Emotional Impacts

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

As I'm thinking about the burn out period I'm currently in, I wonder if some of that has to do with the emotional impact of the game's world design. Being stuck in an enclosed space, especially when it's dark and dank can lead to severe psychological problems after a while. If Moria were a real "cave" and we as people spent months in that cave, I think we'd begin to feel a bit worn out. Us humans need sunlight to stay healthy. Perhaps part of the burn out is because the world is designed well enough to impart a bit of this type of impact on the players.

I know one of the biggest joys for me was seeing Middle-Earth come alive in the world design. When I'm in places like the Shire, I just feel happy. One of my favorite activities in the game is cooking in Michel Delving. It's arguable just as boring as running repeatable quests in Moria, but I find the activity much more pleasant, maybe as a result of my surroundings. Before Forochel, I felt burn out when questing in Angmar. Angmar is another dark place like Moria and I hated to be up there. Combine these dark places with more tedious and time consuming content and it's a double-whammy. I just don't want to do it. I just don't want to be there.

I think it's a testament to the world design team for creating a virtual environment that fills me with an emotion that actually affects my playing habits. And certainly not everybody experiences this. My personality is just particularly attuned to that sort of thing.

So, I'll try to make a point of hanging out in more pleasant locals from time to time. Hopefully that'll mitigate some of the frustration I've experienced as of late.

6 Responses to "Emotional Impacts"

Scott Says:

I always thought the zones had an ambient mood to them. The Shire was undeniably carefree. Bree and Ered Luin were a little moodier but still fairly upbeat overall. The chronology of the starter zones is such that most of Eriador has no idea that Sauron's army is on the march and beginning to encroach on their territories. This is also reflected in the frequency of minions such as orcs, goblins and the like. But then move into the Lone Lands where it's a little bleak and the music reflects that as well. Same with the North Downs, even though the terrain is greener; we won't experience "brown fever" like we do in the Lone Lands. The closer we get to Angmar, the moodier the overall zones feel. I will say that Angmar itself was always one of my least-favorite zones. I don't think it was any one aspect of it but rather the sum of all the small things together. It's always dark. The terrain is very dark and jagged and generally unattractive. The background "music" (if it can even be called that) is awful. Worse, it was the only place in the game where it was almost like WoW with mobs placed every few paces. It was difficult to travel for more than a few seconds without getting aggro.

Some great content was there but nearly everyone I knew was all too happy to leave for a more pleasant zone as soon as possible. Evendim is still a favorite of mine, despite all the swimming. Gorgeous, plenty of opportunity for exploration and I love the background music. I also enjoyed Annuminas back in the day, so perhaps I'm biased.

Moria... again, we're trapped underground and despite the size of the place, it can feel stifling after awhile. Like Angmar, once you run into mobs, they're so frequent you're nearly constantly in combat. I was so happy to finally get kindred with the miners to buy the goat only to discover I'll be dismounted quickly and repeatedly.

Now I'm out in Lothlorien which so far has been a nice calming change of pace until we move beyond there into a more combat-tense area. But, am I the only one who is not at all pleased with the wonky distance imposters not always working correctly?

Jaxom92 Says:

Yeah, I noticed that when I got out to Lothlorien. Looks like half painting, half landscape. Really weird looking a bit jarring.

Tanjur on Firefoot Says:

turn up the 'ambient light' setting in your UI options if you haven't yet. that helped me some.

i wonder what mirkwood is going to be like. they could go a direction with it that is more lush and nourishing in spite of dol guldur. we'll see. i fear it will be more like the old forest with danger around every turn...

jdw (Eadwacer on Nimrodel) Says:

I linked you from the LOTRO Vault today. I hope you don't mind.

My thoughts, copied over from the Vault:

"He goes on to discuss the Shire and Angmar, and though I have yet to venture into Moria, I do agree with his basic premise: Even a game, if well-designed, can make you feel uncomfortable and vaguely unsettled. Indeed, certain environments should do that, if we consider games as art.

Does it make such zones less enjoyable? Perhaps. But, I do think it can improve a game as a whole. We watch films and read books to experience rising tension and discomfort before resolution, and it's the release of tension and escape from discomfort which we find particularly enjoyable. Perhaps the MMORPG, which inherently traps players in those environments for the sake of grinding, is not always the best vessel for these ideas; still, I think it's important for games -- LOTRO included -- to utilize that discomfort to make the better areas seem all the better. "

Jaxom92 Says:

Hey, thanks for the link JDW! Exploring the story structure of LOTRO would make a great post(s). I'll have to put something together for that.

Anonymous Says:

I generally feel better in Lorien, Bree-Land and The Shire than I do in the other zones, indeed. When reaching 40+ with new chars I tend to only do the absolute necesarry in Angmar, then I hurry off elsewhere, to places less gloomy. Thus I agree, it is tiring being in "gloomy" zones in games - if you ever play Zombie-shooters you would play with that feeling constantly ;)