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GAMING: Developers Chat

Tomorrow at 9:00 pm EDT, TheOneRing.net will be hosting a Developers chat with Black Label Games and Surreal Software. They’ll be discussing Surreal’s The Fellowship of the Ring for PS2 and PC, and Black Label Games’ future LOTR video games. Be sure to come along and bring your questions! [More]

Posted in Old Main News

Black Label Games Dev Chat

Who: Black Label Games (Check out some screen shots from Black Label Games’ LOTR games here), Publishers of the video games based on the books and Surreal Software (The first seven screen shots are from their PS2 game), developers of The Fellowship of the Ring for Playstation 2 and PC. Current confirmed guests are:

Jeff Everett (Fellowship of the Ring Producer at Black Label)
Cliff Broadway (Tolkien Marketing Consultant and TheOneRing.net Staffer)
Andrew Shiozaki (Marketing Product Manager)
Members of the Surreal Development Team
More guests TBD

When: Friday, October 18th 9:00 pm EDT, 6:00 PDT.

Where: The room #Havens on TheOneRing.net’s IRC server irc.theonering.net. Instructions on how to connect can be found here. You can also chat using your browswer with java here.

How the chat works: This will be a moderated chat, so when it begins only the guests and moderators will be able to speak. If you have a question for the guests, PM (Private Message) one of the co-moderators. You send a PM by double clicking on their name or by typing /msg , where is you type their name, and where is you type the message. Nothing too complicated :). The co-moderators will gather the questions, and pass on select ones for the head moderator, that’s me, to go through, I’ll then pick the questions to ask. After the Q&A session is over, the guests will be invited to stick around, and the room will be un-moderated, so everyone will get to talk. This is your chance to chat with the guests.

Posted in Old Special Reports

GAMING: FOTR Goes Gold

Black Label GamesThe Fellowship of the Ring for Xbox and Gameboy Advance have begun shipping. Most places will get the game Friday, but call your local retailer to make sure, and look for our review of the games soon. [Gaming Havens]

Posted in Old Main News

Sauron Has Arrived

TheOneRing.net Staff member Ostadan writes:

It’s a good time for LotR boardgamers. Only a few weeks ago, the fine two-player “Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation” was plubished in a U.S. edition by Fantasy Flight Games. Designed by Reiner Knizia (designer of the multiplayer boardgame and many outstanding games like Modern Art and Ra), this fine little game plays a bit like Stratego, with an interesting combat mechanism using cards that adds an intriguing element of bluffing and strategy into the mix. Each character on the board has its own unique ability, and there is just enough LotR “chrome” (including John Howe’s artwork) to make this a worthwhile addition to anyone’s game collection.

This week, Fantasy Flight has announced the availability of the U.S. edition of the “Sauron Expansion” for the multiplayer Lord of the Rings boardgame, once again by Knizia and Howe. In this expansion, one player may take on the role of Sauron and play nasty cards of his own to defeat the Fellowship. There are also new event tiles and some new cards for the Fellowship; these can be used in a “modular” fashion with the original game, or with the previous Friends and Foes expansion. I have not yet played with this expansion, but UKers have been very positive about it. The following information is paraphrased from a review on Boardgamegeek.

The over 20 new tiles are all evil events — no activity tiles — but there is now a new rule whereby you can reject the first tile you draw from the bag (yes! there’s a bag!) but must accept the next one. This should help reduce the feeling of being controlled by the draw, but on the whole, they make the game tougher.

The Sauron expansion itself comprises cards for Sauron, Nazgul cards, a Black Rider piece for the main board, and several new cards and tokens for the good guys. The new tokens represent resources picked up on the tracks _other_ than the main track, so the old ‘sprint on the main track’ strategy is now rather less attractive. Sauron gets to play (or draw) cards before the Fellowship player, and this will typically require the hobbit to discard a card, lose a life token, or move along the corruption line. Tough stuff, so those extra resources will be more important.

I’m really looking forward to this one. If nothing else, the Sauron part will help bring in players who disliked the non-competitive aspect of the original game — let ’em be Sauron!

