In the second half of our interview, we focused on Book 13. Yesterday, it was all about The Mines of Moria expansion pack. Today, we look at the next patch, in this transcription of Jeffrey Steefel’s conversation with our own Jordan Deam.


WarCry Q&A: Lord of the Rings Online
Ask Turbine: “Book 13”
Answers by Jeffrey Steefel (Executive Producer)
Questions by Jordan Deam

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WarCry: Going back to “biomes” for a bit, I understand in Book 13 you will be debuting a new zone [Forochel] which will be the first to feature open water. Will that be significant to the gameplay in this zone?

Jeffrey Steefel: It’s extremely cold water; when you go into it, it’s going to have a very bad effect on you very quickly. And so in terms of … if your question is “are we going to be embarking on missions on ships in Forochel,” the answer is “no.” It’s the first exposure of players to the edges of the continent and seeing that there are oceans out there, that there are opportunities in the future to venture out into them. But in the case of Forochel, it’s really meant to be … more aesthetic than anything. And obviously some of the creatures that reside there and some of the atmospheric effects happen to result from it being near ocean. But being in the water is not a major part of the gameplay in Forochel. Other than dying.

WarCry: What can you tell us about the hobby of Fishing you’re introducing in Book 13?

Jeffrey Steefel: Well, I mean, it’s fishing. [Laughs] You’re going to be able to get fishing poles of different capabilities, but your sort of basic fishing pole you just attach with bait and lures, and there are all these kinds of fish you can catch. Some of them will be regional; it’s not just the same fish everywhere. Something that we really wanted to make sure that we focused on was – so this is different than some other games – making sure that you could fish anywhere pretty much. We have fishing available anywhere there’s water, pretty much. Not everywhere, but we don’t want there to be locations in Middle Earth where fishing just isn’t possible. Some of the level restrictions that some games have on fishing is something we’re not doing.

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It’s kind of interesting ; it’s the “skinny path, fat path” thing that we’ve talked about in the past with our design that we do with crafting, that we do with combat, that we do with everything, which is: We want to, on the one hand, provide a certain immediate access with doing the activity, and doing the depth of the activity, but at the same time having a higher-level mastery path for someone who really wants to get into it and get really great at it. Being able to fish will be a pretty easy thing to do, but there will be opportunities to get really good at it, to figure out how to use the right bait in the right place, to achieve a lot of skill at it. And then you’ll be able to … create stuff for cooks to turn into food, you’ll be able catch them and mount them on your wall in your house. It’ll be fun.

WarCry: It sounds like more than just another skill point grind where you’re clicking the same button over and over again. You’ll have to put some thought into it …

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Jeffrey Steefel: That depends on which thought. And we debated that. … You can take this as far as you can imagine in terms of functionality. I think its a social activity, and we want to be careful, kind of in the way that we did with music, where we find out how people are doing this, where they do it, what kind of enhancements they want before we build every last bell and whistle, including … things like, for example, targeting, which is something we were talking about. Or things like velocity, right? You could go really all out with this; you could do the whole “golfing” mechanic where you hold down the spacebar , and if you let go at the right time it’ll cast in the right direction, you’ll have a better chance of catching the fish you think are out there, that little shallow part of the water. You could create a whole game out of it, but I always want to be careful about spending too much … designing time on fishing while taking away from other stuff that is really important like item advancement, things like that.

So it’s a baseline place for us to start. …You have to be in the right place, you have to be equipped with the right equipment, you have to have the right bait to get the kind of fish you’re looking for, you have to have the right proficiency over time, and then you basically decide to cast and … when the fish takes the bait you have an opportunity to catch it or not, depending upon your reflexes. So there’s a little bit of twitch involved, but we didn’t want to turn it into a full-on arcade game because, first of all, that’s certainly not what people want, and second of all, again, it’s “where do you want to put your resources?” But, much like music, if it turns out to be something that lots of people are really having a great time with, and feel like they’d be having an even better time turning it into something more robust, we will.

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WarCry: Aside from Forochel and the addition of Fishing, what else are you excited about in Book 13 that hasn’t gotten the attention of these features?

Jeffrey Steefel: Forochel, first of all, is a whole new region, and we’re very excited about that and everything that goes: There’s a significant amount of new content, you’ve got a whole new sort of NPC race of the Lossoth, a whole new faction to gain reputation with. Different types of environmental mechanics, you know; you’re now in an environment where you’re affected by the cold, and you have to pay attention to what you’re doing or you can actually lose a massive amount of morale – you have to find fire and food and things like that to revive yourself, so that’s really cool. … When we first started deciding to do Forochel, at the particular time in the game we knew that … we did the Misty Mountains, so let’s make sure that this is a completely different place. And it is – just the way that the land is used, and the different biomes. We have forests, this cool bay down by the water that’s got icebergs floating near a shipwreck, and just some really new cool places for Middle Earth … glaciers, ice caves. And also, talking a lot about the environment because we’re adding a whole new region, using new techniques for how we actually create indoor underground spaces, which might come in handy some time in the future. So that’s very cool.

For the monster players, we added something huge, which is a new monster. So, this is a whole new class, the Defiler, who is basically a healing class, and that’s something that the monster players have been saying they really didn’t have, and it’s a big disadvantage in that the “freeps” [Free Peoples] have a full complement of class roles, and the monsters were really missing out on healers. So we created this guy, the Defiler, who is awesome looking, and heals through smelly, awful, repulsive poultices, elixirs and things like that … [one of our developers] wrote this long description of him that I read, and I kind of had to not eat for a while. But it’s really cool, and it’s going to be a huge thing for the monster players.

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One of the other things in all these games is that it’s still really hard to find people to group up with. Some of that is just the nature of the fact that there’s a bunch of people sitting all around the world on computers trying to find each other through an interface. So what we’ve done is we’re adding a lot of enhancements to the Looking for Fellowship stuff. And the first one, which we’re adding in Book 13, is the ability to search for, find and then invite to group up with other people through content, not just your race, class, level. Right now, a basic example is “I’m looking for a hunter, level 35-40, enjoys wrestling,” etc. Now what I can do is say “I’m looking for someone who has either started a particular quest or is about to start and is looking for someone to start a particular quest, and then these people can find each other and group up around that content. That’s really what people are looking for, because the main reason why someone groups that isn’t fundamentally a grouping person … is that there’s content that they really want to participate in that they can’t do by themselves. And soloable as we’re making the game, not everything is going to be soloable. So we think this is going to be a huge boon for fellowships and for players.

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