This Battle For Middle-Earth fan remake is doomed, but gosh I want to play it

BattleforMiddleEarthremastered_header

I should say upfront that the hours me and my friend poured into The Battle for Middle-Earth were spent during the time when my critical faculties hadn’t properly come in yet. Even so, I stand by my claim that it has the best cavalry charges not just in RTSesses, but all of video games. Apart from those in its sequel, which may well be the ones I’m actually remembering.

Why the nostalgic hyperbole? Because I just found out about a fan project to remake EA’s Battle For Middle-Earth in Unreal Engine 4. The plan is for the initial release to be multiplayer only, with the addition of “destructible landscape and surroundings” plus “sophisticated physics”. The plan will not work, because EA have lawyers and they aren’t afraid to use them. But a boy can dream.

The devs released the first footage of The Battle For Middle-Earth: Reforged last week. The trailer’s a little tacky, but there’s a good bit where a Balrog ragdolls down a mountain.

Seeing those units again has flung my memory floodgates wide open. I played and enjoyed the campaigns in both games, but I mainly remember me and my friend being ensnared in evening after evening of multiplayer dueling. We dabbled with the multiplayer in the first game, but it was its sequel that got us hooked. He embraced the power of Men early on, picking that faction exclusively while I cycled between Elves, Dwarves and Goblins.

I’d read that playing Goblins well was all about swamping your opponent, sending as many low-tier units into the fray as often and as early as you could. I might have gotten away with that, if it weren’t for the Men’s meddling cavalry units that excel at dealing with hordes. I witnessed countless Goblin deaths at the lances of those cavalry charges, while grudgingly acknowledging that they looked both spectacular and satisfying.

Then I swapped factions, and eventually my mastery of Men exceeded his own. I won one too many games in a row, and we never went back to it.

I bet I could entice him into a few games of this remake though, so it’s unfortunate we’ll probably never get the chance to. The end of this FAQ from the BFME: Remastered devs is heartbreaking, because while they talk about how they think they’re safe from Warner Bros they also ignore that EA have a history of shutting down projects like this. Warner Bros currently hold the Lord Of The Rings license, see, but EA developed and published Battle For Middle Earth.

The team say they’re hoping to release “the first beta-version in the beginning of the next year”.

Even if the project somehow makes it through the EA lawyer gauntlet, when I hold my hopes up to the harsh light of reality I doubt this remake could reignite my love affair with the series. The time of Men has passed.

23 Comments

  1. Squermit says:

    For fuck’s sake: stop announcing your fan games ahead of release. Release them (with the source code) when their finished so Big Games can’t shut them down.

    • Excors says:

      It’s kind of hard to attract people to help develop your project if you can’t mention it publicly anywhere for fear of getting picked up by some popular news site and then being shut down by lawyers.

      It seems much better to make a game with original content that’s ‘inspired by’ or ‘a spiritual successor to’ the thing you wanted to copy. Anyone can make a heavily Tolkien-inspired fantasy world. Anyone can copy the general gameplay elements from BfME. Just don’t copy incidental details like names, and obviously don’t copy things like artwork – replace them using your own creativity and imagination, and you’ll make something that’s both less infringing and more interesting.

      • Premium User Badge

        keithzg says:

        Yeah, precisely; it’s quite unfortunate that we live in a copyright-maximalist world, but we do, so you really need to tread carefully whenever creating anything “owned” by corporations. And particularly with Tolkien, whose fantasy setting has dramatically affected the tropes and defaults of fantasy settings since him while also heavily drawing on ideas that long predated him, it would be quite easy to create something which was Tolkien in all but name(s).

    • Baines says:

      When people announce fan games like this so early, I cannot help but feel that they never intended to complete the project in the first place.

  2. Imperialist says:

    Yeah, they ALWAYS do this to large fanfare, and then are stabbed exactly 41 times by 20 different large companies until their passion project is a rigid and cold corpse of a thing lying in a pool of its own viscera.

    Which to me seems like these days, none of it is truly a passion project, and the majority of modders or private project developers are just attempting to use it as a backdoor into the industry. BFME games were great, and id love nothing more than to see a third game in the series, but this is the third article from a major news site today. Its bound to draw the Eye of legal IP holders and their thralls of depraved and animalistic lawyers.

    • Excors says:

      I think it’s more likely it is a passion project and they’re just naive. Ages ago I worked on some free RTS game, and there was a group planning to make a Middle-Earth game with the same engine. They seemed to genuinely believe that either the lawyers wouldn’t care, or else they could defend themselves as fair use (the game is educational, because it’s teaching people about Tolkien’s world, so fair use lets us copy everything!), or else they could go underground and continue development in secret. Some people pointed out that was a stupid plan and all their work was going to get wasted, but they simply didn’t accept that argument.

      (Eventually that project died from inactivity before any lawyers got involved. The RTS engine and its main game, with original content, are still going.)

  3. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    Man, the goblins were broken as hell. I once fended off three friends for like a solid hour in college with them. The mass troops were important, yes, but the ability to summon surprisingly powerful and numerous beasts–as temporary units or just formation-disrupting AoE spells–meant that every time they mustered a force to attack me that I would just hurl everything I had at them and use upgraded troops to mop up, but would then have that army basically wiped out stopping their reinforcements.

  4. Phantom_Renegade says:

    I don’t think EA will care. They don’t have the license anymore anyway, and aren’t really trying to get it back. Now WB will care, since they paid money to be the only people allowed to put Middle Earth games out there. So WB will sue the pants off these people. Why would EA invest time and money into something that will never pay off for them?

  5. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    The best cavalry charges in all of video games are, in fact, in Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders. Though of course Mount & Blade gets an honorable mention.

    • Torgan says:

      Pfft, Total Warhammer easily has the best. If you can’t find something to enjoy out of any of demigryph, velociraptors, orcs on boars, ethereal wraiths, mammoths or stegadons (to begin with) you are medically dead inside.

    • MajorFordson says:

      There are dozens of us that played KUF, DOZENS!

      Pathing cavalry to simply charge THROUGH an enemy unit was a brilliant design choice, especially when you could be hack-n-slashing as a hero character and hear the thunder of hooves as your cavalry would storm in and topple all the enemies on their way through.

  6. Terrapin says:

    Reading that FAQ entry…man, they really, truly have no idea how this works, and one phone call to a lawyer would have saved them staggering amounts of time and sweat when this thing gets squashed like a bug.

  7. bacon seeker says:

    Ah, BFME. Isengard was OP as hell, but nothing beat leveling up Gandalf and nuking your opponent’s whole army, or thinning the ranks with Rohan’s hero hit squad. I hated all the changes they made to BFME 2, though, that game felt a lot more like a generic RTS (which I guess is what most people wanted?)

    Also, anyone who liked BFME should check out the Total War LOTR mod scene.

  8. MisterFurious says:

    “I should say upfront that the hours me and my friend poured into The Battle for Middle-Earth”

    my friend and I

  9. Boozebeard says:

    Honestly, when people are this naive in the face of basic copy right and IP it really calls into question how competent they are as developers.

  10. racccoon says:

    Looks awesome gl hope we can get to play it :)

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