GDC '08: The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar Updated Impressions

We got an update on The Lord of the Rings Online as it nears its first full year in the wild.

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SAN FRANCISCO--The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar has done well for itself since it launched 10 months ago. Although the massively multiplayer game hasn't made much of a dent against the titan of the genre, World of Warcraft, executive producer Jeffrey Steefel told us The Lord of the Rings Online has done well for itself, clawing itself into second place. We presume that's in North America only, given that there are foreign MMOs that would certainly vie for the title of number two.

We got a quick update from Steefel about the past 10 months as well as future plans for the game. Turbine recently launched the fourth major update, called Book 12. This adds some interesting new content, such as user-purchasable housing, high-level content for veteran players, and a cool new underground battlefield that's tied into the monster-play system.

The new underground battlefield is called Delving of Fror. It's basically a cavern system full of high-level raid content designed for small parties. The kicker is that Fror lies beneath the Entmoors, which is the main monster-play section of the game. Monster play lets players temporarily play as monsters as they battle other players. There are five control points in the Entmoors. If one side controls three of the five points, they'll have access to Fror. They can go down and start exploring and battling the creatures there for loot. However, if the other side manages to take back three of the five control points, anyone who was caught down in Fror will be cut off from support from the topside. It should make for an interesting dynamic.

Other new features in Book 12 include a barbershop, which is a lot more complicated than it sounds. The barbershop will let you alter your character's hairstyle (and there are more than 50 new ones, to boot), but you can also change his or her physical appearance. This is the first time you can redo your character since character creation. Then there are more customization options in terms of cosmetic clothing, traveling clothes, and more.

Turbine is also working on the next updates, due out later this year. Book 13 will add a new region to the game, though Steefel was reluctant to name it just yet. All he said is that it's in the northern part of Eriador, which should set hardcore Tolkien fans scurrying to their atlases. Nevertheless, the message at GDC seems to be that The Lord of the Rings Online continues to build and thrive, and there's going to be no shortage of content updates in the future.

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