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 Post subject: Gaming in Middle-Earth
PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 2:45 pm 
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There are many games both old and new that attempt to provide gamers the opportunity to live out their Tolkien fantasies in a gaming setting. I thought it might be worth exploring a few of these!

Computer Gaming

Before any licenses were provided, many Tolkien based MUDs sprang up, some better than others. The most famous was probably the Two Towers MUD. A MUD is a Multi-User Dungeon and these ran on ancient mainframes in text only mode. In some ways they were glorified chatrooms, but there was far more to them than that.

You can find out about more Tolkien MUDs here:
http://www.lysator.liu.se/tolkien-games/mud.html

The first graphical based games were little more advanced than MUDs and used ascii characters to create a 2D representation of the environment. The most famous by far of these was Angband, which is still in active development. Don't underestimate these games! They have the power to consume your soul, or at the very least all your spare time!

http://www.thangorodrim.net/

After that we had the first Graphical adventures. Beam software produced "The Hobbit" for the ZX Spectrum and later for other platforms. Sierra produced a selection of Graphic Adventures for the PC. Fellowship of the Ring and Shadows of Mordor were the two most famous. Lord of the Rings Book One for the Spectrum was impressive also.

In the same era we had games like "War in Middle Earth" which was a strategy wargame played out graphically.

Of course in recent years we have had a glut of Tolkien based computer games, some better than others. Firstly it's important to note which are based on the Movie License and which are based on the Book license. Eä Games hold the license for the Movie based games and these have (surprisingly) been the better games by far. These include the Hack and Slash type games "The Two Towers" and "Return of the King", the Wargames "Battle for Middle-Earth" and "Battle for Middle-Earth II", and the strategy RPG "LotR: Third Age".

Meanwhile, we had two very lacklustre efforts in the book licensed "The Fellowship of the Ring" and "War of the Ring". These games actually strayed further from the books in tone and content than the movies did! One notable exception is the platform game based on "The Hobbit" for PC and Consoles which was an extremely enjoyable action puzzler.

Of course, there are some still in development. "Battle for Middle-Earth II" has an expanded license which allows them to use both the content of the movies and also thing mentioned in the books. Thus we will have the opportunity to defend Lothlórien, lead an attack on Dol Guldor or stand with Dain and Brand before the gates of Erebor. More on that offering here:

http://www.Eä.com/official/lordoftherin ... s/home.jsp

Also in active development is the Massively Multiplayer game "Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar". This looks very interesting. Its not based on the movies, but rather on the book license and is using Bree/Archet as the starting area. In the initial game only the area surrounding Bree, The Shire and Angmar will be playable, but later expansions will allow gamers to play in any area of Middle-Earth. One of the interesting aspects of this game is that certain story based aspects of the games will be handled by scripted "instances". Thus in your first game you will be involved in attempting to repel an attack on Archet. After this, any time you return to Archet it will appear in it's damaged and burnt-out state. This "persistent world" feeling should make the game very immersive. Artwork looks great too!

http://lotro.turbine.com/index.php?page_id=106

So... that's just a taster. I'll be back to discuss boardgames, RPGs and Gamebooks later.

Any opinions?

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 3:43 pm 
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Quote:
A MUD is a Multi-User Dungeon


I remember MUDs! But don't you mean "Multi-User DOMAIN" not "Dungeon?" (Not all MUDS had dungeons! ;) )


In some ways, the early games and text-based games were more fun, I think. You could really use your imagination and the whole game was based on your own visualizations and so on.

Now, there is so much fancy stuff, that I get lost.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 7:13 pm 
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not something I would recommend
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In the initial game only the area surrounding Bree, The Shire and Angmar will be playable...



Um, that sounds pretty boring, no?

