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  1. #1
    Sapience is offline Former Community Manager & Harbinger of Soon
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    Exclamation 20 Questions – Big Battles

    We’ve compiled 20 questions specifically related to a new feature coming with Helm’s Deep that we’re calling “Big Battles” (though that name may change). In some cases questions overlapped. Those questions were grouped and an answer was given to both points. So, let’s talk about Big Battles.



    Q1: What are “Big Battles” and what do you mean by "big"? How many active enemies will be involved?
    Q2: Why the change from traditional instance clusters to this new system?

    The Battle for Helm’s Deep is a new style of instance content. A brand new system is being utilized to create the Helm’s Deep experience in the way we feel it deserves, and demands, to be presented. It was clear from the start that in order to present the scope and measure of full throated war, we could not simply build instance, skirmish, and/or raid content in the fashion we had always done with the same tools we had been using.

    We spent a lot of time at the drawing board and flipped the script on our overall way of thinking and approach. We asked ourselves not “What can we make with the pieces we have?” but instead “What pieces do we need to make what we want?” We shifted the narrative so that instead of asking ourselves “Why?” we asked “Why not?”

    To do it justice, we had to innovate and make something new and unique that pushed on all the boundaries:



    • The visual and aesthetic experience
    • The moment to moment gameplay
    • The strategic and tactical decisions that need to be made
    • The definitions of victory and defeat and how those are measured and rewarded
    • The way the player interacts with the objects and environment in meaningful ways
    • The way players interact with each other and the decisions that prompts
    • How those objects and environment interact back
    • How non-cap characters get into the system and what allows them to have a satisfying experience
    • The choices and options presented to the player to allow them to approach the battle and the decisions to be made in the manner of their choosing.


    Q3: Can a level 10 character group with a level 95 character in a Battle?
    Q4: How can a level 10 character hope to contribute successfully to the Battle?


    The Battle for Helm’s Deep utilizes a new feature called Character Upscaling. When you join an instance in the Battle for Helm’s Deep we scale your character’s stats and skills to level 95. Your equipment is scaled as well, with the level differential between you and the equipment being maintained through the upscaling.
    With everyone now being the same level, 95, groups can be assembled from anyone on the server available to play. While an upscaled 95 will be less powerful than a true 95, through the Medals system they will still be able to meaningfully contribute.

    Q5: Do Big Battles support traditional group sizes? What about solo and duo players?
    Q6: Will group instances be different from the solo and duo instances or is it all scaled like in the past?


    Each instance in the Battle for Helm’s Deep has a solo option by default. The solo option allows two players to be in the instance together, but does not increase its difficulty when the second player joins. Select instances of the battle will also feature certain group sizes as options, either 3, 6, or 12. The group version is a completely different space from the solo and has been handcrafted to be suitable for that player count.

    Q7: Do Big Battles use the same "Tier" system (I, II, IIc) as traditional raids?
    Q8: Are Big Battles Tier'd like current skirms & raids? Do they get Progessively more difficult or do we just wash, rinse & repeat?


    The Battle for Helm’s Deep only has one difficulty tier, however through the new Medals system we are able to judge how well you do at a given objective within the space and modify rewards based on having done better or worse at it. This creates a variable difficulty system the user can control on the fly as they are able to attempt more or less of the scoring criteria. The more of the criteria you do, the higher your reward, but the more difficult it is to succeed.

    Q9: What are the differences between Big Battles & Traditional Raids?

    Traditional Raids and Instance content focuses on the player and his group versus the boss and enemies. The primary goal and direct focus of both sides is purely to kill the other. In the Battle for Helm’s Deep the enemies goal is to tear down the walls, destroy the fortress, and slaughter everyone within. It is the complete and utter destruction of Rohan. The players are another enemy on the wall that need to be killed along the way, not the primary focus of the enemies efforts.
    Within traditional raids all players are focused on the boss and any adds. This typically happens with everyone being bunched up together in the same 20 square meters and the majority of players attacking the same target. The Battle for Helm’s Deep requires groups to work together, communicate and coordinate at a larger strategic and tactical level. To find the greatest success and reward, the group will have to split up and be in several locations across Helm’s Deep dealing with multiple goals and a variety of challenges, yet still all be working together and coordinating on the larger objectives.

    Q10: Will Helm’s Deep also feature traditional boss progression style group content?

    No. Helm’s Deep instance content is being represented fully with the Big Battles system.

    Q11: How do the devs see Big Battles fitting in with the other types of instanced content currently in the game?
    Q12: Is the Big Battle system something that will be used only for Helm's Deep, or will we see more of it in the future?


