Middle-earth in video games
Numerous computer and video games have been inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien's works set in Middle-earth. Titles have been produced by studios such as Electronic Arts, Vivendi Games, Melbourne House, and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, which currently owns the gaming rights.
In 1982, Melbourne House began a series of licensed Lord of the Rings graphical interactive fiction (text adventure) games with The Hobbit, based on the book with the same name. The game was considered quite advanced at the time, with interactive characters that moved between locations independent of the player, and Melbourne House's 'Inglish' text parser which accepted full-sentence commands where the norm was simple two-word verb/noun commands. They went on to release 1986's The Fellowship of the Ring, 1987's Shadows of Mordor, and 1989's The Crack of Doom. A BBC Micro text adventure released around the same time was unrelated to Melbourne's titles except for the literary origin. In 1987, Melbourne House released War in Middle Earth, a real-time strategy game. Konami also released an action-strategy game titled J. R. R. Tolkien's Riders of Rohan.
In 1990, Interplay, in collaboration with Electronic Arts (who would later obtain the licenses to the film trilogy), released Lord of the Rings Vol. I (a special CD-ROM version of which featured cut-scenes from Ralph Bakshi's animated adaptation) and the following year's Lord of the Rings Vol. II: The Two Towers, a series of role-playing video games based on the events of the first two books. A third installment was planned, but never released. Interplay's games mostly appeared on the PC and Amiga, but later they did a Lord of the Rings game for the SNES, which played nothing like their PC games and instead was more like The Legend of Zelda.
Film trilogy revival
Thereafter, no official The Lord of the Rings titles were released until the making of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy for New Line Cinema in 2001–2003, when mass-market awareness of the story appeared. Electronic Arts obtained the licenses for the three films, while Vivendi Games obtained the license to produce games based on the books from Tolkien Enterprises - this gave rise to an unusual situation: Electronic Arts produced no adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring, but produced adaptations named The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (which covered events of both the first two films) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, whereas Vivendi only produced a game covering the first book of the trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. While Vivendi's access to the book rights prevented them from using material from the film, it permitted them to include elements of The Lord of the Rings which were not in the films. EA, on the other hand, were not permitted to do this, as they were only licensed to develop games based on the films, which left out elements of the original story or deviated in places.
In 2003, Vivendi produced an adaptation of The Hobbit, aimed at a younger audience: The Hobbit, as well as a real-time strategy game The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring, both based on Tolkien's literature.
Further spin-offs from the film trilogy were produced: A real time strategy game The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth, and turn based role-playing game The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age were released in 2004, and a PSP-exclusive title, The Lord of the Rings: Tactics in 2005.
In 2005, EA secured the rights to both the films and the books, thus The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II incorporated elements of the film adaptions, and the original Tolkienesque lore. EA also began work on an open world role-playing video game called The Lord of the Rings: The White Council, but development of the game was cancelled in 2007.
In May 2005 Turbine, Inc. announced that they had acquired exclusive rights to create massively multiplayer online role-playing games based on the novel by Tolkien Enterprises, and launched The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar on 24 April 2007. Initially, the game covered the region of Eriador, from the Grey Havens to the Misty Mountains, and about as far north and south, but subsequent updates and expansion packs have more than doubled the game world, including areas such as Moria, Lothlórien, Mirkwood, Isengard and Rohan. The game is based on the books and Turbine's license explicitly prohibits them from including any story or design elements unique to the movie adaptations. On the other hand, this allowed game designers to include lesser-known areas and references to the events, which are absent from the movies. The first expansion to The Lord of the Rings Online was released on 18 November 2008, entitled Mines of Moria. The next expansion, Siege of Mirkwood, was released on 1 December 2009. The third expansion titled Rise of Isengard went live on 27 September 2011 and included the areas of Dunland, the Gap of Rohan and Isengard where the tower of Orthanc is located. The fourth expansion, Riders of Rohan, was released on 15 October 2012, featuring The Eaves of Fangorn and eastern part of Rohan up to the East Wall. The fifth expansion, Helm's Deep, launched in November 2013 and added the remaining of Rohan landscape.
The Lord of the Rings: Conquest produced by Pandemic Studios using the Game engine used in Star Wars: Battlefront was released in early 2009 on consoles, PC and Nintendo DS. The console and PC versions received generally negative reviews, the DS version received average reviews. The game also marked the end of Electronic Arts license, which had already been extended some months so that the game could be completed. Subsequently, the license, obtained via Tolkien Enterprises, passed to Warner Bros.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is an action role-playing game set within Tolkien's legendarium, developed by Monolith Productions and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, it was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in September 2014 and released for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in November 2014. It was later released to macOS and Linux by Feral Interactive in July 2015. A sequel, titled Middle-earth: Shadow of War, was released for Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One three years later in October 2017.
