I am currently taking a class titled “Online Games: Literature, New Media and Narrative” where we’re comparing and contrasting how the various forms of media (books, film, games) tell a story. The class is centered around Lord Of The Rings not only because it is such a rich, epic story but also because it is a prime example of a story that has succeeded across multiple forms of media.
I won’t bore you with a lot of details about the class or my recent experiences as a first time player in the LotRO MMO, (though the game is beautiful and I am totally going to post some screenshots at the bottom of this entry) but I did want to share a bit about this week’s discussion question which Professor Clayton posted on our class forums. The question was basically asking us to describe our experiences exploring Middle Earth in-game and wanted our opinions on whether we enjoyed exploring and discovering the world slowly or if we preferred opening the maps, seeing all the locations and getting there as quickly as possible. I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it.
Now I haven’t yet spent much time exploring things in LotRO because the new Timeless Isle here in WoW keeps calling to me, but I do know my answer to this question because it’s the same answer I would give regarding any game, including WoW. I AM AN EXPLORER. Do I take quick flight paths? Sure. Do I use my hearthstone a lot and use special items in game to transport me to places instantly (Shroud of Cooperation, I am looking at you)? Sure. But I also spend way more time than most people skipping along through the nooks and crannies of the zones just to see what I can see. I may not do a completely thorough exploration my first 2, 15 or 35 times through a zone – after all I’m on a mission to level, gear up, find herbs, battle pets, etc. But at some point, I’m going to waste hours and hours just looking in every cave, checking out every house and trying to jump up every mountain as high as it will let me.
Is that the most efficient use of my time? Hell no. I am terrible at doing dailies, profession cooldowns, dungeons and the like on a daily or sometimes even weekly basis. I’m aware I don’t always prioritize my game time correctly and I’m also aware these things are why I will never be ahead of the curve. It’s easy to see that here on this blog where you will find me posting a screenshot about an achievement I just got that everyone else had 6 weeks ago. Some of you may shake your head and wonder why I don’t wander off and play something else, something that moves a little slower or is simply a fluff game instead of the srs bzns that is WoW. Well to those people I say … if it weren’t for me derping around and wasting time, how would you ever know that in Paoquan Hollow, inside Master Bruised Paw’s house, you can find a jar of fireflies sitting on the table?
What is your view on how important exploration is to your gaming experience. Do you like maps that are empty until you discover a new area of the zone or would you prefer everything be visible to you in all zones right away? Once you do discover an entire zone map, do you ever come back at any time to look at things slower and notice more details or is it just a terrain you move through simply to get to where you are going? Does it help with immersion? Do you even care about immersion? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments OR better yet, write up your own post about whether or not exploration is a part of your game.
And now I will sneak in a few of the LotRO screenshots I have taken so far. I promise this will not be a habit (unless the people demand it).