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Mittwoch, 6. November 2013, 11:41

30.000 Orcs and you: A LotRO epic battle story

Quelle: zu massively klick --> hier






The rain beats hard down on steel helms as a flash of lightning
illuminates the horrible truth: a carpet of monsters stretching to the
horizon, advancing on the last refuge of an entire country. A catapult
rolls up and fires a flaming shot over the battlements and into the
troops behind you. People die. More people take their place. As you
watch, a formation of 600 Orcs breaks away from the host for the first
charge against the wall. Your wall. The wall you've sworn to protect at
all costs. The wall that may well be your grave in the next 30 minutes.



This isn't just flowery language but actual in-game events we witnessed when Turbine took us in for our first look at the epic battles coming to Lord of the Rings Online: Helm's Deep.
There's been plenty of talk on the studio's part as to the scale and
scope of the system, but it's something else entirely to see it in
action.



Turbine's been working on the epic battle system for well over a year
now, drawing inspiration from World War II documentaries as well as the
10-page description of the battle in Tolkien's novel. The team reworked
the game's technology from the ground-up to allow for thousands of
characters to fill the screen and up to 50 NPCs to be in combat at any
one time. And even though the outcome of the battle is locked into place
by lore, the conceit is that you will be judged based on your
performance.



Join us and 30,000 Orcs as we go over the many, many details of epic
battles. But be quick about it -- we've only a few moments before the
fight is rejoined.



What are epic battles?



As Lord of the Rings progresses, the action in the books gradually
expands until it arrives at absolutely massive battles that rage across
Middle-earth. This was a huge challenge to the team to bring to the
game, especially considering that LotRO's
technology allowed for only around eight NPCs to be fighting on the
screen at a time. Shattering the notions of scale, the devs created a
new type of instanced content that was part-skirmish, part-group
content, and part something we have never seen before.



You can choose to dive into the Battle of Helm's Deep at one of five
points in time and location. Helm's Dike contains both a solo and
six-man version, the Deeping Wall has a solo and 12-man version, the
Deeping-comb is just solo, the Glittering Caves is only available as a
three-man, and the Hornberg is solo. Interestingly enough, all of the
solo instances can be duoed with a friend if desired.



Turbine's obviously hoping that the epic battle brings friends and
kinships together because it's created a new character upscaling feature
to facilitate level mismatched teams. Basically, as long as you're
level 10 or above, you can jump into the epic battle and see your level,
stats, skills, and gear raised to 95. In this way, a level 31 Hunter
and a level 87 Lore-master can join forces without worrying about the
disparity. We asked whether upscaling will be used elsewhere in the
game; Turbine hedged by saying that it was going to see how Helm's Deep
worked out first.



As you go through the half-hour or so long battles, you'll be attempting
to achieve your primary objective and as many secondaries as you can
handle. The better you do overall, the higher your merit rating (it's
like being graded on a test that involves spears and death by
decapitation). Battles award bronze, silver, gold, and platinum medals
that can be spent later on for perks and gear.



There's a new UI for the epic battle system that allows you to choose
not only your instance poison but your promotions, not to mention to see
how your battle rewards are stacking up. Promotions are much like the
upcoming class trait trees, although this system uses a point system
based on medals earned (up to 216 points total). You can unlock
abilities in any of the three epic battle roles (more on those later),
choosing to specialize or hybrid your spec out. The more you spend in
any one tree, the more basic abilities are unlocked for you as well.
However, going deep has a substantial point cost, so there's definitely a
trade-off at work here.



At the end of the day, it's all about the rewards, of course. The battle
history tab on the UI has a field for advancement toward your next
treasure chest in the bronze, silver, gold, and platinum arenas. When
you fill up one of those four bars, you have the option to take what's
in the box (a red snapper?) or to convert that bar's points into fewer
points for the next tier up. This works only from bronze to silver and
silver to gold; you'll have to earn platinum rewards the hard way.



Most of the rewards from these chests will be new sets of jewelry that
come in several tiers and rarity. For some reason, Turbine isn't
throwing in armor sets into the epic battles, although the "why" of this
was not fully explained during our tour.



