The first MMORPG I ever played was Everquest I. I bought the game at the insistence of some friends when I was living in New Zealand and loaded it onto my PC. I created my character and started killing bees. And more bees. And more bees.
It bored the hell out of me. I uninstalled it after a day of playing and gave the game, and my account, to another friend. That “friend” still owes me money (unrelated event), but that’s a story for another time.
Around the same time I read Lord of the Rings cover to cover – 1100 pages – in two weeks. It fundamentally changed how I viewed fantasy. Back to that in a bit.
In July of 2003, I played my second MMORPG ever: Star Wars Galaxies. I had belonged to a pre-release guild for over a year at that point and was absolutely enthralled by the game for over two years. SWG was different from any other game I’d seen before, and while the grind was still present, it was present in a form that was enjoyable.
Of course, we all know what happened in 2005 to SWG. It doesn’t bear repeating here. I kept playing off and on after that, but eventually (2007) I permanently canceled my account.
Over the years since 2004, I’ve been playing various other MMORPGs in an attempt to recapture some of the enjoyment I experienced when first trying SWG. The list is long, and none held my interest for longer than a few months at most. World of Warcraft holds the record for second-longest played MMORPG for me, but I never got beyond level 37 due to the return of the Bees Syndrome.
Enter Lord of the Rings Online.
I tried this game out on three separate occasions with three different trial accounts. The first two times, I was very impressed with the graphics and the epic feel of the introductory quest lines, but couldn’t get into it for reasons that now escape me. It probably had something to do with time commitments and absence of a guild.
The third time was different.
This summer I read most of the Silmarillion. I loved the flowery writing style, the epic tales, and relived the two weeks of Lord of the Rings that I’d experienced years before. This was after the second trial, but before the third, which started a mere week ago.
My “Third Age” of LOTRO trials finally bore the fruit promised so long ago by the creation of this online Middle Earth. And now, retail copy and subscription firmly in my hands, allow me to introduce the persona that may one day equal Scin Karetyr in my memory:
Ceolrigan of Rohan, Minstrel and Spider-Foe.
At time of this writing, Ceolrigan is a level 11 Minstrel dressed in stylish purple and blue garb. Regrettably, his weapon of choice at the moment is a not-particularly-attractive club; as soon as I acquire the necessary bronze, he’ll be properly wielding a longsword once again.
What is so enjoyable about playing Ceolrigan is the musical quality of combat. The various melodies that erupt from his lute during battle lend it a somewhat more fantastical quality than seems usual in MMOs.
More than that, he is a Historian. I’m a history graduate, so this naturally strikes me as ironic. I have yet to sample crafting in LOTRO, but if it’s as enjoyable as combat, then I’ll likely spend equal amounts of time doing both. My time as a Doctor, a Shipwright, and an Architect in SWG matched my time spent slaying Rebels and Ewoks. There’s nothing quite like a break from battle to make it seem all the more enticing.
I rejoined one of my old SWG guilds, the Crescent Order, as a member of their Kinship in LOTRO. They’re good people, and being in a good guild always makes for a more memorable MMO experience.
Last night, shortly before logging out of LOTRO for the night I discovered a player neighborhood. Player housing in LOTRO is much different from any other MMO’s housing scheme. It seems to combine features of EQ2’s instanced housing and SWG’s global housing. While the neighborhood is instanced, it contains an entire area with street names and numbers and, apparently, decoratable exteriors and yards. While the price of a house seems very high at my current level, it’s going to be one of my main goals to acquire and furnish such a place. I can see many entertaining player events taking place in neighborhoods and look forward to it with great enthusiasm.
Other than acquiring a house, my main goal in LOTRO is to experience the story. In retrospect, every time I cancel an MMO account, it has been because I had no clear goals. SWG lasted longest, but unfortunately the game simply didn’t provide enough incentives anymore to create goals. LOTRO gives me incentives, and it gives me gentle proddings in the general direction of leveling that are unusually well-hidden for an MMO. I actually enjoy leveling for once.
Over the next few days, weeks, months, and perhaps years I will be updating this blog with the adventures, misadventures, and musings of Ceolrigan of Rohan, as told by his player.