We are getting close to the release of the Rohan expansion for Lord of the Rings Online, and as such they are sending out more email messages promoting the expansion in addition to their weekly updates as to what is going on sale in the cash shop.
And in doing so, they start walking a dangerous path. Again.
Being based on a story, part of the charm, the vision, the very raison d’etre is to make you and your character part of that story. And so they build up the game and its connection with the story like this.
For the sake of those who cannot read the print and who refuse to click on the image to make it larger, the ad invites the player to:
- Witness the breaking of the fellowship
- Experience the fall of Boromir
- Take part in Frodo’s decision to set towards Mordor alone
- Aid Eomer in his quest to defend Rohan
Wow, get right into things! Can I hold Gandalf’s bathrobe while he reanimates?
There is the purist point of view to consider though. There is that piece of me that always cringes a bit when playing a game as free form as an MMO that is set to take place in a story that has already been written.
Now, one of the greatest aspects of the game is the attention drawn to the fact that while Frodo was off on his adventure, a lot of other stuff was going on in a world full of people not necessarily worried about magic rings. Battles were fought, towns were burned, and partisans from both sides of the conflict go in their own hits. And a lot of other people simply tried to get on with their lives feeding livestock, drying tobacco, and losing farm implements all over their fields.
But the game wouldn’t really come together as well if the whole thing was “A Day in the Life of Will Whitfoot” run repeatedly like a Middle-earth Groundhog Day. You can’t go around trying not to mention the war.
So we meet the characters from the books, Gandalf, Aragorn, Frodo, Bilbo, and so forth at various junctures when it is… safe. You talk to Gandalf and Aragorn in the Prancing Pony before Frodo and friends show up. You find yourself up at Weathertop after they have passed. And you meet up with them in Rivendell when they are recovering, a time when I am sure they met a lot of people, so what is a couple hundred thousand more?
And even then, Turbine has to keep you involved with the main story thread, even if you are just a side story. And so we get the ad pictured above. The main story is why most of us showed up, even if we end up doing other things. And I have to imagine that the claims are not literally true, that we might be treated to cut scenes illustrated at least some of those points.
Frodo’s decision to strike out for Mordor was, for example, one he made alone. Sam only showed up by accident while Gollum was lurking about… and was drawn to Frodo by the ring in any case.
So while riding with Eomer to defend Rohan might be acceptable… who knows what manner of folk he might have picked up, even if they were suspicious of strangers… the rest seem unlikely to be anything your character will witness first hand if Turbine is sticking to the story.
But it still gives me pause. It makes me wonder if they might not try an inject individual players into an instanced version of some of these events. We shall see, I suppose.
Or you might see… I am still back in Moria cleaning up all the stuff stirred up by the fellowship when they came through. I did always wonder what happened to many of these places after the main characters passed through.
As for the odd title of this post, I was inspired by an article over at Cracked.com about plot holes in classic motion pictures. The claim was that in Citizen Kane nobody was there to hear Charles Foster Kane utter his final words at the start of the film, and so that the whole search for “Rosebud” should have never come to pass.
Only that turned out to be wrong. As is almost never the case, the cliche that “the butler did it” turned out to be true.
You just cannot believe everything you read on the internet. That includes ads from game companies I am sure.
Well, LotRO does have a system of “session play” where you step into the role of a different character while somewone is telling your main character a story. They used that to put players in a dwarf guard’s shoes when the balrog was released in Moria, for example, so no reason they couldn’t do the same and give us a chance to be Boromir during his last stand.
Using Session Play to put you in the shoes of one of the main characters seems like a bad idea to me.
If you are allowed any freedom of action, you can screw things up. Boromir dances, makes rude gestures, and expends no effort at all in defending Merry and Pippin.
If you are not allowed any freedom of action, why bother putting you in that situation rather than just running a cut scene.
Has Session Play been used to put you in the place of any key characters in the story, in situations described in the books, up to this point?
“You can’t go around trying not to mention the war.”
And being hit on the head by a stuffed moose-head doesn’t help either.
@NoAstronomer – Japanese is it?
Yes, there was at least one reference that did not pass unnoticed.
I heard somewhere (Contains Moderate Peril?) that the Boromir thing is confirmed for session play, because the composer mentioned that one of his songs was for when players play Boromir. I’m assuming that the Frodo thing will be some sort of dream/Mirror of Galadriel vision, much as they handled a part of the epic story in Great River (have you played this yet?) – I’m okay with what’s in the game now, so I’m not overly worried.
As to Eomer, well, compared to having Aragorn personally send you the player off to retrieve a critical piece without which Narsil cannot be reforged, hitching a ride with Eomer’s posse isn’t much of a stretch, especially if the player shows up on their kin-of-Shadowfax warsteed (which should be some instant horse-mounted street cred).