Revealed in late 2002 by Vivendi Universal, and then submerged till only this
March due to corporate restructuring and problems with the game's design, many had thought
Middle Earth Online
to be a dead or dying project. However, Vivendi and Turbine Entertainment
have dispelled this notion today by announcing that they have entered into a joint
agreement to develop Middle Earth Online as part of Vivendi Universal's long-term
development agreement with Tolkien Enterprises.
Turbine Entertainment is best known for its work on the Asheron's Call series,
which ran on engines developed by Turbine. For Middle Earth Online, a next
generation version of this engine is planned that will make use of some
of the most recent developments in MMORPG design, including all of the standard
increases in frame rate and lag reduction. The planned development process for this
title will be to roll out successive expansions for the game, which will basically
mirror the path of the Fellowship from the Shire to Mordor. In addition, the lands
of Lonely Mountain and Mirkwood will also be covered in an aside package for the Hobbit.
For those who have further interest, an official webpage
for the game has been put online, which includes: a summary of the backstory for the
game; the list of features which will be supported, including playable races; and
a number of preliminary screens. Middle Earth Online is currently planned for a 2004
release in North America.