Thanks to a recent tweet from the user @DJ_Link, a Wired interview with the former Electronic Arts executive producer Glen Schofield has resurfaced online, revealing an interesting and obscure connection between EA's The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and its Tiger Woods series of games.
The interview, which saw Schofield taking questions from Twitter, had him answering why startup companies don't just build their own engines but instead rely on third-party software. Schofield responded that it was because of the difficulty of developing engines in-house. According to Schofield, they can take years and millions of dollars, and "you'll still get it wrong", so as a result, it's often safer financially to use what's around.
In the interview, he gives an interesting example of where this was the case. When he arrived at EA, the company had a ton of different engines for various types of games, and Schofield's team was even developing its own for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. However, a year into its development, Schofield and the team realized it was still a long way away from being ready and that they needed something fast. This is where EA's Tiger Woods games came in handy.
As Schofield says in the Wired video:
“We looked around and we got creative. Lord of the Rings is about large areas and 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. So we took the Tiger Woods engine and turned that into The Lord of the Rings engine. You just have to be smart about what you do and what you use for an engine.”
Following the video resurfacing online, another developer named Nick Ferguson confirmed the story, before sharing that some of the code was actually circled back into the Tiger Woods PSP game later on.
Ferguson wrote on Twitter:
"This is true, and then that code circled back into Tiger Woods. I remember the code for VFX in Tiger Woods PSP was from LOTR (had references to Gandalf, etc). All that for little wisps of smoke when hitting a golf ball!"
Obviously, bespoke video game engines are reused and modified all the time to achieve different results, but it's fascinating to hear these connections outlined so candidly in this way. Especially given how companies frequently push back against employees sharing information about internal tech. You can watch the full video with Schofield below.