Managing Editor Jon Wood recently had the chance to sit down with Jeff Anderson, the President and CEO of Turbine Inc. In this, the second part of a two part interview, Jon and Jeff discuss the Monster Play feature in the upcoming game, Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar.
Last week, we brought you the first half of Jon Wood's interview with Jeff Anderson, the CEO and President of Turbine Inc. about the process of turning the well-loved classic Lord of the Rings novel trilogy into an MMORPG. Today, we bring you part two of Jon's interview. In part two, Jeff talks about the game's unique Monster Play system.
One of the major complaints that we heard about Lord of the Rings Online when details first started to be released was that there would be no evil races available for play and because of this, the game would not have PvP. You see, many fans of Tolkien's books are as much a fan of the utterly evil races as they are the bright and shiny hero races. Lord of the Rings was, for me growing up, the ultimate story of good vs. evil.
Personally, I am not a huge fan of PvP, but it really felt to me as though there was a missed opportunity here. When I asked Jeff Anderson, the President and CEO of Turbine, about this, I was relieved to find that while it was true that Turbine would not be including Orcs in their list of playable races, there was still a system in place that would allow players to get into the evil mindset and actually get our hands on some of Sauron's minions. Monster Play, I was told, would solve this problem.
"When you're in the game," Jeff said, "and you reach level 10, you then will have the ability to create your monster characters. You do that by going to different places in the world and using the 'Fell Scrying Pool'. When you use this, you can see beyond where you are to other places in the world, and you can actually go there and into the body of a monster."
While this may not be the way that your average MMORPG would handle the idea of opposing factions, it seems to work within the context of the lore behind the game. After all, the focus of the story was always the good guys. The evil races served as a backdrop for conflict. In Lord of the Rings Online, that dynamic is preserved as any "evil character" you may make is, by definition, secondary to your Elf or Hobbit.
Like Jeff said, "The Monster Play feature allows players to choose a completely different kind of character to play in a completely different way. This is your opportunity to bring out your evil side."
In terms of diversity, players have five different monster races and classes to choose from:
On top of all of this, the monster that you inhabit begins at level 50. That being said, I had to ask Jeff how these new characters would be able to advance through the game. As it turns out, monster advancement is very similar to your primary character's advancement.
The monsters that you inhabit are living in an area of the world called the Ettenmoors where they are "totally tricked out with cool equipment, skills and abilities". At the same time, high-level good guys will also be in the area, fighting monsters and completing missions.
In order to understand the progression and advancement of the monsters, there are a few things that need to be clear. First, both good and evil characters have ratings. When you kill someone of a higher rating, your rating goes up.
Much like their goodly counterparts, the monsters are also given quests. The example that Jeff gave involved slaying Hobbits and collecting their toes. From someone like me, who likes their evil races actually evil, I think I might enjoy the chance to collect myself some Hobbit toes.
On top of quest objectives, you also get objectives to go and kill other players in PvP. In fact, PvP is the main way to advance your monster. When a monster kills a goodly character, that monster gains infamy points. As you kill more good guys, you gain more infamy. Infamy gains players ranks. There are 15 ranks available to monster characters.
Ranks are "the gate to everything that makes your monster even more explosively cool". These ranks really serve much the same purpose as levels. If you want to increase your skills, abilities, powers, traits, items... you need to progress in rank. Basically, ranks unlock the ability to gain these new things. Actually obtaining them costs destiny points.
In Lord of the Rings Online, destiny points are currency on the account level. You gain them by doing most everything in the game and they are used to buy things like benefits, boots, and buffs for a hero character (good guy), or to buy a new body for a monster character. This pool of destiny points, as mentioned above, is shared between both the good and evil character.
In terms of Monster Play, the area known as the Ettenmoors plays a crucial role. Within that area, monster and player alike are fair game for PvP. Monsters, as described, will arrive their upon their initial creation through the Fell Scrying Pool. Hero characters will be lured there through quests and also the promise of high-end crafting nodes, PvE objectives and more. It's an area that a player could avoid if they so chose, but there are certainly incentives to venture in to the area where heroes, monsters and NPCs are all fair game.
In the end, Monster Play is simply a unique way to include PvP in a game where everyone is a good guy. It doesn't make sense for Elves to fight Hobbits and so something else had to be done. Whether or not this system will catch on will have to wait until the game's launch, but I can say that this conversation with Jeff piqued even a PvE player's interest.
You can read the first part of this interview here.