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Update 10 - Instance Cluster Developer Diary

Update 10 - Instance Cluster Developer Diary

By: Joe "JWBarry" Barry

Aloha, and welcome to Erebor!

The second half of the instance cluster takes place within the lands of Erebor, at the town of Dale and at the Lonely Mountain. It tells the story of the Battle of Dale and Siege of Erebor. Sauron sent a large Easterling army north to defeat the Men of Dale and Dwarves of Erebor at the same time he was engaged with Gondor.

The 6-man instance is called 'The Bells of Dale' and tells the story of the Battle of Dale. You enter the city as the Easterling army is just starting their attack. Your goal is to get across the city, reach the bell tower, and ring the bells to alert the people of Dale that they need to evacuate to the Lonely Mountain.

Together, the three raids tell the story of the Siege of Erebor. After taking Dale, the Easterlings encamp around the Lonely Mountain and besiege the Men of Dale and Dwarves of Erebor hiding within. This siege lasts for nearly a month and is only broken once word reaches the armies of Sauron's defeat. The three raids take place at the beginning, middle, and end of the siege itself.

The Bells of Dale

The Bells of Dale is a 6-man instance taking place shortly before the siege known in The Lord of the Rings as the Battle of Dale. This encompasses the fall of Dale, the siege of Erebor, and the counterassault by the besieged Dwarves and Dale-men after the destruction of the Ring. For this instance – and the subsequent three raids – we are stepping outside of time and getting a peek at the future in much the same way as the Bree and Tuckborough Skirmishes.

In the Bells of Dale, players arrive at the town to find King Brand and a few of his warriors preparing to join their main force in defending the River Running against a horde of Easterlings known as the Jangovar, a clan akin to the Khundolar who have invaded the northern lands of the Rohirrim. Brand tells them that some Jangovar raiders have broken through into the city and asks them to drive the Easterlings out. He also tells them that the Bells of Dale must be sounded to signal the inhabitants to retreat to Erebor.

The instance brings the players through the narrow, winding pathways of Dale to the town square. It’s there where they must confront an Olog-hai captain and his Jangovar minions. After his defeat, players must fight their way to the center of town to the Belltower, encountering sorcerers who serve a mysterious being known as Yetkeyin the Violet: the animal-summoning Brotherhood of Nature and the element-wielding Brotherhood of the Elements.

The final boss before the Belltower of Dale is a sorcerer from the Brotherhood of the Elements who summons elemental spirits in the form of beasts. This sorcerer seeks to destroy the bells and prevent the Dale-men from escaping. It is up to the players to put a stop to his sorcerous machinations and signal the retreat to Erebor.

Flight to the Lonely Mountain

Flight to the Lonely Mountain, the first of our three raids,takes place on a section of road between Dale and the Lonely Mountain. Time-wise, it happens immediately after the Battle of Dale and just before the Easterlings have begun the siege. You approach a clearing to find Brand and Dain in conversation. The Easterlings advance column is not far behind.

This is a new style of raid encounter for us – a survival style space. Your goal is to hold the clearing long enough for a group of survivors to pass behind you and make it to the Lonely Mountain. You have to last the time limit, and you won’t be fighting a great, big boss monster. In Flight to the Lonely Mountain, the clock IS the boss. DPS can't make it tick any faster. (If you're wondering, the answer is yes, this is a direct response to some of the popular approaches to many of the ToO boss fights.) The clock will be presented with the property tracker panel. This will come up onscreen and fill as the space progresses. Each tick is an increment of 30 seconds. When the bar is full, you win.

Waves of Easterlings will enter the clearing. They will come both on timers on Tier 1 and both timers and based on kills on Tier 2. In Tier 1, you can earn yourself small breaks in the action. In Tier 2, if you are mowing things down the space will accelerate with you, if you are turtling the space is guaranteed to move at a minimum speed. While turtling is an option, there should be enough firepower hitting you that you cannot simply hunker down and attempt to outheal it all. Something is going to have to get stabbed. There are 7 prebuilt waves constructed out of combinations of 4 enemy types. Each setup has 7-10 enemies and is targeted to present a different balance of skills and challenge. Their spawn order is randomized every time the space is played. While you can learn the possible spawn combinations and how to deal with it, you don't know when it's going to show up or what it may come before or after.

New mechanics and skills come online for everyone in Tier 2, in addition to a new enemy joining the fray. Our challenge mode for the space, however, flips the survival premise on its head. Your goal for challenge is to kill at least 100 enemies, 10 waves worth, before the time expires. Well over 80 enemies can spawn, so you're not closing the spout and making it any easier. This introduces a very strong DPS element to the fight, but the goal is still the timer. You can't beat challenge with a 75 second burst of DPS – it has to be a balanced sustainable rhythm of DPS mixed in with communication, coordination, target selection and priority, etc.

The Fires of Smaug

The second of our three raids and takes place halfway through the siege at Raven Hill, a small mound on the southern spur of the Lonely Mountains foothills. A pair of intelligent ravens roosted there along with the rest of their unkindness (yes, a group of ravens is actually called an unkindness, while a group of crows is called a murder... true story!). The dwarves have a guard post there and the ravens have helped them to send out messages.

The Easterlings have set up a great siege engine here – a massive furnace powered by an ancient fire grim. Their goal is to fuel it with toxic material and pump noxious fumes and smoke into the tunnels, slaughtering the dwarves, men, and ravens with chemical warfare.

Each of the 4 pipes in the area has a valve attached to it that controls how open it is. A valve’s openness ranges from 0, which means its fully closed, to 5, a fully open valve. For every chunk of damage the fire grim takes, he will pipe smoke through all the pipes into the tunnels. The smoke in the tunnels will increase by how much each valve is open, up to a max of 20 each time. Each valve is then wrenched open by 2 steps from the smoke’s pressure.

