There's little argument whenever you mention that the costs of
a first-rate MMOG are staggering at best and unbelievable at
worst. With costs being so high, investors aren't too keen on just
taking your word that the new world you've just envisioned is
*awesome*. So what are you (and other development companies) supposed
to do? Find an intellectual property that already has an established
track record. And what better place to find that than in the fantasy
books of today? There are plenty of stories that have the potential to
make great MMOGs, but I've hand-picked several to talk about today so
without further ado, let's get to it!
Pay no heed
to the puffy shirt!
The Dragonlance series of books may have started out as a retelling of
some phenomenal gaming sessions, but in the last 20+ years, it has
grown into so much more. The Dragonlance Chronicles are a mandatory
read for any lover of fantasy fiction. This was the series of books
that finally opened my eyes to what a href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/66742" target="_blank">Dungeons
campaign could really be. Since its inception, over 190 Dragonlance
books and gaming materials have been published.
Though The Chronicles and Legends are the most recognizable set of
stories in the Dragonlance setting, there are numerous timelines
spanning the entire planet of Krynn available to any development team
daring enough to take the project on. I think 30 years after the end of
the War of the Lance (The Chronicles) would make the perfect setting
for an MMOG. The Knights of Takhisis (the bad guys) have grown into an
impressive force and have taken over much of the continent of Ansalon.
At the same time, the minions of Chaos are beginning to unleash their
wrath upon the land. All this adds up to conflict galore and more fans
than you can count.
One of the most recognizable villains from the Dragonlance series was a
death knight by the name of Lord Soth. He was an icon of power *long*
before the class came to the denizens of href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/guides/instances/utgardekeep"
of Warcraft, so let's
avoid any commentary about how the idea was stolen from Blizzard, shall
we? Commanding thirteen skeletal warriors, Lord Soth single handedly
captured Palanthas, the largest capital city on the continent. Arthas
wishes he was as powerful.
Though Lord Soth was a terror known throughout all of Krynn, a trip
through some mysterious mists sent him to the realm of my next fantasy
books choice - Ravenloft. Admittedly, the books in this series tended
to be hit or miss, but the setting itself is what makes it so perfect.
Vampire of the Mists, Knight of the Black Rose, and I, Strahd are three
must-reads from the series. So what makes the Ravenloft setting such a
Horror, baby, horror. In every other game you have played (other
iterations of Dungeons & Dragons included), the measly goblin
you saw lumbering towards you in the dead of night was nothing but a
speed bump on your way to glory and riches. In Ravenloft though, that
goblin would scare the bejeezus out of you. Why? Because everything,
and I do mean *everything*, in Ravenloft was href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/66800" target="_blank">never
there was always a disturbing chance that goblin was going to beat the
ever-loving snot out of you and your party. The rules were different,
and most of the time, you never knew exactly what was going to happen.
On the surface, it may sound annoying, but it was one of the main
things that made playing a game in that setting such a thrill.
With the gamers of today (myself included) always on the lookout for
their next fix in the "something new" department, what better way to
keep your player base than keeping them continually on their toes? Even
if they've already explored zone X they could be there the very next
day and be completely surprised when the monsters of the zone are
suddenly carrying better loot and are far more powerful. One day, I
have faith the vision and technology for just such a game will come
The Chronicles of Narnia
Not ready for a game of horror where every bump in the night makes you
wish you'd invested in a box of Depends? Not all the best fantasy book
series involve death around every corner but are still massive
successes nonetheless. Take the Chronicles of Narnia for example. Any
book series that manages to produce such a blockbuster set of movies
deserves nothing less than href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/66814">a serious look.
You know you
want to be one of the cool kids.
There's no doubt that the Chronicles of Narnia are rife with Christian
propaganda, but with development companies continually trying to crack
new markets, is that such a bad thing? C.S. Lewis was devout in his
beliefs and wrote his tales from this perspective. Christians number in
the millions in North America alone, let alone the world. While some
sects have been opposed to the themes and violence in video games in
the past, could this be an opportunity to bring them into the fold as
If the game took place during the thousands of years in between some of
the books, there would be no end to what a talented development team
could do with it. There's more than enough source material to give them
a place to keep back the evil in men's hearts.
A little too religious-based for you? How about going in a different
direction and delving into the world of Harry Potter? Any series that
has a single book (let alone multiple books) that sells almost seven
million copies within the first 24 hours of its release should
instantly be placed on the fast track to development. Whether the
series is currently being worked on or development companies are still
begging J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. for the rights to create it
remains to be seen. While not running as rampant as last year, rumors
still swirl around this idea becoming a reality.
The potential for the tutorial and beginning areas (let alone
everything else) is breathtaking, no matter whom you are. How many
times have you dreamed of going to a school to learn the various arts
of magic in multiple games, but have been unable to? Others have shied
away from the idea, even those with schools of the arcane within their
settings, but a Harry Potter MMOG would be required to implement
Hogwarts in all its glory. If the developers didn't, I guarantee they
would have nothing short of a full scale riot on their hands. Trust me,
it wouldn't be pretty.
If a team didn't want to deal with the current timeline of the books
and movies (and to be honest, who could blame them?), simply go back to
the first time the wizards had to rise up against Valdemort. Sure, we
all know the eventual ending, but so do all the Star Wars Galaxies
players that dedicate their efforts to furthering the goals of the
Empire. It won't change href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/66751" target="_blank">the
fun that could be had.
If that's not enough, just think of all those customers that have spent
ungodly amounts of dough on Harry Potter merchandise already. Those
little kids that were begging their parents to stand in line for the
early Harry Potter books are now of (or nearing) the age to earn and
spend their own cash. Almost seven million copies of one book in 24
hours... those kinds of numbers could change the face of MMOGs forever.
Put Away The Pitchforks
There are plenty of other notable fantasy book series that could make
great MMOGs. If I put them all in this week's edition of href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/features/forever-fantasy"
Fantasy, you'd miss three days of work and more sleep than
stand and nobody wants to see (or smell) that. I've got some ideas for other
books that would make great games, and I'll do a follow-up article on
them later this year.
Feel there's a book or author I should be burned at the stake for not
mentioning here? Drop
me a line or target="_blank">tell
me about it in our forums!