Ten Ton Hammer is offering up a hands-on preview of The Prince of Rohan, Turbine's fifth major content update for The Lord of the Rings Online since the Middle-earth MMO switched over to a free-to-play business model. Quite a bit of developer commentary is included, as well:
Jeff Libby was eager to show off some of the interesting stuff that he's been working on for the epic story, particularly the updated art and tech that has gone into the battle instances. Some of this was mentioned in his Volume III Book 5 Quest Notes Dev Diary, but we looked at some of the more detailed behind-the-scenes aspects in the play session. In order to add a more "epic battle" sort of feel, the uruks kick up clouds of dust, and there are plans to add circling crows flying overhead. This will give it a more authentic-feeling battle-field vibe. Additionally, the uruk soldiers have undergone a bit of a recolor so they are easier to tell apart from the Rohirrim soldiers, making it look more like two armies fighting one another.
The tech that went into the battle instances - the combination of hostiles and static non-hostiles - is a refinement of the tech that went into the Wulf's Cleft instance. "Wulf's Cleft was version 1.0 of that; this is version 1.5," Jeff explained. The idea is to keep developing this battle-instance technology to accommodate battles that will be growing larger and larger in scale - keep in mind, Helm's Deep is not that far away in terms of story timeline.
The cut-scene movies between the battles are also fairly unique. Instead of showing dramatic scenes with lots of camera zooming and dollying efects, these new cinematics are more like a documentary about the battle, with pieces moving on a map to show troop movements. Since all of the instances take place over one long, bloody day and show different stages of the battle, from the first volley of arrows to the conclusion at the Ford of Isen, the cut scenes serve to make the player feel more involved and personally invested in the outcome.