Lord of the Rings Online: Book 13 Interview with Matt Elliott

Questions by Cody “Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor
Questions by Cody “Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor

Answers by Matt "Scenario" Elliott, Lead Worldbuilder for LOTRO

Over the past year, Turbine has displayed an almost impeccable track record when it comes to releasing quality free content at regular intervals for their most recent MMOG, Lord of the Rings Online. All of their updates – called Books – have been incredible deep and full of rich new content for players to enjoy. With Book 13 just on the horizon, thousands of players are itching to take a crack at the latest update to the LOTRO saga. Recently, Ten Ton Hammer’s Cody “Micajah” Bye sat down with LOTRO’s lead worldbuilder, Matt Elliott, to take about the details of what’s going into their next update!

Book 13 has been in the works since December.

Ten Ton Hammer: How long has Book 13 been in the works?

Matt Elliott: Oh goodness. I think we were plugging away at the ideas for it as early as December. We tried some new development processes for Forochel. Typically, when we do an update, everyone helps on it at the same time. For Forochel, in order to give world, content, and game systems more breathing room, we spread out the space over a longer period of time.

For example, my team – the world team – could go in and do all the places and development of this stage without getting in the way of other departments. After that, the content team came in behind us and did all the quest development and NPCs.

Overall, I think it worked out pretty well for us. We managed to complete a very large space in the amount of time we spent developing it.

Ten Ton Hammer: In one of the latest dev diaries, someone mentioned that you were using the Mines of Moria tech in Book 13. Can you explain what pieces of Book 13 that might be?

Matt: We introduced new landscape technology, which is dual head map technology. It basically allows us to create a ceiling mesh for our landscapes. You may have been to some places like the Isendeep or the Ancient Lair in Angmar, where it is a seamless cave, but it uses way more assets than what we can do with the dual head map technology. The new tech allows us to use fewer assets and make the cave look much more organic.

We didn’t use it in much in Forochel – it just got put in a small location – but we wanted to test it out and see how it worked. We wanted to make sure there weren’t any egregious issues with it before diving head first into Moria development. That said, we did want to show it off to people, because we’re really excited about the technology. The results we’ve been getting with it in Forochel and in other places has been really good.

Ten Ton Hammer: What’s the lore surrounding this Forochel area? It’s not an area that was mentioned very often in the books….

Matt: I think the entire basis for this area is about a paragraph or less, in terms of lore that we’re drawing from. It gave us a lot of flexibility in terms of design for this space. We don’t want to give too much away in terms of the depth of the storyline, but it does go all the way back to the last king.

Tolkien mentions a few things about Forochel, like the snow men of Forochel, but other than that we pretty much had free reign.

Ten Ton Hammer: Are there a bunch of new monster types in this zone, or are they pretty much variations on things we’ve already seen in the game?

Matt: It’s really a combination of both. One of the things that is important for us is that we introduce something new along with leveraging our existing assets. For Forochel we introduce a number of variations on existing monster types, include the worms, snow beasts, giants, and other creatures. But we also created several new beasts, one of them being the “Grim” along with the “Sabertooth Cat.” So it’s really a combination between new and old types.

Ten Ton Hammer: Are there any special creatures we should look out for?

Matt: Every once in awhile, one of our long-standing alumni likes to introduce a bit of an homage to the Asheron’s Call franchise. In this particular case, the homage happens to be the “Hoary Auroch” monster. In AC1, there was a creature named the Mattekar. The most powerful one that existed was the “Hoary Mattekar.” The Hoary Auroch is our version of that beast.

In AC1, if you killed the Hoary Mattekar and you had a chance of receiving a very particular drop. It’s a very similar situation with the Hoary Auroch. There’s actually a reputation recipe that requires something from that particular beast.

The Sabertooth Tiger is one of the new monsters in Book 13.

Ten Ton Hammer: On the recently unveiled Book 13 preview site, it was mentioned that you’ve continued to improve on solo play. Is that mainly talking about the new content that’s in Book 13, or are there other adjustments that were made in outside content as well?

Matt: For Book 13’s purpose, it was really about giving our elder play some more content for those players that have advanced their characters more casually or are looking to do more solo type of events. We’ve given them a new faction to work, along with some new items and that type of thing.

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