Skirmishes System part 2
Developer Diary: SoM Skirmishes: Story Instances
Brian âZombie Columbusâ continues his series of developer diaries about the new Skirmish system coming in The Lord of the Rings Online: Siege of Mirkwood with Part 2: Story Instances. To read Part 1: Overview, click here!
Now that youâve read the overview of the Skirmish system, letâs start next with what Skirmishes are at their very core: instances. We believe instanced spaces are some of the best content in LOTRO. Instances allow us to create a directed experience, set up interesting interactions with NPC's, and fine tune battles. Almost more importantly, instances allow us to tell stories. You can't set the Prancing Pony on fire in public Bree, or have Elrondâs sons join the battle against invaders in the public portions of the game. Instead, as instances, you can expect Skirmishes to contain all of the things you've seen in other instances: monsters, quests, NPC interaction, bosses and interesting locals. Because they are Skirmishes, each of these things will have a twist that we'll talk about now, and in future weeks.
Location, Location, Location:
Beyond dialogue, there are many tools to telling a story. Location, weather and scenery all add to a storytelling experience. Because of this, we chose pre-existing locations from around Middle-earth for Skirmishes to take place in. As instances, the return to these locations will take place separate from other players, allowing us to add any number of special changes. The Defence of The Prancing Pony is one that we are especially proud of. For the first time, you will be able to fight bandits in the familiar streets and alleys of Bree, a Bree covered in deep snow-drifts! We've taken this opportunity to utilize and re-imagine a number of popular or underused locales from around Middle-earth.
War Comes to Middle-earth!
Skirmishes represent the increasing military action spreading around Middle-earth. The Free Peoples have begun to mobilize and have set up Skirmish Camps near most major cities. There, commoners band together to defend of their homes. You, the LOTRO players, have always represented the more heroic citizens of Middle-earth, and it's time you helped down on the front lines. Players will be able to bring their considerable power into the midst of battles for strategic locations, and to defend against the advances of the Enemy. You will not be alone; each player will be able to bring a personally trained Soldier into battle. More on that in the "Soldier" section later!
The skirmishes and battles for Middle-earth will often take place around âControl Points.â These points represent important locations of strategic importance in the particular Skirmish. In some Skirmishes you will be tasked with taking each point back from the enemy; in others they will indicate from where enemy attacks will come. They will all be recognizable by the Skirmish Banner that flies over them. Red indicates the control point is in the hands of the enemy. Banners will turn green once the control point is re-taken by the Free Peoples.
Much like our other story instances, Skirmishes can be replayed if you are so inclined. With Skirmishes though, the Reflecting Pool is not needed; the new Skirmish-join UI will be all you need. Weâll talk more about that system later, but for now itâs important to understand that this repeatability has been a fundamental part of the design of Skirmishes from the start. To further this goal, we decided to keep Skirmishes on the shorter side. While LOTRO has many enjoyable large instances, the time commitment for these is sometimes too much for players. Skirmishes are designed to take between 20 and 40 minutes, longer for larger group sizes. We hope that they will feel like âPopcornâ experiences -- fun and enjoyable, so why not have some more? Our intent is that players will find the time to do a quick Skirmish before logging off, or as their kinmates gather for an event, or log on for just a half hour and have a complete adventure.
Lastly, Skirmishes will not just be a series of disconnected adventures. A number of them are parts of the Epic book, tying in the battles of the Free Peoples with the larger War of the Ring. Once they have been played, they can be replayed just like any other Skirmish.
Next Time: Randomization and Scaling
Weâve established the basics of what Skirmish are; instances with LOTROâs high storytelling standards. For the subsequent diaries, weâll be talking about what makes them unique. The first topic weâll be covering will be the randomization and scaling of Skirmishes. In later installments we will also talk about Rewards, Soldiers, and Accessibility, and then have a Summary / Shout-out. Stay tuned!