Aside from officially licensed games, unofficial games have also been made, such as Shadowfax (1982) by Postern, a simplistic side-scrolling action game for the Spectrum, C64, and VIC-20, in which Gandalf rides the titular steed while smiting endless Nazgûl. Some of the longest-lasting unlicensed games are Angband (1990), a roguelike based loosely on The Silmarillion, Elendor (1991), a MUSH based on Tolkien in general, and MUME (1992) and The Two Towers (1994), MUDs based on The Lord of the Rings.
A homebrew text adventure was created for the Atari 2600, based on The Fellowship of the Ring, by Adam Thornton. The game, which is separate and not related to the unreleased Parker Brothers game, was self-published in 2002.
Many Tolkien-inspired mods and custom maps have been made for many games, such as Heroes of Might and Magic, Warcraft III, Neverwinter Nights, Rome: Total War, Medieval 2: Total War, Warlords 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Mount & Blade, Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings, Age of Wonders and Minecraft. Furthermore, the Middle-Earth DEM Project released a playable dataset compiled for the Outerra engine which attempts to model the terrain of the full Middle-earth in great detail and to feature notable landmarks within the world as 3D models.
List of video games
Official games based on the novels
- Text adventures by Beam Software:
(a.k.a. The Hobbit Software Adventure)
|1982||Melbourne House (Europe)
Addison-Wesley (North America, Australia)
Beau-Jolly (The Tolkien Trilogy)
|Beam Software||Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, BBC (no graphics), Dragon 32, Oric-1, Oric Atmos, MSX, Apple II, IBM PC|
|Lord of the Rings: Game One
(a.k.a. The Fellowship of the Ring Software Adventure)
|1985||Melbourne House (Europe)
Addison-Wesley (North America, Australia)
Guild Publishing (Re-release)
Beau-Jolly (The Tolkien Trilogy)
|Beam Software||ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, BBC, Dragon 32, Apple II, IBM PC, Amstrad CPC, Amstrad PCW|
|The Shadows of Mordor
(a.k.a. The Shadows of Mordor Software Adventure)
|1987||Melbourne House||Beam Software||Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Apple II, IBM PC|
|The Crack of Doom||1989||Melbourne House||Beam Software||Commodore 64, IBM PC|
- Other games:
Lord of the Rings: Journey to Rivendell (a.k.a. (The) Lord of the Rings, The Lord of the Rings I) was under development in 1983 for the Atari and other platforms, but it was never released.
Official games based on the movies
- Direct adaptations of the movies and promotional merchandise:
- Other games:
- The Boggit
- Bored of the Rings (1985), partially inspired by the parody adaptation of the same name (1969).
- Thompson, Kristin. The Frodo Franchise: The Lord of the Rings and Modern Hollywood. p. 359.
- TURBINE LAUNCHES THE LORD OF THE RINGS ONLINE™: SIEGE OF MIRKWOOD™
- Metacritic results : "Lord of the Rings: Conquest" (links) metacritic.com
- McWhertor, Michael (12 March 2009). "Lord of the Rings License Leaves EA, Journeys back to WB". kotaku.com. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
- Maloni, Kelly; Baker, Derek; Wice, Nathaniel (1994). Net Games. Random House / Michael Wolff & Company, Inc. p. 79. ISBN 0-679-75592-6.
MUME IV Multi-Users in Middle Earth, or MUME, simulates Tolkien's world of Middle Earth. [...] Role-playing is encouraged, but this is primarily an adventure and combat MUD. [...] Server: Diku
- Greenman, Ben; Maloni, Kelly; Cohn, Deborah; Spivey, Donna (1996). Net Games 2. Michael Wolff & Company, Inc. p. 247. ISBN 0-679-77034-8.
MUME [...] The action takes place in the late Third Age, before The Hobbit and after the loss of the One Ring by Sauron. The key of Erebor was just found by Gandalf and all the epic tales narrated in The Lord of the Rings may take place.
- "Outerra Forums - Middle-Earth World for Outerra released!". Outerra Forums. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
- Parker Brothers (1983). Parker Brothers Video Games (PDF). Retrieved 5 October 2018.
- Parker Brothers (1982). Catalogue of games for use with the Atari 2600 Video Computer System. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
- Parker Brothers (1983). 1983 Video Games (PDF). Retrieved 5 October 2018.