Monday, December 15, 2008

Lord of the Rings Conquest, and working creatively with an existing IP

Lord of the Rings games are a mixed bag, especially the ones based primarily on the movies, but this one looks interesting. You can play as either good or evil, and rather than the evil campaign mirroring the actual plot of the book, it asks the question "What if Frodo failed?" and goes on from there. If it had mirrored the book, I feel my reaction would be "But that never happened!" over and over. By starting from a premise that flatly says it is not part of the story, we avoid the cognitive dissonance for the most part. Honestly this sounds much more intriguing to me because it won't be confining itself to the story everyone knows.

There is only so much a game can do when working with an already existing story to keep it engaging for the player. Especially when it is a property that has been mined for gaming experiences many times before. I have been playing Lord of the Rings Online for almost a year now, and they too have found an interesting way to involve players. It would be impossible for an MMO to allow everybody to play as the main characters, so instead they have crafted a narrative that runs parallel to the LOTR plot. In many ways, this serves to enhance the story in ways the books Appendices do by fleshing out some of the details. One of my favorites in the latest expansion, is that you have a small quest to help escort Bill the Pony away from the Mines of Moria after Sam must leave him behind at the black pool. It is not of much consequence, and not terribly epic, but it does make this Tolkien fanboy smile.

And on that note, it is time to dig out my copies of the History of The LOTR for the rest of the evening....