These three entries about Lord of the Rings Online are actually some old entries I re-published because I was noticing that LOTRO is currently performing quite well on MMORPG.com’s charts and was putting some consideration towards playing myself. What’s being said here actually more pertains to my perception of LOTRO back when it was released.
One of the lead perks of alt-i-tus for me is the class balance discussions. I just love to see the interplay of the various professions the developers have designed into the game. Today, I turn my roving eye to the classes of Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar.
The funny thing about this game is the developers tried to make the class roles really simple by boiling them down into a few words, for example, “Nuker.” Nevermind how immersion-breaking that is: For whatever reason, these official roles are often inaccurate. Fortunately, a little research is all it takes to assemble an understanding closer to the truth.
I suck at this. Maybe you do too. However, there’s a lot more to it than I once thought.
Try counting from 0 to 10 to 0 again, slowly, with each count happening each time you breath out naturally. I’ll wait.
It’s a simple test, but if you’re like me, chances are you’re going to hit 11-25 a few times and realize that in the time it took you to reach 10 your mind wandered elsewhere. If you’re good, you might manage it on the first try, but at the very least you’re probably going to become aware of the difficulty keeping focused.
Focus is hard, and perhaps the most difficult truth for anyone to deal with is that it’s damn hard to truly pay attention to life. I bring this up only because paying attention is an inherent difficulty extending to everything, and this includes gaming.
I’m getting frustrated that I can sit down to a good game and suddenly notice it’s 5 hours later. Where did those five hours go, really? We say, “Time flies when you’re having fun”, but it’s really just because the mind is well occupied with what’s going on so we don’t pay attention to the passage of time.
Am I cheating myself out of the true game experience by spacing out? Am I really living during those 5 hours I spent in the game? I wish I’d paid better attention.
A major pillar of the assertion made in Raph Koster’s Theory of Fun was this: The mind, like the body (or perhaps as an extension of the body) simply doesn’t want to work. It’s in energy conservation mode all the time, preserving those precious calories it assumes are in short supply. The mind has “fun” so long as it’s learning something about the game, and then develop resistance to further study by exuding boredom.
The book is a good read, and I can appreciate that I found an accidental parallel between this and observations as to how hard paying attention really is. However, this leads me to wonder… if you’re bored of a game, are you really done with it or have you simply stopped paying attention?
Consider this: the creators of the game probably dumped hundreds of thousands of paid hours into this game. There was a lot of work put into the textures, the gameplay mechanics, the animation, the musical score, and so on. Why is our ever-foraging ego, hungry for something new, largely breaks down and ignores these factors?
In terms of evolution, one has to wonder why we play games at all. Practice of useful skills is the usual reason for play, but you won’t find any good survival skills in Pac Man. What do our roving egos expect to find in games? At what point did they cease finding it, and thus flipped the switch to stop finding the game interesting?
Food for thought.
I ran across this post the other day on the website of Chris Crawford, veteran of the game biz.
It basically says “You can either break into the industry through a trade school or get a more formal liberal arts education and then a real job. The first way is quicker, but the second way is a much more reliable method to avoid getting assigned to mere grunt jobs.”
As a University student seeking a DTC degree, that’s got me in a good mood: I’m on the right track. To these ends, I’ve found myself emulating the other part of his article: While in school, play with game design.