My idea of a Great MMO, Chapter II: The Genre

Posted: October 26, 2006 by Kendricke in Uncategorized

As a follow-up in my ongoing series to build the ultimate Kendricke-centric MMO, I’d have to eventually choose a genre, right?  Might as well get it out of the way up front, because at some point, we need to figure out if it’s going to be space aliens or elves, or what have you.

 Now, obviously, from a business perspective, I’d be mad to hit high fantasy.  Seriously – Ultima Online, Everquest, Everquest 2, World of Warcraft, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, Warhammer Online, Middle Earth Online, Dungeons and Dragons Online…  this genre’s packed!

That said, I’d love to see an Earthdawn high fantasy MMO.  Earthdawn was a high fantasy pen and paper RPG put out by the now-defunct FASA corporation (the brainchild of Jordan Weissman and L.Ross Babcock – of Battletech and Mechwarrior fame).  Since this is my personal idea of a perfect MMO, I think we’ll touch on that as well.

Of course, there’s another hot FASA property I’d love to see MMO’d:  Shadowrun.  What’s not to love, right?  Rich racial traits and traditions, tons of character classes with a skill tree based system that allows for serious multiclassing, a fully flushed magic system, and a cyberpunk meets mysticism mythos that is a cross between the Matrix, Bladerunner, and the Lord of the Rings.  Trolls with tribal tatoos jacking-in to their high end street bikes to duke it out with monoblades and SMG’s against megacorporations who are bigger than goverments.  What’s not to love, right?

I realize that Anarchy Online tried this and largely failed.  I realize that there’s The Matrix online.  Neither of which really had the market pull because I truly believe they combined mediocre design, mediocre support, and worst – lack of elves.

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I hate elves.  I nearly never play the daisy eating tree huggers, no matter what the game.  However, there’s apparantly a ridiculously large market for elf lovin’ gaming hippies out there.  So, elves have to be in.  Besides, without elves – ya got no Shadowrun, chummer.

So, because I’m lazy right now and don’t want to go out reinventing the wheel to create a brand new, outside of the box genre, we’ll choose to work on both the Earthdawn AND Shadowrun genres during this little experiment.  Who knows, right?

But for a moment, let’s presume that I’m not really lazy and that I’d really like to try something new.  What else is there out there?  Let’s think on that for a moment, shall we?

  • High Fantasy:  The granddaddy of MMO genres.  Everyone and their brother has an MMO based on elves and dwarves and swords and sorcery.  Even Age of Conan could be basically said to be a high fantasy title. 
  • Mythology:  The first cousin to High Fantasy, I would place Greek and Roman classic mythology in this category.  “Gods and Heroes” looks to be an interesting game coming out that would include this.
  • Egypt:  All things Nile and Pyramids would fall into this category.  “A Tale in the Desert” is the obvious winner, with a lesser appearance by the upcoming “Stargate” MMO produced by Cheyenne Mountain.
  • Cyberpunk:  Man as machine.  Man in machine.  Man vs. Machine.  Anarchy Online is the only current title (if you can call it current) in this genre.
  • Space:  Big space ships.  Little space ships.  Planets and space stations to visit.  The now defunct Earth and Beyond was in this category, which is now dominated by EVE Online.  One could make the argument that Star Wars Galaxies fits here as well.  Obviously the upcoming Star Trek Online fits neatly in here.  Tabula Rasa seems to fit neatly in this category as well.
  • Comic Book Heroes:  Look!  Up in the sky, it’s a man in a cape, a woman in dental floss, and five guys in matching spandex.  City of Heroes/City of Villians is the only current title in this genre, soon to become crowded as well with SOE’s upcoming DC Heroes Online and Sigil’s Marvel Heroes title.  An argument could be made for Toon Town Online here.

Not too many “new” games out there, are there?  It’s all been done before, right?  So what could be different?  What SHOULD be different?

I mean, there’s no current Wild West MMO…but does that mean there’s a good idea out there for such an MMO?  I mean, if you think current gamers are complaining about “too much brown” (hereafter referred to as “TMB”), wait till you put out a game that’s pretty much built on tumbleweeds and dirt trails.  Then again, there’s about 8 hojillion cowboy an Indian fans out there – I mean outside of the U.S. “out there”….

Would a historical MMO set in fuedal Japan or China take off outside of Asia?  I didn’t include the genre above, because it’s a HUGE genre, and has dozens of games involved – in Asia. 

What about a pirates MMO, though?  No, seriously.  I mean it.  I think it could work.  I think it would really work.  It doesn’t even have to be historical, and could be based on a slightly different world than our own (where junks from Singapore face off against Spanish galleons).  A slight reinvention of history (ala Wild, Wild West) could be great fun.  It could be even better if you moved toward a bit of a Steampunk style of adventure (reference “Ars Magica”, “Mars 1888”,  or the animes “Steamboy” or even “Howl’s Moving Castle”). 

On second thought, I think I want a genre that mixes a bit of Steampunk, Earthdawn, and High Fantasy.  It could be different enough to really draw in those who are sick of “just another fantasy MMO” (JAFM), and with enough innovation, could even pick up those who are looking for JAFM.

Now that we’ve chosen a genre (well, sort of), I think I’ll start fleshing out some of the scope in our next installment…

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