The Tolkien computer games FAQ

Version 1.1f

This document contains answers to some frequently asked questions about computer games set in J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy world Middle-earth. These questions are such that often come up in any of the related news-groups (such as rec.arts.books.tolkien, rec.games.int-fiction, comp.sys.sinclair, comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.adventure...) or are frequently directed to me personally.

Contents

1 General information

1.1 Who's writing this stuff?
1.2 Where can I find an up-to-date copy of this document?
1.3 Do you send out copies of commercial games on request?
1.4 What related FAQs are there?
1.5 How do I find information about a specific game?
1.6 Are you sure you don't send out copies of commercial games?
1.7 Why doesn't the game I downloaded work?
1.8 Do you have a walk-through or hints sheet for my favorite game?
1.9 Couldn't you copy just one commercial game, just for me?

2 Middle-earth MUDs

2.1 Why can't I play any of the MUDs?
2.2 OK, I've connected to the MUD. Now what?
2.3 What is the best Tolkien MUD?

3 The Hobbit and other Beam Software titles

3.1 Wasn't The Hobbit made by Melbourne House or Addison-Wesley or something?
3.2 How do I get a copy of The Hobbit for PC/Mac?
3.3 How do I get out of the Goblins' Dungeon?
3.4 Was the third part of Beam Software's LOTR series ever released?
3.5 What about Where Hobbits Dare, the planned successor to The Hobbit?

4 The Interplay titles

4.1 How do I get a copy of any of Interplay's Middle-earth games?
4.2 When will the third part of Interplay's series be released?
4.3 Will the second part (The Two Towers) be released for Super NES?

5 Various other games

5.1 How do I get a copy of War in Middle Earth?
5.2 Will there be any cool new releases in the near future?
5.3 Are there any good games for Mac?

6 Copyright and distribution of games

6.1 Is it legal to make freeware games based on Middle-earth?
6.2 Is it legal to make shareware games based on Middle-earth?
6.3 Who do I contact if I want to make a commercial game?
6.4 Is it legal to distribute old games that are no longer sold?


1 General information

1.1 Who's writing this stuff?

My name is Fredrik Ekman, I live in Sweden and I have been a collector of games based on Tolkien's Middle-earth for several years. From late 1993 to late 1995 I maintained a list of all such games. After that I transformed the list into a set of WWW pages (http://www.lysator.liu.se/tolkien-games/). I also wrote a regular column on the subject in Other Hands - the International Journal for Middle-earth Gaming, an excellent source of information that otherwise mostly deals with role-playing games (for subscriptions or info, see the official home page at http://otherhands.com/). My articles were published in issues 12 through 20.

If you want to contact me, the best way is e-mail to ekman@lysator.liu.se (but read the rest of the FAQ first!).

1.2 Where can I find an up-to-date copy of this document?

The latest version will always (or at least in the foreseeable future) be at http://www.lysator.liu.se/tolkien-games/faq.html. It will also be posted to relevant news-groups. Alternatively, it could be ordered by e-mail from the maintainer (see question 1.1).

1.3 Do you send out copies of commercial games on request?

No.

1.4 What related FAQs are there?

Many of the games mentioned in this FAQ are also covered by other FAQs. There are also some games that could have been mentioned here, but are not. FAQs that have references to Tolkien games include:

1.5 How do I find information about a specific game?

The Tolkien computer games WWW pages (see question 1.1) have one page devoted to each known title. There you can find a great deal of useful and useless information about the games you are interested in.

1.6 Are you sure you don't mail copies of commercial games?

Yes.

1.7 Why doesn't the game I downloaded work?

Did you even bother to read the page you downloaded from? It is clearly stated by each downloadable game what system it is for. If you try to download, say, a ZX Spectrum game to your Mac it naturally will not work since it was written for another machine.

Fortunately, there are emulators that lets your computer "pretend" to be what it is not. For further information, see the emulator FAQ at http://www.faqs.org/faqs/emulators-faq/part1/.

1.8 Do you have a walk-through or hints sheet for my favorite game?

If I know about one there is a link to it from the Tolkien computer games web pages (see question 1.1). Otherwise I do not have it, so please do not ask.

