L is for LOTRO

L

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.

[Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]

Game: LOTRO or The Lord of the Rings Online is an engrossing MMORPG set in Middle-earth, the high-fantasy universe based upon J. R. R. Tolkien‘s writings.

Release Date: April 24, 2007

Developer: Turbine

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.

Formats: Microsoft Windows and OS X

Origins (Chronological) – :

  1. 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.
  2. 1937 – The Lord of the Rings started as a sequel to J. R. R. Tolkien’s work The Hobbit, published by George Allen & Unwin.
  3. 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.
  4. 1920-1959 – LOTRencompasses many influences, including religious and mythological sources from Tolkien’s academic studies and from personal experiences.
  5. 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.
  6. 1220 – The Prose Edda, also known as the Younger EddaSnorri’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.
  7. 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.”
  8. 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.
  9. 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):

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. STAGE – several adaptations have been made including musicals.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

LOTRO_Isengard

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.

  1. Setting: 4.75*
  2. Storyline: 5*
  3. Gameplay: 4*
  4. Entertainment: 4.75*
  5. 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.

 

Enter this portal to reach other Worlds in my A2ZMMORPG

Hela da

 

 

H is for Hellblade

 H

 

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. [Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]

Game: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is an intense psychological action-adventure game which PCGamesN rated, “a miraculous technical feat made by a team just a fraction the size of the ones that typically dominate the triple-A space.”

Release Date: April 8, 2017

Developer/Publisher: Ninja Theory

Genre/gameplay mechanics: Award-winning game – dark fantasy action-adventure; hack and slash; puzzle-solving; psychological horror. Voice-acting integral to unique, 3D binaural audio design. Cutscenes combine motion/performance capture by video editor-turned-actress Melina Juergens and live-action performances by other actors.

Setting: A rendition of Helheim, the Norse underworld – effective use of audio and visual to submerge players in Senua’s nightmarish journey and her accurately-portrayed mental world. The world feels horrifyingly real as the sounds and graphics seem subtly distorted.

Storytelling: Hellblade follows Senua, a Pict warrior who journeys to Helheim to save the soul of her dead lover from the goddess Hela. Also, the character struggles with her mind, and the game revolves around her condition. Senua suffers from psychosis but believes it to be a curse. She is haunted by an entity known as the “Darkness”, voices in her head known as “Furies”, and memories from her past.

As Ninja Theory said in 2015, “Senua experiences psychosis, including hallucinations and delusions, as well as suffering from anxiety and depression. As a player, you will witness Senua’s living nightmare through her own eyes… Developing Hellblade independently gives us the freedom to tackle a subject as challenging as mental health. It is a subject that we are handling with all the respect it deserves, ensuring that our portrayal of Senua’s condition is both accurate and sensitive. To help us with this we are working closely with Professor Paul Fletcher, a professor of Health Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, as well as arranging to consult directly with people who have experience of mental health difficulties. We are also very proud to say that Hellblade is being supported by Wellcome Trust, which is a global charitable foundation which aims to build a greater public understanding of science and in particular health.”

Releases:

  1. August 8, 2017 – Windows, PlayStation 4
  2. April 11, 2018 – Xbox One

Origins (Chronological):

  1. 2010 – Ninja Theory released Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, a video game that saw the Ninja team develop their motion capture with Andy Serkis.
  2. 8th century – The Roman Empire was unable to conquer a group of Celts in the northern reaches of Great Britain known as the Picts. Towards the end of the century, the first Vikings arrived in the islands of Orkney and replaced them as the main population of the land. Senua is portrayed as a Celtic warrior on Orkney.
  3. 793-1066 – Norse Mythology in the Viking Age: “Before the Norse (a.k.a. the Vikings) were converted to Christianity during the Middle Ages, they had their own vibrant native pagan religion that was as harshly beautiful as the Nordic landscape to which it was intimately connected.”
  4. The 1st century and earlier – The main inspiration of Senua’s character was the Iceni queen Boudica, while her name came from Senuna, a Celtic whose name was at first read incorrectly as Senua. The team researching Celtic culture and the Celts’ views on mental disorder, found out that they used the term ‘gelt’ for a man or woman who had been driven mad by a curse, grief, or the trauma of a battle. A gelt would take to a life in the woods in search of penance, punishment and purgatory. The team decided to make Senua a gelt, who had left her home in exile for those reasons.

