Standing Stone Games hosted an official player meetup this past weekend at GenCon in Indianapolis and the place was pretty full. Present from SSG were Executive Producer Rob ‘Severlin’ Ciccolini, Jerry ‘Cordovan’ Snook, and Amanda ‘Tolero’ Grow. Players were treated to a substantial swag giveaway of items relating to both Dungeons and Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online such as t-shirts, hoodies, tabletop miniature figurines, and the One Ring. There was also a special raffle with signed old school LotRO Collector’s Editions, signed DDO posters, and a printed LotRO two-year calendar.

Severlin spoke to the assembly in the packed venue and revealed certain details about DDO‘s upcoming events. Draculetta of DDO Players interviewed Severlin on camera regarding DDO‘s big news and you can find his interview on their site. However, we have an audio interview with Severlin about LotRO on tap, transcribed below for our hearing-impaired players. Before the actual interview, Severlin also spoke to the assembled players about upcoming LotRO content, but that audio was not of an acceptable quality to publish.

He reiterated some previously-known information that the Grey Mountains update coming later this year will include a level cap increase, will be more instance-heavy than previous updates, and will include dragons. He got very animated when discussing them, saying they were really cool-looking. He added that Minas Morgul is going to be the next big thing. We speculate that since Minas Morgul is due next year and it will be almost two years since the release of Mordor, it might be a full-on expansion. When a player asked about Harad, he replied, “Eventually,” making it the first time someone from SSG properly acknowledged it was in the works versus something along the lines of ‘we’d like to go there’. The room gave a collective, “ooooh!” when he answered another player question and confirmed that they would also eventually do a Scouring of the Shire, which we already knew.

Now for the actual interview. Apologies for the background noise. Due to the crowd in the venue, it was literally quieter outside on the street in downtown Indy near the train station.

MMOC: Hey Severlin, how you doing?

Ciccolini: I’m doing great. How are you?

MMOC: I’m doing pretty good. So it’s been a few months since our last interview.

Ciccolini: Yeah.

MMOC: I suppose, my first question since we’re speaking of wings [earlier], to kick it off on a silly note, when can I throw a chicken into Mount Doom?

Ciccolini: There’s been a lot of talk about like what they can and can’t do with chickens so I think I’m going to have to wait maybe until we revisit Mordor in the future in terms of like whether chickens can actually get up to Mount Doom.

MMOC: And fix the collision plates that I found that let me fall into the Crack of Doom. It was on-stream, it was awesome. OK, so you mentioned we’re getting some dragons with the new update in the Grey Mountains and one of our players mentioned Draigoch, but we’re not doing Draigoch again, thank goodness. What can you tell us about these new dragons?

Ciccolini: So you won’t need to raid to see them and I don’t want to reveal the story, I don’t want to spoil it.

MMOC: No, please don’t.

Ciccolini: But I think that definitely, one will be in a raid and then will be others in the smaller instances which will be able to be soloed. There’s a lot of story lore behind it and I’ve been looking at custom animations for what they’re doing and I can’t talk because if I reveal like the big cutscenes stuff, they’re gonna kill me.

MMOC: Yeah, let’s not kill the Executive Producer, that would be unfortunate.

Ciccolini: The other thing I like about Grey Mountains, it really talks about dwarven lore, so it’s a big area for dwarves, you see bits and pieces of ancient sort of dwarf architecture there which is kind of interesting because he haven’t done as much of that since Mines of Moria, do you know what I mean? We touched upon it a little bit with visiting the Lonely Mountain as part of your Allegiances but like it would be nice to get some of that and then there is some factions that also maybe follow spider-type creatures as well.

MMOC: Spider-type creatures on a spree? [Official LotRO streamer] Gussymoose is going to hate you for that, I’m just gonna tell you that right now. She is not a fan of spiders. So, speaking about the dwarves and the fact that Northern Mirkwood included the only named female dwarf in the lore, is there any work or thought given to the notion of allowing players to actually create their version of a female dwarf from character select because we currently can’t do that.

Ciccolini: There is tons of talk about it. We’ve gone back-and-forth wildly about what should it be and what can it be and…

Snook: What already exists and that sort of thing.

Ciccolini: We’re very particular about making sure that if we did allow it, could we do it in a manner that is respectful to the story so we’re definitely going back-and-forth in terms of whether we can do it in a manner that will feel like LotRO. There has been good arguments for both sides, so I don’t want to make the decision for the team by revealing you know whether we’re going to do it or not because I think that I want to let the process go through the entirety before I say anything.

Snook: I want to say that this is one of the most controversial topics of all time on the Lord of the Rings Online forums and I think that really goes to the heart of just how much lore and passion there is on the subject and so we want to make sure we get it right there.

MMOC: Of course, makes sense. Well, speaking of character select, do we have any new information about getting hobbits, their character updates. It’s been an ongoing thing and it’s been a while so we’re just wondering what the status of that is.

Ciccolini: It is my recollection that it’s planned for Grey Mountains, and if not, shortly thereafter. I apologize to our artists if it’s supposed to come in later.

Snook: [laughing] Yeah.

