EA cancelled MMORPG project The Lord of the Rings: The White Council was announced back in 2006 and put on what turned out to be an indefinite hold just over a year later, and now some thirteen years on, former developers on the project have been speaking on the game, giving us us some interesting notes to pour over including the fact it used The Sims 3 to power its NPCs.
Speaking to The Gamer, former executive producer Steve Gray revealed that "We were using the Sims 3 Simulator – the latest version at that time – to power the NPCs. It was really about exploring the world of Middle Earth around the time of the movies – though we had also considered having servers that were set back in earlier times, drawing on the mythology in The Silmarillion. It was crazy big and complicated."
Former Creative Director Chris Tremmel also spoke on the project, which would have utilised the license from both the films and the books, saying: "We were explicitly directed by our executive producer, Neil Young, that what we were making was not Neil Young’s Lord of the Rings, or even EA’s Lord of the Rings. We were making Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. This was great in my eyes, as it gave us a tangible target to shoot for, as well as made for an authentic experience for the fans. Clearly the further into the franchise we went, the more liberties we took and were allowed to take. By the time we got to the Third Age game, we were collaborating with Tolkien on new characters and new fiction within the world and time of the War of the Ring."
The team were even set to introduce their own characters into the LOTR lore, including a new character known as Berethor, who was to be a soldier under Boromir. The studio was even working with Christopher Tolkien—son of original author J. R. R. Tolkien—who sadly passed away earlier this year.
Speaking on what caused the demise of the game, Tremmel mentioned several factors, including the ambitious nature of the game, which was set to launch on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC at a time when it was rare to see an MMORPG working well on consoles. Steve Gray also noted the poor performance of another movie tie-in at the time: "EA was just coming off shipping The Godfather, which was a big and really expensive project that had gone way over budget and schedule. I just think there wasn't appetite for another big over the top project.”
It's a shame it never got to see the light of day, and of course Warner Bros picked up the Lord of the Rings license in 2009, where it has remained ever since. It's well worth reading the full interview to hear more on the doomed project. In the meantime, the next LOTR game looks set to be Deadelic's The Lord of The Rings: Gollum, scheduled for launch on Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5 and PC sometime in 2021.