The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Designer Diary #1

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Designer Diary #1 We hear from the producer on Electronic Arts' upcoming game based on the last film in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.


My name is Glen Schofield, and I am the executive producer on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. I'm here to tell you a little about what I do and the work we did for the demo of The Return of the King that was shown at E3.

My responsibilities change from time to time, but right now I am directly responsible for getting the game levels designed and completed. The process we go through to create levels starts with a great design and then continues with preproduction for each level. We recently finished designing the levels and are starting the process of building them.

Here's an example of the steps we take to build a level. First, we look at the movie script and determine what the highlights from the film will be for that level. Then we determine what mission or missions will be included and how much action we want for that particular level.

The graphics in The Return of the King are impressive.
The graphics in The Return of the King are impressive.

Once we've determined what elements will be in a level, we sit down and have many brainstorming meetings. After throwing around a lot of ideas, we determine the main bullet points for the levels, design a map, create many drawings, and grab all the references from the movie. Based on these ideas and references, we create an animatic for the level, which is like an animated storyboard showing the level's key moments. We try to do as much design as we can on paper so that when we get into the building phase we have most of our questions about the gameplay answered. This also allows us to troubleshoot a lot of problems in advance.

Right now, the biggest challenge we are encountering is just trying to match the breathtaking look and feel of the movies. The movies are so grand and beautiful that we need to create something just as spectacular to do the films and Peter Jackson, the movie's director, justice.

The focus on movie authenticity has been challenging, because it enters into all aspects of the design process. Because of this, we've been working very closely with New Line Cinema, getting the actual reference photos, drawings, models, and other props from the movie and using those as our guide. We go so far as to get lighting studies and motion-capture data from the creators of the movie themselves. We even hired the same stunt doubles from the movie to help us render the most realistic movements in the game. We are always trying to outdo the work we did on the last game.

Our work on the E3 demo was difficult, but rewarding. Like I said, we are always trying to create a bigger, better game experience. For E3, this meant that players got to see even cooler moments, more-expansive scenes and levels, incredible explosions, a brand-new lighting scheme, and a state-of-the-art camera design. I think we blew people away.

This year the E3 demo featured six playable characters instead of three. We have added Gandalf as a playable character, complete with his own range of magic effects and weapons. We have even added a two-player cooperative mode. These new features, we expect, will be huge, and we're definitely very excited about them.

You'll find a wide variety of playable characters to choose from in the game.
You'll find a wide variety of playable characters to choose from in the game.

Obviously we hoped to impress any E3 attendee who experienced the demo of The Return of the King, but we also hoped that attendees walked away from the demo thinking that we are creating one of the most spectacular games they have ever seen. For us, the hours are long and the work sometimes seems endless, but everyone knows the rewards are worth it.

Well, that's about it from my end. I hope you've enjoyed learning about this fantastic game we are building and the steps we took to bring fans the exclusive demo at E3. Stay tuned for next month's designer diary!

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email

Join the conversation
There are no comments about this story