Posted in Old Special Reports

GAMING: TTT Preview

I recently got to pay a visit to Electronic Arts to check out their Lord of the Rings games, and as part of that visit I got the chance to play The Two Towers for the Game Boy Advance and chat with the Producer, Josh Hendren. With the movie quality FMV and the sheer size of the game; 35 missions per each of the five characters, multiple skills, hundreds of weapons and items plus unlockable secrets, this game is pushing the GBA to the limits in what it can do. [More]

Posted in Old Main News

TTT For GBA Preview

Game Info
Publisher

Electronic Arts

Developer

Griptonite Games

Genre

Action/Adventure

Players

1-2

Playable Characters

Aragorn, Eowyn, Gandalf, Gimli, Legolas

Release Date

November

I recently got to pay a visit to Electronic Arts to check out their Lord of the Rings games, and as part of that visit I got the chance to play The Two Towers for the Game Boy Advance and chat with the Producer, Josh Hendren. I got set up in a conference room and read old Gaming mags while waiting for Josh to show up. Josh finally arrived and handed me a GBA, the Lord of the Rings theme pouring from the speakers. We discussed the fine points of the game and the license, my hands almost shaking with anticipation all the while. Finally, after what seemed an eternity but was more like five minutes, it was time to play. I went to the character select screen and chose Aragorn. I was quite shocked at what happened next… There was a Full Motion Video collage of The Two Towers footage, actual TTT footage, not gummed down at all. Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Helm’s Deep… It was like watching the trailer on a really really small TV.

After I propped my jaw back in to place, the game itself began. There’s a little Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn), and here comes a little Miranda Otto (Eowyn), and here’s some sappy dialogue, I hope they don’t use that in the movie. Skip… skip… skip… Here we go. I’ve got to fight my way through the pass of Caradhras. Coolness. I start exploring, leaping in to combat whenever I stumble across an Orc raiding party. Combat is real-time, no turn-based menu scrolling to slow down the gameplay. Combat and the controls in general are very intuitive, and a snap to pick up. By the time Josh got to explaining the controls, I already had them figured out.

I continue on, when all of a sudden a tree starts shaking. Three Crebain leap out and take flight, I’ve got to kill them before they escape and alert Saruman. I take out two of them with my sword, but the third one gets away. Then a little red eye pops up in the corner, that’s the corruption meter. Things like letting enemies escape and putting on the ring will fill it up, too much and you’ll have the Nazgul nipping at your heels.

After I was done with Aragorn, I took Legolas out for a spin. Now I had a ranged attack in Legolas‘ bow. I could take out orcs before they got close enough for hand-to-hand combat. But the orcs have archers too, and sitting back and trading shots is a good way to drain your health. Thankfully Legolas also has his daggers, so you can dash in for some close range damage.

After Legolas, I decide to try Gandalf. Josh worked some de-bug magic and warped me to Moria to check out the cave troll. Now the other members of the Fellowship join in the battle. We get swarmed by orcs but we’re fending them off without trouble. All of a sudden the fearsome cave troll bursts through the wall! It’s kind of hard to translate the cave troll’s awesome size on the GBA’s tiny screen, besides that it’s an awesome rendition, very detailed for a GBA game. Anyway, I cast a couple of spells at him, including one that summons a giant eagle to dive-bomb him with it’s talons, and I dash in for quick slashes with Glamdring. After much hacking the mighty cave troll fell and that was the end of my hands on time with the game.

One of the coolest features of the game that I wasn’t able to try is the ability to trade items with a friend. Say you’re playing as Legolas and you pick up a cool sword, and you have a friends with a GBA and a copy of the game who’s playing as Aragorn and has a nice bow that might come in handy for you. Just connect the two GBA’s and trade away. You can even give items to a friend without having to get something in return, I don’t know how popular that feature will be though. 😉 I was also unable to try out the multi-player portion of the game, you can connect two GBA’s for some co-op action with a friend. I can’t wait to try out that feature.

With the movie quality FMV and the sheer size of the game; 35 missions per each of the five characters, multiple skills, hundreds of weapons and items plus unlockable secrets, this game is pushing the GBA to the limits in what it can do. Will the gameplay get lost in the shuffle? From what I played, the game is a blast, sort of a cross between Zelda and Gauntlet with LOTR locations and characters. I was loving every minute of it, which isn’t true of most pocket games for me. EA is intent on making this game as fun and action filled as the movie, and from what I’ve seen, they’re succeeding. But I barely scratched the surface. Hopefully we’ll get some more hands on time with the game soon, and of course we’ll have a full review when the game is completed. Stay tuned to the Havens for all your Lord of the Rings gaming news, and keep an eye out for our upcoming preview of The Two Towers for Playstation 2.

