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

Questions by Cody “Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor

by Cody “Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor
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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!

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Book 13 has been in
the works since December.

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

style="font-weight: bold;">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?

style="font-weight: bold;">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

style="font-weight: bold;">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?

style="font-weight: bold;">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?

style="font-weight: bold;">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.

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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?

style="font-weight: bold;">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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