No mention of the cats of Queen Berúthiel
September 24, 2014 12:44 PM   Subscribe

The long and tangled history of video game adaptations of the worlds of JRR Tolkien.
posted by Chrysostom (36 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
I feel like I played a LOTR game a long time ago (like in the 80s?) where you moved across a world map and had battle encounters with enemies on a sort of side-scrolling perspective that originally had animated characters bashing each other but eventually became abstracted to unit text when you had an army. The objective was to get to Mount Doom. I don't see it here, though. I think maybe it was based on a boardgame?

I did two stints in LOTRO and it's a really nice game with great art direction. The shire section in particular is lovely. I think that's about the best adaptation I've seen to date. It's kind of funny that Turbine went for the hardest task (creating a huge, somewhat faithful MMO) and did great, and EA spent the same period failing again, and again, and again... Funny, but not surprising.
posted by selfnoise at 1:06 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


/sits down and sings a song about gold.
posted by Artw at 1:07 PM on September 24, 2014 [10 favorites]


"My standard disclaimer: I'm always really nervous to try and answer what I think Tolkien would think of video games, because that is a whole lot of guesswork and I really don't know," Professor Olsen said. Video games had yet to gain traction when Tolkien passed away in 1973. "I don't want to pretend I know how Tolkien would respond."

That's fair, but I feel pretty confident saying he would be disgusted by the microtransaction model.
posted by jbickers at 1:10 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I feel like I played a LOTR game a long time ago (like in the 80s?) where you moved across a world map and had battle encounters with enemies on a sort of side-scrolling perspective that originally had animated characters bashing each other but eventually became abstracted to unit text when you had an army.

I just went looking for that same game after skimming the article. I'm pretty sure the game we're thinking of is War in Middle Earth.
posted by gauche at 1:13 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


I too definitely played War in Middle Earth at a friend's house once as a child and have always remembered it. I went looking for it recently and found this hilarious fan page with a winning strategy involving deliberately sacrificing Gandalf the Grey/Frodo and turning the One Ring over to the Nazgul right at the start of the game.
posted by Earthtopus at 1:19 PM on September 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


Did I spend many hours in the early '90s poking around Interplay's Lord of the Rings Vol. 1 trying to trigger all the weird side quests mentioned in the companion book that I read through with absolutely no regards to spoilers?

Yes. Yes, I did. Unfortunately, I never found the vampire. (Apparently he was in Bree. Huh.)

Other than that, though: no regrets.
posted by rewil at 1:19 PM on September 24, 2014


Yup, that was the game, Gauche! I remember it being really fun but I was ten years old at the time, so...
posted by selfnoise at 1:23 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's not mentioned in the article but LOTR influenced "epic game" The Lords of Midnight - created for the ZX Spectrum in 1984 by British game designer/developer Mike Singleton (also later creator of the far lesser official LOTR game, War in Middle Earth) is surely the gold standard for LOTR-type games.


The game has recently been ported for iPad/iPhone/Android/Blackberry/Kindle/Windows/Mac
posted by Bwithh at 1:33 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


No mention of the Journey to Rivendell?
posted by leotrotsky at 1:35 PM on September 24, 2014


The only one I ever played was a floppy disk era Hobbit text adventure game with some pretty pictures ...

Ah, I see it's listed -- "In 1982, Beam Software and publisher Melbourne House brought Tolkien's world to computers with a text adventure based on The Hobbit. (An emulator of the ZX Spectrum version is available to play online.)"

I kept getting stuck in the hall of the stupid Mirkwood elves, and then when I finally got out (I think pretty much through a glitch in the game), I immediately got hung up at the next step. I gave up there.

I am not a patient person when it comes to videogames.
posted by kyrademon at 1:36 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wait, if they couldn't have tomatoes in the game because they're a New World fruit, what about po-tay-toes?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:46 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]




Wait, if they couldn't have tomatoes in the game because they're a New World fruit, what about po-tay-toes?

Also: tobacco.
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:59 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't think I ever played a LOTR video game, but back in grade eight or thereabouts I wasted a bunch of time putting together a D&D campaign based on the books. Everyone got bored long before they even reached Rivendell and IIRC I lost my temper and ended the game when the guy playing Gandalf tried to use Shadowfax as a weapon by raising him into the air and dropping him on a troll or something.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:08 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I lost my temper and ended the game when the guy playing Gandalf tried to use Shadowfax as a weapon by raising him into the air and dropping him on a troll or something.

At least you didn't get far enough in game to have Legolas surf down a set of stairs on a shield.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 2:11 PM on September 24, 2014 [8 favorites]


Middle-earth turns 100 today.

(was going to do that as an FPP in its own right, but adding it here seems wisest)
posted by Wordshore at 2:24 PM on September 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


Left out of this article, except for a mention in the comments, are the MUD implementations of Tolkien's work, most notably The Two Towers.
posted by The Confessor at 2:34 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I love playing The Hobbit, for all the hassle it took to make it, it's a very fun little game experience.
posted by biscotti at 2:39 PM on September 24, 2014


The Hibbit has mentions of locomotives and alarm clocks, so it's clearly at least the 19th century in Middle Earth and they can totally have potatoes.
posted by Artw at 2:40 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I love LOTR but I've never had any interest in playing a LOTR video game. Or a Star Wars video game for that matter. When the universe and story are already pretty complete, I don't really need to play merchant-turned-adventurer dude who goes to fight some goblins.

