Recently we heard huge news that LOTRO was transitioning from Turbine to Standing Stone Games;
We wanted to catch up with Cordovan, LOTRO’s Community Manager, to discuss what this transition means for the game and its players.
We also discuss some major releases/events on the horizon this year (note dates are subject to change) …
February – U19.3
March – U20
April – LOTRO’s 10th Anniversary Celebration
Summer/Fall – X-PAC (Mordor)
January 10th, 2017 Interview
In case you missed any of the previous interviews with Cordovan/LOTRO Devs:
If you would like to support my efforts with Dadi’s LOTRO Guides, or maybe just buy me a beer, click the donate button below 🙂
Cordovan Interview Jan, 2017
Dadi: Thank you for visiting Dadi’s LOTRO Guides. Today we have Cordovan with us where we are going to discuss the transition from Turbine to Standing Stone Games; update 19.3 which is coming very shortly; update 20, what’s on the horizon for that; LOTRO’s 10th Anniversary coming up in April; and an x-pack later on this year. Thank you Cordovan for joining us. Let’s get started!
Thanks again Cordovan for agreeing to come on Dadi’s LOTRO guides and do an interview. I can only imagine your world must have been crazy busy with the transition and the holidays all merged into one.
Cordovan: Yup, yup, really busy both with as you say, with work and also with the holidays. A lot of social activity and that sort of thing too but we are back in the office and have been working hard all week for the past week or so and yeah, we are cooking along into 2017.
D: Well, first off, congratulations on the formation of a new company; Standing Stone Games. It is all very exciting and of course, the transition away from Turbine and towards Daybreak Game Company – all very big news and somewhat unexpected. I think you caught a lot of us off guard with that one.
C: It is true. It may have been in the works for a while but we knew it was going to be pretty big news when we got around to saying it and we are honoured to continue to get everyone’s support. Yeah, it has been very very cool.
D: So I am sure there is some confidentiality around the entire transition but is there anything you can speak to as to how long ago did this start? What brought it about? What was the decision process for moving in that direction in the first place?
C: Well, you are right, there is a lot I can’t say and I do apologize for that but as the legality (regality?) of the situation, you know, this was also a business deal involving large companies and lawyers. So yeah, there is a lot I can’t say and again I do apologize for that but that is just the reality of the situation. Yes, it was in the works for some time. I think if you look at what happened over the year 2016, and you were armed with the information that this was happening, you may be able to get some sense of how things went down and what was going on at any given time. Certainly the latter of 2016 was exceptionally, “are-we-there-yet?”. These things do because we had a lot to talk about but the end result has been nothing but fantastic. It has all worked out and we were able to get the announcement out before the end of the year, so there we are.
D: For most people, I think it has been a breath of fresh air and has revitalized LOTRO a bit. We have seen a lot of returning players to the game following the heels of the announcement. I think probably one of the big things that helped to encourage that was the announcement that the license renewal, even though it has been talked about in the past, was a non-issue but that it has been renewed and isn’t expiring in a month. I think that has been really great for the game.
C: Cool, I am glad to hear it.
D: Standing Stone Games, I think that is the name of a previous game developer. Is there any relation or is that purely coincidence?
C: You mean SSG as opposed to Standing Stone Games?
D: No, there is actually a Standing Stone Games.
C: You have to give me some more info on that.
D: Yeah when the announcement first broke, I started Googling Standing Stone Games because I had never heard of it and there was one in Las Vegas and another in California. Now when you Google it you can’t find it because everything is related to the Turbine SSG transition so it is buried now but I did see it in the list. I wondered if it was one and the same.
C: No, no connection at all. We did a lot of research on these names and while Standing Stone was used in some other things, Standing Stone Games was deemed to have not been taken and so we ended up liking it and went with it. There are similar things called Standing Stone; particularly on internet searches and that, but Standing Stone Games is us.
D: Excellent. With this transition, so we have gone away from Turbine to Standing Stone Games, a whole new company, a whole new parent company as well. Are we going to see a marketing change or a change to the approach of marketing LOTRO? It seems that it has been pretty lackluster since early on in its inception, yet it seems to be something that would be easily marketable if one put the effort forward.
