Thoughts on The Lord of the Rings Online

I have to admit, straight out, that I hate the idea of this game as an MMO. 

There, I said it.

Furthermore, in the interest of complete openness I will disclose my answers to several questions on the “Tolkien Nerdiness Quiz” which I just made up:

-Owns multiple copies of the books (yes, 3 sets)
-Owns The Silmarillion (two copies, one of which matches one of the above sets)
-Has actually read The Silmarillion from cover to cover (more than once if you count audio books)
-Owns any of the Lost Tales books (two, in paperback)
-Has had a character in an MMO with a name that could be found in the appendix of “The Return of the King” (yes, I admit it)
-Has read rec.arts.books.tolkien with any regularity for a period over one year (yes, circa 1997-2001)
-Has posted to rec.arts.books.tolkien (no, never, I swear! I lurked, but I did not inhale!)
-Has opinions on balrog wings, Glorfindel, and the pointedness of elf ears (no “real” wings, same elf in both tales, not pointed)
-Has laughed out loud while reading the Tolkien Sarcasm Page (yes, “Saruman’s Diary” kills me)
-Has made up quizzes to show how much one knows (or does not know) about Tolkien’s work (just this one)

You might thus expect me to hold the purist line on Middle Earth, but I do not. I do not hate the idea of the game merely because it might seem a sacrilege against all that is holy.  After all, I got through the Peter Jackson movies without much pain.

I suppose I could live with the idea of Middle Earth with people shouting “LF1M For Barrows!”  “Need Healer for Moria!” and “Can somebody give me 10 farthings?”  A Middle Earth where thousands of hobbits roam the countryside in search of adventure, where elven loot whores are common, and where the real estate values in Minas Tirith are always at a pre-siege low.

What I really hate is the idea that an MMO, a persistent online world, is going to exist, unending, during the time frame of the first book of The Lord of the Rings.  The site for Lord of the Rings Online says in the FAQ that you may interact with the fellowship and many other important characters. 

My mind rebels at the thought. 

It is a story.  A linear tale where time progresses.  Will Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin be forever sitting in the Prancing Pony? Will Gandalf spend an eternity handing out quests and intoning some plot points on the road to Rivendale?  Or will there be multiple versions of these important characters, so you can simulate time travel?  Will it be, “Didn’t I just see those guys just outside Moria?  What are they doing back in Bree now?”

If they left out the major characters and just let you go about the world of Middle Earth at the end of the Third Age, I would be fine with it.  But to try to mingle the story with a persistent world just strikes me as wrong.

Maybe the developers have all of that covered.  Maybe they have a slick way to make my issues goes away. I don’t know.

And in a sense it is no different that most other MMOs.  No matter what you do, the world around you remains is unchanged. In Azeroth and Norrath the calendar moves forward but the conflicts remain the same.  But in Azeroth and Norrath you don’t wander around the with the knowledge that some short guy is supposed to end the game by destroying a drop from a low level instance. 

Anyway, I write from a position of ignorance when it comes to the game itself, so if you want to point me at something that will alleviate (or aggravate) my fears, please feel free!