Tuesday, October 20, 2009

LOTRO: The moral of morale

As I was walking to work this morning, something that occurred to me about Lord of the Rings Online. A tiny change of terminology takes a mechanic that is common to basically every MMORPG in existence, and makes it make a lot more sense.

So you have this green bar. When bad people hit you, it gets shorter. When you use healing spells or bandages or such things, it gets longer. If it gets down to nothing, you're dead and have to respawn at a graveyard, or run back to your body as a ghost, or some such thing. Some games call it "life", some call it "health", some hark back to D&D and call it "hit points."

LOTRO calls it "morale," and their take on the concept is a clever one.

When your morale falls to zero, you're not dead - you've been defeated. And you don't respawn at a graveyard - you find yourself back at a safe spot to which you have retreated. So there's no suspension of disbelief about dying and dying and dying again.

Similarly, on the healing front, instead of magically "healing wounds", various means exist to "rally your morale". This works well, because while Middle Earth is certainly a world of magic, the magic in the world is ancient and powerful, and not really the domain of player characters. There are no low level priests and mages running around. So "healing" is the domain of minstrels and their inspiring tunes, or captains and their rallying cries.

Mechanically, scarcely a difference from WoW or any other fantasy MMO. But just that little tweak to the terminology makes such a difference to the feel.

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