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Lord of the Rings Online: Book 13 Hands-On Preview

Jordan Deam | 22 Apr 2008 19:30
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Campbell elaborated a bit on the challenges of building the Lossoth culture essentially from scratch: The LotRO dev team had little more than a paragraph in the appendix of the Lord of the Rings to work from. So how did they arrive at the appearance and attitude that made it into Book 13? Alex Toplansky, one of the content developers, explains: "Tolkien was really first and foremost a linguist, and he was almost a cultural anthropologist; he had a lot of awareness of a lot of the different European cultures and things going on in that part of the world.

"Without going too far into some of the little trips that we put in with them, there was definitely a little bit of influence from the Sami culture, which appears all throughout the northern Scandinavian band. They're a really interesting people with a lot of attempts to hold onto their heritage very much like a lot of Alaskan and Inuit peoples. We really got kind of carried away and swept into how they went about things. And we learned some really cool stuff that I think comes out in a lot of our content."

The Lossoth aren't without their humor, however. Outside the capital, we encountered a clumsy chap who appeared to be attempting to ice skate for the first time. I asked Campbell if players would every get the chance to skate in Middle Earth. "That's one hurdle we have not been able to climb yet. For the moment, ice skates and sleds are purely the domain of the Lossoth." In other words, it could be a while before you get to body check a Hobbit in a game of Middle Earth hockey. Someday...

We continued along a barren ice sheet populated by the local fauna: a domesticated mammoth, sabertooth cats, and even a few moose. The team argued about the last creature, and after a minute or two of fierce debate, determined that moose are actually members of the elk family. "Welcome to our world," one of the developers interjected with an audible eye-roll.

Moments later, I was told to look up and gaze at Forochel's version of aurora borealis. It was a surprisingly striking, soft purple glow that ebbed and flowed across the horizon. It's certainly far more dramatic than the Northern Lights that I've seen back home in Minnesota, but then again I was less drunk this time around so it's hard to make a direct comparison.

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The ice sheet spilled into a sparse, taiga-like forest. Campbell explained part of their world-building philosophy for the zone: "We really didn't make excessive use of trees in Forochel. Instead a lot more of it is about ice, about vertical division of landscape, rocks, vistas and viewpoints, a lot more about the decorations items such as mammoths skulls that you'll find across the landscape, and then a few ruins out there as well, in keeping with the sort of ancient nature of the area." Before long we were back onto another ice sheet, this time with substantially more aggressive enemies.

A few wandering ice giants greeted us, and if we weren't all invulnerable they would have certainly brought the pain. Campbell demonstrated an effective tactic for less omnipotent characters to employ: pull the giants to a nearby steam vent and they become much more manageable. Why an ice creature vulnerable to any heat source would make its home near a steam vent is anyone's guess, but Campbell speculates, "Well, you know, they like their sauna." A few paces away, a new monster type floated docilely until I got close enough to aggro it: the Grim, a swirling ice spirit.

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