    Different locations, stories and events in the game necessitate different gameplay to truly tell them in the most compelling manner. This new system is another vehicle for us to deliver and package gameplay in order to tell certain stories. There are locations and events where it will be the correct method, and others where instance clusters or skirmishes are the correct choice. This gives us another tool in the toolbox, it doesn’t replace and invalidate the other options. Our intention is that Scaling Instances, Skirmishes, Big Battles, and new clusters can co-exist with each other, each providing a different focus of rewards, target playerbase, and gameplay.

    Q13: How will Big Battles fit in with the storyline of Helm's Deep? Will participation in Big Battles be required to complete the storyline or is this an optional system?

    The Battle for Helm’s Deep will be integrated into the Western Rohan epic in much the way skirmishes were for Mirkwood. The epic will also have its own content for Helm's Deep, fleshing out many more focused details of the characters and events during and related to the battle.

    Q14: Will I be able to Play My character or is it more inline with how Monster Play Work?

    You always play your character in the instances in the Battle for Helm’s Deep. There is no session play involved with the system.

    Q15: How much time should be budgeted to participate in a Big Battle? Twenty minutes? An Hour?

    The goal is the solo spaces clock in at no more than half an hour, with group spaces not running longer than an hour max.

    Q16: How often can they be repeated? Are there "locks" to cool down?

    As of now there are no locks within the Battle for Helm’s Deep, they can replayed as often as the player desires. We’ll be monitoring whether or not they’re required throughout balance, testing, and feedback.

    Q17: How are rewards (loot) distributed?

    As players obtain Medals for the various objectives throughout the Battle for Helm’s Deep they will earn class based rewards. The higher the quality of the medals earned, the better the quality of the rewards earned. It will also utilize the Marks, Medallions and Seals system.

    Q18: Big Battles is Plural .. does this mean that there will be several different ones for Helm's Deep or it is indicitive of "many battles to complete a war" sort of thing.

    Helm’s Deep has been time snapped at several key points to create multiple Battle Instances.

    Q19: Are Big Battles restricted to canon battles i.e. Helm's Deep, The Battle of the Pelennor fields, etc, or will there be 'creative license' to create others?

    There’s a scale factor required for an event before it makes sense for it to be conveyed in this way. You would expect something of the scale of thousands of characters coming together in battles mentioned somewhere in the books. That being said, if a compelling story can be told that enhances the less detailed portions of the world and lore and this is the best system to tell that with then we’ll certainly look to utilize it.

    Q20: Is it a PvP Type Structure where we can eventually see PvP added to the model?

    No. Big Battles has been designed and implemented as a purely PvE system.
    Last edited by Sapience; Feb 06 2014 at 11:21 AM.

  2. #2
    This was a pretty good 20-questions and for better or worse it certainly gives the player a good feel of what to expect from Helms-Deep 'endgame'. As someone who primarily enjoys raiding I am not sure whether I will ultimately enjoy the system or not but it sounds like it will at least bring something new, even if it doesn't pan out quite as good as it sounds on paper. I can also see lag being an issue with such 'big-battles' as currently the servers/client are struggling with FttLM T2 CM and even SH HM when there are lots of mobs active.

    A question; will the system will be built in to the Instance Finder panel allowing groups to be formed via a queue system? Or do groups have to be pre-formed as they would with a raid skirmish?

    Anyway, credit where credit is due, a very informative 20-questions with plenty of substance and no silly questions etc. Good work I guess!

  3. #3
    Can players obtain adequate performance in Big Battles on a computer with LOTRO's current minimum and recommended system requirements?

    Do the developers frequently test their work on systems with these specifications?

  4. #4
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    Sounds really interesting! But I hope there are great rewards for completing a battle grouped. Don't like that "everything solo" model...
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  5. #5
    Sapience is offline Former Community Manager & Harbinger of Soon
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fredelas View Post
    Can players obtain adequate performance in Big Battles on a computer with LOTRO's current minimum and recommended system requirements?

    Do the developers frequently test their work on systems with these specifications?
    We are currently in the process of reviewing our minimum and recommended specs. It has been clear since Moria instruduced a heavy physics hit that the specs may need to be adjusted and Rohan made it more clear. As Helms deep uses a combination of these techs, we felt it was the right time to revisit those requirements. We expect to have information on that in the near future.

  6. #6
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    Well, you've got me excited about the instances for HD now.

    As my kin is a large one with multiple levels, we run groups with a fairly wide range of levels, keyed to the lowest level participant. That, of course, means the higher level folks get less return in xp and rewards. (Hopefully just as much as anyone else in fun, however.)

