The Lord of the Rings novels have pretty much influenced every fantasy themed video and PC game ever made including all of the many different fantasy MMORPGs. Soon people will be able to play in a massively multiplayer version of J.R.R. Tolkien's world with the launch of Lord of the Rings Online from developer Turbine and publisher Midway. FiringSquad got a chance to chat with the game's executive producer Jeffrey Steefel to find out more about their plans for the long awaited game.
FiringSquad: First, Turbine has been working on this game for a while now. Overall, how do you feel the game is coming along at this point?
Jeffrey Steefel: The Beta Program is in full swing and the game is looking fabulous. Our team is busy at work updating and polishing the game based on feedback from Beta players. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and LOTRO is definitely shaping up to be an epic game that will satisfy hardcore and casual fans alike.
FiringSquad: Even though having the Lord of the Rings franchise for a MMORPG is a huge coup, some people will compare this game with others that have come before it. Besides having the Tolkien license to play with, what will make this game stand out from the crowd?
Jeffrey Steefel: There are millions of Tolkien fans around the world who have been waiting for the chance to wander the Shire or to conquer Weathertop since they first read the books or saw the movies. While many games have brought a piece of the experience to these fans, LOTRO represents the first time players can truly immerse themselves in Middle-earth to create their own story in Tolkien’s fabled universe.
LOTRO is the first MMO that has it all including an epic storyline that has served as the foundation for the entire genre of fantasy-based entertainment, a robust and immersive experience that is accessible by players of all levels and outstanding gameplay. So aside from the obvious benefits of the Tolkien license, what does this mean? In order for an MMO based on the Lord of the Rings to be successful, it has to be accessible to players of all levels. We have worked very hard to capitalize on the standard of accessibility that has been perfected by previous generations of MMOs to create a game that will appeal to both hardcore and casual gamers alike. For example, we have implemented a PvP system that we like to call monster play. Players can inhabit the evil creatures of Middle-earth and complete quests and battle other player characters. What makes this system so compelling is how it provides a great experience for all players. Hardcore gamers can participate in challenging “monster quests” to earn points that can be used to level-up their main character while casual players can engage in shorter play sessions and build their skills over time. We have taken this approach with each of the major game systems in LOTRO.
FiringSquad: How much license does Turbine have in making the game? Will it stick strictly with the Tolkien novels or will there be opportunities to expand on the events in the Tolkien books?
Jeffrey Steefel: Our goal is to create the most complete and authentic realization of Middle-earth. The books serve as our guide as we create this rich, immersive experience that allows players to experience life in the Third Age after Frodo leaves the Shire. While we are sticking very close to the books, the game isn’t about replaying the story, LOTRO is about creating your own adventure within the world that Tolkien created. Players will travel to many celebrated landmarks from the books including Rivendell, Weathertop and Bree, and interact with famous characters such as Gandalf, Gimli and Strider. In addition to the creatures and places in the books, we also have the ability to expand on these areas and create our own content. So you’ll not only fight Orcs and Trolls, but you’ll also encounter new creatures such as the dangerous Rogmul.