Saturday, 31 May 2008


Oddities of LOTRO, Part XXVII: The Hewn Arm

This terrifying disembodied arm creeps around the approaches to central Imlad Balchorth. Despite its fearsome appearance, however, it is shy and retiring by disposition, and if challenged by a determined enemy (such as the formidable Western Alliance fellowship depicted in the image above) it will display a distressing tendency to leg it towards the nearest empty crypt...

Tuesday, 20 May 2008


For me, one of the most important aspects of LOTRO is the epic story line. It's one of the things that make LOTRO different from other MMORPGs - a developing plot in which players have an active role, giving them a real sense that the game world they are immersed in is dynamic rather than static. Of course, some books are better than others. Book 13 proved disappointing, as it mostly reduced the player to a hapless gofer: "Gofer this, now gofer that, then come back all the way round the bay and back here so that I can ask you to gofer something else that I forgot to mention the first time round...". In the main, however, the epic story line has produced some of the best moments in the game.

Problem is, I can't remember the half of it. I know, I could go through the completed epic quests one by one in the quest window and reconstruct the whole thing, but that would be really tedious, and wouldn't produce anything like a coherent narrative. I think the developers have missed an opportunity here. Why not have a book among your possessions which would include, chapter by chapter, a complete record of the epic plot line to date? In time, the chapters would become the chronicle of an alternate History of the War of the Ring, one running parallel to that of Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring, whose protagonist would be the player.

It would be easy enough to implement - for one thing, except for the very early sections, the chronicle would be the same for everybody - and a hardly noticeable drain on server memory. Lots of of CRPGs have a variant of the system, with the best by far being that used by the last two volumes of the "Elder Scrolls". Check it out, please, devs.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008


One of the most impressive atmospheric effects players discovered in their exploration of Forochel was the thick, grey-green fog blanketing the system of ice caverns leading NW from the first settlement. It became more impressive as we groped our way out of the tunnels and moved, very hesitantly, towards the shores of the Bay of Forochel; indeed, a number of us actually stumbled into the lethal, ice-cold waters by mistake. Would the entire region, we wondered, have to be explored in near-obscurity?

It was even more of a shock when some of us ported home to Bree or the Shire, only to find that the fog had traveled with us... Turns out it was a bug, as a Codemasters representative hurried to point out in the forums: "We are currently investigating this issue. This seems to be related to the dayfile override we've employed in the landscape tunnel between Taur Orthon and the tundras in central Forochel. It is not intended that you drag the gloom with you once you leave that space. Relogging will cause the effect to go away - in case it is making your play experience.. well... unplayable".

The real surprise, however, was to discover that far from howling the house down or throwing those all-too-familiar tantrums, the great majority of posters actually quite liked the effect - at least, in moderation. "Serendipity" posted an enthusiastic and very positive response: "What a shame this is a bug, I thought it made the atmosphere the coldest I'd ever experienced in a videogame. Icy wastelands that look like Disney made them - NO. Icy wastelands where you can get lost, get monsters jump out at you, feel disorientated and unsafe - YES. I thought I'd never seen atmosphere used to such good effect in barren dangerous lands. Heck, all the quest dialogues go on about how treacherous the land is. In real life, mountains have mists that roll over and trap you before you can flee, they should be dangerous to traverse. If this is a bug, fix it so it's a weather effect".