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Solving Problems and Making Friends, Part II

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Solving Problems and Making Friends, Part II

Turbine has published part two of a dev journal which looks at the work of Live Designers and their efforts to create content for Lord of the Rings Online.

Read Part One of Solving Problems and Making Friends

Unknown Territory (Week4)

As the final week of development began, I pulled on my floaties and jumped into the deep end of the pool. Even though I’ve been working on LOTRO for over 3 years now, I had never had the time or opportunity to delve into the details of our Quest System. So this was both exciting and terrifying.

Building on examples from previous quests, I began creating the new quests, associated items, NPCs and instance-related files I would need to call my project complete. It was around this point in time that Game Systems time was available to me to aid in the creation of my reward scheme (as I mentioned earlier, the calculations in our loot system hurt my head and I was quite happy to hear they were willing to assist).

One thing you learn when developing risky features is to keep your work local – which is a lesson I learned while building Angmar and one I am glad to have had now. While the set up of all my quest-related work was simple, the fixing and debugging of it made sure that it randomly bounced between working and not as I tweaked aspects of my quests.

Once everything was in working order, my content was packaged up and sent off to our Qualitative Test team to get their feedback and opinions on my efforts.

So… What Didn’t Make the Cut?

Nearly everything we dream up has to be scaled down to fit realistically within our schedules. In my case, I had a couple of ideas that either fell on the floor during planning or were cut due to the unnecessary complexity they added.

The first was the Profession restriction on instance access. Originally, it felt like the restriction fit. After all, these instances were meant to be all about the crafting resources. But – after consulting with other designers and shopping my documentation around – the restriction really ended up preventing many people from playing and enjoying these spaces.

Also on the list was Rare Monsters. I wanted to include optional rare encounters within the instances that would function as another “jack-pot” opportunity. However, in order to get them in and keep them balanced, the mechanics became prohibitively complex for the time I had available.

Screenshot Screenshot

Feedback and the Changes it Has Wrought

Another trait of Live Designers is a ravenous desire for feedback. Live Development is very appealing in that we can create something and put it in the hands of the players in a short span of time compared to full game development. This means we get to see what people like (or don’t like), read their suggestions and more quickly respond to issues as they occur.

<derail> Yes – I am fully aware people may not believe we pay much attention to the boards. In fact we try our best to read and absorb as many threads as possible. Just because you don’t get a response doesn’t mean we aren’t listening. </derail>

Anyway – Feedback! Yeah! After a couple of weeks in the hands of our Qualitative Team, I had a very comprehensive list of opinions and suggestions that I could utilize to further refine my work prior to release.

What changes were brought about due to QA feedback?

  • Challenge Levels for monsters and quests within the instances were increased across the board.
    • Original Level 54-55 became Level 57-58
    • Original Level 57-58 became Level 59-60
  • Originally, the Collect quests for the instances required a certain number of monster drops to complete. Unfortunately, the Random Number Generator resulted in some testers not completing the Collect quests in a single run of the instance. Because of that, Quest items can now be obtained from monster drops and hand-placed locations within the appropriate instances.
  • Errors in Switch-state setup were revealed which prevented necessary monster types from appearing in the instances

At the end of my four week development period, I have what I feel to be a highly polished, tightly packaged set of content that is designed to provide a lot of replayability. While the questing experience on top of these instances is certainly simpler than our more complex content pieces, I hope that the daily nature of these quests, the rewards for completing them and the variability of the instance encounters make these into compelling spaces that players enjoy and return to complete on a regular basis.

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Guest Writer