I think that sometimes these books are almost a little too long to the point where the filler distracts us from the story itself. -Syp
This is all too true, not just for LOTRO or WoW, but for about any quest-based game I've ever played. We're supposed to be saving the world and somehow, we still find ourselves interrupted to dig some semi-digested cherries out of deer poop.
This doesn't mean that all side quests are bad. In WoW I would say that from level 1 to around 50 it makes sense. We're not yet heroes, but merely adventurers wandering from one adventure to the next. It isn't until the late game that we are given the "if you don't do this the world ends" goals. I meant that in the pre-Cataclysm context, when level 60 was the time of fighting the Scourge, evil dragons, and evil bugs. After that when we first cross into Outland we've dealt with the previous world-ending evils. Now we're again in search of a purpose. But again, when we get to the higher levels, we have purpose and should no longer be sent off on random tangents. But in LK I don't think this applied. We went north to deal with the Scourge and anything else was a distraction. Except maybe the little tiny matter of an old god. post-80 Cataclysm seemed to be more focused, dealing with the Twilight and Dragons, without constant side-tracking, except maybe in Uldum, which almost felt like the entire place was a side-quest.
Side quests aren't merely a dilution of the main theme. They are a distraction. Even worse,t hey break it up. Imagine trying to watch a great movie, such as any Star Wars that did not include child Anakin, but every five minutes it was interrupted by scenes from Titanic and Battlestar Galactica. Would you find it a big harder to follow the story? And would then Cloud City make very little sense, with suddenly everyone is on a mining outpost with seemingly nothing to do with the main story of becoming a Jedi and hiding after Hoth? Cloud City was a side-quest in a way, branching off the main story, rather than being a completely unrelated interruption. But would we pick that up and be able to tie it in if it was given in the context of everything being a random interruption? Many quests which seem like side-quests, unrelated to the main story, may be entirely relevant, but when we're constantly distracted, we lose track of the connecting threads, and everything falls apart.