"NOW FOR YOU, INSECTS! BOLDLY, YOU SOUGHT THE POWER OF RAGNAROS. NOW YOU SHALL SEE IT FIRSTHAND!"
As executive producer Jeffrey Steefel points out, it's been about 11 months since The Lord of the Rings Online MMO had a proper expansion, which is why Turbine is about to release mini-expansion Siege of Mirkwood. This raises the level cap, adds a new adventuring zone (Mirkwood) and introduces the Skirmish system. With Skirmish, players can set up and join dungeon instances from anywhere on the map; take an AI-controlled and fully customisable Soldier with them; and re-run the dungeons with randomised objectives on tougher difficulties to earn Skirmish points for special prizes.
Earlier today, Eurogamer and Codemasters Online Gaming celebrated the second birthday of The Lord of the Rings Online by giving away 2000 free copies of the game in digital form. These were not trials but full products, complete with 30 days' free game time. They have all gone. It only took around 20 minutes, with five codes claimed every three seconds, you greedy lot.
The Lord of the Rings Online turns two years old tomorrow. That may sound unremarkable, but Turbine's recreation of Tolkien's world prospers despite launch-attacks by Age of Conan, Warhammer Online and of course World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. Turbine, then, must be doing something right.
If you're not so enchanted with decapitation, burly men in thongs and the low (cut) fantasy of Age of Conan, how about popping over to Middle Earth for a bit of posturing high fantasy? Following our two chats with producer Jeffrey Steefel, we've knocked up a few tips for the classes of Lord of the Rings Online. If you fancy starting belatedly, this is a good way of getting an overview of the classes, and an idea of what role they play in a group. We've ordered them in increasing order as to how many of the developers at Turbine play as them, a sort of top ten of the best. Except it's actually a top 9, as there's only 9 classes.
Last week, we interviewed Lord of the Rings Online executive producer Jeffrey Steefel about Book 13, the next major content update for Turbine's splendid Tolkien MMO. Today, in part two of our interview, we shoot the breeze on a broader range of topics: how they're handling the lore, how they can improve the game's lacklustre player-versus-player, what the plans are for other platforms, why EVE Online is great, and who wants to be an Ent, anyway?
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.
Since its release on 24th April, Lord of the Rings Online has enjoyed number one spots in both the North American and European charts, suggesting that a fantasy MMORPG can not only survive in World of Warcraft's shadow, but flourish.
In a long-forgotten cavern deep within the bowels of Middle-Earth, filled with lost treasures and the vengeful, embittered wraiths of an ancient race of warrior men, I am desperately flicking my mouse pointer over my toolbar in the hope of working out where the hell my healing spells are.
Only time will tell whether Jeff Steefel has the best job in the world - or the worst. It could go either way for the man who oversees the production of Lord of the Rings Online for Turbine. On one side of the argument, his job is to bring J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth to life in a more ambitious and far-reaching manner than anyone (even Peter Jackson) has attempted before. As a life-long fan of the Lord of the Rings literature, that's undoubtedly a dream come true for him.
There are many reasons to hate Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies. There's the dwarf-tossing. Alone, that's unforgivable. There are the myriad, meaningless plot changes. They're far too numerous to mention. But worst, worse than even randomly altering the flow of Tolkien's epic, is the omission of Tom Bombadil and Goldberry. For that, Jackson, you go to Hell.