LOTRO: Mines of Moria

14 Nov 2008  by   Paul Younger
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IncGamers caught up with Turbine’s Jeffrey Steefel as he prepares for the launch of the Mines of Moria expansion for Lord of the Rings Online. In the first part of our interview, he explains the new classes and the Legendary Item system.
Can you give us a brief overview of what players can expect when the reach Hollin Gate?A couple of things are gonna happen. You are going to be approached by some dwarves who are related to dwarves of old. They ask for your help to reclaim Moria for the free people of Middle Earth. They take you into the new area of the game. After we launch on the 18th, there’s a lot of new content that’s available to everybody whether you have the expansion or not – that’s in the area of Eregion. When you get to the edge of Eregion towards the Hollins Gate, that’s when you need the expansion. You follow these dwarves in and you eventually find yourself at the black pool and encountering the Watcher in the Water.This is one of a couple of times when that will happen. You and the dwarves try to take on the Watcher, it doesn’t go very well and you’re driven back. The dwarves tell you that you need more powerful weaponry and this gives us an opportunity to introduce the player to the new Legendary Item system. You’ll go and build your first Legendary Item and then you’ll take a crack at the Watcher again. This time you’ll be able to drive him back and, while you won’t kill him, you’ll be able to get past him and through the gate, which has already been opened by the Fellowship. The dwarves want to take advantage of the chaos in Moria and try to restore it to glory, as it’s been corrupted for so long.So how does the new Legendary Item system work? How does it fit into the story?The Legendary Item system is a huge addition and will transform the elder game. It’s a whole new level of advancement. You now have the ability to create your own legendary items in Middle Earth, like the famous items from the books. As you read through Tolkien you definitely get the impression that there are weapons and pieces of armour in Middle Earth which are so important and have so much history that they’re like characters. You can now create your own and ultimately what you’ll end up with are up to six items at any one time that are unique in Middle Earth – no-one else has anything quite like them. You can name them and you’ll come to be known as possessing them, like Bilbo with Sting.How are the weapons represented visually? Will it be easy to tell when someone is carrying one?They become more visual when they get higher in level. The Legendary Item is almost like adding another character to your party. It has its own advancement path, its own XP, it levels up and has all kinds of other attributes that you can customise as the item advances.Are the items bound to you?I’ll explain the process for you. Basically, as of Moria, there all kinds of items you encounter in the world, the same way you find any kind of items. Some of them will be dropped by monsters, from bosses, you can buy them at auctions, you can find them on landscapes or they can be quest rewards. These are either weapons, main hand weapons or class items. The difference is that the item itself. Has a slightly different description when you first get it. The icon looks different and it just looks more important. Once you have the item, it is not yet bound to you. It has the potential to be Legendary. You take that item to one of the two new NPCs – the Forge Master and the Relic Master.The Forge Master can identify the item for you and tell you some things about it. Most importantly, he gioves you information about what Legacies that item has. Legacies are basically modifiers – attributes – that you can influence that can get more and more powerful. For example you might have a Legacy that increases your DPS for a particular sword. There are all different types of Legacies . When you find an item that has anywhere between two and maybe five Legacies built into it and equip it and slot it into the Legendary Item system, it becomes bound to you. Then you can start working on it. You can increase these legacies by increasing the level of your item. Basically, when you go out in battle, the more you use the item, the more XP it gains, will eventually level up the item. You receive Legend Points which can be spent on the item to rank it up and the more you rank it up, the greater the modification is.{PAGE TITLE=Page 2}What new raid content has been added in Mines of Moria?Our line between raid, encounter and instance is a little blurry. We’ve added a lot of three person and six person encounters in Moria. They have their own bosses, mini bosses and a lot of them have a great deal of story embedded in them, including the Epic story. We found that this is what players really want – the smaller group content. It’s still very challenging but it doesn’t require ou to assemble a large group. In terms of large person raids we’ve got a couple that we’re working on and these will be available probably shortly after Moria. The whole point of the item advancement system is that when you go raiding, you can get through it without needing 24 people.The Rune Keeper and the Warden are the two new character classes added in Moria. What do these offer the player?The Rune Keeper gives the player more casting abilities in a way that, we think and Tolkien Enterprises thinks, fits in with the Tolkien universe. It will feel a little more familiar to magic users in other RPGs, but within the context of what makes sense in Middle Earth. The Rune Keeper has a whole new game mechanic and section of the UI. It’s a tuning bar that is new in the HUD and you have the ability to tune your build in real time either to the DPS side or to the healing side, but you can never do both at the same time.The stronger you get in one, the weaker you are in another. The minute that you push the slider to one side, skills will begin to open up on that side.So, for example in a pretty short period of time, I can make myself pretty heavy DPS and then cool down and make myself heavy healing. It’s great in solo mode, obviously, but also in the group mechanic. If I’m going into a multi-part encounter and I know the steps, I can prepare for that section with my tuning mechanic. This means that without having to go to a bard and swap out traits, I can change my capabilities mid-encounter.How long is the cool down period?The cool down to neutral is actually pretty quick, but it does take a little while to get it to a meaningful DPS or healing level. We don’t want people to be able to basically just push a button and suddenly become a different kind of class mechanic. We spent a lot of time on the balancing and getting feedback from people. How fast was too fast? It now feels just about right.
What does the Warden offer?The Warden is also a great solo class and introduces a new type of mechanic. The Warden is a kind of medium armour tank. They’ve got a lot of the abilities to tank but also have more stealth abilities. They are meant to be the protectorate of an area but necessarily a warrior or a soldier. They use a javelin, instead of swords. They throw it for a ranged attack and use it as a spear up close. They also look very different. We wanted to make sure, with both the Rune Keeper and the Warden, that you can instantly recognise them by the way they use their stances and the animation.For the Warden, the main mechanic is that you have multiple slots in the UI followed by one big slot. You’re triggering skills and loading that bar with a sequence of skills. We call that a ‘Gambit’. As you level up in that particular class, as well as getting new skills, it unlocks additional Gambits – or combos, basically. They get more complicated and powerful the higher you get. By loading those skills in it results in a bonus skill in your hot bar. It’s almost like the combos in a console game.How many combos will you have at your disposal?Oh, tons. There’s lots and lots of combos. It’s somewhere between 50 and 100, I would guess. If you’re a new player you can just click skills and watch them load up in the bar, but if you want to get strategic with it, that’s when it becomes powerful. We think this will be a class that’s attractive to people starting over, who have already played through the game. It’s a new type of challenge, it’s a new thing to master.
Click here for part 2 of the interview where we talk licensing and bringing the MMO to the console market.

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