Turbine's splendid new MMORPG Lord of the Rings: Shadows of Angmar has been occupying our thoughts and gaming lives over the past few months now. CVG's been intimately involved in the beta, and given you a chance to explore the game yourself with tens of thousands of beta keys given away. Then we organised a special event with publisher Codemasters to meet up with you all in Middle-earth.
Invites were issued, proclamations were duly made and on April 30 at 7pm, the combined forces of CVG, PC Zone and PC Gamer were due to unite in what was surely the fellowship to end all fellowships to take Middle-earth by storm.
We were there to meet n' greet our beta players, lob out a few free gifts and launch a very special adventure to say thanks to the thousands of you, the readers, who've taken part.
The meet was set for a temple south of the Elvish city of Celondim and it was bold hearts and only slightly quivering stomachs that Elven champion Elvthalion (Dev Ed John), mystical lore master Cheesbridge (Dep Ed Stu) and stout dwarven battler Wargus (Tech manager Korn), were due to be joined by Botherer (PCG's John Walker) and PCZ's very own Will Porter and Jon 'Log' Blyth.
A quick briefing meet with our organisers Satine (LOTRO's European community Manager), plus special events guys Nabuna and Zorg ensued and after much cheeky power levelling and item grabbing, were about ready to go.
But then disaster struck, the minions of Mordor got into our London office network. Undaunted, we vowed to hold up the PCZ end (trickier than it sounds) and awaited what we hoped would be a rush of Middle-earth's finest denizens.
At two minutes to seven we were tapping our virtual feet, checking our sundials and passing the seconds by nervously smoking a bowl of pipeweed and idly wondering if anyone might actually turn up.
We needn't have feared, everyone was actually hanging out about a minute north in Celondim itself and once Satine had put out a world broadcast message to our exact location (very cool indeed), the peoples of Middle-earth began to arrive, in not so much a torrent as a flood, with hundreds streaming down the road, arriving by foot and even galloping in on horses to join a huge and highly impressive throng - as you'll see from the shots scattered around these pages.
Never has such a mighty assembly of heroes, erm, assembled to stalk the land of Middle-earth and we were actually real victims of our own success, with our home PC's groaning, protesting and almost grinding to halt under the sheer weight of numbers.
Still, a few graphical tweaks and all was well and an extremely merry half hour was had by all, chatting away, answering questions, telling tall tales and sharing our beta experiences in the finest Tolkien tradition.
For the CVG-ers it was excellent and indeed humbling to meet so many nice people, put names to virtual faces and be thanked so profusely for our efforts in getting so many of you into the game.
But an adventure we promised and an adventure we delivered and at a virtual nod from Satine a sudden swarm of Dourhand dwarves came leaping out of the surrounding forest to disrupt our virtual moot. Suddenly the air was alive with the hum and crackle of Loremaster's spells, the ring of axe on Dourhand noggin and the sounds of battle as the heroes of Middle-earth combined to repel the swarm of stunty foes.
But amid all the confusion the valiant Cheesbridge and the doughty Botherer were overcome and (as arranged) spirited away to the Dourhand fastness of Kheledul. Disaster!