Producer’s Letter – February 2019 – A Look Ahead
My latest letter to you will focus on our goals for the upcoming year. This is slightly different than just discussing upcoming content and features, and I hope to give everyone a bit more insight into how we want to improve the game. So, while this does provide a road map for the year, the following letter focuses more on our goals for the game in 2019:
First, our most important goal for the year is to continue to tell your ongoing story. We are excited to continue the Black Book of Mordor as it winds through Middle-earth and leads players to our next expansion. The tale will take us to the Vale of Anduin, where we will explore the history, important events, and secrets of that area. As the year continues, we will unveil more tales in the Vale, and then follow the story back towards Mordor to Minas Morgul itself. Among the many dangers you’ll face will be Shelob herself as you learn what she has been up to, and how she is influencing the future of Middle-earth.
That leads us to our second goal for the year: continue to balance the challenge of the game. The question of game difficulty has split our players, with some expressing concern over the difficulty in Mordor, and others loving the increased challenge. While we wanted Mordor to be a scary place, we heard your feedback about how difficult the region could be. For the next expansion, our goal is to balance the main storyline with the rest of the game’s content, rather than stepping up in difficulty. The landscape and normal instances will not have the same increased difficulty that Mordor had.
Instead, We will be looking to introduce optional challenge into the game in some instanced content by extending Difficulty tiers up to four, or even higher. Players can test their skill with these higher instance tiers, and earn increased rewards. We want some solo-, three-, six-, and twelve-character content to have extra tiers of difficulty: tier four, tier five, or even higher. This will allow players looking for more challenge to opt into it, while allowing players who are not interested in more difficulty to play through the story and not be forced to engage in that type of play.
64 Bit Client
We are testing our 64 bit Windows client, and updating our code so that environments can make better use of graphics memory. This will allow the client to overcome some restrictions on how the world loads, how textures load, and how much we are able to use modern graphics cards. We hope to have a client in beta as early as March.
With the recent updates to Minstrel, and with an update to Burglar on the way, many classes will have received their initial balance pass. Although this is a good start, we want to continue to work on class balance with updates, bug fixes, and tweaks throughout the year. We will continue to base that balance work on your feedback in addition to our own internal testing, and we intend to improve this feedback process this year and beyond. We have plans for Rune-keeper and Captain, though our goal for the future is to be able to add small changes to several classes at a time, rather than implementing a large number of changes for a single class.
One of our goals with the expansion is to add a robust update to Crafting, so players can make better use of the system at higher levels. We want players to craft exciting, fun, and powerful items. Although the system has been updated as players have leveled, we want to make Crafting changes that are even more significant and interesting, and give players a way to create better gear as a supplement to other content. We want players to have ways to interact with the Crafting system as they play through the content without making Crafting a requirement to play through the story.
One of the things we have been looking into is an update to the Virtue system to make it more relevant. Rather than the current system where Deeds reward Virtue points directly, we will shift to a system where completing Deeds (and possibly other content) will award Virtue experience points. Players will be able to choose which Virtue advances, whether that Virtue is slotted or not. Characters with existing Virtue ranks will be converted to the new system with their Virtue level intact. Additionally, all Virtues will provide small passive benefits to your character, even if they are not slotted. These changes will allow players more choice when earning Virtue benefits.
We are looking into more ways for Kinships to advance, and new rewards for Kins to earn as a group. We like the idea of small and large Kins advancing, earning cosmetic rewards for their housing, and allowing Kin leaders to occasionally activate buffs that benefit the entire Kinship. Activating these buffs would cost less for smaller Kins without compromising the value of maintaining large Kinships if that is what players prefer.
We want to provide a new Instance Grouping feature that resembles the existing Quest Grouping tab on the Social Panel. This feature will allow you to add up to five instances with class and level requirement criteria, and possibly others. Our goal is to replace the grouping functionality of the Instance Finder and lessen the need to send frequent LFF chat requests.
Amidst all this, we want to make improvements to the game as the players on the Legendary servers march forward and we unlock new content on those servers. Players can expect to visit Moria in the near future, and we will continue to update the Legendary servers throughout the rest of the year.
We have a busy year ahead of us and we are excited to continue our journey with all of you. Thank you for reading, and thank you for playing The Lord of the Rings Online.
Gloriesk / Feb 22, 2019