Ask Turbine: Monthly Interviews with Lord of the Rings OnlineLord of the Rings Online: Mines of Moria Interview with Jeffrey SteefelAsk Turbine: Monthly Interviews with Lord of the Rings Online - RSS 2.0
WarCry: That's something that I'm curious about. ... Whenever you have an MMO with a hardcore fan base, you're going to have the min-maxers who are constantly trying to tweak the last bit of performance out of their characters. And I'm wondering, with this system, do you expect to see people all going toward the same final destination when it comes to the upgrade path for a weapon, or is it going to be the type of thing where there are so many choices and so many different paths that it could take, that it really becomes like a second character?
Jeffrey Steefel: The goal is for the latter, because it's consistent with our approach to a lot of our systems. Basically it's the whole reason for having deeds and traits and titles on top of your normal XP curve, so that you've got a lot of different levers to pull that all act together to create your pill. It's interesting - it's taken a while for traditional MMO players to get used to having that much choice. And I think in some cases for people it was daunting; they felt like they wanted to look at a menu and ... just build a character that is going to have these capabilities that they just need to do XYZ. In fact, we're focusing some of our time and energy on, through the interface over time, making that clearer. It's not that it's the only way to do it, but "here's the beginners guide to using traits and deeds and getting yourself to "standard build X."
But this will be like a lot of our systems where, to your point, depending on how you do things ... you're going to get a different result. So we don't want there to be just one path ... [under his breath] to rule them all. [Laughs] One path to attach the most amount of power possible with your weapon. Similar to, like in the raids, the raid rewards that we substituted with barter tokens so that when you go into a raid, instead of having that one sword that that one monster is going to drop, that everybody is going to be camping until the one lucky person gets it ... we're dropping barter tokens that you can take to a raid vendor and get one of several different types of really valuable pieces of loot. So again, there's tradability. Everything that we're trying to do is to give players more and more ways to distinguish themselves from each other.
WarCry: Talking about the actual zone of Moria, how do you plan to differentiate sub-zones within the Mines to give players a sense of variety?
Jeffrey Steefel: This is where we get into that "we're still a long way away from launch," and we don't want to let all the cats out of the bag at the same time, so we're obviously going to be talking about all the different zones and how to differentiate them from each other. But what I can say is that you're spot on. We're creating a deep, giant, huge underground environment ... and one of the things we've talked about is how are [players] not going to feel like they've been treading through rock, you know, forever ... treading through dark passages and rock. As cool as Moria is, that would get kind of boring. And the truth is that Moria wasn't like that; Moria was an entire world underground, so there will be different biomes - "biome" is what we use to describe a type of environment in the world, so like "forest" is a biome, or "swamp" is a biome, or, you know, "snowy, icy" ... the Misty Mountains is a biome. There will be many biomes inside of Moria that are being being created as new that are very specific to Moria, and very distinct from each other.
So you will definitely pass from place to place, and you'll definitely be in a certain part of Moria and know where you are by the fact that you're in a biome that feels very different than another place in Moria. ... That's hopefully consistent with the lore, or what you'd expect the lore to be. An example would be everything from "hey, you're in a part of Moria that actually opens up to the Misty Mountains," so there'd actually be sunlight and maybe snow falling through. Or you're in a part of Moria that's down in the depths where the Nameless are, and it's all lava and murk and decay and all that kind of stuff. It really will have that sense of moving from place to place, and that's all inside an environment that's mostly contiguous. Certainly there will be instances in there for the same reasons that we always use instances, in terms of focus and storytelling. But in terms of the space itself, it is just like a landscape space in that you can walk from one place to another without teleporting.