20 July 2014

Rankin/Bass "The Hobbit" and "The Return of the King" Remastered Deluxe Edition (Review)

Despite the success of Peter Jackson's "Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" films, many Tolkien fans have been left yearning for a more accurate portrayal of his classic novels. Those who grew up in the 70s and 80s may recall the Rankin/Bass television specials "The Hobbit" (1977) and "The Return of the King" (1980), which by now have become "classics" in their own right. This Tuesday, Warner Bros. will be releasing remastered deluxe editions of both specials.

"The Hobbit" (1977). Photo: Warner Bros.
Although I was not yet born when these films first came out, I have seen them numerous times and am very fond of them, especially "The Hobbit". Contrary to Jackson's "Hobbit" films, the Rankin/Bass special maintains the spirit of being a children's tale. The whimsical illustrations, the impeccable cast of voice actors, and an catchy soundtrack reminiscent of some of the company's other specials ("Frosty the Snowman", "The Year Without a Santa Claus", and so on) make for a film that is great fun for the whole family. 

As an adaptation, "The Hobbit" manages to find an equal balance between appealing to longtime Tolkien fans as well as those experiencing the story for the first time. There are some omissions to the story – Beorn, for example, has been completely left out – which are clearly done to save time and avoid complicating the story with too many characters or plot points. Such omissions do not detract from Tolkien's original story, but instead help to advance the film in a way that is easy for audiences unfamiliar with Middle-earth to follow; Tolkien fans will find the lack of new characters, subplots, and drawn out action scenes to be very refreshing. While the film is by no means a perfect adaptation of The Hobbit, it captures most of the essence of the original story and is a great venture into Middle-earth.

17 July 2014

Chance Thomas' "Theme for Rohan" to be Performed by the Utah Symphony

Composer Chance Thomas, who has contributed numerous themes to The Lord of the Rings Online score, has announced via his Facebook page that his piece Theme for Rohan will be performed by the Utah Symphony on September 6:
I am happy to announce the symphonic premiere of my original composition, THEME FOR ROHAN, to be performed by the Utah Symphony on September 6, 2014 at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City. They have invited me to guest conduct at the concert. Tickets are already going fast! Click the image below for ticket information. 

THEME FOR ROHAN will be showcased as part of the Utah Symphony’s Video Games Live concert series. Video Games Live offers terrific family-friendly entertainment bursting at the seams with lazer lights, popular video game footage on a massive screen, good humor, excitement and of course, lots of beautiful music.

You can find more of Chance Thomas' themes on LOTRO's YouTube channel!

For more information regarding the event – which will include segments from other games, including Final Fantasy, Warcraft, Skyrim, Mass Effect, and more – be sure to visit the Utah Symphony's website!
Final Fantasy, Warcraft, Skyrim, Shadow of the Colossus, Journey, Tetris, Mass Effect, Mega Man - See more at: http://www.utahsymphony.org/concerts/962-video-games-live#sthash.4ReNttLC.dpuf
Final Fantasy, Warcraft, Skyrim, Shadow of the Colossus, Journey, Tetris, Mass Effect, Mega Man - See more at: http://www.utahsymphony.org/concerts/962-video-games-live#sthash.4ReNttLC.dpuf

10 July 2014

Sociedad Tolkien Española's Ælfwine Awards 2014

The Sociedad Tolkien Española (Spanish Tolkien Society) has announced its 10th edition of the Essay Awards "Ælfwine Awards 2014".

Original essays, written in English or Spanish and relating to the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien, should be submitted to premiosaelfwine@sociedadtolkien.org by October 1, 2014 for consideration.

Before submitting an essay, please be sure to read and adhere to the official rules, which can be found on the STE webpage (English | Spanish).

08 July 2014

Call for Papers: Mythmoot III

Mythmoot III is seeking proposals for 15-20 minute papers on Tolkien and other speculative media. Some themes of particular interest include:
  • Tolkien in the 21st century– how Tolkien’s works are being engaged with by new generations of fans
  • Out of this World – Traditional and new angles on fantasy and science fiction
  • A Game of Games– analysis of fantasy/sci fi gaming from pen-and-paper to MMORPGs
Mythmoot III will be held in Baltimore, MD from on January 10 and 11.
Though Mythmoot III will take place after the premier of the third film, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, it will include sessions about the latest film and the trilogy as a  whole, along with guest speakers, musicians, artists, a reception and banquet, paper presentations, and fun and interactive sessions for fans and academics alike..
First-time presenters are especially encouraged to submit a proposal (250-500 words) proposals@mythgard.org no later than midnight EDT Sunday, August 31, 2014.

07 July 2014

Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative

Vanderbilt University is once again offering its free course on Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative via Coursera. The course, which focuses on Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings Online, explores the process of turning a popular story or film into a video game.

In a recent e-mail update, instructor Jay Clayton noted that there have been a few updates to the course this year:
We’ve been working on several improvements to the course.  Last week we wrapped up filming a new gameplay session set in Helm’s Deep and Isengard, where we had the chance to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, and the other defenders of King Theoden’s mountain retreat. From there, we went on to witness the Last March of the Ents on Isengard.  Both experiences provided new insights into how video games can handle tricky narrative situations.
The 7-week course will begin on July 14 and run through September 1. Interested students can register (and learn more about the course) here.

LOTRO Forgoes Raids Due to Lack of Players

A few days ago, Massively posted a brief article on the lack of raids in The Lord of the Rings Online – something a lot of people complain about. Whenever I post about LOTRO on Facebook and ask people for their opinions, someone always ends up mentioning raids and end game content.

So why, if so many people are complaining, are players not getting the raids they so desire?

Community Manager Rick "Sapience" Heaton posted the following in the LOTRO forums:
Raiders comprise the smallest, by far, group in our game. PvMP players are far larger and even they are small. in fact together the two groups wouldn't comprise 10% of the total player base and never have (this is important. it's not a new thing, it's a long standing historical fact).
Regrettably, I have not yet participated in any real end game content, such as PvMP and raiding. I've made a few attempts to participate in PvMP with my Hunter, Bregolad, but because I am new to PvMP – beyond scrambling around trying to do quests while hoping no one sneaks up on me – I am hesitant to jump into it without help. And while I've visited Draigoch's Lair for a glimpse of the dragon, I have never been able to find the necessary heroes to help me undertake my first raid.

For that reason, I am not personally bothered by the lack of end-game content (yet?). Since I don't participate in PvMP or any raids so far, my two characters at the level cap tend to take a backseat to my seven other characters who are waiting to level up. Sometimes I'll take my level capped characters to catch up on some old deeds, reach Kindred with any remaining factions, and to participate in any festivals or in-game events.

That being said, if anyone on Landroval wants to help guide me through PvMP (or maybe even a Draigoch run), I'd be extremely grateful for the help!

Do you feel that raiders make up only a small portion of LOTRO players? Should Turbine introduce more end game content? Leave a comment and tell me what you think!

06 July 2014

LOTRO's Update 14 Launches July 14

LOTRO players will finally be able to step into West Gondor when Update 14 launches next Monday. In addition to the new landscape – which includes the Paths of the Dead, Blackroot Vale, Lamedon, and the Havens of Belfalas – Update 14 offers some of the following:
  • Increased level cap (100)
  • Volume IV of the epic story (free to all players)
  • Essence System – drops which can be used to upgrade and enhance new gear
  • The City Watch of Dol Amroth
  • Global chat channel (accessible via /world and /wd commands)

Justin Olivetti offers a more in-depth look (complete with lots of screenshots!) at what players can expect from Update 14 over at Massively.