Ciccolini: But I’ve begun to see some of it, you know, and the bits and pieces I’ve seen look great and I think it supposed to come if not on Grey Mountains, in the .1 update. Then of course someone will run to my office when I return and be mad at me because it’s actually coming later but I’ve definitely seen the work in progress and it’s looking pretty good.

MMOC: Excellent. One of the other more hot topics (pun not intended), what is our progress, because we know class balance is still an ongoing thing… how we doing on Beornings?

Ciccolini: So what’ll happen is the Grey Mountains update will come out, and then we’re planning on hitting the Beornings and the Burglars in the .1 update after that. So what’ll happen is… did I just say that?

Snook: Yeah. Let me just… not to say you’re wrong, I mean, you’re the Executive Producer, I’m just saying that Beorning is going to take a little bit of work so I don’t know if I really want to commit to an exact .1 update but it is actively being worked.

Ciccolini: No, you’re right, yeah I think it’s actually .2. We reserve the .1 updates for bugfixes and smaller stuff, so it’ll probably be .2. But, they’re definitely working on it and there’ll also be whatever numerical statistical changes for the other races now that we’ve seen feedback and had the chance to see people playing in-game. So next up will be Beorning and Burglar, it probably won’t be for Grey Mountain update but right after that.

MMOC: The other hot topic that lights up +Cord of the Rings, after class balance, PvMPers are chomping at the bits. What’ve we got for them?

Ciccolini: So, right now, once you get class balance, it will make it much easier for PvMP. What we would like to do is, we definitely want to update them at some point to be equal to the freeps again since we’re doing another level update in Grey Mountains, sometime after that, we’re going to have to update them. After that, I would like to see a system where they progress, at least a little bit, so if they play a lot they can actually become champions or a system like that. But I don’t know when we’ll get to that because right now our plan is… our lore people have a great plan for an ongoing epic storyline. and some of the stuff they’re talking about is really exciting, but eventually, we want to make sure that players return to Minas Morgul and that will be a big fight, a big thing in terms of ongoing stories that we’re working on. So the player monsters will probably be well after Grey Mountains once we get to that, because we need to see how they balance and we need to finish the class balance because one of the challenges up til now is what do we balance them against? If we balance them against Burglars, once all the classes are in a much better place, it will be easier to bump them up so they can be competitive.

MMOC: After the class balance work is done, one of the other big questions is since we have a legendary items system and it’s in need of some help. There’s a lot of talk about how much of a grind it is, how many scrolls of empowerment you have to get, you know, how you have to kit out your character and especially now that you got a level cap coming up, an increase coming up, people are very concerned about how much cost of time, money, real money to actually get their characters to be able to… not necessarily be T2C, but definitely toward the top because we all came to Mordor and we got run over and we had to redo all of our characters and it looks like we’re gonna have to do that again as we progress to 120. So how does the legendary items… is there any work being done to revamp the legendary item system to make it a little bit more friendly?

Ciccolini: We’ve had a lot of talk about revamping the legendary items. So what we’d like to do is, we’d like to revamp it so that it’s not two separate systems and that it’s easier on the players. The challenge to that is that players have put in a lot of time and effort into them already, so one of the big discussion points is how do we revamp the system so that it feels as though you’re rewarded for the work you’ve already done. So we’d have to come up with a system that’s more player-friendly but so that players who have already put in the work are progressed along that so they feel as though their legendary item work is not just washed away. That is actually the harder, like revamping the legendary items is one thing, because you know how it’s tied to each class, the legendary items are giving you abilities that are used in the balancing of the classes, so we want to make sure that if we make it much simpler, that complexity needs to be restored, whether it’s in the trees or the classes themselves. If we keep that in the legendary system, and make it all one system, we want to make sure the players don’t feel like, “Oh, I did all this work, and now there’s this new system, and now all of my work is washed away.” So those are the challenges we’re looking at to do that. I think the legendary work revamp will begin probably mid-year? Next… so it’ll be Grey Mountains, then probably like fourth or fifth month next year we’ll probably be looking at doing that? And that will be the beginning of it.

Snook: Just because we have someone else, can we get perhaps one more question?

MMOC: One more question? Okay. One of the other hot topics, since we have so much engineering work going on, has there been any progress on the 64-bit client?

Ciccolini: Yes! Finally, we’re past the back-end work that we had to do which took longer than we thought, and our main engineer, our deep-down engineer is finally back to working on 64-bit.

MMOC: Yay!

Ciccolini: So we’re going on that, we’re slowly working through that. Right now, I think we’re compiling the physics engine in 64-bit, it’s the big hot topic they’re all working on now.

Snook: Yeah, I think I saw an email about that yesterday or today.

Ciccolini: So we’re finally back on that, thank goodness, because we’re all eager to have a 64-bit client.

MMOC: It was on the bingo card. [Snook laughs.] I have a bingo card for his show for the questions that we get, and that’s definitely every week we get somebody, and I always time how long it takes before someone drops that question in chat. Thank you very much for your time, Rob, I very much appreciate it.

Ciccolini: Sure, thanks.

And this is the part where one might insert a clip of the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’. So, in all, not a lot of new information, but we did get some more details as to when to expect things. The fact that the 64-bit client is back on track is hopefully going to be a relief to a number of players who were concerned it had been shelved.

What’s your take on all of this?

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