Developer Q&A

Compiled by Ralsu

Recently, the Turbine developers behind Lord of the Rings Online:
Shadows of Angmar (LOTRO) have been taking time from their busy
schedules to answer a barrage of questions from forum users at
Turbine's LOTRO site.

With the Q&A thread now in excess of 20
pages, I have sorted out the questions that received an answer and
compiled them into a handy format for you. Simply click on the question
that interests you to see the answer. Then click on "Back to Questions"
to come back and pick another one.

First, I want to highlight why the developers decided to be so open
with comments at this time. Lead Game Systems Designer Nik
"Mithral_Miser" Davidson offered:

A lot of
us went out of our way to get clearance to talk about more than we were
able to before.

Ask me any one question you want, and I'll answer it. Pull no punches.
This isn't a PR exercise, this is us excited about really getting a
chance to talk about the game that we've been pouring our lives into.

Finally, before we get to the meaty stuff, Miltral_Miser had this to
say about the questions that don't get answered by Turbine:

If we don't answer your question, it doesn't mean it's not a good one,
or that we're hiding something, or that we hate you. There's just a lot
of them."

All answers come from Mithral_Miser, October, and Scenario of the
Turbine LOTRO development team.


A. Beta/Release

  1. When does beta start?
  2. When does the game come out?
  3. How do you feel towards the
    people who have doomed this game to oblivion? It seems that the
    majority of the mmo population thinks this game will fail miserably.
  4. How do you think LOTRO will do against the
    competition out presently?

B. Character Customization

  1. My biggest question is if you're going to model
    your character creator
    after DDO's or if you're looking into a more expansive or less
    expansive creator?
  2. Are the actual avatars going to allow
    us unique individual[ly] as well?
  3. Are there different cloaks
    with hoods up and down, or can you toggle it?
  4. Can the tallest Hobbit be bigger than the
    shortest Man?
  5. Does character age affect character appearence
    and height?
  6. I'm assuming armor has some kind of racial
    looks - i.e. elven armor
    will look different from hobbit armor in terms of styling?
  7. If I'm an elven armorsmith, I make a helm and
    sell it to a hobbit,
    will it look elven or hobbity when the hobbit puts it on?
  8. What lengths will be available for hair, and
    will race affect that
    at all? I don't recollect many elves with buzz cuts.

C. Classes

  1. About loremasters: will elves and humans have
    a different set of
    loremaster skills, or have similar skills but gain them differently? In
    short, will human and elven loremasters be different from each other?
  2. Much discussion has been made of Jeff Steele's
    comments about the
    Loremaster having a vial of oil as a lore appropriate alternative to
    the Sorcerer's fireball. Does the loremaster have something like this
    as an offensive, direct
    damage weapon?

D. Crafting

  1. Will the race of the character influence
    crafting at all? Such as elves
    making more durable long lasting items, but dwarves making stronger
    armor, etc.
  • I'd like to know whether or not it is going to
    be feasible to be a
    crafter/gatherer without ever having to engage in combat - EVER - or to
    have to enter areas for
    crafting/gathering purposes where combat is going to be nearly
    impossible to avoid.
  • Do you suppose there will be any opportunity
    down the
    road for, say, a Master Crafter to be able to have an Apprentice or two
    (either NPC and/or PC)?
  • Will a crafter be able to defend him/herself?
  • Will we be able to personalize our crafted
    items via Maker's Marks?
  • Can crafters ever supply the town smithy, he
    resells their goods and
    takes a cut of the profits?
  • Will crafting involve animations of any sort?
  • How much customization can a crafter put in
    with regard to the way
    items look? Can we add decorative embellishments, like script on a
    sword, inlay on plate armor, etc?
  • E. Faction href=""> alt="Brandywine Bridge"
    style="border: 2px solid ; width: 257px; height: 200px;" align="right">

