Can you introduce yourself and describe your role on the project? How long have you been in the gaming industry and what drew you to your current position?
My name is Cardell Kerr, and I’m the Creative Director of The Lord of the Rings Online. I’ve been working in the industry for ~9 years now, exclusively on MMO’s. When I started, I was a content/quest implementer for AC1, and over time, I ascended the ranks, Highlander style (there can be only 1!). Anyhow, the best way to explain how I ended up as the Creative Director for this project is by realizing how complex MMO’s tend to be. Since I’ve served in almost every design position at Turbine, I have an insight into the process that allows me to make adjustments that others aren’t aware of, in order to ensure the quality of the overall game.
How will the two new character types, the Rune-Keeper and the Warden integrate into the Shadows of Angmar and its epic quest line?
Well, the epic quest line has always been independent of the class type played, and the Warden/Rune-keeper aren’t an exception. They will be playable from level 1, and they will be exposed to the Epic Story that has come before… though they will have unique class quests, that suit the origins of the class.
In regards to the Rune-keeper will the character have skills for both the DPS and the Healing build, or will the player have to choose one path over the over?
The Rune-keeper’s play style is very similar to the Hunter’s Focus, with a key difference; it is bi-directional. Over the course of any combat, they can shift their attunement through skill plays, in order to oscillate their class role from healing to DPS. Each of those modes has skills, though, which can be modified via traits, or IA legacies. We fully expect that most players will have a preferred playstyle with the class, and modify the skills they find most useful in that method.
In an underground environment, prospecting resources should be plentiful. One would imagine fishing and skinning would be possible as well. Outside of the Pyramid area where sunlight enables traditional plant life to grow underground, how will forestry and gardening be handled?
This is one of the many places where the rich lore/history of Moria worked in our benefit. When Moria fell, it was sudden, and forceful (in terms of how cities fall). There were sections of it that were unfinished, in addition to sections like the Pyramid area you mentioned. When we place harvesting nodes, we try to ensure they are suitable to the environment. As a result, mining nodes are plentiful (especially in areas where you’d expect), along with lumber nodes (often, the Expeditionary forces, need wood, along with salvage from appropriate areas within Moria). Scholar nodes are also plentiful, though not as plentiful as they would have been without the infestation of orcs…
Will pet classes get new options. In particular will the Loremaster get some kind of new animal that is appropriate to the underground setting with the ability to see in the dark or something similar? Is there a new soldier type in store for the Champion?
I’m going to assume you meant Captain instead of Champion, since you were asking about pets. Our champion players would be pretty unhappy if they had to take a break from crushing their foes in order to send a squire on some menial task!
Anyway, in Moria, we’ve added Trait sets, which are effectively methods for specializing your class towards specific roles. Both the Loremaster and the Captain have the ability to focus solely on their pets, unlocking new pets, that are appropriate to each class’ nature, not just to Moria proper.
In the case of the Captain, they unlock the ability to enlist a trusty archer to help you deal with the hordes of evil arrayed against you. In the case of the Loremaster’s, they unlock the ability to summon one of the boglurkers, creatures that are ancient friends of nature.
Considering players have to be level 50 before they can access Mines of Moria content, will there be enough solo quests to make up for the greater difficulty of forming fellowships and raids? Will there be a "soloable" end game for Moria or this strongly fellowship and raid based?
My goal for the creative direction of The Lord of the Rings Online is to maintain the consistent, high quality content we’ve proven we can provide, along with the ratio of that content. Gaining access to Moria will be an introduction, similar to the Race introduction instances. From there, Moria and Eregion are vast sprawling landscapes, with room for solo players, small fellowship players, and fellowship players. We’ve also added instances for each of those groups, meaning that we now have 3 man instances, and solo instances within Moria itself. As for the end game experience, we’ve added a great deal of instance content there, many of which have varying rewards for completing them on ‘Hard mode’ (Not the Tolkien approved title). Right alongside of our instances, however, we have the sprawling, and awesome, Item Advancement system. It is, in many ways, the premiere system of Moria, and possibly of the recent MMO space. Advancing your item is a solo activity, and is meant to be advanced in groups or solo.Will there be new Fellowship Tactics added to the combat ystem? Will these be tied into the Warden class?
Not for Moria! Ultimately, we wanted to ensure that all of our polish time went to ensuring the classes themselves got the necessary love to progress from 50 to 60. Adding more fellowship tactics wouldn’t have helped that as much as I would have liked, so additional tactics (and maneuvers) will have to wait…
Have hirelings been considered for LotRO and if so can we expect to see them within the Mines of Moria expansion?
We’ve talked about hirelings quite a bit, actually, and they are one of those systems that would need to be a premiere of an expansion pack. Given that Moria isn’t as focused on hiring troops to fight alongside you against ultimate evil, as other, future expansions might be, it’s on the backburner.
For all those dedicated Creeps out there, will there be new creatures and classes for Monster Play?
Actually, we’ve spent our time modifying our existing creatures quite a bit. With the launch of Moria, the monster players will once more overpower the heroes of Eriador, as they will be on top of the heap (being level 60). This is combined with the extensive modifications to their skills and upgrades to give them an edge. We’ve also brought some larger systems online, such as dynamic population rebalance, in order to ensure that combats are competitive even when there are population imbalances. All in all, we’ve spent a lot of time just polishing the area, in order to ensure that the PvMP that people engage in is rewarding, interesting, but overall? Fun.
Where does Lord of the Rings Online go after Mines of Moria? Where do see the game going in the future?
Wow. That’s a big question. I think it is safe to say we’ll continue to follow the fellowship, taking a few scenic detours along the way. Our goal is to continue adding new and interesting content that leverages the IP, and entertains the players. At this point? I think it would be safe to look for more expansion east of the Misty Mountains. But, don’t quote me! ;)
Is there anything we missed that you think people should know?
There are tons of things I think we could call attention too… but trying to convey them all here might lead to me typing all night. I encourage everyone to look at our Dev diaries, as they give great insight into the development process, and all the things to get excited about within Moria proper. The thing I most enjoy about the Moria experience, is how it is a very crafted experience, even introducing you to your nemesis within the first few seconds after finally gaining entrance into Moria itself. The Watcher? No joke… he makes the Balrog of Angmar look like a whipping boy.