Who knew that The Lord of the Rings Online propagated Barack Obama’s campaign of Hope?
Because it would be in a dismal Blackwold Camp in LOTRO that Sayer of Gondor would encounter a creature that would force him to utterly abandon all hope. And it would be the first time that I would witness Hope and Dread serving as prominent gameplay mechanics in an MMO.
Sure, by the numbers, diminishing or bolstering Hope and Dread is nothing more than “crowd control.” It’s “buffing” and “debuffing” with a high-concept metaphor driving it. The winter-crackled trees, man-sized cages, and various torture devices scattered around Blackwold Camp could conjure enough Dread on their own without the added benefit of having one of the Nazgul -- a Black Rider -- showing up in the prison camp’s courtyard. Sayer, my freshly-minted Lore-master, whose greatest feat of “spellcasting” involved lighting pinecones on fire and hurling them Nolan Ryan-style at onrushing attackers, was tousled into this mess through a fit of misfortune.
Nevertheless, I’m not a whiner about what got me in here, since a hooded Ranger by the name of Amdir is breaking me out. Tonight. Now. But not before he tasks me with freeing two other prisoners also in the camp: Both are Hobbits, and one of them has the further misfortune (in this case) of having “Baggins” in his last name. And that’s what drew the Black Rider to the Blackwold Camp. He was promised a Baggins.
Before Sayer even saw the Black Rider, he felt its presence. The lidless Eye of Sauron flashed almost-subliminally across the screen. A pulse. An uncertainty. And then he rounded the corner and saw the Nazgul, mounted and fearsome, preparing to strike down Amdir, the Ranger that had sprung my escape.
The edges of Sayer’s vision were scraped with the fiery iris of Mordor. The screen pulsed again, vision blurred, and the colors around Sayer began to drain into muddy, monochromatic grays. It was looking like Lord of the Gears of War. My mini-map in the upper right-hand corner was now completely replaced by the burning eyeball. My Hope/Dread Indicator readings were dropping fast. My Dread was pumped up to level eight, which I’m guessing is somewhere around DEFCON 1 as far as emergency alarms going off are concerned. The indicator also read “Terror has seized you. The fear of defeat seizes your heart often, causing you to cower.” To further drive the point home, a thumbnail icon was flashing under my health bar indicating “Dread -- Your heart is heavy in the face of such evil.”
And indeed my hero, Lore-master Sayer of Gondor, was no paragon of heroism at that point. He was ducking to the side, crumpled, holding his hands over his face, wanting nothing more than to run.
So I made him run.
Back the way he came and towards the far, roundabout side of the Blackwold Camp. The Nazgul maybe 100 yards back now, out of sight, but not yet out of mind. Still, Sayer’s maximum morale slowly raised from the 80% cap that Dread placed on him. His ‘effective heals,’ which had been reduced to 84% (a bad thing), crept back towards 100%. And the increased ‘damage received’ percentage (another bad thing) came back down from their elevated 112% levels. It was like Sayer’s systolic and diastolic blood pressure was crawling back to within acceptable measurements.
And then, eventually, Hope and Dread had found their zen-sand-garden balance once more.
Conversely to the above scenario, being around benevolent NPCs, like Gandalf the Grey, will make Hope rise, diminishing Dread. So when an NPC like Barack Obama comes around touting the “Yes we can!” of his hope campaign, I have to ask from a completely neutral standpoint: Is he borrowing gameplay mechanics from developer Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online?
[Having been away since beta, Randy is playing through a 14-day free trial of The Lord of the Rings Online. Barack Obama did not approve this uninspired message of hope.]