Pandemic Studios, the geeks behind Star Wars: Battlefront I & II, Mercenaries, Destroy All Humans, and other titles contacted us a while back giddy with excitement over their new project ‘Lord of the Rings: Conquest’. This is setting up to be the battle game to end all battle games, I sat with game director Eric “Giz” Gewirtz to talk about it. Take a look!
Eric “Giz” Gewirtz
Born in 1975 in San Diego, California, Eric Gewirtz has worked in the video game industry for more than 10 years – the last nine of which have been at Pandemic Studios.
His career began at Activision as a designer on the Dark Reign series in 1996 alongside other current Pandemic Studios top talent including Josh Resnick (Co-founder and General Manager) and Greg Borrud (Chief Production Officer).
Eric joined Pandemic Studios as a Lead Designer on Star Wars: The Clone Wars in 2001. He then stepped up to direct two of the most successful Star Wars video game titles of all time: Star Wars: Battlefront and Star Wars: Battlefront II, both of which have collectively sold more than 12 million units worldwide (Xbox, PS2, PC).
The Lord of the Rings: Conquest (2008)
Developer: Pandemic Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts, Inc.
Star Wars: Battlefront II (2005)
Developer: Pandemic Studios
Star Wars: Battlefront (2004)
Developer: Pandemic Studios
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2002)
Developer: Pandemic Studios
TheOneRing.net’s Exclusive Interview with Eric “Giz” Gewirtz
Xoanon: So give me a little background on how this all got started
Eric “Giz” Gewirtz: This is the same team that created Star Wars: Battlefront 1 and 2, and since we’ve always been LOTR fans we knew we wanted to play in this world the moment we got the go ahead to work with EA (Electronic Arts). It was New Line, those guys were big fans of Star Wars: Battlefront 1 and 2 and they contacted us at same time and told us ‘We’d love to capture that freedom that you have in ‘Battlefront’, and use it in the LOTR universe’. That worked out perfectly, we were excited about being able work in the LOTR environment, and the New Line guys were excited to have us playing in their playground.
Xoanon: So what battle scenes can we expect to see in the game?
Giz: You’ll get to see battle scenes from both worlds, the books and the films. The game gives you the ability to do almost anything you’ve always wanted to do in the battles from LOTR. We start with the War of the Last Alliance as our training mission, and we also have Helms Deep, the march of the Ents on Isenguard, the Battle of Pelenor Fields, Osgilliath, the battles at the Black Gate, and lots more. We have two different Minas Tirith levels, because that battle is so massive — we have the battle at the base and another at the top. On top of that we have a few things you didn’t get to see in the films. The book makes brief reference to the forces of good going into Moria and clearing it out, so that is a totally new battle scene. Also, in the books they decide not to attack Minas Morgul, but we ask the question ‘what if they did?’, so for the first time you get to play out a battle inside Minas Morgul. That was really fun for us because we got to imagine what the sister city of Minas Tirith would look like.
For the evil campaign we have something interesting, in the books and the films they make reference to how horrible the world would be if Sauron were to acquire The One Ring, but there is not too much detail, we’ve taken that idea and run with it. For the evil campaign we’ve taken the end of the story and hit ‘rewind’ a little, and you get to play a Ringwraith who stops Frodo from destroying the Ring. You actually get to deliver the Ring to Sauron, this sets off a series of events where you get to play the side of evil with Sauron’s forces. Sauron resurrects his generals, The WitchKing, The Balrog, Saruman and more. You get to play on the evil side and ride oliphaunts, ride the wargs and basically get to play as your favorite evil villains. You get to go through all of Middle earth and sack The Shire, destroy Rivendell, confront Gandalf and Elrond, destroy Helms Deep, attack Minas Tirith and so on.
Xoanon: This is one of the first LOTR games where we get to play the bad guys and live out our darkest fantasies right?
Giz: Right, that’s the beauty of the game, because it’s very systematic, it’s not a very scripted game at all. For example in the battle at Pellenor fields, as a good guy you’re trying to stop these massive trolls from pushing these seige towers to the walls of Minas Tirith. As a good guy you can play as a soldier of Rohan and hop on the horses, there are tons of horses around at any time, you can attack the tolls or the seige towers. Now as the forces of evil you can ride the Olyphaunts in, or ride the wargs, mount the catapults or siege towers. It is really different every time you play, you can focus on mele combant and be a warrior, or you are an archer, or if you are into support class mechanics or whatnot. It really depends on what choices you make on the battlefield, meanwhile the AI is running around and doing these different things systematically and letting you play around with it.
Xoanon: How long has this been in development?
