Making video games is very hard. It can take years of work to ship even a small game. One aspect that can take up a particularly large amount of time and resources is building a custom engine, which is why many devs utilise Unreal, Unity, or another pre-existing engine to help speed up development. That’s very common, but recently a really wild example from the PlayStation 2 days came to light in an interview with Glen Schofield, director of the new The Callisto Protocol.
Recently, the Callisto Protocol was released to…mixed reviews, let’s say (our own Ashley Bardhan liked how ambitious it was, despite some annoying difficulty spikes). Anyway, to help drum up publicity for the new horror game, director Glen Schofield has been going around doing interviews and whatnot. And two weeks ago he did a video with Wired in which he answered random tweets about game development. That’s where he revealed a fun bit of trivia about a popular Lord of the Rings game he worked on at EA.
In the Wired video, Schofield (who previously worked on Dead Space and Call of Duty) answers a question as to why devs don’t make their own engines anymore and instead use pre-existing tech. The director explains that it’s just too damn expensive and time-consuming to do this today, and that it’s almost always better to take an old engine and repurpose it, like he did at EA.
You see, when he was a producer on 2003 licensed beat ‘em up The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, his team spent a year working on a new engine for the game. But things were going slowly and the game had a hard deadline to hit. So he looked around at the various other engines EA was using for its games at that time to find some tech they could repurpose. And weirdly enough, he came to the conclusion that the latest Tiger Woods golf game had the perfect engine.
“Lord of the Rings is about large areas and then sort of a castle on the end or something, a fortress. What’s like that? Tiger Woods!” explained Schofield, “Long areas, and at the end is where you go get food, where you’re done. And so we took the Tiger Woods engine and turned that into a Lord of the Rings engine.”
Now, this is funny and interesting enough on its own. But one last part came to light earlier today on Twitter. It turns out, according to a former EA dev, that some modified Lord of the Rings visual effects code was later re-used on a PSP Tiger Woods game to create puffs of smoke during ball impact.
This is true, and then that code circled back into Tiger Woods. I remember the code for VFX in Tiger Woods PSP was from LOTR (had references to Gandalf, etc). All that for little wisps of smoke when hitting a golf ball! 🙂 https://t.co/odmTylBVUC
— Nick F ☁️🎮 @firstname.lastname@example.org (@ForensicGunk) December 5, 2022
Apparently the code of the PSP Tiger Woods game also contains references to Gandalf and other LotR characters, too. As ever, game development is messy and endlessly fascinating.
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