Background of a Balrog: An Interview with LOTRO's Jeffrey Steefel Focusing on Book 11

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

Since this year's Leipzig Games Convention, the internet has been all abuzz about a Balrog. No, it isn't that familiar flaming demon we saw in the Lord of the Rings movies. On the contrary, this particular Balrog-scandal was born from a piece of information that Ten Ton Hammer was first to bring you. At the Leipzig GC, Ten Ton Hammer learned that a Balrog would be included in The Lord of the Rings Online's upcoming Book 11 update.

Turbine has already sent you deep into Middle Earth. Now they're preparing to send you deep enough to meet a Balrog

With that piece of information in hand, the official LOTRO forumites have been all over the news like Winnie the Pooh going after honey - or as our infamous Boomjack would say, "Rose O'Donnel chowing down on hohos." Even though the amount of controversy over the introduction of the Balrog has been quite extraordinary, little news has been escaping the Turbine offices. A few posts were made on the official forums, but with over 200 replies to the initial thread, searching for those developer posts has become more of a chore than anything else. Luckily for you, the Ten Ton Hammer editorial staff has been on the case and this week you'll find all sorts of information regarding the Balrog, Book 11, housing and other updates to LOTRO. While our main site will cover some important aspects, don't forget to seek out our LOTRO Community Site as well, for they will be bringing you the nitty-gritty details concerning many of the areas that LOTRO players are most interested in.

To start this week of LOTRO-filled goodness, we'll begin with a portion of a recent phone interview that transpired between a pair of Ten Ton Hammer staffers and a dynamic duo of Turbine developers. Ten Ton Hammer's executive and managing editor, Jeff "Ethec" Woleslagle and Cody "Micajah" Bye, were providing the questions aimed at Jeffrey Steefel and Adam Mersky, the executive producer and public relations manager behind LOTRO. With the Leipzig GC fresh on the minds of both parties involved, Book 11 seemed an appropriate topic for the entire interview.

However, Steefel and Mersky were hard-pressed to answer every question we threw their way, simply because the details haven't been completely decided on the development side. For example, the developers couldn't provide any answers for the release date for Book 11 or an official title, but they did give us a reason why there wasn't more information coming out about the upcoming update.

"It's really more just because we've got a lot planned," Steefel said. "This month we're really focused on Book 10 being out and getting a lot of people in front of that. Our free trial program just kicked off and we're having a lot of success with it...we want to make sure we're letting everyone know. We're doing a lot of events – not really press oriented, but sort of press oriented. We're going to Digital Life at the end of the month; we're doing a big event there, a big opportunity to give out some free trials, get people to give Middle Earth a chance."  

Once Book 11 is launced, LOTRO will have expanded over 20% in five months.

"Another big thing at the end of coming up is the 70th anniversary of the release of The Hobbit, which is the birth of this whole franchise," he continued. (Editor's Note: The anniversary occurred on September 21, just two days after the interview.) "When you sit back and think about it, it had a huge impact not just on games, but arguably all role-playing games wouldn't have been here were it not for The Hobbit being written. On literature, on gaming, on movies… so we're doing a lot of stuff around that. Soon after that we'll start getting into the nitty gritty on Book 11."

From previous interviews and hints, we do know a few generalities about Book 11.With the more and more players reaching the end-game portion of LOTRO, it seems almost expected that the developers continue down the path of releasing content for those high-level players. Aside from the Balrog, there will be a focus on higher level content in general and a few new areas directed specifically at high-end gamers, the Ettendeep and the "Extreme Misty Mountains." For more information on those two areas, make sure you check out our Leipzig GC preview that covered what Steefel had to say about both of the new land areas.

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