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 7:27 pm 
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I am not a gamer. I've never played in my life! So I'm not here to discuss this, although heaven knows I wish I could. (But I really don't need another way to "spend" my "spare time". :D )

But I heard an interesting radio program the other day about people paying REAL money, like US dollars or Euros or other currency for characters, or devices that can only be used in games. Anyone here familiar with this? :scratch:

We're talking big money. Like $20,000 USD.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 7:47 pm 
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not something I would recommend
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Anyone here familiar with this?


Yup. IIRC, I think I've met some guys who've done it too. I absolutely hate the idea, personally (I used to seriously desire to get into video game making, so I take the subject more seriously than...well, anybody I've ever met), but to each his own, I suppose.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 10:22 pm 
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Personally, I’m annoyed by the lack of any good Tolkien-based RTSs. War of the Ring was basically it’s own fantasy story set in Middle Earth, and you could win every game by towering up, building up an army of powerful units and ordering them to attack-move into the enemy base. BFME has more of a fan base, but it isn’t any better IMHO. It runs inefficiently, the campaign is boring beyond belief, and gameplay involves flattening horde after horde of Orcs with cavalry. I’ve made better Middle-Earth related scenarios in Age of Empires II and Age of Mythology.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 12:37 am 
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A couple of years ago, while researching material for a roleplay based in Umbar, I came across this site: http://harad.elendor.net/

It's a huge MUSH site (and I have no idea what MUSH really means, I'm just parroting the term offered on the site itself) and looks quite complex, with the culture, environment, rules of engagement etc firmly and elaborated worked out.

Has anyone had any experience with this kind of game site? I'm curious about it (though not curious enough to engage in the site itself. My little leisure time is already spread pretty thinly amongst my various interests!)


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 2:55 am 
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vison wrote:
I am not a gamer. I've never played in my life! So I'm not here to discuss this, although heaven knows I wish I could. (But I really don't need another way to "spend" my "spare time". :D )

But I heard an interesting radio program the other day about people paying REAL money, like US dollars or Euros or other currency for characters, or devices that can only be used in games. Anyone here familiar with this? :scratch:

We're talking big money. Like $20,000 USD.


This is true.

Here is a third party market for game currency and items. I read an article a couple of years ago that the guy who runs this site makes over $1,000,000 a year selling virtual items and currency. That's his whole business. Nothing real.

http://www.mysupersales.com/

Sony has now sanctioned the practice of buying and selling to make this more aboveboard for its players:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,154206,00.html

For a bizzarre new development in this area, see the following:

Outsourcing Pleasure: When Technology Enables Spiritual Suicide

BrianIs :) AtYou

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 10:49 am 
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of Vinyamar
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yova,

The beauty of playing those areas is that you won't have a thousand players all trying to be Aragorn. The player will be a "grunt", not a hero. In most of these games, the earlier levels are perforce more simple. As the character levels up and becomes more powerful, they gain access to more challenging areas. However, lets not forget that in this area we have the Old Forest, The Barrow Downs and the East West Road. These areas alone should provide enough hazard to begin with, and enough material for quests to allow for a good RPG experience.

Lord_M,

Have a look at the new BfME 2. The game balancing looks very interesting, particularly in relation to base building and unit capabilities. The campaign game has also been significantly upgraded. I particularly like the ability to save Multiplayer Campaigns. This gives players the opportunity to play a full campaign over weeks against another gamer. You might also be interested in the Tolkien Based, Rome: Total War mod. I believe it's very well thought of.


vison,

Regarding "Farming". This is when people play a game simply for the purpose of manufacturing valuable commodities and winning valuable Rare items that they can then sell on Ebay. There's really no way around this except to re-educate children and young adults. What happens is that these players want instant gratification. They want the best weapons and the best armour and they want it NOW DAMMIT!! Instead of playing the game as it's intended and earning these items through gameplay, they look for the "quick fix" and instead buy the items on ebay. Of course, because they didn't earn them in-game they suddenly find that their game character has not gained enough experience to use them properly so soon enough they find themselves in a vicious circle when all they had to do to get there by themselves was have a little patience. The mindset is staggeringly stupid.

