According to both developers, the new land mass will be a significant
chunk of new content, but the total expanse of the new area hasn't yet
been tallied by the team. But pulling together those sort of numbers
isn't always as easy as it seems, simply because some areas aren't in
the same general game sphere as the normal areas.
"We haven't really calculated it yet, partially because a lot of the
stuff we're adding is instanced space," Steefel said. "I'd say it's
more like the amount of new space we added for Book 10 than it is for
Book 9; we're not adding an entire region, but we are adding a lot of
new areas in the Trollshaws and the Misty Mountains. So, a significant
amount of space. It's a good question that I think I owe Adam a square
meters number to add to our existing numbers."
"Once Book 11 launches," Adam added, "we'll have increased the size of
the game probably 20% in the five months since launch - and that's a
multiple measure, it's not just square meters but number of quests,
monster play, etc."
I'm guessing that
chickens won't stand a chance against the might Balrog.
Included in that expanded area, deep in the bowels of Middle-Earth,
adventuring players will encounter the game's first Balrog. As I stated
previously, when this news broke on the internet, it caused a huge
scandal. Many Tolkien lore-hounds began href="http://forums.lotro.com/showthread.php?t=86509&highlight=Balrog">howling
their displeasure. A score of others href="http://community.codemasters.com/forum/showthread.php?t=217648">thought
it was a good move. As a whole, however, it just seemed that
people were interested in the Balrogs eventually coming to a PC screen.
Threads on forums continue to spring up along those lines, and
eventually it seems in Turbine's best interest to pursue the
introduction of a Balrog into the game. However, when the Book 11 news
was released at Leipzig, we wondered why they'd decided to introduce a
Balrog other than the single entity in Moria. So many of those
individuals who are steeped in knowledge concerning the lore of Tolkien
have professed their discouragement at the introduction of another
Balrog into the Middle Earth ecosystem, although it's been suggested by
Christopher Tolkien (J.R.R.'s son) that there were between three and
seven Balrogs ( href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morgoth%27s_Ring">this
information can be found in the book, style="font-style: italic;">Morgoth's Ring).
Despite this suggestion by Tolkien's son, it's a question that was
burning in our minds, and one that we desperately wanted Steefel to
Ask and ye shall receive. Here's the response we received from Steefel
concerning the introduction of the Balrog:
answer is because he's really cool and he's a great boss, and we wanted
players to encounter a Balrog before the obvious time. But there's
really more to it than that; it's the way that we approach everything
– this is not a linear story where there's this creature that
you encounter at this location and this creature that you encounter at
this location. Creatures are creatures in a world, they have a history,
they have a genealogy, they exist not just in complete isolation. There
were likely were more Balrogs in the world of Middle Earth, it's just
that there's a very famous Balrog in Khazad-dûm (that you
will still encounter someday) that will likely be even more impressive
than the one you're encountering now.
We want to make sure that we're not so stuck to the meat in that one
linear story that we're kicking away the breadth that we know the world
could have. For the same reason that we also have rogamul that are a
cousin of the balrog from the "rog" family, which is another cool
creature that we introduced, I believe, at launch.
So, that's really the whole basis of how we go about building this
world. On one hand, it's incredibly detailed and richly so, moreso than
anything ever written in terms of fantasy. But there's also a lot of
questions that aren't answered, and we're also building an entire
world. We want to make sure we're balancing authenticity with the
ability to create something believable – there's not just
this one solitary creature that exists in the whole universe, at the
end of the day, this is one kind of sentient animal that exists and has
existed for a long time. When you reach the Balrog of
Khazad-dûm, this is the one that's been around forever.
[Tolkien] talks about how there aren't any more [dragons], but at one
time long, long ago, there were lots of dragons in Middle Earth. But
Smaug is the dragon. By the same token, there's no reason other
genealogies couldn't exist in that respect. We have the same
conversation here [at Turbine], I certainly get chided for 'Are you
talking about a
Balrog or the
Balrog?' 'No, I'm talking about a
Balrog. We all know who the
alt="" height="1" width="1">
style="font-style: italic;">Turbine continues
to push the boundaries of Tolkien's world, exploring everything ever
mentioned in the books.
