Yet another title for the archives which was in a very different state compared to the final game at one stage. Thanks to Dr Strange/Atlantis for highlighting this title, which has actually been doing the rounds for some time.
This early build of War in Middle Earth is very different to the final version, lacking the green of the final version and a lot of polish. It is very oddly labelled Lord of the Rings 3 too, which suggests that originally the game was meant to just cover a battle in the final book – whereas we believe the final game covers battles across the 3 books (correct us if we’re wrong of course!)
Dr Strange pointed something out very interesting though, that this early edition is rather startlingly like the released ZX Spectrum version in terms of look and feel with its grey and white dominated colours. It suggests that maybe the C64 version was based initially on a port of the Spectrum game – the graphics at the very least, as the charset is identical. The finished C64 edition had improved graphics over the Spectrum version.
So we know clearly that the game was released and changed – but we wanted to hear the story about this earlier build and why it was changed so much for the final version. Was it simply just a starting point that was improved on to make use of the C64’s strengths, is there more to it?
Andy Elkerton shed some light and revealed that the game was in development when he joined Maelstrom as a graphic artist. At the time, the original artist on the game was actually the musician Paul Robotham, which may well explain the quality of the art compared to the final version when Andy redid everything. Interestingly as a side note, Andy reveals that there should have been an extra disk or part which had illustrated glossaries of the characters and monsters in the game, but this seems to be missing – do you know anything more about it?
So this was merely an early demo which underwent a redesign by Andy, and as a result it is pretty much case closed!
Contributions: Dr Strange, Andy Elkerton
Andy Elkerton talks about the game:
“War in Middle Earth was one of the first titles I worked on when joining Maelstrom. The original artist that they had (Paul Robotham) was actually their musician, which might explain the quality of the art on the Spectrum version and the quality of the map for the early C64 version that’s on your site.
When I joined I was put straight onto the C64 version, redesigning the map, doing all the in game icons/graphics etc, and illustrating a glossary of characters and monsters that came with the C64 game on a separate disk (at least I THINK it was a separate disk). Try as I might I’ve never been able to find any online images that I did for the glossary, so I don’t know whether it was released or whether it was done for an overseas market (the States?).”
11/05/14 – Andy Elkerton sheds light on the story behind this early preview.