Interview – Turbine chats about LOTRO Mines of Moria Book 8 and beyond

By Stephany Nunneley, Friday, 3 July 2009 22:38 GMT

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VG247 had a chance to send Turbine over a few questions for Lord of the Rings Online, specifically regarding some of the changes to the crafting system and the new content included in Book 8 for Mines of Moria.

Aaron “Rowan” Campbell, live producer for the game, was kind enough to answer our prattling questions, and gave us hints on what to expect in the future for the Tolkien-based MMO.

It’s posted in it’s entirety through the jump. It’s rather lengthy. Might wanna go grab a snack first.

VG247: Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to speak with us Aaron. Please introduce yourself to our readers, and tell us what your position entails with Turbine.

AC:  Hello! My name is Aaron “Rowan” Campbell, and I’m the Live Producer for The Lord of the Rings Online. As a producer I spend my time focusing on the state of our game on a daily basis – what works, what doesn’t work and what needs a hotfix. I also support the team in delivering great new content updates to expand your adventures in Middle-earth.

How long has the team been working on Book 8?

The team has been actively building Book 8 since April of this year, although some elements of the release were conceived as early as summer 2008. It takes a lot of planning, development and testing to bring out a new book! The team has a backlog of ideas we’re always reviewing and working through, along with the latest community and testing feedback.

The updates made to the game for Volume 2 Book 8 are very extensive, and while we would like to ask you a few questions regarding these, we would first like to focus on the crafting changes.

The new recipes and ingredients that go into creating pieces of weaponry, armor, food, etc —will these help bring more value to crafting as a whole? With the introduction of Legendary weapons, for example, a lot of players feel that creating new ones on the Supreme level are no longer worth the time and the expense of obtaining Mithril flakes etc – will these changes make better use of what is crafted?

Most crafting changes in Book 8 were specifically targeted at your gameplay experience while advancing through the early and middle levels of the game. The goal is to make sure that you always have something relevant to craft at each level range, and that crafted items are always comparable or superior to the quest rewards you encounter at the same level.

Legendary items are really a special case – they are meant to be rare, and rooted in ancient lore. The team is looking for ways to connect crafters more deeply with legendary items. Later this year the team is also planning to add new recipes to Lothlorien to fill gaps that are not filled by legendary items, for example in off-hand weapons, shields or armor. You can continue to expect crafting to provide some nice rewards and to be important to balancing out your character.

In Mines of Moria, radiance gear is luck of the draw sometimes, it was the same with the Rift. Many times players went into these raids and instances and came out with only once piece due to looting rules etc, and can sometimes get burned out on doing the same quests over and over to get gear to no avail. What steps are you taking to make instances like this more interesting for players so that it does not turn into a chore or become redundant for them?

With Volume 2 Book 8, the team is added three new instance spaces with challenge modes. Two of these spaces are designed for small fellowships (3 players) while the third is designed for a full fellowship (6 players). The intention here is to provide fun new places to explore and new pieces with higher radiance.

What about multiple instances for multiple looks? Has the team ever thought about stepping up the armor class, mitigation, and resists? For example: We have seen some ranged classes running around with 5000 hit points unbuffed — what about balancing so that say if you are going up against a fire-beast and your resist is only 600 you can’t attend that raid until you have completed certain quests for better gear — kind of like with The Watcher?

Accessibility to new content is always a balancing act. I think you’ll find that our latest content uses a variety of different damage types – whether it is acid, fire or shadow – but is not designed so that resists by themselves gate the encounter. Venturing into Dâr Narbugud, our latest 12 person raid, you’ll find that teamwork, strategy, and the awareness of each raid member is as or more important than the gear you are wearing.

Any more outfits or dyes planned? Any plans for extra level caps per armor set or more variety in the choice?

We definitely have new looks and art planned for the future. The level cap will be extended later this year, so stay tuned!

The economy is either booming or it’s slow. This of course is a natural occurrence with any changes and upgraded materials added to a game. Used to be an Adamant shard would cost you one gold, now sometimes you can get one for 250 silver. Any plans to boost the economy by having mobs drop more money? Say a level 60 elite that a level 60 hunter just killed, dropping 250 silver instead of 25 silver to help account for the 25 silver the character would spend on a repair bill?

The state of the economy is something that we are constantly monitoring. Strangely enough, one of our primary concerns is inflation. It is much better to keep a dynamic economy where the price of items fluctuates with their demand than flooding the marketing with too much cash… you might think this would let everyone afford everything, but what it actually does is just make everything more expensive.

Speaking of houses, any plans to go with a Star Wars Galaxies approach and add more places to hang things, provide extra customization, chests, and maybe lessen the cost of weekly maintenance or just charge it monthly instead? What about allowing players to purchase larger homes – not necessarily as large as a Kin house, per say, but larger than the deluxe ones offered?

We have some thoughts about changes to housing for the future, but it is too early to share them yet.

What about the addition of housing quests other than the ones given when you are high enough level to purchase one? What about neighborhood events? Any plans for those in the future?

Updates to the housing neighborhoods to make them more lively and active are something we’ve been considering for a long time. This really comes down to balancing out those changes with other updates, such as new quest hubs and expanding Middle-earth. We’d love to hear more of your ideas.

