Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Why did the chicken cross the Anduin?

Turbine has this neat idea called "Session Play," which I could totally get behind. In the Ettenmoors, you can play a Ranger or a Troll, but only for one session. You buy this priviledge with a bucketload of Destiny points, and for the duration of that session you are Da Man (or Da Troll, you get the idea). Of course, Trolls and Rangers are only available when the opposing side is winning, making them a Monster Play balancing factor (albeit a very cool one).

And, let's face it, tons of people want to play a Ranger.

But there is also another surprising facet of Session Play: Chicken Play. Yes, if you don't happen to be a monster, you can still enjoy the surprises of Session Play by RPing a chicken.

Now, I can see the value in creating a small trial run for PC Session play to help work the kinks out and get people interested in the concept. And I can also see the value in creating a more light hearted (one might almost say Hobbit-ish) aspect to LotRO that young kids could get into. But ... a chicken? Why in the world a chicken?

Middle-earth is filled with many talking animals. Foxes and thrushes to name just a couple. Wouldn't they have been far more interesting than a chicken? Chickens are not dramatic, they are dull. And while there certainly are chickens in middle-earth, they never do even a single notable thing. It is like making a PC Class: Innkeeper. Sure, they're there. And they make you laugh. But when it comes to heroics, they don't cut the mustard.

Developers are constantly asked to add new features to the game. Social clothing, more quests, skill and UI fixes, new crafting recipes, ad nauseum. Their answer to these questions, 95% of the time, is: we want to do that, but we don't have enough time. Priorities. (The other 5% of the time is when people ask about flying mounts and the developers have to go laugh their ass off.)

How seriously are we to take developer excuses about priorities when they spend manhours on the Chicken Quests? If it was the Old Thrush, I would not be writing any of this -- the thrush has a critical role in the Hobbit. Smaug would have triumphed if it had not been for the thrush. And foxes ... foxes have a long tradition as the heroes of medieval folk tales, and we meet a thinking fox in LotR.

But a chicken? Okay, I guess you have Chaucer's Nun's Priest's Tale, and its 1979 sequel the Book of the Dun Cow. But even those are about roosters!

Yeah, okay, developers are rolling around saying, "Wait till you try it! It'll be fun!" But I maintain that the choice of hero was a poor one. Chickens are common; they have no footprint in LotR; other animals would have served far better.


Anonymous said...

The playable chickens are in fact roosters.

Doctor J said...

Yes, so I have read in dev responses to the thread. This does not give them a basis in LotR, it just gives them a basis in medieval folklore. Which means they still fail, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking they chose chickens for the eggspress purpose of not being heroic. It's a comical, light-hearted aside from the rest of the game. You're not supposed to be heroic. You're supposed to be a lowly, unassuming chicken that can get killed by pretty much anything. Maybe in the future they'll add more session play animals, but this is a fun start :)

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Anonymous said...

Actually, Pertelote was pretty important in my beloved 'Book of the Dun Cow'. (If only the sequel hadn't been so incredibly depressing!)

I agree, though, chickens aren't the way I would have chosen for this first run of session play.

Tom said...

Think about it, this is in a way like The Hobbit for chickens. Perhaps this chicken is the Bilbo Baggins of chickens, nobody expected a hobbit to go on any adventures before Bilbo, right? So this chicken may be the first chicken hero. Everything needs a start.