Amazon Games VP Christoph Hartmann Explains How New ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ MMO Will Differ From Tolkien’s Novels

Middle-earth: The Shadow of Mordor (2014), Monolith Software

Amazon Games Vice President Christoph Hartmann recently detailed how the newly announced The Lord of the Rings MMO will differ from J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels.

Stone Giant in The Lord of the Rings Online (2012), Warner Bros. Games Boston

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The newly announced The Lord of the Rings MMO was announced earlier this week in a press release from Embracer Group that detailed the MMO “is in the early stages of production” and is being developed by Amazon Games Orange County studio and will be published by Amazon Games globally for PC and consoles.

The press release also detailed, “An open-world MMO adventure, the upcoming game takes place in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, featuring the beloved stories of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings literary trilogy.”

Gollum and an Elven woman walk through the Woodland Realm in The Lord of the Rings: Gollum (2023), Nacon, Daedalic Entertainment

Gollum and an Elven woman walk through the Woodland Realm in The Lord of the Rings: Gollum (2023), Nacon, Daedalic Entertainment

In the press release, Hartmann said, “We’re committed to bringing players high-quality games, whether through original IPs or long-beloved ones like The Lord of the Rings.”

However, he then added, “Bringing players a fresh take on The Lord of the Rings has long been an aspiration for our team, and we’re honored and grateful that Middle-earth Enterprises is entrusting us with this iconic world. We’re also pleased to be expanding our relationship with Embracer Group following our Tomb Raider deal last year, as they’ve proven to be excellent collaborators.”

Humans fight off Orcs on a castle's walls in The Lord of the Rings Online: Helm's Deep (2013), Daybreak Game Company

Humans fight off Orcs on a castle’s walls in The Lord of the Rings Online: Helm’s Deep (2013), Daybreak Game Company

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In a new interview with Games Industry, Hartmann explained that there is already an internal debate within his studio about the vision of the game especially in how it pertains to Tolkien’s novels.

He said, “I see already that debate going on in the studio. We have some die-hard Lord of the Rings fans, and already [they’re saying], ‘We can’t do that’ or Middle-earth [Enterprises] is not going to allow it, and we’re not going to be able to alter the story, and introduce new characters, or rewrite the books.'”

However, he then relayed, “But for me, it’s still very important that it’s first a game, and then a reflection of the books second.”

Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee prepare for battle via The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth (2023), EA

Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee prepare for battle via The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth (2023), EA

Hartmann elaborated, “So while I need to stay true, I always, and I’m reminding the team already, ‘I get it, but it’s not about every person going and pointing out if that detail is 100% perfect.'”

“Let’s say the way [Tolkien] describes the world, maybe the landscape looks a little bit different because either we can’t get it going or the art people feel it might look a little bit different than what people assume it is in the book,” he continued.

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum (2023), Daedalic

Hartmann then detailed, “I definitely want to put the game first to make sure it’s a great game, because as I said, we want people to play for ten years, and it’s not going to help me if someone is saying, ‘That’s a perfect representation of the book in a game.’ If you’re really into that, read the book. Read it another five times.”

“Otherwise, if it’s a game, a game has to do with playing, and they have to be playful, so there needs to be a little bit of being able to bend the rules to make it a great game,” he asserted.

Sean Bean as Boromir in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), New Line Cinema

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Hartmann also discussed a number of learnings that he and his team discovered during the development and launch of their most recent MMO New World. Specifically he noted MMOs need to have instant rewards.

He explained, “Everything is about instant reward, and since social media and internet and so on, that instant reward thing is so important. It has to be faster and faster.”

“If you just rely on people figuring out the mechanics very fast because it’s very similar to what they had before, that’s great, but it’s all about accessibility and very early having rewards so they feel progress,” he shared. “And then slowly letting them get better and better, and basically give them an option they can start at a different pace, and not getting frustrated. That’s what’s important.”

The Witch-king and a Nazgûl (Ringwraith) attack an elf via The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth (2023), EA

The Witch-king and a Nazgûl (Ringwraith) attack an elf via The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth (2023), EA

Hartmann also notes that they will have to plan out significant content releases to match player demand, something they learned following the release of New World, “People just literally burn through content at an incredible speed. We could not keep up with developing new content.”

He detailed, “At the beginning we said, ‘We obviously need post-launch content,’ we looked at the timeframe in our world where we have a lot of experienced people saying two or three months, but people burned through what we expected to take them two or three months in just one month.”

“We’ve just got to prepare for the next round, and just assume there are some people who actually stop sleeping and just go through the content at triple speed,” he stated.

Sauron’s army attacks Minas Tirith in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Extended Edition (2003), Warner Bros. Pictures

As for when players might expect the game to be released on PC and consoles, it’s unclear. Hartmann didn’t provide a timeline and told Games Industry, “It’s done when it’s done and when it’s ready. That’s it. I want that thing to be alive for ten years plus.”

“We’re not going to ship something which is not ready,” he asserted. “Obviously, we’d all like it to come as soon as possible out of personal interest, but we’re only going to get it out when it’s really ready to go.”

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

What do you make of Hartmann’s comments regarding respecting Tolkien’s lore, but also making it a MMO video game?

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