1.9 Couldn't you copy just one commercial game, just for me?

Absolutely not, and I mean it! You may think that you have a perfectly legit cause for wanting me to send a copyrighted game to you, and maybe you do. Perhaps your old disk went bad and the game maker is no longer around to replace it. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no way for me to tell an "honest" request from one that is not. Quoting manuals or scanning covers proves absolutely nothing, except (maybe) that you somehow have access to the original documentation. Please respect that my web pages put me in a somewhat exposed position and that even if one single offense would not make me end up in jail, I would soon find myself in a situation where it would be extremely difficult to draw the line between what is reasonable and what is not.

And either way, even though I am always willing to help if I can, my time is limited and copying a game usually takes some time, especially since I may not have it installed. I am perfectly willing to spend time making a game available for legitimate downloading, but not mailing out games on individual requests.


2 Middle-earth MUDs

2.1 Why can't I play any of the MUDs?

If you fail to connect to a MUD through my page of Tolkien MUDs your problem is likely to be any of the following three:

  1. Your web browser is not set up properly. You will want to find and install the correct telnet application. How this is done depends on your software and operating system.
  2. The MUD is temporarily down or has too many players. If this seems to be the case, wait a while and try again.
  3. The MUD is permanently down or has moved. If you have strong reason to believe this, contact me immediately (see question 1.1).

2.2 OK, I've connected to the MUD. Now what?

Each MUD is unique, but most are alike. Most MUDs require that you choose a character name and password on your first visit. Just type the name and password of your choice. If this fails, someone else has probably already taken that name. Try again! Note that taking the name of one of the characters from Tolkien's books (e.g. Gandalf) is forbidden on some MUDs.

Once inside the game, the command "help" usually produces some useful results. The "say" command is also good to know (e.g. "say I'm new here. Could someone please help me?").

If you require further assistance, the MUD FAQ (http://www.mudconnect.com/mudfaq/) is a good place to start.

2.3 What is the best Tolkien MUD?

This depends on your personal taste. The three that are most popular are almost certainly Elendor, The Two Towers and MUME, although Beleriand seems to be gaining ground as well. All of these are good and differ from each other in design and concept. Elendor is a good choice for the beginner, whereas MUME is recommended for the advanced player.

Among my personal favourites are also Genesis and Aurora, although these are only partly based on Tolkien's writings.


3 The Hobbit and other Beam Software titles

3.1 Wasn't The Hobbit made by Melbourne House or Addison-Wesley or something?

No. It was made by Beam Software, which at the time was owned by Melbourne House. It was then distributed by Melbourne House (in Australia and Europe) and Addison-Wesley (in North America).

3.2 How do I get a copy of The Hobbit for PC/Mac?

It is no longer in print, and so is quite difficult to find. See question 5.1 for some tips.

Beam Software now allows free distribution of eight-bit versions of the game. One alternative is therefore to download an image for your favourite emulator from the page http://www.lysator.liu.se/tolkien-games/entry/hobbit.html. See also question 1.7 about emulators.

3.3 How do I get out of the Goblins' Dungeon?

Believe it or not, but this classic questions still comes up every once in a while. The answer lies in communicating. Wait until either Thorin or Gandalf is captured and then SAY TO THORIN [or GANDALF] "CARRY ME, OPEN WINDOW, GO THROUGH WINDOW". Then all you have to do is find your way out before you are captured again...

3.4 Was the third part of Beam Software's LOTR series ever released?

Yes, but only in North America (and probably Australia) under the Addison-Wesley label. The title is Crack of Doom Software Adventure.

3.5 What about Where Hobbits Dare, the planned successor to The Hobbit?

Where Hobbits Dare obviously never existed, not even as an early design. It was nothing but a rumour.


4 The Interplay titles

4.1 How do I get a copy of any of Interplay's Middle-earth games?

The games are out of print, but not too hard to find. Many well-stocked computer dealers still carry them, in particular the large mail-order companies on the Net.

The first game was also part of the collection Interplay 10 Year Anthology, so you may want to look for that title as well.

You may also want to try the tips in question 5.1.

4.2 When will the third part of Interplay's series be released?

It will not. The second part did not sell as well as expected, and even if Interplay decided to make the third part, they probably would not be allowed to by the Tolkien Estate. Interplay had the rights to do the game through Beam Software, and Beam's contract with the Tolkien Estate is now terminated.

