Lord of the Rings is up there with one of my favourite series of movies (behind Star Wars, of course). There hasn’t been many movies released since that have been as epic as this trilogy. Based on the books written by JRR Tolkien, the trilogy of Lord of the Rings movies also spawned numerous games across multiple platforms. One of these games was 2007’s Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO), a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) for PC by Turbine Entertainment (now Standing Stone Games) and based on the lore found in the LOTR books. MMORPG’s are my favourite genre of games given the interaction with thousands of other players, especially MMO’s based on rich lore like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings.
Back in September 2018, Athlon Games announced that it had partnered up with Middle-earth Enterprises to develop and publish a free-to-play MMO set in the Lord of the Rings universe. Athlon Games is owned by Leyou Technologies, which also owns Digital Extremes (developers of Warframe). This new MMO would be a prequel to the Lord of the Rings books stating, “Set in the world of Middle-earth during the years leading to the events of The Lord of the Rings , the game will provide Middle-earth fans throughout the world with a new, immersive game experience for epic exploration of the Tolkien universe.” Around this same time last year, Amazon had come out and announced it was making a new LOTR TV series which was exciting news. “In addition to the game development collaboration, Amazon Studios is separately developing a new Amazon Original TV series based on The Lord of the Rings for Prime Video unrelated to the game.”
One big thing that angered LOTR gaming fans though, and I’m partly in this camp, was that we already have a LOTRO MMO. Lord of the Rings Online has been around for 12 years now and is still being heavily developed with the latest Mordor expansion releasing in 2017 and the level cap was increased from 115 to 120 with Update 23, Where Dragons Dwell in October 2018. I’m actually part way through writing an article on the game for the next chapter of my MMORPG Memory Lane series so be sure to keep an eye out for that soon. Now, I’m all for new MMORPGs hitting the market. I’m actually wishing a big AAA MMO would release soon as the genre has taken a serious dive the past couple of years aside from Zenimax’s Elder Scrolls Online. However we’ve seen in the past what happens when two MMO’s are developed using the same IP, despite being set in different times within the greater story.
In 2003 we saw the release of Star Wars Galaxies from Sony Online Entertainment. This was an amazing MMO which ran well for a number of years, however some development design decisions (holocrons) and poor communication with their playerbase during major game changes (CU and NGE) contributed to the game eventually closing down on December 15, 2011. Five days later, Star Wars The Old Republic opened it’s doors on December 20, 2011 by EA/Bioware. The story of SWG was set in the time of the original trilogy of movies, whereas the story of SWTOR is set thousands of years before the movies. An interview by Massively with SOE’s John Smedley at that time suggested the SWG shutdown was due to their license from Lucasarts expiring in 2012 and the arrival of SWTOR is also referenced as being a factor.
Back to the state of potentially two LOTR MMO’s, Standing Stone Games came out last year and said, “This news will not have any impact on our development plans or licensing. We always welcome competition, and wish them the best of luck!” Fast forward to this week and we have received more information about this new LOTR MMO, though I can’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu. Amazon Game Studios has come out and stated they are now involved in a special collaboration with Athlon Games/Leyou Technologies on a “free-to-play PC and console game based on the beloved The Lord of the Rings literary universe.” One part in particular of the latest statement from Amazon is what gets me worried.
“Set in the world of Middle-earth portrayed in The Lord of the Rings literary trilogy, the game will give fans around the globe a new, immersive game experience for epic exploration of the vast world of Tolkien. That’s a bit different to last year’s statement, “Set in the world of Middle-earth during the years leading to the events of The Lord of the Rings.” That has me thinking it’s going to be direct competition to LOTRO … time will tell though. Certainly the development of LOTRO looks to be moving forward at a steady pace with the long-awaited 64-bit client and their continuation of the game’s story into Mordor.
As per the latest Producer’s Letter – February 2019 – A Look Ahead: “First, our most important goal for the year is to continue to tell your ongoing story. We are excited to continue the Black Book of Mordor as it winds through Middle-earth and leads players to our next expansion. The tale will take us to the Vale of Anduin, where we will explore the history, important events, and secrets of that area. As the year continues, we will unveil more tales in the Vale, and then follow the story back towards Mordor to Minas Morgul itself. Among the many dangers you’ll face will be Shelob herself as you learn what she has been up to, and how she is influencing the future of Middle-earth.”
It was stated in the Amazon release, “Amazon Game Studios and Leyou will jointly develop the game for PC and consoles, and Amazon Game Studios will market and publish the title globally with the exception of China, which will be managed by Leyou. The collaboration brings together Amazon’s game technology and talented MMO developers, and Leyou’s expertise in designing free-to-play games and operating live-service games.”
I am super keen for a new MMO and I hope whatever they produce compliments the existing LOTRO MMO without splitting the player base too much. To keep up with their latest news around the Amazon LOTR MMO, head to the Amazon Game Studios website.
I was looking through some old files and found the below GIF I saved years ago when LOTRO first came out. It has alot of terms and funny quotes from vanilla WoW days, so if you’re a player from that era, enjoy!