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Legacy of an Update: Making Mirkwood and More

By DrOctothorpe
There are few things more rewarding for us than coming to a truly iconic location in Middle-earth. We pore over relevant stretches of text, talk, ponder, then roll up our sleeves and dig into the humbling task of rendering everything we love and admire into landscape, story, sound, and play. This is just where we found ourselves for the new update, "Legacy of the Necromancer," when timely events gave us an excuse to expand our territories in Rhovanion.
We hope you enjoy exploring the selfsame woods and dales that brought thirteen dwarves, a wizard, and an ostensible burglar face to face with a dragon about eighty years prior. We wanted to share some thoughts by our team on the crafting of these lands, the Strongholds of the North--that is, the Woodland Realm of the Elves, the Men of Dale, and the Lonely Mountain Dwarf-kingdom.

Jeff "MadeOfLions" Libby, Content Designer

It’s been a long time since we first came to Mirkwood! The dual missions of the Golden Host and the Hidden Guard led them into Southern Mirkwood when the Siege of Mirkwood expansion pack released in 2009. In the real world, my daughter had just been born… now we’re delving once again into Mirkwood and she’s about to turn nine! Where did the time go? Well, during those nine years we went to Enedwaith, Dunland, Isengard, Great River, so many Rohans, so many Gondors (with some Ithiliens on the side), the Wastes, and the plateau of Gorgoroth in Mordor. But in Middle-earth it’s only been about a month and a half, and now the mission of the Golden Host is finally coming to a conclusion. Galadriel and Celeborn have business with the forces that remain in Dol Guldur, the fortress of the Necromancer, and in the next chapters of the Black Book of Mordor you’ll discover that your adventure aligns with that purpose.
Siege of Mirkwood brought us to the southern part of the forest, where Sauron resided in secret for the long years following his defeat at the hands of the Last Alliance, nursing his wounds and gathering his strength. His presence worked great evil upon the forest, and that corruption gave rise to the name by which it was known: Mirkwood. If the Golden Host is at last successful in its mission, there is hope that the festering evils of Mirkwood can be swept away and the forest given a new name.
Indeed, most of my work for U22 has involved the two new chapters of the Black Book of Mordor, and these are very concerned with the meaning of names, and the process by which words and language evolve over time. The forest of Mirkwood, the Wood of Greenleaves – two names for the same geography, but they bring very different connotations and meanings with them. It’s no secret that words have power in Middle-earth, and each of the Strongholds of the North we’ll visit in this update approach such questions of language in their own way. It’s been a real joy to delve into some particularly Middle-earthy questions in this update, and to visit such a variety of locales in the north. And on the story front, there are a number of surprises too! I’m always happy to see the expanding world of Middle-earth in LOTRO, especially in unexpected directions. 

Mark Lizotte, artist

Lake-town!! Yay!—Fun to design and build all the parts that make up the layers of Laketown—from the dragon-covered arch to the strategically placed Outhouses. (Yes, restrooms have come to LOTRO!)
I also feel like I achieved a new level of Nerd-dom while having to correct the dwarf-runes on Erebor memorials, after we figured out there was an even better way to write the text.

Chris Pierson, World Designer & Loremaster

I could go on about how much fun it was to do the initial work toward bringing the Long Lake to life, or seeing Lake-town take form, or experimenting with different kinds of spooky (or sylvan) forest environments in northern Mirkwood (glowing eyes! black butterflies! fog and darkness and beech trees and bat swarms!), or evolving the look of the Halls of the Elvenking to suit Thranduil’s grandeur and the wood-Elves’ love of nature (those tree-pillars and that flowstone, man), or making the Raft-elves’ huts, of all things, into one of the most picturesque locales I’ve ever built.
But instead, a quick note about linguistics.
Wait, come back. There was plenty of fun to be had there, from using a lot of Old Norse to devising a Sindarin name for Thranduil’s halls (and explaining to other language nerds why it’s Felegoth – the War-cavern – not the expected Felegroth – the, um, Cave-cavern). My single favorite detail, though, was handling a question that’s long bothered me, wonk that I am: when everything in the Dale-lands sounds all Viking-ish, why did King Girion have an ostensibly Sindarin-sounding name? Answering that question, and figuring out a Norse version (Geirjarn, the Ironbolt) from before it got calqued into Elvish by legend and time, led me to develop a more thorough history for the Dale-folk, the Dwarves of Erebor, and the Black Arrows. It was like solving a puzzle Tolkien left behind, which is always a bit of a thrill.

Elise "LansuEV" Valla, Content Designer

I've had the pleasure of being one of the writers for Lost Lore, and I'm thrilled it's been so well received by the community! There's a new batch waiting for you in Update 22, so I thought this would be a good time to talk about my experiences working on it.
Lost Lore was a result of us wanting to tell more stories in a region outside of the context of quests, where characters, especially antagonists, can tell us more because they are not directly speaking to the player. It's also a chance for us to get more of our internal world-building out into the open for players to see. When our resident Lore-master, Chris Pierson, prepares the lore for each region we go into, there is always more (sometimes much more) than ever makes it into the game, both out of canonical lore and our own additions to fill in the gaps.
For example, what is the Necklace of Girion? It's mentioned in the text, and that Thranduil wants the gems, but not much else is established. For that matter, why does Thranduil hate dwarves so much, anyway? Chris drew up a backstory for those questions, and I decided it would be a perfect story to tell in a Lost Lore by Thranduil. From there, I write the events from Thranduil's point of view, in his personal voice, and after several rounds of editing, they are recorded by a voice actor. I have to say, having your written words brought to life by a professional voice actor is a magical experience. I hope you enjoy the new stories! See you in Mirkwood!

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