Posted in Old Special Reports

GAMING: LOTR “RISK”

TheOneRing.net Staffer Ostadan sends in word of “Lord of the Rings RISK” from Hasbro. Lord of the Rings RISK will be released in the US in November. It is for 2 to 4 players and encompasses, geographically and thematically, the first two movies/book in the series. [More]

Posted in Old Main News

Lord of the Rings “RISK”

Ostadan writes:

The following article was posted in the rec.games.board USENET group. Rob from Hasbro is a reliable source of information. Hasbro has been getting more imaginative with their tried-and-true games recently as in Risk:2210 and the Star Wars Game of Life (of all things), which turned out to have some interesting features of its own. So this game may not fall into the “make-a-buck franchise knockoff” category so easily as it might seem.

Lord of the Rings RISK will be released in the US in November. It is for 2 to 4 players and encompasses, geographically and thematically, the first two movies/book in the series. The game was designed by our UK office and is being picked up, largely unchanged, for US released (most changes are things like ‘colour’ to ‘color’ and ‘centre’ to ‘center’.)

The things that are like RISK are as follows: 42 territories on the board, grouped into 6 ‘continents’. Battles are the same. Troops movement is the same. Army generation is the same. Basically a RISK core.

Now, the things that are different…

There are two evil armies and two good armies. Other than set-up, where some spaces are always evil, some always good, and some could be either and other than two different types of pieces (elves vs. orcs for example), the difference is largely cosmetic.

The game is a ‘timed’ game in that a token representing the Fellowship starts in the Shire, moves through 13 territories on a prescribed path, and exit the board. When they do so, the game is over. The exact length of their journey is never quite known because some spaces require a die roll to move on (e.g., the Mines of Moria) and there is cardplay that can be used to slow them down. BTW, the Fellowship is represented by a cool pewter life-size ring that has inscribed runes in and out to look like the One Ring.

When the fellowship leaves the board, the person with the most territories and ‘card points’, wins. ‘Card points’ are points you get for playing some cards (I believe they called Adventure Cards).

Adventure cards are obtained by capturing a territory that contains a Site of Power. Some Adventure cards are immediate-play effects that are then discarded, some are cards that you can hold an play on the start of your turn (mostly to hold up the fellowship or otherwise mess with other players), but many are Missions that need to be completed.

In order to complete a Mission, you need to send your leader to the place listed on the card. Then you get to play the card and reap the benefit.

Leaders??? Yes, each player gets one leader, which gives certain bonuses in battles but is largely used to move around completing missions. Commanders get an extra ‘free move’ at the end of the turn to give them more mobility.

So lets say I take the space that contains Weathertop, a site of power. I draw an adventure card. In this case, I get the one that lists the Halls of the Elven King. On a later turn, I manage to capture the territory with the Halls and move my leader into that space. I now turn in my mission card and get 3 troops for doing so. I also get a point at the end of the game for playing the card (completing the mission).

Throw in a few spaces with defensive fortresses that help you hold them and you have Lord of the Rings RISK.

Rob
Hasbro Games

Posted in Old Special Reports

Interview with Neil Young

I recently paid a visit to Electronic Arts to check out the new LOTR games based on the movies and chat with some of the producers. Look for hands-on previews of the PS2 and GBA games soon, but first, an interview with Neil Young, the Vice President of the franchise.

British-born Young began his career in the interactive entertainment industry in 1988, when he was a programmer and producer at Imagitec, a small British development company.

He joined the staff at Probe Software in 1990 as a senior producer, working on a wide variety of titles for Acclaim, Sega, Hudson, USGold and Virgin Interactive.

Young moved to the United States in 1992, where he went to work for Virgin Interactive, where he produced or executive produced Disney’s Aladdin, Jungle Book, Toonstruck and 11th Hour, among many others. He was quickly promoted to Vice President for Product
Development.

In April of 1997, Young was named Vice President and General Manager of ORIGIN Systems, a subsidiary of Electronic Arts based in Austin, Texas. During this time, Young supervised the launch of the highly successful Ultima Online.

