When you've got as much material to deal with as the Turbine boys have with the Tolkien legendarium (we're using the poncey word for his mythos out of pure pretention), then you'd think there would be no need to create whole new realms for players to explore. Yet the new books of Lord of the Rings Online - updates to you and I - are mostly exploring areas on the edge of the books, stuff that was barely written about. The upcoming Book 13 is a pertinent example, seemingly extrapolating from a single paragraph in one of the books an entire culture, environment and array of foes. We spoke to Jeffrey Steefel, executive producer on LOTRO, about what they're planning for Book 13 and what new mechanics they're introducing to the game.
Eurogamer: Are we getting any more out of this interview than Book 13?
Jeffrey Steefel: Our communications director Adam Mersky is sat next to me and he slaps me upside the head everytime I say stuff I'm not supposed to. We're not talking about Mines of Moria and Book 14 at the moment.
Eurogamer: Where does the idea of Forochel come from? The actual language we've seen describing it so far features lots of Finnish names, and the screenshots seem to show Eskimos.
Jeffrey Steefel: It's actually mentioned in the books, just in one paragaph that describes it as a barren icy waste where an imporant shipwreck happens. As normal, we took what was talked about there and extrapolated from it. Tolkien also talks very briefly about the Lossoth, the indigenous types who help the shipwrecked. We took that as new faction for reputation, created their infrastructure, and decided they were like eskimos of the northern wastes here. On top of that, we looked at their language and thought, "What would Tolkien do?" He was a linguist who used lots of Nordic and Finnish influences when he created Elvish, and he was very knowledgeable about most languages; he looked at about 3-4 regions beyond 14-15th century English, and they were mainly from the nordic region, which is where words like Orc came from. Had he written more about the Lossoth, we felt he'd be Finnish-inspired, so that's why all the naming and stuff is like that.
Eurogamer: The actual story the Lossoth come from is about a king called Arvedui, who flees north and is drowned in a shipwreck; however, his story features an ancient ring that's given to the Lossoth; does this tie in with epic questline, which (spoiler alert!) is chasing down parts of a lost ring at the moment?
Jeffrey Steefel: We're trying to avoid spoiling the story, but Arvedui's plot is involved in chasing down the ring Narchuil that Amarthiel is looking for, and the epic story in 13 is heavily involved in where that goes next. Players will find out if the ring that King Arvedui was carrying is linked in. I have to stop now as the content guys are right outside my door here, so if I spoil too much they pile on and hang me from the rafters and it's really nasty.
Eurogamer: The Children of Hurin is the 13th book of the official books - and this is Book 13. We're assuming there's no link, as you guys haven't licensed that stuff yet. Are we right?
Jeffrey Steefel: Absolutely, there's not really a correlation between our book numbers and the books themselves, it was more of a motif. For example, we'll be finishing off this volume when we get to Moria and then we'll have a new set of books that are part of volume 2. In terms of Children of Hurin, it's not part of our license right now.
Eurogamer: Would you want it to be? We might not be literary critics, but we're really opinionated and it's really not very good.
Jeffrey Steefel: Ah... it depends on the purpose it serves. Our license is very specific; Tolkien Estates doesn't even have the right to license us the Silmarillion or Children of Hurin.