From the desk of the Pet Biographer (Beorbrand is behind me practicing pipes) ~
Real-life and LOTRO have dealt us a series of firsts this last year, several lovely and mostly not-so. However, many of the better bits have been relative to LOTRO and even small things call for celebration, especially when they do not seem so small from a personal perspective.
While I have traipsed across Middle Earth off and on since closed Beta, this is the longest I’ve played in one clip and with great delight at that. It’s not that I’ve particularly grown enamored with the game. If anything, I’ve been rather displeased with the direction the whole thing has taken since going free-to-play. The greater infusion of riff-raff, micro-store ‘pay-to-win’ items, and the perceived shift from providing high-quality content to buggy repetitive quantity are all very discouraging developments. I accept that this is the direction the game must take (with lumps and bumps) if it is to remain profitable, however. Still, the only thing that keeps me hooked gaming in Tolkien’s world vs. any other is its online community, particularly those involved with LOTRO’s unique music system. There’s nothing like it in any other online application, and I’ve had a real blast playing, composing, and sharing music with other kindred spirits across the globe. It is a joy to test the music system limits, so to speak, and to play the role of a much-maligned travelling musician/pyrotechnics-expert redneck-want-to-be-intellectual (i.e. lore-master) while going about it.
I had left the game for ten months or so when my first kinship dissolved in an ugly split. Other kinships I tried just did not feel like a good fit. The radiance system had all but ruined the game itself for me (said kinship fell apart over it,) and the social aspect ended along with the original group. Fun was lacking with few to share my victories and setbacks with and so I left. I got caught up in work subsequently (I can be quite the workaholic) and it was only in facing an extended vacation that I resolved to give Middle Earth another chance. The music system had always been of particular interest to me, and I decided to focus my time more on the mechanics and role-play elements it offered over ‘mad lootz’ and experiencing the latest content. I still like those things, but I let the music demand first priority these days. I’m glad for it. When I returned to the game looking for a music-oriented kinship, I knew the Lonely Mountain Band was the place to be. I must admit initial disappointment however, in discovering little action on the music forum and in finding LMB’s music presence outside of Weatherstock to be limited (mostly) to Old Winyards at A & T. I had caught myself longing for something that didn’t seem to exist. There is always the worry as well, in joining a new group that you will step on toes by becoming too involved/seeking creative control.
While quite young, I remember watching this old comedy about a bar where people gathered every night to talk about their daily trials and drown their sorrows in beer. It wasn’t the first show I watched that featured camaraderie or drinking in large quantities, but it stuck with me. The notion of having a circle of friends to gather with and share your drinks and tribulations was something I found very appealing. I was lucky to have such a circle of friends to pal around with until recently but the winds of life have dragged us all in different directions and mostly far away. That notion of the community pub seems lost for many, as modern society leads many of us to live more of our social lives online. There are social networking ‘apps’ and ‘Skyping’ and texting to keep in touch with your buddies of course, but something still seems amiss without that age-old tavern scene. There is no opportunity to meet new people, to comment on random events or the cute blonde at the end of the row, or to take simple delight in the house band cutting loose or yelling en masse at the piss-poor referee on the television. That fun interaction has been lost in the fray, and I’m tired of making up new cute comments for pictures of friends’ babies and adorable pet costumes while my own life stagnates in limbo. Some long for the days of wine and roses, but I was itching for the equivalent of wings and beer, with a side of raunchy humor.
Fast forward through a good deal of forum posting and playing solo (then duo, and trio) sets at the Pony, and the seeds for BBB were planted. How fortunate for me that someone (and others later) took the bait and that it has grown into an enjoyable thing where I’ve met some superb people from all over the damn place and learned some fun stuff about a bunch of new things.
I really never imagined BBB ever turning into what it has, and that’s great. It evolves a little bit each time someone new comes through or passes on. Irving Berlin wrote it about love, but it’s comforting to know despite everything I’ve weathered, I’ve got BBB to keep me warm.
Something often overlooked in L.O.T.R.O. in grumpy fits of bloodrage to kill anything and everything that moves is the beautiful landscape artistry as well as the music settings created to accompany players in their journies through each land. Playing in groups, P.B. tends to turn her graphics down along with the music so she can focus on the task at hand – slaughtering things with fire and lightning while throwing sticky gourds and tar at them. Today she was most fortunate to accompany Beor, however, as he got tasked to go to all the lands and slay exactly one orc, goblin, or uruk upon doing which he would yell, “For the Greyhammers!” at no one in particular. If P.B. understands it correctly, it was some little dwarves’ crazy blood-oath that the little hairy man was too lazy to see to himself. This required a lot of horsing around, so to speak, so P.B. turned the graphics way up high and enjoyed the scenery.
She can’t give you the music, but she can give you a visual perspective she missed the first time through. See, the first time through the lands we had a faulty video card at the heart of a major lawsuit that denied us such pleasures, plus we worried about things like dying. No longer! Suck at life, Hewlett Packard/NVIDIA! That laptop has safely gone on to Adoptive Mini-Clone, and now we get to enjoy the game in all its aesthetic beauty!
I suppose the point is all these beautiful artistic details make the game playable from a purely cosmetic perspective. It is just as much fun pondering where all the inspiration came for the landscapes as it is actually riding around killing things. That is one of the great reasons I have loved L.O.T.R.O. Orc-slaughtering for the kiddies and days when one is grumpy, long scenic horserides for the poor, uncultured and untravelled twits like me on days when you are contemplative about life!
P.B. supposes it is silly like so many other things in her life right now that she has stopped to proverbially “smell the roses” in L.O.T.R.O. but it is what it is. She was inspired when the tree in the Trollshaws painted above reminded her of one she photographed near where she grew up. Twenty years ago we screamed in terror at the pixelated Nazis in Commodore 64’s version of Castle Wolfenstein. Now we see what digital worlds can look like where the only limiting factor is the designer’s imagination. Most impressive.