    This mechanism will allow us to all benefit on a more or less par.

    I look forward to seeing how this works.
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  7. #7
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    Hurrah, a little more information on the expansion, and a good read too, but never comes without questions;

    1a) So I assume the 'Big Battles' will be the end-game of Helms Deep on its release, much like Draigoch for Isengard, and Hytbold for Rohan?
    1b) Much like previous expansions, are instances slated to arrive sometime after the expansion, or will this new system see more content added instead of new instance content, giving us more 'Big Battles' instead?

    2) The medal system sounds intriguing; how will the medal that is rewarded be calculated? Hopefully it will be more sensitive in comparison to Guild Wars 2's medal system by which a gold medal means you only need to do one hit to an enemy.

    3) And on this quote:

    The group version is a completely different space from the solo and has been handcrafted to be suitable for that player count.
    Does that mean that if you open a solo 'Big Battle', and then later run a 12-raid 'Big Battle', would there be different mechanics in the fight, or different encounters, or an entirely different 'Big Battle' itself? And if so, will that version be challenging, offering the raiders something to occupy themselves with - acting as a goal to complete for example.
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  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Sapience View Post
    We are currently in the process of reviewing our minimum and recommended specs. It has been clear since Moria instruduced a heavy physics hit that the specs may need to be adjusted and Rohan made it more clear. As Helms deep uses a combination of these techs, we felt it was the right time to revisit those requirements. We expect to have information on that in the near future.
    Sounds like this is still on the drawing board. Thus puting any release pretty far down the road. Please don't rush it if the extra time gives a better product!!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sapience View Post
    The Battle for Helm’s Deep requires groups to work together, communicate and coordinate at a larger strategic and tactical level. To find the greatest success and reward, the group will have to split up and be in several locations across Helm’s Deep dealing with multiple goals and a variety of challenges, yet still all be working together and coordinating on the larger objectives.
    I do like the sound of this, and I hope the final implementation encourages groups to try for the harder objectives rather than finding an easy mode or fast run way to get what you want.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sapience View Post
    As Helms deep uses a combination of these techs, we felt it was the right time to revisit those requirements. We expect to have information on that in the near future.
    Hopefully prior to, or concurrently with the Pre-order announcement these 'revisited requirements' can be published.

    Short of everyone being invited to the beta before pre-purchasing, it would be nice to have some form of 'performance test' app to allow us to get an idea of how our specific system will handle the expected demands before purchasing.
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  11. #11
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    Very interesting! Of course, we'll have to see if the experience matches the ambitions of the designers, but it definitely sounds like something new and different to try. It also sounds very much like DDO's Challenge system -- you enter instanced areas with several pre-determined 'goals' that are often time-based and not kill-all-the-enemies, and you earn more stars and tokens (medals?) the more goals you complete successfully.

    So does a level 10 character who's been upscaled to level 95 earn level 10 XP or level 95 XP for this? Or no XP at all?

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  13. #13
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    I hope this new mechanic will use and make use of the instance finder a lot more so that we can join pugs easily, but at the same time, I hope, seeing as it's supposed to be a coordinated defense, that we can join as a group like we can now. I don't see why it would be different, but if it got the instance finder used more, and let lower level players join, I think it will let more players more easily be involved, at least theoretically, which is probably the plan.
    Kind of surprised that someone what low of a level can skip to Rohan, even if it is an instance. Will the gear that they can get be completely separate from now, where it scales as you level with it, or will it be like a bunch of sets, every 3-5 levels (with the Medals), that you can trade for. I personally will like that I can use any level though, because I have 4 capped characters, and any more are hard to upkeep for my play style; being able to use a lower level alt will be a nice way to experience all of the classes in the battle without being capped.
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  14. #14
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    It sounds like an intriguing system. Looking forward to taking a look at it at release. Certainly sounds like less of a grind that Hytbold, and a way to blend solo and group together without enforcing one play style.

    My only worry is that with all the new tech being introduced some of the old stuff is being left behind. When did we last get a new skirmish?

    Helm's Deep is a natural fit, as is Pelennor Fields, but as alluded to big events are chronicled by Tolkien. Outside of those, I'm not sure how this will work. Time will tell, I suppose.

    So...is this the herald of a new period of Helm's Deep information, Sapience?

  15. #15
    Sapience is offline Former Community Manager & Harbinger of Soon
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crell_1 View Post
    Hopefully prior to, or concurrently with the Pre-order announcement these 'revisited requirements' can be published.