    1. Is faction still in? If so, can you elaborate
      on it more?

    F. Game World

    1. Can our characters sit on chairs properly?
    2. Are there balrogs in-game and if...wings or
    3. Will we see such common fantasy monsters / bad
      guys like Vampires and
      werewolves, even though they are loosely mention in the Silmalirion? Or
      are they a no go?
    4. How many...giant bugs are there?
    5. Are stone Giants going to be in the
      game/future expansions?
    6. If you could see one feature added, but it
      isn't actually possible to
      fit it in due to current hardware limits or lore boundaries, what would
      it be?
    7. In the [Asheron Call games] you couldn't run
      off high areas and fall to injure yourself
      without trying (ie jumping off). In DDO i found that unless I was
      careful I could fall off high spots easily (due to lag
      problems)....Question is, which model is LOTRO following?
    8. When you are defeated, how are you revivied in
      combat? As in, how would
      a player revive another player in combat if they are instantly
      transported to a safe place?
    9. There is mentioning of the seven initial
      regions and I have some
      questions regarding those:
    1. What would
      you say has been the hardest location in Eriador to design?

    G. Housing

    1. Housing (both private and fellowship), what is
      your timeframe on it?
    2. Is the player housing still using the system
      which was described a long
      time ago? In that system the inside of a house was instanced and
      technically removed from its surroundings.

    H. The Industry

    1. What's your take on the current
      market sitution of skyrocketing production costs vs increasing consumer
      demand. Do you feel this stifles creativity and shut outs many from
      even entering the market place? Many niche gamers feel they are being
      toseed aside because of need to recoup production costs, do you think a
      future market will be large and diverse enough to once again satisfy
      them? How do you see the industry coping with this in the near and
      distance future? Do you think that out-sourcing (domestic and
      otherwise) development options such as engine licensing or art is a
      smart and viable option?

    I: Regional Servers for Australia

    1. Any chance of a regional server, or downtimes
      so patching/server downtimes aren't aways impacting during OZ/NZ peak
      evening gametimes?

    J: User Interface

    1. Will there be any filters (aside from language)
      the chat boxes, such as disallowing numbers (for leet) or use of
      excessive characters such as exclamation and question marks, and also
      constant capital letters? Or will it be "anything goes"?
    2. How are
      you showing clickable objects in the game? Exaggerated, cartoony stuff
      (like in DDO, EQ2) or something completely different? Here, I'm
      refering to chests, harvestable resources, etc.


    1. [Editor's Note: Turbine was unable to state
      a date for beta]
    2. [Editor's Note: Turbine was unable to state
      a date for release]
    3. How do I feel toward the "doom and gloom"
      crowd? I feel hopeful. What I
      mean by that is
      this: I know this game's been in development a long time. We went
      though some major changes. I don't feel we handled the news about PvP
      or raids very well, and some people are pissed off. I don't blame them.

    But I feel hopeful. Why? Because I know
    the game's good. I've worked on
    a few and I've played a ton and I know the game's good, bottom line. I
    played in the alpha last night, and I talked to real people running
    around having a great time. We have a ton of work to do, but at some
    point in the not too distant future, people are going to get a chance
    to make their minds up for themselves, not based on what some random
    malcontent on a forum was ranting about, but based on their own
    impressions of the actual game in beta.
    1. I feel hopeful. And if those people [who are
      negative about LOTRO now] change their minds once they get a chance to
      play (and I know that given a chance, the most vocal detractors of the
      game would eagerly jump into the alpha right now to see if they're
      right or wrong) then they won't owe anyone an apology. Them having fun
      would be all the thanks we'd need. And if those people get a chance to
      play the game and still don't like it, then I'll respect their opinions
      all the more. Hopefully there's something we can learn from that too.

    Customization href=""> alt="windmill"
    style="border: 2px solid ; width: 267px; height: 200px;" align="right">

