A new and very interesting developer's journal was posted on the official Lord of The Rings Online website. It tells us about the upcoming area called Forochel in Book 13.
After weeks of teasing the Isengard players and later the Live forums, it is now known without a doubt that Forochel is the newest playable region for The Lord of the Rings OnlineTM: Shadows of AngmarTM. With the launch of Book 13: Doom of the Last-king, players will get the opportunity to explore this brand new region (aimed at level 44-50 characters) and earn the trust of the Lossoth - the native folk of the Northern Wastes.
Forochel is a region that many of us on the World and Content teams have been looking forward to for a long time now. It is off the beaten path of the Fellowship, which affords us a lot of flexibility in terms of design. This new landscape also gave us an opportunity to try out some new tools that were just recently developed for our upcoming expansion, Mines of MoriaTM!
World Design Goals
By the time we started development of Forochel, we were quite familiar with wintry landscapes. Between the Misty Mountains, the Coldfells, and portions of Ered Luin (and New England being what it is), we know snow! The trick with Forochel was coming up with a presentation of a snowy landscape that didn't look like our previous areas.
To achieve that biome difference, we hit the photo and film references. Like all of our regions, we called upon references from the real world to develop a set of textures and assets that would make Forochel stand out. During this process, we decided upon a distinct lack of trees across the majority of Forochel as being one of the region's distinguishing factors. The lack of trees led to some interesting challenges; trees add a lot to our landscape - they fill space, provide decoration, and easily break up sight-lines and can make an area feel more interesting and varied. We still used trees in some portions of Forochel (primarily as a way to introduce players to the region) but this goal forced us to think differently in how we decorated our landscape.
One of our chief goals for Forochel was to make it feel massive, and we were able to achieve this in two ways. Since the completion of Book 11: Defenders of Eriador, the World team has been working on Forochel. This allowed the World team plenty of time to develop and polish the landscape before heavy content development on the region occurred. This also allowed the Content team the time to fill the landscape with quests, and at the end of Forochel's development, we have a region that rivals the North Downs in size. In addition to the scope of the playable landscape, we wanted the region to feel expansive, so we used region-impassables that are much lower than those found in our other regions. This gave us the opportunity to develop forests and tundra beyond the playable areas, giving this already large area a much larger feel. This also provides an excellent opportunity to expand Forochel in the future if we so desire.
Another special addition to the landscape of Forochel is the introduction of some brand new landscape technology - Dual Heightmap Landscape. This feature allows us to develop more organic cave settings on the landscape (similar to the Dwarf neighborhood) without having to use large numbers of rocks to plug the ceiling. This tech offers some very exciting possibilities for the future and we‘re happy to introduce this feature to players in Forochel.
Check out (it's definately a cool read) the full journal here.