In Lord of the Rings Online: Siege of Mirkwood, my journey is over. I have a smattering of small quests left to do on the Eastern side of the zone, but for the most part my leveling and errand-boy running are done. Now my time with my main character has simplified drastically. Instead of pushing from quest hub to quest hub and through the epic story, not quite sure what’s next in store, I have set goals with planned steps. Signing on has become a comfortable chore that I was used to for months before the expansion jarred me from my oasis of calm with the rest of the herd.
This is not a bad thing, and for many MMO players this is how we actually play. We sign on to craft a few items, check the auction house, do a few daily quests, and that’s about it. These gaming chores are interrupted on busy or event nights by grouping up for a group instance. The braver choose to make random connections through pick up groupings. The best part is that everybody at this level is right there with me. When I was journeying geographically and leveling, I was for all intents alone. Sure there were clearings in the forest where my journey would intersect another’s, but for the most part everybody was either at the end or somewhere in the middle.
Is this another diseased symptom of MMOs following the DIKU/Everquest based ancestors? Or is this a benefit of allowing so many gameplaying styles in MMOs? For a “true” solo player, couple, or static group, the journey together can easily be the whole game. Whatever sticky content exists at the end like being drunk for 10,000 minutes for a title or killing 10,000 rats for achievement points is irrelevant. For those whose social groups are guild or alliance-based, the broader social net means a more heterogeneous place in the journey. The so-called “end game” merely provides a place in the journey where broad social groups (like an entire server) are all on the same page. It’s an old comfortable place to be in the herd until the devs tell the us to move to another watering hole.