    1. Well, if you count all the possible color
      combinations and
      option configurations, I could quote you some impressively large but
      ultimately not terribly useful number about how many different visual
      character combinations you could create. Practically speaking, you get
      a pretty good amount. If you want to compare and contrast with DDO,
      we're experimenting with some size-scaling things that DDO didn't have,
      and we're doing a neat thing where we're tying color palettes (allowed
      hair colors, skin tones and such) to a character's Nationality. Men
      from Rohan tend toward the blonde and fair, while Breelanders tend
      toward darker hair.
    2. Most of the visual
      customization options in LOTRO are all in the face, the hair, eyes,
      facial features, that sort of thing. As you might expect, you lose some
      of that as soon as you put on a helmet, or even as soon as you zoom out
      the camera a bunch. Then it becomes a question of how unique and cool
      the armor sets are. My take on it is, your character customization is
      mainly for you, the player to see - the world is big, faces are small,
      helmets are shiny. (And yes, we're likely to have a "don't show my
      helmet" option so your Legolas-style prettyboy hair can be seen by all.)
    3. Some cloaks are hoods up, some are hoods
      down. Can't toggle it, though.
    4. Nope, hobbits are wee.
    5. No.
    6. Yes.
    7. Elven, I should think.
    8. Hairstyles are all race-specific, and range
      from bald to a bit past
      shoulder-length. No elven buzz cuts.
    Back to Questions


    1. Same set of skills. However, the racial
      accomplishments that different
      race loremasters can complete will give them different traits and
      specializations. Loremasters of different races will be different from
      one another, but those differences will tend to manifest later in your
      adventuring career.
    2. I hate to contradict El Jefe, but the
      loremaster doesn't currently
      throw burning oil at people. He's not a nuker class. He has a "Burning
      Embers" skill that involves throwing burning pinecones at people -
      that's the closest analogue I can think of.


    1. The racial crafting traits are things we've
      talked a bunch about, but
      it's not in right now. I'm going to give that one an "unlikely for
      ship" answer.
    • That's what it means. Which of those two
      options it means remains to be
      seen. I'd love to keep something as iconic as lembas accessible to
      players, but I want to tread carefully around that one. So I'm leaning
      toward "everyone can," but without a ton of conviction.
  • All of our character classes are
    adventuring heroes. Combat's at the core of the game, and is required
    to get through the tutorial. There's this little war brewing, and we
    call pacifists "NPCs."
  • That being said, would it be
    possible/practical for an adventuring
    smith to "retire" after a while and focus exclusively on trade,
    crafting, and commerce? Probably.
    1. In the distant fuuuuuture, nebulous,
      shifting and unformed, anything is
      technically possible.
    2. Everyone gets to be a crafter in addition
      to their character class.
      None of the character classes are purely crafters - everyone can train
      a crafting vocation.
    3. Yep, your name is attached to every item
      you create.
    4. Not
      (That was a bit
      of a loaded non-answer, for those keeping score.)
    5. Yes, Avatars will have crafting animations.
    6. I don't know.
    Back to

    1. Faction isn't nearly as big a deal as it
      back in the mists of time. There will be faction-related
      accomplishments (do enough quests for the people of Breeland, and
      they'll start to appreciate it) but it's not the system of old.

    Back to

    Game World
    1. Not right now. Yeah, I know. Beat up Floon
      about that one.
    2. You know, I had never even heard of the
      great wing debate
      before I started working on the project. When I read the books for the
      first time as a wee lad, I imagined the Balrog with wings. Who knew it
      was such a religious issue? No, I didn't answer your first question.
      I'm a big cheater.
    3. Anything mentioned exclusively in the
      Silmarilion is verboten for us.
    4. We've got some giant bugs. I think
      animators really like giant bugs for
      some reason. Must be all the legs.
    Also, when you're mocapping a spider,
    it's hard to get all the little
    ping pong balls stuck on. (If you've never seen a "mocap", or
    motion-capture session, that joke
    probably didn't make much sense. It's funny, trust me.)
    1. I'm going to try to avoid answering "Is [X
      Piece Of Content] in the
      game?" just because I don't want to steal the thunder of the artists
      and content designers who haven't told you about their cool stuff yet.
      But it's a universal rule = a monster is ten times more fun when it's
      ten times bigger.
    100x bigger? style="font-weight: bold;">100x FUN!

