Another festival come and gone in LotRO, another new mount for my stable and a few new items in my wardrobe (this year’s Festival cloaks were particularly nice!). I always enjoy Turbine’s events, and even though this Spring Festival hadn’t undergone the overhaul that the previous Harvest and Winter Festivals saw, it was still a good time. Stomping shrews, for all of its barbarity, has always been one of my favorite mini-games in LotRO.
Thanks to the extra quest at the Hedge Maze, this particular festival saw me accomplish a goal I’ve held in-game for a very long time – achieving Kindred with both the Inn League and the Ale Association. Getting to Kindred with the Ale Association was fairly straightforward; the number of quests available during each festival made it a fast climb up to the top, but for every quest completed there is a loss to Inn League reputation. You gain more than you lose, so if one is diligent enough and does all of the courier quests for both groups, the net effect is a gain for both. But I’m stubborn, and once I reached Kindred with the Ale Association, I went for the long route so I wouldn’t lose my status. This means there’s normally only one quest available – The Inn League trial run.
Let’s just say I’ve done a lot of drinking in-game over the last three years. It’s a good thing the Inn League makes you check your liver during the initiation quests, because at this point I’d be on my death bed from a catastrophic failure of any number of organs. (I wonder how many Badges of Taste it will cost me to get it back?)
Of course, the hard part now is getting the Badges to buy the Inn League mount. That’s going to entail a loss of reputation no matter what, so I guess it’s time for some math.
I was really happy to have completed this particular achievement; not only because, towards the end, the Trial Run was getting a little stale, but also because it represents the completion of a goal I set for myself a few years ago. So often in MMO’s we measure time in hours or days – at most months – and while I’m not maligning a standard in-game achievement, I think it speaks volumes to our attitudes about commitment and the rather shallow value of “achievement” in our gaming. If it can’t be completed in a gaming session or two, it’s generally labeled as a “grind” (valid or not).
On the other end of the “satisfaction spectrum”, I also managed to finish up the last of my slayer deeds in the Misty Mountains (on to Evendim!). While the Inn League reputation brought me a real sense of accomplishment (and even a touch of pride), completing these only brought a feeling of having finished a chore and a sense of relief that I’d never, ever go back and do that again. Which makes me kind of sad. Having all desire to go back to an area as beautiful as the Misty Mountains absolutely obliterated, it’s just not nice.
Which leads me to my point; not all grind has to be bad.
Grinding out 240 Signature mobs for a tick on one of my virtues and a ten cent tip is not fun; especially when it’s only purpose is to “extend the gameplay”. Which it does, I suppose, but not for fun. Running the same quest nearly a hundred times, while somewhat tedious, led to real satisfaction. The former took a few hours, the later a few years, and yet I would do the Inn League reputation again. So what’s the difference?
It comes down to intent. And context. Killing Giants in the Misty Mountains only took a few hours, thanks to a Deed Accelerator (which may be the real issue here – I don’t like feeling like my hand has been forced) and has a real impact on character development, albeit a fairly small one. But it’s tacked onto the game, artificially adding hours to my “gameplay”, and has absolutely no context within the stories or character progression. I’m not killing them for a reason, I’m just wandering around Giant Halls until I fill a progress bar. Running a series of drinking games, while not of direct benefit to the world or even my character, makes sense within the context of the world and the factions with which I’m trying to curry favor. They only take 20 minutes or so, spread out over years, so the time investment is minor at any given time. And it’s fun, or funny. Both.
To be sure, it’s a fine line and a very difficult balance to attain. And it’s an issue of personal preference. For some people grinding out hundreds of mobs constitutes fun, or at least fun enough to stomach. Maybe it’s meditative. Or cathartic. The point is that, done right, long-term achievements can be extremely rewarding without being downright tedious. Even those that require repetitive tasks.