I like trying new things, at least in terms of video games. (Definitely not in terms of food. If you ever have the pleasure of dining with me, you’ll find my ordering to be very boring.) Over the past two and a half years, mostly working with Beckett, I’ve had the chance to try a lot of new MMORPGs and have been exposed to a lot of new ideas, both in games that have launched (like Rift and SWTOR) and games yet to come (like Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World). I’ve had less time — and, for the past few months, less inclination — to play LOTRO. The expansion held my interest for about two months, but after the update in November, I’ve been very down on the game. It’s the same old thing: push to max level so you can sit around and run the same instances over and over. Combine that with my kinship breaking up about a month ago and my interest in the game has been at an all-time low. According to Raptr, I’ve played for only 20 hours in the last month. Eight of those hours have come in the last week, however, as I’ve dipped a toe into raiding with my new kinship, and last night I spent two hours doing the most dull of dull tasks: daily quests. And the funny thing is, I kinda liked it.
Apart from an initial strong surge, my interest in all the new games I mentioned seems to have petered out as the months wore on, and I can barely play them for more than an hour or two at a stretch before I feel bored or tired and want to move on. But for some reason, I’m still able to sit around twiddling my virtual thumbs in LOTRO, or occasionally actually doing something interesting, for longer stretches, and I’m trying to puzzle my way through that paradox. MMOs are changing, as what people want in an MMO changes, and many of the games that were released in the last five years just wouldn’t cut it in today’s environment, LOTRO included. Maybe now I’m finally figuring out why World of Warcraft players are still playing their game, even with all the new advances in quest design, character development, and graphics that newer games promise.
For all its faults and rapidly-becoming-antiquated gameplay, LOTRO feels like that old shoe that you can slip into and feel instantly comfortable in, for me at least. A part of me feels that I shouldn’t still like it, that I should embrace the new and do away with the old if it no longer meets my needs. It feels “wrong,” in a sense, and I still don’t actually know if I still like the game or if I just play it because it feels “easy.” That might be it, in fact… when I’m trying to figure out if I want to play Easy Mode or Hard Mode in the future, maybe instead of choosing which difficulty level to set a mission or instance in a particular game, I’ll choose which game to play.
The other big issue I’ve been having lately is a lack of passion. I haven’t had the same kind of passion in LOTRO lately as I did in its first three years, and I’ve been wondering if I’ll ever have that kind of passion for an MMO again. Will there be a game that I want to play for several hours a day, every day, for months and months? For me, LOTRO was that game for the better part of three years, until we ran into the wall that was Barad Guldur (my pick for the worst instance in the game) around the early part of 2010. I’m hopeful that Guild Wars 2 can re-ignite that passion and make me want to play it for a long time.
The world itself might play some part in that; for half an hour last night, I just rode around, enveloping myself in the Tolkien-y goodness of the game’s newbie zones. I watched a trio of NPC hobbits converse for a while, one of them eventually convincing another that his cousin was an elf. (Touches like this are one of the reasons, I think, LOTRO has become more dull in recent years. The game has become too rigidly task-oriented since Moria while lacking much of the flavor of earlier content.) No virtual game world can match the deep lore of Middle-earth, Tyria included, but I’ve absorbed myself enough in the lore of Guild Wars 2 that I can hopefully develop enough of an affection for it that I want to spend time in the game even when I’m not really doing anything useful. If so, that’ll probably be about as good an indication as anything that the developers did something right.