My first experiences with Lord of the Rings Online have been rather boring. I have not yet gotten to the Epic Book 1 quests but I did complete the Prologue Quests. Just like any other game, LOTRO uses the prologue quests to get the player acclimated to the game. For some people this is certainly helpful but for others it is just boring and tedious. I have very little experience with MMO’s, but even I found myself paying very little attention to what I was doing during the Prologue Quests. The quests themselves did not provide all that much action or excitement. I found myself leading my character around to various people and talking to them about things I didn’t care about. I was bored most of the time with the tedious and repetitive tasks I was presented with. Even when I strayed from the quests to go kill some wolves, the game could only keep me entertained for so long. I want instant gratification and excitement from a game and the Prologue Quests did not provide this for me.
The quests were clearly designed to introduce the story behind the game as well as the controls and various aspects to the game. As a player, I had read the LOTR book and watched the movie. I had a pretty good idea of where I was and what was going on. Also, my experience with gaming made it very easy to figure out how to play the game with very minimal help from the game itself. I found myself being forced to do various activities with my character that I didn’t want to do. I understood the concepts of learning skills, using skills, attacking enemies, talking to characters and so on and so forth. Undoubtedly the prologue serves a role of great importance to new and inexperienced games, but for me it just proved to be tedious. I wanted to complete the prologue quests and get them out of the way. Granted they did not take any more than an hour, but still they left me with a bad first impression of the game.
As for the quests and their relation to Tolkien’s world, I think there are many similarities. The most obvious of these similarities are the races, the characters, and the landscape in which you play. All these are taken directly from Tolkien because after all the game is based on Tolkien’s work. A further similarity can be drawn to the Hobbit Prologue Quests. Here the player begins in the shire just as Tolkien’s story begins with Bilbo Baggins in the shire. The game play itself begins to shift away from Tolkien’s world as the action begins. Tolkien must begin his writing by describing all the various aspects of the new world he is depicting. In the game however, the character is instantly immersed into the landscape and everything can be seen through the gamers’ eyes. There is no need for words or descriptions as a constant visual is provided. The player is instantly in control and can do as he or she chooses. The player is not being influenced and directed by Tolkien’s words, but now rather the player is in control and making a story for himself.
Another interesting comparison between Tolkien’s world and LOTRO is the way in which both initially develop. Tolkien describes the world he has created with his words. Any reader would be totally unfamiliar with Middle Earth and its inhabitants, so Tolkien must devote many words to describing these things. In a similar way, the designers of LOTRO assume that a new gamer has no idea what he or she is doing. So the designers put the Prologue Quests in to familiarize a new player with what the game has in store for them. Both “introductions”, although very different, are also similar in that they both try to create comfort and familiarity with something that may be new or unusual.
Perhaps it is because I just don’t like MMO’s in general, but I did not enjoy my first experiences with LOTRO. While doing the Prologue Quests I just wanted to be fully immersed in the game. I wanted instant satisfaction and a chance to win but with LOTRO this is not possible. It is a long, winding road to the top and I do not think this is a road I want to travel. I enjoy games that I can become good at and win at quickly. I do not like having to put extensive time and effort into games to become good at them. I especially do not like this when it comes to games like LOTRO where time and effort are more important than skill. Judging by the Prologue Quests and my prior knowledge of what MMO’s are I know it will take a lot of time and game play to improve my character. This is not my type of game and it is not something I can see myself playing much beyond what is needed for class.
World of Workcraft – WoW video
By Dan Nockels
Without a doubt the corporate ownership of an MMO effects the narrative experience. To what extent? Corporate ownership of MMOs makes the online gaming experience of a narrative, as we know it possible.
Without the massive resources and commitment of the corporation the MMO would not be stable or cohesive. The grandeur of the spectacle and lack of bugs in an MMO does not necessarily influence narrative qualities of the game but they substantially influence the remediation of a story. If the story were told in a contained environ them MMO would be no different than a regular video game.
Without the constant pressure of market forces, which act on corporations pushing them to improve their product so that it appeals to more people, Moms might quickly become stagnant. Absent this drive there is no reason to expand the world of the MMO and thus deepen the story. In order to appeal to a larger audience different MMOs have taken different routs. WoW expanded on its PvP aspect and added a cadre of new features regularly via patches and expanded the narrative in the expansion.
