Intrepid reporter Carolyn Koh missed out on a few hours of sleep this morning to go to the Seattle, WA launch party for Lord of the Rings Online. Held in a GameStop that sells the most MMOs of any store in the United States, according to Turbine, this was bound to be a big one. The article looks at the event and gets comments from Turbine reps on hand.

Event Report: Seattle Lord of the Rings Online Launch Party
Article by Carolyn Koh

Fans file in.

Fans file in.

Turbine launched their latest MMORPG – Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (LotRO) by celebrating with their fans in several GameStop/EB Games locations around the USA. At 10:45pm Monday the 23rd of April, I was at the GameStop in Bellevue Square in Bellevue, Washington, taking pictures of the crowd milling around, waiting for the opportunity to pay for their software, score some swag and talk to the devs.

Two minutes to 11:00pm the event staff were ready and waiting, swag bags in hand, joking a little nervously about the milling crowd outside the store which GameStop employees organized quickly into two orderly lines.

There were fans who were there just hanging out as they had purchased pre-orders the moment they were available, fans in costumes, fans waiting to buy their copies from GameStop, fans waiting to pick up their copies from GameStop.

“Oh… the Collector’s Edition. Definitely the Collector’s Edition,” one said.

Winners are drawn.

Winners are drawn.

“I’m here to buy a copy for my cousin / grandson / talk to the Devs,” was another comment sentiment.

“We’re here to hang out!” exclaimed all five costumed members of the Insanity Incorporated Kinship. A Captain in real chain-mail, his Herald, a Loremaster and Raven, and… I wasn’t sure because he wasn’t talking… Death the Grim Reaper or one of the cursed undead that Aragorn released? All I could see of him were his skeletal hands and his friends telling him… “You can’t talk!”

Turbine was represented by Community Manager Meghan “Patience” Rodberg, and three developers: Andy Gillis, a Games Systems Engineer, Jared “Amlug” Hall-Dugas, a Content Designer, and Geoff Scott, Director of Audio, Video, and Visual Effects.

I took the opportunity to talk to Geoff about the sound and music in LotRO. “We at Turbine have always been very proud of our Sound and Music team,” he told us. “The system was designed by Steve Degregiro our Audio Technical Lead and myself.”

Community Manager Meghan Rodberg.

Community Manager Meghan Rodberg.

“We wanted to do something cool. To give the players greater immersion in the game and a chance for them to provide player created content, and mapped the major scale to the number keys on the keyboard.”

To their huge surprise and pleasure it was so well received that the system has been expanded greatly. At launch, players may purchase five different instruments in game – the harp, lute, flute, clarinet and horn. In their first monthly update, the bass and drums will be added. The will also expand the range of the instruments to three octaves, and implement ABC notation and Freeplay – the ability for players to synchronize their instruments in order to create music together as a band.

“Tolkien’s world was one filled with music. We had this unique opportunity and we jumped on it. I would love to see bands and concerts. For players to utilize this system in ways I didn’t think of,” Geoff added.

I took a survey of the fans, asking them about the unique features of LotRO that drew them to the game. Many were seasoned MMORPG players and all were enthusiastic.

“I’m looking for the Music Man! I love the music and the music system. I can’t wait for the update for Freeplay.”

“It’s the voice chat in the Fellowship. We love the Fellowship plays and even if we are soloing, we can keep in through the voice chat,” said members of the Insanity Incorporated Kinship.

After midnight!

After midnight!

“I’m a huge Tolkien fan. This is really exciting. I love how well the Shire was done and Rivendell is Fantastic!”

“I play a Hobbit hunter. I love exploration and things like laying the traps,” Michael from Bellevue told me. “It’s better than the movies!”

Neither Andy Gillis nor Jared “Amlug” Hall-Dugas were far from the fans about their impressions and favorite aspects of LotRO. They are the people behind the scenes that have seen this game umpteen times and inside out. Did they enjoy playing the game themselves?

Andy is in Game Systems Engineering. He programs the systems that make the game, systems such as the auction system, questing, combat and in-game mail.

“I’ve never read the books, but I saw the movies with my family. We were awed then, and I’m taken aback by the beauty of Eriador. Starting a character and being able to go through Eriador is totally amazing to me,” he told us. “It’s literature coming to life… the Shire come to life, and it makes going to work really easy!”

Jared is a Content Designer, and in his own words, he “showcases” the systems that Andy programs. “It’s the story. I love the story and how we’ve managed to keep the story very strong in the game. Tolkien hooked me on the fantasy genre forever,” he said. “I love just walking through the world. It’s beautiful.”

Members of Microsoft’s Game for Windows group were walking around handing out bouncy balls. There were posters and tee-shirts. Drawings and a costume contest – which was won by the Herald with the first runner-up being his Captain. The atmosphere was festive. The fans pleased, the staff smiling and enjoying themselves.

“This is awesome!” Community Manager Meghan Rodberg said of the Seattle launch event. “For the middle of the night on a Monday, this is fantastic turnout. We have a great community here in Seattle.” Perhaps we’ll be looking forward to more fan events in Seattle then.

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