On Monday night, the developers from Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar dropped by our new IRC home on Coldfront for the most recent in our series of Developer Chats. We had quite the crowd gathered to ask questions of: Creative Director Cardell Kerr, Community Manager Meghan Rodberg and Executive Producer Jeffrey Steefel.
Lord of the Rings Online had a very smooth launch about six months ago, and has gained in popularity ever since. As such, most of the questions of the evening revolved around the game’s future in terms of what players can expect in the upcoming Book 12 update, the possibility of an expansion, and the future of the game in general. One question though that stood out in the chat came from frequent MMORPG.com poster Gameloading when he asked how the process has been in developing the game in terms of dealing with the IP holders.
Jeffrey Steefel had nothing but glowing things to say about Tolkien Enterprises, pointing out the fact that they have been very good about allowing Turbine the freedom to make their game and very understanding of the fact that, in order to make the game work, the developers need to "balance lore with gameplay".
Some of the questions in the chat revolved around the recently added (and very popular) housing feature, which allows players to buy homes in Middle-Earth in shared instance neighborhoods. When a reader asked whether the system had turned out as the developers had planned, Cardell Kerr answered by talking about how the developers wanted to give everyone in the game a chance to own a home, but didn't want "a world where everyone was in their own little apartment".
This statement makes good sense, as we have been told before that the developers were trying to avoid segregation in the game. Kerr pointed to the success of the neighborhood system, which allows players to have their own areas and yet still interact with others, as a highlight of housing's success in the game.
When the subject of Book 12 came up, it seemed as though all thoughts were centered around some of the cosmetic changes that are coming to the game, but that didn’t stop some from asking about their favorite classes:
Book 12 will see re-vamps for the Guardian, the Burglar and the Champion. The Guardian, for example, will be getting some new skills to help with their DPS in the form of two-weapon fighting.
This new update is also "all about customization", according to Kerr who told us that players will be seeing new hairstyles and faces in the upcoming Book 12, and gave those of us who remember the 80s a chuckle by adding, "and what fun would we have without the moh-ullet, a vintage Middle-Earth haircut? (punk in the front, party in the back)".
These changes won't have an effect on the initial inspect of another player, we were told. After your initial inspect, you can look through the character's cosmetic outfits.
When asked by one attendee, and obvious fan of the game, what the developers were planning to add for players in terms of end game content, Kerr’s answer was certainly interesting:
“There comes a time,” he said, ”in all MMO's where the passionate subscriber finds that the game that they love doesn't have that 'sheen' it used to have. We pride ourself on the quality of our release, as LOTRO was a labor of love. With that said, you (subscriber) consume content at an amazing rate... and you don't all like the same things. We have added elements post launch (2 Raids, some high level instances) and we've unveiled more of our epic story and plot line. We've added housing, and now we're adding a whole cosmetic system for folks to have complete customization of your character.”
“All I really want to say is; we will keep adding things. When/if we ever do an expansion, you can expect it will be largely aimed at our endgame.”
The Future Beyond Eriador
While many of the questions in the chat turned over information about the current game map, questions seemed to keep coming about the world beyond. How much of it will players get to see? Will we have to wait for an expansion? Where will we be going?
When asked whether there were plans to expand the game beyond Eriador, Jeffrey Steefel had this to say: "Of course! We're just getting started. Middle-earth opens up across the misties into the real heart of the War of the ring and some amazing places. Bear in mind that its only been 6 months since launch, even though we've had a huge amount of updates. We'll be on our way across the Misty Mountains soon enuf!" When one attendee asked if we could expect to see any of the areas outside of Eriador in a free update, or whether we would have to wait for an expansion, Steefel told us that "We'll definitely have Book updates that take place outside of Eriador. There is some unfinished business before we cross over the Misties but rest assured that time awaits."
Monday night was a good night for fans of Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online, and we would like to thank the developers for taking the time out to answer our questions. As usual, this is only a quick summary of the things that were said in the chat. If you are interested in reading more, I suggest giving a click and heading over to the complete log, which we have also posted for your convenience.