NPCs' feelings will be affected by your behaviour. The game's physical environment isn't enormously persistent, but the characters' environment and the knowledge that the NPCs have about your behaviour and how they interact with you is very persistent and very revolutionary. We really want you to feel like you're developing relationships with NPCs by having to manage them as you progress through the game. I think that's one area where we're really going to excel. Also, our character and inventory customisation system is going to be far beyond anything we've seen so far.
How much say will the player have over their alignment given the rigid storyline structure?
Steve Gray: You cannot switch sides and become evil. I think that's fairly consistent with the fiction. You have a lot of freedom about what you do, and you can do things that are questionable, but you can't outright go out and decide to align yourself with the forces of evil.
How does the player character fit into The White Council?
Steve Gray: The White Council is a group of the most powerful characters in Middle-earth. Your goal is to become an officially recognised character and become an agent of the White Council so that they ask you to do things for them. Our character customisation will have things in there that'll help you understand who you are. We want to avoid the usual RPG problem of you being dropped into the gaming world like some kind of amnesiac character with no history, so we've got some things we're working on to try and address that.
Fundamentally, you'll start off as a nobody and at one point you'll become important enough for the White Council to take notice of you and ask you to do things for them. Ultimately you'll go out and directly help them defeat evil.
Will there be any epic battles?
Steve Gray: There won't be any big battle scenes. This game is about individual heroism. In the time period that it's set in (80 years before The Lord Of The Rings trilogy), there weren't any really big battles.
Can you give us any details about the evil that we'll be fighting against?
Steve Gray: Just from the books, we know that in that time period there was an evil force in the south of Mirkwood in a castle named Dol Guldur called The Necromancer. He was the main bad guy in that time period so you'd think that our story would have to deal with that fact.
Will we see any characters that weren't in the films?
Steve Gray: There'll be all sorts of characters, including characters not seen in the films.
How will/does the combat system work?
Steve Gray: Fundementally, what we wanted to do was to take the best of The Two Towers, The Return Of The King and mix it with the tactics from The Third Age. We wanted to make the front-end combat like the first two games where you have to use your button skills and make the back half a tactical RPG system that's based on what armour you have on and what skills you've developed. We've merged them together so that action/adventure fans will be happy to play the game. However, later in the game you'll really need to know how the tactical RPG system works and make sure you understand how and when to use healing, melee and ranged combat.
What platforms will the game ship on?
Steve Gray: The lead platforms are PS3 and Xbox 360. We're also thinking about doing a PC version. The PC version isn't officially confirmed but it's something you would imagine we would do. If you look back at a lot of the other Lord of the Rings games, we haven't 100% always done a PC version, but we tend to.
When can we expect to see the finished game?
Steve Gray: The game has been in production for about a year and a half. We hope to release it in fall of 2007.