C: I don’t think it’s fair to say that. There was marketing done. There was a marketing budget and money was spent every single month. Sure, I do think this gives us as Standing Stone Games an opportunity to really promote these titles and reawaken interest in them, keep people interested in them. I do think we will be seeing some kind of marketing work here in the coming years but we will just have to see where this all shakes out.
D: Even some of the simplest of marketing, which would be updating the web page and the info on the web page, is that going to be in the work soon?
C: Yeah I will probably doing a scrub of the website here pretty soon. We have been scrubbing out, making sure that the logos and legal language and such was up to date. I know our content area has been out of date as well. Some of it pre-dates me. There are parts of lotro.com that are surprisingly less intuitive to work with than you might think and I think that may be part of the reason why some of that work wasn’t done as it essentially involves reformatting web pages and things like that. It is in my short term agenda here to take a look at. Whether that ends up being streamlining of the information or updating the current pages to include more up to date things has yet to be determined.
D: Clearly this transition to SSG is some major news. We have really not heard a lot in terms of a Producer’s Letter. Is that coming shortly? I did see the facts on the website which is great. Are we going to see a Producer’s letter soon?
C: Yes, as a matter of fact we are working on that this week. I don’t think it will be out this week because we do want to get that localized into French, German and things like that too. But! I would expect it within the next couple of weeks.
D: What would you say would be the top five things that SSG is currently working on in relation to LOTRO?
C: First off, we are going up for 19.3 that is currently set for perhaps the first half of February. That is going to introduce the usage of property writs. We were giving away some property writs for people who chose to abandon their house and that kind of thing. You can now use property writs as of 19.3. We are also doing some housing hook point work in 19.3 and a couple of UI updates to our pet and mount collection. Otherwise we are full steam ahead on update 20 which is going to be pretty big in terms of features. We are going to be heading to Dagorlad doing various questing in there. This will be the battle at the Black Gate. That is something that is going to be coming up here. That may not be the entire battle but it may at least be some of it, so you are going to experience some of that there. We do have a couple new dungeons that are going to be going in. We are going to be expanding the flora system with some new colours and things like that related to the content. There is a bunch of behind the scenes work for various events, up to and including our 10th anniversary event which happens in April, but some code and anniversary related work is going to have to be done prior to that point. That is probably number 2 and 3 on our priority. Systems and update in content and work for Update 20. Then we are also planning to head into Mordor as an expansion. I would say that is the remainder of that top 5. Various quests and content, and a lot we want to do for Mordor, of course, and we are really pushing to get that out as quickly as we can but at the same time it is not going to be January, let me put it that way. It is going to be when it comes. We will have more information about that as we get closer to it but we are expecting to get that out after Update 20 and then perhaps after the Anniversary. We will see how we end up on that.
D: That certainly sounds like a heck of a lot coming in a very short period of time. That is very exciting.
C: A lot of the infrastructure of SSG was able to get put in place over the past couple of months here. There was some inkling that this was in the works clearly right. So we were able to do a bit of pre-planning to make that transition as smooth as possible. There may be some transition related downtimes that may end up taking place as well in the next couple of month. That is something we have people working on with various engineers. We are going to be working on lag reduction and I think there may be a question related to that later. We do have an engineer that is tasked with working on game improvements along that line, so we will see where we end up there in the next six months.
D: It was definitely one of the questions I was going to ask, in terms of the lag and memory leaks that are causing the crashes to desktop. I thought that might be in the top 5 to get that taken care of. I am not sure what percentage of players are experiencing it but I can say anecdotally from my play and in the groups that I play with, we have had entire groups of players freeze up for seconds a time, which is clearly a server side issue. We are hoping that this transition may free up some manpower to work on that, and it sounds like it is.
C: It is really the same person that has been doing a lot of work related to it but that person is continuing to do work and I don’t like to prioritize things in the top 5 like that but I think what happens is, when we find a way we can have a win there, we fast track it when we can. So we will see where we end up.
