Saturday, March 26, 2016

Paging Neil deGrasse Tyson...

...white courtesy phone, please.

Sorry, but I just had to add this.

Okay, not really, but typically during an MMO's nighttime I don't often look up. I'm more used to the focusing on the baddies on the ground, and besides, the sky at night in MMOs changes depending on what zone you're in.*

Some MMOs don't even bother changing the sky based on the time of day --I'm looking at you, SWTOR-- because the background scenery is only important enough for the imagery it presents to you as part of the story.

Lord of the Rings Online, on the other hand, is a bit different.

For starters, some baddies only come out at night, such as trolls, and any quest that involves getting rid of the trolls that roam the countryside in, say, the Trollshaws** close to Rivendell, means that you have to wait until the sun goes down before you can go troll hunting.

This is where LOTRO's sped up game time comes in handy, so you don't have to wait for the night time on whatever time the server is set for to actually go troll hunting. If you play only from 2 - 4 PM at your local time in a game that keeps a true 24 hour game clock (WoW, for instance), you'd never actually see the night sky unless you played on a server on another continent. LOTRO's in-game clock is so fast that an in-game "day" is slightly over 3 hours of real time.

Well, this is nice and all, but on one of those times when I was travelling through Evendim (swimming across Lake Nenuial because, you know, a F2P player doesn't have access to things such as boats that make such travel easier), I happened to look up at the night sky above me.

Ithil (aka "The Moon") is off screen above and slightly to the left.
I'm by no means an amateur astronomer, as what qualifies as a telescope in our house is an old Stevens 3" reflector that I received as a Christmas present back circa 1981***, but I know enough about the night sky that I picked out this immediately:

Apparently my toon has good eyes, as I can only see about 7 or so in real life.

The Pleiades. Right next to the tower at Tyl Ruinen.

Now, when Tolkien wrote the stories about Middle-earth, he grounded the tales by referencing real world items and putting his own spin on them. The Moon became "Ithil" in Sindarin (one of the Elvish languages), "elephant" became "oliphaunt", etc. The Pleiades became Remmirath (in Sindarin), or the Netted Stars.

I realize that MMO skies aren't going to be astronomically perfect --the developers have way too many other items to worry about to be concerned about getting the night sky in Northwest Middle-earth in the Autumn completely accurate****, but I still found it surprising that the devs took the time to get The Pleiades right.

I might have to go back and see if I can find Orion in the sky.

*Think of how cloudy with an eerie glow Icecrown Glacier is in Northrend, and you get the idea.

**I know, I know. Silly name. But Tolkien wrote it that way and put it on his maps.

***I still occasionally drool over a Celestron, Meade, or Orion telescope catalog, wishing I had the money and time to do some stargazing on a regular basis. I even considered trying to build my own telescope, but I realized after crunching some numbers that I'd be better off simply buying my own telescope than trying to make my own. And I think my wife would be very upset if I took years to finish another one of my "projects" around the house.

****Tolkien does reference Remmirath and Menelvagor (Orion) in Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.

EtA: I just had to add the Airplane scene after the fact.


  1. Replies
    1. I know, right?

      I've not made it to Forochel (the frozen north) in game yet, but I've been told by the oldest mini-Red that the Northern Lights are on display at night up there.

  2. I love the night sky in LOTRO as well! I remember reading that the developers actually put time in to make the night sky lore-appropriate, although it seems that the starts move, but not the main constellations (bit odd).

    Found this blog post about it that you'll probably like: