You shall not pass greenlight!
Traveller’s Tales spent $1m making a demo for a non-Lego Hobbit game that never saw the light of day.
In a video from Jon Burton, founder of Lego game developer Traveller’s Tales, footage of various The Lord of the Rings-themed demos reveals the effort the studio put into its bid to make a The Hobbit movie tie-in game over a decade ago.
Burton, as part of his superb GameHut video series, discusses the $1m the studio spent making an Xbox 360 demo in just six months back in 2008. This demo was designed to convince The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, and Guillermo del Toro, who at the time was attached to The Hobbit movie, that Traveller’s Tales was capable of making a non-Lego game based on the upcoming film.
To do this, Traveller’s Tales built four polished, playable The Lord of the Rings-themed levels, including two stealth demos featuring Frodo, a Gandalf versus Saruman demo, and a Gandalf versus the Balrog demo, plus five additional tech demos, including an Aragorn combat tech demo.
“So we basically went way too far and spent way too much money making this demo, but I really wanted to show what we could do beyond just the Lego games,” Burton said.
In February 2009, Burton flew to New Zealand to pitch to Jackson and del Toro. Apparently, the demo went fine and feedback was positive. But the powers that be at Warner Bros. decided it wanted a game not based directly on the movie, but happened in the same world at the same time.
“I have no idea if internal politics played a role in the decision or not, but in the end the game was never greenlit,” Burton said.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor from Monolith Productions ended up coming out in September 2014, and Traveller’s Tales went on to make Lego Hobbit and Lego The Lord of the Rings. And as Burton suggests, perhaps Traveller’s Tales dodged a bullet, given how bad The Hobbit movies turned out.