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Interview with Neil Young
Hello, Flinch here with an exclusive look at the mastermind behind Electronic Arts' Two Towers and the upcoming Return of the King. I recently had a chance to head up to Red Wood City, CA and the EA headquarters to visit with the design team behind these great games, besides being blown away by the stunning visuals and Return of the King content, things are gearing up to feature amazing gameplay as well. What else would you expect from the makers of The Two Towers!? Producing these projects is Neil Young, who besides turning down my bribes for the Top Secret Return of the King Footage, really knows his Tolkien!
Flinch:In what form are you shown the layout of the film, since it's not yet finished and a lot of what will be in the game is being added in digitally?
Neil: I think, as you know, we're really very lucky to have a close relationship with the filmmakers and that's afforded us a level of access that gives us great insight into the direction of the film. That insight, coupled with the constant communication, the scripts, drama (the non-visual effects shots), work-in-progress visual effects, plans, props, costumes and thousands of production photos, really connects us pretty completely with the film production.
Flinch:How have you felt about the warm reception of the Two Towers game? Were you proud with the results, or did you expect more?
Neil I'm delighted about the success of the game, both critically and commercially, and I'm really proud of the results. I think that we did a great job of executing one arc of the fiction, that of the heroes. Did I expect more? I always do.
Flinch:Was it difficult deciding which elements of the Two Towers to translate to game form, and what to leave out? For example, scenes like the Rohan Troops attacking the Uruks and simultaneously facilitating Merry and Pippin's escape were missing. Were those things you didn't know existed until the film came out?
Neil We committed pretty early on to deliver a game that was focused on Aragorn, Legolas & Gimli, and so that at least provided us with a filter to adapt the game. The trick to adapting something for games is to understand what you want the game to be and then look for elements inside the fiction, no matter how big (Helms Deep for example) or small (the amount of time that Aragorn, Legolas & Gimli spend in Game Edoras vs. Film Edoras). Although we weren't as close with the film production in the first half of Two Towers (Dec 2001 to May 2001) as we are today, we still had a pretty good idea of what would make it into the film.
Flinch:People are hailing the Two Towers as "How Movie games should be made". Will Return of the King be a sequel to Two Towers in style, or should we expect new mechanics and more exploring than the straightforward combat of Two Towers?
Neil Thanks, I've heard that. Frankly, I think that Two Towers just scratches the surface of what we can do when we adapt movies to games, and it's nice to have the potential to take it further. The Return of the King will take that to the next level, although we'll still focus on action. I guess a way of thinking about RotK vs. TTT is that TTT is really a hack & slash game, it's Golden-Axe meets Lotr meets Devil May Cry. RotK is more about swashbuckling; it's an ACTION adventure, it adds characters which builds upon the light character building that we had in TTT, it makes the environment relevant to gameplay and tries to push the concept of an adaptation to the next level. Our team is really trying very hard to create something that is as rich and impactful as its film counterpart.
Flinch:I joked a bit with Jason from Public Relations about "the gloves coming off" now that the Two Towers did as well as it did, but in all seriousness, do you feel Return of the King will raise the bar yet again?
Neil Yes. ;o)
Seriously, why wouldn't you try to raise the bar? This is Lord of the Rings. I think it deserves it.
Flinch:When will we get a glimpse behind the scenes into what we'll be getting with Return of the King?
Neil We're fairly stealth right now. There are some things in RotK that will, I hope, really change your perception of what a film/game can be, but I hope to be able to introduce you all to what we're doing soon, and we'd want TORN and the fans to be some of the first people to get a glimpse.
Flinch:How much of the game will be Hack and Slash, and how much will be exploration? Should we expect to see more movie cut scenes and in-game animated sequences?
Neil As I mentioned above, it'll certainly have a heavy center on action, with some more RPG, better delineation between characters, more choice for the players. You'll explore the spaces and locations, but you won't wander Middle Earth. That's Trilogy ;o)
Flinch:What is striking you as the most exciting part of working on this new title?
Neil LotR is definitive. I think that we have the opportunity to make definitive works in our medium at the same time that Peter Jackson makes definitive works in his. That is such a rare opportunity; it's important to never take that for granted.
Flinch:How many levels do we expect to have in Return of the King? Will it be similar in size to The Two Towers?
Neil Bigger than Two Towers, but not so big that you can't enjoy it. I think that the key difference is that there is A LOT more replayablity in this game that will really excite you.
Flinch:Who from the cast will be lending their voice for the Return of the King?
Neil If I told you that you'd know the characters you'd be playing ;o). All of the playable characters will be voiced by the actors.
Flinch:Are we going to see Return of the King released to PS2 first, or on GameCube, XBox and PS2 all at once?
Neil It will be released on the PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, Gameboy Advanced and the PC all on the same day.
We'll have more from the development of Return of the King in the weeks before E3, in the mean time, what do
YOU think about The Two Towers? What are your hopes for Return of the King? We'd love to have your comments! Just drop em in an e-mail and send them off to Havens@TheOneRing.net!