that is, when the fridge door is open – nothing seems to be going on. But step outside the pub; close that fridge door. Now that your eyes and ears aren’t telling you that the pub is too quiet, you are free to pretend that it’s every bit as lively as it was in the film or the novel. Nifty, eh ? But it doesn’t end there. See that NPC standing over there ? Yeah, that one, wearing the straw hat and the apron. Just watch her for a few minutes.

Are you going to tell me that she is always standing in that same spot, no matter what time it is in Middle Earth ? That seems awfully boring. Let’s fix it: wrap up whatever business you may have with her, and then move on to another location. Now imagine she’s gone inside her house to do whatever it is that hobbit NPCs like to do when no one’s looking (fill in the blank yourself if you want, but let’s try to keep this PG). Problem solved.

A major part of enjoying a game is understanding that, once in a while, it’s necessary to supplement what you can see and hear with your own creativity. NPCs have to be confined to a single spot or predetermined path in order to be accessible to anyone at any time. A creative player can get around this and make the story more believable. And that’s funny: using imagination to make something more realistic. Another thought to ponder I guess.