Shadow of War's loot boxes 'will not distract from the rest of our game,' says design director

As we learned last month, when Monolith and Warner Bros' Middle-earth: Shadow of War arrives in October it'll do so packing microtransactions. By way of loot chests and XP boosts, players who don't fancy unlocking skills and perks organically can do so by handing over real life cash. 

This has, somewhat expectedly, upset facets of the game's would be players, however design director Bob Roberts maintains the inclusion of microtransactions "will not distract from the rest of [the game]". In conversation with Eurogamer, Roberts reckons that balancing will not be affected by pay-to-win scenarios, and that he and his team have tuned their game so that it works with our without them.

"We're working our tails off to make this massive game and as a designer—the design director—I focus on balancing it," says Roberts. "We do a ton of playtesting and make sure it is tuned to a setting where people can enjoy it. We kept all of the loot boxes and the economy of real world money turned off in playtesting so we know we are balancing around an experience which is rewarding without any of that stuff

"It is important to clarify this as there were a couple of misconceptions. First, the concern about balancing—hopefully when it is out there and people are able to talk about their experiences then the balancing question will be answered, hopefully by people you trust to play through it and see that. 

"The other big misconception was whether the game had to be online too—and it's important for people to understand that no, it's not required to be online to play the game, and it's a massive game where you can enjoy the full experience without putting any extra money in."

Roberts maintains loot boxes and XP boosts are accessible at the discretion of the player, and that their inclusion adopts the same design philosophy as adding difficulty modes. In turn, they might better suit those "protective of their spare time". 

Elsewhere, Roberts defends microtransactions in big budget games. "You put your 60 bucks in for a big game like ours upfront and our focus is that its initial purchase price is more than worth it," he says. "You want people to be pleasantly surprised by how much stuff is in it. There's so much complexity to it. Especially when you see articles coming out about our game, or another game, and we have announced a load of new content and we're trying to find out what people think about those things but the conversation keeps coming back to that [loot boxes]. 

"It's interesting to see the discussion but we want to get people's opinions on more than just that… Obviously we have tuned our game so it works without those things and that including them does not distract from the rest of it."

Eurogamer's chat with Roberts can be read in full in this direction.