Last week I had the pleasure of doing an exclusive interview with several members of the LOTRO team. I share with you the transcript (some paraphrased), and audio file from part 2 (of 2).
Click here if you missed Part 1.
Dadi – Dadi’s LOTRO Guides
Severlin – Executive Producer
Cordovan – Community Manager
Dr.Octothorpe – Lead Designer
Made of Lions – Epic Story Designer
Pinion – Content Designer
Baccata – Content Designer
FriendlyHat – Systems Designer
Transcript (continued from Part 1):
Question 6: Speaking of the future, this is an awesome raid; I think it is perhaps some of the most challenging content since The Road to Erebor. I think the community has come alive. I see a lot of Pick Up Groups (PUGs) being formed in world chat. Is there any news on the future of raids with LOTRO? Is there another one planned? I know they take a lot of resources; is this something we might see in late 2017, early 2018? Is it on the [planning -ed] board?
Severlin: What we are currently looking at is; and I am going to say this because it is wildly going to change, so I know that people are going to hate me when we actually don’t do this, but we are thinking once a year looking at the participation and then maybe every 12-14 months do a raid so that the players can experience content in that manner.
Dr. Octothorpe: I would like to add that we are happy, delighted, to see how the raiding community in LOTRO has come back to life. We are very aware that we want to give the raiding community stuff to do often enough that they do not feel like all the work they put in to this raid was all for nothing [I think he meant forming the groups capable of beating it -ed]. We sort of put a ball back in the air. Even if we don’t know exactly what cadence we are going to have, the goal is to have the ball bouncing in the air.
Made of Lions?: And as far as the story that is ahead, there is certainly a lot of fertile ground for the possibility of very challenging raid mechanics and villians
Dr. Octothorpe: … dark webbed enemies? I am not going to say more …
Pinion: I wonder who that could be?
Dadi: Whole bunch of teasers there … [likely referring to Shelob en route to Minas Morgul -ed].
Dadi: I certainly understand the notion from a business perspective to analyze participation with certain parts of the content before you sink resources in to them, that makes perfect sense. However, sometimes we need to look at the story behind the statistics. One of the things I can speak to is that the participation in the raids may not solely be low for fear of raiding, or difficulty in finding groups, or the reasons that often get stated. I have a very strong feeling that it also has to do with the loot (and quality) that is offered. Some of the best evidence for that was when Ost Dunhoth got opened up and First Age Symbols were dropping like candy in Tier 1 and there was not a single night on any server where that raid was not being run back to back to back by multiple groups, PUGs, etc. with people that had never raided before. It was all being successfully completed and to me that is evidence that a raid can be highly successful with a lot of participation if the loot is there, if there is something driving the players to want to complete it [other than the challenge -ed]. So at a T1 level players were able to get the First Age Symbols, but the moment those FAs were taken off the table in T1 loot, the participation for that T1 raid absolutely dropped through the floor.
FriendlyHat ?: Definitely moving forward we will be monitoring feedback on raid loot (and things like that). This is the first raid that we have done in a long time and when designing the loot for it this was certainly a factor. Now that we have some good feedback and we will get a lot more practice [designing more raids -ed] (don’t want to over promise). When it comes to the gradient with which we give out rewards, we may be amping that up, I do not want to get in to too many specifics right now. Even with the upcoming Update 19 we will be sharing some of that info on Palantir.
Severlin: Which is not something that most players have access to [Palantir -ed], but eventually Bullroarer will see it too. New information will come out.
Dadi: That is certainly very encouraging because we have some absolutely fantastic content in LOTRO, but unfortunately the bulk of it that has been scaled to 105; the loot that has been dropping in those particular instances is just not commensurate with the effort. As such players are just not doing it. Example; if you were doing a run like The Battle for Erebor or Flight to the Lonely Mountain (both very challenging at T2C 105) there is just no loot there so people are not going to run it. I am speaking of raids, but even if you went back to some of the instances (3 and 6 mans); essentially anything that was released prior to Update 17 and been scaled the loot system is based on the old system that revolves around a Random Number Generator (RNG) and the table just does not seem commensurate. Is there any thought, or is there going to be some work to change the loot system such that when you scale these instances moving forward that there will be incentive for players to actually want to continue to run that content [or revisit it -ed]?
