He starts off explaining that the main goal for the Epic Story is to visit as many of the “most exciting places” within Middle-earth,
The overall plan for the Epic Story in LOTRO reads a bit like a “Most Exciting Places to Visit!” travelogue for Middle-earth. Consider Volume I: the Last Homely House in Rivendell; the evil city of Carn Dûm in Angmar; the ruins of Annúminas on Lake Evendim; the ring-forges of Eregion. Volume II has a similar list: the dwarf-kingdom of Moria; the golden city of Caras Galadhon in Lothlórien; Sauron’s fortress of Dol Guldur in Mirkwood.
and that Volume 3 will continue on this theme starting with one of the most notable regions, Isengard. Of course, another standing goal is to make the story feel like it is part of the “…ongoing story of Middle-earth,”.
Moving on, MadeOfLions discusses how in order to help distribute server load content designers are encouraged “…to come up with ways to help spread the player base out a bit during those first few hours.” So with this in mind he created a branch early in Book 4 that will send some players to either the Bonevales or Trum Dreng.
The path you choose will determine the quests you see as you begin to explore Dunland, and testing has shown that this setup results in about a 50/50 split of players, which makes the server guys happy. Don’t worry, though: if you want to go to the other area after you finish with the area you chose, you’ll still be able to find quests there. We’re not locking away the landscape quests behind the path you choose, so all you completionists out there can also head to the other route and complete the quests there, if you wish.
Goldenstar and I both went to the Bonevales, but it’s good to know we can go to Trum Dreng if we choose to do so. I think that I will eventually go up there just to see what the quests say story-wise, as I seem to be drawn to the story this time around.
In the next also discusses the use of Phasing throughout Rise of Isengard to move quest-givers and even change the state of entire villages. I have seen some of this in action and I have to say that it’s pretty impressive. As far as the story goes, MadeOfLions also discusses how the design team approaches the development of each Epic Book and how Isengard was a bit of a task.
The amount of ground we had to cover, from a story perspective, was substantial: we wanted to show the rise in power and importance of Saruman’s forces in Isengard as well as continuing the Grey Company’s journey south into Dunland. And then there’s the matter of a certain prince of a certain southern kingdom who is about to take a significant role on the stage of Middle-earth…
At first the team planned to spread this all between several Epic Books, but ultimately felt that this was unnecessary and put it into one large book containing 30 chapters and 59 quests. (That’s a lot of story!)
So far I’ve seen a bit of the story and what I’ve seen I quite like. I’ve actually found myself reading most of the quest text for the Epic Story and it holds a lot of really interesting plots and storylines. The length is a bit daunting to me because when I start on something I tend to want to concentrate on it solely until it’s finished. But, with the structure that they’ve implemented with Isengard, it’s a bit tricky to do that. Let us know what you think about the Epic Story and the expansion in general thus far in the comments below!