Lord Of The Rings Online: Unofficial “Official” Dev Chat Log

Last nights dev chat had some great information in it. While waiting for the official dev chat log to be posted on Stratics, I figured I would share an official log posted over on MMO People

The Lord of the Rings Online developer fellowship was kind enough to answer some questions from the furry-footed masses.

Developer names are in orange, questions are in bold.

RingLeader: Hey all – Jeffrey Steefel here, Exec Producer – WELCOME!!!!

Annuvin: Hey all! I’m Annuvin, self-proclaimed Design Despot for Lord of the Rings Online.

Orion: Hi there! My name is Orion, I am a senior designer with a focus on gameplay. My favorite colour is purple, my favorite band is Led Zeppelin and I do not know the airspeed of a European swallow laden with a coconut.

DangerDan: Hi, DangerDan here. I’m a game systems designer on LotRO team, working on monster behaviors and several of the player classes. Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of my time on what we lovingly call “Monster Play Island”. Orion and both visiting the mainland to share some tasty tidbits.

LOTRO_Patience: Hi everyone! Thanks for coming tonight. I’m Meghan “Patience” Rodberg, the Community Manager for LOTRO. I wrangle the website, forums, and occasionally the developers. 😀

*tiveria* when will open beta start?

LOTRO_Patience: Hi tiveria!

LOTRO_Patience: I’ll just have to give the stock answer of: “Soon.” But we really mean it this time. 🙂 Our closed beta is cruising along and our players are having a blast; we expect to enter our open beta shortly.

*budacat* There have been many connection problems & updater issues during the beta trial of LOTRO. What are you going to change, if anything, to fix this or lower the quantity of issues when the game comes out?

RingLeader: The whole purpose of Beta for us is to find out what needs work and what can be better. This applies to the game as well as the service. And Beta is also the first time we get to see our game with lots of people in it.

RingLeader: So a lot of the issues we have been experiencing with crashes, connection issues, instability, performance.

RingLeader: We look at all of these issues carefully, diagnose them, and work on fixing them on the service.

RingLeader: This involves hardware tweaks, infrastructure enhancements, and a lot of bug fixing on the client and the server.

RingLeader: So the answer is that we will do whatever is neccesary to deliver a stable, smooth player experience at launch.

RingLeader: We’re confident once we get into later parts of Beta soon that you’ll see things steadily improve.

*Shiro* What is the max level in LotRO at launch and how long will the grind be?

Annuvin: LOTRO will support 50 levels for launch. Internal to the team, we’ve been trying to ensure that there is enough to do, so much so that you won’t notice the grind (unless you don’t want to do everything in the game. If you’re one of those, then… There will be a grind).

*carl* Any chance we could see playable evil races after the game goes live?

DangerDan: Carl, that’s what Monster Play’s all about… having a chance to be the bad guy. We’ve got players in our Beta right now who are roaming the Ettenmoors region as Orcs, Uruk, Wargs… even Spiders.

Orion: If you were asking whether these savage beast will find their way into the more highly populated areas of Eriador, the answer is no at this time. For the moment, you have the Ettenmoors as your stomping ground and it’s a fearsome area.

LOTRO_Patience: From what I’m seeing on the forums, Wargs are a favorite choice for monster play 🙂

*LS* Does Turbine plans to do a patch with content every mont(like AC1),every other month(like AC2),or only with expansion pack?

Orion: We’re still not certain what the exact dates of continuing content will be, but Turbine prides itself on being able to deliver and unfold continuing content and storylines. So the short answer is, yes, you will see some level of episodic content some time after release. More details as they become available.

*RandomThoughts* When can we get more info on the classes?

Annuvin: We’re hoping to release more info on our classes (tips, tricks, Achilles’ heel, etc) in the upcoming months. We’ve been holding off on formal releases due to the face that we’re still tweaking and tuning. Stay tuned for more details!

*carl* Given the ravenous fan base behind the Lord of the Rings franchise, it’s safe to say there should be plenty of folks lining up to give the game a whirl, but what will make LotR Online stand out amongst the multitude of other MMORPGs that are current live or planned for release around the same timeframe?

