LotRO's classes are getting a major overhaul focused on player interactivity and gameplay longevity.
Lord of the Rings Online's latest expansion, Helm's Deep, promises to include tons of new features, including a major overhaul to each of the player classes. Messing with players' characters in a major way is no small matter, so I sat down with the class development team at Turbine Studios to discuss those changes and how they will impact both individual players and the LotRO community as a whole.
We began our discussion with some of the shortcomings within the current system. While each of the player classes in LotRO were once distinct and unique, over many years and expansion packs, there has been increasing homogeneity among the classes. Every class benefited from increased utility, but as a result, ended up lacking uniqueness and potency. To account for these issues, the Turbine team has decided to do a major overhaul of the class and power progression systems.
The developers explained that although each class has lots of strength and potential, there was lots of overlap between classes, and because each class had gone through so many levels and changes over time, there were lots of unnecessary skills that could be pruned without losing the core essence of what each class was. To help flesh out specialization and potency, LotRO's developers are adding a new 'Trait' system to the game, which is essentially a talent-tree system, allowing players unlock points that can be spent to grant new skills, abilities, and passive bonuses.
Begin your own epic adventure as the Race of Man, Elf, Dwarf, or Hobbit. Based on the books written by J. R. R. Tolkien and not the movies, LOTRO is a closest thing you can get to strolling through Middle-Earth with a solid walking stick in your hand as the road goes ever on and on.
Players first choose their trait specialization at level 6. Once players choose that specialization in their class, they immediately unlock several iconic skills for that specialization, as well as some passive bonuses to help reinforce the feeling of fulfilling that role. For example, a tanking spec'd Guardian will always generate more threat per attack than a DPS spec'd Guardian.
Players gain trait points every other level, and trait points can also be unlocked by completing activities such as high-profile quests. Additionally, Turbine has included a multi-spec system, where players can have as many as six different trait specs that they rotate through as needed. Players will no longer need to speak to a bard to change their specialization, and can swap between specs at any point as long as they're out of combat.
During our discussion, the Turbine team made it clear that they are not taking these changes lightly. The trait tree system is very different than what is currently implemented, and Turbine has taken special care to ensure that they aren't abandoning their current community through these changes, like what happened in the Star Wars Galaxies Combat Update. Despite some clear apprehension at the scale of the changes, the developers feel that these changes are for the best of the game in the long term.
"These changes are really big, but they need to happen," said Lead System Designer Matt Zimmitti. "The game needs to be changed, and everything needed to be changed at once to get the effect we want. We've gotten a lot of positive feedback [on the changes], but this is big stuff. A lot of what we are doing with these changes is planning for the future; the old system didn't have room to grow. This system can continue growing [with Lord of the Rings Online]."