I recently had the opportunity to chat with Lord of the Rings Online Executive Producer Jeffery Steefel about a diverse array of topics, from The Mines of Moria, their upcoming paid expansion, to Book 13: Doom of the Last-king, their upcoming free content expansion and even a small peek over the horizon at Book 14. Turbine has been keeping up a good pace in terms of content expansion since the game’s launch a year ago, and they don’t have plans to slow down. Steefel says that on top of the free expansions, they also plan to launch one paid expansion per year, the first of which will let players explore the lost and deadly depths of Moria under the Misty Mountains.
Most of the announced features in the expansion have been spoken about already. Players will be treated to a level cap increase from level 50 to 60 and will also get two new classes to play, the Rune-Keeper and the Warden. All of this will come in handy when players face off against the Watcher in the Water, the Balrog, and the hoards of dark creatures who now call these tunnels home. More help will come to players in the form of Item Advancement. The new expansion will add a whole new advancement path for players in the form of improvable weapons. Steefel described these weapons as being sort of like a pet, which gain experience and advance along their own advancement path. The weapons also have slots for upgrading and also have specific weapon related quests. Players get these quests from their weapons, so the items act like a mobile quest hub which you carry around with you. Now that’s convenience. The advancable items will also be available at relatively low levels, and although Steefel didn’t give a specific level, he said advancement will be very accessible at first and will require a higher degree of effort and skill at higher levels, describing it as the fat path, narrow path approach.
The Mines of Moria expansion will open up several regions for Middle Earth’s heroes to go adventuring in; not only Moria but Lothlorian, and Eregion as well. Their current focus is on Moria ,which is going to be a huge region both above and below the Misty Mountains. The region is designed to be immense, and Steefel said that when players finally reach the other side of the mountain they should come out feeling like they’ve never seen anything as vast. In Tolkein’s books Moria is described as being a mess of labyrinthine tunnels which take days to traverse if one knows the way. In the movies, we were treated to stunning visuals of claustrophobic corridors, and wide open chambers, where even with magical light one can’t see the ceiling or walls on the opposite end of the room. But in books and film the creators only need to describe in detail the areas where the characters are. In the medium of MMORPGs, the team needs to build everywhere that players may be inclined to explore, and Steefel says players can expect the Mines of Moria in LotRO to be much larger than in the movies.
Throughout our conversation Steefel used a number of synonyms for the word “big”, as he spoke about both Moria and Book 13 (there are only so many times you can say big in a conversation without feeling dirty). When we got on the topic of Doom of the Last-king, he described it as even larger than Evendim. The free content expansion will add the second major region to Lord of the Rings Online, a tundra filled land in northern Eriador. The region will be the first region in LotRO that will be directly on the ocean, and because of the northern theme, it will include a number of cold themed features. There will be little touches like the ability to see a character’s breath more and more as it gets colder; and there will be big additions like a new cold damage type and the ability to die from the cold, just by staying away from a heat source for too long. Players are advised to not stand around too long admiring the scenery for because of these unholy temperatures. Heading north will also introduce players to a new race of Men called the Lossoth, the native inhabitants of this region who players will need to gain reputation with if they hope to learn how to survive in these hash lands.
In addition to the new region and the adventures that come with it, Book 13 will also add several new game features that can be found throughout the game. Monsters in the Ettenmoors will have a new ally to fight against the Free Peoples of Middle Earth with a new monster play class: the Defiler. The Defiler is intended to be a healing class with monster style. Instead of gaining inspiration and encouragement from a Minstrel, Monsters will be slathered with slimy poultices and healed with vile concoctions. Yum.
Turbine is also changing the way players group up. They’ll be adding some new options to make it easier to look for a fellowship, like the ability to search for players who are on the same quests as you are. Also, there’s the new Mustering Horn. These horns will be placed strategically across the landscape, and will be large, immobile horns that summon a character’s entire fellowship via a teleport when blown.
The conversation concluded with a taste of Book 14. In Book 14 players will head to the ring forge in Eregion where the three rings of the Elves were made. Book 14 will wrap up the Shadows of Angmar Story arc and lead into the next arc which begins in Moria, where the fellowship has just passed and players get to follow in the wake of all of the trouble they’ve managed to stir up.