None of those things were done for any reason other than profit but they still improved the narrative experience of the consumer. Blizzard isn’t sacrificing its capital in order to create and maintain a game for the player enjoyment. The same way that a player isn’t sacrificing his monthly fee so that Blizzard can make rent this month. The only reason for a corporation or a person to do something is because they are both greedy; the person wants the game and the corporation wants the cash-money. In this case greed is good, it pushes the narrative to bold new places.
It should be noted that corporations can do it wrong such was that case with SOE when they “stupided up” Star Wars Galaxies. However with the massive exodus away from Galaxies we can see why they are motivated NOT to do stupid things. People don’t like stupid things. If you do stupid things people won’t buy from you. No money makes SOE cry. The system works.
By Colin Doberstein
For the readers out there (all three of you who are reading this instead of “World of Sexcraft?”) who doubted that these posts are assignments for a college class, here’s today’s assigned topic: “does corporate ownership of a MMO affect the narrative experience?” Yikes! Looks like we might actually learn something today. Thinking caps on, everyone…
In order to answer this question, it seems necessary to consider the alternative to corporate ownership of an MMO. If the game is not corporately owned, an individual or a small group of people is probably privately running it. Eventually, the computers themselves may run the games (just think: The Matrix Online meets The Matrix), but for now a human hand must be on the rudder of the game world.
With this in mind, how does a corporately run game differ in terms of narrative experience from one run by a single game master, possibly with the help of a small cadre of associates (the phrase “cadre of associates” makes the game’s rulers sound like James Bond villains, doesn’t it?). I don’t think that the mode of ownership makes a major difference in the narrative experience of a game, assuming “narrative experience” is defined as the interactions between players of a game and the game’s fiction. Games run by either power structure will have some kind of story for the player to progress through by interacting with a fictional game world. Both types of online overlord will take steps to keeps players playing within the rules, and while corporations have more resources to devote to this task, they also tend to have a larger player base, so the effect is likely to be the same. Due to the same advantage in resources, a corporately owned game is more likely to see regular updates and added content than a privately run MMO, but this only creates new narrative experiences rather than affecting the experience that exists. A game that was created by one person acting alone may be more sensitive to the tides of its players’ opinions, but its creator might also be even more resistant to change than a corporation since the game is the vision of that single person. Obviously, exceptions to all of the statements that I’ve made exist, but I think that who is running the game makes little difference when strictly speaking of the game’s narrative.
So, in the words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.” Hopefully we’ll have more fun next week (looking at the syllabus, I see sex is involved. This bodes well.)
By Evan Schrager
The corporate ownership of games seems to impede the narrative experience of gamers around the world, but is a necessary element to keeping the gamespaces clean and functional.
When one plays an MMO seriously, they begin to feel an emotional attachment to the game. They believe that the items and properties that they have obtained in the game belong to them. This is a normal feeling to experience, and is a core problem in the existence of MMO’s. Corporations believe that since they created the world, it is theirs to manipulate, including the possessions of all players. The conflict of ownership of in game materials is a serious issue that can send some emotional role players out of the gamespace by choice.
Another issue in corporate ownership of the games is the real life exchange of in-game currency for money. The companies have to be against this because the majority of the players in the game earned all their money and equipment, etc. They must strive to preserve the integrity of the game for the sake of the community. On the other hand, there are a small percentage of players who believe that they should be able to buy fake currency with real money. They argue that they’re simply buying the “time it takes to make that money.” To make it illegal, the corporation assumes ownership of all money in the game, so RMTs are selling the property of the company.
While the real world doesn’t have to parallel the worlds of MMOs, the general ethics and morals of life should be present. Money shouldn’t be attainable outside of the gamespace. People shouldn’t use slander and obtrusive language when it is damaging to one’s narrative experience. If somebody decides they want to farm and/or monopolize a certain area or certain monsters, their experience can be haltered by corporations. They can deem this activity “illegal or immoral” and take action against that player. But doesn’t that player hold the right to do what he wants when he is paying monthly?
There is a line that needs to be drawn between what is right and what is wrong in a gamespace. People constantly discover loopholes in the rules of these games, and tend to enhance their experience, but hurt others’. Corporations definitely change one’s experience in both positive and negative ways. The company’s role in an MMO is to better the experience of the community as a whole, taking action against people who decide to impede the experience of others.