Consoles, Horses, and Middle-Earth - Exclusive LOTRO Interview with Jeffrey Steefel
Rumors are a pretty familiar thing for anyone within the video gaming
industry. People speculate about the work a studio might be doing based
on who they’re hiring, their job listings, and the current
state of the MMOG marketplace. If you’ve ever lived in a
small town where gossip “ href="http://www.aauw.org/advocacy/issue_advocacy//phonetree.cfm"
target="_blank">phone trees” still
exist, you’ll have a basic idea of how gossip circulates
through the MMO industry. From Blizzard to BioWare and SOE to Turbine,
every company has its fair share of rumors circulating around it, and
hundreds of people are sitting with their instant messengers running
just waiting for that next big scoop.
Will Lord of
the Rings Online be heading to consoles? We'll just have to wait and
Last week, I had the fortunate opportunity to chat with
LOTRO’s executive producer, Jeffrey Steefel, and in the href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/45185" target="_blank">first
part of our conversation, we focused on the launch of Mines
of Moria and what players will face once they enter those troubled
caverns. However, the second part of our interview took a turn towards
more future looking goals for LOTRO and Turbine as a company. During
our chat, we hit on a number of large topics that have been discussed
in various publications including Turbine’s future in the
console market, the state of href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/15973" target="_blank">horsemanship
in LOTRO and Rohan, and how Turbine will be handling the
future bevy of content they’ll have access to with the
Fellowship finally moving past the Misty Mountains.
To start, we began by really pushing Jeffrey on the topic of consoles.
People have been itching to hear more about Turbine’s console
plans and if they’re planning on doing something with
consoles in the near future. Although Jeffrey has been fairly tight
lipped in the past, he definitely was willing to chat about several
aspects of the console experience, including its difficulty to
“[Consoles] are definitely an important part of our strategy
going forward. We’ve been really focusing on what’s
going to make the genre of game that we’ve been working on
for fourteen years very successful in this different
environment,” Steefel said. “We really want to
focus on what that sort of experience needs to be and understanding
what we think players want. I don’t even think players know
what they want at this point, because it’s never truly been
“The environment is finally ready, and people may be ready
now to utilize their consoles in different ways because of what they
can do online. Conceptually, the Xbox 360 and the PS3 aren’t
just items that standalone anymore. They’ve become part of
the network, and that helps a lot,” he continued.
Fantasy XI was generally the most successful
MMO product, and it was well suited to that last-gen console market.
While FFXI and all of the other console games did fairly well, in the
grand scheme of things they were experiments. The console
wasn’t ready, and the infrastructure around the console
“And also, quite frankly, [developing an MMOG for consoles]
is not a simple thing to do. How many people are out there that know
how to make really good MMORPGs? It’s almost impossible to do
it well on the PC. It’s just really hard. Now we’re
taking that and trying to move it onto a console,” Jeffrey
concluded. “We’ve been doing this for 15 years and
we’ve built four of these games and we feel like *maybe* now
we’re ready to try. There aren’t many companies out
there that can feel confident about that.”
incredible amount of content is available in this next section of
So with the hints of consoles hanging in the air, I refocused our
attention back on the game we got on the phone to talk about, Lord of
the Rings Online. Although there’s already been a vast amount
of content created for LOTRO players, it’s nothing compared
to the Great Flood of information that’s on the way. Once the
developers make it past the Misty Mountains in Middle-Earth,
there’s an almost unlimited supply of content to draw from.
“It’s daunting but in a great way,”
Steefel said. “I think what’s interesting is that
there’s such a density of content that almost everywhere you
turn there’s recognizable, exciting things. To be fair, the
Shire and Rivendell are very recognizable and iconic, but to create the
nemesis of the game we had to invent it. We resurrected Angmar in
Eriador. But there’s just so much going on past the Misty
Mountains that we can turn our attention pretty much anywhere and
it’ll have elements that are rich and fun and parts that
players will immediately recognize.”
As far as game mechanics go, nothing is more intriguing than how the
Turbine developers are going to handle the horsemasters of Rohan. With
the Rohirrim making such a big splash in the Lord of the Rings movies,
Turbine has no choice but to truly explore how they pursue horsemanship
in a future Book or expansion. Not one to shy away from a question, I
simply asked Steefel what they were going to do.
“Speculation, speculation, speculation!” Jeffrey
said, laughing. “Here’s what I’ll say:
One of the exciting things about getting to Moria and passing through
the Misty Mountains is the fact that now we’ve moved on into
the heart of Middle-earth and it gets increasingly exciting.
There’s just a LOT of stuff going on once you get past the
Misty Mountains. Whether it’s Rohan or Gondor or Isengard or
Fangorn Forest, there’s just all this stuff going
will be an important element to Rohan.
“There are tons and tons of opportunities, and pretty much
anything that we focus on from this point forward is going to get
increasingly interesting and exciting. We’re also entering
into a place where “the War of the Ring” is really
starting to unfold. It just keeps getting better – it
doesn’t peter out as it goes along,” Steefel
finished. “When we get to Rohan, does horsemanship become
important? Yeah! Us and our horses would be strung up if we got to
Rohan someday and didn’t pay attention to horses. And
it’s just a matter of when.”
As a final question in our interview, I asked Jeffrey what he would
like to tell players of LOTRO and readers of Ten Ton Hammer. Here are
his final words:
in and give Moria a try, because I
think they’ll be really surprised with the depth of the
experience that they’ll find there. There’s a lot
for pretty much everyone and Moria’s not going away.
We’re ready when the players are.
We’d again like to thank Jeffrey for his time, vocal talent
(check him out on Wikipedia!) and knowledge on all things LOTRO. There
are definitely some big things ahead for Turbine, so make sure you
stick with Ten Ton Hammer for all the upcoming news!
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Lord of the Rings Online Game Page.