PAX East 2011 Interviews: Turbine, DDO & LOTRO

I’m a geek. I know it’s shocking, but it’s true. So last year, when it was announced that the east coast branch of the PAX convention would be held in Boston, I was thrilled to death. I can hop on a subway just 4.5 blocks from my house and get on a train that will have me to the convention center in less than an hour. That’s a recipe for wonder. Sadly, I only managed to wrangle a one-day pass for various reasons last year, so my memory of PAX East 2010 is a blur of gaming, a chaotic, crowded Expo Hall, and afterwards wondering if I’d missed a Dealer’s Room or something.

This year, when E asked me if I wanted to attend PAX East 2011 with a Media Pass, I said “Hells yeah!” or “Indubitably!” or something of that nature. Three days of gaming and geekery. I arranged the vacation day for the Friday for maximum exposure and waited impatiently.

As if to tease me, emails began arriving in my inbox. Gaming companies were contacting me and asking me if I wanted to arrange interviews during the con. At first I assumed they were spam, then I realized they were coming to me because of my Media pass. I said yes to a few of them…specifically to Turbine and Wizards of the Coast.

As part of a short series of articles, I’m offering the insights and previews I managed to wrangle as part of my interviews process.

Friday 4 PM : Turbine – DDO

My first interview was with the folks at Turbine. I played DDO right at the beginning, and I enjoyed it a lot. Unfortunately, some experiences with some of the people I was gaming with left a bitter taste in my mouth, and I stopped playing. When it became free to play, I beta tested the new content, and I still log on now and then. So I had a good background going into this interview.

The upcoming update, scheduled to release on April 9, offers some interesting new innovations to the game. The Turbine rep was very proud of the robust new Crafting and Deconstructing system they’re adding to the game. “Let’s say, for example, you find a +3 Icy Burst Kama,” he suggested. “Now, if you don’t fight with a kama, this might normally be vendor trash, or heading off to the Auction House. With this system, however, you can take one of the weapon’s elements – the +3, the Icy Burst trait, or the fact that it’s a Kama – and hang onto it. If you keep the Icy Burst, for example, you could then add it to a +3 Longsword and have a +3 Icy Burst Longsword. The other components would then be eaten by the Deconstructing Machines. This seems like a great way for players to make just the weapons they want for their characters.

He also showed me some new prestige enhancements – elements to give your high level characters to specialize their powers in various ways. He showed me a Sorcerer, by way of example, who took an enhancement to use Frost magic. All of her Frost-based spells became significantly more powerful, but all of her Fire-based spells became significantly less powerful. Again, this seems like a fun way for a player to really go with a theme for their character. I seem to recall that my Wizard, Malachai Blackrune, liked his Fire spells. Hmmm…

There are also a series of high-level quests on the way. The ones I was shown specifically revolve around dealing with menaces from Xoriat, the Plane of Madness. Without giving too much away, there were monsters like a Chaos Beholder, a fantastically rendered mind flayer, and a hideous new creature referred to as a Taken. I’m not spoiling the secret behind the origin and nature of the Taken. Suffice to say, the word Lovecraftian was bandied about a bit. Also, they look rather fetching in a top hat. That’s all I’m saying on the subject.

Friday – 4:30 PM – LOTRO

After I said good-bye to the DDO team, I got to have a seat and take a look at the new expansion for Lord of the Rings Online: Echoes of the Dead. This expansion launches on March 21, and it concerns the rise of the Gaunt Lords, creatures that will feel a bit familiar to those who’ve traveled the red marshes of Agamaur. Ivar the Blood-hand was specifically mentioned as making a return.

One thing I love about what I was told directly addresses a complaint I’ve heard: that you can never really be the hero, because the Fellowship is off on its quest, and they’re the real heroes of the story. In the story of the game, the Rangers have left Eriador, following Aragorn as the Grey Company. Without the Rangers there to stop them, evils are creeping into previous safe areas. You’ll return to areas of the game you know well from earlier game-play, and, in the absence of the Rangers, you’re the only hope the beleaguered peoples of Middle-Earth have. I can’t imagine anything that would make me feel more heroic.

There are new instances, and these can be played at lower or higher tiers. As this suggests, you can opt for a more challenging but more rewarding instance if you prefer.

Also part of this update is a very new and simplified character sheet, showing the stats that’re most important as a glance, but giving the option to expand to show all the stats. And more importantly to me…more outfit slots! Now I can have my snow outfit, my fishing outfit, my war-outfit, my formal outfit, my party outfit…

Yes…my hobbit is very gay. So sue me.

There are also really cool new changes coming to the Legendary Item system, as legacies that you like will be able to be moved forward onto new items. This was fantastic news to me. I keep developing my Legendary Swords, in order to have something to do, but I still use one I’ve had for over a year, because it has the best set of legacies I’ve found. I love the idea of keeping your sword and improving it slowly but surely until it’s exactly the weapon you want.

I didn’t miss the opportunity to ask a few questions I had about the future. When asked about Mounted Combat (did I mention my husband plays a Rider of Rohan?), I got a wry smile. “We have a working prototype,” I was told. It’s a project they’re working on full bore, but they don’t want to comment beyond that. I didn’t push them on it. I was pleased to hear it’s being developed.

I also asked about areas from The Hobbit, like Dale, the Lonely Mountain, or Beorn’s Carrock. Much to my surprise, I was told that Turbine doesn’t actually have the rights to use places from the Hobbit. “What about Goblintown and Gollum’s Cave?” I asked. “Those are from The Hobbit, and they’re in the game.” Apparently, because they’re extensively referred to in The Lord of the Rings, they were able to include them. Sad news for Dwarves from the Iron Hills. You may not be going home any time soon.

About GGG

Andy/GGG is a gay geek guy for sure. He's been playing D&D since he was 10, and he equates reading Tolkien with religion to some degree. He's a writer/developer for a Live Action RPG called The Isles, and he writes a comic called Circles, a gay, furry slice-of-life piece that comes out way too infrequently.

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