D: Makes sense. With SSG, are we going to see more devs devoted to LOTRO? Are you going to hiring? Are more bodies involved or are you going to maintain as is?
C: I can’t really get in to the hiring and numbers questions there but we do have a lot of content that we are going to put out in 2017. If we do have positions open, that would be available on the website.
D: Are we going to see perhaps an update to the subscription model? Maybe some more perks or tiers or different pricing? Would greater parity between free to play and VIP increase the subscriptions? Maybe generate a big more revenue?
C: Are you talking about additional tiers of VIP?
D: Not necessarily that, but the VIP itself having something or are you considering an additional tier of VIP? There are some perks clearly with the VIP model. Is that something that SSG feels is enough to lure people away from the F2P? Are you happy with how it is now or are you looking at it?
C: All I can really say officially on that is what is in the bag [40:56]. Which is we are definitely not changing anyone’s VIP program but we have had some talks about what else we can offer there. It is really only what I can say about that right now, but we are always looking to make sure that our VIP players have the best value and we are not touching VIP at all in terms of what you get and what the cost is and all that. We want people to feel real comfortable with our VIP program.
D: That makes perfect sense. You wouldn’t want to decrease anything there. I am just wondering, might there be more added to the VIP perk list.
C: We are always looking for ways to add more VIP perks. Yes, we will see what ends up happening but it wouldn’t surprise me to hear something in that realm in 2017. We will see.
D: Character modeling. There was some announcement or discussion that we are going to see some revamps to the character modeling. Could you elaborate on what is changing and will the players have the choice to stay with the old modeling or go with the new?
C: It is way too early to really talk about what that would look like or what that is going to be, but I do think one of our ongoing concerns will be to allow players the choice to take part in it or keep the look that they have as people tend to like the look of their character and in some cases very very much and don’t want it changed while other people would like to see increased flexibility there. Whatever we end up doing there we would like to make sure that we keep that in mind.
D: Just to kind of circle back a little bit. I think this comes back to manpower. There are several bugs that have been in the game for a long time, some of them for years. Are these going to be a priority for SSG? Just some examples off the top here; the purple light not showing up for the sequence in the Sauron fight in Tower of Orthanc; guardian bleeds still aren’t working correctly from when they tweaked guardian from, I don’t know how many updates ago that was; the Throne locks are still a problem; the phasing of boss 6, sometimes you get stuck in combat within Throne which is an issue; the force taunts aren’t working correctly in guardians; we’ve got RKs that can pull agro after a force taunt was just used for example; and even just logging in, you are logging in and not at full health. If you happen to log in at a spot where you are getting attacked, maybe it was safe when you logged out but when you log back in, you are not at full health and you go down pretty quickly. Just some examples, but there is many. I think there was a list that a dev from Turbine had put up. He/she had started a list of what are the top 10 things you would like to see fixed from a bug perspective. I did search the forums, by the way the search function on the forums is not overly robust, I couldn’t find it so I am not sure if it has disappeared or what happened, but it seemed that there was a concerted effort to start working on these bug fixes. They did quite a few like falling off horses in shallow water, that got fixed. There is a bunch that immediately after that list there seemed to be an effort towards it. Are we going to see something like that out of SSG to circle back and fix broken content? I know that everything is a function of time so if you are fixing broken content, you are not maybe working on newer content, but there has to be a balance there somewhere.
C: I think we do want to fix as many of these top pain points, as you might want to call it, as we can and that will be a priority. Ultimately this year in particular we are going to be having a big challenge as we are going into Mordor for example and we are going to the Black Gate. There are some major, major plans in the works here and so we also need to be cognizant of the reality of how much it will take development wise to bring that stuff into fruition. So it is going to be a challenge to get some of this bug fixing in but we are going to do our best to do it. I don’t want to commit the team to a certain time frame on a certain bug but yes, it is indeed something that when time permits and we can prioritize it, we will be doing.
D: Now correct me if I am wrong, but I believe with the x-pack, there is another raid coming. Would there not be the same issues with locks with that raid so would it not be a priority to be working on the existing lock problem to prevent it in the future?