In 1999, Young left ORIGIN to become Vice President and Executive in Charge of Production at Electronic Arts, where he founded Synthetic Studio, a new studio currently creating next-generation interactive content exclusively for EA’s new online business division, EA.com.

(DarthCaeser): From Blinky: Will the game be very linear — will we be able to explore Middle-earth or will we be stuck to a specific path?

(Neil Young): The game is a fairly linear progression through the story of the movie, and what we’re trying to do is trying to give people a sense that they are playing the movies, that they’re in the world of the movie. Versus trying to re-imagine Tolkien’s work, we have to adapt Peter [Jackson]’s work. And I think that what ends up being the pinnacle of the property is if we can take that great visual imagery that Peter has brought and stamped indelibly on the world and bring interactivity to it, so we end up capturing the very best parts of the process so far. Return of the King will be a little less linear in it’s progression and then Trilogy a little less so. The Two Towers is an action game, Return of the King is an Action/Adventure, and then Trilogy is an Epic Story Adventure. So we’re shifting and moving over time to try and get to the place where we want to get to ultimately, the Trilogy, which is to try and create as memorable and impactful a version of the work in our medium as Peter’s Jackson’s work is in his medium or the original works were literary works. And so inherent in that is some degree of exploration and being able to see and feel the environment.

(DC): Also from Blinky: Will the game give away any major plot details to the movie The Two Towers?

(NY): It depends on your standpoint, it’s hard to give away plot details because the books have been out for a long time. Although what the film makers do do is they play around with time and compress time and sort of editorialize the books, and bring the things to their medium that they think will be the most impactful. So to the extent that the main areas of the film are the main areas that will be focused on in the games, then yes, we will certainly be hinting at what people are likely to see in the Two Towers. Then we have footage from the Two Towers in our game ahead of the film. I think for the fans it will be a really big kick to see stuff from the movie ahead of it’s actual release. I think that’s going to be exciting for people, I think it’s going to be really exciting to play in Fangorn, to play in Rohan and Edoras, to play in Helm’s Deep. And to be playing in Helm’s Deep and controlling an Aragorn that looks and sounds like Viggo Mortensen, or a Legolas that looks and sounds like Orlando Bloom in an environment that is built on top of the architectural model of Helm’s Deep itself. I think that’s going to really give people a sense of what that world is like. And I hope that when they go to see the movie, in the back of their head they’re sort of thinking about the game, and in the move maybe they saw the shot here, but in the game they were able to actually run around the corner there, and they know what is around the corner. That’s one of the things we are trying to do.

(DC): From OhioYankee: Will the other members of the Fellowship join in the battles as NPC’s?

(NY): Yes, they absolutely will. You can play as Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, and one hidden character. In the environments often if I’m playing as Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli will be running alongside me and fighting with me. But if I’m in Balin’s Tomb not only will they be fighting along side me, but also Frodo will be in there and Gandalf is in there and Boromir is in there. Merry and Pippin aren’t in that sequence for us in the game because we’re just running out of characters we can fit on the screen. In Amon Hen, Frodo runs off and you’re fighting along side, if you’re playing as Legolas for example, fighting along side Aragorn and Gimli. So yeah, you’ll be able to fight along side Gandalf the Grey and Gandalf the White.

(DC): Also from OhioYankee: What will the Boss Battles be like?

(NY): Really good, fun, fun… The real emphasis in the game is actually not in the boss battles, the real emphasis in the game is in the combat that you have with the Orcs, going from whether it’s a sort of lesser melee Orc, which is kind of like a Goblin from Moria; a Moria Orc, all the way up to an armored Uruk Hai with a shield, So there’s a range of Orcs you can battle against, and a close relationship between attacking and parrying. I think what you’ll see is you kind of get a sense that it’s about trying to give people an experience as much as it is about trying to give them a game. So it will be a good game and it will be fun, but it will be like playing the movie, it will look like it, it sounds like it, it feels like it. And that’s sort of the essence that we want to try to get across, more than a focus on any specific type of creature or boss.

(DC): From Ranger of Dunland: Will the characters be given new weapons that will boost there stats?