RingLeader: Well, first of all, we never want to forget that Middle-earth is one of the HUGE differences in that this is a world unlike any other, known by millions of people and filled with iconic characters and monsters. And from that unique environment, many things have emerged in the game to make it special.

RingLeader: The nature of advancement in the world, for example, takes into account exploring Middle-earth, discovering the history and artifacts of Middle-earth, helping the Fellowship as much as killing and camping.

RingLeader: Group combat, using Fellowship skills promotes coordinated Fellowship strategies and participation.

RingLeader: The nature of the way the player is immersed in the story, a story entwined with the story of the one ring is also an integral part of LoTRO

RingLeader: There is a lot to point at and we’ll talk about some of it more later.

RingLeader: I’ll let someone else type now 🙂

*Krovrin* my question is….Is ther any plan on character housing for beta or after release?

Annuvin: We have plans for a great deal, friends! Plans for more regions, more classes, more content, more mounts, more, more, more! So the quick answer is; yes!*

Annuvin: *note that there are no discreet dates on ‘when’ these plans become reality.

*Detavion* Will there be atleast 30 or so skills for each class?

DangerDan: All classes are pushing or over 30 skills, but skills are just the start. A couple more examples: As you advance you’ll gain traits to specialize your character, you’ll gain inherent increases to your abilities, as well as learn to use items specific to your class that can be created through crafting.

*Shiver`Arnor* How do you plan to balance the combat system, i mean how are you going to avoid the imbalance that WoW are facing in duels for instance. Will there be more than one “roll” in the combat system or there will be multiple calculation to determine crit/hit/miss/dodge and etc.

DangerDan: First off, the focus of the game is on the PvE experience… so, we won’t be balancing for player versus player sparring.

DangerDan: I’ll take your question to the next step and say that monster play offers a lot of flexibility in balancing. As the monster player side of the balance equation is focused on PvMP, we can make changes there and at the same time maintain player power levels for PvE balance.

*Kalen* Can level by yourself or do you have to form groups in order to level?

Annuvin: LOTRO provides both types of content: solo and group. As a solo player, you can do a great deal, taking advantage of our extensive quests, and our personal accomplishment system

Annuvin: As a group player, you can take advantage of our fellowship maneuvers to complete our fellowship quests and our large scale instances.

*RandomThoughts* When can we expect more info on the traits system?

Annuvin: We’re working on releasing quite a few guides on our website soon. Stay tuned for a fellowship maneuver guide, a class and trait guide (for planning your personal hero), and a crafting guide (among others).

*carl* Has any consideration been made to support DirectX 10 once it is widely available?

RingLeader: LOTRO already lives in an intensely high fidelity world, a must for a recreation of Middle-earth, non?

RingLeader: So we’ll definitely make sure that players with higher end hardware get the most out of their flashy new cards, oncew we feel there are enough out there

RingLeader: We’ve already done a fair amount of work getting ready for that day….

*Fend* Are there any plans to implement damage types for melee weapons, (i.e.- piercing, slashing, crushing, etc)?

Annuvin: So, funny story: we refer to beta damage as “hurt stick”. Since then, we’ve added weapon differentiation on a per weapon basis (not a per damage type one). So, daggers now have a bonus to critical opponents, for example:

Annuvin: Currently, we have quite a few damage types: Westernesse, Beleriand, Fire, etc

Annuvin: We didn’t want to add anymore, since we wanted to focus on our existing ones.

*glaurung14* At launch, will there be a free trial available for people to download the game and try it out befor buying the game?

LOTRO_Patience: Hey glaurung 🙂 We’ll be announcing our pre-order soon and more details on what’s included in the game at retail, so stay tuned.

*Detavion* What is an estimated time that it will take for the average person to complete the main storyline quests?

Orion: Describe average. We’re shooting for enough time to entertain the college student with a light classload and not overwhlem the worker with a family who has only a few hours a day to play their favorite game. The epic story is meant to be followed at a pace that the player feels comfortable spending upon it.

