First Balrog Announced in the Lord of the Rings Online Book 11 Preview from Leipzig GC '07

by Cody "Micajah" Bye
by Cody "Micajah" Bye

When Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar was released earlier this year, Turbine made a promise to its players to give them constant content upgrades that not only helped tweak the original gameplay but added significant new portions to the world as well. Dubbing each of these updates "Books", Turbine has released two of these large content enhancements since the game hit store shelves in the spring of this year: Book 9 and 10. Each of these upgrades have provided new instances, unlocked new areas to explore and upgraded the existing content to the general benefit of their vast swath of players.

At Leipzig GC '07, the Ten Ton Hammer team roused themselves early on Thursday morning to make the trek to the Leipzig Messe (convention center) where our appointment with Turbine's Jeffrey Steefel, executive producer for Lord of the Rings Online, awaited. Entering the meeting, we didn't know what to expect from the Turbine exec. We prepared ourselves to discuss Book 10, but in our heart of hearts we yearned for information on the as-of-yet unknown content. As we entered the Codemasters Online booth (the European publisher of LotRO), Steefel gave us an enthusiastic reception, thanking us for coming and setting the stage for what we were going to see during his talk. However, Phil and I both had our eyes glued to the computer monitor that was in the room with us. On the screen was blazing a exotic looking wallpaper with "Book 11 Preview" plastered on the front. Our prayers had been answered.

Jeffrey Steefel discusses some of the upcoming pieces of content in LotRO's Book 11.

Before he began, Steefel informed us that we couldn't take any pictures of the new content - it's still under development - but we were free to write down anything he said in the preview, which was quite a load of information. Steefel introduced the his presentation by giving a brief synopsis of what Turbine had achieved so far with the game post-release, how much content had actually been added to the game and what sort of attitude Turbine had when approaching their new content. "The goal is to really look and listen to what the players are doing and address issues in the game by both adding new content and adjusting old content so that these updates are addressing what the players need," he said. And thus far they have done a fairly remarkable job, with Book 9 and 10 new content was released for the levels in which the players were stationed (25-35 for 9 and 50ish for 10) and existing content was modified to balance or improve the gameplay that was already there.

But Steefel could tell that Phil and I were chomping at the bit to hear about the Book 11; our eyes were gleaming with the thoughts of what could be coming into the game that would top what was released in Book 9 and 10. With a smile, Steefel clicked over to the next slide. On the top, the word "Housing" was displayed prominently. While rumors of housing being added to the game have circulated since E3, the developers had not gone into any detail on the subject nor had they announced exactly what the housing would entail. Steefel was quick to point out that not only will player housing be available, but Kinship housing as well. In my mind, I could hear LotRO fans everywhere cheering with glee; player housing is amazingly appropriate for the gameplay style of LotRO and I imagine a vast majority of the LotRO players will be interested in any sort of housing available to them, Kinship and player alike. "We've established a place where people love to be," Steefel said. "Now we're trying to give the players a chance to live there."

Cody "Micajah" Bye listens intently to the words of Steefel, smiling at the executive's enthusiasm and good humor. Houses are also pretty damn cool.

In the scheme that the Turbine developers have devised for housing, there will be four unique neighborhood types for housing. Each of these neighborhood types will be based upon race. While we were oogling the information, Steefel wanted to make sure to emphasize a certain point, saying that "it's important to note that these are neighborhoods and not just places for houses." On top of that, Steefel stated that you'll be able to decorate your house. From the concept art that Steefel showed us, we noticed that each of the houses will have their own racial stylings involved. For example, Elven houses will be flowing, epic, and grand, sporting amazing all sorts of filigree. On the other hand, Hobbit houses will be much shorter and rounder, looking more like the inside of a ship (with the porthole type windows).

According to Steefel there will be hundreds of cool items that you can decorate your house with, ranging from the standard sets of furniture to Elvish welcome mats (that actually say "Welcome" in Sindarin). With the rabid fanbase that LotRO has already developed, all of these items will certainly have their place in the gameplay for RPers and non-RPers alike; it should be a fascinating journey to watch houses spring up all across Middle Earth.

Along with the addition of housing in Book 11, Turbine is also working on several new areas for players: the Ettendeep and the "Extreme" Misty Mountains. Talking about Ettendeep first, Steefel explained the new area as a place below the Ettenmoors (where the Monster Play occurs) and is a huge expanse of catacombs and caves for the players to explore. "What's interesting about this," Steefel added, "is that this is expanding upon some of the work that we're trying to do with controlled areas and stuff like that." They couldn't give a whole slew of details about the new zone, but they said that they were going to release more information to us as it became available.

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