Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Platforms

PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4

Date

2014

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is an action-adventure game set in between the events of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. As a next-gen, big-budget title with over 45 awards and nominations from critics at E3 and GamesCom, the game is nothing less than a massive hit. The game allows for dynamic interactions with the game world though the Nemesis System, which remembers the player's interactions with the enemies they encounter and changes the enemy abilities, dialog, and goals based on those interactions. For example, an Uruk who was shot through the eye may survive the encounter and return with new scars and a hatred for Talion based on that interaction.

Role

UX design, game design, dialog writing.

Goals

The key question from the start of the project was always "How do we do something different?" Our answer was the Nemesis System. Every game has sympathic supporting characters to build a story with, but almost every game relies on faceless, personality-devoid grunt enemies to form your opposition. We had to figure out how to showcase our unique, procedurally-generated enemies and how they learn and grow as you interact with them - from the army screen, to in-game messaging, down to what they said. After that, we actually had to craft the 21,000 lines of dialog required to bring all those enemies to life and make them memorable. It was a blast to work on.



Hierarchy

The Sauron's Army screen - your gateway to the Nemesis System - had several iterations over time, but the plan to make it a 3d interactable space always remained.

Full Hierarchy

The final version of the Sauron's Army interface contains everything a player needs to understand what's happening in their own game, with their own unique enemies.

Skills

The skills screen changed subtly over time, as we decided to place all the skills on one screen rather than in sub-categories. Exposing the skills like this allowed players to more effectively project future growth and possibilites, which in turn increases engagement and play time.

Nemesis

Every enemy you meet can build a personal relationship with you, and each time you meet them it will change how they react in the future - if they survive at all.

Nemesis Weaknesses

Knowing your enemy's weaknesses and exploiting them is key to survival in Shadow of Mordor. We had to develop clear, unambiguous wording and iconography to express these traits to players.

Showdown

Those traits, weaknesses, and strengths all appear in gameplay - and your enemies don't hesitate to tell you of their confidence.

Runes

Runes, like skills, must clearly communicate their advantages and disadvantages. Without that information, players would be unable to choose their upgrades with confidence.

Map

What's more, players had to know how to orient themselves inside of Mordor. The map conveys a wealth of information about quests, enemies, collectables, and opportunities for action.