LOTR Online: Jeffrey Steefel Interview @ 2 April 2007 04:57 PM
Guy: Firstly, what inspiration or ideas have been drawn from the film?

Jeffrey Steefel: We havenít really drawn anything from the film; everything is drawn from the books. I think the main way the film influenced our approach is that it tells us a little bit about what the consumer has an expectation for. The fact that theyíve seen the film, they have certain expectations. There are certain parts of the books that by definition now are better known and more popular, because they were in the movies. The main influence was that those recognisable sub-icons were in the game. They did an unbelievable job with the movies.

G: Yeah, this is your project and not Peter Jacksonís.

J: Well yeah, Peter Jackson had a challenge that we donít have, and that we donít have to take 1400 pages of the densest book ever written and deliver them in 10 hours of film. We have an ongoing experience to explore, which is great. However we do know that you are going to want to meet members of the fellowship and youíre going to want to see certain things, so thatís really the main influence. For us it was ďletís go back to the beginning, go back to the booksĒ.

G: You mentioned that stories would intersect with members of the fellowship as well?

J: Absolutely. For example, you would find yourself in Rivendell.

G: Saying hello to Frodo?

J: Well more than just saying hello, because that was the other thing. Saying hello was fun, but gratuitous, so thatís the real challenge. How can I see them interact and have a meaningful experience with them without going against what I know to be true in the stories? So for example, when the Fellowship go to the council of Elrond, and theyíre all at Rivendell, they are actually there for 3 months. So we let you help them in some cases.
There is one set of quests where you go help Elohir and Elohim, the sons of Elrond; you go up into the hills and help them clean the areas of giants. You help Boromir clear the way. I mean, it was quite weird in the movies, because it seemed very easy for them to get to Mordor, I mean sure, there were tons of rocks and stuff, but where are all the monsters and the minions of Sauron? Well, the reason theyíre not there is because in the books they talk about the rangers and all kinds of people who go out and clear the way. So you participate in that. Thatís a case where you actually participate in what is going on. There are other cases, such as Aragorn/Strider sending you to one of his colleagues to go and clear Weathertop of the orcs that have invaded.
So there are places like Rivendell where you are literally part of the story, and then the rest of the time you are part of the story of Angmar and the Witchking and all the other incursions of Eriador which is really part of the War of the Ring.

G: You mentioned the £99 lifetime fee, is that offer only available to people who preorder the game?

J: Exclusive to preorders. Itís not suddenly the new retail price. It is definitely a unique offer, but we think the market is there.

Adam: Well, you will be expanding Middle-earth over time, how long will it take to actually build the entirety of middle earth?

J: 3 decades.

*laughter*

J: I wish. Well, I donít know and it really depends on how we do it, we are going to continue the approach that we took, which was build a part of Middle-earth that we know we can build with depth and richness. Again we could have built all of Middle-earth and then address interesting points at launch, and then start by expanding each of those areas from there. We felt like it was better to do it this way, but then the question is ďWell great, now youíre done with Middle-earth, now what do you do?Ē
The truth is that first of all there will be plenty of unexplored places, you know, it is just huge. Second of all, there are a number of possibilities in the fourth age that Tolkien talks about, and there are all kinds of unexplored areas that he has hinted at.
One thing we are not going to run out of is the opportunity for expansion. Stick around and you will get to go Mordor and Moria, you will get to meet Galadriel, and so forth.

A: That is the thing with the film, it seemed very big, Middle-earth, but it didnít seem very populated.

J: Well, the somewhat strange analogy I often use is that sometimes, think of Disneyland, where itís this whole theme park. Youíve got all kinds of things in it that you can explore, the movies are more like the tram ride, obviously because they couldnít make a 400 hour movie. The Shire that see you see in the movie is that one little area, whereas if you look at our map, the Shire is an area with dozens of towns that you can explore.

G: Whereas the movies were telling the story, you guys are telling the world, you could say.

J: Yeah I like that *laughter*, world telling, thatís the new phrase.

G: Thatís an awful phrase, cut that bit out.

*laughter*

A: Do you feel confident enough that it will surpass more users than World of Warcraft?

J: I donít think thatís our goal. It would be great, I wouldnít have any problem with that occurring, but that isnít our goal, our focus. Our focus is the audience out there, which World of Warcraft contributed to opening up to some degree.

G: World of Warcraft is a poorer manís Lord of the Rings anyway.

*laughter*

J: There you go, thatís a quote.

G: You said there is an original score in this as well?

J: Yes, all the music that youíre hearing is original, they did a wonderful job with it, and again it varies from the typical epic inspired music. I mean there are horns, brass and choral music. It feels like you need that.

G: Yeah, the instrument aspect is cool as well.

J: Yeah, this is just the beginning. Basically you go in, you acquire a certain skill, which is pretty easy to acquire, you get the instrument, and once itís in your inventory, you enable music, and basically it maps the scale to your number keys. Shift is an octave, and control is another octave, you can play polyphonic chords and all kinds of stuff. Go to Youtube and search for ĎLord of the Rings Online, Dust in the Windí.

G: Whereabouts is the story starting up in the game?

J: It starts roughly about the time when Frodo is leaving the shire, and it goes all the way up until before they get to Moria. Approximately the first book.

G: Well, you couldnít have picked a better source material than Lord of the Rings. Thanks for the interview.
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