Golden Ticket

Golden Ticket
One License To Rule Them All

Shawn Williams | 3 Jul 2007 12:04
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"SZC knows about

, but we still took time to point out how online gamers can be different." Steefel confesses. "We still had to say, 'Hey, we just introduced Angmar, Angmar didn't really show up as we're portraying it [in the books] in the Third Age - you guys should be prepared, you might even get letters from angry fans telling you that Turbine is destroying the license.' And you know what? They did."

Consult the Book of Armaments!
In many ways, working within Middle-earth is extremely structured, even when you're creating new areas. Tolkien was so structured in his fiction, so careful in his creations, the world has a very unique, strict style.

Steefel is quick to agree. "The thing that's great about Tolkien is that he's so consistent about what he does. ... If you study [Middle-earth] a lot and you spend a lot of time with it, and you really pay attention, you start to learn what kind of things would exist in this world - even if they didn't - and what kind of things wouldn't. That means that even new things that we created out of the blue aren't entirely out of the blue, they're created inside that mythology and that rule set, and they're things that make absolute sense being there."

Things like weapons and armor follow similar sorts of guidelines. Dwarven-crafted armor has a very distinct style - solid, enduring and practical - that separates it from elven-crafted armor, which tends to look much more intricate.

Most gamers, however, don't spend their time closely examining weapons. Instead, they're off in search of the Fellowship.

These Are Not The Hobbits You're Looking For
Everyone wants to be Aragorn or Legolas or Gimli - possibly even Frodo. So, when it came time to adapt the LOTR license into an MMOG, the individual player's role was called into question. A player wants to feel he's significant in the story, and if he can't be one of the main actors or meet the Fellowship, he at least wants to be able to get involved somehow.

"The story isn't just about the Ringbearer," says Steefel. "The story is about the War of the Ring and the war between the free people of ... Middle-earth and Sauron that's been going on for thousands of years." To that end, Turbine took cues from what was going on in the background. Although LOTR focuses primarily on the Fellowship and their part in the War of the Ring, there are numerous smaller stories going on. The trick lies making these smaller stories feel important.

And in the License Bind Them
Introducing a faithful reproduction of a license in a new format creates more interest in the license and can reach people that weren't previously interested. The Peter Jackson movies have grossed almost $3 billion dollars worldwide; while LOTRO probably won't come close to that figure, Jackson's success goes to show what great work and a great license can combine to achieve.

Working with a major license can be a frightening experience, but the rewards can be hugely satisfying. Beyond simple financial success, it's a chance to connect with a new audience and show them what you can do with a world they love.

And to do it without a single reference to "dwarf-tossing" is superb.

Shawn "Kwip" Williams is the founder of N3 (NeenerNeener.Net), where he toils away documenting his adventures as the worst MMOG and pen-and-paper RPG player in recorded history.

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