Early Tuesday morning [and
by early we mean the butt crack o’
dawn early!—Ed.
], the developers at Turbine
launched their first official expansion pack for one of their titles
since “Regions” which was released for the now
defunct href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/209"
target="_blank">Asheron’s Call 2.
Although the rush to buy, download
and install href="http://lotro.tentonhammer.com/index.php?module=ContentExpress&func=display&ceid=749"
of the Rings: Mines of Moria
didn't have the same sort of publicity hype that the href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/27065" target="_blank">World
of Warcraft developers
enjoyed, there were still plenty of willing participants ready to jump
into the game the moment the servers went live.

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Turbine has released two full games in the last two years, Mines of
Moria will be the team's first expansion since AC2.

As one of the first press outlets to talk with Jeffrey Steefel
(Executive Producer) and Adam Mersky (Director of Public Relations)
after the launch of their expansion pack, Ten Ton Hammer relived some
war stories while also receiving some very pertinent information about
the future of LOTRO and Turbine.

“It’s been a great launch,” Steefel said.
“I was here during some of the launches – I think
AC2 Regions was the last one – but we’ve learned a
lot since then. It may not make things easier, but it does help us to
understand what we’re in for and what it’s going to
take to make these expansions. We love having that rabid audience out
there that is eagerly awaiting the next product that lands on the

“On top of that, we actually figured out that we pretty much
launched a full expansion – in terms of content –
even before Moria with our Book updates,” Steefel continued.
“So theoretically, this is our second expansion. That said,
our intention is to launch a new expansion every year or close to
that…because we’re nuts.”

 “[Mines of Moria] went live bright and early on
Tuesday morning, just a little bit after midnight, and there were
plenty of people waiting in line to come on board. Now we’re
just working through whatever issues there may be and that’s
why we have what we call “mission control” where
there’s a bunch of people in a room monitoring things until
this launch is squeaky clean,” Steefel said. “The
rest of the team – ninety percent of our staff – is
already working on the next expansion and the next Book

Even with the people waiting anxiously to get into Mines of Moria, the
expansion probably wasn’t helped out by the overall timing of
the release. In perhaps one of the strangest occurrences that
we’ve ever seen in MMOG history, full scale expansions to
four major titles – not to mention a fifth major content
update to another MMOG – href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/49605" target="_blank">were
all released in the span of two
weeks. Gamers were forced into making a decision with their
books; should they get expansion A, B, C or D? Or simply get the free
upgrade to game E? I asked Steefel if there was any conscious thought
put into releasing the LOTRO expansion in this “expansion
season” or if it was mere coincidence.

“It just worked out that way,” Steefel replied.
“A couple things drive when we release our products: what we
think the needs of our players are and when they need something
substantial besides book updates, and when we think we’re
going to have a time frame for when we’re going to be ready
with that content. We really decide our own timeline based on that, and
although there were some thoughts floating around on when the other
developers were going to release expansions, but nobody really knew. I
think we – as companies – need to focus on what we
need to do and not get in each others way intentionally.”

“But at the end of the day, it’s great that
there’s an expansion season. The fact that there are enough
MMOs out there that there’s actually this type of
“expansion season” – that’s got
to be great for the market in general, and therefore great for
us,” he continued. “It’s interesting that
playstyles are very different now. Two or three years ago, you were an
MMO “X” player. Period. That was the MMO you
played, and it didn’t matter what anyone else was doing, and
you were going to play it until your dying day. Now players migrate to
and from these games. It’s going to be kids in a candy shape
for players over the next couple months.”

And for those hardcore gamers, it may really only take them a few
months (or maybe even a few weeks!) to experience all of the new
content these four games have to offer. As we reported here at Ten Ton
Hammer, a number of the top raiding guilds in style="font-style: italic;">World of Warcraft
able to blast through all of the content in Wrath of the Lich King and
actually defeat the target="_blank">end raid in just three days. Three
days! When we
asked Steefel about this situation, he was completely honest with his
assessment of the players.

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It took WoW
players three days to "beat" Wrath of the Lich King. Will Mines of
Moria last that long?

“We’ve learned – I think all of us in the
MMO industry have – that making a prediction about how long
its going to take hardcore players to get through the linear path in
the game is impossible because they always surprise us,” he
said. “In fact, if I come out and say that it’s
going to take X number of hours, there will be people bleeding from the
eyes to try to beat me by 20 minutes.”

