March 24, 2004
Middle-Earth Online: A Prediction
I was just joining in a group-whine in one discussion forum about the failure of massively-multiplayer persistent-world computer games, and we were commenting in particular on how freakishly bad the initial experience of gameplay is in most of them.
MMOGs, almost ALL
of them, go out of their way, almost by design, to make the initial experience
of a player as boring and horrible as possible.
Which doesn't fit the ur-narrative of the "level up" heroic fantasy, if you think about it. In the ur-narrative, the protagonist begins his or her heroic career usually in the middle of a contented or at least static life (Frodo Baggins, Luke Skywalker) but the hero's journey doesn't start with ten hours of killing household pests. It starts with a bang: with tension and high stakes, with ringwraiths and stormtroopers. If heroic fantasy was written to match a MMOG, nobody would ever get to Chapter Two.
So I thought about that a bit more. Since there is going to be a MMOG game based on Tolkien's Middle Earth, I wondered a bit what the novel Lord of the Rings would look like if it were based on a Middle-Earth themed MMOG. Here's what I came up with:
Lord of the Rings (if the novel were based on a massively-multiplayer game)
Bilbo Baggins opened
his eyes and looked out over Hobbiton. Shouts of plz need gold and
rez me echoed in the distance. A haughty elf looked at him and snorted.
dude, dont be a fucking burglar, theyre totally gimped.
Bilbo Baggins deleted himself.
Legoolaas the warrior-mage
opened his eyes and looked out over Lorien. He nodded politely at Ligoliz, Legalos,
Legolass, Logolas, and Leggollas as he unlimbered a generic sword. "I shall
call you Plastic," he said proudly to the blade.
On the edges of
the Golden Wood, he met a butterfly with azure-patterned wings and a small stinger,
floating near to him in a manner that a highly imaginative and overly suggestive
person might vaguely be able to regard as threatening. He killed it.
Then he met another
butterfly. He killed it.
Later one more
butterfly crossed his path. It stung Legoolaas. He killed it.
Walking in a meadow,
he found two butterflies. He killed them and got stung again. He applied some
athelas potion to the sting.
in the distance and an evening wind blowing. Oh, and another butterfly, sliced
Much bigger butterfly
with yellow wings and red eyes. Ouchies! But Legoolaas slew it.
Butterfly. Dead. Butterfly. Slain. Butterfly. Mashed. Butterfly. Gored. Butterfly. Maimed. Butterfly. Ex-. Butterfly. Gone. Butterfly. Exterminated.
Butterfly. Will pollinate no more. Butterfly. Ground into delicately azure dust. Butterfly. Gone to Valinor.
Mysteriously a gold piece fell from the butterfly. "Cool," said Legoolaas.
which of the Valar was responsible for butterflies. Eomwar the industriously
unimaginative, perhaps. Whoops, a butterfly. Dead.
the ancient lay of butterflies. O Elbereth! Githoniel! Butterfly! Dead!
Legoolaas met Ligolaz
at the edge of the wood. In the Sindarin, butterflies are wilwarin.
Yes. And dead is qualin, replied Ligoliz.
suddenly he knew more about using his sword.
He went back to
the capital of Lorien, stopping only once to kill a butterfly.
Going down below
the roots of Galadriels palace, Legoolaas found some tree rats.
He killed one.
Then he killed
another. Then one more. Then, wouldnt you know it, he killed a tree rat.
through the cellar. Thanks for killing all the rats! They keep eating
the lembas stores. She repeated this ten times as she walked past the
roots and up to the stairs.
Tree rat dead. Dead, dead, dead, almost dead but got away, and dead.
tree rat. Dead, but definitely time for more athelas potion, the really big
bottle marked Kings Hand Brand.
madly upon his foe, whose squeals echoed through the mildly damp and really
rather nicely earth-smelling cellar. Chiseled teeth met mangy leather armor,
sword met fur. His foe fell to the ground, slain, its mighty squeaks echoing
spectrally along the dripping passage.
Legilos poked his
head in. Watch out for the lembas-fed ones. They are terrible! Long ago
they ate lembas and now are deep in its grip. Swords are of no use against this
quizzically. Legilos said, Try clubs instead. Theyre vulnerable
trooped upstairs, counted his coppers, and bought a cheap club from Celeborns
He went back into
the cellar and into the lembas storeroom. Logolas, Ligilas, Leegoolaas, Legolizz,
and Giiimli were sitting on the ground, each gripping a club. Take a number,
back and killed smaller tree rats in other parts of the root cellar for a few
Then he killed some more.
"Are there any snakes or maybe some highly mobile pond-scum or something else besides tree rats down here in this cellar?," Legoolaas asked Giiimli when they crossed each other's paths.
"Nope," said Giiimli.
"Rats," said Legoolaas. "LOL," said Giimli.
A rat appeared and they both killed it.
In a daze, Legoolaas
wandered through the Golden Wood, ignoring the butterflies or swatting them
peremptorily into nonexistence when they came too close. In the distance were
the mountains. Unthinking, he wandered beyond the Golden Woods boundaries
towards the stony rise of hills.
A very small extremely
flea-bitten warg casually wandered up to him and bit Legoolaas' head off in
one smooth motion.
in Lorien and went to find some tree rats.
End of Chapter One