White Council convening on 360, PS3, and PC

[UPDATE] After months of rumors, the next-generation Lord of the Rings-inspired role-playing game is finally official; 'open world' title due in late 2007.

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In January ex-3D Realms developer Jim Norwood gave an interview with his former employers at 3D Realms--and revealed he was at work on a new Lord of the Rings title at his current gig at Electronic Arts. "I'm currently on Lord of the Rings: The White Council at EA as a software engineer," he told 3D Realms. "It's a new RPG game. That's all public information, so feel free to look it up on the Internet or EA's website."

Apparently, Norwood spoke too soon, as EA refused to comment on the existence of The White Council. As the year progressed, though, suspicions began to grow that the game was one and the same as Project Gray Company. The title was an unnamed "next-generation" role-playing game from executive producer Steve Gray--who also headed up development of EA's first LOTR role-playing game, The Lord of the Rings, The Third Age.

A site for the code-named title described the game as being set "in a massive open world where you can go anywhere you want, and the characters in this world are powered by an incredible simulation [artificial intelligence] based on the same technology used by the makers of The Sims 2." Rumors began to boil over when Gray gave a presentation in the UK where he showed slides of his game that clearly contained design elements from the Lord of the Rings films, which EA owns the game rights to.

Lo and behold, as EA kicked off its annual summer showcase at its California headquarters today, the publisher revealed that yes, Steve Gray is indeed executive-producing The Lord of the Rings: The White Council, an "open world" role-playing game for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. Gameplay will feature numerous quests within an overarching plot à la The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and players will be able to create man, elf, dwarf, or hobbit characters.

The White Council is based on an original storyline "derived from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings novels" and will use design elements from director Peter Jackson's LOTR films. Details on the game were thin, but EA did say that players' ultimate goal was to serve the fabled White Council, an august body whose members included the elf queen Galadriel, elf king Elrond, wizard Gandalf, and arch-mage Saruman--before he turned to evil. [UPDATE] Later in the day at the EA press event, the publisher announced that LOTR stars Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett, and Christopher Lee would lend their voices and likenesses to the game.

The Lord of the Rings: The White Council is currently set to ship in late 2007.

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