Blacksmiths of Intellectual Property: The Rise of Originality in MMOs

Original creations in entertainment are hard to come by in our modern world. It seems like every summer movie season is ruled by box office blockbusters that are merely different visions of old...

Original creations in entertainment are hard to come by in our modern
world. It seems like every summer movie season is ruled by box office
blockbusters that are merely href=""
target="_blank">different visions of old properties or
to previous year’s ticket smasher
… which
happened to be a href=""
target="_blank">different vision of an old property.
The target="_blank">hottest books are constantly those
coming from a target="_blank">well received series. Even niche
hobbies like pen-and-paper roleplaying games are stuck in a rut, with
the bestselling tabletop games continuing to be style="font-style: italic;"
target="_blank">Dungeons and Dragons and the
various iterations of the href=",000"

href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: right;" src="/image/view/67833" />

MMO gaming is no different. Over the past half-decade, gamers have been
bombarded with products derived from established worlds. style="font-style: italic;">Star Wars Galaxies, The Matrix
Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Dungeons and Dragons Online,
Warhammer Online, Age of Conan, and others still have
bombarded MMO gamers with familiar settings, hoping that the long-time
fans will be convinced to buy their game.

But something’s changed. Recently, href="" target="_blank">Blizzard
confirmed that their next MMO will not be based off of an
existing IP, but be completely original. At E3 2009, upcoming or
in-development MMOs based off of original intellectual properties
outnumbered those based off established non-gaming IPs. While the big
buzz still surrounded games like Star
Wars: The Old Republic
, the original IPs are slowly
gaining ground on their enormous competitors.

Why the sudden and
dramatic shift?  

href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: left;" src="/image/view/67344" />

To answer that question, Ten Ton Hammer queried a number of development
studios working on original IPs about their decisions to create brand
new game worlds and what kind of process they’ve been going
through to make sure their games aren’t lost in the great MMO
shuffle. Developers from Funcom, 38 Studios, Hi-Rez Studios, Quest
Online Studios, and an unannounced company all weighed in on the topic
and their answers are quite evocative.

However, it’s always important to gather the feedback from
the MMO fans as well. As we try to do in all of our premium articles,
we’ve asked you – the gamer –about your
opinion regarding original IPs versus licensed worlds and what
developers need to do to really get your attention in the growing MMO
marketplace. At Ten Ton Hammer our articles are always written with you
in mind, so it’d be poor-form of us to leave you out,
wouldn’t it?

The arguments surrounding the use of
original intellectual properties
versus licensed worlds in video games have spanned decades and were
spawned well before the concept of massively multiplayer online worlds
even began to take shape. Though there were plenty of original and
licenses products that brought creative ideas and fun gameplay to the
consoles and PC, early gaming history was full of horror stories
resulting from early movie tie-ins and other established licenses that
were trying to cash in on the early gaming popularity.  

href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: right;" src="/image/view/67168" />

Oddly enough, the MMO industry has followed a similar trend. The
successes of EverQuest
and Ultima Online
brought big money to the MMO table, but everyone wanted to find the
quickest way to the fastest cash. At the time, the answer was to look
for imaginary worlds with established fan bases and milk those licenses
for all they were worth. The development of original IP, for many of
the folks with the finances to fund an MMO, just wasn't an acceptable

April Burba, former Community Manager for style="font-style: italic;">Tabula Rasa and style="font-style: italic;">City of Heroes and
now a Producer for an unannounced project, has had plenty of experience
with original IPs and the risks involved. She had this to say about the
profit potential of original IPs versus licensed worlds:

style="font-style: italic;">"If you look at the profit and
sales of games with existing IPs versus new IPs, nine times out of ten
existing IPs do better. There is a reason EA has released over ten
Madden games. The industry tends to rehash these IPs as much as
possible to squeeze every last drop of profit from an IP, and rightly
so - consumers buy them. They are like old friends that we want to see

Over at Funcom, Erling Ellingsen (the current Director of
Communications at the company) had thoughts that greatly paralleled
what Burba had to say.

style="font-style: italic;">“There is simply a lot
less risk involved in creating a game based on an existing, popular IP.
It's easier for a start-up developers to get funding if they build on
an existing IP, and at the same time the owners of the IP often has a
PR/marketing machinery in place that the developers can take advantage
of. Publishers tend to gravitate towards games based on existing IPs,
so I can imagine that it's a lot easier for a start-up developer to
break into the business by going for an existing IP - becoming a
developer for hire.”

But buying up an existing IP isn’t the failsafe answer
everyone was looking for. While SOE's style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest franchise
enjoyed enormous success, Star
Wars Galaxies
suffered tremendously and style="font-style: italic;">The Matrix Online
will see its final days by the end of July 2009. Norway-based Funcom
innovated and remained profitable with their sci-fi MMO style="font-style: italic;">Anarchy Online, but
disappointments with Age
of Conan
caused the company's stock to plummet. Mythic
Entertainment's Dark
Age of Camelot
was a surprise hit, but the anticipated
success of Warhammer
fell short of what publisher EA and the development
studio were hoping.

While games derived from previous IPs aren’t necessarily
doomed to fail, it is important to note that MMOs spawned from existing
non-gaming properties are always going to be limited in some way or
another. Unlike EverQuest
and other original IP products, licensed titles are often - to use the
horrid cliché - square pegs shoved into round holes.

And MMO players notice the difference. When asked whether they would
rather explore an original IP or an established world, almost all of
our polled gamers were in agreement.

“Either original or some unexplored portion of the
IP,” Grouchy stated. “Both of these will have more
room for creativity and will not need to be constrained. For the game
to have appeal there has to be potential for seemingly unlimited growth
and objectives that can be obtained through creative means.”

“An original creation,” Bobfish answered.
“Part of the reason I enjoy MMOs is the new experience that
the game offers, not just from the mechanics or the people that are
playing it, but from the new world and interesting fiction that comes
to life before your eyes. If I've already read about it or seen it,
then part of that new experience is lost.”

href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: left;" src="/image/view/31008" />

“I think it is time for something original,”
OneEyeRed extolled. “All the currently created IP's are just
s**t right now honestly and have been. I would love to see a world
created around Stephen King's Dark
or even
The Hitchhikers Guide
to the Galaxy
. I think because I have been gaming for so
many years and
I have been grinding MMO's specifically since their inception, I get
bored easily and I need that epic feeling once again.”

“I would rather play an original IP,” Martuk
commented. “That's not to say I wouldn't play an established
IP, but with original, developers have more freedom of creation. Let's
take Lord of the Rings
for example. It's a great game with a
solid story and some good mechanics. However, the story may be its
biggest bane. I am as big a fan of Tolkien as anyone and I did love
running through Moria, but the limitations of the story puts serious
limits on where the developers can go with the game. Certain creatures
and really big nasty raids aren't going to be something the game will
specialize in. Grant it, they managed to get a balrog in, but due to
the story itself, there will be serious limits on the type of creatures
or things we can see.”

“Look at LotRO in comparison to say, style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest,”
Martuk continued. “When it came to high end levels and raids
there was a lot of room for creative growth. You could raid the
elemental planes, engage gods and face creatures that dwarfed your
entire raid while trying to whisper in a zone that had a madman chasing
bunnies. That may sound cheesy, but it was fun! Now LotRO is a great
game. I've enjoyed it since launch, but again, even with the nostalgic
areas and the great story, the game is still limited by the already
established story as to what it can provide you with.”

“I think there are several factors you have to consider when
answering this question,” Protect remarked. “How
rich is the information for the IP? Does the game have enough wiggle
room to create new ideas and events? Established IP's can have a
boatload of information, that can create a beautiful world for
individuals to play in, but at the same time not be able to really
expand. Take Lord of the Rings for example, everyone pretty much knows
the story. To me this can ruin the gameplay because there are set
things that we know have to happen, and will happen. If a developer can
create a rich background I think I would lean toward a new original

And for many developers, this sort of
thinking is exactly why they
decide to create an original property rather than starting with
something that’s already been established. This desire to
create a world that not only offer a rich background but also fits into
the MMO mold is almost an essential part of the MMO formula. 
Interestingly, most of the developers relayed that their own desire to
create something new and fresh was as important, or more so, than
actually having their game fit into some sort of MMO framework.

href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: right;" src="/image/view/61550" />

“I think the reasons for picking an original IP stem partly
from wanting to avoid the complications of acquiring the IP but mostly
from the desire to create something new,” Burba said.
“Yes, building a game from an existing IP can be excessively
restrictive with regard to being true to cannon, legal issues, and the
money you give to the IP holder but I think these actually pale to the
thrill of taking a world from idea to existence. In many ways I think
that this 'creating worlds' task is why many people become developers
in the first place. There are worlds and characters and storylines
fighting to get out and game makers often find the most joy in
breathing these worlds to life. It's a much higher level of freedom and

Over at the small independent Quest Online Studios, David Allen has a
similar sentiment. “We were able to build our own unique
world from scratch; something we wholly own and can grow,” he
said. “When you purchase existing IP you have rules and
restrictions about what you can and can't do. We weren't interested in

Nathan Knaack, a writer for Hi-Rez Studios' upcoming shooter-MMO Global
Agenda, hit this point squarely on the head. "From the very beginning,
Hi-Rez Studios knew it would be creating and developing its own
intellectual property from scratch,” he said. 
“Our Lead Designer, Erez Goren, a big fan of MMOs, funded the
studio because he saw an opportunity to introduce a different type of
online experience and this vision included the creation of an original
world.  Purchasing an existing IP would have significantly
inhibited our creative process."

