Until now, those wanting to visit J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth had to settle for flying to New Zealand, buying a horse, and riding o'er the verdant hills while Howard Shore's tunes blasted in their ears—or reading the books and using their imaginations. Whatever works. Luckily, a group called the Middle Earth Digital Elevation Model Project (MeDEM for short) is working to close the gap. The MeDEM team has modeled the entirety of Tolkien's fantasy world using the Outerra engine, a tool used to create detailed digital landscapes with minimal amounts of data, which in this case consists of descriptions of Middle Earth's topography taken from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books. When inside the model, users can zoom out and view Middle Earth from on high, walk around the barren plains of Mordor up close, or anything in between.
The build of Middle Earth currently on display is incomplete—there aren't yet any buildings in place, for example—but the MeDEM team plans to add detail to the model as time goes on, including "rivers, vegetation, buildings, roads, [and] even subterranean features." Eventually, the model could allow users to explore Middle Earth from the tops of the Misty Mountains all the way down to the depths of Moria. Just don't delve too greedily or too deep; you know what the Dwarves awoke down there.
Download the (free) Outerra engine tech demo and current build of Middle Earth here, and watch a video from inside the model below.
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