PvE in Lord of the Rings is both challenging and second to none if we are being honest, but PvP only has the one area where player can gather together and go at it. Any plans to integrate more PvP into the game for those who are really hard core about it? There are loads of areas and battles from the books that could be added that would not take away from the Lore or upset the purists. Do you plan on making Helm’s Deep, Saruman’s scorching of the Shire, Minas Tirith, Isengard, etc into PvP battle zones?

I’ve seen some amazing ideas around this on whiteboards, but nothing that has found its way into the game yet. We’ll continue to look for opportunities and to support and balance the unique PvMP system that we have now.

Do you plan to integrate 100 person raids? Maybe even 50 so that you could sell the massive scope these events were in the books and movies to players?

Hmm… well we could, but I don’t think you’d enjoy the lag (or communication challenges) of running a group that large. In an upcoming update, we’ll be introducing Skirmishes. This is our first experiment with battles that scale in challenge (based on the size of your group) and we’re really excited to see how it plays out.

What about different sets of gear for players? Any new ones for the PvP crowd on the horizon?

With the extension of the level cap later this year I expect we’ll be seeing new gear sets as well.

Any plans to add more creatures to Monster Player like goblins, trolls, giants, Urik-hai, Southerners?

Our designers have dreams of warg riders and goblins hauling cauldrons of burning pitch. Oh wait, that’s my office space.

The trait system is the same for all classes and races as far as general traits are concerned. Sometimes, you can have a 3000 wound resistance but still get wounded by a mob much lower in level than you. Lots of players were redoing traits for certain instances because it called for it – be it shadow, poison, etc. – have you thought about giving players more general specific traits or the ability to mix and match? We know that with level caps more slots are opened usually, so are you at liberty to divulge any new traits or changes to ones that are not slotted as much?

The team is definitely reviewing the traits and legacies that are most often used, with an eye to fine-tuning this in the future. I don’t expect substantial changes to these in the near term.

Has the team thought about adding more dynamic weather to the game or making it so it can effect game play?

After my last trip to Forochel, I’d say that the weather can have quite an impact. We implement environmental factors where we can and where they make sense – the goal is to have the environment enhance your gameplay, not make it less fun.

Rumors a couple months back state that the next paid expansion will be titled The Riders of Rohan (due to the ridersofrohan.com taking you to the main site). Is there any credence to this rumor at all?

We routinely reserve web addresses and other copyright material in relation to our license. Of course we plan to go to Rohan at some point (just as The Fellowship did), I just can’t comment on when.

While Rohan is the logical next step after leaving Lothlorien, the gap of Rohan is MASSIVE. It took Aragorn, Gimli and Legloas a very long time to cross it. How vast do you plan on making the area once it’s opened? Will it remain on scope with the lore and movies? The possibilities for skirmishes and baddies thwarting your plans to get to Rohan for days on end is exciting.

As with any encounter or area, our goal would be to stay true to the source material. The LOTR trilogy gives us ample material to base this area on.

What about Ents? When will this race become playable, and do you plan on integrating the different types of Ents with traits specific to each one?

It’s a great idea. Would you be birch, beech or oak? Or of course the epic Mallorn?

In Volume 2 Book 8, you have added two new three-man instances, one six and one 12, what is the payoff for going back in and repeating these?

These spaces will have their own quests and challenge modes. The Book 8 epic quest will also lead you into the 3-person instances. We expect these to be repeatable for the challenge modes, the items and the fun!

Since Mirkwood is expected before the end of the year, what about the Beorns? This race lived near Mirkwood – what are your future plans for these guys? Any chance of them becoming a playable race?

Our engineering team still hasn’t managed to transform my Hobbit Guardian into a raging bear-man… it makes me sad. Seriously speaking though, Southern Mirkwood is a dark, mysterious environment, almost with a theme of horror. The land is saturated with the corruption spreading from Dol Guldur. As such it is very different than the lands you might remember reading about in The Hobbit.

Where did the Mistress of Pestilence come from and what is her obsession with bringing her plague to the world outside of Moria?

The Mistress of Pestilence is the mother of all Nameless… in a rather literal way. As such she seeks to fill the gap in power left by the fall of Durin’s Bane.

Have you noticed any drop off in player activity on certain servers? Any plans to merge servers in the future? Plans for extra servers?

If anything, The Lord of the Rings Online is growing! We have no plans to merge servers. And please don’t mention it, it makes me twitch unpleasantly.

Is implementing the token system for Vile Maw and Strange Happenings going to make it easier for players that can’t afford 45 gold for a first age drop to get one?

The token system is meant to remove some of the randomness of the loot drop system. If you collect the correct number of tokens, you will be able to purchase a First Age tailored to your class… you no longer have to wait for the raid boss to drop the right class type.

Are there any balancing changes planned for classes after Book 8 that you didn’t have time to do this round?

We’re always monitoring the game to make improvements, but there are no balancing changes to specific classes we *wished* we could get in that were not available for Book 8.

Thanks for your time Aaron.

So there ya have it. Loads of stuff coming, some Turbine couldn’t get into. Mirkwood is looming.

Sounds fun.

Big thanks to go out to the Riders of Rohan on the Nimrodel Server for query suggestions.

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