Behind the Scenes of the Lord of the Rings Online Free-to-Play Update

Turbine made news a couple of weeks before E3 this year when they announced that their Lord of the Rings Online MMORPG would be transitioning to a free-to-play model. We got our first look at some of the changes while we were at E3, and now Turbine has taken us on a guided tour of the new content as well.

Our tour was hosted by Aaron Campbell, one of the Producers for LotRO.

We logged into the beta, and we were immediately greeted with glorious views of the new zone, Enedwaith. Scaled for levels 62-65, Enedwaith is a gorgeous, bright outdoor zone, a sharp contrast to the darkness of the forest of Mirkwood. Campbell told us that the alternating of dark and light zones isn’t intentional, but it’s, “Where the story has taken us.”

Eredwaith contains a varied number of regions, each with a distinct character. The overall zone is dominated by Gondorian ruins, the largest of which is a massive watchtower that can be seen for large distances around the area. You can expect to see alpine regions, marshy areas, and even a scrubby wasteland populated by the dead.

One of the interesting things about Eredwaith is that it is the first zone that LotRO has added that is almost entirely filled with content that really doesn’t appear in any of Tolkien’s work. “This has really freed up our creators,” says Campbell. The variety of content seems to bear this out, as Eredwaith will contain over 100 new quests. It will also be home to a wide variety of NPCs, including Hobbits (who wear shoes, as Hobbits of the Stoor were wont to do), Dunlendings, Rangers, and Dwarves.

The main story thread running through the zone is the journey of the Grey Company to meet with Aragorn. While Turbine is still keeping the details of the story close to the vest, Campbell did tell us that there are more Rangers on the journey than make it to the rendezvous with Aragorn. As such, something has to happen to the extra Rangers. We’ll have to wait until the content is live to find out exactly what that something is.

The story will also give players a closer look at the history of the Rangers, and of Aragorn’s lineage. This will be done through session play, which has been used in the past to show story pieces such as the coming of the Balrog to Moria.

Besides the new zone, there are a number of new features coming with the free-to-play update. One that the development staff has put a lot of time into is scaling instances. This new system will allow you to scale any instance in the game to your level, as well as port yourself inside the entrance to that instance. All the drops in that instance will scale as well. You’ll still need an appropriate size group, but you can now get an instance of your level from anywhere in the game.

Turbine is also re-working the quest dialogue system. The new system is targeted at getting the vital information to the player first, with quest text and lore coming second. It’s not a major change, but it is one that you’ll immediately notice when you first take a quest.

Another major addition that is tied to the free-to-play update is the LotRO store. As we’ve reported before, the store will run on Turbine Points. I asked Campbell about some of the complaints that have arisen in the official forums over things like faction horses being available in the store, and he reminded me that the store is still in beta, and that some things currently in the store may not make it into the live version. Still, he seemed to think that there is a place for those sort of items, as some folks may choose to spend the money rather than the time to obtain them. Personally, I think he’s right.

One of my bigger questions concerning the store was whether or not Turbine had any plans to allow players to buy the right to purchase multiple houses in-game, or at least to allow the purchase of additional in-house storage. Campbell says that’s not in the works at this time, but that Turbine does listen to their players, and try to make them happy. He also said that access to housing was a big thing for the free-to-play portion of the game, as they had learned from the team that handles Dungeons and Dragons Online.

We got a quick look at the fall festival, and its new addition, the Haunted Burrow. Basically a basement to Bag End (for those of you who don’t read Tolkien, that’s Bilbo’s house, and shame on you!), the Haunted Burrow is similar to the Hedge Maze. It has a number of quests that reward you with tokens for entering what amounts to a hobbit haunted house. It’s actually quite amusing until you lose your way and start wandering around aimlessly.

I asked Campbell if there were any plans to make changes to the three big areas players of LotRO have complained about: Legendary Items, Monster Play, and Radiance. He replied, “Those are three big things we will be working on over the next year.” We also got a bit of a nod to future content, with a brief mention of mounted combat. “There are prototypes being worked on,” said Campbell.

All in all, the free-to-play update looks fantastic. The new zone is polished, pretty, and interesting. The changes to the instance system are welcome indeed, and the new business model seems destined to increase their playerbase. While there’s still no set release date, and the release could vary based on the feedback from the currently running beta test, Campbell says we can look for the update this fall.

Many thanks to Turbine for the tour. We’ll have more on the free-to-play update as it becomes available. In the meantime, here are a load of screens from the new zone to enjoy.

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18 Comments on Behind the Scenes of the Lord of the Rings Online Free-to-Play Update

Kyle

On July 26, 2010 at 5:22 pm

ZOMG i can’t wait for this to come out I srsly wanted to play lotro when it first came out but i was pissed when i realized that it was p2p but now that it’s going f2p I’m gonna be able to play it :D

redm

On July 26, 2010 at 6:30 pm

I think the free model is going to work out well, bring in a lot of new players and get them hooked on it!