C: I will have to refer [35:37] you to someone who is more versed in the issue there to maybe answer that more fully in the future. You are not wrong, there may be a chance to take a look at that when we are looking towards the new content.
D: It sounds fantastic. I have said before in previous interview, we have this great content but there is roadblocks to players being able to enjoy it and I am hoping that, yes, Mordor is exceptionally exciting as the Black Gate; they are all extremely exciting and I can’t wait but I would also like to play the current version of the game with the current content and enjoy it just as much. I see where you are going with the time resources and whatnot and I do hope that some of these things will get addressed, not at the expense of Mordor and the rest. I am very excited for the future.
Speaking of the some of the current content, the flower picking system…is this something you have expected or hoped? I think the players are doing it because of the rewards, it is very tedious, it is very grindy but those rewards, the carrot is great and people chase it. Is it what you have expected? Are there going to be some changes to the system? Can you comment on that as a whole?
C: It is hard to do a post mortem on a system active in development. Yeah, I think in general we are seeing people interact with it. We are going to be continuing to expand the system in 2017 here. We said from the start about the flora system, that it made sense from the content and it is also a system that you will be interacting with for a while so, you know, maybe it is a little bit of a grind, maybe not. It kind of depends on the person and how you feel about that kind of thing. Yeah I think in general we are pleased with the way the system turned out and the kinds of things it offers. I know there is additional work to be done and plenty of great feedback on that. There are always things you can change and fix but in general I think we are fairly happy with the flora system and we are not done with it.
D: I think one of the things that makes it tedious and as a result more grindy, is the fact that there is so many players doing it in such a small area that often you can run around for periods of time and only get one flower here and there. You did have a period of time where you upped the bloom rate. Is that something to consider to maybe help quell the fact that people are running around for hours on end and getting a handful of flowers.
C: It is something we can look at in the future.
D: With the flower system – the essence bartering and whatnot. As of currently, the new essences, the ones that were recently introduced, they are bound. Was that intended or is that something we might see change?
C: It was intended that it was bound.
D: Why would LOTRO move towards creating an essence that was bound so that you can’t pass it between your characters? Once it’s there, it is a system that is changed I guess. They weren’t bound and now they are.
C: I will have to look into that sorry.
D: No problem. I am not sure where the logic would be behind preventing players from trading.
C: Something that is bound to character is for if you want the person acquiring to have done the work to acquire the item. It also allows you to, in some cases, increase the drop rate because you are not supplying an entire stable of characters here, you are supplying one character. I can’t speak specifically to this system nor why any particular decision was made about it.
D: Okay. You were mentioning the flower system is going to continue and you are going to expand on it. Is there any hint on to what that might entail.
C: Well, I could because I was just in a meeting about it, but nah I probably can’t really give too much out. It is something we are looking for Update 20 here. There will be some additional work there. I want to see if I can actually call up any information about it. It is sort of like an end-game reputation system. It involves saying running content solo, group content and crafting as options to acquire the ingredients to be used to upgrade various things.
D: Interesting, so a multipronged approach. You are saying you will need to acquire all, or a combo of those to gain…
C: Let me just let that happen on its own time. I think if it is not on Bullroarer, it should be soon and we will let it live there in terms of debuting specifics.
D: You mentioned Update 20 and mentioned it a couple of times. I had heard on a previous interview that it was scheduled for February and you had just mentioned that 19.3 is early February. Do you have a time table for Update 20?
C: A tentative time table on that would be, let’s just say, March but we personally have a much more targeted target there. But at this point in terms of what I would be willing to say publicly, we are looking at March perhaps for Update 20.
D: With U20, might we see the essence grind slow a bit? With the latest round of rapid updates and again can’t pat LOTRO (because it was Turbine before and now SSG) but I can’t pat your backs enough for the content that is being released. It is coming pretty quickly; in U18 we had some essences and now in U19 they are obsolete and then in 19.2, the ones we got in 19 are now obsolete. It just seems to be a treadmill at the moment. Might we see the ability to utilize the essences from 19.2 in an upgraded sort of way if you are thinking of new essences for U20. Could they be created out of the essences for 19.2 instead of recreating the wheel? We are basically into the legendary item grind that Turbine worked so hard to get away from in creating the imbuement system. Now we are in to a gear grind with essences, so we have replaced one grind with another.
