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GDC Talk With the Turbine Team

While at the Game Developer's Conference, the team from Turbine sat down to talk with the team from MMORPG.com about the company and the games that they make.

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While at the Game Developer’s conference in San Francisco, the MMORPG.com team had the opportunity to sit down with the folks from Turbine to talk about the company as a whole and even a little bit about the game. Joining us there were: Craig Alexander, the Vice President of Product Development for the company, along with Jeffrey Steefel Lord of the Rings Online’s Producer and Adam Mersky, the Director of Public Relations.

We began by talking to Craig about Turbine as a whole. He told us that the plan for Turbine and its games is evolutionary as they continue to build on what’s already in place to grow both the business and the games that Turbine produces.

These days, we were told, there are really four themes that Turbine follows:

Going Global – While many of us here in North America tend to look at the games industry from the perspective of the western market, Turbine is looking beyond that. The launch of Lord of the Rings Online in China and Korea are playing a large role in the company’s expansion.

Removing Barriers for the User – Turbine wants to make their games as user-friendly as possible, and point toward a desire to keep the game clients as streamlined as possible as something that they have been working hard to accomplish.

Increased Customization – The recent Book 12 update that launched in Lord of the Rings Online is a good example of the company making good in this area, providing players with the ability to customize the look of their characters without sacrificing statistics.

Outside of the Game – Turbine is looking toward offering more ways for players to interact with their games from outside of the client. One need only to look as far as the Lorebook for LotRO to see an example of this in action.

The success of Lord of the Rings Online, the company’s biggest franchise making up over 50% of Turbine’s players, has allowed the company to grow to include over 250 employees.

While the success of Lord of the Rings Online has opened many doors, the team was quick to point out that the company’s second most recent endeavor, Dungeons and Dragons Online, is not being supported by its counterpart and that they have big plans for the franchise. In fact, we are told specifically that DDO is “generating a significant amount of revenue”.

Dungeons and Dragons

Going forward, the company will continue to look at Dungeons and Dragons Online in terms of what the Dungeons and Dragons IP means to players and to potential players. While Lord of the Rings Online takes place in what is very clearly Tolkien’s world, Dungeons and Dragons takes place in the player’s world, meaning that the story of the game is about them and their particular party in much the same way as its pen and paper counterpart.

Over the next twelve months, we are told, we should expect to hear some exciting and surprising news regarding Dungeons and Dragons Online as the team continues to try to appeal to the Dungeons and Dragons consumer.

While we don’t know the exact details of the announcements that we can expect over the next twelve months, we do know that at least some of them will have to do with the release of a 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons from Wizards of the Coast. While we shouldn’t expect a full 4th edition overhaul of DDO, we are told that we can expect at least some of the elements of this new game to creep into Turbine’s efforts, but we are also told that gameplay and quality need to be king, so expect the team to take a careful look at the new rule set for possible integration.

Lord of the Rings

Before we ran out of time for our interview, I thought that I would take a little bit of time and ask some questions about Lord of the Rings Online. After all, we heard a lot about it throughout the week as many sources held it up as a bright spot in an otherwise frustrating 2007.

The first question that I asked was about the very recently adopted customization that has made its way into the game with the release of Book 12. I was told that players are adopting the new customization very well, and seem to be enjoying the new feature. I was also told that Turbine is trying to become increasingly transparent about what players will find in their new updates. They have found that the more transparent they are about what features will be integrated and how they will work, the less surprised the players are when they release.

GDC was a busy time for the folks at Turbine, and I want to thank them for taking the time to give us an update on their company and on the games that they create.

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