The Lord of the Rings, The Battle for Middle-earth Designer Diary #3

Senior producer Mike Verdu explains how EA LA is working closely with New Line Cinema to bring the world of Middle-earth to life in this upcoming strategy game.

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EA's Mark Skaggs explains the 'living world' system in this exclusive new video. Double-click the video window for a full-screen view.

There was a time when you could criticize all real-time strategy games for being the same. In all of them, you seemed to focus on collecting resources, building up a base, and creating a huge army as fast as possible to crush your opponents before they could do the same. However, EA LA's upcoming strategy game, The Lord of the Rings, The Battle for Middle-earth, will attempt to break from this traditional format to feature four completely different playable factions in a game based on the awe-inspiring cinematic vision of director Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings motion pictures. In fact, you won't spend the first 20 minutes of every game chopping wood to build barracks--instead, you'll be amassing armies and moving them around a huge interactive map that EA LA refers to as "the living world." These and other aspects of the game are being brought to life thanks to careful collaboration with New Line Cinema, the film studio responsible for the blockbuster Lord of the Rings motion pictures. Senior producer Mike Verdu sheds more light on the process of bringing the hit movies into a real-time strategy game.

Getting Cinematic

By Mike Verdu
Senior Producer, EA LA

Hi, my name is Mike Verdu and I'm a senior producer on The Lord of the Rings, The Battle for Middle-earth. What a senior producer does is basically drive product quality. We make sure the game looks its very best and is fun to play. In order to do that, I handle a variety of tasks spanning different disciplines within the project. I monitor and coordinate contributions from art, design, and programming. I also spend a lot of time talking to New Line Cinema, getting materials approved and referencing images from production or any other materials we might need. I travel to New York pretty frequently to meet with [the New Line Cinema group] and show them the game.

Right now we are getting ready to go to New Line Cinema and meet with two senior executives to present some details about the game design. So far, New Line Cinema has been very enthusiastic about what they've seen. We'll describe how the game's going to work, show some of the new, cool stuff we've created, and discuss a bunch of specific issues, such as getting our hands on more assets.

Like the team responsible for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, we've also gotten an amazing amount of assets directly from the moviemakers. We have the actual models and textures for critters like the "mumakil" giant elephants and the trolls. We have materials that were used for the special effects shots, battle previsualizations, production stills, costume references, and concept sketches.

Gandalf leads the forces of good once again.
Gandalf leads the forces of good once again.

While both game development teams have benefited tremendously from the wealth of reference from New Line Cinema, our two games are very different. With The Lord of the Rings, The Battle for Middle-earth, our goal is to let you immerse yourself in--and ultimately control--the world of Middle-earth. That's a relatively new concept for real-time strategy games, and we're busting many real-time strategy genre conventions as a result. You'll be able to fight the battles that you saw in the films and control the heroes that you saw in the films, but you decide what happens and when. You essentially decide the fate of the world; and you don't have to play on the side of the good, either. You can control Orcs and Nazgul. You can be Mordor and sweep across Middle-earth.

I think that anyone who is familiar with the books and anyone who has seen the movies would probably get a kick out of playing the evil side. It's certainly a tried-and-true convention in the real-time strategy world. It may be great fun to play through the good campaign, fighting against all of these enemies, but you might also be wondering, "What if I was actually controlling the bad guys? How would I do things differently?" And you'll have the chance to actually put your theories to the test by playing the evil campaign. Plus, it's just plain fun to be evil once in a while.

Thanks a lot for your interest in The Lord of the Rings, The Battle for Middle-earth. And stay tuned for the next Designer Diary!

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