Using a valve will close it by 1 step, but it will also put a debuff on you that prevents you from using that valve again for 45 seconds. In other words, it will require a group effort to fully close a valve. Each valve also reopens by 1 step every 30 seconds on its own. Luckily, if the valve is fully closed, it takes 90 seconds to open from 0 to 1.

If 200 units of smoke get piped into the tunnels, then you lose the fight. This requires balancing your DPS and how fast you're progressing through the fight with your ability to control the valves and the smoke. Burn too fast and you'll lose. (Editor’s Note: We see what you did there with that “burning” joke. ~Celestrata)

The challenge mode for this raid is to win with no more than 20 units of smoke being piped in.

Oh, the grim also has skills and does specific acts on health thresholds too! Plus, don’t forget that there are a couple of varieties of Easterlings that come into the fight at different points to serve different goals.

There will also be a timer on the fight set to 25 minutes. When that time expires the grim explodes, filling the tunnels entirely and you lose. It isn’t aggressive enough to turn it into a DPS race, as that's not the goal, but should be enough that you can't just turtle up and take an hour to beat it and trivialize the difficulty of splitting your resources and dealing with all the mechanics.

The Battle For Erebor

This is the final of the three new raids and corresponds with the breaking of the siege and the end of the fighting. This one happens at the gates to the main entrance of the Lonely Mountain and overlooks the clearing that Flight takes place within and the town of Dale. It's time for the final showdown.

The Easterling army has 2 Olog-hai champions at their front, a pair of brothers. The combination of news of Sauron's defeat and the destruction of their champions will be enough to shatter the Easterling Army and send them fleeing from Erebor. However, it is not simply enough to defeat them. The men and dwarves want to send a message.

Six banners line the stairs heading down into the arena. Each represents an additional mechanic that you wish be added to the battle. Tier 1 adventurers will have to add two mechanics to the battle by choosing two of the banners. Tier 2 players will have to activate four of the banners. Challenge mode, you guessed it! You will have to activate all six banners. For tier 1 and 2 it's your choice which 2 or 4 mechanics you want. Think of it as a pick your poison style fight. Go with whichever ones match your group and tactics best. For challenge, well, sorry, we picked your poisons… and we chose all of them mixed together into a fine cocktail of combat.

The mechanics are as follows:

  • Blood Brothers - For every 1% health the Olog-hai differ in, they get an increase in damage, from 1.5x at 1%, all the way to 10x at 10%.
  • Blood Rage - Every 5% of health an Olog-hai loses, both he and his brother get a stacking damage boost for 20 seconds. This starts at 2x and can ramp all the way to 6x if you burn too quickly.
  • Honor Guard - The Olog-hai enter with 8 Easterling Honorguards, four each of two different types. They each have custom skills and abilities to bring to the fight.
  • Reinforcements - Starting partway through the fight, a wave of 3 Easterlings (one melee, one ranged, one support) come in to support the Olog-hai every 30 seconds. They each have custom skills and abilities to bring to the fight.
  • Catapults - Starting partway through the fight, the Easterling catapults begin bombarding the arena. You’ll be given a couple of seconds warning before pieces of the arena are shelled.
  • Inferno - Towards the end of the fight the Easterlings set the entire arena ablaze. There is nowhere that is safe and now the race is on.

The Olog-hai themselves also have stages, unique skills, auras, and many of the things you would expect from a twin troll fight.

In Their Absence

Hello! It’s me, Sleepy. For Update 10, I’ve been working on bringing you an updated ‘In Their Absence’ instance cluster.  When the update launches, you will be able to play any of the ‘ITA’ instances from level 65 up to the level cap and receive appropriate rewards for your efforts. These instances have quite a legacy of adoration and a feeling of nostalgia for many of you, so before I go into more detail, I’d like to say that preserving the essence of what made these spaces fun was certainly one of my top priorities. Defeating Drugoth and Thadur will still require coordination and communication; the mercenaries of Stoneheight have retained their amusing one-liners; conquering Ost Dunhoth will still be a considerable challenge; and Northcotton Farm’s residents will still need a good slap or two! Playing through any space should be familiar to anyone who has run it before, but you will also see that adjustments have been made to both modernize each space (by making it consistent with our current instance-design philosophies) and to improve certain areas from a gameplay perspective.

Allow me to provide some examples of each type of change. Our current design for ‘challenge mode’ objectives in instances says that the requirements should only pertain to the final boss encounter – this was not the case for many of the ITA spaces. Stoneheight’s challenge previously required that no corruptions be removed from any of the bosses. This requirement has been stripped away and the corruptions have been redesigned to provide a different obstacle. In its place, a new challenge objective has been implemented that only affects the final boss encounter with Dale Truit.

Another ‘modernization’ change was to break up the Ost Dunoth raid into 3 wings without raid locks, similar to our previous changes to Helegrod and Fornost.


For gameplay adjustments, look no further than the Osan fight in Sari-surma. This fight previously spawned monsters over time, and the challenge required players to wait several minutes for each monster to appear and be defeated. This encounter is now much more dependent on how quickly you are damaging Osan, allowing your group to control the pace more to their liking. Effective groups will be able to complete this fight in much shorter time than they ever could before. Another quick example: We know that having to /shortcut your Slap emotes in Northcotton Farm was a small frustration to many of you, so we are now granting everyone quick-slot access to that emote when you are in the cauldron encounter.

Whether you are new to the spaces or a returning veteran, I hope you are all looking forward to seeing the new and improved In Their Absence cluster. Cheers!


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