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Q&A with the minds behind Minecraft Middle-earth!

The majority of us have experienced the chance to “interact” with the world of Middle-earth through video games, most notably The Lord of the Rings Online and more recently The Lord of the Rings: War in the North. While the chance to see such iconic parts of Middle-earth come alive such as Bree and Rivendell have kept many satisfied, one realm of interaction eluded all but the game design teams: building Middle-earth.

That all changed when Minecraft entered the scene. First released in May 2009 and an alpha release, Minecraft’s gameplay focuses heavily on creativity and building. The game has three types of gameplay:

  • Survival – Players can take damage from monsters, animals, environment(such as drowning and falling into lava) and falls from great heights. Also players must manage hunger and seek out food to eat (bread, porkchops, etc.) Players must seek out resources in order to build, and the inventory is limited to 36 spaces.
  • Creative – cannot take damage and has the ability to fly freely around the map. Also has acess to unlimited resources. The only way for the player to die is to fall into the Void, which is at the bottom of the map.
  • Hardcore – basically the same as Survival, but the game is on the hardest difficulty and respawning is disabled, forcing the player to delete their world upon death.

With the release of a game with the type of potential that Minecraft offers, it was only a matter of time before someone tried to do the unthinkable: build Middle-earth one block at a time.  I caught up with Henry “Meggawatts” Slawniak, one of the MineCraft Middle-earth staff members, and he was gracious enough to get back to me about doing this interview. Meggawatts is in charge of the RP server and helps out with technical support to the build server whenever he is needed.

Legendarium Media: How did the concept of Minecraft Middle-earth begin, and how did the idea become what it is now?

Henry:The medium of Minecraft really gave Shorvok, our founder, an idea and a good method by which to try and recreate middle-earth in relation to the books. No one has ever tried to do that, except perhaps LOTRO which made too many changes to constitute their MMO structure. Minecraft allows anyone to express themselves and easily create things like this, that’s why it was used. Over the last year and a half that the project has been running, we have probably ran 12,000 to 15,000 people through the whitelist and it’s just a culmination of so much talent and dedication from all the members of the server.

LM: What kind of server is Minecraft Middle-earth, and are there an plans to expand the server to more than just Middle-earth, maybe to include Westernesse and Aman?

H:Minecraft Middle-Earth is a creative server focusing on recreating a world accurately. This means that resources are freely given out. We discourage mining as we do not want random mines and tunnels snaking across the map. As for expanding the world we may eventually build the other parts of Arda such as Valinor and the places to the far north, south, and east. However, our method of creation is that we follow the books, so first will be the trilogy then the Hobbit then we will look into working on areas from The Children of Húrin and The Silmarillion.

LM: What are the roles in which you can perform in the world of Minecraft Middle-earth?

H:Most players believe that when they connect to the server they’ll be able to make Helm’s Deep or Orthanc. Unfortunately for them about 85 percent of the projects on the server involve the creation of lore appropriate terrain. With that in mind players help to create the rivers, hills, plains and mountains of Middle Earth. As players dedicate their time and expertise to the project they may be afforded the opportunity to become a member of the server staff. The MCME staff are given a role based on their expertise, so for example, someone who demonstrates proficiency in building and design may be designated as Architect.

LM : To date, how much of the map of Middle-earth has been created?

H:We have uncovered about 22 percent of the total map. However, we have only created about 15 percent of the total content within Middle Earth. Even with our alterations in scale between areas of significance you can see that we’ve only just scratched the surface of Middle Earth. In fact one of the most recent issues we’ve had is server stability, due to the massive map.

LM: Are there any major projects going on at the moment?

H:We are currently going full steam ahead on Rohan, just having built the Argonath and we almost finished Helms Deep in some sort of record time on the February 25th when a 191 people showed up for the build day. We have also finished nearly all of Edoras on March 3rd when 125 people came on to help.

LM: And finally, How does one join Minecraft Middle-earth, and do you need to be an experienced Minecraft player?

H:To join, the first thing you need to do is register on the website and forums. Then, in the Help & Guides section on the forums, there is a link to apply for the whitelist. You will then need to fill out the form presented, and your application will be reviewed in 1-3 days.

So if you are an experienced Minecraft player, or someone who has been interested in trying out the game, give the guys at Minecraft Middle-earth a look, and truly become part of the largest Minecraft project to date!

About tyler

Freelance Game Journalist, currently covering games for Legendarium. Tolkienist. Once thought he saw a woodchuck chuck wood. Turns out they can't.