Late Thursday night, Department of Strategery received a call at our international headquarters from a distressed reader claiming to have pertinent information related to the development of the Lord of the Rings Online. This person identified himself as Bill “Uffblay” Loney, a former employee that worked on designing specific elements of the Middle-earth landscape, and claimed he could elucidate some of the long-standing perplexities of the world.
He requested that we take his statement over the phone but we insisted that we meet in person. He sounded skiddish and implied that someone was watching him: “I feel a constant burning presence just behind my ears with no apparent source, like the Eye of Sauron follows me, whatever I do.” After some prodding he agreed to sit down with us at a local, all-hours coffee shop. That’s where Bill spilled the beans. The baristas were in full panic mode as they scrambled to sweep them up.
Bill tells us how he used to work late cleaning up everyone else’s messes. The revamp of Enedwaith? That was him. “That place was a jumble of landscapes before I came along. It’s now less of a jumble and more of a hodge-podge that suits the region’s character better now.” He references, of course, the Gloomglens makeover of Update 6 then goes on to describe in detail a certain rock formation that is more or less his signature that he replicated around Middle-earth to indicate his involvement.
At this point in our conversation, he looks around to see if anyone else is listening in. “My proudest achievement was making all the bushes in Fornost impassable. I don’t care if players curse me for that tiny change, but it was a shift toward realism that surely improved Middle-earth. At times we adopted the mantra, ‘What would Sauron do?'”
In addition to the fornost bushes, he says he was peripherally involved with several other projects like why there are several male character models for brigands but only one female or why Legolas’ face always looks constipated and persnickety.
Just then our editor walks in with a note. It seems there has never been anyone with the alias “Uffblay” employed at Turbine, and when pressed, Mr. Loney replies, “Of course not. I was more of an unofficial team member.” What exactly was his role? “I don’t like to put labels on everything but if I had to, I’d say I was a member of the custodial staff.”
A janitor. Great. We’ve been bamboozled once again. But although not employed directly by the game developer, it seems he did have a direct effect on the game. “When the developers would stay late to meet a deadline, some of them would inevitably fall asleep at their desks. That’s when I would swoop in and make my changes undetected.”
He still considers himself a member of the team and shows us the team jacket that he made himself. We ask him for more details of his contribution to the game, but he politely declines, takes another look around to see if anyone recognizes him and waves goodbye. He promised to keep in contact but we have a feeling that this will be the last we see of Mr. Bill Loney and his tales of janitorial interventions.
Happy April Fools’ day!