I have no singular, curatorial narrative to tie this player journal together. I’ve just been enjoying a steady immigration of memorable moments within The Lord of the Rings Online, some of them loud, some of them soft, all of them keeping me away from the keyboard during this 14-day trial period of Middle-earth baptism. I’m no power-leveler, sir. My absorbency levels are high but my movements are deliberate, and I’ve kept my character, Lore-master Sayer of Gondor, moving at a walking pace (literally) through the valley of Archet.
These are a few cemented experiences in my mind, and I’m drawing these off the top of my head; no fact-checking, no reworking my way through them in-game, and with frighteningly little knowledge of Tolkein’s world beyond The Hobbit and a few movies filmed in New Zealand. (So if I get some details wrong, I apologize now.) And while these experiences may not be profound, per se, they’ve stirred me to recall what I loved so much about MMOs in the first place, especially after I’ve chewed up and spat out so many betas and free trials and full retail purchases along this jaded brick road.
- I recall standing at the top of Bronwe’s Folly after rigorous flights of stairs bringing it to the treetop heights. The climb was obviously created as a purposeful reminder of the process to get closer to a holy creator. But at the top of Bronwe’s Folly, I felt nothing but a sense of claustrophobia from the tightening pillars, no sense of security from its crumbling ledge, and no explanation for its seven-pointed stars. I left, feeling no need to return.
- I recall the planked, uncovered bridge leading up to the hunter’s lodge on the east side of the lake. The presence of more dead animals than they could skin brought small whirlwinds of flies to circle above the carcasses.
- I recall taking a back entryway into Blackwold’s Roost, another set of Herculean ruins which further betrayed a greater importance the valley of Archet must have once held for a bygone people. I remember losing all morale in there, twice, fighting off increasing numbers of brigands, knowing that the right solution was to form a fellowship with other players, and never attempting to do so.
- I recall burying the shepherd after the assault on Archet; putting his bloodied body into the ground, as his equally bloodied flock lie strewn and dead about his brown and green hillock.
- I recall walking, walking, walking the roads, fending off aggressive wolves, boars, and spiders, until I grew in strength and knowledge until even those wild woodland creatures learned my scent and kept away.
- I recall another player, who’d named his character after a Star Wars theme, running in circles around me, never taunting me, but exasperating his boredom by killing off creatures that I first engaged in combat. Yet we never exchanged any words.
- I recall two other players who never spoke to me, but walked alongside me from the town of Combe, up and across to the spider-rank fields of a working farm. One held a banner. The other continuously jaunted one or two steps ahead of me to make him look like a default leader. They too never spoke to me, despite my questions, as we walked the roads.
- And I recall seeing the town of Archet, burned down to the foundation in some areas, still trudging with life as vendors, trainers, watchmen, and citizens continued their daily toils. Some maintained hope while others gave in to exhaustion and bewilderment, but I let Archet go. I was only a refugee myself, and I allowed that town to slip my grasp. Seeing it blackened with charcoal affirmed a need to move on, when normally I would have created a family tie with the town.
So this is where my gaming heart now lies. I’ll admit that my commitment-phobic tendencies with MMOs may very well kick in at any moment. It usually happens somewhere around the 21-day mark, as the overly-practical side of me realizes that I have to end things now, or pay the subscription fee. But this could be different. And for everyone it’s different. But this one could be the one for me.
[Having been away since beta, Randy is playing through a 14-day free trial of The Lord of the Rings Online. He tends to be impressed by the little things.]