Saturday, February 14

My Perfect MMO 2 - Using an existing IP?

MMOCrunch has an article (well a question to the readers really) of what IP should get the MMO treatment.
Interestingly all of the mentioned IP's give me a big 'meh' feeling.

While I appreciate that this is a very awesome Real Time Strategy game with a superficial background setting (superficial, mainly because going any deeper would make it obvious to the blind,deaf and dumb that Blizzard once again blatantly ripped of an excisting IP from a certain UK based Tabletop franchise) I'd much rather see the (more) original IP by Games Workshop be turned into an MMO. As a primarily Explorer-type player I'd get very little out of this I'm afraid. No matter what Blizzard does, their version of Space is never going to be so horribly dark or as bad ass as Warhammer 40K. This probably won't stop the Blizz though, as they got away with it with the Warcraft IP.

The Terminator:
So how would this make a good MMO? Or an MMOFPS as the writer suggests.
Replace the whatchamacallem's from TR with stop-motion metal skeletons and revamp the textures to look like postapocalyptic LA would not make TR a decent game. I'm not much of an FPS games so I'm biased against this, but overall the postapocalyptic world of the War of the Machines seems to shallow for me from an explorer's point of view.

This might work, though I suspect since Microsoft canned the project it won't.

Ehm, no.
Just no. This IP, besides being another shallow rip-off of another richer IP, is to dependent on the admittedly very nice behinds of Kate Beckinsale, Rhona Mitra, and lots of hectic camera work. The stark lighting can easily be replicated on a computer screen, though it'll probably end up having a brownish tint in stead.

Movies don't really make good IP source material I feel.
Unless they themselves are based on existing richer IP, as in the case with the Lord of the Rings. Movies by and large aren't about depth of the world, they're supposed to visually entertain for a short period of time. Note the overall quality of Single Player games that are based upon Movie IP's. I challenge you to find one, just one that was actually good. Don't pick Bladerunner though because that game was actually good with an awesome soundtrack and that'd put a crimp in my argument. Except of course that Bladerunner the movie itself is based upon a book.
Ok, so the Aliens vs Predator game (which predated the movie by the way) was great too and if I think about it there was this little Westwood based studio that did well with another Book turned Movie turned video Game IP and then there is that most milked out IP in the world, so it's actually possible to make good games based on a movie IP (or two as in the AvP) case, but you have to do it a while after the movie and have a gameplay concept as well as shiny images and even then those games entertain for a few weeks. Not even Knights of the Old Republic could keep me entertained for more than 4 weeks, even though it's lovely to revisit every now and then for a rainy weekend.

I'd have to point out that something the likes of Babylon-5 or Firefly could better serve as an IP to get the MMO treatment. Soin the face of overwhelming evidence against my point of view that Movies don't make good IP for Games/MMO's I'm not totally against anything from the non-interactive screen moving to the interactive screen. I do feel that your average action movie misses something in both the depth and width dimensions and bootilicious action doesn't quite make up for it. For a placing-you-in-the-antagonist like Single Player game maybe, sure.

In a nutshell, just about any other source would do better for an MMO than mvoies as just about every other format has more content, more depth, more scope, with notable exceptions which have already been exploited and given the MMO treatment.

TV Series:
If we can move beyond the bad ass Fantasy or Sci-Fi action movie we saw last night on DVD though, what does make good IP for an MMO? As I hinted, something along the lines of a TV series (with an ensemble cast of more than 5 and at the least some worked out world background) would do better than your average action movie, but it's probably better to look elsewhere. As we know there's a StarTrek Online in the works. A tried and true IP this is on the tube, the silver screen, novel adaptations and as several reasonably well doing computer game titles. Babylon 5 certainly has a rich enough universe to muck around in, and with Firefly you don't even have to consider what to do for the first 7 or so classes. But I believe this was considered and dropped already. Some similar forays into further exploiting the Buffy universe have also been made and cancelled I believe. As it is, I for one would love to run or more probably fly around in a Babylonian universe in a Firefly class vessel, but it's not very likely it seems. Besides, a ship's crew kinda shouts "Static Group" which is nearly as impossible (for me) as would be a weekly Pen & Paper RPG group...

Excisting Pen & Paper RPG's:
There's still a sleuth of untapped IP's in that format. Granted, a lot of those are more or less obvious Dungeons & Dragons ripoffs and a (largely unsuccesful) attempt to turn that into an MMORPG has already been undertaken.
Another possible IP previously mentioned, is Warhammer 40K. Though I think some people are already considering that. It'd be cool, very cool. Except, life in 40K is cheap. The IP is probably more suited to the RTS-style of the Dawn of WAR series than that of a classic MMORPG or Single Player RPG for that matter. Both of the *RPG genre's are a bit too focused on the idvidiual for 40K I think. I've always felt the same about the Dune IP for instance. It'd be very cool to be a head of a Great House in the universe of Arrakis, not so much one of a milion's milion faceless serfs and grunts in that same universe. There's one IP in this genre I'm not mentioning yet. It'll come though.

