Friday, March 16, 2007

Lord of the Rings Online

Neil Sorens sent me an interesting e-mail:
One cool feature in LOTR Online is that you can play music in real time with other people. 1-8 are the naturals from middle C to high C, and shift 1-8 covers the octave above that. Ctrl 1-8 moves the notes on the first octave down a step. Not exactly ergonomic, but if you're playing in the key of C it's not too bad. There are some other limitations, too, like not being able to hold notes. And it doesn't tie into gameplay in any way. All that aside, it's still an awesome (yet inexpensive) feature because it lets people be creative together. I had a 30+ minute jam session today with someone who didn't even know how to use the music system when we started. We just improvised stuff with him on rhythm and me on lead playing "lutes" (sounds like some kind of MIDI guitar). Here's a link to a clip I recorded of us playing:

I think the clip sounds excellent, and it's very impressive that it can be created in real-time. Have a listen.

It's an interesting idea, to put a completely extraneous feature into an online game. And it made me think about online games in general and why I don't play them.

Attack. Heal. Attack. Heal. Attack. Heal. That's why.

Here's what I'd really like to see in an online game. I'd like to be an arborist. I'd like to travel all throught the kingdom, gathering cuttings from all the different kinds of trees, then use grafting to create new varieties. It would take a few days to find out what they would look like after planting and grafting. If I wanted to, I could create a forest by planting trees as saplings and watching them grow over time. I could actually change the world. I could be renowned in the game as a master arborist, and maybe I'd wear a special robe or other kind of distinctive clothing as a reward.

And if I wanted to, after my forest grew to maturity, I could chop down a few of those majestic trees and build me a house.

That's a goofy example, I know, but it's an example of wider boundaries inside an online world.

Here's the thing, at least for me: everything in an online game is just a sub-game to facilitate leveling. And those sub-games, all too often, are sheer grinding. I'd really like to see sub-games that are ends in themselves, so to speak.

Here's another one. Why hasn't anyone used the mouse as a true control device for crafting? I can't believe there's not a way to sculpt clay, for example, using the mouse. It fits sculpting every bit as well as it does a golf swing, and there would be real skill involved.

That's really just scratching the surface. There are so many other ways to make the sub-games ends in themselves, to make them far more interesting than combat.

Oh, and just before you fire off that e-mail: I've played A Tale in the Desert. Conceptually, it's closer to what I'm talking about, but in the version I played (several years ago), there was no combat at all, no real threat anywhere. And the sub-games weren't interesting enough to hold my attention. However, I really appreciate the care that has been taken in creating the game, and I think some very bright and thoughtful people are involved. It's just not for me.

Site Meter