D: There was a question in there somewhere. I guess the question is, might there be some consideration to be given to upgrading existing essences instead of toss them and start fresh with brand new stuff.
C: This is something we are always going to be looking at. There are reasons why there are sometimes new crafting systems that are tied behind new ingredients. I am sorry if you find that to be too much of a grind and choose not to take part…
D: I choose to take part because I chance the end game and I like to have the best of the best in the game but boy, it is tedious and when you have just spent the greater part of the month getting your toon perfect, and then all of a sudden BOOM you have to start all over…
C: I tend to disagree with the terminology of “oh! This thing that just came out is obsolete”, nobody in the entirety of the game, every player, there would be no possible reason someone would want to wear such a thing, and I tend to find that type of thing hyperbolic and generally not accurate.
D: Obsolete might be a strong word. I guess disposable might be better. You mentioned crafting system with new ingredients. This might be an excellent segue into a new crafting tier to be able to craft using the old essence to make a new one as an example instead of a throw away.
C: I don’t know for sure what essences are going to be used for crafting in U19.3/U20, that sort of thing. It wouldn’t surprise me if we found ways for you to use existing ingredients that you had. Whether that is in combination with something that is new or similar form of system that I am not sure about but I don’t think we are totally done with the ingredients.
D: In speaking of the future content, we are talking U20 and an x-pack coming, during one of our previous interviews, we had discussed some incentive to completing the featured instances at a T2 or T2C tier. We did have a bit of back and forth on that and we agree that we don’t want to restrict players from being able to get items, because they are maybe not capable of doing a T2C and I do agree that making gear and things in the game accessible to all has its merits. So what we had talked about during our last interview was, maybe it’s not a gear or whatnot, maybe it is just more coins in the featured instances, you are currently getting the long lost coins. So completing a T1 maybe you are getting your 5 coins but if you complete it at T2C you get 20 coins or something like that. So all you are doing is upping the amount that you might get. Is that something on the radar, to make it relevant to do T2, T2C of these featured instances?
C: It is still not a bad idea but it is not something we have made progress on furthering the process to get it into the game. So I don’t know that we will actually be doing that but it is not a bad idea at all.
D: I think it would allow the featured instance to allow for all different skills levels of player, so you know, if you are capable of doing that tier 2 challenge or you enjoy that type of thing, that it would make it worthwhile for doing it, that’s all.
D: You did hint at the 10th anniversary which is coming up in April as you mentioned. Any hints as to what might be planned or can you drop any teasers?
C: I don’t want to say too much at this point because we do want it to be a surprise and I think, you know, people don’t want to be spoiled on this stuff. But, I can say that one of the things we do, is we are in the process of implementing a game-like activity that people will be able to do during the 10th anniversary in the game, that people are really going to find enjoyable. We are going to be doing, say, the typical yearly awards that we have done in the past but we are doing some other stuff too, up to and including what might be termed an event but I want to be fairly vague about it because we really don’t want to spoil it but yes, we have things in the works.
D: I peak at my birthday present [insert pause here]. It sounds like there may be some in game involvement from the Devs and we might see some live things happening. If that is the case, that would be great. I think that would be really fun.
C: I think that we will definitely be doing something. One of the things that I learned from DDO’s 10th Anniversary last year; we did a 12 hour live stream and we will be doing something very much up to and including exactly that also for LOTRO’s 10th Anniversary. But one thing that we found out pretty quickly, is that if you are on a live stream on a Dev and you pop into a real world, you can only be there for a few minutes until all of a sudden you may be crashing the instance or really causing some detrimental problems to the people around you, which is why I had to do things last year for DDO, like delay it by a minute so I could fly overhead and get through before I would cause instance problems and things like that but it did have an in game impact. So to just have all the Devs pop up on the server, I have a feeling it might not be as cool as it sounds. We will be absolutely at least putting them behind a mic and probably a camera and having some fun and all that sort of thing for the 10th Anniversary. In terms of the in-game events, we have got some things in the works that will be something you’ll have to stay tuned on.
