The latest Dev Corner thread Angmar Revamp

The latest Dev Corner thread is now open. The topic this month is the Angmar Revamp.  What's new? What's changed? Ask your burning questions about the improvements to the Witch-King's land here. Click here to join in the discussion.

But first we would like to remind our visitors about the last Developer Diary: The Great Angmar Revamp

Join Content Designers Amlug and MadeOfLions in their quest to improve and revamp the Angmar region! If you've been exploring or questing in Angmar, this update is for you. The Great Angmar Revamp will provide insight on the challenges of improving an existing area, as well as a window into the exciting world of content design!

by Jeff 'MadeOfLions' Libby and Jared 'Amlug' Hall-Dugas

The yellow sun slipped beneath the rim of the encircling hills, and the land was shrouded in shadow. In the dim half-light, two figures could be seen, walking north along a dusty road. They made no attempt at stealth. The pair could be seen for miles in every direction, but if this troubled either of them, they made no sign.

Amlug: If this is another boar quest....

MadeOfLions: It won't be. Angmar was the realm of the Witch-king, and that means Evil.

Amlug: You're right. I'm probably worrying for nothing.

MadeOfLions: Probably!

As our intrepid heroes arrived at the crest of the hill, a warm and fetid wind blew out of the east, from the great swamp of Malenhad. Amlug scowled, but not at the swamp-odor.

Amlug (pointing at a charging boar): Doesn't he know where he is? If there's one place that we shouldn't be fighting boars, it's the Land of Angmar!

After a flurry of blows, MadeOfLions squinted down at the corpse of the porcine beast, and absentmindedly kicked the dust from one of his boots.

MadeOfLions: Well at least it was an evil boar...

Amlug: That's just not good enough! And it's not just the boars, either. Angmar is entirely too much "wild kingdom" for its own good. I think that there should be much less in the way of livestock and much more in the way of evildoers. Do you remember what we're supposed to be doing?

MadeOfLions: The chieftain of that town we passed said he wanted us to defeat some orcs, and that they should be wandering around somewhere out here. You know, like orcs do.

Amlug: All right, then. Do you see any orcs?

The movement of the crimson moon betrayed the passage of long hours as our heroes sliced and diced their way through Angmar.

MadeOfLions: I see a lot of aurochs. And that's aurochs plural, not aurochs singular.

Amlug: Me too. You don't think that those aurochs might be 'taking the spot' of our orcs, do you? Should we try and take one out?

MadeOfLions: I doubt it. After all, it would take a whole fellowship of heroes to bring down even a single aurochs, and that chieftain assured us that we'd be able to take on the orcs by ourselves.

Amlug: He did say that. Of course, he also told us to get twenty-four silver nuggets from that cave...

MadeOfLions: I still don't know what that whole garrison of orcs was doing in there. It was a little cramped to be filled with enough orcs to overrun the North Downs thrice over. Barely any breathing room at all!

Amlug: ... and to then go into another cave to get gold dust...

MadeOfLions: Do you think maybe that chieftain was just trying to waste our time?

The two considered this notion for a few uncomfortable minutes, and then started down the slope, in search of fame, glory, and experience points.


Content Design Gained a Level!

A funny thing happens when you've been in game development for awhile: you start to get pretty good at it, and as you get more comfortable with the tools and better learn the scope of the playground, you start to develop more efficient ways of working. You learn new ways of accomplishing tasks better and faster, and you begin to push the boundaries of what you previously thought were stone-carved limits. In the realm of content design, this is a great thing; as we've gained experience, we've been able to make some of our most complex and interesting content in the months even after the game launched!

The flipside of this otherwise rosy occurrence for most game developers comes when they look back at some of their earlier content. In hindsight, they often can't help but ask themselves, "If I knew then what I know now, what would I have done differently?"

Which brings us to Angmar.


Room for Improvement

By the time development began on the Land of Angmar, the last region included in LOTRO at launch, the pressure was on: not only did we need to polish the rest of the game, but we needed to create an Angmar that lived up to its billing as the former home of the Witch-king. It was a period of late nights and early mornings, with all of us working at full speed to get everything done in time - and with a great deal of effort, we crossed the finish line and managed to avoid having to rename the game "The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of the North Downs"!

We spent a lot of time polishing the regions in our game; no matter how careful you are when you go about implementing quests, or how detailed a plan you write up before you begin, it always, always, always takes more than one pass at a region before it's really up to snuff. Still, there will always be things that can be found only by thoroughly hammering on the content in unexpected ways -- ways which only bona fide players can do. For all the pressure under which Angmar was created, there is a lot of content there for players to experience.