*Shiro* Will the game have an appeal to people who aren’t fans of LotR, but like MMOs such as WoW? Meaning, will the MMO part of LotRO be as good as other MMOs out there?

DangerDan: A solid question, Shiro. We think the game will be very approachable by folks familiar with other MMOs. As the genre evolves, there’s a growing baseline of “must have” features and I think you’ll find that LotRO hits those and adds on a few more.

Annuvin: So, when we acquiorange the LOTRO license, we noted that the LOTRO franchise had a history of becoming to big for devs to actual deliver/ship. As a result, we decided that we’d focus on making a good standalone game (chocolate), and make sure we kept the fidelity of the world (peanut butter).

Annuvin: Overall, we feel that we’ve made “two great tastes that taste great together”. Mmm… Reese’s peanut butter cups (ambles off).

*RandomThoughts* Will there be a strict naming process during character creation?

RingLeader: Obviously, we’ll need to have some constraints to the names that appear in the game. Other than trying to avoid “unmentionables”, we’ll also be reserving some iconic names – don’t want too many “Gandalf’s” running around 🙂

*Fend* What are your plans for end-game content (raiding, PvMP, etc.)?

Orion: In sticking with the previous answer that I gave with regards to time, we realize that not everyone has the time necessary to spend on massive raids. As we have stated, our end-game raids are smaller than other MMO’s at 24 players. We’ve already been working on the ability to lock these raid for playability over the course of several days.

*RandomThoughts* When can we expect to see the Racial-bonuses (if any) released?

[17:40] Annuvin: Let me take Randomthoughts. Please place it up before Nightmare, so Dan and Orion have a chance to answer it.

Orion: Future installments will likely see an advanced instances that also require multiple days to complete. Not to mention that we are committed to seeing the game progress and the storyline evolve. This will mean more game play for players across upper levels, perhaps even middle levels. We’ll look for more social outlets for players as well. In essence, from a content standpoint there will be much more offeorange as time moves on.

DangerDan: More on Fend’s question: The challenge of PvMP is another activity to entertain at the “end-game”. As great as I’d like to think our monster behaviors are, you’ll find a lot of variety and depth of gameplay when you go head to head with your fellow player in the body of an Orc in the Sauron’s army.

*RandomThoughts* When can we expect to see the Racial-bonuses (if any) released?

Annuvin: We’re looking to release our racial bonuses along with those guides (again, to help planning).

Annuvin: Currently, that’ll be the tip of the iceberg for races, as you have basic racial characteristics (persistent modifications to your character’s stats), and racial traits (anything from larger modifications, to skills that are specific to your race). Those traits are unlocked through the accomplishment system.

*NightmareChild* In monster play, what is the limit on the number of players that are aloud to participate in one battle, and will this number be changing, and also do you have different types of game modes for monster play, or is it just kill each other?

DangerDan: In our Beta we haven’t restricted the numbers able to enter our PvMP region. So, as it stands the Ettenmoors is an open and sprawling battlefield with multiple objectives to pursue. Orion has more on that…

Orion: Not to mention that the area itself supports a few game modes. You might find yourself hunting down the enemy as an Uruk, or chasing down a feral wolf-pack that refuses to heed the call of your Warg. There are strategic locations to capture, defend and control. There are people to defend and there are resources to garner. The Ettenmoors is a fluid battlefield that has seen its fair share of battle. So far…it’s been a blast!

*Shiver`Arnor* Ok , since you are focusing in PvE will we be able to take part in events like The Battle Of Helms Deep or even The Battle for Pleanor Frields ? And if so , how do you plan to counter the timelines?

Annuvin: So, let me break that into two questions. First, the “easy” one:

Annuvin: How are we dealing with timeline? – We’ve chosen to map timeline very loosely to your character’s level. We’ve done this to keep pushing challenging content to the player at a relevant pace, while allowing you to keep pace with the fellowship.