4.3 Will the second part (The Two Towers) be released for Super NES?

No. According to Interplay the Super NES market is too weak today.


5 Various other games

5.1 How do I get a copy of War in Middle Earth?

Everyone wants War in Middle Earth. This game is very much out of print and somewhat hard to find. The current copyright holder seems to be Virgin Interactive Entertainment and they are not happy about requests for the game. The best ways to get one would probably be USENET News ads, web pages for trading/selling and software surplus stores. Persistence pays off!

For some more specific tips, see the page http://www.lysator.liu.se/tolkien-games/outofprint.html.

Please respect that I cannot send copies of the game to anyone since the game is still protected by copyright.

5.2 Will there be any cool new releases in the near future?

Yes. Sierra On-Line has again signed a contract with Tolkien Enterprises (for eight years this time) and their first new game is scheduled to be The Fellowship of the Ring in 2002.

There are also many freeware titles in the works. See http://www.lysator.liu.se/tolkien-games/future.html for the latest information.

5.3 Are there any good games for Mac?

For some reason, Mac releases have been few and far between. If you like text adventures, there are always the Beam Software games (see section 3), but they are hard to find and today's teenagers seem to have too short attention span for text adventures, anyway.

A couple of good freeware titles exist, such as Angband, but that is only loosely based on Tolkien's world. Older versions of the strategy game Xconq are distributed with one Middle-earth scenario and there are several scenarios that can be played on a Mac with Warlords II, Civilization II, Heroes of Might and Magic II and Heroes of Might and Magic III.


6 Copyright and distribution of games

6.1 Is it legal to make freeware games based on Middle-earth?

This is a difficult question, but the technical answer is probably no. There have, however, been several dozen such games to date and no problems reported with the Tolkien Estate yet. As long as you make no profit from it, it seems to be quite safe.

6.2 Is it legal to make shareware games based on Middle-earth?

No, not without permission (see question 6.3). There have nevertheless been a few releases without permission and I have heard of no threats of law-suits, but if you want to play safe, base your shareware games on something else.

An exception from this rule (and including commercial releases) is parodies, which do not require any kind of licence or permission.

6.3 Who do I contact if I want to make a commercial game?

While Tolkien was alive, all rights for merchandise based on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were sold out and are currently owned by the company Tolkien Enterprises. They, in turn, recently licensed the computer gaming rights to Sierra On-line (see question 5.2).

The matter is further complicated by the fact that the Tolkien Estate apparently also has the right to license computer games. Their previous licensee was Beam Software, but that license has now expired. A guess from my side would be that the Estate are probably not too eager to find a new contractor since they are very protective about Tolkien's works and their integrity these days.

Tolkien Enterprises have no rights to The Silmarillion and other posthumous works. Licenses for such games must go through the Estate.

Tolkien Enterprises can be contacted through Laurie Battle (lbattle@fantasyjazz.com). Sierra On-line is probably best contacted through their home page http://www.sierra.com/. The Tolkien Estate does not have an email address, but it should be possible to send fax to their publisher HarperCollins through the address remote-printer.Mary_Butler@441813074440.iddd.tpc.int (or directly to Mary Butler at +44 1813074440).

6.4 Is it legal to distribute old games that are no longer sold?

Technically no. Some copyright holders, such as Beam Software and DELTA 4, allow free (and only free) distribution of their old titles, but you may need to get permission from the Tolkien Estate as well. Most other companies do not seem to care as long as no money is involved but some, such as Zenobi Software and Interplay, have forbidden any kind of distribution. Just to make sure, you should try to locate and ask the copyright holders before you distribute anything.


Copyright 1997, 2001 by Fredrik Ekman. Non-commercial electronic distribution is allowed as long as the contents remain intact and without change or addition of information. Non-commercial distribution in print, on disk, on CD-ROM, etc, is allowed provided that one copy is sent to the author of this document. Quotes of entire paragraphs are allowed provided that the source is properly referenced.

I suppose I should have a disclaimer here about correctness of information and damage liability, but that is boring stuff and you already know it by heart, right?

Last updated 2001-05-04.


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