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Standing Stone Games | Official Site
MMORPG | Setting:Fantasy | Status:Final  (rel 04/24/07)  | Pub:Daybreak Games
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A Season of Change

By Guest Writer on December 06, 2010 | Interviews | Comments

A Season of Change

If there is one standard with MMOs, it is that they must evolve or else they risk withering and dying. Turbine has recently taken two of its more recent titles down the road of Free-to-Play, but that was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to the changes. In Lord of the Rings Online, the revamps have multiplied with changes to some classes as well as a rebuild of the Winter Festival celebration that takes place in the online version of Middle-earth.

Turbine's producer for LOTRO, Aaron Campbell, took time to chat with MMORPG about the changes that have recently been implemented.

The Winter Festival this year is reportedly brand new. First off, why did you feel it was necessary to do away with the previous festival?

Aaron Campbell:

Originally the Winter Festival was not supposed to be totally brand new, but the new content grew larger than expected during development. There were too many great ideas! We felt that the inclusion of the Bar Fight (last year's featured content) would make the whole event TOO big, and decided to use it for a later date. There is a lot to do in the new winter area.


What will the new festival entail and what do you think will resonate the most with players?

Aaron Campbell:

The new Winter Festival is a small region with its own story, much like any region in LOTRO. The celebration of Yule is its theme, with villains and heroes and innocent bystanders to give the new town an emotional hook. A mean, wealthy mayor is hosting a variety of fun mini-games, including a Theatre, a Snowball Fight, and an Eating Contest ... but in the background, the player has an opportunity to make some really kind (or unkind) choices if they so desire.

Why do you feel, from a developer standpoint, it is important to mark the season at all in a fantasy world?

Aaron Campbell:

As a developer, I can give a really good answer to why it's important for LOTRO to mark the holiday: The Yule Festival was in game before I started on the team. Easy! It's all about continuing the tradition, and expanding upon our previous content. But it does fit with our seasonal festivals: Spring, Summer, Harvest, and Yule. The festivals are less about the real-life holidays, and more about the holidays you find in Middle-earth

What have you done that is new to the elf and dwarf starter zones?

Aaron Campbell:

The Elf and Dwarf starter zones have gotten a huge makeover. The first big revamp was the story that takes each player from the introductory tutorial into the capstone instance at the end of the starting experience. The story has been completely polished and refined to make the epic tale more compelling. The environment at Thorin's Gate has been totally redone, with the effects of the occupation by corrupt Dourhands evident everywhere you look. The quests in the new player area are also brand new - the old quests have been taken out, and the new quests added to reflect the changes that went into the man-hobbit starter as well. The flow is simpler, cleaner, and involves less needless running around. Players should feel like they're making forward progress at all times throughout this new experience, which will hopefully allow them to easily navigate the early hurdles of starting a new MMO.

What changes have been made to crafting that will be the most noticeable, initially?

Aaron Campbell:

The crafting panel has gone through some serious revision (love). The size of the panel has been increased, allowing for a larger recipe list on the left and a complete recipe information panel on the right. Proficiency and Mastery pages have been combined, so you no longer have to click a tab to display optional ingredient information for the recipe. There are also sections on the craft panel to direct you to the LOTRO store for recipes, our new Ingredient Packs (items you can use instead of normal craft ingredients to make crafted items that are bound to your account), and Crafting Acceleration scrolls to boost the amount of craft experience gained with most recipes.

What changes have been made to the Lore-keeper and Rune-crafter classes. These classes were earmarked for the more veteran players. Will the changes make them easier to play, more accessible or merely add to the depth of the classes?

Aaron Campbell:

The Lore-master changes I would characterize as polishing rather than making them easier to play. We gave them a new AoE melee skill for those Lore-masters that like to get up close and personal with their opponents as well as a new de-buffing skill, Frost-lore that along with the existing skills of Fire-lore and Wind-lore allow the Lore-master to reduce the damage done by all types of monster skills. In addition we gave the Lore-master the long awaited ability to summon their animal companion in battle.

The Rune-keeper updates focused on adding variety to the class by mixing up skill rotations and adding new chisels. For the lightning-focused players, we added a new skill that helps with power issues and rebalanced existing skills to buff those that were underused. Fire users gained a new skill that allows them to get their fire DoT's active faster, and received various buffs and bug fixes. Healers gain the ability to mix more offensive skills into their gameplay and buffs to some traits. Five new types chisels have been added to allow further customization.

Since going F2P, what changes - if any - have you seen in the player community?

Aaron Campbell:

I think there was a lot of concern that we'd see some dramatic shift in the community, but what we've actually seen is the LOTRO community live up to its reputation as one of the most welcoming in the industry. Every community has growing pains, especially when you grow by so much in such a short period of time, but our long time players have really stepped up and offered their assistance and knowledge to the new players. Best of all we're seeing the newer players 'pay it forward' and do the same for those coming in after them.

After 3 1/2 years in release, what do you like the most about LOTRO?

Aaron Campbell:

I find the epic books to still be one of the most compelling reasons to play LOTRO. When you sit down to play the game, you always know that there is a deep, engaging story waiting for you. You don't get to just hear about the amazing events of Middle-earth - you get to participate in those events first hand. Your character plays a role in the evolving story of the world instead of constantly playing second-fiddle to a lore character, or constantly doing favors for some NPC who lost her cat.

It's like reading a novel - you just want to do one more quest to find out what happens next.

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