Sometimes you have to rely on creativity to make a game happen.
Wired interviewed Glen Schofield, now CEO of Striking Distance Studios and director of The Callisto Protocol. He previously worked at Electronic Arts and worked on other games before creating Dead Space at Visceral Games. Schofield was asked a thought-provoking question: “why don’t startup studios create their engine?” He replied that it was too much time and money to do so.
“They take years and years, especially nowadays. When I got to Electronic Arts, they had a lot of different engines. We were starting to build one for Lord of the Rings. Lord of the Rings is about large areas and then a castle or fortress at the end. What’s like that? Tiger Woods [PGA Tour]. Long areas, and at the end is where you go get food, and you’re done,” said Schofield, who had picked the golf game’s engine about two years before the release of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.
Later, the code from The Lord of the Rings headed back into the Tiger Woods golf game, which was then an annual release. Nick Ferguson revealed more details on Twitter: “This is true, and then, that code [from Lord of the Rings] circled back into Tiger Woods. I remember the code for the visual effects in the PSP Tiger Woods PSP was from LOTR (it had references to Gandalf, etc.). All that for little wisps of smoke when hitting a golf ball!”
In the past, there have been examples of a developer reusing an engine from a previous game in a different genre. Take the example of Neversoft, who first made Apocalypse, a third-person shooter for PS1, for Activision. In it, we got to see and hear Bruce Willis. A year later, the studio took the technology and created Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, a skateboarding game. (In 2000, Neversoft created Spider-Man based on the Apocalypse engine!)
So it’s not foreign to the games industry… but it’s a steep jump from golf to Lord of the Rings.