As you might have noticed, I’ve been pretty quiet on the Gaming Havens as of late. I’ve been moving around quite a bit and my online time has taken a hit as a result. I’m still involved with the Havens however, and am doing a lot of work behind the scenes. There is a lot of exciting stuff coming up soon on the Havens, so stay tuned.

As part of my various journeys, I visited Washington State. While out in Washington, I was invited to take a tour of WXP, the developers of the Fellowship of the Ring for Xbox.

After re-familiarizing myself with the Washington State transportation system, getting lost several times in the process, I managed to stumble across WXP’s downtown Seattle office. I was escorted inside to a conference room, decked out with concept art from the game, as well as HDTV and an Xbox. I sat down with some of the developers from WXP and a team from Universal Interactive, and after introductions and some chitchat the action began.

The game was booted up and we began our journey through Middle Earth. Well, what will soon be Middle Earth, the game was far from finished. But even at this early stage the graphics looked great. Because the game is still early in development, I can’t get in to
too much detail. But rest assured, the game is shaping up great.

The biggest improvement since E3 in my opinion? No more Frodo: Warrior Hobbit! You still control Frodo and you still have Sting, but now he’s more like the Frodo Baggins we all know and love and less like Link with hairy feet. No more slaying killer badgers with flaming pinecones, no more magical rune powered Sting. WXP’s new philosophy is: If it ain’t in the books, it ain’t in the game. While you can go around trying to hack to pieces anything that moves, you wont get very far. Just like in the books, it’s best to use your Hobbit stealth and keep fighting to a last resort. Frodo might be tough for a little guy, but he can only take so much damage.

Frodo wont be the only character you control either, which other members of the Fellowship you’ll be able to control are still up in the air, but you’ll definitely get a good mix of different tactics. We went through various sections of the Shire and Moria levels. The shire is warm and inviting, filled with playing children and squirrels. Moria on the other hand, is anything but warm and inviting. All darkness and shadow, filled with sneaking goblins and all kinds of other unseemly creatures, not a place to bring your family for vacation. Both levels look great, filled with a lot of detail. Not a lot to do though, combat is still a work in progress.

After the tour of virtual Middle Earth, we did a tour of WXP’s offices. After checking out some more concept art posted here and there on the walls, we visited some of the programmers at work. I got a look at some of the 3D models and the software used to control them, as well as software to actually build the levels, very cool.

WXP and Universal Interactive are taking a step in the right direction with how they are handling the game. This is a game for Tolkien fans by Tolkien fans. All the developers, artists, programmers, even management are Tolkien fans. And some of the top Tolkien experts in the world, like our own Green Books Guru Quickbeam, are involved with the project. The fans will have their hand in shaping the game as well. More on that later down the road. Check out Universal’s LOTR site for more info on the game, and keep your eyes peeled to the Havens for all your LOTR gaming news.