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Massively's exclusive interview with Turbine: Moria and more

Shawn Schuster

Recently, we were fortunate enough to sit down with some of the fine folks at Turbine to discuss a few more details on their newest content patch and the future of Lord of the Rings Online. During this play session, we got a load of screenshots and an in-game video to document the amazing content that will launch with Book 14: The Ring-forges of Eregion.

The details of that play session are coming soon in another post and gallery, but for now, we'll tide you over with an exclusive interview with Jeffrey Steefel, Adam Mersky, Meghan "Patience" Rodberg and Aaron Campbell of Turbine. In it, we cover everything from the challenges Turbine may face with global distribution, to the reasoning behind introducing two new classes with Mines of Moria. Follow along after the jump for the complete interview.

First off, I wanted to say congratulations on the growing success of Lord of the Rings Online, and especially the upcoming Korean distribution of the game. Knowing the vast differences in Eastern and Western gameplay, what are some of the biggest challenges the team faces in attracting and maintaining a Korean playerbase?

It's a huge challenge on a whole bunch of levels. One of the challenges for Korea in particular that we thought was going to be a big problem was the western mythology of Tolkien and even though the movies did pretty well there, and we didn't know if they were going to be able to relate to the IP, but Adam and I were up there about a month ago and they were all over the IP. So the IP and the lore actually has a lot of sway over there.

Second challenge is that they're whole service model is different from ours. The way they do billing, the way they do customer support, the way they do community management is very different. If you think our communities are zealous, you have another thing coming! So we did a lot of work to help with our service platform and some of the stuff in the game to actually support that.

As far as the gameplay itself, yeah there's definitely some differences. They like to chew through content. So it's a combination of figuring out what in our game is appealing most to their audience, and doing something to actually help put that in front of them. So we're doing some interesting things with Monster Play, and focusing on access to Monster Play for them.

The anniversary pricing deal has just ended at the end of last month. Was this promotion more or less successful than planned?

As planned, yes; it was definitely more successful than planned. The reason we brought it back was because it was so successful at launch. While it was clearly something we didn't want to offer full-time, because it's a promotion, but the success we had from the pre-order program, the founder's program, made us bring it back for the anniversary. We were surprised and we actually extended it a month. It was originally only supposed to run until the end of May, and we ran it to the end of June.

Do you feel that the new Hobby system has been well-received by players, and how much has this player feedback influenced you to expand upon that system even more than you originally planned?

Has the feedback been wonderful? Yes, it's been pretty overwhelming actually. Fishing specifically is something that people had wanted to put in the game for a long time. They love it. It's wonderful. Are we going to expand it more than we planned? I think we had wanted to put a lot of energy into it anyway. When it comes to developing, it's all about trying to figure out which pieces to put where, how much depth we can put into it. When we get to the next hobby, that's a whole new question.

Since the game launched last year, each new book has released on an epic schedule, while still providing plenty of quality content. Is this schedule something the team aims to continue throughout the life of the game?

Turbine has always been about a continuous stream of content, and treating our games not just like services, but also as serial entertainment that continues on and on and on. That's something that we knew we would always be very supportive of for LotRO. So everything from how aggressively we've been coming out with content in the time since launch, to how we're starting to ramp up the live work we've been doing in terms of live events and operations, and coming up with a plan that says we're going to be doing an expansion every year.

Our commitment to the game is getting bigger all the time, our team is getting bigger all the time. Turbine is getting bigger all the time. By the end of this year, we'll have grown just the size of staff by over 30%. So the commitment is there, I just want to be careful about saying precisely the way in which we will keep that content flowing. The LotRO team is always working on at least two different builds at the same time, and that's not counting Japan, France, Germany, England, Korea, China and Russia, which are all their own builds.

What new social tools do you have planned for the future of the game?

Bottom line is it's a social game, so everything in it is social. Fishing is something that contributes to that, the hobby system is something that contributes to that. There's the way in which we continue to bolster the existing systems that allow people to do things with each other. The way in which our legendary item system is going to be coming out in Moria and the way that interacts with crafting and how people are going to be working together to support each other's new habit is part of social interaction.

We're taking baby steps, and we do have lots planned. We're not just forums. The world is moving on and we plan to move with it.

Looking forward to Mines of Moria, there will be two new classes introduced: the Warden and the Rune-keeper. Why the new classes, and do you plan to add more in future expansions?

These two new classes are important for lots of reasons. They help bolster some of the soloability that we've been trying to add to the game. They give a true "magic-user" in Middle-earth, which is really important. They round out the capabilities that you can have as a player that give you a different way of looking at Middle-earth, looking at the game experience. They also introduce some really interesting new mechanics, such as with the Rune-keeper where you can actually tune the role of that class during combat. You can go from starting the experience of that particular combat as heavy duty DPS killing machine, and then eventually use the right skill, if you know how, to push yourself more towards a healing-buffing class. So it doesn't force you to go find a bard to re-equip some traits, jumping out of gameplay, but at the same time it doesn't create somebody that has every power on the planet who can overpower everybody.

Thank you for answering our questions, and thank you for your time.

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