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Developer Journal: Chris Pierson

Posted by Jon Wood on Sep 30, 2005  | Comments

Developer Journal: Chris Pierson - Lord of the Rings Online -

Turbine's Lord of the Rings Online has released another developer journal. In this dev journal, Chris Pierson, a nine year veteran of Turbine Entertainment tells us about his experiences on this exciting franchise as a world-builder.

Hi. My name's Chris, which is confusing, since it seems like there are about a billion designers named Chris at Turbine. But I was the first – in a couple of weeks, I'll be nine years with the company. I'm old. But still not as old as NobOrBob (who was Design Chris #2). Or Floon Beetle, who, according to NobOrBob, is the Eldest of us all.

Speaking of which, I put Tom Bombadil's house in the world a few hours ago. More about that later.

I've done a lot of things at Turbine – writing game specs, making quests, proofreading press releases, helping plan our holiday parties, even defending our use of Sindarin. Those of you who read the boards may remember the kafuffle over the Rogmul's name. I'm the pedant who wrote the defense of that name. Yes, I know Elvish, which for those of you keeping track at home, adds an automatic 500 points to my Raging Geek Score.

Anyway, over the past few years I've discovered that one of my favorite things to do at work (besides the party-planning thing) is world-building. It started by accident, when a few of us were given hobbit villages to build. I made Brockenborings, and was surprised to find that (a) I liked the work, and (b) other people liked what I'd done. Next thing I knew, I was building Thorin's Hall.

These days, I'm a little more firmly entrenched in stuff Tolkien wrote more than a handful of words about. For a couple of months, I'm fleshing out the "skipped in the movies" parts of Eriador: from Buckland to the Barrow-downs. I got this part of the world because I'm known as one of the LOTRO team's "lore monkeys," being way too familiar with the books for my own good, and it's a seriously book-intensive area: Tolkien wrote a lot of description of these bits of Middle-earth. I mean, a lot. It's the part he wrote when he was pootling around, still trying to work out in his head what The Lord of the Rings was about, and a lot of it reads like fantastic travelogue of the countryside around Oxford. Which, in a way, it is.

As an example of what goes into world-building, let's take an area I'm working in right now, and which I'm growing very proud of: the Old Forest. Building a forest isn't an easy thing. You can't just scatter trees around and expect it to work, particularly in an MMO. There are many things you have to consider – performance, game flow, navigability, and aesthetics. All that while not forgetting that Bombadil's home is on an outcropping by the Withywindle River, not far from where the forest gives way to Tyrn Gorthad. Go, lore monkey.

To get the whole journal, simply click here.

*This story brough to us courtesy of Corduroy13