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Exclusive interview: Monolith talks new 'Middle-earth: Shadow Mordor' details

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Interactive, used with permission.

Warner Bros. Interactive along with developer Monolith plan to take players on an epic journey later this year when Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor sees release for PS4, Xbox One, PC and last-gen platforms. Over the last several days, we have shared with you brand new details on Shadow of Mordor in which we shared new details on locations found in the game and what inspires and drives the development team. Today, we share the full exclusive interview with Michael de Plater, Monolith director of design for Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.

Below, you will find our full interview with Michael de Plater. Disclosing new details on many of the game’s settings, influence, and gameplay approach, this fresh information will get any Hobbit or Lord of the Rings fan excited about this upcoming release as you explore Mordor and rediscover the mystery that is Middle-earth.

Examiner: How much inspiration is the team taking from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films? How is the teaming balancing those things from a creative standpoint? How much feedback from those films can you take without compromising your own vision of Middle-earth?

Michael de Plater: We are directly inspired by The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings literature and in particular by exploring the connections between those stories. The decades in between the Battle of Five Armies and the War of the Ring provide enormous scope to tell an epic, standalone story that also connects to the established tales and the deeper history of Middle-earth. It gives us the best of both worlds in terms of combining creative freedom with authenticity to the established canon.

Examiner: How will the landscape of this world vary? What sorts of regions and towns will players journey to? What makes each of them unique?

Michael de Plater: What was exciting for us about exploring Mordor as a setting is that it is simultaneously so iconic and central to Middle-earth at the same as being something of a mystery, especially at the time when our story begins when Sauron has been absent for millennia. Iconic sites like the Black Gates, Barad-Dur and Mount Doom look very different to the blasted hell-scape seen by Sam and Frodo. Additionally we get to travel deeper into Mordor to locations that have never been seen before in games. This lets us explore Mordor as a real ecosystem and living world, answering questions such as how Sauron could feed his massive armies in a land where we have previously only seen arid plains of ash.

Examiner: With what is setting up to be an enormous world, how will players handle traversal? Is their form of traversal going to be something that can be improved or upgraded throughout the game?

Michael de Plater: Yes, travel is something that is upgraded and improved in multiple ways as the game progresses. We're going to reveal more details of that later.

Examiner: What have been some of the challenging aspects of level design? Does the fact that this is a sandbox game, create some more challenges when designing a level? How will level designs vary throughout the game?

Michael de Plater: Absolutely, level design in a dynamic living world is extremely challenging. Additionally the environment and wildlife add even more potential chaos and variation into the world at any moment. The enormous development effort is absolutely worth it because on the plus side this creates massive potential for player freedom and replayability. We’ll reveal more about variations in the game locations at a later time.

Examiner: What is it like when creating a game that bridges the gap between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings? It's amazing that this will be an open-world experience, and how much of it will people recognize from the books and films?

Michael de Plater: Players will immediately recognize that they are in Middle-earth right from the first moments of the game, and they will continue to recognize details throughout the world and the story. We have worked with Middle-earth Enterprises and WETA Workshop to ensure authenticity and attention to detail throughout every aspect of the game. At the same time, players will also experience an original, standalone story. There are some key familiar characters such as Gollum in Shadow of Mordor, but those characters who do appear have a genuine reason for being there and play a key role in the story.

Examiner: With such an establish brand, how much pressure does the development team feel or if not that, how excited is the team to create something that doesn't really have a precedent already set?

Michael de Plater: We feel an enormous amount of excitement and responsibility, both as fans and creators. Middle-earth is so timeless and beloved; because the world is so deep and rich it provides an amazing combination of inspiration and creative freedom to explore.

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