The concept is the same as in any other game in the genre. Several thousands of people connects to various servers, and the point is to adventure together, develop your character and make social bonds with each other. It has been done several times before, but never with such a solid literary work to support itself.
Players will be able to purchase houses, four types actually, and as a hobbit you will be able to live in those little holes in the ground. Exactly as in the books. The developers are also aiming to step away from the traditional level-treadmill, where you constantly have to kill your way to that ultimate character.
We had the chance to have a long talk with Turbine Entertainment, the developers of this grand MMORPG title. The two producers on the team could tell us about several exciting aspects the game is going to offer, and how they are going to integrate Tolkien's work into the virtual world.
Gamer.no: Please tell us something about yourself, your role on the Middle-earth Online team, and your past experiences with online games.
CRT: My name is Christopher Taylor, and I'm the producer of Middle-Earth Online. I've previously worked on two unreleased online games. My experience with online gaming goes back to the days of the Apple and BBS gaming. I started MUDing in 1990.
JA: My name is James Altenburg, and I am the associate producer on Middle-earth Online. While I have no past experience working on any massively multiplayer games I have played a host of them starting with MUDs back in 1993.
Gamer.no: It has been said that the game takes place during the War of the Ring. Does that mean that we will witness the events in the book, or is the game set in the time before the events in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings? Chris Taylor said that Saruman has betrayed the council, which should imply that the events must take place just before, or in the book itself. Please enlighten us on this matter.
JA: The time period where the game takes place is around the time the Fellowship has reached the Mines of Moria, so as of right now we have no plans for the players to be able to directly interact with the members of the Fellowship. However you can expect to see the results of the encounters of the Fellowship and the events taking place in the world.
Gamer.no: Will you present some kind of story arc to the players, and will everyone be able to become involved as the story unfolds? This is one of the major selling points of Turbine's other online games, the Asheron's Call series. What kind of story elements and radical changes to the world can we expect?
CRT: We will indeed have a major story arc that all players can become involved in. We use a combination of story quests, in-game dialogue and lore, slideshows and other techniques to tell the story. Since we are based during the time of the books, we aren't radically changing the world. We are telling bits and pieces that were barely touched on by Tolkien, and we are showing areas of the world that weren't covered by the events of the Ring War, but were certainly affected by them.