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The darkness clears, and you realise you’re surrounded. The hulking shapes of the trolls are clearly visible by the moonlight, towering high above you. You try to escape, but one corners you — you’re forced to confront it, ducking left and right in an attempt to evade its strikes. But you’re not quick enough — it advances, and you roll back on the ground, staring at the stars in the night sky and pass out to the sound of the creature’s growls. Only you’re not in Middle-earth — you’re just in a tab in your web browser.
Yes, Google’s released another Chrome experiment — and this one’s all about the magic of the world of The Hobbit. In the run up to the release of the second movie, the Desolation of Smaug, digital creative agency North Kingdom has partnered with Warner Bros. Pictures, New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures to create ‘Journey through Middle-earth,’ a browser experience for desktop and mobile. And what an experience it is.
Like previous Chrome experiments (which ranged from an interactive Wizard of Oz-themed game to the ability to build things out of LEGO blocks), Journey through Middle-earth pushes the boundaries of what can be done in a web browser by making use of a mix of modern web technologies, like CSS3 and WebGL, which allow for seriously captivating 3D graphics.
Going one further, the experiment also works in Chrome for Android, if you’ve got the latest version of the app and a phone with a high-end graphics card (sorry, iDevices don’t support WebGL). The experiment also sets the scene with a fitting musical score, which works on everything from Chrome for iPad to your desktop — although if you’ve got an older device and an archaic internet connection, the experience is less than other worldly.
Some of the locations you can explore using Chrome include Trollshaw Forest (where you can battle the local inhabitants), Rivendell and Sauron’s stronghold of Dol Guldur, although product marketing manager Christos Apartoglou says that more locations will be rolling out in the coming weeks. In the mean time, you can navigate Middle-earth using a Tolkien-esque map and click on each of the locations to learn its history, investigate the local residents and get involved in various survival challenges. Whether you succeed or are captured by a troll, you can share the experience on Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter. That should tide you over until the movie is released.