Imp,

A MUSH and a MUD are basically the same. MUSH stands for "Multi User Shared Hallucination", which is quite a nice description I think :) Basically what they are is like a cross between old style text adventures, with a little RP thrown in and a multiplayer persistent world. I believe they are incredibly addictive and Elendor is considered to be one of the best. This page will give you an idea of what's involved.

http://www.elendor.net/about.php?f=a_basic

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 11:50 am 
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Alatar wrote:
Have a look at the new BfME 2


I have, and I am definitely not that excited. Spider-riding Goblins? ‘Drogoth, the Dragon Lord’? Xen-Galadriel? One Gondor-Rohan faction? Tom Bombadil with super-destructive magic powers? A storyline that bears no resemblance to the books?

Maybe I’m just too much of a purist for this…

Alatar wrote:
You might also be interested in the Tolkien Based, Rome: Total War mod. I believe it's very well thought of.


I’m following Fourth Age RTW but it’s still early days. It’s a shame that reasonable ME RTS gaming has to come from mods though.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 3:09 pm 
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not something I would recommend
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However, lets not forget that in this area we have the Old Forest, The Barrow Downs and the East West Road. These areas alone should provide enough hazard to begin with, and enough material for quests to allow for a good RPG experience.


I have a hard time envisioning that being the case and still staying reasonably close to the book. How many Huorn and Wight attacks can you fend off before you get bored?


Quote:
Tom Bombadil with super-destructive magic powers?


:shock: I'm no purist but WTF??

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 3:52 pm 
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yovargas wrote:
Quote:
However, lets not forget that in this area we have the Old Forest, The Barrow Downs and the East West Road. These areas alone should provide enough hazard to begin with, and enough material for quests to allow for a good RPG experience.


I have a hard time envisioning that being the case and still staying reasonably close to the book. How many Huorn and Wight attacks can you fend off before you get bored?


Quote:
Tom Bombadil with super-destructive magic powers?


:shock: I'm no purist but WTF??



I don't know about the purism aspect. That's far too subjective for me. as long as it "feels" like Middle Earth and doesn't contradict any of the established facts I'll be happy. It's like I said to Hobby in a PM recently when discussing MERP.

Quote:
Extrapolating logically from Tolkiens works, Dol Amroth is a harbour town. It would have, like any city or town, a seedy section, a middle class and an upper class. Ferny and his ruffians are an example of the type of people who would populate the darker corners. Since Imrahil is a Prince, it follows that there is some sort of royalty and courtiers are a logical extrapolation from that. Where there are nobility and low-life sharing a town, there will be swords for hire. In Silmarillion Tolkien notes this of the men in Hithlum. Now, is an assassin in Dol Amroth beyond the realms of possibility? Is it still "non-Tolkien".


To my mind, extrapolating logically from the source is a fair means of providing a game setting. Apart from anything else, games would be extremely boring if the only thing you could do was what was in the books. Now, personally I draw the line at stuff like Bombadil with Destructive powers, and I don't know where Lord_M saw that. He's referencing the Wargame, though, and not the Roleplaying game.

As for tedium. I've been playing world of Warcraft for nearly a year now and I'm still not bored even though the variety of creatures is not infinite. Looking at the old forest alone I can easily come up with a selection of enemies, from spiders, wolves and other animals up to huorns. Also, taking a cue from World of Warcraft you can have varieties of strength in any given creature. Take spiders. You could start with Baby Spider, Spider Youngling, Mature Spider, Venomous Spider, Ancient Spider, all the way up to Child of Ungoliant or whatever. It may not sound very imaginative, but with enough variety and clever quest structure a lot can be achieved.

An example would be the platform game of The Hobbit. I felt they struck a nice balance with gameplay and faithfulness. All of the original story was there but there were loads of added features that made it enjoyable as a game. It's like Movies and Books. They're different media.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 5:51 pm 
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Thanks, Alatar, for the explanation. It seems as though those greedy and impatient people not only get instant gratification, instant punishment follows!

