How do devs get players riled up for a revenge-a-thon in their MMO? It’s quite simple, really: Make them do a lot of nice stuff for NPCs, and then have those NPCs stab the player in the back anyway.
LOTRO spoilers ahead.
This is my second time through Rise of Isengard, and as such, the big twist of the central portion of the expansion will not catch me by surprise. I thought it was clever, the first time around, how Turbine took my expectations as a player and used it against me.
You see, we’re so very, very used to doing whatever crap chores NPCs have for us, not because we’re altruistic but because we’re greedy: We want that there XP, and any goods that you’re willing to part with. It’s a job, just one that’s performed with swords and spells instead of keyboards and deep-fryers, and that’s usually the extent of our interest in the matter. It helps not to think about it, because if you do, resentment quickly builds up against these NPCs. You start to notice how lazy they are, standing in place when things need to get done and just hoping that some stranger will come along to take care of their chores. One of their friends is dying by the lakeshore and needs medicine? Boy, better hope that a helpful visitor happens to stumble on through, otherwise you’re dead meat! Even though help is literally 300 yards away!
It also doesn’t help that many quests are, shall we say, beneath us. Unheroic. These guys never care about how many dragons we’ve slain, how many apocalypses we’ve headed off, how many deaths we’ve suffered — there’s pig farmin’ to be done, son, and you’re the only one who can do it!
So with all this in mind, Turbine had a bit of fun at our expense when we headed into the town of the Falcon Clan in Dunland. It’s a lovely area, all snowy and nestled up in the hills around a pristine lake (there’s even a snowman village if you look for it). Apart from Galtrev, this town appears to be the most advanced and prosperous in the region, and the Rangers with you tell you that they’re probably willing to defy Saruman if you tip the odds in the good guys’ favor.
This means chores, and lots of them.
OK, I laughed when I saw that the Rangers had to do chores too, including hauling manure around, and that didn’t make me feel as bad when I was sent to collect apples, skin frogs, teach people to fight, and so on. But there are a LOT of chores to be done — you have to complete ten quests total — before you make headway with the clan. By the end of it, it’s natural to feel a little peeved at having to prove yourself again to another group of lazy villagers, but at least you’ve struck a blow for the free peoples of Middle-earth!
Except that you haven’t. The Falcon Clan sold out to Saruman already, and was just jerking you around before they ship you and your compatriots off to the White Wizard’s deep dungeons.
If this betrayal had happened without much personal investment in the town, I don’t think it would have struck such an emotional chord with me. The town wouldn’t have been seen as good guys, so I would’ve rolled with it. But to make me collect firewood and cure your sick villagers and then sell me off to slavery? There. Will. Be. A. Reckoning.
You best believe it.
And that’s how you get players riled up for revenge.