Unlike many other companies, 38 Studios has gone out of their way to
ensure that their development of an original world wouldn’t
affect their fundraising or marketing efforts. Steve Danuser, Senior
Game Designer for the company’s unannounced MMO project had
this to say about developing an original IP.

“The reason we decided to create our own IP was based on the
fact that we have R. A. Salvatore and Todd McFarlane as our
visionaries,” he said. “These guys are renowned
worldwide for crafting memorable settings and iconic characters.
Combining their talents into an original IP was a no-brainer. With
Salvatore and McFarlane guiding us, licensing someone else's IP was
never a consideration.”

“In addition, the team we've built at 38 Studios was tailor
made to take the framework created by Bob and Todd and bring it to life
in a fun and compelling MMOG. Copernicus will be the flagship of our
original IP, which will live across a variety of products designed to
engage fans of this deep and diverse world and its history.”

However, 38 Studios may be singularly unique in the MMO market. With
both Salvatore and McFarlane on board, the game has developed a
“buzz” even without having to license an existing
world. Their existing fanbase comes in the form of these two well-known
storytellers, not to mention the presence of future MLB Hall of Fame
pitcher and 38S’ founder, Curt Schilling.

href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: left;" src="/image/view/67621" />

But for the rest of the development teams, creating an original
intellectual property – and making it successful –
isn’t an easy task. Risks have to be taken, especially in
terms of marketing, investor confidence, and public perception.
Essentially, an original IP is an unknown entity, a blank slate. So
what do the development teams believe is the hardest part of putting
together an MMO on an original IP?

“Creating a new IP isn’t as difficult as it
sounds,” Knaack stated. “Nobody sits down in front
of a blank screen and thinks ‘I’m going to make
Star Wars.’ It starts with small ideas, interesting
situations, characters, and environments that eventually meld together
in a coherent concept. When we began working on Global Agenda, there
really wasn’t a story at all, just some ideas floating around
about what would make a fun game.  We brainstormed for months
and, when the dust settled, some key points stood out as being really
definitive of what we were trying to accomplish.  When the
time was right to tie all of those ideas together, we worked backwards
and the fiction basically wrote itself.”

“Hi Rez Studios has a significant advantage over many other
startup game studios:  We’re independently
funded,” he concluded.  “That gives us the
leisure of working at our own pace on our own ideas.  We never
had to sell Global Agenda to anyone, so there were no compromises;
nothing was sacrificed to appease our investors.”

But what about those studios that aren’t independently
funded? What sort of issues are they forced to solve?

“The main heartache with an original IP is since it can
really be anything you have to safeguard against those who want to add
the design 'flavor of the month' to it so it will be more
commercial,” Burba states. “A rogue investor or
producer can decide 'yes, yes, the game is interesting but you should
really have X because WoW does.' Bolting on things that work well in
other games doesn't always mean it will work well in yours. Sometimes
it's nice to have an existing IP to fall back on and wave away insane
suggestions as being 'in conflict with cannon.'”

On the other hand, licensed IPs certainly have some distinct benefits,
don’t they?

“Marketing people will tell you the advantages of purchasing
existing IP, but I think few developers will,” Alganon guy
said. “As a matter of fact I've heard of all sorts of
problems with existing IP restricting the development of a product.
More fingers in the pie. This whole illusion of existing IP making
things easier, quicker, etc. is not true. All it brings is potential
existing market saturation, which money-makers love, but it offers no
other vision except to serve as a vision for those who see to have
their vision already established by another.”

Still, no one can deny the fact that original IP MMOs need some way to
make themselves stand out from the pack. Whether that’s
through high-profile staff members or some other way, it needs to be
done. Gamers don’t have any background with the game world,
and without some sort of familiarity with the genre or the style of
gameplay, they may just look for something more familiar.
It’s up to the developers to make those games stand out from
the pack.

href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: right;" src="/image/view/65350" />

When asked how they were planning on making their own IP unique among
the many games they’re competing with, 38 Studios’
Steve Danuser had a number of telling comments.