    Short of everyone being invited to the beta before pre-purchasing, it would be nice to have some form of 'performance test' app to allow us to get an idea of how our specific system will handle the expected demands before purchasing.
    1 - yes. At least that's my expectation. Though it's important to point out that any changes are probably already needed, HD won't magically make that happen. It will just make the need that much more apparent (whether you purchase the expansion or not).


    Quote Originally Posted by Tinuryane View Post
    When is access to Beta expected to be released?
    Exactly when we intend it to.
    You'll have to wait a bit longer for that info I'm afraid.

  16. #16
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    This sounds extremely interesting and I’m excited to see it implemented. You guys even made sure to work in the different play styles so that everybody gets in on the action. I have to admit that while I’m mainly a solo kind of player this might get me more interested in group play as the mechanics sounds fun!

    Do medals advance through with extra time spent in the system? For example will I be able to turn in lower level medals for a higher level one after I have earned enough of the lower ones?
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sapience View Post

    Exactly when we intend it to.
    You'll have to wait a bit longer for that info I'm afraid.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sapience View Post
    Q13: How will Big Battles fit in with the storyline of Helm's Deep? Will participation in Big Battles be required to complete the storyline or is this an optional system?

    The Battle for Helm’s Deep will be integrated into the Western Rohan epic in much the way skirmishes were for Mirkwood. The epic will also have its own content for Helm's Deep, fleshing out many more focused details of the characters and events during and related to the battle.
    If its integrated into the western rohan epics (like the example of Mirkwood skirms), how can a level 10 join without doing the required epics? Unless I am missing something here.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sapience View Post
    Though it's important to point out that any changes are probably already needed, HD won't magically make that happen. It will just make the need that much more apparent (whether you purchase the expansion or not).
    Just because its currently quite functional or smooth to do what we want to enjoy, doesn't mean that performance wont degrade as we move on to the new content.

    I T2 raid on my system, but I'm running with very specific options turned off, in DX9 while others are turned all the way up, so that I have a smooth experience. If I had to say, bump up to DX10, the performance demands would be quite noticeable.


    There are other similiar kinds of bumps, and the nature of 'mounted combat' should make it apparent that what's playable elsewhere, may not be smooth in the latest content.

    If the 'Big Battles Tech' is more demanding or places different demands on our system than what we've got currently, its entirely possible we wont know until we show up in them, or there's a tech-demo.

    I realize its complicated, but it is still nice to find out if we're getting our marginal shift toward 'new minimum' or if we're on the bleeding edge of 'average', in terms of 'functional gameplay'.

    Thank you for your efforts.
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  20. #20
    Sapience is offline Former Community Manager & Harbinger of Soon
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crell_1 View Post
    I realize its complicated, but it is still nice to find out if we're getting our marginal shift toward 'new minimum' or if we're on the bleeding edge of 'average', in terms of 'functional gameplay'.
    I would think it to be more marginal than dramatic. It's also probably worth noting that, as with all min and rec specs, they should be considered starting points not the be all and end all of performance.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Sapience View Post
    Q3: Can a level 10 character group with a level 95 character in a Battle?
    Q4: How can a level 10 character hope to contribute successfully to the Battle?


    The Battle for Helm’s Deep utilizes a new feature called Character Upscaling. When you join an instance in the Battle for Helm’s Deep we scale your character’s stats and skills to level 95. Your equipment is scaled as well, with the level differential between you and the equipment being maintained through the upscaling.
    With everyone now being the same level, 95, groups can be assembled from anyone on the server available to play. While an upscaled 95 will be less powerful than a true 95, through the Medals system they will still be able to meaningfully contribute.
    Thanks for the early 20 questions! However I am curious how non-LI items, pre-ROI items, and items that are no longer obtainable in the game will scale, if a lower level player so chooses to bring those? Some may pose a problem in power if they are scaled incorrectly, not to mention how tedious it would be to make sure all items do not contribute too much power. Is there specifics on how they will scale?

  22. #22
    Wh-what is this strange and unusual sensation? Excitement for future LOTRO content? I... I don't know how to deal with this.
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  23. #23
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    Great info!

    So now.. what about pre-orders related stuff? :P

    (No Sapience, we won't give you a break )

    Thanks!

  24. #24
    Sounds interesting, though I'm a little iffy on entry level players beign able to jump straight into end-game at Helm's Deep without having to work their way through the game's content. I've never really had a problem with things becoming more and more easy and accessible...until now. This might be a little over the line.

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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by JustAmy View Post
    If its integrated into the western rohan epics (like the example of Mirkwood skirms), how can a level 10 join without doing the required epics? Unless I am missing something here.
    I would assume it isn't going to be quest locked but like a lot of the instances unlocked once you're at the correct level which in this case is 10.
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