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Troika Games founder and Fallout creator Tim Cain said his team once pitched a Lord of the Rings RPG to Sierra Entertainment, who liked it – and decided to do it themselves. Cain told the story on his YouTube channel (which NeoStark posted on Reddit) and even showcased a bit of the working demo Troika submitted to Sierra.

Cain said Sierra approached Troika after development on Arcanum finished and a sequel pitch was rejected, but before the game shipped. Sierra had acquired the rights to the books – not the movies, since Fellowship of the Ring hadn’t released yet – and asked Cain if Troika might be interested in doing anything with it. Cain said he was a big fan of Tolkien’s works and re-read Lord of the Rings frequently, so he was eager to take the project on.

Troika created a detailed design document and plot outline before tackling the demo. The idea was that players would control what Cain called a “shadow fellowship,” a group that left Rivendell before Frodo’s party to clear the way. You could choose a hobbit, elf, dwarf, human, or even a full-fledged wizard, Zermaine the Colorless, all of whom would have unique skill trees and resistance to corruption.

Corruption was a feature Troika came up with for the game’s powerful items, things such as a palantir – a seeing stone – or some of the lost Rings of Power that players were supposed to find and could use. The team never decided on what happened once the corruption meter was full. Cain wanted that player to become a Ringwraith and be unplayable, but the team thought that was too harsh a punishment.

Cain said the team modified the Arcanum engine and created pre-rendered backgrounds for the Hobbiton demo area so they could include more detail. The downside was that the demo barely ran, and framerates tanked once the player character started moving. It was good enough for Sierra, though. The publisher paid Troika for the demo and design doc – and decided to develop it internally.

Cain didn’t say anything else about Sierra’s version of the game, though it was, presumably, 2002’s Fellowship of the Ring. That game follows the book’s plot, bears hardly any resemblance to Cain and Troika’s vision, and certainly isn't a PC RPG. Sierra then published War of the Ring in 2003, a real-time strategy game that, like Cain’s idea, explored stories outside the main fellowship.