Sekira

On July 27, 2010 at 11:08 am

You’re going to pay for to see the content anyway . So not really free ><

Jag

On September 8, 2010 at 11:48 am

You can earn Turbine points to pay for the upgrades without paying a dollar. It just takes some work!

kent

On September 8, 2010 at 11:55 am

kyle are you really that much of a cheap skate that you wont pay to play an online game

Mark

On September 9, 2010 at 4:23 am

kent its not about being a cheap skate, if u have the the option of not paying and still able to aquire the purchasable content then why not:P i refuse to pay 2 play also, first of all its pointless to pay for a game. If i would like it to be easy “expirience” for me then i would pay but i aint that lazy neither stupid for paying for a game. Its not just worth it :) Try to use ur logical thinking and figure out the reasons, and try to think outside of the box :)

Jack

On September 9, 2010 at 4:47 am

People pay for food, when it grows on trees, people buy cars when you can easily walk, people buy beds when you can just sleep on the floor, people pay for cellphones when you can easily use the house phone if you had one..

Why not pay for entertainment? its cheaper than everything i mentioned above.

Tom

On September 10, 2010 at 4:39 am

Jack, the game is montly fee, wich will cost alot if u play for like a year or two. like a year will cost alot money for playing an MMO.
What ur really doing is just watching the screen and push buttons.
What you m,entioned about the cars and st stuff, is important.
We couldnt discover the world without Ships, cars etc.. You would have died before youve walked a few miles without food nor water.
I payed for LOTRO, but stopped Sub, started with WoW, heard Lotro was going F2Pand im going to play, becuz i have a premium account…

-Tom

Brett

On September 10, 2010 at 3:54 pm

This whole thing about it being stupid to pay to play a game is just rediculous. People buy Xbox games for $60 all the time and never say that they should be free. While some Xbox games are played for a long time most are play a lot for about a month and then never played again. $60 for a month of playtime is insain compared to $15 a month for something of this nature. Millions of dollars are spent making these games. I am glad that it is now free and I might purchase some things from their store, but I would not be upset if I had to pay $15 a month to play either. Easily worth it. If $15 a month is too much money for you to pay then maybe you should spend your time looking for a job (or better job) then playing video games in the first place.

John

On September 12, 2010 at 7:56 am

I think what the people above are trying to say that you should only have to pay for a game once then u gt to play it when u want for as long as u want and also some people are already paying for a mmo like im paying for wow and also xbox live and i cant always afford them both. I wanted to play this when it came out but i cant pay for all 3 so its awsome that this is f2p now and no it doesn’t mean people who didnt want to pay for this are cheap skates

Josh

On September 12, 2010 at 11:30 am

The point of paying for a p2p game is a company is paying money for servers to be running and have people working on them day and night, u also pay for patching, new content. u most think a lil bit nothing is free in life so get over it.

Bonte

On September 16, 2010 at 11:52 pm

these people who say p2p is stupid make me angry. do you not realize that these p2p games are an endless supply of content? you buy any single player game you will spend 50-60 bucks. you will play and beat it in WAY LESS than a month. if it’s a good game you will beat it in a few days. that leaves at least 25 more days of the month where you are entertainmentless. an MMO has a months worth and THEN SOME for the same price.. and if you play more than a month (already well worth the original cost) you can keep playing and see more stuff for only 15 bucks.

even when you’ve played an MMO for a year and seen all the dungeons you still have other races, other classes, more lore you haven’t touched yet.

open your eyes. sheesh

yourfavoriteredhead

On September 27, 2010 at 8:32 am

Another thing about paying for these games is this. Think of it in terms like this: One month = one night at McDonald’s or any other fast food joint for you and your girl. So it’s not that big of a deal. Just one night of frozen beef and transfat that you don’t eat.

mmopro

On October 18, 2010 at 12:03 pm

heres what ya dont get i played eq2 and eq1 for alot of years all of em anarchy online whatever ,heres the thing they all dont really give you your monies worth so why pay .
you pay for expansions that are rushed and suck or they nerf the crap out of it and yuor paying for them top kill yuor game

the queen

On October 29, 2010 at 1:44 pm

I have never paid and never will. Its not an essential of living like food, cars, clothing. Its a passtime, a game and one that they make millions from each yr so like those who want to pay can…I could care less cuz its their money to do with what they want…as is mine. If it were necessary for the game then no way would it be offered as free…

the queen

On October 29, 2010 at 1:49 pm

but as they say…opinion’s are like s….we all got em!
yawning
on to more free playing in LOTRO

David

On May 23, 2011 at 8:48 am

I think the Free to Play model is interesting. I wouldn’t have started examining LotRO had it not been for this model. I enjoy this game greatly and what makes it even more interesting is that I can buy small upgrages to my account like 2 more inventory bags, recipies, spells etc. if I so choose. It also looks like, and I might be very wrong about this, I can purchase more content as if I am buying another book in a series by the same author. I came to the end of a region, tried to walk down the hill and I was given a message that I didn’t own that content and “Would you like to buy the content at the LotRO store?”.

In this way I can play LotRO when I want, purchase more content when/if I get bored and Turbine make’s a little money off of me to pay salaries, bandwidth, etc. I think many games will go to this model or be built from the ground up with it.

Rosalyn Mashburn

On September 9, 2011 at 8:22 pm

descriptive site!!! thankyou.