Annuvin: Are we going to fight at Helm’s Deep or other notable locations? – We want to make sure that the players are in the middle of the world they know an love. Needless to say, we’re going to make sure that you are there for the pivotal moments of the Epic when it is appropriate.

*bean19* What are the minimum requirements for the game? Does it perform comparably to other games with similar graphics?

RingLeader: We’ll be publishing minspecs soon, but we continue to tweak our engine to drive the specs as low as possible for the minspec. And our graphics engine scales well from Ultra-high to Very low, allowing players will all kinds of graphics cards to enjoy the game in a pleasing environment.

RingLeader: We know a broad audience will be drawn to Lord of the Rings, and we want as much of that audience to enjoy Middle-earth as possible.

*SonOfThunder* THank you for your time tonight. Since all the races have their own starting area, presumably quite a distance from each other, how difficult will it be for new players to connect with friends who play other races?

Orion: We understand that there will be many people that play this game with their friends. We also know that not all friends will want to play the same race. We’ve taken pains to ensure that players can meet up with their friends with a limited amount of time apart. In essence, all roads lead to Bree.

*Fend* Will there be weapon size restrictions for smaller characters, for example, will a Hobbit be able to dual wield 2 longswords?

Annuvin: Back in the day, we tried to be as rigid as we could, enforcing size restrictions on weapons. We found that while this was conceptually a very good idea, it limited the items that people found “useful”. In order to alleviate this problem, we removed size restrictions on weapon, while keeping certain races limited. For example: Hobbits can’t use two handed weapons.

Annuvin: Though Hobbits can use two swords… And make short work of poor wargs. (oh, my puns are immaculate!)

Annuvin: Ho, Ho, Ho@

*Kalen* Will we encounter characters such as Aragorn and maybe Gandalf or is this after Return of the King?

RingLeader: Our story starts basically when Frodo has just left the Shire, so we have the entire trilogy to explore and more. And you’ll encounter most of the people you’d expect. Strider, Gandalf, Elrond, Arwen, Gimli….they’re all here. Some time as quest givers, sometimes, you’ll join them for adventure.

*Maz* More on end game, will the only avenue for advancement be Raiding? Or will there be chances to advance doing solo or small group stuff?

Orion: Half of our legendary accomplishments are solo, our top end instances are geaorange toward our fellowships and we’re only planning one true raid at launch. Add to this another avenue of advancement for players involving the monster play area. We’ve got an area of the worl earmarked for something we are calling solo-group play. It is a fair split, certainly not skewed toward large raid groups. In fact, we are weighted more toward the fellowship and solo players

*RandomThoughts* Will we be able to locate quest-givers with ease through out the game? Even low-level quests we’ve missed when we’re at the end-game?

DangerDan: RandomThoughts, we know quests are a lot of fun so we generally want to make finding quest-givers to be easy. That’s not to say our talented devs haven’t got a few cleverly tucked away as a reward for the sharp-eyed and dedicated explorer.

DangerDan: But, generally, yeah… we think you’ll be hard pressed to miss the quest givers.

*NightmareChild* When the expansions finally reach places like Helms Heep, Minas Tirith etc, can we expect the size of these places to be massive, just like what we imagined from reading the books, or from what we saw in the films?

Annuvin: We plan on making these areas (to quote our World Team Lead) “Larger than you can possibly comprehend, with 100% of your brain.”

Annuvin: Translating that (with corp speak): When we build those areas, they are going to be smooth, look great, and satisfy expectations of gameplay and quality.

Annuvin: So yeah, you can expect that those areas will be large. Ultimately, we want to make sure that we can populate them with content (ie: things to do, quests, fun?), that way there is some solid gameplay.

Orion: Thanks for being here tonight everyone! Looking forward to more discussions in the future!

LOTRO_Patience: Thanks for coming, everyone! Don’t forget to sign up for the beta at http://www.lotro.com/betasignup 🙂

RingLeader: Thanks for showing up everyone!

DangerDan: Thanks for the sharp questions.

LOTRO_Patience: Goodnight, guys – see you next time. 🙂 *wave*

Annuvin: Thanks all!

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