Severlin: That’s a great question, one of the ongoing things that an MMO does is it invalidates old loot as you go forth. What we don’t want to do is make the loot of old instances so good [that it is better than the new content – ed.]. So if you are going to spend your time, do you do the new raid or the old instances? If we make the old instances’ loot good enough to compete with the new raid then players tend to go to the old instances they know instead of the new raid. So part of doing new content there is a constant upgrade of loot. So we have to be careful. The other question is, for LOTRO in particular (because we have an ongoing Epic storyline that drives the players forward), how much reward will we get by going back and revamping the old content. That is a big question going forward that we have to decide upon. Right now because we are coming in to the really meaty parts of the story I am loathed to budget time to go back and revisit the old content. That’s just a decision that I have made, so you can sort of blame me. This is one of the things we will look to the forums for feedback on. If the players are really anxious for us to revamp old content, then that is something we can budget for, but that means that the new content will come slower; that is a balancing act that we have to make in terms of where we spend our time.
Dr. Octothorpe: On the positive side, we have our Instance of the Week (Featured Instance), which gives you some new loot in old instances. I think that has been something that players have really enjoyed. We have had a lot of positive feedback (via the forums) on the Featured Instance system and we are pretty happy with it as moderated vehicle for attaching desirable new loot to old content in a way that does not create some of the problems that Severlin was talking about. Also, to wrap up this whole thought, when Severlin was talking earlier about some of the decisions we were making for the recent raid; part of that is that in the future we have some big plans about how we want to change the way we give out loot and really seriously rethink the loot that is given out through challenge content like raids. We started to look seriously at starting to break some of that ground, and as he said, we decided not to at this time but those plans definitely apply to future endeavors. We want to look at drifting back towards individual loot and do some other ways of getting stuff. He said articulately; “other ways of getting goods to players that will leave everybody feeling good about the experience and rewarded for taking on the content [quoting Severlin from earlier -ed].”
Question 7: (given a 5 minute warning) I guess I will use the Instance of the Week as a bit of a segue; I think it has been a really nice addition to LOTRO, and as you said, it allows you to recycle some of that older content and gives people things to do other than perhaps the new content. They can go back a revisit some of the old stuff that we had fun doing. The loot for tier 1 is I think really good. Why is it when you do the T2C [of the IotW -ed] that the loot is not significantly better; it just doesn’t seem there is any incentive to run it at T2C? I am sure your internal statistics would confirm that most players are running through tier 1, ignoring all mechanics and doing it as fast as possible to get their loot boxes and switch to an alt [and rinse, repeat -ed.]. I don’t think that is what you intended with the IotW. Perhaps by adding some sort of additional incentive to complete the T2C, perhaps an additional box that drops extra coins (or something like that); any thought to tweaking that slightly?
Dr. Octothorpe: We are always open to new ideas. I can tell you a little bit about the thought that went in to that decision. When we put together the Featured Instance system there were a couple of things that we were trying to balance; one of them was maintenance cost – we can continue to do FIs and they do not take up a lot of our time because are always doing them at the same time as we are building new content, and new content is very important to everyone. The other thing is that we concerned at the time about locking out players that who are not up to the T2 content. We saw this partly as a way for challenge players to go back and do stuff they love but also for players who have never engaged with challenge content to see things that they had missed at the time. Between wanting to keep the system light enough that we could continue to do it and keep changing up the rotations and wanting to give everyone a shot at the gear we decided that differentiating T1, T2, and the challenge was not the right way to go. I think there is definitely room in the future if we hear vocal enough community support to look for ways to add that differential back in but it’s a balance between a lot of different designs and desires, and one thing for challenge players to keep in mind is the system is supporting a lot of different players and play styles.
Dadi: I don’t think anyone would argue that. At the end of the day I don’t think the community [as a whole -ed.] would be asking you to not have the armour dropping in T1. The easy fix would be to perhaps just have the T2C chest have more coins so people could run the T1 and still be able to complete it and get everything they get now but at a T2C level instead of a loot box where you get 5 coins [current T1 reward -ed.] perhaps there is another that gives you 15 coins [at T2C -ed.] so there would be a real incentive to try it at T2C. However, those that are doing at T1 really aren’t missing out on anything other than some extra coins.
