That aside, it's actually pretty hard not to talk about the expansion this week. Turbine's showing more chutzpah this year with its marketing and promotion, and part of that has come in the form of several developer diaries and music videos. I think we're used to lengthy typed dev diaries, especially ones that come a day or so before an update goes live, but this is the first time in my memory that the team's utilized video so widely to promote a product.
I kind of like it.
So let's take a trip through these recent releases and see what we can't glean from them!
This video isn't fancy or deep, but it does just what it says on the box: It gives us a quick overview of the different areas in Rohan. The landscape looks fantastic, especially in the Eaves of Fangorn, but what's most interesting to me is how these glimpses make me feel like we're finally coming home in the game.
This is a little hard to explain, so bear with me. In terms of progression, Lord of the Rings Online starts us in the heart of Eriador's civilization: the Shire, Ered Luin, Bree-land. We spend our first 20 levels or so getting to know the ins and outs of life in Middle-earth before we're tasked with saving it. From that point on, we -- like Frodo and Sam -- leave civilization behind and touch upon it only briefly now and then. Our characters have trekked through the wilderness, great underground caverns, swamps, dungeons, ruins, and barbaric lands.
But in this video is the promise that we're about to embark on a journey to a new center of civilization, and boy is that a good feeling. Rohan looks alive with its people and towns, and it's here that I'm hoping those initial fires of interest that seem to blaze so brightly for many of us in the early game will be stoked once again.
Players, including me, have so many questions about the new mounted combat system that there's bound to be just as much frustration about what isn't talked about in this video than what is revealed. I'm glad the devs did it (and it's kind of amusing to watch this slightly scripted back-and-forth between Sapience and Rowan), but it's more tease than anything else.
I don't know about you, but I kept saying out loud, "You two are attractive, strapping men, but we didn't click on this link for you. Show us the combat. Show us!" Unfortunately, we only caught a couple of brief glimpses during the entire five-minute runtime of the video.
What I came away from this was the strong impression of how fluid this system is at least attempting to be. I really like the idea that you're not just racing at each other and then stopping still to trade blows but rather are always moving while they're always moving. It's kind of like dogfighting on land, yeah?
I'm already trying to decide whether I want to do more in the way of damage, utility, or defense on horseback. Since I'm a Captain, utility sounds right up my alley.
Bringing Rohan to Life II
The first in this series was kind of forgettable, to be honest (the live action stuff was goofy fun, but did we really need a behind-the-scenes making of a one-minute movie?), but this is far more relevant to our future in the game.
It kicks off with an interview with composer Chance Thomas. Turbine's been pushing the "new soundtrack" angle hard, and as a soundtrack nut myself, I'm happy to hear all we can about these new tracks. Thomas talks about the responsibility and sheer scope of trying to put Tolkien's world to music, and it does me good to glimpse how much work he put into it and how serious he takes this challenge.
There's a lot of talk about the emotional connection to this region and people, and music is of course intertwined with that. So far we've heard four of the new tracks by Thomas, and I really hope that Turbine keeps releasing them. If nothing else, it's making me look forward to the day when I turn the in-game music back on.
Seeing, hearing, and reading
In promoting an upcoming game, expansion, or content update, a studio ought to utilize different forms of communication in transmitting the selling points. Reading is great for absorbing large amounts of information quickly and quietly; audio is perfect for music or podcast lovers; and video can relay how the game looks in action as well as the people behind it. So while some might watch these videos and see them as insubstantial, I see them as doing exactly what they need to be doing: selling a point quickly through a specific medium. Video takes a lot longer to put together than a blog post, so it's more of a teaser for the main course.
We certainly have a lot to learn about Rohan before it comes out, and I truly hope (and believe) that Turbine is prepping detailed articles to address these specifics. In the meanwhile, I really would like to see longer videos of mounted combat in action as well as any other new features coming with the expansion.
As the summer rolls on, what would you like to see, hear, or read from Turbine about Riders of Rohan?
When not enjoying second breakfast and a pint of ale, Justin "Syp" Olivetti jaws about hobbits in his Lord of the Rings Online column, The Road to Mordor. You can contact him via email at email@example.com or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.