    I'm only half-kidding. Heh.
    1. I have a system of advanced weapon
      customization that has been pushed
      post-ship. It's way cool. I would really love to un-push it, but such
      is life!
    2. We're following AC2/DDO. If you happen upon
      an cliff, you will find
      yourself falling off it if you aren't mindful.
    3. There is a period of time in which you lay
      incapcitated on the ground
      (you can chose to skip the timer and go to a Rally Point). During that
      time, you may be revived.
    1. [7 Initial Regions]
    • Yes
    • The latter
      • Our environmental artists and worldbuilders layout a series of
        references images and concept art and build areas based off those.
        Terrain textures, trees and frills are designed around the reference
        and concept pieces.
    For towns, we typically decide on a
    theme for the town and build the
    town around that theme. For example - Scary is a quarry town, so much
    of the decoration is themed around that. The buildings look more run
    down than a normal "plaster and a hill" hobbit hole and stacks of
    quarried rock lay around the entire town.
    • I haven't done this myself, but I think That number has been
    • I would say that we lean more to the "go anywhere" side than the
      "meandering" side.
    1. Right off the top of my head, I'd say
      one of the most unexpected challenges is making different green wooded
      areas look distinct from each other. A lot of Eriador is made up of
      green fields with trees. Having recognized this was the case, we have a
      guy on the team who is dedicated to making each of these areas look
      unique and separate from each other. Hopefully, when we are done you
      will be able to take a screenshot anywhere in the game, show it to
      someone else who is familiar with the game and he would be able to tell
      you what region the picture was taken based on the sort of trees,
      grass, rocks and dirt you find there.
    Back to

    Housing href=""> alt="Tower Hills"
    style="border: 2px solid ; width: 267px; height: 200px;" align="right">

    1. Post-ship. I'd be more specific if I knew,
      but I honestly don't.
    2. There is no housing for the release of this
      game. It is possible that
      we will add it in an update or expansion.
    What I wanted to talk about was the
    considerations for housing that
    needs to take place... Housing is like adding another player race to
    the game, one that needs a bunch of systems that are unique to it and
    it alone. Like players, it is desirable to have it customizable, only
    it needs to be customizable in the outside AND on the inside. Any of
    the things you would want to put on the facade of the house and the
    interior needs to be made. Even if you use existing objects for
    decorations, those objects aren't generally made to be placed in the
    world by players, so even existing objects would need some attention.

    Also, the houses should have race based appearances... a hobbit hole
    should look different from an elf home. This causes other issues... can
    an Elf build an Elf house in the Shire? Can an Elf own ANY property in
    the Shire, Elf styled or Hobbit styled?

    I'm not saying what the right or wrong answers are for these
    considerations are, I'm just saying that housing is a huge task and
    it's importantly that we do it right, or else why do it at all?

    Back to

    The Industry
    1. This is a tough one. Costs keep going up.
      Way up. Which leads the
      industry toward really being "hit-driven". I sometimes envy indie
      developers that can succeed without cracking the top-ten seller lists
      just because their costs are low. Then again, they don't get to work
      with awesome licenses like LOTR. It's all tradeoffs. Personally, I
      think that outsourced engines and frameworks (like the PopCap
      Framework) will lead to a renaissance of "small" games again. Maybe
      it's more "hope" than "think". Big publishers have become very
      risk-averse, which might mean that smaller-budget games will see a
      comeback in the next few years. We'll see.
    Back to

    Regional Servers for Australia
    1. I don't know the answer to your questions,
      but I will at least
      commisserate. I know Kiwis have basically gotten shafted by the MMO
      world so far, and I really hope we can do better.
    Back to

    User Interface

    1. I once tried to devise such a filter.
      It, er, didn't really work. Language's a weird thing, and there's a lot
      of combinations of characters that don't seem useful, except that
      sometimes, they happen. Heck, imagine you're typing fast and instead of
      "Heal me!" your finger slips and you type "He3al me!" If we filter that
      out and display "***** me!" to your party, you might get a different
      reaction than you had hoped.
    With character names, we can be a lot
    more selective, and yes, we have
    exacting rules for character naming. Chat, however, we have to leave to
    its own devices. (Minus an obscenity filter, naturally.)

    1. Largely, these are being represented by
      objects that are unique
      looking. Not neccessarily cartoony or exaggerated, but distinct and
    Rowan Branches, for example, look
    different from the rest of the
    foliage in the area to make them visually stand out, while still
    falling within our art direction.

    Also, you will notice mouse over
    changes in your cursor and if you have
    name labels toggled on, you will be able to see the name of the item
    hovering above it.

    Back to

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    Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016