This week, we change things up and talk to Jeffrey Steefel, the Executive Producer of Lord of the Rings Online, as part of our weekly “Ask Turbine” series. This is ideally a community generated weekly update, so please, take some time and give us some questions for next time in this thread.

Lord of the Rings Online Interview Transcription
Answers by Jefffrey Steefel (Exec. Producer)
Questions from community

Mattlow: Where will the best loot in the game come from? Crafters or from monsters.

Jeffrey Steefel: We want players to have lots of opportunities to get the fat loot. So, obviously, the mastery level, which is the highest tier of crafting, will come up with some of that loot that you’re going to be able to buy at auction if the seller is nice or greedy enough. Also, in our raids and in the high-end stepped instances – where you’re going to encounter some of the bigger bosses – and also in some areas of the Ettenmoors, which are the monster play areas, you’re going to encounter some pretty hefty loot.

Mattlow: What about the statistical differences between races, beyond just lore and setting?

Jeffrey Steefel: Statistically, off the bat, they’re not that different from each other. However, because of our advancement system and the user of traits and the fact that there are racial traits and class traits, but specifically racial traits, those are traits that you can only get depending on what your race is. That’s really where the differentiation is really going to happen between the races, in terms of their gameplay functionality. So, for example, there will be traits available to Elves that only Elves can acquire that will impact their skills, give them new skills temporarily. And in the case of legendary traits, they could potentially unlock new skills for them permanently at higher levels.

Mattlow: What about the economy? What are your plans to fight inflation and make sure your economy stays in check?

Jeffrey Steefel: Yeah, there are a fair number of sinks in the game already and we have a pretty good way of tracking what’s going on with currency in the game and keeping track and making sure that doesn’t get out of control. We have a number of additional places where players can spend money that we can adjust in the future and even add. So you know, one of the advantages of having done these games before is that we’re very aware of what to look for and to balance as often as we need to in the appropriate ways.

Delmar: With all the lakes rivers and such in the land, are there any plans for a fishing profession?

Jeffrey Steefel: Ahh… Let’s just say that we’re aware that fishing is an important activity to our players and we’re exploring how to best provide that.

Delmar: Can you talk about the content update schedule and how you plan to handle it in LotRO?

Jeffrey Steefel: We’re not announcing what exactly the content update plan is right now, but clearly we’re going to do what Turbine’s done in the past and update very, very frequently and people can expect content to be put into the game as early as 30 days after launch. And we’ll continue to put out content frequently throughout the year.

Lepidus: But you cannot yet say what form that will take?

Jeffrey Steefel: We’ll, it will be a combination. There will definitely be a retail product somewhere down the line and there will be free updates on a fairly regular basis.

Lepidus: What about live events? You’re famous for them in AC, but not so much for DDO. Which model applies to LotRO?

Jeffrey Steefel: Absolutely AC. We’re very excited about doing our events in Middle-Earth. We have some capabilities built in with the product that we’re launching right now. In fact, we’ve done some minor things, even during beta, basically rallying around events players themselves started, like a Birthday celebration for Tolkien in-world. Next, we’ll get into more complex, programmatic events that are happening across all shards. Those are what we’re focused on after launch and it’s a pretty high priority for us. People can expect a lot of live events to be happening in Lord of the Rings Online, especially as the game evolves over the next year.

Lepidus: Without ruining them, can you talk about the focus of these live events. Will they be around the book story or something else? Also, talk about the technology behind them.

Jeffrey Steefel: We’ll approach things in the same way we’ve approached the entire game, which is our story is part of the overall story of the War of the Ring. Our story gets kind of woven in with what’s going on with the ring bearer and the fellowship. So with the live events, wherever we can, we’re obviously going to want to tie them into what’s going on in the world and what’s happening with the story. Sometimes they will, sometimes they won’t and I really think it depends on what the objective of that particular live event is.

In terms of capabilities, technically right now, as you pointed out, we’re the same company that did AC1 and I actually have a number of people on my team who were on the original AC1 team, so my live team is going to have some of those folks on it and they’re all very eager to do similar things to what we were doing in AC1. It’s a little more complicated, the environment that we’re in now is a lot more complicated. We have something that we can do now, in terms of placing monsters or characters in different parts of the world for different reasons. Really, the issue is creating an environment where things can happen without our immediate intervention. So in terms of where we want to take things, that would be the next step.

Lepidus: Monster play has been in the game for a while now and a lot of people have tested it. What has surprised you about it and how has it gone?

Jeffrey Steefel: It’s gone great, people love it. We’ve gotten a lot of comments that it was accessible to people who didn’t even try PvP in any way, shape or form. That was something we’ve thought about, but we were not sure it was going to be a big part of this. Also, the PvE experience in the Ettenmoors itself – whether you’re playing as a monster or as a player – is something that people have really, really enjoyed. So, while we’re obviously pushing at the PvP aspects of the Ettenmoors, as that’s the main purpose, it’s clear that people really like the way we do PvE and that even on the monster play side, it’s a fun thing for them to be able to do from a different perspective.

We’ve learned a lot about balance. About what things we need to make available to monsters to make them be able to take on players, and conversely what are the things we need to do to balance the players with the monsters. We’ve been further along to start with balance, because you’ve got player characters playing against monsters who have skills that were specifically designed, even in the PvE world, to be balanced with each other. That’s one of the advantages of not having player character against player character, in that the skill-sets are really well balanced.

So, I’d say the biggest things were how much fun people were having in the PvE experience and then the specific balancing things we learned, in terms of groups of monsters and groups of players playing together. This caused us to do things like add tracking skills for the monsters so that they can more easily find players, for example, and obviously lots of tweaking of stats.

And then, just the behavior! Watching groups of player controlled wargs, which are basically wolves, exhibiting pack behavior and surrounding players is fascinating. I spent a whole afternoon watching someone try to imitate our pathing algorithm so that they could stealth their way over to our side. That was both fascinating and fun. One behavior was the player being sneaky and one was to be very strategic and both are fun. And people love playing spiders too, which is really interesting, as it’s the one non-anthropomorphic creature we have.

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