Giz: It’s been about a year and a half, almost two years now.
Xoanon: How many designers and programmers do you have working on it?
Giz: We have about 70 people working on the game.
Xoanon: Any feedback or advice from the folks down in New Zealand?
Giz: Actually you know what is great, thanks to the power of the next generation consoles we’ve been able to use the in movie models, which formerly could only be used in the cut scenes, and put them right in the game. Our Fell Beast in the game is the actual model used in the movie, we were able to just drop him in there…he looks so beautiful! He flies around and picks people off the battle field dynamically and carries them off to their doom. We also have Eagles flying around and interacting with the Fell Beasts, the trolls are also the models from the films and they are running around with their giant clubs. When you’re fighting a troll have you sneak up behind them and attack them from behind, but when you are fighting as a troll you can pick up guys and toss them across the battlefield. You get to play as the Balrog, with his massive fire sword, and you get to go around killing things…you really get to play out all your darkest fantasies.
Xoanon: Any hidden easter eggs?
Giz: I’m sure there will be some stuff, I’m not allowed to talk about it! Hahaha
Xoanon: True, true!
Giz: The other cool character that you can play is Sauron. When you arrive at the evil campaign you reach Rivendell, we setup Rivendell as the forces of good’s last stand. To basically you rampage through Middle earth, you sack the Shire and you reach Rivendell, which is Gandalf and Elrond’s last stand so you are basically fighting these Elven forces and you arrive as Sauron in Rivendell. Again with Rivendell we were able to import the WETA models directly and we used those as a base to expand Rivendell to make it an entire level. So you get to arrive as Sauron and cleave and hack your way through Rivendell and kill massive amounts of elves and Gondorians.
Xoanon: Sounds like fun!
Giz: Yeah absolutely
Xoanon: Did your design team go back and read the books and watch the films to better get the feel of Middle earth?
Giz: Yeah they did, it’s an interesting challenge we face, and we had similar issues with Star Wars, we wanted to remain faithful to the films and books to cater to the fans but we also wanted to make sure the gameplay itself stands up independent of the liscense. We’ve been going back to study the looks of everything, we have Rohan soldiers that look like Rohirrim, the same with the Rohan and Orcs and Uruk-hai, we want them to look like the film, but we have to make sure the game play, the archers and spear men and siege engines, all those things make sense. So we poured back over the books and the films to make sure everything is there, in fact we’re still in discussion with New Line about adding some stuff that never made it onto the DVDs, even the last set of DVDs, and having it in the game as some never-before-seen content, it’s not final yet.
Xoanon: Awesome, did you also get some of the actors to reprise their roles for the game?
Giz: We did, we have a narrator, he’s a major character from the film but we haven’t finalized anything, I’m not allowed to announce it yet. We’re also using music from the film, we’re using Howard Shore’s tracks.
Xoanon: I assume will be able to play it on all major platforms?
Giz: Yes, it will be released on the PC, Xbox 360, PS3, and the Nintendo DS.
Xoanon: This really looks awesome, and really a new approach to any previous LOTR game
Giz: Yes, the major feedback we got from the Star Wars games was that the fans loved the ability to be in this universe and do anything they want, we really wanted to provide that for LOTR fans. They’ve been given the games where they can faithfully play until the games end, they’ve been given games from different points of view from LOTR, but they’ve never been given the freedom to do this, and the sheer diversity, it really is the definitive LOTR battle game. It’s got cavalry, mele, ranged attacks, all the playable heroes, you can as Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf or Frodo and on the bad side you can play as Sauron, Saruman, the Balrog, The Witch King, The Mouth of Sauron, Lurtz, Goth Mog, pretty much anyone you’ve ever read about, you can play, Ents, Trolls, Orcs, Tehoden, Wormtongue, everyone! Plus you add all the locations in the films, and even some that aren’t. We pretty much looked at every cool location, character and moment from the books and films and let the player play around in it.
Official Press Release Goodness!
PANDEMIC STUDIOS ANNOUNCES DEVELOPMENT OF THE LORD OF THE RINGS: CONQUEST
‘Conquest’ Grants Players Freedom to Fight Epic ‘Rings’ Battles Any Way Desired
LOS ANGELES, Calif., May 8, 2008 – Pandemic™ Studios, an award-winning developer of blockbuster video games, is proud to announce the development of The Lord of the Rings: Conquest™ for the Xbox 360™ video game and entertainment system, PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system, PC and Nintendo DS™ platforms. Pandemic Studios is a division of Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: ERTS).