Recommendation: Hellblade was a commercial success and was well received by critics, who praised it as a work of art and applauded its uncommon choice of revolving around psychosis, the quality and uniqueness of its approach of the condition, and its story and main character. Reviews included this  7 August 9 stars review from IGN: “An incredible atmospheric story reinforces Hellblade’s serious subject matter in this vivid tale of harrowing darkness.” 2017 Players were equally enthusiastic in their reactions.

Hellblade_02

4.55 Stars: Before I played the game, I watched numerous video reviews, diaries and walkthroughs, and I was excited. The game ticked so many boxes, and elements tied into my current WIP, whose second protagonist suffers from a form of psychosis. The actual experience was intense. As expected the voices-in-the head and confused images created a disturbing atmosphere, at times nightmarish. The combat should have been simple, but not for this nerve-jangled oldie who can’t hit the right keys fast enough – so died repeatedly…frustrating. I’ll keep trying though.

  1. Setting: 4.5*
  2. Storyline: 5*
  3. Gameplay: 3.75*
  4. Entertainment: 4.5*
  5. Genesis: 5*

Alternative ‘H’ thoughts:

H is also for Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials, but I’ve yet to find a suitable game. Is there one?

+ ‘H’ Games played: Heroes of Might & Magic – but that comes under M.

Hela da

Y is for Yggdrasil

Y

Y is for Yggdrasil: To the shaman that follow the  seiðr path in the world of Gossamer Steel, their practices revolve around Yggdrasil, the Nine Worlds, and the Well of the Norns,.

In Norse mythology, Yggdrasil is an immense tree that is central in Norse cosmology, in connection to which the nine worlds exist.

According to Encyclopedia Mythica, “Yggdrasil (“The Terrible One’s Horse”), also called the World Tree, is the giant ash tree that links and shelters all the worlds. Beneath the three roots the realms of Asgard, Jotunheim, and Niflheim are located. Three wells lie at its base: the Well of Wisdom (Mímisbrunnr), guarded by Mimir; the Well of Fate (Urdarbrunnr), guarded by the Norns; and the Hvergelmir (Roaring Kettle), the source of many rivers.

Four deer run across the branches of the tree and eat the buds; they represent the four winds. There are other inhabitants of the tree, such as the squirrel Ratatosk (“swift teeth”), a notorious gossip, and Vidofnir (“tree snake”), the golden cock that perches on the topmost bough. The roots are gnawed upon by Nidhogg and other serpents. On the day of Ragnarok, the fire giant Surt will set the tree on fire…”

"Die Nornen Urd, Werdanda, Skuld, unter der Welteiche Yggdrasil". The Nornic trio of Urðr, Verðandi, and Skuld beneath the world tree (called an oak in the caption) Yggdrasil. At the top of the tree is an eagle (likely Veðrfölnir), on the trunk of the tree is a squirrel (likely Ratatoskr), and at the roots of the tree gnaws what appears to be a small dragon (likely Níðhöggr). At the bottom left of the image is the well Urðarbrunnr. ~ Ludwig Burger (1882)

“Die Nornen Urd, Werdanda, Skuld, unter der Welteiche Yggdrasil”. The Nornic trio of Urðr, Verðandi, and Skuld beneath the world tree (called an oak in the caption) Yggdrasil. At the top of the tree is an eagle (likely Veðrfölnir), on the trunk of the tree is a squirrel (likely Ratatoskr), and at the roots of the tree gnaws what appears to be a small dragon (likely Níðhöggr). At the bottom left of the image is the well Urðarbrunnr. ~ Ludwig Burger (1882)

Y is also for Years of Dust & Death, the years of chaos and survival immediately after the apocalypse.

PREVIOUS A TO Z POSTS:

A is for Array ~ B is for the Blood-Marked ~ C is for Corylus Avellana ~ D is for Duskweald ~ E is for Energy ~ F is for Feeniks ~ G is for Garuda ~ H is for Herders ~ I is for Ithaka ~ J is for Junk ~ K is for Kitsune ~ L is for Lorelei ~ M is for Mojave ~ N is for Native~ O is for Outcasts  ~ P is for Punk ~ Q is for Quisling ~ R is for Ragnarök ~ S is for Seiðr ~ T is for Technology ~ U is for Urdu~ V is for Vidda ~ W is forWindsong ~X is for Xerarch

*

The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behaviour.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. Please visit other challenge writers.

My theme is ‘The World of Gossamer Steel, the SF-fantasy setting for a series of short stories and novellas that portray the tales behind the MMORPG that is central to my crime novel ‘Wyrm Bait’.

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014] (1)