I heard about this possibility sometime last year, but it looks as though Turbine Entertainment is officially on board for the development of Middle Earth Online [non-flash here], to be released sometime in 2004. The press release is in the extended entry, if you want to read it.

Turbine is known for Asheron’s Call (aka AC: Dark Majesty after the expansion pack) and Asheron’s Call 2: Fallen Kings. The first AC came out about 6 months after Everquest. While AC has never gained the popularity of Everquest (and its 400,000+ subscribers), I’ve always felt it to be a more enjoyable game. I’m a long time AC player – I beta tested the game and still play my first retail character: Rasselas, now a level 81 archer/enchanter. Rasselas was born in November 1999 and I played him for quite some time before realizing that I had a gimped character on my hands. I created a new character – a swordswinger focuses on finding the Sword of Lost Light (now, about as valuable as a toothpick) – and played her (yes, a female character) for some months before changes in the AC game system allowed me to tweak Ras enough to make him a viable competitor. He’s never been “uber,” but playable was all I wanted.

One of AC’s hooks for me is the monthly updates – every single month the Live Team develops the story a little bit more, very much a serial video game. While not exactly Dickens, AC has provided some really interesting characters. Rare are static Good vs. Evil typologies so typical in a fantasy setting; usually the characters are somewhere in between, whether they be the tormented and mad Martine, a human who was experimented on by the mysterious Virindi, or Asheron himself, whose choices always create a bit of suspicion in my mind.

Since Turbine creates such wonderful, original material, I’m curious how they will fare with adaptation. Licensed material is getting an online shot-in-the-arm: where would you prefer your playground – in Middle Earth or in Star Wars Galaxies?

Press Release [ from http://www.prnewswire.com ]—-
LOS ANGELES, May 9 /PRNewswire/ — Vivendi Universal Games, Inc. (VU Games) announced today that it has entered into a production agreement with
Turbine Entertainment Software Corp. to develop “Middle-Earth Online,” a massively multiplayer (MMP) game to launch in 2004. The game will be developed as part of VU Games’ long-term agreement with Tolkien Enterprises to create interactive entertainment based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic novel “The
Lord of the Rings.”
The 3D role-playing game (RPG) will immerse players in the Middle-earth
world where they will choose their identities from a cast of archetypal Tolkien characters, form kinships, build race-specific dwellings, explore the landscape, craft unique items and weapons, and perform myriad other activities to bring the world-renowned fantasy realm to life.
“We are extremely excited to be working with a world-class developer like Turbine. Their track record and proven expertise in building, launching, and supporting massively multiplayer games is exceptional, making them the right
partner for a franchise as beloved and well-known as J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings,'” said Jim Wilson, EVP Product Development, Vivendi Universal Games. “Together, our goal will be to bring the vision and spirit of the literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien to life in ‘Middle-Earth Online.'” More information about “Middle-Earth Online” can be found at http://www.lordoftherings.com/meo .
About Turbine Entertainment Software Corp.
Turbine Entertainment Software Corp., headquartered in Westwood, Massachusetts, is a pioneer in the design and production of massively multiplayer (MMP) games. Turbine’s first MMP game was the award-winning
Asheron’s Call(R). Turbine recently completed work on the G2 Engine as seen
in Asheron’s Call(R) 2 this year. This groundbreaking technology and Turbine’s commitment to shipping quality games on schedule continues to strengthen Turbine’s position at the forefront of MMP gaming.
About Vivendi Universal Games
Headquartered in New York, Vivendi Universal Games ( http://www.vugames.com ) is a global leader in multi-platform interactive entertainment. A leading
publisher of PC, console and online-based interactive content, Vivendi Universal Games’ portfolio of development studios includes Black Label Games, Blizzard Entertainment, Coktel, Fox Interactive, Knowledge Adventure, NDA Productions, Sierra Entertainment and Universal Interactive. Through its Partner Publishing Group, Vivendi Universal Games also co-publishes and/or distributes interactive products for a number of strategic partners, including Crave Entertainment, Interplay, Majesco, Mythic Entertainment and Simon & Schuster, among others.
(C) 2002 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Asheron’s Call is a
registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or
other countries.

SOURCE Vivendi Universal Games, Inc.
Web Site: http://www.vugames.com


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