D: I think you are probably right in terms of the crowds that would come. It would be reminiscent of the stress testing that was done, all very fun and cool but in very short order everyone is standing still.
D: So chronologically, after the Anniversary, you are moving into x-pack territory. I think at one point it was mentioned for late summer, early fall. Is that still on track for that time line?
C: I don’t think we want to give a formal timeline but yeah something like that.
D: With that ex-pack, I think it was confirmed that there is a new raid coming. Is that cast in stone?
C: I think I have been ordered to say something like “it will have group content and let me not commit to anything in particular at this point”. Come on, we’re going to Mordor….
D: I would be disappointed if there wasn’t. With the ex-pack is there any talk about a pre-purchase available with maybe bonuses or perks for VIP for purchasing in advance. Is that maybe something on the radar?
C: I don’t know. We actually had a discussion about that in the office today. One of the things that we often run into with prepurchase exclusives, is that they are really really cool and then there are people who are legit sad for years to come, because they can’t get the thing and they are never going to be able to get the thing and that sucks. We have been having discussions about what we want to do there but I do certainly think we will have some way for you guys to opt into the expansion pack here prior to the day of it being released. We will just have to stay tuned for more information as to what tiers might be available, what kind of things, how it all works,
D: With the ex-pack, I will kind of stay on the raid topic a bit even though you haven’t confirmed fully that there is one. During one of our previous interviews when it was stated that a raid was more than likely coming, let’s say that…
C: What is it you are saying that I am not confirming? I am confirming that, yes; we want to do Mordor as an expansion pack.
D: No I meant that there is a raid involved with the ex-pack.
C: I’m pretty sure there will be but we don’t want to get into how many of X thing is going to be in the ex-pack yet.
D: So assuming there is a raid, one of our previous interviews, and that was when we had I think almost the entire dev team, if not all of it, on at once, we will talking about loot mechanics and drop rates and so on. At that point it was mentioned that for the new raid in the ex-pack that more than likely they will be going towards a personal loot system. Is there any insight into what that might look like? There is a lot of concern that this might not be the right way to go because it forgoes master looter options. It removes the ability of kins or groups of friends that know each other to distribute loot how they want to within that group and it could also lead to someone getting something they have already got, creating a duplicate thus “wasting the loot” that could have been rolled on or distributed to someone else in the group because it turns out that it is bound.
C: I hear ya. It is a tough discussion to have for any loot system but I don’t actually know because I have not heard anything further about what the loot restriction mechanics may be for any Mordor related content.
D: If it is of any interest to the Dev team, there has been a poll running on Dadi’s LOTRO guides regarding loot distribution and overwhelmingly the players would like to keep the current loot system with maybe some minor tweaks or maybe a deed; if you do an instance 100 times at T2C you are guaranteed to get the item that thus far has eluded you or maybe just a slight increase in drop rates.
C: Some of this may be related to the way the loot systems were sometimes being abused – let’s say on Throne of the Dread Terror. So I don’t know how much of that statement is related to that so we will see.
D: Is there any thought to maybe making the loot that you get from a raid, and specifically at a T2C level only functional while in the raid? So for example, if you are donning said piece of gear and you are in the raid setting it gives you buffs, but when you are in the regular world away from the raid, those buffs aren’t there. So it seems that there is some sort of a struggle between balancing gear that is required for completing T2C content in a raid but not allowing that same gear to be overpowered in a PVE situation and to another extent, I think it has led to some of the imbalances that we are seeing in PVP. Might that be a viable solution?
C: Are you saying that people are wearing this armour and getting exceptional benefits in PVP that they are not getting in PVE?
D: No not at all. What I am saying is that it created imbalance. So you have got this gear that you get; for example Throne of the Dread Terror for example and you get these really great set bonuses and everything else, and then you are using that same gear in a non-T2C setting and everything becomes just that much easier. From a PVP standpoint, creeps don’t have the opportunity to get that type of gear so the parity between creeps and freeps becomes greater.
