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Tolkien's Middle-Earth Goes Online

Mike Musgrove

In the upcoming online subscription game based on the Lord of the Rings books, players who are rusty on Tolkien lore will be able to brain up on "Middle-earth" by using an in-game Wikipedia and find their way around using Google's handy map service. Turbine, the company that created the game, has created tools so that your hobbit (or elf or dwarf or whatever) can easily keep a blog.

Screenshot from the new Lord of the Rings game. (Courtesy of Turbine)

Turbine's president and chief executive Jeff Anderson stopped by yesterday to show the game off and tout what he called the game's "Web 2.0" features. The company intends to implement cool tools or widgets from Google Maps and other services into the game wherever they might add to the game. "That's clearly the direction we're going," he said.

Some of the game's early players seem to like the fact that Turbine made it possible to "perform" virtual musical instruments in the game. Some have already posted video clips of themselves, playing Tolkien-esque versions of songs such as "Dust in the Wind," on YouTube.

It has been tough for online "massively multiplayer" games to make inroads against World of Warcraft, a game with a whopping 8 million players. But Turbine is hoping that the built-in appeal of having Tolkien's world will bring an audience. The recently-launched test verion of Lord of the Rings Online, which officially launches April 24, drew in almost 700,000 players.

By Mike Musgrove  |  April 11, 2007; 12:34 PM ET  | Category:  Mike Musgrove
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I've thought since I first started playing World of Warcraft that one if its main appeals was a unity of style between the parts of the game that move (such as players avatars and monsters) and those that don't. The exagerated and almost cartoonish look to the game is well suited to the restrictions on graphics. I have hopes for Lord of the Rings Online, but so far I think it and other titles have ignored this aspect of graphic design in favor of a more realistic appearance. This is particularly true in terms of movement which can appear jarringly fake in an otherwise very realistic landscape.

I hope to be proved wrong. After all, it was my dissapointment that this was such a problem in Oblivion (which has many graphical similarities to LotRO). If Turbine can pull it off, I will certainly sign up.

Posted by: David S. | April 11, 2007 2:16 PM

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