It was Spring 2007, and I’d been playing World of Warcraft for almost 3 years. I enjoyed it greatly, but a pal started telling me about this really awesome new MMO developed by Turbine and based on Lord of the Rings. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that at that point my only exposure to LotR was the Peter Jackson movies, but I was still interested. I played in the beta, bought a Lifetime membership and ended up playing the game for about 2 months.
I ended up leaving LotRO so soon because I felt like the world itself was just kind of drab and boring… of course at that point the only MMOs I had ever played were City of Heroes and World of Warcraft, so I had problems adjusting to a more realistic & subdued art style. It was beautiful for a game world of course, and I would fully admit that even then, but for some reason it just didn’t click. It felt like something was missing.
Fast forward to 2010: I pick LotRO up again and start over, this time getting a character up into the higher levels and completely falling in love with the care and attention to detail that Turbine put into their version of Middle-Earth. Everything from the different music themes in each zone over the course of the day, down to the littlest details from the books, is absolutely perfect and immersive. It has housing & appearance tabs & plenty of fluff. I love spending time there.
What’s a bit worrying is that I’m feeling a bit about Rift the way that I felt about LotRO in 2007: The gameplay is similar to games I’ve played before (which is good!), the world is beautiful, the rifts are fun. I like Rift. I think it has great potential, and it certainly has many features that I like. It has faeries & angels & evil elves (kill them!) & fantastical creatures & crafting & pets & collections & all sorts of goodness.
But something seems to be missing. The hook, if you will.
The thing is, I’m sure that it’s not missing. It’s there, I just haven’t found it yet, or it hasn’t found me. And while right now I’m kicking myself for not sticking it out with LotRO back in 2007, I can’t help but wonder if I’ll be doing the same thing in 2014 with Rift if I don’t give it a fair shot as well. I don’t think it’s a Trion issue. It’s a Moxie issue.
It may be that there is so much hype before new games that there’s no way to avoid the inevitable letdown. It may be that with new games you feel pressured to “gogogogogogo”, to borrow a term from a popular MMO, and you forget to stop and just take it all in. It also may be that we’re so busy analyzing game mechanics and dissecting every last detail that we completely miss the big picture, the panorama that the developers and artists have created for us. We miss the forest for the trees.
The other strange thing is that while Rift still feels a bit alien, I also find myself really wanting to log in and play, even though my playing right now consists of just bouncing around Argent Glade and Sanctum. Perhaps I just haven’t put enough time into the game yet, or maybe it’s that I can’t get invested in a character that is going to be wiped in a few days.
How long does it take for a new MMO to feel like “home”? Do some games just fit instantly while others take longer? Does hype & over-analysis play a role in this? Does it work better if we go into games blind, with no expectations, and just experience the game as a complete newbie rather than as a grizzled-and-jaded MMO veteran?