I can only be glad I have never fallen into gaming! I would probably be a trogylodyte by now. I spend enough time hunched over a keyboard.

My youngest grandson WOULD spend his life playing video games. I limit them to part of the weekend, never on school days. Both boys love "Harvest Moon", which just cracks me up. I can only imagine the puking signs they would have made if I'd been the one to say, "Here, guys, here's a cool game, it's about farming!" One of their "cool" friends introduced them to it. I wish there was another such game.

But now Oz wants the LOTR games for his X-Box. They have one for the PS2 but when they got it, it was too hard for them. They're older now.

I don't let them play games on the computer, though. Two Gameboys, an X-Box, a PS2, are enough.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 6:07 pm 
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vison, my kids asked for "Harvest Moon" for Christmas! They'd heard what a great game it is, and they've been playing it a lot. It makes a change from space battles and conquering the world. Even my almost-18-year-old enjoys it.

Now if I had heard how wholesome and fun it was, and bought it for them. . . . :P

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 6:07 pm 
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Vison, I recently picked up Two Towers and Return of the King for Xbox for €15.99 each. An absolute bargain! I have Third Age as well, but I haven't got into it like I did with the others.

A well specced PC is still the best Gaming platform though :)


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 3:09 pm 
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I thought I might continue this thread if there's any interest?

Next section: Boardgames

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 10:08 pm 
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I have certainly played Angband many, many times :)

I will agree that the game is addictive and takes up waaay too much time. My brothers enjoyed playing it, but they would always cheat and modify everything (uncurse the One Ring, and have that be dropped by some nobody on dungeon level 3 ;)). I liked that Ringil was such a cool weapon :)

It was always fun thinking up Elvish names for my characters. It freaked me out to see the graveyard recently, and I saw that some of them were named "Morfin" - this is a minor character in the latest Harry Potter book, not to mention that it conjures up images of Power Rangers. Then I recalled that it was Sindarin for 'dark hair' and realized I must have been bored and unimaginative at the time ;).

I didn't play the earliest version, that just had ascii characters, but I did play it on a Linux box, for what that's worth ;).


And when do we get to the Warhammer game?


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 10:51 pm 
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Well, in fairness Warhammer is not really a Tolkien based game except in the loosest possible sense. It's simply a generic fantasy theme which could be said to have been inspired by Tolkien. That said, I don't think Tolkien would be too impressed to get credit for the ratlike Skaven and the other forces of Chaos.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 12:35 am 
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Oh, I should have clarified....

This Warhammer game ;)

But since it's just called 'Lord of the Rings' by Games Workshop, I thought I'd use Warhammer to get across what I meant.

It really is quite fun, and involved. You can (for instance) stage the battle of Helm's Deep, or just a random batch of orcs vs. elves... very versatile. The bad guys almost always outnumber the good guys, but the good guys have niftier tricks. I have no mind for strategy, so I always lose to my brothers. At first, I insisted on being the good guys, because I couldn't really bring myself to play the Uruk-hai or the Nazgûl. But then, I realized that I wanted the good guys to win, so now I try to play the bad guys ;). Plus, it's a lot easier to wield a cave troll than to bring one down...

Oh, and you get to paint them :D.

While this was originally movie-based, they have added many purely book characters. A certain someone will be happy to hear that Tom and his wife Goldberry were not left out ;)


Anyway, I didn't know if this game was a board game or not (since there's no board....) So, I didn't want to start discussing it too early, or whatever.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 1:00 am 
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Ah yes. I actually played a little of this in Liverpool while waiting to meet Hobby. I was quite impressed with it. The rules are simple and easy to pick up, yet have enough depth to keep a hardcore gamer happy. I'll probably pick up one of the starter packs at some stage so I can let it gather dust on my shelf along with all the other Tolkien based games I've bought and never played :)

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