A few weeks ago, with Kaels and Edward from the French Community we decided to interview people at Standing Stone Games.
With Edward and Kaels, two friends hosting LotRO websites for the French Community, we had the pleasure to conduct a Q&A with folks at Standing Stone Games about our favourite game.
That interview was intended to be for the French Community, but I don’t want you to miss something interesting, so I’m publishing it also in English!
Note: it is not a Housing Q&A! So don’t expect some hints about the next neighborhood.
Note 2: since this Q&A was done a few weeks ago it doesn’t include information that was published last week.
Answers submitted by:
Robert Ciccolini (Severlin) – Executive Producer
Marcy Brown (Sans_Arret) – Senior Localization Coordinator
Jerry Snook (Cordovan) – Community Manager
What is the most rewarding thing about working on a game like LOTRO? And on the opposite, what is the most frustrating one?
Sev: The most rewarding thing about working on a game like LOTRO is bringing joy to the players and watching a community of people who enjoy the game and Tolkien’s world come together. The most disappointing aspect is setting aside features or improvements that sound really cool or enticing when we just don’t have the resources to do everything we want.
Sans_arret: I love seeing how much fun people have with the game. D&Co du Milieu is a fantastic example. I love all of the passion and excitement for the house decorations. People are so creative, and I love seeing the cool things they come up with, whether it’s decorations, a music festival, or a play! I had a German player send me a link to a whole Yule play they had written and performed with friends. It was very fun.
Did you like the Rings of Power show? And do you think LOTRO will benefit from it in any way?
Sev: I enjoyed it, and we are excited to see where it goes. I think it is interesting that they are attempting to expand on the lore a bit, even if some of it is not the direction I might have taken, I find their take interesting and I appreciate their story. Any artistic endeavor that visits Tolkiens works helps to increase awareness of the world of Middle Earth and benefits everyone who love it.
How do other LOTR productions, past, present or future, influence your work on LOTRO?
Sev: We tend to stick to the books, but some of the visual elements of other media have inspired the look and feel of specific elements of the game. Those are mostly cosmetic, however.
Sans_arret: For me as a localization coordinator the thing that influences my work the most is Tolkien’s 1967 Essay, “Guide to the Names in The Lord of the Rings’. You can find it published in The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion. Tolkien was an expert in languages, and after the first two translations into Swedish and Dutch, he wrote guidance for future translations. If you ever wonder why something is named a certain way in Tolkien, I recommend checking out the essay.
We’ve seen that with the RoP show, but it is very difficult to stay true to the Tolkien Lore/World while trying to create a story in that world. How do you manage to deal with it? Is it something difficult for you too?
Sev: Of course. It is difficult to expand on the lore while staying true to the source material. I feel it is a matter of understanding Tolkien’s vision and voice, and developing storytelling elements that match that vision and voice. We have a fairly consistent voice and players who play the game are generally comforted by that; because the voice is consistent the players instictually know what feels consistent in LOTRO and what doesn’t. When we stray from the vision and voice it is jarring to those experiencing the world, but I feel the team does good work keeping our storytelling authentic.
Is there anything you’ve seen from other games that you’d like to see adapted to LOTRO?
Sev: I feel that the community gives us plenty of inspiration for improvements and new features and that really alleviates the desire to grab features from other games.
From a developer point of view, has been your worst nightmare in LOTRO development over the last 15 years?
Sev: When changes to the code create halo bugs or performance issues which seem like they should be unrelated to the change then that is the worst. Hardware failures that cause issues for players are also stressful.
We all know that Sirannon, our French server, is probably the less populated server. Are you still planning to continue supporting the game in the French language for the years to come?
Sev: The game and community would be lessened, in my mind, if we reduced the scope of our translations.
Sans_arret: I admit I do run around on Sirannon on occasion, it’s a fun server!
French Videogame dedicated websites are not talking a lot about LotRO. Which is a shame. Is there anything we (Yao, from D&Co du Milieu, Edward, from LesFuretsDuGondor, and Kaels, from LotRO JeuxOnLine) can do to help you improve that?
Sev: Any efforts to bolster the community and bring joy to the players through streams, discussions, and articles will ultimately help our game.
ABOUT THE CURRENT STATE OF THE GAME
Are any improvements planned for the legendary item UI?
Sev: While we think there are some improvements that can still be made, I don’t foresee a large revamp in 2023.
