Looking Ahead: What Else is Coming to the Lord of the Rings Online in 2011?

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alt="Looking Ahead: What Else is Coming to LotRO in 2011?"

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Last week, Ethec managed to hook me into an interview with
Aaron Campbell, Producer for href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/lotro"> the Lord of the
Rings Online
, and Adam
Mersky, Director of Communications for Turbine. Obviously, they wanted
to talk about the upcoming November Update (detailed here) and the Rise
of Isengard expansion coming in Fall 2011 (as outlined here). That was
all well and good, and we certainly appreciated their willingness to
share this information. But Fall 2011 is a long way off, and we wanted
to know what was going to happen between now and then.

(A note of caution: since these are "future plans"
and have no existing official artwork, I have had to rely on my own
imagination for the illustrations.)

The Lighter Side

The first thing they revealed was the upcoming Yule Festival, coming
sometime in December. This year will see a whole new area, called
Winter-home, acceible by talking to seasonal stable-masters throughout
Middle-Earth. This is a whole new region, separate from the rest of the
world, with a variety of Yule-themed mini-games and quests, vying
factions and colorful politics. Players can engage in snowball fights
or take to the stage as a theatre actor, emoting for the audience. This
is in addition to the regular Yule Festival events that occur every
year, much the same as how the recent Harvestmath Festival incorporated
the "standard" festival events and added the Haunted Burrow. This
content will go live with the November Update, but will not be
activated until the festival goes live in December.

Cosmetic pets src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/92352">

Cosmetic pets
(Artist's Conception)

With the Yule Festival comes a slew of new cosmetic items, but many
players already have their outfit slots and wardrobe filled to bursting
with the stuff that's available now. Well, this is something that Aaron
and Adam felt needed to be addressed.

According to Aaron, "We're taking the outfit system and we're going to
be adding new types of cosmetic items, adding new slots you can place
them in [and] additional outfits you can hold
with your character so you can hold even more different kinds of
outfits and change into them as you need to, really giving yourself
that personalized appearance and variety."

"On top of that," he went on, "we're also going to be introducing
cosmetic pets. These are non-combat pets that you can kind of show off
and coordinate with your outfits. They are purely cosmetic in that they
run around and don't participate in combat, but they're really a lot of
fun for players."

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Endgame and Raids

2011 won't be all fluff, though. Expect brand-new group
instances and raids. "And the raids are multiple," Aaron said. "More
than one. We're going to have new content for endgame players, and
we're also bringing in some mid-level content for players in the 30-40
range, somewhere in there."

alt="Level 65 First Age Weapons"

Level 65 First Age
LIs (Artist's Conception)

New endgame raids sounds promising enough, but it gets better:
"With the new raids, we're unlocking First Age legendary
weapons for level 65," Aaron informed us. "This has not been available
since the launch of Mirkwood."

those of us who remember the days just before Mirkwood, this news is
welcome but not all that surprising. Just before Mirkwood launched,
Turbine added the bounty quests in Esteldin, allowing players to
collect massive amounts of item XP quickly. When Mirkwood launched, all
of our maxed-out level 60 First Age weapons became obsolete, and the
item XP runes were not usable on the legendary items for level 61 and
up. More recently, level 65 Second Age weapons have become
ridiculously easy to get, requiring just a few concerted runs of the
Eregion 3-man instances or, for the more headstrong, the 6-man Great
Barrows instances. The Symbol of Celebrimbor (the item needed
craft level 65 Second Age legendary items), which formerly sold for
around 100 gold at auction, is currently selling for 12 - 15 gold. Now
that these items are so easy to get, it's only a matter of time before
they are replaced by something bigger and better and made obsolete. No
surprise, really... but I am personally still looking forward to
replacing my Second Age crossbow with a shiny new First Age.

importantly, these new raids are very unlikely to be radiance-gated.
Radiance is being pulled from the game entirely. "We created a system
that was intended to provide both a soft-gating for spaces and to
provide some distinction between raid gear from gear that was gained
outside of raids," Adam explained. "And players came back to us and
said 'Well, this is okay but it's not really fun,'
and not being fun
was not an outcome we could work with, so we're pulling it out."
While the Hope/Dread mechanic will stay in place, radiance will no
longer be a requirement for the more difficult endgame raids, almost
certainly including
the new ones that will be coming out next year.

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Update Structure

Since updates are no longer coupled with the epic books, we
can expect "micro-updates" more often - a package of new raids,
instances and skirmishes, for example, or a new or upgraded system, or
even a new chapter in the epic story. "The epic story continues," said
Aaron, "but we want to get content and features out even faster than
that. So we're going to be doing both updates that have specific
feature sets in them, and we're still going to be releasing epic books
as well." 

alt="Update Structure.... um..."

How does one
illustrate a change to the structure of forthcoming updates in a way
that is both informative and entertaining? 

"That way we won't have to make players wait for changes we're
making," Adam clarified.  "Feature changes, things that are
[based on] feedback, we're not holding it all off until the whole epic
story and everything else is done. They will come interspersed between
each other."

Turbine has an ambitious update schedule for href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/ddo">Dungeons
& Dragons Online
, with new stuff made
available every 3 months,
but LotRO is a different beast. "When you're talking about the world of
Middle-Earth," Adam explained, "It's hard to say we'll do a lot of
small updates, like 'You'll get Isengard Part 1 in the fall, and then
parts 2, 3 and 4 of the region in 2012.' That's not how people want to
experience Middle-Earth. When you get into a new region you want to
really get into it and explore it, just like Moria and Mirkwood and et
[...] Whereas DDO is instant dungeons and
launching adventure packs in
pieces like that, more frequently, is more fitting of that game than of
LotRO. [...] Right now, we still think that the
expansion pack is a
vital part of how people want to experience Middle-Earth as it allows
us to introduce big chunks of the landscape at once, in a way that
makes sense with story and everyhing else."

So, in a nutshell: new small-scale content, feature sets and
system tweaks and epic book packs will be added periodically throughout
the year, but big multi-region, map-expanding areas will still be
released in the more traditional expansions.

This is the definite stuff. We spoke more about some other
future plans that are less immediate but absolutely in the works.

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Rampant Speculation

alt="Mounted Combat: TBD"

Mounted Combat ETA:
T.B.D. (Artist's Conception)

When asked if mounted combat was coming, Aaron gave us a flat
Early release notes from the test server for the November Update
indicated that characters would be able to block/parry/evade while
mounted, but this has been shelved for the time being due to some bugs
in the system that will prevent it from being ready in time for the
November 29 release. However, this is a first step towards actual
mounted combat. The plan is to make this available to all characters,
not tying it to any particular class. Adam cautioned us, however, that
the "when and where of it is T.B.D.," Keep in mind, though, that Mordor
also coming at some point, and the date for that is also T.B.D. -
mounted combat may or may not
be coming to the game in 2011, but it is in the works for some future

the aging Rift off Nurz Ghashu to bring it in-line, challenge-wise,
with the revamped Helegrod raid is a "top priority," but there are no
certain dates for such a reworking just yet.
While it would be nice for poor old Barz to proclaim that there is "no
power stronger than Barz!" and really, truly mean it, he's going to
have to "wait and see" like everyone else as to exactly when that will

Anything discussed after this point fell into one of three
areas: "that's not something we can really get into yet," "that's
something we're looking into," and "no
comment." Any further speculation would be irresponsible. In this
article, anyway... that's what the forums are for.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Lord of the Rings Online Game Page.

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