C: Yeah that makes sense. So what you are saying then is could you restrict bonuses to only work inside of raids to help alleviate that issue.
D: Exactly and so by gaining the loot, it would essentially mirror what you would get in a T1 version, except that the bonuses would only activate while in the raid. So it is really of only benefit where it is needed the most. The idea behind getting that gear that has all these bonuses and extra stats and so on is to make it so you can complete that T2C content a little bit easier but then as soon as you get out of that T2C content, everything becomes a faceroll.
C: It is interesting feedback. Is the armour stat just for T2C content? Is that really the truth or…what it sounds like you are saying, that is in better numbers to is how it fairs outside in the wilderness areas like that. Its good feedback but I don’t really have much of an answer for you. I’m sorry.
D: No I certainly didn’t expect an answer on a short discussion but it’s some food for thought and I hope that you will take it back to the Dev team and say hey listen, this is a very interesting idea, what do you think and can we make it stick.
C: I don’t know technically if we have the ability to restrict items on your avatar to specific kinds of content but it wouldn’t surprise me if we did. Who knows, I don’t know. A lot of this is predicated on where you sit on that first statement, which is this gear is only meant for T2C content. If that’s not the case then it is a much different conversation.
D: True enough and I imagine that if you interview enough people, there will be people who say ”hey that’s a great idea” and then other people will say “no I want that and I want to be able to use it everywhere, not just within the raid”. I was thinking about it and I talked to a bunch of people about it and it seems like a way to help alleviate the imbalances created by introducing that end game gear to the game and it seems like an interesting solution.
One of the previous interviews that we did, you were talking about always looking at tinkering with new classes in a rotational way. So the last pass was hunters and burgs, previous to that guardians were worked on a bit. Which classes is next on the list for tweaking. Can you talk about any specifics about what might be coming?
C: I cannot give you specifics as to which class will be next but what I can say is that we are currently doing an assessment of where we feel all the classes are, where they need to be and what that plan might look like and things like that. So we are definitely not done with this process but I don’t yet want to say “and next will be…”. It may be small tweaks to several different classes. It may end up being a deeper dive into one or two specific classes but I am going to leave it up to the systems folk to do that assessment and really prioritize the list and then set aside the blocks of time it takes to resolve these things before we really get more granular with it.
D: With the epic battle system, I believe and I can’t recall which update it was, but more points were released to be able to use toward building your officer, engineer or vanguard. Is this something that we are doing to see moving into update 20 or the ex-pack? Is there going to be more points released? Might that tree have different tiers added to it and are we going to see more epic battles or is that something that has been shelved?
C: I don’t think we ever really shelve types of content. What we try to do is look at where we are, what we want to do and what tools are going to best achieve that. I am not also ready to again talk about how many quests and how many X and what’s going to be Y for Mordor yet. So we will just have to stay tuned on that.
D: Do we have any PVP changes coming in the near or distant future?
C: In the distant future, yes! Many years from now there will be a PVP Dev who is banging his head on the say going “why did I take this job, oh god”. I’m kidding.
D: Kidding but probably partly serious.
C: In the short term I think we are going to let things sit largely where they are just now. We did just recently scale back the creep side a little bit in response to perhaps being a little overzealous in our buffing just prior to that so we are going to see where we sit, where we need to work on where some of this balance issues might still remain and then take a look at that in the future. We have got a lot on our plate so I think at least short term we are going to let that sit for a little bit.
D: Might there be any content at some point for PVP from the creep side to be able to gain new gear and whatnot?
C: It is not something that I am aware of us working on but it wouldn’t surprise me if something like that ever happened.
