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Standing Stone Games | Official Site
MMORPG | Setting:Fantasy | Status:Final  (rel 04/24/07)  | Pub:Daybreak Games
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New Dev Diary: Riddles in the Dark

Posted by Frank Frisina on Apr 07, 2005  | Comments

New Dev Diary: Riddles in the Dark - Lord of the Rings Online - MMORPG.com

The following is a very small snippet of what was posted today as part of the ongoing development diary.  In this installment Chris Foster covers the intense detail and care that goes into creating the element of lore within Middle Earth.

"... there are moreover in our treasuries many things preserved: books and tablets writ on withered parchments, yea, and on stone, and on leaves of silver and of gold, in divers characters. Some none can now read; and for the rest, few ever unlock them." -- Faramir, "The Window on the West," Book Four

There are very clear differences between Middle-earth and just about any other fantasy setting. This is not only because Tolkien was the inspiration for most modern fantasy, but because Tolkien himself was so particular about the details and derivations of his world.

Adhering to the lore is an important responsibility shared across the entire MEO team. The characters and quests in the game must "feel right"; the geography and vegetation must match Tolkien’s intentions; the metaphors used by our game systems and rulesets must be uniquely appropriate to Middle-earth; and on and on. Everything we do passes through two filters: 1) how does this make a great game and 2) how does this fit into Middle-earth?

 Some details are easier to get right than others – or at least have clearer precedents. A telling detail comes in how Tolkien revised The Hobbit to remove a reference to tomatoes. As his understanding of the Shire matured, Tolkien decided "tomato" no longer fit with the linguistic and historic origins of that land. This (and other corroborating information – "corn," anyone?) helps us decide what plants and animals belong in Eriador. Shifting our gaze from the trees to the (Old) Forest, we rely on the texts themselves, with their voluminous Appendices, to chart the way.

But Tolkien’s first goal wasn’t to provide reference works for game developers (if only!), and the information found beyond the books themselves covers only some areas of knowledge. (And some of this even contradicts itself, reflecting the ongoing evolution of the world in the author’s imagination.)

What unnamed forces might remain of the lost armies of Morgoth? What, if any, commonalities are there between Barrow-wights and Shades of Men? And most importantly: if the crops available in the Shire are based on those found in Medieval England, and food like maize and tomatoes are off-limits, then what exactly is a "tater"?

To answer each question, we consult with a number of references (sorting the more-reliable from the less), and seek insight from Tolkien Enterprises. The final result is constructed out of individual imaginings and passionate debate. At every step, we feel the burden of this responsibility, and tread with great care.

To find the entire article, click here.

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