At E3 2007, Turbine gave us some clues about Book 11 and a lot of information on Book 10. It includes the feature all MMO players have been waiting for: the ability to play as a free range chicken!

E3 2007: Lord of the Rings Online
Tubrine (developer) / Midway (publisher)
Article by Dana Massey

Nestled in a corner of Midway’s E3 2007 booth, Turbine showed us what they have planned in Lord of the Rings Online. Fresh off their first free update, Book 9, the team has turned its sights towards Books 10 and 11, both of which promise even more fresh content on a timely schedule for fans of the game.

While other launched MMOs we saw at E3 gave us incremental plans, Lord of the Rings Online positively inundated us with fresh information. In Book 10, players can explore the new city of Annuminas, which exists in the lands of Evendim, but will now be open to full player exploration. The main story, as indicated by their decision to call them Books, moves through the city.

One of the new challenges is the collection of “relics” (not to be confused with Dark Age of Camelot’s PvP relics) in the new areas and instances. Players will need to go into the instances for the rare ones, while smaller pieces can be found in common areas. The relics tie into the game’s new barter system, which allows players to use these relic pieces as currency in exchange for new armor. No cash required.

They’ve also planned out a new reputation system, with an eye on the casual players. There are a multitude of quests players can complete as many times as they wish and each time a player does it, they gain the gratitude of one of seven factions. Eventually, once they accepted, the players gain access to that faction’s Hall. In our example, we saw a great Dwarf Hall. There, the players can access vendors that sell some of the best weapons available in the game. These weapons not only require players have a solid reputation with the vendor, but also possess certain virtues in order to use them.

All that hard work is worth it though. A level 39 character can gain access to a weapon fit for a 50th level character if they wish. That’s definitely a good thing when they hit Monster Play.

The Hall was also representative of some of the epic environments Turbine hopes to use in the future. Eventually, the Mines of Moria need to be built, and if that Hall we saw is any indication, they should be able to do some really epic architecture when the storyline takes them there. The area wasn’t as cool as the movies, but it wasn’t supposed to be either. Still, it showed they could do huge, epic spaces that will do the Dwarf architecture justice.

Monster Play, one of the surprise hits of LotRO, is also getting some love. They’ve added some much needed, sliding balancers to the area. For the good guys, there are up to seven slots available for players to join the fight as powerful Rangers. For the creatures, a seven trolls are to be made available. Whether or not these characters are available depends on the status of the battle. If the humans are losing, then the Rangers open up. If the creatures are down, then the Trolls come up. Unlike other games that use NPCs to balance, Turbine has elected to let players police themselves. An NPC simply allows players to check in as one or the other as appropriate. When the slots are full or unnecessary, that NPC just shuts up and doesn’t offer the option.

The Rangers and Trolls each cost 5,000 Destiny Points to play and in the interests of everyone getting their turn, play time is limited to one hour. From the look of things though, it will be worth it. We were not able to see the Ranger, but the Troll looked like a lot of fun. They’re huge, humans are only leg high, and really gave the feeling that the movies evoked during that epic battle. The troll is all about doing damage to multiple enemies at once, while they told us the Ranger will concentrate (with his bow) on single targets. Prepare for sniper fire!

The great equalizers should balance out the Monster Play areas and provide a lot of fun for those lucky enough to get in the creature’s shoes for an hour.

The final thing they showed us was Session Play. Here, Turbine clearly isn’t taking themselves too seriously, as this is perhaps the most absurd thing I saw all week and keep in mind I watched people on stilts march along Venice Beach in funeral garb. Session Play, in its first form, lets players pay 500 Destiny Points to play as a…. chicken.

Seriously. A chicken.

In the shire, the player gets six hours to play as a free range chicken.

It’s kind of hard to continue the article at this point.

It’s a chicken.

Anyway, the chicken gets a bunch of deeds to complete that are as equally absurd as well – you know – playing an online chicken. The chicken can talk to other animals – no word on whether he veers to cross roads – and in exchange for this, earns rewards for the person’s actual player.

In a most disappointing turn of events, Maki told us you that players cannot kill the chickens that will soon infest The Shire. Don’t worry though, the chickens won’t be allowed to peck the players either.

Allan Maki, the Senior Content Designer on LotRO, chalked it up to “alternative gameplay”. I resisted making “Lord of the Coop Online” jokes and everything went OK.

One reward for chicken play is a fancy golden, shiny cape. With, you guessed it, a chicken on it. Don’t worry squirrel lovers, they expect more critter play to follow in future updates.

Back on Earth, Turbine also let the cat out of the bag on one huge piece of news for players. In Book 11, they plan to add housing. No amount of questions got them to explain further, but there it is.

Book 10 is due out in August, chickens and all. Despite the peculiar end to the demonstration, Turbine definitely showed far more commitment to free content than any of their competitors. They have a clear vision of where they want to go and how to get there. This constant influx of new content will keep players of all kinds busy.

Comments? Let us know.

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