There have been many changes to the face of monster play since we launched The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar: the addition of the Orc Defiler class, changes to class functionality, the institution of diminishing returns, and delicate rebalancing of classes. Now its time to talk about the many changes to the field of battle in Mines of Moria. These changes are varied, and are all designed to give a variety of gameplay options to participants in the battle for the Ettenmoors. This developer diary will cover the additions and alterations that have been made to the Ettenmoors for The Lord of the Rings Online: Mines of Moria so you will know what to expect when you enter territory both familiar and somewhat unfamiliar.
Glân Vraig and Gramsfoot are meant to be safe havens for players and monster players. As time has progressed, it has become apparent that one lane of egress from the bases is not sufficient to give players and monster players an avenue to enter the fray. To alleviate camping of the exits, we have added another access point from each of these locations leading directly to the main keeps of Ost Ringdyr and Dâr-gazag. The pathways run along the mountainous borders of the Ettenmoors and feature an open face to the interior of the Ettenmoors. This means that players and monster players using these pathways can slide down into the Ettenmoors proper at any point along the paths. Additionally, the paths are blocked in the same manner as the main gate of Glân Vraig and Gramsfoot at their conclusion and a small set of elite archers watches over these new locations.
The goal of creating these pathways was two-fold. First, we wanted to provide players and monster players with an additional way out of their home base to alleviate the frustration of a push back to the gates of either location. Second, we wanted to provide a more direct and faster pathway to the main keep of each side of the battle in the Ettenmoors. Now players and monster players are able to leave the base by either means to mount a counter effort against their foes who may be camping the bases.
Dâr-gazag and Ost Ringdyr have both seen a slight modification to building structure and defensive troops. The larger change is to the building structure of Dâr-gazag; it is more clear and channeled in a way that you must fight through the same number of encounters as are present in Ost Ringdyr. There are still some optional battles that you can partake in, but the main path to the keep Tyrant will now force you through a greater number of fights. We have also added a small room behind the Tyrant. This room is where you will find Artifacts, which will be discussed in depth in another developer diary. Ost Ringdyr has also seen some revision, mostly in the addition of the same artifact room behind the Captain-general. Access to the artifact rooms can only be granted once the Captain-general or Tyrant is killed.
Elf-camp and Orc-camp
Both camps now are ringed with stockade fences that make the areas safer for their factions. There is one entry point into each camp and multiple ways to leave. The camps have each seen an increase in the number of archers who defend each location. At each location, players will be able to find a flag that represents the forces there. (Again, there will be another dev diary that will speak about flags and artifacts.) The addition of these walls should do well to address the issues that we have seen with certain quest objectives in the Ettenmoors.
Bridges of Tol Ascarnen
Despite the sound of the heading, this is not the love story of a wayward Orc and pleasant hobbit. No, it speaks of the two bridges leading to the island where Tol Ascarnen stands. We have instituted flags at each location which represent either the Free Peoples or Angmar. The flag displays which faction controls the bridge, and defenders arrive around the flag to safeguard the location. Reaching and using this flag gives control of the bridge to the captors side. There are several guards at the location, but it should be easily captured by a smaller group of players or monster players.
Hot Points Go Away. . .
The original implementation of hot points was meant to provide slight bonuses to monster players when they controlled the location. They were also meant to force players to fight at smaller locations and fight in smaller groups. They were not the success I had hoped that they would be; beset by bugs and other issues, hot points were more hassle than they were worth, and the upside-downside of the hot point locations was too little to be of any consequence. As a result the hot points have been removed…
. . . and Outposts take their place
With the departure of the hot points we lose some of our smaller location conflict space. This is something that we wanted to remedy, as the Ettenmoors is supposed to allow players and monster players alike to enjoy many variations of gameplay from solo to group to raid. Outposts are meant to assist in the group aspect of gameplay.
Each outpost has a small number of defenders outside of the structure and a lord who watches over the outpost flag. Capturing the location requires that players or monster players defeat the outposts lord, and then use the flag to capture it for their faction. The outpost begins under the control of Gaergoths forces from within the Delving of Frór. These neutral forces will allow players or monster players to capture the location; controlling 2 or more of each of these locations will permit access to the Delving of Frór for your faction. When captured, the location becomes the province of the controlling force for a period of six hours. At the end of this time the outpost is returned to neutral control under the forces of the Rogmul Gaergoth.
There are five outposts altogether. Their locations are marked by the standard references of the Ettenmoors map: when neutral they appear as red flags; when controlled by the Free Peoples, blue trees; and when controlled by Angmar, a red and yellow eye.
Tirith Rhaw and Lugazag
The changes here are to the final capture of the location. Each of the towers now contains a flag, hidden in a room beyond a door that can only be entered by the players who currently hold control of the tower. To gain access to the flag room, the keep Tyrant or Captain-general and his Chieftains or Marshals must be defeated. The door will disappear and the final fight takes place near the flag. Capturing the flag will flip control of the tower to the captors side.
This first diary explaining the changes to each location sets the foundation for the second, upcoming dev diary that explains the dependencies of each location and significance of the newest features to the Ettenmoors: artifact-control and flag-play.