Whilst in Boston for PAX East recently, I had a chance to catch up with Standing Stone’s Jerry ‘Cordovan’ Snook to follow up on our previous interview with him, Rob ‘Severlin’ Ciccolini, and Jeff ‘Made of Lions’ Libby. This informal followup was to address some further questions mostly from the Lord of the Rings Online‘s community regarding upcoming events and milestones, such as the Mordor expansion.
With Update 20 slated for next week, players are looking forward to Mordor, and Cordovan was careful to note that the Standing Stone team wanted to keep their version of the end of the Ring off the Bullroarer test server. While many people know the canonical version and it’s hard to spoil a decades-old story, the team assumed that most of their players would want to experience LotRO’s version for themselves. He added that players will get a taste of that story in Update 20 with the Battle of the Black Gate, and that the Mordor expansion is currently slated for the early part of summer. Those of us who like to play the semantics game will note that summer in the northern hemisphere starts in late June.
Next up, Snook remarked that the art team was already hard at work on the Mordor content as Update 20 was finishing up its polish phase. He added that the art team is shared between both LotRO and Dungeons and Dragons Online, so they’re busy with stuff for both simultaneously. Their main DDO task right now is the new Dragonborn race, which he estimated would keep them busy for the next six months.
We then turned our attention to the LotRO 10-year anniversary coming up in April. On April 25th, he said they will be doing a 12-hour livestream on their official channel, currently set for noon to midnight Eastern (server) time. The goal is to focus on the European communities and servers during the earlier portions of the stream and then shift toward the North American ones later on. Snook hinted that much of the time would be spent in-game doing some GM things such as possibly spawning raid bosses in unusual places, although he did note that he wasn’t intending on doing anything extremely disruptive like spawning Balrogs in Bree again.
There will be interviews with devs both past and present scattered through the day and also giveaways. Snook said his hope was to avoid crashing servers too often, adding that he was going to do most of the in-game events on the fly rather than pre-scheduled to lessen the risk. He further acknowledged that it might be frustrating to some players who prefer knowing in advance where and when an event will be, but felt that it would be easier to interact with players at smaller random events where the framerate was likely to be greater than one per minute. He said their customer service teams and GMs may also be doing their own in-game events as well but that wasn’t set in stone yet.
Snook pointed out that there will also be an in-game event both before and after the anniversary date, much like in previous years. This year’s version will allow players to reminisce over the past 10 years of LotRO while letting them earn new items, although he didn’t hint at what those new items would be. He did, however, comment that there would be a new activity that has not been seen before. There will also be dev diaries and YouTube videos surrounding the anniversary, and I myself will be publishing a ten-year retrospective featuring screenshots taken over the past decade of playing the game.
Much of the work for the anniversary will be handled by Snook himself and the customer service teams rather than the developers because, as he said, they’re mostly focused on working on things for the Mordor expansion. Finding the time to work on side projects was at a premium, but they did also contribute, just not as much as they could have if they didn’t have an expansion to get out the door. He went on to say that the timing of the 10th anniversary was bringing in some additional interest from veteran players and the press that will let them showcase the upcoming expansion in ways that some random time of the game’s life would not have been able to do. He hinted that we might start seeing more concrete information about the expansion and its features in time with the anniversary because of this.
We then discussed the notion of whether there would be any physical swag to go with it, and he said that QuartermasterU was looking into that notion. It’s something they want to do but they were still working out what it would be and the logistics of whether it would be something available world-wide. He regretfully said the latter option was less likely due to cost, but they were looking into the notion of possibly a run of t-shirts that players could buy. Snook pointed out that unlike DDO, whose licensor Wizards of the Coast did not grant them the rights to produce physical swag, Standing Stone’s arrangement with Middle Earth Enterprises allows them to create physical swag for LotROas long as it wasn’t books and similar printed materials.
I then asked him whether the upcoming content would feature new group content and PvMP improvements, a huge request from the rather vocal subset of players who raid and hang out in the Ettemoors pointing out lag issues. He said they don’t currently have a targeted plan to tweak the Ettenmoors because their research hasn’t yet discovered actionable items or root causes but it’s more likely to be happening later rather than sooner. Snook then said they haven’t formally announced what their new group content is going to be, noting that a raid would make sense but it would depend on what their resources are at the time. He did say that it wasn’t likely to be another epic/big battle, however.
Finally, we discussed the new race of High Elves, and I queried whether they would only be adding Captain as a class or was Burglar on the table, and also would they be losing any classes that the current Elf race has. He replied that he was pretty certain they would not be Burglars but said that Severlin said he felt they should be. Snook said he didn’t think High Elves should be criminals, and I protested that burglars were ‘Expert Treasure Hunters’ per The Hobbit. Snook then emphasized that this list may change because it’s in active development, but they were currently planning on High Elves being able to be every class except Burglar and of course Beorning.
As a matter of order, I did ask him on the official Twitch stream the other day whether High Elves would be a separate purchase like Beornings were, if they were included in the Mordor expansion for all, or whether they would be free for VIPs but a purchase for non-VIPs. He said that the plan hasn’t been finalized, although his answer implied that none of the options are off the table at this point.
So, we now have a few more tidbits about upcoming events in Lord of the Rings Online. If you’d like to ask him questions of your own, Cordovan streams on their official Twitch channel most Thursdays at noon Eastern (server) time and is generally open to answering reasonable questions while he’s playing the game.
What’s your take on this new information? Let us know in the comments below.