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Tiger Woods was the driving force behind an EA Lord of the Rings game

In a Wired "Tech Support" video, industry powerhouse Glen Schofield reveals that one Lord of the Rings game was built using a Tiger Woods PGA Tour game engine

Lord of the Rings PGA Tour game engine: an image of the cover of the Return of the King game

Now, we know Tolkien has explained that Bardobras Took invented the game of golf (allegedly), but we can’t say we expected to learn that EA’s movie tie-in game for Peter Jackson’s 2003 release The Lord of the Rings The Return of the King was actually built on a golf course when we sat down for second breakfast. But, that’s exactly what Striking Distance Studios’ CEO and renowned video game artist, director, and producer Glen Schofield has revealed in a “Tech Support” video from Wired.

Answering a random selection of relevant questions from Twitter, one of the questions Schofield was asked was why start-up studios don’t just engineer their own video game engines when they embark on a project. To this, he responded rather bluntly that “they are hard” to create.

“My teams have made plenty of engines, and they are hard. They take years and years, especially nowadays… You need to take an old engine and rework it. But, making an engine from scratch – in today’s market – is going to take you years and millions of dollars, and you’ll still get it wrong”.

Adding to this response, though (which is far from a bad one), Schofield actually touched on an example from his illustrious career – presumably in an effort to explain why studios don’t just make their own video game engine every time they start developing a new title.

Following a stint as vice president at Crystal Dynamics, Schofield found himself working at EA Redwood Studios’ Visceral Games as general manager – a studio involved with the 2003 action-adventure release The Lord of the Rings The Return of the King. The studio itself was actually around “a year into” developing it’s own game engine for the Return of the King game when Schofield arrived.

However, finding that this was taking the development team too long (which we can only assume is due to the fact this game was on a tight schedule because it’s a movie tie-in title), Schofield and his team “looked around and [they] got creative”.

Explaining what he actually means by this in the Wired video, which you can see below, Schofield says “The Lord of the Rings is about large areas, and then – sort of – a castle on the end, or a fortress. What’s like that? Tiger Woods. Long areas, and at the end is where you go get food, where you’re done. And so, we took the Tiger Woods engine and turned that into the Lord of the Rings engine”.

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When Schofield talks about “Tiger Woods” in the video above, we’re under the impression that he’s referring to the Tiger Woods PGA Tour series – of which EA released a game yearly between 1998 and 2013. We don’t know which Tiger Woods game Schofield adapted for the Return of the King game, but we would hazard a guess at Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2001 – as this is two years before the Lord of the Rings tie-in was released.

Whichever title it was, it’s a fascinating example of how video game technology can be adapted and applied to bring two completely different titles to life. This Lord of the Rings game is widely regarded as one of the best movie tie-in video games of all time, and it looks like we have Tiger Woods’ PGA Tour to thank for that. We know The Callisto Protocol’s Glen Schofield has had to explain his crunch tweet again in the past, but this really is a wonderful insight into how game development works.

Interestingly, it looks like this wasn’t the only time Schofield borrowed a game engine from EA Sports. In 2019, PC Gamer reported that Dead Space was built from the bones of Tiger Woods PGA Tour – and we can only imagine how many similar stories are out there untold.

The Callisto Protocol is Schofield’s next game and you can find out more about The Callisto Protocol release date – and why Dead Space devs are as excited for horror game Callisto Protocol as we are – right here.