Lord Of The Rings Online: Ask Turbine: Interview with Jeffrey Steefel

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We’re back with a new edition of our monthly “Ask Turbine” series. In it, we chat with Jeffrey Steefel – the game’s Executive Producer – about the latest hot-button issues that face Lord of the Rings Online. This time, Site Manager Tim Turner had the honors.

Ask Turbine: Book 10 and the Future
Based on an interview with Jeffrey Steefel (Exec. Producer)
Article by Tim Turner

image“Book 10: The City of Kings”, the second major free content update to Lord of the Rings Online, launches next week. It includes over 100 new quests, a new reputation system, and the ability to play as a troll, a ranger or even a chicken. Obviously, that makes one ask why the heck they chose a chicken? Trolls and Rangers in the PvMP area made sense as they are part of the war, but a chicken? How can these be part of lore? Executive Producer Jeffrey Steefel quickly responded that in fact it was straight from the lore. He went on to explain: “There is a passage in the book where the narration turns to a fox commenting on how odd it is to see Hobbits around the shire. The team said if a fox can have opinions and sentient thoughts in the books, then why can’t we give players a perspective of the world from a critters perspective. Also we know that other creatures such as Wargs, have sentient thoughts, so it allows players to see the world from a different perspective, also it adds humor to the game.” Given that LotRO is at its core a game, it makes sense that anything they think might be fun find a home.

On the same lines, Steefel talks about how some players may never be interested in Monster Play and running around terrorizing the little Hobbit village as a Troll. Ok, he didn’t add that last part, it was some thing I did while testing this out on Roheryn. Let’s just say that launching Hobbits back 10-20 feet with your massive swing is just fun. What Steefel did continue to comment on was that this allowed players to experience the session play and have a different experience than the normal questing.

Joking around about options for session play, Steefel commented that they would draw the line at inanimate objects. This made sense, what is the point of playing a chair? Pretty boring if you asked me! But back to important issues, the goal of the team is looking at what is important to us as players. What is that we want to see? A good example of this is the music system. It was a small thing they put in and it blossomed into a feature that we the community loved, so in Book 9 the music system was enhanced, and more changes are coming such as more instruments.

imageThe reputation system fit well into this model of finding ways to support the different playing style. The reputation system allows for short solo type quests when you don’t have a ton of time, or if you just want to go hunting without having to grab a full fellowship. Early reports from Roheryn are showing that players really enjoy this and I for one have enjoyed the story line associated with some of the different factions. The real test of course will be when this goes live.

Now as we are getting to experience Book 10 on Roheryn and it going live next week, I tried to turn the focus a little to what is coming down the road. Of course, the big one we all know is housing. What we don’t know is what it is going to be like? Questions on cost and will there be rent, Steefel wasn’t ready to answer, but he did say we will see more on housing very soon. What I was able to come away from the conversation was the housing area won’t just be a cul-de-sac with an instanced house; the neighborhood will be a vibrate place.

imageChatting a bit about launching the content updates and launching the game in general, I commented on how the game was really polished at launch and how the content updates have been polished as well. Steefel noted how the industry seems to have changed, with the recent announcements of games like Age of Conan pushing back to make sure the game is where they need to be. In the days of old MMO companies could push a game out and fix it on the run, but now the community is looking for the games to be solid like a console game or a PC Title. With LotRO, Turbine was able to put those finishing touches before launch and with the content schedule it appears they are able to ensure the updates are as polished as the initial launch of the game.

Turning focus towards the topic of gold-farmers (gold-sellers), Steefel informed me that they are constantly working on stopping, banning and prevention of those that sell (and has been mentioned a few times even buy) gold. It is a constant priority for Customer Service and Data Service teams, who are always tracking the usage of accounts, both regular and trial.

Steefel also mentioned that in the coming months, there will be others ways – beyond brick and mortar stores – to get a hold of LotRO. Next month, when we talk with Turbine again, we’ll bring you a bit more on Book 11, how Book 10 is doing and what else the future holds.

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