The Deeping Wall



While our dev tour was full of explanation, we only were able to see one
quick instance: the Deeping Wall. In this portion of the Battle of
Helm's Deep, you're on the wall fending off the initial wave of
attackers against the castle.



The hype was partially validated when we saw what Turbine called
"distant battlefield" technology to generate the large Orc army. What
made us sit up a bit straighter was when that distant army started to
get nearer and nearer, seamlessly sending in a wave of 600 or so Orcs in
formation at us. You can track their progress from far away to right in
front of your face with nary a visual burp.



First came the catapult fire, from both the enemy and from us. Then came
the arrows, the grappling hooks, and the ladders. Orcs charged over the
top, each moving fast and furious as he clashed with NPCs and players.
Turbine explained that another new system that the devs created
implements behavior priority in each of the enemies. Instead of just
mobbing mindlessly, all NPCs now have a list of priorities for their
actions. Sappers might bypass troops entirely in an effort to get at
that catapult, while commanders might seek out their equal on the
battlefield and engage him or her. This target priority also means that
the enemy isn't necessarily out to get you, so you will have more
freedom of movement than you would in a traditional skirmish.



As a hero helping to defend the wall, you have the choice of one of
three roles to help win the day. First up are Engineers, who are perfect
for those who like to interact with "clickies," lay traps, and fire off
catapults. Turbine's invented the unfortunately titled "multi-usage
system" to give more options to each interactive object on the
battlefield. Catapults, for example, can be loaded, cranked, repaired,
extinguished (if on fire), upgraded, and constructed using this pop-up
interface.



Even more cool is the fact that the interface allows for multiple people
to interact with the object at the same time. You might be cranking the
catapult while I aim it, or we might both crank it in order to finish
the job faster.



If throwing rocks on Orc heads and being a battlefield repair technician
isn't your thing, then consider the second role, Officer. Officers get
to boss NPCs around in a sort of "RTS-lite." Using the same pop-up
interface, you can go over to a friendly NPC, give it instructions, and
watch your pawn go out to die a glorious death. These instructions
include healing, pulling out a shield, switching to two-handers, going
aggressive, playing defensive, guarding areas, and setting target
priority.



If the Engineer or Officer life isn't for you, there's always the glory
of being a Vanguard. This is the most straightforward role: the role of
someone who wants to stab or smack people in the face. There's some
complexity to the role, as it utilizes kill streaks and stacks up pips
to expend in death. That's right: When you die as a Vanguard, your
comrades are so inspired by your sacrifice that it buffs them in various
ways.



Because of the chaotic flow of battle, the three roles, and the
randomized secondary objectives that arise, no two battles will be
alike. The idea here is that there are always more options at any given
moment than you can accomplish, so you'll be making tough decisions left
and right in an effort to get the best merit rating possible. Let's say
a secondary objective pops up telling you that Orcs are trying to break
down a door that leads into a first aid area. If you ignore it, you'll
watch your merit bar take a dive when the door caves in and the injured
die. But if you focus on defending it, your catapult might be burned up
by that group of sappers that just appeared.



Turbine seems pretty confident in the epic battle system as it stands.
It's been in internal testing for quite some time now as well as the
more recent expansion beta test, and the devs said that it's been
performing admirably. It's still a big gamble, as the epic battles are
replacing the traditional instance cluster that has come with
expansions, so raiders will have to adjust to a more chaotic system
instead of a well-choreographed dungeon dance.



We have only a couple of weeks left before epic battles stop being
theory for most of the playerbase and start being fact. We'll see how it
pans out when the Orcs meet the road.



<img alt="" src="http://www.blogcdn.com/massively.joystiq.com/media/2011/11/xffxiv-materia-epl-826.jpg.pagespeed.ic.7KcTVolVrX.jpg" align="left" />Massively's not big on scored reviews -- what use are those to ever-changing MMOs? That's why we bring you first impressions, previews, hands-on experiences,
and even follow-up impressions for nearly every game we stumble across.
First impressions count for a lot, but games evolve, so why shouldn't
our opinions?

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