Looking Back at 2011: an Interview with LotRO's Devs

By Jeff Sproul -
Looking Back at 2011: An Interview with LotRO's Devs

2011 was a landmark year for the Lord of the Rings Online. It saw the fourth anniversary of the game, and the Turbine staff has been given reason to believe it will continue going strong into the future. We sat down with Adam Mersky, Director of Communications for Turbine, and Kate Paiz, Executive Director for LotRO, for an exclusive interview to look back over the accomplishments of 2011, and to get a glimpse of the roadmap for the future.

According to Adam Mersky, one of the biggest accomplishments of 2011 was the migration of European players to Turbine's global unified community.

"It's been really great for us. Anything that brings us closer to our players makes us better at what we do," he said. "They're now getting content day-and-date with North American players. In the past, they would have to wait, anywhere from a day or two to sometimes up to a couple of weeks before they got localized content." In other words, former Codemasters customers are getting their new stuff at the same time as everyone else without the wait for licensing and other issues.

Kate Paiz remarked on the success of their first full year of F2P. LotRO (following the business model of Turbine's other big free-to-play title, Dungeons & Dragons Online) is held up as a shining example of F2P done right, and Turbine does what they can to accommodate players coming from social networks and other f2p games, learning what expectations and interests they have.

She went on to talk about the positive feedback they have gotten from 2011's revamps of older content. The Evendim region got a full reworking - mobs were re-leveled and new quests and quest hubs were added, giving players in the 30 - 40 level range a large, contiguous landscape in which to work. The Volume II epic books in Moria also received a major revamp, making them more solo-friendly as the bulk of high-level players shifted their focus to later locations.

Of particular interest in 2011 was the introduction of the Rise of Isengard expansion pack, the first paid expansion since the transition to Free-to-play. According to Kate, "We had such great results with Rise of Isengard. It was our best-selling expansion yet."

Introducing a paid expansion for a free-to-play game was something of a gamble for Turbine. Adam explained, "We didn't know how it would do and how people would respond to it." But the gamble paid off, and the question of whether or not players would plunk down money for an endgame expansion in a f2p title was answered with a resounding "yes." According to Adam, "It was our biggest expansion ever, bigger than Moria or Mirkwood, which was a pleasant surprise for all of us here. What we learned was, yes, we can do paid expansions for free-to-play games, players want that level of content, and we've learned a lot about how they go about paying for it, how to put it in the store."

This amount of success is sure to have good results in 2012. Adam and Kate had a lot more to say in this interview about the roadmap for 2012. According to Adam, "This is a big year for LotRO and DDO. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that Turbine is firing on all cylinders right now. We like to joke about the 5th anniversary for LotRO and the 6th anniversary for DDO, but Asheron's Call has been around for 12 years. Everything we've done since the inception of these projects is with that in mind, that we're there for the long haul, and hopefully every year we'll have [an interview] like this with you, where we sorta surprise people with, 'Wow, I can't believe they're continuing to do cool stuff.'"

We'll have more details on the "cool stuff" next week.

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