Interview: Turbine Confirms Console Project, Talks Future Plans

When we heard this morning that Turbine was planning to put part of its $40 million Time Warner-led investment to work doing console MMOs, we wondered if a console version of Dungeons & Dragons Online or Lord of the Rings Online could be in the works.

Alas, when we spoke to Turbine's communications director Adam Mersky today, he confirmed Turbine is "actively developing a title for console," but declined to specify.

"We've hired over 60 people since the beginning of the year," said Mersky, and 40 more job postings for the project are currently waiting to be filled. "The people that invested in us, Time Warner... one of the media giants, getting into the MMO fold, and that's obviously a big deal," he said. "They also have a huge distribution network... that may bear fruit for us."

And that investment, Mersky said, makes Turbine "well funded for a good time into the future," and he told Kotaku a bit more about what the company plans to do with that money.

GGV capital, another of the recent investors, has a "huge footprint in China," Mersky said. Right now, LotRO is ramping up for a launch in China this year or early next, while its closed beta just finished in Korea. Asia is a huge market for MMOs in general, Mersky said, and "that's a big thing for Turbine."

"DDO is doing well too," Mersky said, "It's over two years old which is something to be said for a lot of MMOs." The marketing push we've been hearing about as a possible indicator that DDO may move to consoles partially hinges on new content updates planned for the remainder of the year, he said, both revamps of old content and new content, including new starter experiences.

"It's a good time for that franchise," said Mersky. "Atari has turned itself around, brought in a lot of talented people recently, and we're in active dialog with them to do good things for DDO."

DDO is also set to get Direct X 10 by the summer, Mersky said.

As for LotRO, the team is ramping up for the Mines of Moria expansion. Another book update in July is coming to close out Volume 1 and pave the way for the new expansion, and Mersky said Turbine will publish a full expansion every year for the game.

For how long? Turbine has the license to make MMOs based on the Tolkien universe until 2012, with options to extend until 2017.

Part of the investment dollars are going into new technology - Mersky points out that new players coming into the game late currently have to tuck in to catch up on a long patching process, but he alluded to proprietary tech in the works that may remove the sort of snafus that often occur in client-based computing.

Turbine has its eye on open worlds and user-generated content, too: "We're working on tech to let people... enable self evolving worlds," he said. "The idea is, we have these immersive, beautiful 3D worlds and they're designed by professional artists - but how can we let people create content in those... without 'suburban sprawl,' allow them to create gameplay environments." Nothing immediate to announce on that front, said Mersky, but that's a direction Turbine is very interested in going, too.