“So we really don’t know,” Steefel
answered. “We’ve put an awful lot of content into
Moria, and we really think its going to take a significant amount of
time. It’s really all about how that player chooses to
consume that content. If a player just wants to pound through the
content, it’ll go much faster than someone who wants to
explore all of the epic content in the new area.”

“On top of that, one of the things we’re most
excited about is the legendary item system. The whole point of this
system was to create this endless source of high level content for
players to explore,” he concluded. “I’m
not sure how you run out of paths when you’re building these
legendary items and customizing the stats. It’s really a self
perpetuating gameplay that we hope will keep gamers occupied for a
long, long time.”

But Steefel is slightly hedging his bets, because he made it clear that
the LOTRO development team isn’t sitting on their laurels or
going on expansive vacations now that they’ve got an
expansion on store shelves.

“We’ve already started on Book 7, which is the
first Book update to Volume II,” Steefel stated.
“Things will continue to ebb and flow, but we’re
definitely going to support the game like we have in the

Speaking more directly to the Mines of Moria expansion, I had to ask
Jeffrey about the combat renovation that the game experienced with the
release of Mines of Moria. Although it wasn’t ANYWHERE near
as shocking or devastating as the Combat Upgrade and the NGE that hit
Star Wars Galaxies, any change to systems in an MMOG is liable to get
gamers ruffled. With that in mind, I asked Steefel if we’d
ever see another adjustment to this sort of system in LOTRO.


“I’ve learned over the years to never say
never,” Jeffrey said. “I can’t make any
promises, but I think that we did a lot of things at launch that we got
very right in terms of it being something that could mature, extend and
grow over time. However, with combat it really felt like we
didn’t really give ourselves enough head room, and we needed
to convert it to a point system so we wouldn’t run out of
head room and be able to extend combat to the far future.”

“I don’t think we’ll need to do another
fundamental update to the systems in this way again, but you never
know,” he finished. “We try to stay open and
flexible, depending upon what we see. You never know how playstyles are
going to change, but the focus is going to be on fine tuning the
advancement paths and filling out player roles in the game.”

As the last question for this part of our interview with Jeffrey, we
asked the executive producer exactly where Lord of the Rings Online is
going to try to push the bar next. Over the last few months, LOTRO has
been striving to stay ahead of the competition in every aspect
– gameplay, achievements, and even graphics with their DX10
upgrades – and it’s apparent that the developers
want to continue to lead the pack in innovations. But where did Steefel
believe they were going to explore next?

“What we try to do is get ahead of ourselves,”
Steefel said. “We figure that since we’re always
even or ahead in some areas that as long as we stay ahead of ourselves,
with what we’re doing we’ll be doing very

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Turbine is
always trying to push the envelope in the MMO marketplace. What will
there next big step be? Find out on Monday!

“As an example,” he explained. “we
already knew that we could make unbelievable, immersive landscapes and
I think we’ve demonstrated that we can do that better than
anyone on the planet. So we decided to we wanted to see if we could do
that in a dungeon, and Moria was a perfect place to try to attempt
that. Could we create that sense of space and expansiveness and epic
scale while being underground in a dungeon?”

“That sort of thing isn’t normally done for a
number of reasons, including a vast number of technical issues. I
wouldn’t be surprised to see people try to emulate that in
the future,” Steefel added. “We definitely set the
bar with our achievement system, and it’s been highly adopted
by other companies. We’ve seen some very familiar sort of
things occurring in other games…” *laughs*

“Now we’re doing legendary items, and we think
that’s a huge step for item advancement in the game
world,” he continued. “It creates a very unique
elder game system. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see
something similar showing up in other games. We’re always
going to be looking at how we can take systems and push them to the
next level.”

“I also think we’re pushing the genre in the area
of how often you release content in a subscription business.
We’re starting to see the whole industry start to do our
style of content releases, which is difficult,” Steefel
finished. “We’ve got all sorts of things to talk
about next year that will push the bar, but Adam will slap me if I talk
about them now.”

If you’re interested in finding out exactly what Steefel is
talking about (although no slaps from Adam were issued as far as I
could tell), you‘ll need to stick around for the second part
of our interview, which you’ll be able to see next week!

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Lord of the Rings Online Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016