Lord of the Rings Online Vooncast Interview with Jeffrey Steefel - Book 8 and Dol Guldur

Posted Fri, May 15, 2009 by Cody Bye

When it comes to Lord of the Rings Online, no one is more knowledgeable than Turbine’s Executive Producer for the title, Jeffrey Steefel. We recently sat down with Jeffrey in our weekly Vooncast to discuss the upcoming content in Volume 2 Book 8 and what players should be expecting when they finally get to cross the Misty Mountains, delve into Mirkwood, and explore the depths of Dol Guldur. The War of the Ring comes to life in this upcoming Book, so make sure you check out the interview!

Ten Ton Hammer: Let’s talk about Book 8. You’ve stated that we’re not leaving Moria behind, and that the job isn’t done. What kinds of things are in Book 8 that take us back to Moria?

Jeffrey Steefel: The most important thing to know is that we’ve passed out of Moria, and we’ve done the first set of tasks to get the Dwarves resettled back into Moria. But there’s a lot of craziness still going on. Players have made it into Lothlorien and they’ll be spending lots of time there, but there are some pretty cool instances that we’ve created back inside Moria and you’ll need to come in and quell some of the new unrest that’s occurring inside the mines.

Basically, Moria is a giant part of our world now, and like many places in Middle-earth we want to make sure that players have awesome opportunities to go back there. The work has really just begun in Moria, and players will have lots of opportunities to go back into Moria and enjoy it in ways they haven’t yet. There’s a number of new instances of varying sizes that allow players to go back.

Ten Ton Hammer: You’ve said all along, ever since we’ve been talking to you about LOTRO, that once we’re past the Misty Mountains we’d become a larger part of the war and start to see it going on. We’ve had our rest in Lothlorien, but what’s our next step? What’s the next big stop on the way to Mordor.

Steefel: After Book 8, as we move forward in the later part of the year, we’re going to be moving into southern Mirkwood and Dol Guldur.

Dol Guldur is a giant fortress where Sauron basically took shelter after he’d been defeated and the Ring had been taken. This is where he rebuilt his power. This is a very significant part of Middle-earth and a very significant part of the history of Middle-earth. So you’ve got a very scary and significant enemy that’s rising in southern Mirkwood and a place that’s launching attacks at Lothlorien and other parts of Middle-earth.

This is another front in the War of the Ring that the players are going to be faced with, and a pretty significant one at that. In fact, it’s the most direct one – with respect to Sauron – that the players have faced to date.

It’s definitely exciting and a really, really cool place that we’ve started doing a tremendous amount of work on. Southern Mirkwood is going to be a very unique place in Middle-earth. It’s a forest, but it has a dark and ominous personality that you really haven’t seen in Middle-earth.

Then there’s Dol Guldur itself, which is an incredibly huge, majestic, and very, very evil fortress that was Sauron’s fortress, so obviously you’re going to be up against a lot of interesting old and new foes. There’s a great connection between the Ringwraiths and Dol Guldur in the IP, so the fellbeasts that you see flying around in Middle-earth tend to roost in Dol Guldur.

This also gives us an opportunity to show off some of the things we’ve learned about depicting things of great, epic scale. This is a very large, high mountaintop retreat that kind of surveys all of southern Mirkwood. So it should be a cool, interesting place to go.

Ten Ton Hammer: We’re going into southern Mirkwood. Can you give us insight into your inspiration for this? Can you set the stage a little bit for us?

Steefel: Mirkwood is obviously a large part of the Hobbit story, and while there’s certainly a lot more activity to the north part of Mirkwood, this is an opportunity to start bringing those players into that of Mirkwood and weaving players into the fabric of Middle-earth.

But Dol Guldur itself is a significant part of the story of the Ring. By bringing players there, we can begin exposing them to the actual War of the Ring and the battles that are raging in this part of Middle-earth that have really just begun as the Fellowship passes through.

Another thing that I’m really excited about, and in many respects goes hand-in-hand with what we’re doing with Dol Guldur, is that once we move past the Mistys and players are feeling like they’re getting more and more involved in the war itself. We want the battles between good and evil to become a significant part of players’ experiences in the game. We’re working on a new feature to the game that we’re calling “Skirmishes.” In these Skirmishes, you have the opportunity to participate in battles with all sorts of different bad guys from all over Middle-earth that are causing trouble.

Even though the story moves in this linear fashion through Middle-earth and you have pockets of battle that seem to happen in a string-of-pearls from one end of the world to the other, the truth is that there are battles raging everywhere and that Sauron and his minions are causing trouble everywhere. Saruman is causing trouble out to the south. There are just fights going on everywhere; even as far back as Bree or the Trollshaws.

What these Skirmishes are going to do is allow players to go back to some of these areas at particular points in time; either in the past, the future, or are going on simultaneously with the war. These will then take you into instances that we’ve built based on a lot of our experiences over the past year, especially the three- and six-man instances that people are really, really enjoying.

We’ll be taking those instances and then adding a dynamic component; depending on the size of the party that actually goes into this instance, the content will be dynamic and respond to that by providing content that is tailored to the size of the party in a dynamic fashion.

There’s also going to be multiple objectives in these instances so that you’ll be able to play through them over and over again with different groups of people. So this way, you’ll be able to enjoy these Skirmishes in a variety of ways, and of course this all ties in with the War of the Ring that’s happening all over Middle-earth.

We’re also going to give you the opportunity to create your own customizable soldiers. If you’re going into battle and really want to feel like you’re leading a group into this encounter – besides your fellow groupmates of course – so we’re going to give you the ability to create customizable soldiers. This way you’ll always feel like, even if you’re alone or in a small group, that you’ll feel like you have a large group with you.

All of this ties back to the idea that we want the players to feel involved with the War of the Ring. This is going to bring another substantial layer of gameplay to the world along with providing some additional instances that we think players enjoy.

We’re psyched about it.

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