EXCLUSIVE Interview with Steve Gray of Electronic Arts! - The EA ROTK Game will certainly not be the last EA LOTR Game! Find out what EA is planning!

I recently interviewed Steve Gray, Product Manager for Electronic Arts' LOTR Action/Adventure Games.  The EA LOTR Return of the King game is due out THIS Thursday, November 6th, and expectations are HIGH for that to be one roller coaster, rockin game!   And there's more on the horizon in the EA world of LOTR game development....much more.....

(We will have an exclusive interview coming soon regarding the Real Time War Strategy EA Game, Battle for Middle Earth!)

[Elbren] There are quite a few Tolkien/Middle Earth based games being released or planned to be released in the upcoming months; does EA worry that the market will be saturated?  Or, are you confident enough in the dedicated Tolkien fan in that he or she will buy and play every ME game offered for sale?

[Steve Gray] We believe that Tolkien fans will respect the care we've taken with the fiction and the high quality of our work.  Our games are as visually stunning in the video media as the films are in the cinema. We don't think any of the competing products achieve this level of quality of presentation, nor do they achieve the same level of quality in game play.  I'm confident, as are all of us at EA, and as we believe the market demonstrated last year, that we will be rewarded for our efforts.

[Elbren} The next game, after ROTK, was to be called "Trilogy", but you've since abandoned that title.  Any particular reason why? Do you have a new working title?

[Steve Gray] We aren't prepared to release the new title yet.  The next Lord of the Rings Action/Adventure game is going to be a big step forward in game play.  We didn't feel that the Trilogy name adequately expressed our plans for the game.

[Elbren] Will this new game be, like ROTK, for all gaming platforms (PC and console?)

[Steve Gray] Almost certainly yes.

[Elbren] You've pretty much covered the major battles and possible adventures in the TTT and ROTK games; so, what's left?  Are the players of this new game going to "new" places and/or fighting in different ways?  In other words, why would I want to "revisit" the EA Middle Earth adventuring universe?

[Steve Gray] I'd actually disagree with your premise.  There are many pieces of the adventure that were not covered in either TTT or RotK. There are also many characters that are not in either game... and even in the locations that appear in either TTT or RotK, there are aspects to what happens in those locations that are not covered in either game. The next game is going to get the players deeper inside the world of the films and deeper inside the characters we've already bonded with as well as characters that haven't appeared as playable characters (or sometimes haven't appeared at all) in TTT or RotK.  When you start playing our next LotR game, you will not feel like your are revisiting Middle Earth from TTT or RotK - you will feel like you found a whole new and exciting layer of story and game play.

[Elbren]You mentioned multiplayer online capability:  console or PC or both?
Will there be new levels to download, eventually, with, say, XBox live or PC servers?

[Steve Gray] We are currently planning console on-line.  At this time we
aren't planning downloadable content. 

[Elbren] Will we be playing heroes or will we be able to (finally!) create our own ME character heroes to play?

[Steve Gray] There will be many more playable characters than last year, however you won't be able to create a new character.  That is planned for a future product, but not this one.

[Elbren] What is the expected release date?

[Steve Gray] Fall of next year.

[Elbren] How far into the future do you see LOTR gaming being an active project  area for EA?  If we keep buying them, will you keep making them?

[Steve Gray] You had better believe it!  The story is so timeless, and I believe that people will be going to LotR film screens for decades to come... I hope EA will be able to provide a gaming experience to all those current and future fans.  Someday - the Middle Earth Holodeck
program.  :)

[Elbren] What is the biggest challenge for EA when it comes to LOTR games?

[Steve Gray] For me the biggest challenge has always been to live up to the quality bar that has been set by Tolkien and by Peter Jackson.  We are traveling in some pretty amazing company with those two.  I can only hope that we have lived up to, and continue to live up to that legacy.

[Elbren]  Tell me as much as you can about this new game...

[Steve Gray] TTT and RotK have been very much "movie games".  One of the
many unique things about them is that I can make that statement with pride.  Most movie games are crap.  TTT and RotK are really good games, with really high production values.  I think we've set a new standard for what it means to make a movie game.  Our next game is going to move away from the linear story telling format and become much more of a "game game".  While we are still staying very true visually to the films, and very true to the fiction as told by the films, think of the next game as a really great game that takes place in the world of Middle Earth as defined by Peter Jackson's films.  Expect to see more variety of missions, much less linear missions, many more characters, much more differentiation between the characters and how they interact with the world and that world will be a much more interactive world.  Also expect to see a more complicated meta-game, and a more strategic meta-game. While there will be plenty of wild action combat and game play, there will also be a much deeper aspect to the overall game play.


The Official EA Press Release regarding Return of the King Game:

EA Ships The Lord of the Rings; The Return of the King Game on Multiple game Platforms

Highly Anticipated Title Offers Players Chance to "Be the Hero" Before the Opening of the Third - and Final - Installment of New Line Cinema's Epic Trilogy

REDWOOD CITY, Calif., November 4, 2003 - Electronic Arts announced that The Lord of the Rings™; The Return of the King™ game has begun to ship nationwide on all platforms and will be in stores everywhere on November 6, 2003. The blockbuster action adventure game will be available for the PlayStation®2 computer entertainment system, the Xbox™ videogame system from Microsoft, Nintendo GameCube™, PC, and Game Boy® Advance under the EA GAMES™ brand.

Based on New Line Cinema and Peter Jackson's upcoming film adaptation of the classic novel, The Lord of the Rings; The Return of the King video game will once again put the fate of Middle-earth™ in the hands of gamers as they become the hero in a cinematic action adventure of epic scale. In the final installment of the blockbuster movie trilogy, players must destroy the One Ring by casting it into the Crack of Doom, freeing Middle-earth from the clutches of the Dark Lord Sauron...go here to read the full press release:

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