The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper.
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Release Date: April 24, 2007
Genre/gameplay mechanics: MMORPG mechanics with special features such as traits, deeds and reputation; PVE and PvMP (Player vs Monster Player); avatar selected from six races and ten classes; evolving/learnable skills; questing through virtual game-world; six-player Fellowships (groups); Kinships (clans); crafting; housing; musical instruments, festivals.
Setting: 25 distinct and semi-realistic regions of Middle Earth during the time period of The Lord of the Rings (LOTR). Each Region of Middle-earth is represented as being permanently “frozen” at a certain point in time. For example, it is always September of the Year 3018 of the Third Age in the Shire, December 3018 in Rivendell, February 3019 in Lothlórien, etc.
Storytelling: The player starts simultaneously with Frodo and company leaving The Shire and their actions on the Epic Quest Line (main storyline) are helping the Ringbearer on his task, while combating the forces of evil. These are extra events created by the makers of the game but based on LOTR lore. Throughout, the player interacts with characters from The LOTR at key moments. Standard side-quests are new stories.
The game’s milieu is based on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. However, the developers do not have rights to any other works in Tolkien’s legendarium, such as The Silmarillion, but intend to develop their interpretation of the Middle Earth world.
Releases + Expansions: In addition to regular free updates, six expansion packs have been released:
– Mines of Moria: 2008 – this expansion featured the underground world of Dwarrowdwelf.
– Siege of Mirkwood: 2009 – introduced Mirkwood region and the skirmish system.
– Rise of Isengard: 2011 – introduced Dunland region and new instances in Isengard.
– Riders of Rohan: 2012 – featured mounted combat and introduced East Rohan.
– Helm’s Deep: 2013 – introduced “epic battles” and a new region in Rohan (West Rohan).
– Mordor: – 2017 after three years of minor free updates. It introduced Plateau of Gorgoroth region and new instances in Mordor.
Origins (Chronological) – :
- Published in three volumes over the course of a year from 29 July 1954 to 20 October 1955, J. R. R. Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings is one of the best-selling novels ever written, with over 150 million copies sold. Although a major work in itself, the story was only the last movement of a larger epic Tolkien had worked on since 1917, in a process he described as mythopoeia. In 2003, it was named Britain’s best-loved novel of all time in the BBC’s The Big Read.
- 1937 – The Lord of the Rings started as a sequel to J. R. R. Tolkien’s work The Hobbit, published by George Allen & Unwin.
- 1936 – “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics” was a 1936 lecture given by J. R. R. Tolkien on literary criticism on the Old English heroic epic poem Beowulf. Tolkien also revealed how highly he regarded the poem: “Beowulf is among my most valued sources”, and this influence may be seen throughout his Middle-earth legendarium Plus, reading the lecture in my teens was my first encounter with the Professor.
- 1920-1959 – LOTRencompasses many influences, including religious and mythological sources from Tolkien’s academic studies and from personal experiences.
- The Völsunga saga is a legendary saga, a late 13th-century Icelandic prose rendition of the origin and decline of the Völsung clan featuring, in particular, a magical golden ring and a broken sword re-forged.
- 1220 – The Prose Edda, also known as the Younger Edda, Snorri’s Edda often assumed to have been written, or at least compiled, by the Icelandic scholar, lawspeaker and historian Snorri Sturluson. Tolkien’s Elves and Dwarves are by and large based on these and related sagas.
- 9th-11th century – The influence of the Welsh language, which Tolkien had learned, is summarized in his essay English and Welsh: “If I may once more refer to my work. The Lord of the Rings, in evidence: the names of persons and places in this story were mainly composed on patterns deliberately modelled on those of Welsh (closely similar but not identical). This element in the tale has given perhaps more pleasure to more readers than anything else in it.”
- 10th century – Beowulf one of the most important works of Old English literature. A date of composition is a matter of contention among scholars; the only certain dating pertains to the manuscript, which was produced between 975 and 1025. Tolkien was a Professor of Old English/Anglo-Saxon and Middle English language and literature, and this literature, particularly Beowulf, influenced his own writings.
- A final question: was Tolkien creating a new mythology or building on others? See – Simon J Cook’s J R R Tolkien’s Lost English Mythology.
Adaptations set in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe – (Middle-earth would be too numerous):
- FILMS – Three film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings have been made. The first was The Lord of the Rings (1978), by animator Ralph Bakshi, the first part of what was originally intended to be a two-part adaptation of the story. The second, The Return of the King (1980), was a television special by Rankin-Bass. The third was director Peter Jackson‘s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, released in three instalments as The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003).
- TELEVISION – there has been a Swedish TV series and a Finnish one. Amazon is reputed to be developing an adaptation with Warner Bros. Television and the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien.
- STAGE – several adaptations have been made including musicals.
- AUDIO – over a dozen recordings and radio plays have been made, notably the BBC broadcast dramatisation in 26 half-hour instalments. It starred Ian Holm as Frodo Baggins, the protagonist; he would play Bilbo Baggins, his character’s cousin/uncle, in the Peter Jackson films.
- VIDEO GAMES – over two dozen games have been produced including The Lord of the Rings Online. The two most recent are: 2011 – Lord of the Rings: War in the North is an action RPG that takes place in Northern Middle-earth; 2014 – Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is an action RPG – with a sequel, titled Middle-earth: Shadow of War in 2017.
Recommendation: The Lord of the Rings Online received wide universal acclaim on release, and positive reviews continued to appear after the game’s release. For instance, GameDaily awarded the game 9/10, praising its rich, fantasy-themed universe, well-integrated trait and title system, and a story that remains true to the works of Tolkien. Metacritic gave the game 86% (40 reviews). See also: MMORPG.com, and MMOS.com.
However, the release in July 2017 of the Mordor expansion received largely negative reviews, and there are signs in its eleventh year of operation of burn-out. But the game has a staunch core following and Middle Earth is still populated. This interesting in-depth 2017 analysis at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_j22DC4axaQ gives the pros and cons.
4.7 Stars: My partner and I have played The Lord of the Rings Online since 2011, for a time in an active kinship and more recently on-and-off, especially for festivals. Great soundtrack and setting make it enjoyable. Classes and races give enough variety. For me, this is the nearest I can come to being in Middle-earth – interacting with Frodo and Elrond were highlights. Lore is very true to Tolkien with acceptable developments within the restrictions of rights. There’s a huge world to explore and we have yet to visit everywhere. Nor have we tackled the end-game grind that we have been warned about.
- Setting: 4.75*
- Storyline: 5*
- Gameplay: 4*
- Entertainment: 4.75*
- Genesis: 5*
Alternative ‘L’ thoughts:
L is also for Lagaan, a superb Hindi movie that I highly recommend, even if it’s very long at 225 minutes – drama, romance, cricket and so much more.
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