D: Those are the major questions that I had. Thank you for taking the time to answer them. Some of them were probably pretty direct and to the point and I apologize for that but I think as you can see I am a passionate player of the game and there are things that frustrate me and I am sure they frustrate you too and in your position you have got only so many resources and so much time available and you are doing the best that you can to put out what I think is some pretty amazing content. I think the last number of updates have been great. Personally I am a little disappointed with the flower system but outside of that everything has been, in my opinion, fantastic. I am sure there are people that love the flower system but it’s just not for me. So again I can’t thank you enough and I think the community continues to echo how important the transparency of the SSG team is and how willing you and other members of your team are to get out beyond the walls of SSG and speak with LOTRO Players or Bloodborn or some of the twitch streams. It is so refreshing and something that was lacking for so long. Again hats off. That is something that you guys have been doing just fantastic with.
C: It’s great to hear. I really appreciate it. We have signed up to do a lot of work here in 2017. We are just launching Standing Stone Games and are already thinking Mordor and all the rest of that, the Battle of the Black Gate. Which like I say, it may be “just update 20” but that itself is a pretty big project too. We have got some really cool things that we are looking forward to and it is just a matter of we have got people who are full steam ahead and we want to let them steam ahead. That’s why folks like me are around to hopefully answer those questions and pass along your suggestions. I can say short term, stay tuned to Bullroarer if you are interested in update 20 and that kind of thing and we will have a lot more on from the expansion as the year progresses for sure. Otherwise I am going to be trying to feature some events. We have got Winterstock coming up this coming weekend here and we are going to be doing some of that on twitch. I am going to be working to get out a – I haven’t decided if it’s going to be a weekly, biweekly or monthly but some kind of status newsletter thing for LOTRO. Hopefully we can get that done in 2017. We just really have a lot of planning and a lot of execution ahead of us. So hopefully we can execute to the best of our ability and you guys dig it. So far we think you will because we have got a lot of cool things that we are doing this year.
D: You had mentioned Bullroarer and then it jogged my brain here to ask you about the Palantir Program or the Players Counsel which is now defunct, but is that something that you guys might relook at in terms of a resource for providing feedback? Is reimplantation of the Players Council or will you be expanding the Palantier Program to more people?
C: The latter is more likely that we are going to expand Palantir for more people. We have been getting some applications and I am sure we are going to get a lot more. We have been trying to bring people into Palantir as the folks who run the program see fit and overall they are getting a lot of use out of Palantir right now. It has been pretty active and going pretty strong. Yeah I think that when we can, we do want to expand Palantir here this year.
D: That would be great. The more people testing the content prelaunch and giving feedback, probably the better. At the end of the day, correct me if I am wrong, but the people on the Palantir project are doing it for free so it sounds like a win/win situation.
C: Yep. I am not opposed to doing something focus group—like player’s council thing in the future but it is not something I want to do on an ongoing basis. If we did do something like that in the future it would have to be for a specific reason. I have thought about it a little about how we can get that community feedback but I just don’t think a year long constant Players Council is the way to go right now.
D: I don’t disagree with that. I did sit on 2 1/12 years of Players Council and there is a lot of lulls in between so you are correct there. One of the better approaches might be, let’s say for example, you wanted to look under the hood of the guardian class. If you hop on the Guardian thread on the LOTRO forums, you can very easily pick out who the top 5 engaged guards are on your forums and maybe reach out to them and say “listen, we are thinking about doing this, how would that affect things?”. Because these players, these guys, girls, men and women that are playing these classes, there that know these classes inside and out and in a lot of cases better than the devs that created them. So reaching out to them for a focus group for a change in a class would be a really great idea. Get the top ones together and bounce things off them.
C: I don’t disagree.
D: The same could be said for raiding. I think it becomes clear which are the raiding kins on various servers. To reach out to those kins and say we would like to put together a focus group, can you send two from that kin and two from that one. Put them together in a room, channel, twitch stream or whatever you want. I think that’s the way to go for the future and it sounds like you are open to it and I think that’s great.
C: These things often just come down to who’s got the available time and hours to manage it. I don’t think we will see a return of the Players Council as a formal entity but I love what I am hearing there for sure. Who knows?
D: I don’t want to take up any more of your time. You have been very gracious with it already. I look forward to maybe doing another interview in the future, maybe right around the launch of U20. If we can get back together, that would be awesome.
C: We’ll see. That sounds good. We very well may be able to do that.
D: Thanks again and all the best!
C: Thanks everyone!