To celebrate the second anniversary of The Lord of the Rings Online, developer Turbine announced special anniversary celebrations, and spoke about where the game would go next: The shadowy forest of Mirkwood from The Hobbit.
In a conference call between LotRO Executive Producer Jeffrey Steefel, Art Director Harry Teasley, Turbine's Director of Communications Adam Mersky and assorted journalists, the game's developers talked about what they had in mind for LotRO's anniversary celebration, and what was to come.
The anniversary celebration will last from today, the 26th of April, until the 30th of June. During this period of time, LotRO will only cost $9.99 to purchase from the Turbine Store - and would-be (or current) subscribers can lock into an anniversary price plan of $9.99 per month for as long as they decide to play.
To welcome back players who might have since moved on, there will also be a free-to-play week, with everyone granted 25% bonus XP for the week's duration. In addition to that, all active players as of June 30th will receive a passive trait called "Writ of Passage," which confers a permanent 20% discount on all stablemasters throughout Middle-Earth, making the game's fast-travel system that much cheaper.
There will be actual in-game rewards as well: "[M]onsters throughout Middle-earth will drop rare items when defeated. Players can exchange these rare items for a special gift box that will reward them with a variety of in-game items to aid them in their adventures in Middle-earth."
What's to Come: Book 8, Returning to Moria, and the Shadows of Mirkwood
In the upcoming Book 8, characters will be sent back into the Mines of Moria to continue the epic quest storyline. "Just because the Fellowship - and the players - have passed through Moria doesn't mean everything's okay there. The job isn't done," said Steefel, hinting that nastiness was under way in the deep roots of the mountain. Book 8 will continue the game's growing emphasis on smaller group-based instanced combat.
Something might be rotten in the state of Khazad-dûm, but Steefel says that there's something worse in Dol Guldur - Tolkien fans may recognize this as the one-time stronghold of Sauron referred to in The Hobbit. After completing the storyline in Moria, LotRO players will be headed to the twisted forest of Mirkwood sometime this year. Art Director Teasley described what he and his team were doing with Mirkwood and Dol Guldur as "showing off what [they] can do." They've been developing techniques to improve on what they'd done in the past - even with the cavernous depths of Moria - for Dol Guldur, and Teasley says that so far, what they've created is showing that off "beyond my wildest expectations."
It won't just be new art coming to LotRO. At some point before the end of the year, Turbine will be raising the game's level cap again, and also introducing a new style of dynamic instanced play that the team had given the working title of "skirmishes."
Skirmishes, says Steefel, are "the natural evolution from the small-party, dynamic instanced experience," and are designed to be repeatable. Beyond repeatable, though, Steefel stressed that the team was designing them to be dynamic:
[Skirmishes] will be aware of the type of party that is in the instance and will respond accordingly, with a flexible and dynamic nature that will respond to, say, how big or small your party is. In addition, you are going to have multiple objectives in these instances, so there will be reasons to do them many times with different groups, of different sizes.
Nor will the dynamic adjusting of the instance content be the only new features in skirmishes: LotRO seems to be taking a cue from its sister MMO, Dungeons & Dragons Online with something that sounds like a henchman system: Players will be able to "train customizable soldiers, that you can bring with your party into the instance. We're really excited about it."
Happy birthday, LotRO - you've had a good two years, let's hope for the best in the future! And hey, if you're feeling curious about the game, why not enter our one-day contest for a LotRO Collector's Edition?