E3 Coverage: LotRO Book 10 Preview

Lord of the Rings Online Book 10 Preview

or Which Comes First, the Chicken or the Game?

by Shayalyn

Phil "Ralphedelominius" Comeau and I ducked into the Midway Games area at E3 for a chance to talk about Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar and to preview the game's next free update, Book 10, which will be coming some time in August. Developed by Turbine and published in North America by Midway, LotRO launched in late April of 2007.

First we chatted with Adam Mersky, Director of Public Relations for Turbine. Mersky was affable and eager to talk about LotRO, despite the fact that we were just chatting to pass the time until the demo station was available. We talked a bit about what Mersky called Chicken Play (more on that in a moment), and some of the other goodies that would be coming to LotRO soon.

"In the fall we're going to be looking at housing again," Mersky said. "I don't have many details to give you, though." He mentioned that the team was still finalizing housing details, but that Turbine would possibly hold an event in the fall to "give people a preview."

LotRO screenshotWill housing be instanced? Mersky couldn't say. He did say, "We can't have tract housing in the Shire!" Then he laughed and added, "We're thinking that in the way a character has slots, housing will also have a vault with slots. You can earn stuff, say a carpet, and then you'd put it in your carpet slot and it would show up in the room."

Mersky seemed excited about the upcoming content in Book 10. "I think Book 10 is going to be a real big deal," he said. "Whereas Book 9 was all about big open spaces and adding 10% more to the game, Book 10 will be smaller scale but will add new features and lots of new quests."

Phil Comeau commented that Lord of the Rings Online is one of just two games that he's still actively playing. "You know, that's the ultimate compliment, right? When I talk to gaming journalists who usually review a game and move on, and they're still playing, that's huge."

"Well, I've hit a plateau around level 20 that I'm not too happy about..." Phil mused.

"Maybe you're like me, though," Mersky said, "and you're just taking your time and running around doing all the quests and such. You know, there's grind in every game if you play it that way. Sometimes you've got to stop and smell the roses...enjoy the ride."

Without a segue, Mersky added, "I think LotRO has really raised the bar for quality. You can't come out and not be polished. You have to remember it's not just the game, it's the service." He went on to make an example of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, referring to the way the game's bugs and sluggish performance at launch caused subscriber numbers to drop dramatically.

"This is our Vanguard person," Comeau laughed, pointing at me. (I responded, "Guilty!")

"Ah, well but it's not that way...we learn from each other; we're not at war with each other," Mersky said.

At about this time the demo station opened up and we were introduced to Allan Maki, Content Designer for Turbine. It was clear from the get-go that Maki is excited about LotRO, because his enthusiasm for the game is palpable. He started off by showing us the entrance to the city of Annúminas, which will be entirely opened to players in Book 10. Players entering Annúminas will arrive in a war zone, complete with scripted battles to engage them in the unfolding storyline.

Maki also showed off session play (SP). Coming with Book 10, players will have the ability to spend Destiny Points for the opportunity to play a ranger, a troll, or a chicken for a period of time. First we saw the ranger. Picture one of Aragorn's bretheren clad in fancy, ranger-esque armor. Then we saw the trolls, who have massive AoE capabilities. "AoE is how they fight, and they do it well," said Maki, demonstrating the troll's ability to throw boulders and damage multiple enemies at once.

And finally, we saw the chicken. We asked if chicken play was instanced, and Maki told us that it was not. In fact, chickens run in the world at large. "You're a free range chicken!" Maki joked. "And one of the benefits of being a chicken is you run faster. Just imagine a couple groups of players all turning chicken. You'd have a herd of speedy chickens coming at you over the hill."

Maki explained how players start in The Shire and complete deeds to earn the destiny points necessary forTroll chicken play. He showed us a chicken engaged in battle. The chicken was able to play possum. She also used an attack called Biting Shrew and another skill called Threatening Cluck. "This is really for a touch of humor and fun," Maki said, "But there is a whole big quest line here with chicken play."

Maki talked briefly about bartering and showed us the bartering window. Essentially, players will be able to trade certain goods (instead of coins) with special vendor NPCs.

Another feature coming to Book 10 is the Reputation System. Reputation is a means of gaining faction with certain NPC groups within the game either, apparently by killing their enemies and completing quests. Earning their favor grants special rewards. "It's basically another way to advance your character," Maki said. New public (non-instanced) dungeons will be opened up for questing related to the reputation system.

Maki also hinted at some raid content coming with Book 11, and said the community could expect an announcement very soon.

Attractive graphics, reasonable system requirements, solid gameplay dynamics and an unbeatable brand combine to make LotRO one of the hottest MMO titles available. And with free updates coming at a rapid pace it's clear that Turbine is committed to keeping Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar a fresh and ever-evolving game.

For more information on Lord of the Rings Online check out these resources:

About the Author

Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.
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