Am I the only one who finds the IPs people choose to make MMOs out of kind of… weird? Almost as weird as my tendency to misspell weird ‘wierd’, thank god for spell-check. Anyways, I’m not just talking about some fantasy vs. sci-fi argument rehash. I mean if I were looking for qualities that set an IP apart for ease of transition, I sure as shit wouldn’t pick Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or Warhammer. It’s not that they’re bad, it’s just… well it’s like mining tin instead of gold, lots more mining for comparatively less profit.
Let’s take LotR for just a second. It’s got the obvious pieces, swords, monsters, a few races and some good back story. Now you need to write a reason for the player to be in the story, either double your work by including both factions or find some way to make PvP somewhat reasonable, and build a world where your players can socialize at different levels without even having full control of your mapping and architecture. If you take a step back and look at pretty much all of the IPs that have been carried over, they were picked for nerdbase (or better put nerdgasm), but all of them require some serious designer two-step and worst of all they need it in places that are basically no-win scenarios with the fan base.
My take? Well first off, we’re gonna have to leave the American culture sphere since, honestly, they don’t have much that’s quite so perfect. So my first three proposals would be Pokemon, Angelic Layer, and Air Gear. Kids, pre-teens, and older teens to adults respectively, hell if you allow some of their nudity shenanigans Air Gear would be more adult than Age of Conan on it’s best day. Now why these?
What advantages do these IPs offer? For starters, no death. This means we never have to worry about why all the source material characters were afraid of dieing, when the players have the immortality button. Organized PvP. Not only do we have a reasonable system for players to fight each other, we also have leagues, ladders, duels, team duels, scoring systems, betting systems, achievements, titles, and even story driven battles. Directed social interaction. This is probably the most important of all, and it’s tied into the organized PvP but it’s just as important in PvE and downtime. These shows have already shown us when, where, why and how the players interact, when they fight, when they cooperate, when they just talk and hang out. Right now there is a lot of complaining about the grind, and people are right to knock it, we’ve gotten so focused on how every needs to be the hero we’ve missed something. Practice. Nobody is perfect at first, and sometimes you practice alone, but what really makes practice so awesome is you get to hang out with your friends and see each other grow as you do it. Walk around alone and of course it’s just going to suck sooner or later.
Let me get philosophical here for a minute. Game designers have had a good long time to learn how to make a game fun for someone for a little while. We’ve also had a while to learn how let a few friends have fun and compete for years. So far this has all been in the context of real life, distributed virtual scoring for virtual representation of an identity. The real advantage of an MMO is the unified context, you aren’t just doing something, you’re doing it with everyone around you and you’re all sharing in one great big experience. It’s not about solo or group, or anything so fucking divisive, even when you’re alone you’re in the middle of the great stream of players and activity around you. If that stream slows down, it sucks, but it never stops till the devs pull the plug and walk away.
These IPs have a flow guide, a route already laid out. If it wasn’t so apparent that the industry needed training wheels, I wouldn’t bother pointing them out. Listen, the reason nobody is going to overthrow WoW is because it needs more than just that perfect storm of publicity. I never thought polish was the right word, and I’m tired of all the debates over the word fun, the fact is it has to be a fundamentally good game and it has to generate enough content to bridge the gap of four years within a month. With these IPs you have one job, render their fundamental hat in terms of fun game play then follow the map making minor corrections as needed. That doesn’t mean it can’t still be a fun project, and I think there are more than a few big names in the industry who need to get their asses back to the roots of game design.
I know I don’t have a job in the industry, and my projects aren’t really working out all the time. I’ve got my problems, but if anyone at the top is reading this, look out. You keep it up with the phoned in performances, and I’m gonna catch up to bite you in the ass. I’m tired of playing around, so consider yourself warned.