Comic Books:
With the sheer number of Superheroes and villains, it stands to reason at least some of these get the MMO treatment. Cryptic first did their generic Super City of Heroes and went for a P&P RPG variant after their hopes for a Marvel Universe Online were dashed. A DC Universe is also in the make. Since I'm generally not that big on Super Heroes, they always strike me as too obvious an Escapism/Empowerement fantasy for comfort, it's surprising that I like the CoX games and actually think of them as one of the better MMO's out there.
There's more than the Superheroes to be found in Comic book land. There's Elfquest for one, and ehm, Storm, Thorgall, e.t.c. though the latter two are probably to protagonist-centric and the former for some reason doesn't appeal to me for an MMO. More a guilty pleasure kind of thing.
I'm not much of a comic book reader to be honest, so I'm probably missing lots of good IP's, as well as several pretty decent attempts at fleshing out the visual worlds of several action motion pictures.

The great love of my life of course.
Books, and especially series of books, have the bredth and width needed for an immersive experience lasting more than a few weeks.
Even though I've long since outgrown his books Raymond E Feist, I've always longed to see something along the lines of Krondor Online. I loved the Single Player RPG's made around the City of Krondor. The idea of a vast sprawling mideval / Fantasy metropolis has a certain appeal to me. But ultimately I'd like to see another fictional city immortalised as an MMO.
Another series of books that just screams MMORPG! at me is of course the great series Malazan book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson. His world is so rich and varied, you could set up an online world to rival and surpass Norrath of EverQuest I&II fame. My Explorer's heart starts beating faster just thinking about it. I also see vast potential to utterly mess this up, not to mention that I don't consider your average MMO player, which essentially defaults to your average WOW player due to weight of numbers and what averaging means, to be up to appreciating the subtle nuances and lack of easy answers that in part make Steven's work so wonderful.
One of the things I really, really love about this series is how the author intentionally or not challenges you the reader to fill in a lot of blanks and come up with your own idea's and concepts. With an MMO those'd be set in stone. Not unlike how the Lord of the Rings movies imprinted several archetypical images into our collective unconscious and essentailly turned the tragic figure Gimli into comic relief.

There's tons of other written worlds to pick and choose from, some more and some less easily adoptable and some more worthy and original (i.e. not too clearly written with a Middle Earth Encyclopedia in hand) than others.

The IP I'd pick:
I'll leave the why and how and all that to a next post as this one's already getting way too long again.
The source IP I'd picked is one of the big Pen & Paper RPG titles, from FASA.
No, it's not Battletech (Mechwarrior), but Shadowrun which I'd love to see made into an MMO.


  1. I am a bit afraid in the direction MMOs are going. And actually not just MMOs but the entire gaming world.

    And I hate even more this crappy blogging stuff. This squeezed 10x10 word box is not helping me writing down what I really want. I think I'll stick to commenting on what you have already said and make my own post about my thought process later.

    Starcraft: Converting an RTS into an multi player RPG. We have a winner! Warcraft did it, so let's repeat and rinse. But lets add some FPS effects in it. I want to Beta test now!

    Terminator: Too flimpsy of a univere to make a real MMO out of it. A post apocalypse world might work, but don't drag terminator into it.

    Halo: I don't like Halo, so I am out.

    Underworld: I actually think this could work. But I don't see why it needs the Underworld IP though. Urban fantasy is quite a cool setting for an MMORPG. It does allow for a great range of classes, settings, crafting, business models, etc.

    Movies: I agree with you. Movies could perhaps work for a single player game, but not a MMORPG.

    Existing Pen&Paper: I don't know any of them, so it will not help me over one way or the other.

    Books: Now there is nice idea. I still don't know if you really need official IP from a specific book, but perhaps it covers other IP infrancements (sp?).

    If I could just wave my want aand create an IP I would love to see an urban fantasy game. It allows for great character costumization, original classes and even allows PvP which you might need somehow.

    As a second great IP I would love to see C.J. Cherryh's Faded Sun turned into an MMORPG. The possibilities would then be endless.

  2. It seems , that so far between us, we are mostly drawn to exploring and discovering, we 'need' something that doesn't define anything too closed yet boundless possibilities present a whole other layer of possible nasties, one need not look far to see how MMORPGs can go horribly wrong as far as ruining immersion goes through a lack of disciplined lore and world creation.

    Selecting an IP needs some thing that has solid boundaries if we aren't to be subjected to the whims of some designer who smoked too much the night before...

    I don't read books unless they have they have something to do with the WWW or GFX, thats because too many people have recommended me fiction that in my humble opinion is utter rubbish, I'm sure though that reading through your blogs I may perhaps find something of literary merit for a geek like me :)

    My first thought was TV and Dr Who but really that already creates too many possibilities for ruin and beyond the timelord and their never ending metallic adversaries their is no solid foundation for a solid lore that I can percieve.

  3. Ha ha ha!
    I think under the category of things never ever to try in an MMO at the top would be timetravel. So no Dr Who please :-)
    Besides, I'm against anything with a strong messianic element to it. You really can have only one savior of the world at any time. With MMO's we're already bending the laws with that one, but I feel we should stay clear of the most glaring ones :-)

    I read C.J. Cherryh's Foreigner series which is cool. Haven't read the Faded Sun trilogy, yet.

    I think urban Fantasy is an as yet largely unplummeted genre. Thankfully Buffy wasn't turned into an MMO, for the same reasons Dr Who wouldn't work. Thank you Joss for being smart. But it's why I'd love a Shadowrun MMO. It's a blend of Urban Fantasy with Cyberpunk and even some High Fantasy thrown in, making it accessible to peeps from nearly any background.

    Oh and Geek, you should go read any of the three Steve's:
    Stephen Donaldson, Steven Erikson and Neal Stephenson.
    They top my list as best authors atm, but be warned they're not the most accessible ones. :-)