(NY): Yes, there’s this little sort of lite-RPG system in the Two Towers game, whereas you kill Orc’s you build experience and then you level up. You get to spend those experience points at the end of the levels, at the end of the missions on upgrades. And those upgrades are unlocked based on your level. You can go up to ten levels for each of the characters. At the beginning of each mission, you pick the character you want to play. So by the end of the game, if you’ve picked Aragorn 80% of the time, then you’ve probably got Aragorn to be a level eight character. But if you played Legolas all the rest of the time and Gimli not at all, then you’ve got Legolas at maybe level two or three, you’ve got Gimli at level one and you haven’t unlocked all their features and potentials yet. So some of those things are bigger health bars, more powerful weapons… we sort of take a little liberty with the weaponry. For example, Legolas just has his regular arrows, but he can also fire flaming arrows, or sort of magical arrows if you like, and these are better at critical kills or head kills or whatever. That sort of helps extend the game.

(DC): Will the actors be providing their voices for the game?

(NY): Absolutely, we’ve just finished the recording of that, And on the game DVD, in the special features section, there are interviews with all the actors, certainly with Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies and Elijah Wood talking about the process of making it.

(DC): Have you begun work on Return of the King, and has anyone from EA seen a rough draft of Return of the King?

(NY): Yes, we have begun work on Return of the King. Has anyone seen a “rough draft” of the film? We have absolutely read the script for Return of the King, and we have seen a lot of the production stills and previous stuff from Return of the King. I’ve worked on movie games before, and this is by far the closest collaboration that I’ve ever had on any one of those products that I’ve worked on. Peter and Barrie [Osborne] down there, Peter is a Gamer, he loves games, he’s excited about games. New Line and he and Barry who runs ThreeFootSix, the Producer of the film, have really been just awesome at kind of just “What do you need?” “How do we make it work?” “How do we build games that are as cool in your medium as the films are trying to be in ours?”. And so whether that’s sitting down with Richard Taylor and talking about what it really means to craft a sword from Middle Earth, or exactly why Aragorn is wearing the clothing that he’s wearing and how it is made and how do we capture that. Or whether it’s sitting down with Peter and talking about the areas of the books that he’s trying to bring out in the films and things he thinks are important. Or whether it’s literary using digital models from the film and bringing them to life interactively. Any of those things I think ends up adding to the quality of the games at the end of the day.

(DC): What are the challenges of working with the movie license versus the literary license?

(NY): If you flip the question the other way… I think it’s more challenging to work on the license of the book than it is to work on the license of the film. And the reason I say that is, the books are huge epic pieces of work that the only imagery that exists to explain what a Balrog looks like, or what an Uruk Hai looks like, or what Saruman looks like, or what Gandalf looks like is really your own imagination, or it’s Alan Lee and John Howe’s work, which is essentially imagined from the books in the first place. If we were working with the book rights exclusively, I think it would be harder for us to focus on gameplay, because we’d be spending all our time focusing on “Well, what does a Balrog look like?” or “What shouldn’t a Balrog look like?” Working on the film a lot of the visual imagery has been defined and I don’t want to reinvent it. I think that people, for the foreseeable future, will have a very distinct image in their head of what an Uruk Hai looks like, or who Frodo is, or how Aragorn moves. Being able to capture that is a really big advantage for us. Being able to use Howard Shore’s score, and being able to use the voices or sound effects or actors or film footage really allows us to craft an experience that has a strong center in gameplay, versus trying to build something that’s got good gameplay. I think that sort of works to our advantage at the end of the day.

And as for the number one most asked question; “Will The Two Towers be coming to Xbox/Game Cube?”

Well, things were still in final negotiations during the interview, but we can now officially announce:

EA’s The Two Towers will be coming to Xbox and GameCube in early 2003!

Check out some amazing screenshots
from EA!

Thomas G. Morrow III AKA: DarthCaeser is the Gaming Editor here at TheOneRing.net. He can be reached at DarthCaeser@theonering.net

Posted in Old Special Reports

GAMING: EA Interviews

Next week we at Gaming Havens will be sitting down for a talk with the Producers of the upcoming LOTR Titles from EA. We’d like to open up the floor for you to send in your questions to deliver to the EA crew. Drop us a line at havens@theonering.net with your questions and concerns! [Gaming Havens]

Posted in Old Main News

GAMING: WXP Visit

I have returned from a journey to bring details on my exclusive behind the scenes visit to WXP, Developers of one of the most highly anticipated games off all times; The Fellowship of the Ring for Xbox. [More]

Posted in Old Main News

WXP Visit

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.

Posted in Old Special Reports