In a partnership with New Line Cinema, The Lord of the Rings: Conquest is an action-packed game created by the same Pandemic Studios team behind the best-selling Star Wars Battlefront™ and Star Wars Battlefront™ II titles. Set in “The Lord of the Rings” universe of J.R.R. Tolkien as depicted by the Academy Award®-winning films, players will finally fight the entirety of these epic battles any way they want. In addition to crusading as the heroic forces of good, for the first time ever in a ‘The Lord of the Rings’ action title they’ll conquer Middle-earth while playing as the legions of Sauron’s evil army, including Cave-trolls, Oliphaunts, the Balrog and Sauron himself. The game is set for a global release in fall 2008.
“Our Pandemic Studios creative teams have years of expertise bringing giant battlefields to life,” says Andrew Goldman, Pandemic Studios co-founder and general manager. “We’ve always wanted to harness our experience in a fantasy universe with warriors, archers, mages and castle sieges. Of course, there is truly no better fantasy world to recreate than the enormity of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ realm.”
“We’ll freely admit that we’re rabid fans of The Lord of the Rings fantasy,” says Josh Resnick, co-founder and general manager at Pandemic Studios. “Our experience creating massive, rich, action-packed games means that The Lord of the Rings: Conquest will give fans exactly what they want: full control of the blade, bow and magic to fight its epic battles any way they want – even if they choose to play from the evil side.”
“We are thrilled to be working with Pandemic Studios on this game,” commented David Imhoff, Senior EVP of Worldwide Licensing & Merchandising for New Line Cinema. “They bring not only their incredible technical and creative abilities but also a great passion for The Lord of the Rings.”
The world premiere of game footage and the first trailer for The Lord of the Rings: Conquest will premiere exclusively on Spike TV’s GameTrailers TV with Geoff Keighley on Friday, June 20.
This announcement reveals the third blockbuster video game project in the works at Pandemic Studios’ Los Angeles-based headquarters alongside the upcoming Mercenaries 2: World in Flames™ and Saboteur™, both in development for the Xbox 360™, PLAYSTATION®3 and PC platforms. For more information on The Lord of the Rings: Conquest, please visit: http://www.pandemicstudios.com/conquest.
About Pandemic Studios
Pandemic Studios is one of the world’s premier developers of console and PC entertainment and a wholly owned division of Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: ERTS). Over its 10-year history, Pandemic Studios has established a reputation for producing top-selling, award-winning and cutting-edge original content and enhancing the value of existing intellectual properties. Recent hits include the record-selling Star Wars Battlefront™, Star Wars Battlefront™ II, and three original Pandemic Studios-created intellectual properties: Mercenaries™, Destroy All Humans™, and Full Spectrum Warrior™. Following the 2006 release of Destroy All Humans® 2, Pandemic Studios is developing a number of new, original titles for next-generation platforms including Mercenaries 2: World in Flames™ and Saboteur™ at its Los Angeles, California, and Brisbane, Australia, studio locations. For more information on Pandemic Studios and its games, please visit: http://www.pandemicstudios.com.
About Electronic Arts
Electronic Arts Inc. (EA), headquartered in Redwood City, California, is the world’s leading interactive entertainment software company. Founded in 1982, the company develops, publishes, and distributes interactive software worldwide for video game systems, personal computers, cellular handsets and the Internet. Electronic Arts markets its products under four brand names: EA SPORTS™, EA™, EA SPORTS Freestyle™ and POGO™. In fiscal 2007, EA posted revenue of $3.09 billion and had 24 titles that sold more than one million copies. EA’s homepage and online game site is www.ea.com. More information about EA’s products and full text of press releases can be found on the Internet at http://info.ea.com.
EA, EA SPORTS, EA SPORTS Freestyle, POGO, Pandemic, the Pandemic logo, Mercenaries, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, Full Spectrum Warrior and Saboteur are trademarks or registered trademarks of Electronic Arts Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries. All Rights Reserved. All The Lord of the Rings related content other than content from the New Line trilogy of The Lord of the Rings films © 2004-2008 The Saul Zaentz Company d/b/a Tolkien Enterprises (“SZC”). All Rights Reserved. The Watcher logo, “The Lord of the Rings: Conquest” and the names of the characters, items, events and places therein are trademarks of SZC under license to Electronic Arts Inc. All content from The Lord of the Rings film trilogy © MMV-MMVII New Line Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Star Wars Battlefront™ and Star Wars Battlefront™ II are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Lucasfilm Entertainment Company Ltd. “PlayStation” and “PLAYSTATION” are registered trademarks of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. Microsoft, Xbox and Xbox 360 are trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies. Nintendo DS is a trademark of Nintendo. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.