Are you still working on improving loading times for characters with a lot of deeds/quests?
Cordovan: Yes, our engineers have been working for quite some time now to identify the places where we can see gains in performance, and loading times for characters and the systems involved in the process is certainly a big part of that work. It isn’t just about how many deeds or quests have been completed on a character, but also whether the system is efficiently querying that information, and we have made improvements in recent months to that process.
Sev: As Cordovan said, improvements have been added, and there are still some to come. The quest system design never really took into consideration the scope of the quest list as the game grew. We looked at changing the quest system entirely so that a player could only maintain a limited number of quests (say 50) at a time, and older quests would just be archived on the character and marked whether they had been completed or not, but that process would not only be very expensive to develop, the way the game plays would fundamentally change. The player would need to make decisions about, for example, which creature kills to track through the quest system, and which explorer deeds to accept. We are going to add in more performance changes and re-evaluate once we can look at performance data after those changes.
Some skills animations take a longer time on some races, (i.e. Dwarf champions), is it something you’re going to be working on in a distant future?
Sev: We are aware of some inconsistencies in animations, and these are on our list to revisit at some point.
LOTRO has a lot of content, and more to come, is there a “Stat Squish” planned to facilitate the overall balancing? Or any “level squish”?
Sev: Level squish, no. I fear that would increase the time it takes for players to see progress from leveling. At some point we will likely address ever increasing numbers, but that might take the form of an abbreviated number display, or it might be an actual change to the math. I don’t foresee that happening this year, though.
Will all classes move to a two-trait tree system like the Ministrel and Brawler?
Sev: I think we are still evaluating the impact on the game. On a positive note, we feel this approach will reduce the number of dead trees/specs as the third tree will supplement the primaries. This will make the game more balanced. On a negative note, players can develop strong attachments to the specs these trees represent, so making this change has a cost. Our current plan is to follow this pattern going forward, how we might apply this design to existing classes is still being discussed.
The current launcher is not really good at detecting graphic cards GPUs (especially Nvidia on laptops) preventing to launch the game in 64bits, so some players need to change manually the value of DisplayAdapter (from 0 to 1) in the UserPreferences.ini file. Will this problem be solved with the new launcher you were talking about recently?
Sev: That is one of the design goals of the new launcher, yes.
WHAT’S NEXT – GAME’S FUTURE
New players have arrived in the last few months, many of them (old one too) regularly ask for news of the graphic updates announced by EG7, do you have something to say about it?
Sev: We are working on additional human character options and should have those as a first development sometime in the first half of the year.
Why are there so many secrets about current and future developments?
Sev: Sometimes I will talk about something we are working on, and our plans will get derailed. Our resources change, our priorities change, or the task turns out to be much larger than our initial estimate because of some code related limitation that only revealed itself when we dug into the task. Sometimes the players simply have a larger need elsewhere. Sometimes the feature has a cost to our technical operations team that needs to be addressed before we can continue. All of these are constantly juggled, and when we talk about future plans, we always run the risk of something getting postponed.
That said, we should have the 2023 roadmap out soon.
What determines which direction to take for future content?
Cordovan: This could be a very long answer! Ultimately it comes down to discussions with everyone involved, interests by the development team, systems being worked on, business priorities, what our players are interested in, and a host of other factors. We try to group our releases thematically and in ways that make sense, meaning that if a new system will also fit well for a certain region or story, we’ll try to release it around or at the same time. There’s no singular template for deciding what is next; it tends to start with where we’d like to go and what story we’d like to tell, combined with what new features like classes, races, or reward systems we’d like to implement, and then we have to figure out what makes the most sense in terms of what we are working on next and what we work on beyond that.
Players from the French Community are really interested about River-Hobbits. Is it still something you would like to bring to the game for 2023?
Sev: Yes. We would like to see them this year, though that feature is one we might drop if some larger issue looms up. This is the exact type of thing that informs your earlier question about why we are careful about talking about future plans.
One update leads to another and players are already talking about Update 35. What can you reveal at this stage?
Sev: We’ll reveal more about Update 35 and what we have planned for it in an upcoming letter to the community, so we will be able to share quite a bit more with you in the near future.
That’s all !
Thanks a lot to Severlin, Cord’ and Sans_arret for their time.
I’ll do another Q&A this year, and this time we’ll talk about housing stuff ;).