Even with that clarification by Steefel, it seems strange that the
developer's at Turbine would hasten the introduction of a Balrog by
such a great extent. The general gaming populace might have been a bit
less apprehensive if a Balrog had been introduced after the players
encountered the epic creature in Moria first, rather than vice versa.
As another note, it's only been a few months since the actual release
of Lord of the Rings
Online and introducing a Balrog after less than a year
seems like an awfully fast progression. Being in that mindset, I asked
Mersky and Steefel about the seemingly quick introduction of Balrog's
into the game.
"You know, if you don't want it, we can take it back," Mersky laughed.
I chuckled as well, knowing that it did seem silly to take the Balrog
back after everyone has come to grips with one being included in the
At this point, Steefel cut back in and gave his thorough explanation on
the subject. "These games take so long to evolve...especially this one
because Middle Earth is so huge," Steefel said. "It's a problem we have
to solve overall. Saruman is way down to the south; [as a player] am I
going to have to wait forever to see Saruman, or is there a way to
encounter him earlier than I might expect? How long is it going to be
before I see Riders of Rohan? Am I going to have to wait till we're in
the experience where we're dealing with the capital of Rohan and Helm's
Deep and all that?"
I couldn't argue with Steefel's logic concerning the epic pressure they
must be feeling to introduce certain aspects of Tolkien's world into
the game as soon as possible. As a fairly prolific Lord of the Rings
fan, I have a deep desire to see the Rider's of Rohan truly come to
life in LOTRO, hopefully in a way that seems utterly believable. They
are an epic force, and one that I'd hate to have to wait years to see.
alt="" height="1" width="1">
style="font-style: italic;">It sounds like
you'll need many members of your Kinship to even touch the Balrog.
"We want to make sure that as long as we do it in ways that are
believable, that fit within the fantasy, that fit within this world,"
Steefel added. "Obviously this is stuff we pass through Tolkien
Enterprises any time we do anything like this. As long as it fits [the
criteria], we [want] to make you feel like you're not stuck on a path
that has been predetermined for you, where only an X number of things
are going to happen to you. We are taking you in a basic direction,
because we know people do want to experience that. But, for example,
I'm not sure we would populate the Lowlands with The Watcher
everywhere. We know where The Watcher is. But even that creature might
exist in other locations, or things like it. We know that Shelob is the
creature that everybody wants to see and it's going to be a while
before you encounter Shelob. But we've been dealing with spiders since
"I think when players see the
Balrog (not the one being introduce in Book 11)," Steefel concluded.
"The question of why we started with a Balrog will be moot, because the
Balrog will be in such a different plane of existence in terms of that
As a conclusion to our talks on the Balrog (or style="font-style: italic;">a Balrog, however
you want to look at it), the Ten Ton Hammer staff was generally very
interested in how the encounter with this early will progress. Would it
be a fly-by encounter or a direct confrontation? Would players have a
chance to actually fight a Balrog, even though most of us would assume
that it could wipe the entire group in a few swings?
"It definitely has the feel of a raid encounter, and it's quite
significant," Steefel said. "It's not just a fly-by."
I think my raiding party is already set and we'll be ready to venture
into the depths of Middle Earth by the time Book 11 rolls around.
With that, our interview topic switched to the BIG addition that would
be going into the game with Book 11: player housing. However, Steefel
did promise to get in touch with their in-house lore expert to provide
us with a conclusive answer concerning the lore around the existence of
other Balrogs in Middle Earth other than the one Balrog that existed in
Moria. Keep your eyes peeled throughout the rest of this week for that
conclusive answer, details concerning player housing, and answers to
many questions that the general LOTRO community is concerned with!
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