I don’t pay much attention anymore to The Lord of the Rings Online. I waited for it with great anticipation, but when it launched, I found the game to be little more than a slightly crisper clone of World of Warcraft. I do intend to check it out again someday, as Turbine works out the kinks. Maybe after I get my chance to play Warhammer Online.
But I was fascinated by this “Developer’s Diary” about the creation of the Mines of Moria. The author describes the design decisions that went into creating the virtual Dwarrowdelf, and the new software necessary to create cavernous interior spaces.
What does Moria look like? Poring over the books was the first step, and calling out every specific detail we could manage. The opening grand stair of 200 steps, the fork where Gandalf forgets the way, the 2nd Hall with the pillars “carved like boles of mighty trees,” all of these must be recreated faithfully. But equally important is imagining the rest of Moria in a way that fits with what is seen in the narrow path that the Fellowship follows. Gandalf alludes to deep waters under the mountains where the Watcher likely came from: combine that with a need for the dwarf-city to have a water supply of some sort, and we have the Waterworks, an area of dwarf-built aqueducts and pumping stations and deadly waters. The dwarves dug too deeply in their quest for mithril and awoke Durin’s Bane: where did they dig, and what foul cavern did they break into that housed such a creature? And what was in there with him? Moria is full of questions left unaddressed by the novels, and it is these that have guided us in fleshing out the world beneath the Misty Mountains.