Two Parts Casual, One Part Hardcore, and a Little Bit O’ Love

I was reading a post at Under the Banner today (a great blog – this author hasn’t written much lately but her post explains why) and got to thinking about the true definition of LotRO. It’s Lord of the Riblets, in case you were wondering.

Anyways, the post really broke down how the author has been feeling lately. In short, full of boredom, hope, and disdain all at once. The author, Serielle, is suffering burn out in a big way. She says a couple of things that shed some light into her current state of affairs. Here’s one:

So, I started to run the repeatable quests in Lothlorien, since that’s the only way to get rep and the shiny gold leaves. Over, and over, and over, and over, and over… ad infinitum. I didn’t do it every time I logged in, and tried to intersperse other activities into the grindfest . . . It just wasn’t enough though.

This, I think, is a universal conditional that results from working at a game instead of playing it. Now, I believe her when she says that she’s not hardcore. As a matter of fact, her self-branding of casual-hardcore seems true to form and eerily reminiscent of my own play style. So, this isn’t an attack in any way.

The fact of the matter is that games like LotRO want you to work. That’s where they hide the barbs and hooks that define our passion. That may seem like a little much but is it not true that accomplishment is the result of effort? That more effort generally equals more accomplishment? So, logically, the more we invest, the more fulfilled we are (to a degree, of course). Yet, the downside to such design is that, inevitably, people will get worn out.

It’s a funny thing, even though LotRO is considered a casual game, it also has the most antiquated hardcore element much more than other “harder” games: grind. Grind is infused throughout the game in the form of deeds. Grinding for xp and grinding for traits are some of the core ways that you’ll advance your character. After that’s done, you grind for reputation, or crafting materials, or gear.

Grinding, in itself, isn’t much of an issue. It’s all about presentation. How you go about your grind, what and where you find your target, and how much carotene dangles in front of you all define the experience. If those three things are worthwhile and in-sync, grinding can actually be relatively stress free.

Yet, that’s not really how we have it. It causes me to wonder why grinding plays such a big role in the game? Was this the best way? I think it was the workable way. The way to slow people down and keep them playing for longer and, to make it worthwhile, they intertwined the grind with character advancement. Now, we have a system that’s more progressive (advancement/customization through effort) than most, yet harkening to the grand ol’ days of our grand pappy’s mammies.

You know, 2003?

In our oh-so-casual love affair with Middle-Earth, many of us grind away the hours, while the WoW’ers call us scrubs. Ironic isn’t it?

For all of pressure to work there is much play. More than that, you can tell that a lot of love went into the game. There are so many little details that get taken for granted but, through the eyes of the un-jaded, they are really quite wonderous.

For myself, I’m behind the game enough to have a long, long time before I’ll run out of things to do. I’m thankful for that. And, unlike many, I really don’t mind the grind. So, I wish the author the post. Give it some time. Relax and try out some warmer waters for while. From my own experience, I can say that you’ll probably never get that “feeling” back the way it once was. But you’ll find fun again, if you want it.