In the frantic picture of game design, balancing, art direction, content, and bug squashing of making a highly complex MMO, development teams begin to miss things. Who cares about how a daisy moves when there's serious issues at hand, like item drop rates not working out the way they should be? Yet some development teams do see these little issues and they do take the time to program them in. Not every user may notice them, but some users will, and appreciate them.
This column is dedicated to the little things in our virtual lives. Come with me as we look through some popular and some unpopular MMOs, and highlight some of the things that development teams have done to really hook us into their world.
The bear necessities
Players over level 70 got treated to heaping helpings of lore and amazing content in Wrath of the Lich King, and there are plenty of moments that really attracted the attention of so many. But what some people may have overlooked in their rush to 80 was the amazing content in the Grizzly Hills section of Northrend -- especially in the wildlife.
Birds, wolves, deer, horses, and bears fill the Grizzly Hills and turn it into a true outdoor spectacle. Birds will run flight patterns through the trees as they look for small prey, wolves will prey on deer that wander too close to their territory, horses will run in packs near the Westfall Brigade Encampment, and bears actually act like bears.
I actually had to sit down and enjoy this, because it was something very unique to the Grizzly Hills. Next time you're in the area, watch the bears that spawn around the river. They will actually lumber up to the water and begin pawing in it, looking for fish. Suddenly, out of nowhere, they'll dive their heads in and come up with a fresh trout, which they will take away from the river, holding it in their mouths, to a spot to eat.
I didn't know virtual birds flew south for the winter
The inhabitants of Middle-Earth have a whole bunch of things to attract their attention. Glorious artwork, great storyline quests, an intricate party attack system, and also birds. Yes, the programmers actually remembered to put birds in Middle-Earth, and not just monsters either.
Players in the area of Bree should look up every once in a while, as they may get to see a whole flock of well animated and well painted birds fly over head, making the scenic views of Middle-Earth even more scenic. Sure, this sounds kinda silly and not worth mentioning, but it's that attention to detail that makes Lord of the Rings Online look and feel so much like Tolkien's vision. Of course, the evil trees in the Old Forest and the creepy way some spiders drop down on you from the ceiling on a line of web help create that feeling too. Those things, however, are best saved for another article.