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Special Sections: Middle-earth Online

LotR: Middle-earth Online is an upcoming MMO game set in the Tolkien world of Lord of the Rings. Chris Taylor the producer for the game took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us, regarding what we as gamers can expect with this title we can't wait for!

Chris Taylor from Middle-earth Online - Div Devlin (12-17-02)

Div: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, could you tell us your direct role of involvement and your past gaming history as well as why you love LoTR!

Chris Taylor: My name is Chris Taylor, and I'm the Producer for The Lord of the Rings: Middle-earth Online. I've been a gamer for over 20 years, starting with the paper and pencil genre, and moving into computer games during the Apple ][ era. I started playing online games in the mid-1980s. I worked for Interplay for 11 years as a designer, and worked on games like Stonekeep, Fallout and Starfleet Command. I've played all the major MMPs and a few of the others. I have a 61-ish Gnome Wizard in EQ, and I'm in a top tier raiding guild. My goal is not to make EQ with different graphics and names. I think EQ is a great game, but we need to properly handle the Tolkien lore to be a real Tolkien game. The Hobbit basically started my passion for fantasy, which lead to my early gaming which lead to this job. So without Tolkien, I wouldn't even be here. Now that's passion!

Div: Many feel that a major problem with online games today is that players seem to have little impact upon the world itself. If the game itself takes place along the same timeline as the original books then we know the ending and that itself can not be changed. Will this issue be addressed and, if so, how?

Chris Taylor: Players impacting the world is a problem because of the differing content it creates. Especially if a game is server based and the various servers are using the same content assets. For MMPs based on existing media properties, like LOTR or Star Wars, you have another level of complexity -- the universe is usually well known, and follows a specific pre-determined storyline. We plan on incorporating the story into the game, and make the players part of it, but we can't fiddle too much with the events of the book. We have to deal with our players perception of the events in Middle-earth, and take into account people can see the same thing from multiple points of view.

Div: Will we see some of the actual characters from the books, such as the members of the Fellowship of the Ring, in game? If so, then will they be static NPCs or is something greater planned for them?

Chris Taylor: Yes, that's the plan. Their exact role is still to be determined. They are great characters and we want to incorporate them as much as possible, whilst remaining true to their part of the overall story.

Div: Will there be player housing such as hobbit holes or elven tree houses? How will it be implemented?

Chris Taylor: Housing is important for a social game, since it gives people places to gather. It also bonds the player more into the world. We're all about bonding. :) Players will be able to expect different houses for their race. Housing will be controlled and limited, so you can't build anywhere within the world. We don't want to end up with strip malls. That's very un-Tolkien.

Div: Can we expect to see a craft system in the game? And will mithril, magic weapons and armor, etc. be rare as is in the world Tolkien crafted?

Chris Taylor: Yes, we have a tradeskill system. All of the details are still being worked out. We don't want to flood the world with magic items, but magic exists and we will have items that are consistent with the lore.

Div: In the books that take place in Middle Earth we see very few magic users. Will the game keep in line with that, or will wizards and the like be much more common?

Chris Taylor: Our magic classes will be consistent with the vision of Middle-earth. Hobbits will not do magic, for example. Magic is subtle, but it's there. And it's very enticing.

Div: On the subject of travelling: will we see methods of quick transport via magic? Also, will there we horses or boats? What options will be open to players?

Chris Taylor: There is no teleportation magic in MEO. There are ways of fairly quickly moving around places you've been to and seen before. We have to balance the needs of socialization with the lore. It will be a trek to travel to new places, requiring an adventure. To get to previously visited locations will be faster, but not instantaneous. We just feel it's very important not to interfere with grouping and socialization by requiring all travel to be made in real-time. There are different kinds of travel.

Div: It's been stated that permanent death will exist. Are there any plans to make death have consequence via penalties? How will resurrection work?

Chris Taylor: Permanent death will not be an option for either the majority or all of the servers. Death will not exist, but failure in combat certainly will. The penalty for failure will be fair. We don't want people to be able to zerg or otherwise conquer content by constant repetition, but we don't want people to feel unable to adventure.

Div: Can you expand any upon the classes that will be available in game?

Chris Taylor: We are planning a series of broad classes that players will be able to specialize in. We feel that classes should be useful tools for the player, but not so restrictive that players feel constrained.

Div: Currently there does not seem to be any evil races available to players. This brings a question to consider: how will player versus player combat exist and how will it work?

Chris Taylor: We have a plan for PvP combat, but it's not traditional and could very well change before we finish with it. The problem with evil races is that unless we're a strict PvP game, which we're not, you end up with problems like an Uruk-hai player wanting to adventure with their friend, a Man of Gondor. It just seems out of place. There is always room for expansion, as we figure these things out. It's better to start with content you can make excellent and move up from there, instead of trying to shoe-horn in something that just will not fit.

Div: Will there be any policies concerning names that fit the period and world or should we expect to see the tried and true "r0xx0r d00d" names?

Chris Taylor: We'll have a name policy. It will be fairly restrictive and enforced. We'll also have lots of sample names to give people guidance. This is to keep an evocative feeling of Middle-earth as much as possible.

Div: How in depth will character customization be? What options and features concerning our in-game persona will be available to us?

Chris Taylor: The player will have few choices at the beginning, and as they advance will gain access to more and more customization features. Players will have control over several areas of their avatar's look. The more advanced the character, the more options they'll have.

Div: When will beta testing begin and how can those interested join in?

Chris Taylor: We're going to have several phases of a public beta test. We don't plan on announcing the dates until we're closer, but the best thing to do would be to visit our forums at or to sign up for the mailing list. We'll start asking for beta testers within the community.

Div: Can I get a t-shirt please? (That was from Lorri!) [Lorri]*Grins*

Chris Taylor: I'm still waiting for mine! :)

Div: Thanks again for taking the time to speak with us, is there anything you would like to add?

Chris Taylor: Please stop by the website and check out the forums. We love feedback and commentary. Our industry is fortunate to be able to talk to our users like we can. We need to take advantage of that. Game development should not be a closed loop process.

Div: Where can readers learn more of MEO?

Chris Taylor:

Our thanks to Chris Taylor for taking the time out to talk to us, answering our many questions.

If you would like to learn more about LotR: MeO, you can find their official site at:
We've been waiting years for this title to finally come to life!

Discuss: Not the beard!!!

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