Right now, a number of the staff over at Turbine are probably on planes and headed over to England for the Connect ‘08 event that is being held by Codemasters, Codemasters being Turbine‘s European publisher. There, they have promised that they will be making a big announcement. What that announcement is, how it will effect the game, and whether or not North American players will be effected are all questions that I would like to have answers to, but we’re going to have to wait until the end of the week to find out. Fortunately, our own Donna Desborough will be attending the event so we shouldn’t have to wait too long to put an end to our curiosity.
Still, late last week I had a interview with Jeffrey Steefel, the Executive Producer of Lord of the Rings Online. While we obviously couldn’t talk about the announcement, there was still plenty to talk about. Our conversation began, as any conversation between manly-men should, on the subject of outfits.
After the release of each new Book, Turbine pays very close attention to the way that players are reacting to the new additions to the game. In Book 12, the devs added an outfit system into the mix that allows players to keep their old mis-matched armor for the stat bonuses that it provides while choosing their own outward appearance. It’s called the outfit system and according to Steefel, “The outfit system is very successful and what we hoped it would be.”
From there, we went on to talk about the way that Turbine continues to add new and interesting features to the game that don’t necessarily effect the 1-50 level grind. As examples, the game launched with a pretty in-depth music system, allowing players to actually play the instruments that their characters carried. Later, the team added housing to the mix, giving characters a virtual place to live. Now, players can not only wear those custom outfits, carry around objects in their hands that aren’t weapons or visit a barber shop to change their hair and other features.
All of the above features contribute to adding depth to the game, and are reflections of things that make an MMO into a more vibrant place to not only complete quests and PvP, but for characters to live. What we, as players, often don’t take into consideration is the fact that each of these features is a new “mouth to feed”. By this, I mean that the developers can’t just design and implement a new feature. That new feature needs to be tended and cared for, adjusted and added to, and it all takes time and man power to complete.
As a result of having a limited number of staff and a growing number of mouths to feed, the updates that come for the various features always come in increments. While the team would like to be able to do everything for every feature all at once, it just isn’t possible.
When I asked Steefel what the reaction had been to the latest update’s release, he told me that, all in all, the feedback had been fairly positive, but that “everyone wants more stuff”. A good example of the incremental additions to these features comes in the form of the latest housing features. Now, players can decorate their homes in new ways, having the ability to turn the objects for placement. The team has also added new trophies to the mix, allowing players to collect some items from defeated foes to display proudly on their property. In the future, we are told, “it’s easy to imagine that rare drops will become trophies”.
While the focus of this update was on customization, that doesn’t mean that Book 12 didn’t introduce some other interesting game play elements. In our Book 12 preview, we talked about The Delving of Frór, a new underground dungeon-like area under the Ettenmoors that can only be accessed by the side (Monsters or Free Peoples) that controls the area. If the other side takes the area while you’re in the dungeon, they can follow you down.
As it turns out, this has been a very successful addition to the game and Steefel tells us that “it’s a good indication” that this is a good way for them to go in terms of Monster Play. It’s what he called “diverse, repeatable content”.
Seemingly Random Facts
Seemingly Random Facts
At the end of the conversation, Steefel and I started talking about what else is going on in the world of Lord of the Rings Online. As mentioned earlier, he couldn’t tell me much, but we did talk about a couple of different things. While this may seem like an odd way to end an article, it sure beats some kind of awkward conclusion paragraph: