Shadow of Mordor director discusses Assassin's Creed copycat claims

"We built everything from the ground up for this game," says Shadow of Mordor design director.

Following the announcement of Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor in January, many people were quick to compare the game to Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed series. Former Ubisoft developer Charles Randall even accused Monolith and Warner Bros. of using animations and code from Assassin's Creed II. "Seriously, can someone tell me how Assassin's Creed [II] code and assets are in this Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor game?" wrote Randall on Twitter earlier this year.

But Shadow of Mordor design director Michael de Plater has flat-out denied any claims of copying code and animations. "Honestly, we built everything from the ground up for this game," he said to GameSpot.

Monolith did look to UK developer Rocksteady and its Batman games for inspiration, though. "We absolutely, at the inception, looked at Batman, in their combat and stealth," he says, while maintaining that "as soon as people play [Shadow of Mordor], any experience we've had where people get their hands on, it's totally its own thing."

After playing through a chunk of the game yesterday, it did appear to me that the animations of protagonist Talion had been changed slightly--and in particular toning down any similarities to Ezio's distinctive run--since the game's debut trailer, although a Monolith representative wouldn't confirm this to me.

How did the copycat claims affect the team when they first arose, from both Randall and many articles published by the games media? "I think we were just a bit surprised because in any other genre it's such a given," de Plater said. "Nobody would bat an eyelid with a shooter, or a sports game, that two games in the same genre have some elements in common. I think it just shows that there's not that many third-person, open-world action games like this. And certainly, after thinking about it, we couldn't really think of another fantasy one like this as well."

Overall, though, de Plater said that "we spent a lot more time looking at the user comments than the articles, and people seemed really excited."

The headline feature of Shadow of Mordor is its Nemesis system, which creates a dynamic, unscripted hierarchy of orc troops as players work to assassinate their way to the very top. But de Plater also says that, as the game's development progressed, the team also managed to weave its storyline missions around these dynamic events. "I think the thing that's evolved more over time is that people would get into the game and they would totally get lost in the nemesis system," he said. It's worth noting that the Nemesis system is scaled back on 360 and PS3, if you're intending to play the game on one of the older consoles.

"There was a much bigger divide between, well, the Nemesis system, which was kind of the game, and then the story. People would kind of go and do the story when they had to. But as we finished that--Christian Cantamessa was our lead writer and director, he was lead writer on Red Dead Redemption--so as the story missions have got finished, we've got a much better balance between people wanting to learn the story, learn the lore, and are really interested in the background and characters, and are balancing their time more between the different parts of the game. It's feeling more coherent."

For more information on Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, check out GameSpot's recent hands-on preview.

Martin Gaston is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @squidmania
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Discussion

98 comments
JRD1912
JRD1912

Ground up?  It looks old and dated.  Graphics are washed out.  Everything you can climb on is extremely boxy,  They had to have used an old engine for this game.  Looks awful.

LatinproX
LatinproX

As if...the same nay sayers that criticized AC and then played it to death, are the same doo-doo disturbers trying to rock the boat this time and failing epically once again with a game they will play even more. These white-knuckling slackers need to unclench and find better things to do than talk smack about nothing when no one is drinking their kool-aid, obviously. Well, they do make me laugh at times. As the Japanese say: Oppai nomitai?!

charlieholmes
charlieholmes

Please, companies and games have been ripping off ideas and concepts forever from each other. Mordor looks great and the ideas appear solid. Hopefully, it turns out as good as it appears to be.

Hurvl
Hurvl

Even if it's made from the ground up, that doesn't exclude the possibility of them imitating someone else's work. Honestly, I don't really care if the accusations are true or not, I just want a good game and you could pick worse games to mimic.

ammar1234
ammar1234

Copy or not ... I just want a gd experience that will make me play this game over and over again because middle earth deserves that

EPaul
EPaul

The trailer shown in janaury was basicallt a LOTR skinned ACII honestly but they've change it up abit since then

WillyWynn
WillyWynn

games are copying each others for decades... Who cares? No one... AC is quiet dead in my personal opinion... The story and the games arrive to a point where is no sense bolix more and more... 

SunOfAGun
SunOfAGun

I think they are jealous because this will be a better assassin game.

AC's fights gameplay is such a bore it's easy to catch up to it.

And if the fight plays like AC and not Batman then you will need only one button to get through it.

commando1992
commando1992

Hey, AC's been copying itself for the last five games. And then they copied parts of it for Far Cry 3 and Watch Dogs. I don't see what the big deal is. 

Darth_Aloysius
Darth_Aloysius

Is this really like an AC game? It what ways? I'm asking this honestly because I haven't played the game, all I did is watch a combat video and well... aside from the fact that you hack and slash and multiple enemies I really can't see any striking similarities.

Instead when I first saw the gameplay video I thought "Batman" straight away.

eddieham13
eddieham13

I often worry about arseholes in comment sections changing games for the worse because developers think that's what everyone wants. I am genuinely excited for this game. So if you don't plan on buying it. STFU and GTFO.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

I like how some commenters are getting mad at people saying it's copying AC


"You're an idiot!  It looks like it's copying Batman way more!"


Roll eyes.

xgalacticax
xgalacticax

Their lead character looks very unlikeable. That's my only concern.

OHGFawx
OHGFawx

-We didn't copy.

-In every other genre copying is a given.

-No one would care if we copied a shooter or sports game.

-We built this game from the ground up.


Haha I need to q-tip to clean all of this bullshit out of my ears.

alioli
alioli

have "some" things in common

this game flat out simply plays like an AC game, it's as simple as that - it doesnt play as a regular "action" game, the combat and stealth is exactly like AC, saying they looked to batman when the combat looks exactly like AC is just silly - the game looks and from the looks of it feels exactly like a AC game.

djsimpson95
djsimpson95

If Troy Baker is gonna voice the main character then the game should be good, except for the new COD which might damage his credibility.

arlaon
arlaon

Has Charles Randall shown any proof that they have copy the code from a AC game

bunchr
bunchr

with how many games out there today some games are going to look like they copied other games when in all reality the developer probably was just making his game without thinking about that game

Sushiglutton
Sushiglutton

Don't care if games copy stuff as long as they add some value on their own. And this game does. 

Evil_Sidekick
Evil_Sidekick

The fact that it doesn't have MP makes it 100x times better than Assassin's Creed

shingui5
shingui5

Eh, still unsure about this one.

The story alone is generic enough for me to want to dismiss it (oh, the white males [insert woman relative] died and now he wants revenge. What a great and original narrative). But the Nemesis system is at least keeping me somewhat intrigued. 

pezzott1
pezzott1

Similar or not it looks cool! so far its a purchase for me.

Keitha313
Keitha313

The voice actor sounds like Sean Bean am I mistaken?

ThrashMatt26
ThrashMatt26

Did...I just hear dubstep in Lord of the Rings...o.0

battlefront1943
battlefront1943

I'm in a business very much like the games industry and...  revolutionary systems can be trademarked and written works can be copyright protected...  but ideas have no protection whatsoever.  Ideas are free.

Movies and games share aspects/ideas all the time.  

thecman25
thecman25

they build everything from the ground up? yea with the same exact ideas from AC

WolfgarTheQuiet
WolfgarTheQuiet

@Hurvl Imitating doe snot mean using code and animation from some other game. Also who the hell would use Ass Creeds stuff in the first place, many do it better. As they said inspiration comes from Batman games and its based on it, not copied exactly, just same kind of feel.

Ayzed
Ayzed

@commando1992  Obviously it's ok for far cry and watch dogs to copy things from AC because it's THE SAME PEOPLE MAKING THE GAMES.

it's not the same people making shadow of mordor.

shingui5
shingui5

@xgalacticax

Do lead characters have to be likeable though?

Geralt was a piece of sh*t, but he was still a great character. 

aawells09
aawells09

@alioli "this game flat out simply plays like an AC game, it's as simple as that - it doesn't play as a regular "action" game, the combat and stealth is exactly like AC"


Wait, have you played this already? WTF man share the details. What's the story like?....... What? You haven't played it after all? Ah man, you tricked me.

Shrabsters
Shrabsters

@djsimpson95 I would hope that there's no one that shallow as to judge a voice actor for what games they work on instead of their actual talent. Really says something about the state of the community if you ask me.

charlieholmes
charlieholmes

God isn't that the truth! So tired of MP games! Dime a dozen and same old thing! Titanfall, for example, was a major let down for me! Too shallow and just MP.

charlieholmes
charlieholmes

Agree. But, how many movies do you see without white actors named Cruz, Damon, or Pitt etc.? Yeah, TV shows and movies started and stayed in the rut way before games.

hystavito
hystavito

@shingui5 The Nemesis system is indeed interesting, but I can't help feeling it's probably not going to be nearly as cool or dynamic or whatever as they claim :).

merimack
merimack

Well the wraith possession thing hasn't really been done before. So that's new. I don't actually mind a generic story as long as it's done well. Some games have the coolest ideas for a story but then the execution is sh*t so the story turns out to be sh*t too. I mean even the Lord of the rings has a pretty unoriginal plot. A group of companions go on a quest to stop an evil guy and save the world. It doesn't mean it's a bad story. If you have a good enough writer, any basic storyline can become awesome.

jecomans
jecomans

@thecman25  You can run across ropes between building? Really stealing AC's thunder on that one, right?

phoenix1289
phoenix1289

@thecman25 Really? Because the combat is closer to Arkham than Assassin's Creed. As for other gameplay elements I don't remember magical combat moves, rune upgrade system, nemesis system, free form mission design, the ability to control enemies to assist with future missions, or the various other gameplay aspects of the like being in Assassin's Creed.


The only things that really came from Assassin's Creed was the climbing (which in all honesty there aren't many ways to realistically animate a person climbing) and eagle vision.

alioli
alioli

@aawells09 @alioli Have you looked at the gameplay vids? If you hvent - do that. Cuz those tell me more than I need to know in this regard

Letrico
Letrico

@hoyholyhoy @TehUndeadHorror It's not true that they are using the source code of AC but you can definitely see the animation and movement are based on AC. That climb and that jump assassinate. Even the roof rope and rope squatting looks exactly like AC. Saying it is inspiration from Batman is bullcrap as the 3rd person view, play style and animation matches AC.

They could just say they are inspired by AC but used batman as the scapegoat. 

The-Neon-Seal
The-Neon-Seal

@hystavito @shingui5 Well, 360 and Ps3 can't support the complete nemasis system that current gen and PC will have, so all that horse power has to be going somewhere.

phoenix1289
phoenix1289

@thecman25 @phoenix1289Not really, taking inspiration from is not copying. The combat is closer to Arkham but not identical as it features different abilities, a mind domination mechanic, and the ability to manipulate how fights go based on what you've done previously in the world among other nuanced aspects.


The upgrade system can't really be considered taken from another game as pretty much every action or rpg style game has some form of upgrade system at this point.


Then there is the nemesis system which is new and hasn't been taken from any game.

At the end of the day you will rarely ever find a game that is original, they all take cues from what has come before be that mechanics, design ideas, or stylistic choices.