Monday, May 07, 2007


So, it appears that LOTRO is actually getting good reviews. One of the things the reviewers like is that there are tons of titles you can get for just about everything, and then you can pick a certain number out of your (presumably) hundreds to let other people see. I don't know the specifics, because I haven't played LOTRO. But it got me thinking.

While this pleases most players, what this really underlines for me is the difference between creative play and explorative play. This is simply explorative play: you get specific titles for specific acts. You can then show whichever you like.

My preference is for creative play, though, so after a moment of chatting with Darius, we came up with an interesting idea:

What if doing those things didn't give you titles, but "title components"? Then you could combine those components into titles which are generated heuristically. The more skilled you are in wordplay, the better a title sounds.

For example, you kill a bunch of chickens, so you get a "chicken-slayer (15)" title component. If you, a rank amateur, chooses to make a title out of it, you'll get "Chicken-kicker" or maybe even "Farmyard animal abuser". A person who is very skilled in wordplay can get you "Avian slayer" or something slightly less abysmal.

Or you could combine a bunch of components. Like "chicken-slayer (15)" and "roc-slayer (3)" and "giant raven slayer (12)" might combine nicely to create a "Wing Nemesis" or, if you're bad at word play, "flying hazard".

Of course, toss in an "orc-slayer (25)" and suddenly the title is worthless. It's just a generic "killing shit" title, instead of specifically applying to avians. The more generic the title has to be to cover all the components, the more watered down it will become. Unless your skill is high enough to create multi-part titles, like "Highguard's Air Defender, Goblin Slayer, and Buyer of Profane Artifacts".

Components relate to objects, locations, and actions all at once. So "chicken-slayer (15)" would be chickens (the object), actions (slaying 15 of them), and a location (not mentioned in the example, presumably Highguard).

I think this would be fun, especially since you could have other applications for wordplay. Naming, name transfers, and renaming weapons, armor, and spells could become a cool alternate/add-on to the classic "buy new shit" model. You could spread rumors and try to control the NPC population via newspaper headlines... "Hear ye, hear ye, the Buyer of Profane Artifacts is to visit us at noon tomorrow!"

The same underlying recombination system could probably be expanded to create weapons, armor, and spells from components of those types (presumably using armorer and spellcrafter skills rather than wordplay). You might even be able to mix and match components, so killing a ton of goblins gets you a component that can be used in a title... and/or in a weapon or spell, to make it better against goblins...

Just an amusing thought. I wonder if it would make the game more fun. It would for me, because I don't like explorative play unless I'm the only one doing the exploring.


Patrick said...

So how would you implement that? A big search tree with hueristics that are amplified by a Wordplay variable? I think writing out 4k lines for that would be a fun exercise if you spread it out over a couple of months.

Craig Perko said...

Well, a lot of it would just be searching for the most specific common denominator - essentially, the parent class that all the elements are descended from. Each class would have a bunch of words associated with it, each with a specific difficulty. This would be true for both objects and actions.

It will probably also be necessary to have different parts of speech and "multiple parents" - a chicken descends from both "bird" and "farm animal" and maybe "silly creature".

It wouldn't be hard, but it would be a lot of words.