Six months after LOTRO's launch, what are some of the things we'd like to change about Angmar that have come up from player feedback and our own internal reviews? Here are some of the issues we've identified:


  • Quest flow is sometimes inconsistent and doesn't send players to the correct level bands
  • Quest difficulty is mislabeled in many cases, both for Suggested Levels and Suggested Group Size
  • The spawns in Angmar feel out of place (boars again? Really?), and Elite mobs should not share spawn-points with Normal-statted mobs
  • Spawn density in certain locations is too great, resulting in very frustrating gameplay
  • The ratio of Full Fellowship quests to Solo quests is not correct; more Solo quests are required

What Angmar needs is a healthy scrubbing to bring it more in line with the rest of the game as far as consistency goes, and improve the experience for everybody.


Portions of the Plan

We've given Angmar some time to simmer, and after gathering feedback and data from our players and other sources, we've formulated a plan. The Reported Quest Difficulty Levels and Recommendations thread on the LOTRO forums has been particularly helpful in pinpointing some of the inconsistent quests. We also played through the entire region and took copious notes on improvements and polish we can add to Angmar. This is a small sampling of our notes from Lehma-koti, the first quest hub you reach upon entering Angmar:

Some Polish Tasks for Quests from LEHMA-KOTI, the Earth-kin Camp






Silken Strands



Billboard needs work; quest needs to be L40; make Spider POIs in the Ram Duath so it's not all mixed-spawn camping; ensure that spiders wander, and don't just stand there

Claws of the Earth



Make Cave-claw POIs in the Ram Duath so it's not all mixed-spawn camping; size down the cave-claws so they're not ridiculously-sized; ensure that cave-claws all wander, and don't just stand there

Fruits of the Earth



Root Vegetables need to only appear in Duvaire; remove them from everywhere else, and increase the number of spawn points

The Far Reaching Hand



Send this to new Angmarim POI (in the 'bend') instead; make this a Solo quest (the POI should be soloable by having the boss patrol throughout the 'bend'; make this L42; it should become the third quest in the Orc arc (instead of the second); remove the Angmarim from Skathmur and make them Orcs instead

Stolen Skulls



Should become Small Fellowship; picking up the skull needs induction and a billboard; remove skulls from the rest of the camps and point player only to Skathmur; Santtu should have an ending drama where he places the skull down by his feet; make the text match up with the fact that you only need one skull (not many)


We're not only looking at specific quests within Angmar, but also taking a step back and seeing where we can improve things on a larger scale. When playing through quests at Aughaire, the Nomad Moot, we decided that the seemingly random manner in which quests there opened up was less than ideal and could be made more intuitive. As a result, we'll be adding a new "Challenge" quest line (and removing the old one) -- as you complete the new quests in this line, quests in Aughaire will become available in clusters and you will be directed to each cluster. This diagram will show you the new structure for Aughaire's quest flow:


Angmar Revamp
(Click for larger image) 


As you can see from the chart, the plan calls for more than just scrubbing existing quests: new quests will be added as well, and we hope to fill some gaps in coverage (especially those for solo adventurers) with these additions.

In some cases, our research revealed gameplay that was unintentionally frustrating. For example, most of the quests that lead you into Imlad Balchorth come from the quest hub of Gabilshathur, far to the south. In order to improve the experience of adventuring in this area, we'll be adding a new quest hub near the defeat circle at Imlad Balchorth. This serves two purposes: it means that you won't be bombarded with quests for the higher-level Imlad Balchorth until you're ready to tackle them, and you'll have the opportunity to focus on quests out of Gabilshathur when you arrive there, rather than being immediately vectored away.


The Impact

We're planning these fairly sweeping changes for Angmar during Book 12, and this means that your quest log will be affected. Almost every quest that belongs to the Angmar category in your quest log will be versioned, which means that these quests will be taken out of your log if you have them underway when the patch goes live. When Book 12 gets closer, we'll release a list of all the quests that will be removed from your log, and a more detailed breakdown of changes. Admittedly, when you collect the quest again, you'll be playing the freshly-polished and improved version, but if you've collected nine pea-plants and need ten, you might want to just get that tenth one and turn in the quest before Book 12 arrives.

You might ask what this means for quest loot, and you'd be right to do so! No changes are being made to any of the quest items that players have already collected. The new quests will have brand new loot while the updated quests will have the loot in them updated (increase/decrease to item level, change the names of the items etc.) Nothing already acquired will change, but items you were working towards may change if you do not acquire them before the Book 12.

We sincerely hope that the freshly-scrubbed Angmar region will be more fun and rewarding when we're finished, so put on your hard hats, hang on, and mind the dust!


And so, with an invigorated sense of purpose, our heroes gallantly marched toward the sunrise, confident in their plan to bring new light to Angmar. With unflinching steps, they strode forth to their destiny.

MadeOfLions (running off the path): Hang on a sec! I see blueberries!

Amlug (following): If we have to stop every five minutes for you to pick ingredients...

His voice echoed on the distant rocks and hung on the still air for a moment before it was picked up by a cool breeze from the south, and was gone.

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