As LOTRO celebrates its 10th anniversary, many have decided to share their personal experiences with the game. It’s funny how difficult it can be to summarize the complex relationship you share with your favorite games. As I tried to wrap words around the three (or thereabouts) years that I actively played LOTRO, It became apparent that I would have to organize it into several different sections to adequately segment the different phases I experienced for the purposes of concise communication.
My experience with LOTRO can probably best be described as a three-act play. When I first created my character, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but I knew a grand adventure lay ahead. As I ran around Archet, killing boars and wolves with the two or three skills bestowed upon a baby hunter, I was unwittingly developing a future nostalgia for that area. The music, especially, still puts me in a peaceful state of mind. The snapping sound of a quickshot skill and the groan of a dying boar take me back to those fantastic days, anticipating learning a new skill every couple of levels. When the tutorial lay behind and Combe lied ahead. Crafting? What is that? I can make my own stuff? Kinship? Sure I’ll join, why not? No research needed, I’m sure. Wait, you mean there’s more? What’s this immense city before me? Bree? Wow, look at all of the other players! As with most games, the most exciting part of LOTRO for me was during the first act, when I was still learning the landscape, the systems, and the many different ways to progress. The possibilities seemed endless. The game was so rich with content, much of it still undiscovered to me.
During the “first act”, I managed to talk three of my “real life” friends into playing the game with me. We formed a tiny kindship and enjoyed leveling up into the 30’s or 40’s together. It was great. We’d catch each other online several nights a week, and then talk strategy and share verbal experiences when we’d see each other outside of the game. During this timeframe I talked my wife into creating a minstrel, and we started dou-ing together. I brought her up to speed on many aspects of the game, but she quickly surpassed me in both level and ability. However, as we all approached level 50, it became clear that we were going to need the help of some more experienced players if we wanted to explore some of the more advanced group content. Our tank, Shouse, had randomly grouped with some hunters doing landscape content and decided to join their kinship. The kin was called The Mallahdrim Defenders and boasted a handful of mid to late-range players who were friendly and who occasionally grouped for small instances and skirmishes. Agreeing that we needed to be a part of a larger group, I somewhat reluctantly disbanded our small kin and joined the Mallahdrim Defenders along with my wife and two other members of my “real life” circle.
The second act of my LOTRO experience begins as we joined the Defenders. Members introduced me to small group content, helped me through Moria, and eventually rode over the plains of Rohan with me, downing war bands on our newly earned steeds. Act 2 was my heyday in LOTRO. I now knew how to play the game, had spun up several alts, and had cranked through Hytbold in order to earn, for the first time, the best PVE gear available. Yeah, the dailies were kind of a pain, and sure, killing off war chief Bugud several times a night was repetitive, but we were doing it together. Eventually, I started to look for ways to continue to expand the my enjoyment of LOTRO. Even as members of my real-life crew stopped logging in on a nightly, weekly, or even monthly basis, I became an officer within the kinship. I created a kin site to help us stay connected and organized outside of the game. I joined LOTRO Players, and started blogging and podcasting. I wrote hunter guides and documented travel maps. I connected with other prominent members of the LOTRO community. Although never much of a role player, I showed up at Weatherstock, the Fellowship Walk, the whole bit. I did several YouTube videos with my kids. And it was all incredible. I made some amazing friends during this time, and tried things that I never had the courage to try before. When a new update came out, the more consistent members of the kin would log in every night until we were once again caught up to cap. And then, even when we were caught up, we’d log in to run Iorbar’s peak, or The School, or Library, or just to see how everybody else was doing. I might make some obnoxious pun in kin chat to distract people from a wretched night of crafting. One night, I got a PM from Rolfkrage asking if I could help a PUG he’d joined finish up The Rift. Our kin had attempted to complete the Rift a couple of times, but could never get past the final stage before the nagging urge to sleep overcame us. What transpired that night can only be described as my largest single accomplishment in LOTRO. Not only did we take down the Balrog Thaurlach, but my bow struck the deciding blow! It was a night long remembered by….well, probably just me.
The third act begins as I started to tire of many aspects of the game. The repetitiveness of questing. The constant yammering on the forums. The lack of community involvement by Turbine. Fun turned to obligation. If I didn’t log in for a few days, would others stop logging in as well? As an officer, shouldn’t I be available? Why can’t we recruit any new players that stick with the kin? If we’re not growing, are we slowly dying? Is the whole game slowly dying? Can I continue podcasting if I’m no longer playing the game? What if I miss a piece of news? It all became too much to worry about. In the end, I did slowly fade away, like so many before me had done. There was a feeling of sadness, but also of relief. Act three is when I rode into the sunset, content that my experiences and contributions had come to an end.
I miss acts 1 and 2, but it’s not the game I miss. It’s excitedly explaining a new discovery to my real-life friends. It’s taking down a boss with my kinmates for the first time. It’s bantering with the co-hosts of LOTRO Players, before, during, and after the podcast. It’s catching up with someone in kin chat. The things I miss about the game aren’t really about the game at all. They’re about the people who play the game. The people are what make an MMO great. Not the graphics, nor the size of the landscape, nor the dungeon design. The people.
Thank you, LOTRO, for being the medium through which I could meet and get to know all of these amazing people.