WoW on the other hand, or Ultima, or Wizardy, or Elder Scrolls or any of the hundred other games inspired by LoTR I eat up.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:46 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


You might say Colossal Cave was the first Tolkien-inspired video game, because fundamentally all of the LoTR books were about throwing eggs and bears at trolls.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:54 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ctrl+F on the article for Elendor, found nothing. Sigh.
posted by tofu_crouton at 3:02 PM on September 24, 2014


I spent too many hours exploring the dungeons in JAMoria, a roguelike for the Macintosh vaguely descended from Moria. I once beat the Balrog and all.
posted by sukeban at 3:15 PM on September 24, 2014


Oh, I adore LOTRO. Full-paying member here, VIP and all, for nearly eight years. I take long breaks from playing it (months at a time) but I pay so that it will always be there for me, and I can still have the resources I want.

Easily one of my three favorite games of all time.
posted by grubi at 3:40 PM on September 24, 2014


I played so much WIME back in the day. At one point I realized that actually seeking out the various trinkets that get your allies to mobilize (and thus make their soldiers under your control) was almost completely pointless because the instant Saurman mobilizes, almost all of those forces will mobilize, whereupon it's all a matter of gathering into one or two huge piles of soldiers and crushing Saruman before marching on Morannon or Cirith Ungol to force your way into Mordor.

Additionally, if you send one of your people to the ents, they'll go wreck Saruman and his forces on their own, though if you do this before Saruman mobilizes, his forces will simply respawn and proceed to march through Gondor anyway.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:14 PM on September 24, 2014


There's a really nice little article from a couple of years ago on the Reg about Veronika Megler's role in writing The Hobbit. I'm afraid my memories of the game are of getting so impatient with the flood fills on the graphics that I never really got very far with it - which reflected my experience of trying to wade through LOTR in book form, as it happens. Guess I'm not very Tolkien. But as a bit of programming, it was far cleverer than I realised (probably also true of the book...)
posted by Devonian at 5:45 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


So clearly adapting The Lord of the Rings for video games presents a number of problems. But what if we adapted it for other activities?


"In cycling news today, the Ronde van Riddermark was again marred by disruptions, with many riders complaining of intrusions by 'wolves or large dogs' on the parcours. The eventual winner, Ehomir Ethulduennien (Isengear-Crédit Lórien) attacked on the final climb up to Edoras, while improvising verses to a song mocking other members of the peloton. In other race news, for the third year running, no-one completed or even returned from Osgiliath-Ithilien-Osgiliath, leaving many to question why the event is still included on the UCI calendar."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:57 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Middle-earth turns 100 today.

(was going to do that as an FPP in its own right, but adding it here seems wisest)


Tolkien was born in 1892. Out of curiosity I headed for Wikipedia to look up people born in 1992 to feel viscerally how young he was. (It is not a perfect parallel, as Tolkien was nothing like famous in 1914, granted.) I wonder if Miley Cyrus or Selena Gomez is writing down anything today that will still be prominent and influential into the 22nd century.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:18 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]



Ctrl+F on the article for Elendor, found nothing. Sigh.


Ctrl+F for MUME led me to the same feels. Sigh.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:10 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Long, long ago, in the land of the 1980's, I wrote a game that tried to emulate Oregon Trail, but with hobbits. "You have died of orcs." It was stupid and derivative but I was a kid then, gimme a break.

Imagine my delight when, in a "game room" at an early (very early) San Diego Comic Con, I found these players trying to "beat" this ridiculous game. The only thing I had added to it was The Ring as a "panic button." You could escape any disaster by ordering Frodo to put on the Ring, right until he succumbed to it, at which point you lost.
posted by SPrintF at 10:23 PM on September 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


I used to play the Hobbit on the commodore 64. Also one of the earliest memories of a game that had a guide to playing it (not my photo). Not a big fan of guide books, and this is one of very few that I own.
I also had a copy of the LOTR game for the BBC, which came with a copy of the book. (this one is my photo).
posted by thingonaspring at 3:22 AM on September 25, 2014


I played LOTRO extensively for a couple of years. Not only is the art direction excellent, but the attention to the lore is thorough.

The Shire is lovely, but the Dwarves starting area is quite nice, too.
posted by Fleebnork at 5:52 AM on September 25, 2014


Also: the oddly specifically-titled Riders of Rohan
posted by HeroZero at 5:53 AM on September 25, 2014


Shame, I was looking forward to reading about Angband (which is on my phone dictionary without being added by me, I should add)!

More seriously, I think another issue with adaptations of LOTR is that rpgs are not pure Tolkien, but also Sword & Sorcery.
posted by ersatz at 8:28 AM on September 25, 2014


I know it's more Jackson's universe than Tolkien's, but the most recent game in the article, Shadows of Mordor, is getting good press. It's somewhat of a letdown that the criticisms of it center around the story, though I don't know if that's because it's delving into areas that Tolkien didn't write a lot about or the state of storytelling in modern games.

I was also kind of surprised that I only recognized the Battle for Middle Earth games, because I could have sworn I played an RPG based off of The Hobbit back in the CGA/EGA days. I didn't recognize any of the games they were talking about from the time period, so I'm assuming I got it mixed up with either a classic game that got modded, or just that so many games borrow from that template. Anyway, I loved the first BFME as a way to play the setpiece battles from the movies (and books, in the case of BFME2), but I can see the frustration of development largely limited to one or the other.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:35 AM on September 27, 2014


The Shire is lovely, but the Dwarves starting area is quite nice, too.

The Shire is so nice, that despite my main toon being a Man (and despite having a place in Bree would be much more convenient), I chose to buy a house in Michel Delving.
posted by grubi at 7:17 AM on September 29, 2014


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