Parting Shots – The Lord of the Rings: Gollum
Game: The Lord of the Rings: Gollum
Occupation: Producer, Daedalic Entertainment
Career Highlights: SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, The Guild 3
J.R.R. Tolkien’s seminal fantasy series The Lord of the Rings has a long history in video games, dating all the way back to a 1982 text adventure based on The Hobbit. But across those dozens of interactive adaptations, no one ever thought to build a game around one of Middle-earth’s most iconic figures: the slinking, two-faced, ring-corrupted Gollum. That changed when Daedalic Entertainment set out on an epic quest to build the stealthy action-adventure title The Lord of the Rings: Gollum. To find out more, we ventured into a dark cave in the depths of the Misty Mountains and asked producer Harald Riegler a few riddles—well, questions—of our own.
What was it like to craft a game around such a unique main character?
Harald Riegler: With over 400 years on his back, Gollum is a long-lived creature, but he is far from weak. He is very agile, astute, and always vigilant. Designing a game around a character with such a distinctive physique and movement was definitely an exciting challenge. It meant that our developers had to put a lot of effort into creating gameplay mechanics that suited Gollum’s traits.
[For example], our level designers made sure that all environments offered a lot of verticality on the one side, and many dark corners and hiding spaces on the other. That way the player can always find advantageous spots that fit their individual playstyles. And, we haven’t even talked about the split personality of Gollum and Sméagol!
Can you tell us more about that aspect?
HR: From early on, we knew that we had to create a game that delved deeper into Gollum’s distorted mind, since modern players not only want to know what a character does but also where their motivation stems from.
We all remember scenes from the movies where Gollum and Sméagol are fighting with each other. We made sure that in The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, players get deeply immersed in these inner conflicts. Whenever Gollum and Sméagol start fighting about something, the player must choose a side, and live with the consequences of this decision. They not only have an impact on Gollum’s behavior, but also on his psyche, as the personality that the players sides with will become stronger and more dominant in the future.
It was important to us that these inner conflicts are not just superficial gimmicks, but a key gameplay element that leads to difficult moral choices and character growth.
The game follows Gollum through a chapter of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world that he only mentioned but never explored in detail. How did you craft a game that can fit into the existing canon?
HR: Coming up with a story that pays respect to the original material while also telling something new was certainly challenging, especially with a main character whose fate has already been sealed at Mount Doom. We hired a small team of Lord of the Rings lore experts who supervised the entire production process, and they analyzed every piece of information professor Tolkien [had written] about Gollum. They then interpreted all of these findings to create a story and visual identity for the game that stays as true to professor Tolkien’s vision as no video game adaptation has done in the past.
With these experts we were able to unfold a previously untold story that shows Gollum as what he really is: A tragic and tormented soul, a lonely outcast and, somewhere deep inside of him, a hobbit that has been corrupted by the power of the One Ring.
If you had to pick one Lord of the Rings character to escort you through Mordor, who would you pick and why?
HR: I think I’d love to wander through Mordor with Samwise Gamgee. I’m Austrian, and we love potatoes in all forms and sizes. I’m certain that I could ramble about potatoes all day with Sam! French fries, potato salad, potato pancakes, baked potatoes, so much stuff to discuss. With a gourmet like Sam at your side, you’ll forget the burning heat of Mordor, I’m sure!