BAFTA Games: Shadow Of Mordor’s Director Michael de Plater Reflects On Title

MORDOR

This coming Thursday, the Game BAFTAs are being hosted at the Tobacco Docks in London. I’ll be attending after a busy day at EGX Rezzed, so look forward to some coverage from the night.

For my money, the BAFTAs are the best gaming award show in the world. That is why I thought I should do something for you guys in the run up of the show. Today, we focus on Game of the Year nominee Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. The title was not just one of the biggest surprises of last year, it was one of the best. Period. That’s what makes it one of the real favorites for the big prize.

To celebrate the run up, Creative Director on the game Michael de Plater gave me some of his time to reflect on the title. He was quick to talk up the work the whole studio did on the title and how the different parts of development came together to create what we know as Shadow of Mordor. De Plater said:

 I’m most proud of the way all the different disciplines and teams at Monolith worked together to make a game where the sum was greater than the parts. The Nemesis System is the most obvious example, but it’s the result of collaboration across writing, animation, character art, game design, tech, QA, engineering. The process of making such a system driven game really forced everyone to be very active in the design and vision of the game. For a first time effort at a third person open world game,  it turned out really well, and the team really forged around the process.

But what about that Nemesis system? It really could be a game changer in terms of how video games stories are told in the future. It’s a blue print for procedurally generated story content. That is seriously cool. De Plater agrees:

I certainly hope and plan that we get to explore these mechanics and this sort of storytelling in future games. Again, as with Shadow of Mordor being an open world game, this was very much our first go. We learned so much. Personally I’ve always enjoyed games where stories emerge from the gameplay.

De Plater was quick to point out that this doesn’t mean gameplay driven storytelling will consume the way we understand linear narratives.

Games are everywhere on every device, so it’s definitely not a contest between linear stories and gameplay driven stories any more than there’s a conflict between stand-up comedy and episodic TV. They can totally co-exist and take ideas from each other. I hope Shadow of Mordor will be remembered.

shadow-of-mordro

Reflection isn’t always about praising all your work. It’s about considering the parts that you recognize could be improved. I thought this an important question to ask de Plater. It’s clear the criticisms of the rushed ending weren’t lost on the creative team.

The great thing is that we got the chance to address this very point. If we could have gone back and changed one thing based on player feedback we would have made the final boss fight more epic, and with the Bright Lord DLC we get to do exactly that. We focused on making the most momentous final boss fight against The Dark Lord himself that we possibly could.

You can take that as you will.

To end, award shows are almost exclusively about looking back over the last year and considering what all the nominees offered their field. When asked what 2014 really taught us about games, Michael de Plater concluded:

I think it’s shown that games are everywhere. Mobile games, free to play games, console games, PC, indie games, big console blockbusters, augmented reality, toys to life, e-sports. It feels like they are all surging forward and growing in exciting directions.

I unequivocally concur. This is a complex medium an the myopic idea that games need to be for hardcore gamers on consoles or PC is not helping anyone. I want diversity in all of gaming. That comes with platforms and audience. We are at an exciting point in the medium and I want to see more.

Thanks so much for Michael de Plater taking the time out to talk to us, especially after the game’s press cycle was done. I wish him, Monolith Games and Warner Brothers the best at the awards on Thursday.

We have a few more of these lined up this week so look out. It’s going to be a good time.