Severlin: That is great feedback. I will bring that up with the teams specifically.
Question 8: There is all this talk about class balance and I really do not want to go down that road because I don’t think there is ever going to be a time when you can really balance everything. However, I think that there are some classes that are very undesirable in groups simply because they cannot output the DPS or they do not have a powerful enough buff or debuff [to outweigh the lack of DPS -ed.]. The two that come to mind for me the most are Burglars and Hunters. Are there any plans in the very near future to increase the DPS of Hunters, I think they should be the king of single target DPS (but currently they are not). Burglars, having them be more valuable to the group (with this raid by the way I am seeing Burglars being very valuable) by upping their DPS as well, and maybe some of their skills tweaked. Tying back in to Burglars; Fellowship Maneuvers (CJs) are the meat and potatoes of what they were really good at. I will date myself, but back when the level cap was around 50 those Fellowship Maneuvers held a lot of significance. Right now I do not know of any players, outside of when they are running Draigoch, that use Fellowship Maneuvers. So when they do pop up they ignore them because DPS that you would be outputting is far greater than any effect you could get out of a Fellowship Maneuver.
Severlin: Hunter DPS, yes. Burglar DPS, yes. Burglar survivability, yes. Fellowship Maneuver, not at this time; maybe a little later, but right now we are working on other things and we haven’t touch maneuvers because it is a bigger task to balance those.
Dadi: I think that the player base would love to have those two out of the three. So if there is one that is left out they would be happy to know it is the FMs and not the DPS or survivability. I had said near future, so are we talking U19 or sooner than that?
Severlin: I am pretty sure it is U19. We will need that much time to go through the balance.
Question 9: Do we have a rough time frame for U19? Will it be Fall of this year, is it going to be in 2016?
Dr. Octothorpe: It is Fall of this year.
Question 10: (pressed for time trying to get in 2 more questions before completely annoying the team 🙂 ) On the imbuement system. I think a lot of players really do appreciate it, I think it has taken away a lot of the, well I would say grind (but not quite). I think it is a good system in that we are not tossing away and remaking things all the time but the one thing that comes up a lot is that once you are invested in to your LI (Legendary Item) it becomes extremely expensive to trash it and start all over again. So for example; if you happen to be a Burglar and you are a Hobbit but did not know all the mechanics behind it and made your weapon and you get going and find out that oh geez I wish I did not make a sword, I should have made a club because I would have gotten a 5% DPS bonus [racial trait -ed.]. But in order to start all over again it is going to be extremely expensive. Or your passives are not as good as they could have been and maybe you just didn’t know other passives were out there [or could not afford to make multiple LIs until you got good ones -ed.]. Is there any thought to allowing the players to tweak the passives, either by swapping or sliding in and out almost like essences? Would there be a way to perhaps deconstruct an LI to get back some of the resources (scrolls of empowerment, IXP, star-lit crystals, etc.) so that you could start over?
Severlin: Our LI changes, if they happen, are on the further horizon and not the closer horizon. We have been looking at them a little bit but we are talking longer term so I do not want to start talking about them and have players getting all excited because those changes are still pretty far off.
Question 11: There are a lot of essences that do not seem to have a purpose; Vitality, Fate, Power, even Physical and Tactical Mastery. Fate and Power it does not seem that there is any real limiting factor for those; they do not play in overly well in building an LI, there are other essences that just far outweigh the benefits of using them. Vitality, T & P Mastery when you are talking end game gold essences, the math just does not support using them. You are better off using Morale instead of Vitality and better off to use Might, Agility, or Will than to use T or P Mastery simply because the math says you are going to get better output. Any chance we will see these tweaked to make them useful?
Severlin: When we re-visit LIs in the future (which I do not want to commit a date to) we definitely want to ensure the essences are all balanced in terms of usability. Maybe not 100%, but better than they are now.
Dadi: I really appreciate everyone’s time. I think we have gone over by almost 10 minutes. I have a million more questions, perhaps we could schedule another one of these after U19 is out. I would love to continue some dialogue with all of you. It has been an absolute pleasure, thanks for all your hard work !!!
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