We also got a chance to talk to design director Bob Roberts about why the giant spider Shelob is now an attractive femme fatale, and why nobody has created a Shadow Of Mordor clone yet...
GC: All of that sounds good, but of course not all your new ideas have gone down that well. Shelob, for example. I mean, I'm glad she's not a spider because I hate ‘em...
GC: I think it's fair to say that Tolkien would not like this game.
GC: But then I suspect he'd hate all video games. I bet Christopher Tolkien does too.
BR: Probably, but we run everything through Middle-earth Enterprises. They vet all of our ideas and we get feedback from them on specific details. Like, for example, if there's an enemy who's evil his blood must be black. So all of these things have to be consistent and we are huge fans, so we don't propose things that are insane and unjustified.
GC: I understood from the books that Shelob wasn't literally a giant spider. She was a kind of demon and she'd just taken that form.
BR: Yeah, she's sort of demigod. And we give our justifications when we pass this stuff along for approvals, to say, ‘This is where we pulled the rationale for doing this thing that wasn't in the books but we think makes sense in this context'.
GC: How do you feel when fans complain? Because you're fans yourself and you need to find ways to do things differently, given the finite source material.
BR: Obviously, in an ideal world, we want everybody to be happy and to like it and to not be upset by your choices. But we have to do what we think makes for the best game, the best story, and telling some new stories and not just rehashing the only existing things that have been written. So, we do enjoy bringing something new to the table, and we do feel that's worth a little bit of trouble. But, obviously, it's a huge world with a massive fanbase and they don't always agree with each other either.