“Making a new IP stand out comes down to a number of
factors,” he said. “Are you crafting a world in
which players can feel a personal investment? Does it drip with charm
and danger and drama? Are you thinking not only of cool places and
people to put into the game, but also the history behind them and how
they relate to the world as a whole?”

“At 38 Studios, we've worked hard to give the Copernicus IP
enough depth and detail not only to sustain a single MMOG, but many
genres of games as well as novels, comics, and other media that will
allow fans to engage our IP in a multitude of ways,” he
continued. “This is one of the reasons we're so excited about
our recent acquisition of Big Huge Games--it gives us another avenue to
let players experience the richness of the IP we've spent the last few
years building.”

April Burba’s response to the question was concise and
straight to the point:

“What makes original IP games stand out? Great gameplay and
originality. It's not enough just to be fun, and its not enough just to
be unique - you have to have both to really stand out.”

Thoughts on gameplay definitely resounding with a number of the
other developers surveyed as well.

“If you’re currently developing an original IP, our
best advice to you would be to really focus on the iconic features that
set your game aside from the rest and use the IP to support
those,” Knaack said.  “Before you even get
that far, however, make sure you start with fun and work backwards from
there.  An original IP is worthless unless the end product is

href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: left;" src="/image/view/69224" />

“While IP may "sell" a product,” David Allen
stated, “it doesn't keep players. Good games do.”

Of course, Ten Ton Hammer"s gamers had their own opinions, which
seemed to at least parallel what the developers suggested. This, in my
opinion, is a good, good thing, and the more often players and
developers think alike, the more promise there is in a future title.

“By telling us more about what makes your game unique and
really allowing people to develop their characters in a way that
promotes attachment and personalization,” Yalyss said.
“Everyone's doing copycat WoW game mechanics, tell us what
you're doing differently and why it's better. Not only that, I
challenge game developers and publishers to be more open and honest
about the state of their games instead of feeling the need to obfuscate
it to sell more copies. Honesty goes a long way and as a gamer, I feel
a lot more forgiving toward a publisher that tells me, "Hey, we screwed
up and we're trying to fix it, here's what we're doing:" than one who
tells me, "That will all be fixed after the beta, when the game is
released in a week.”

“It doesn't need to stand out for me, but if they want it to
stand out for everyone else, then they need two things,”
Bobfish explained. “A unique selling point, something that
the game does that no over game does, it can be a mechanic, the game's
setting or something else entirely and the other thing is to build a
complete game, where every part of the game fits together perfectly.
Have a plan and just stick to it and if you do it right, the combine
sum of the parts will work so well together that the simple fun factor
will be enough to capture peoples' attention. All us gamers want is a
well developed product that is fun to play, everything else comes
second to that, you simply can't release a buggy half-finished product,
cause no matter how great your ideas are, if you can't deliver on the
fun part of things it WILL fail.”

“Gameplay, Gameplay, and Gameplay,” Protect
exclaimed I would have to say that’s the #1 reason I quit
playing games is that they are either don't work right or are just
plain boring.”

In the realm of MMO gaming, every online
player strives to tell their
own personal story through their actions. Some stories revolve around
competition where players constantly strive to excel at their chosen
venue. Others focus on social interactions, fleshing out their online
experience with shared events that resonate within the
guild’s memories for years to come. Some players want to
imagine themselves as part of the tapestry of the game world itself,
picturing their character as a recognizable figure in the
world’s lore. Others commit themselves to simply discovering
every piece of the in-game content that they can find, feeding their
desire each time they open a new treasure chest or kill a novel mob.

href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: right;" src="/image/view/39995" />

However, the one element that every gamer craves is that moment where
they feel like a true hero to the world around them. Almost every gamer
wants to have that jaw-dropping, eye-popping moment where their
character stands in front of a world-shattering monster, laughs in its
face, engages in combat, and comes away victorious. They want to step
forward and href=""
target="_blank">wake the Sleeper, href="" target="_blank">stomp
on Magtheridon, or go
fist-to-cuffs target="_blank">with the Balrog
and lay a smack down of epic proportions. They want to have a feeling
that they are actually invested in their world, and through their
actions they’ve done something memorable.  To some
degree, MMOs are the perfect medium for this sort of gameplay
experience. Gamers have the chance to play through fantastic worlds
that are created to propel them to heroism or villainy, and every
player can feel just as heroic or villainous – depending on
their playstyle – as the next person on their server.

However, in those games that are based off of established IPs, you run
into elements of the story that just don’t fit into an MMO.
Pre-existing heroes are already running around the world, races may
seem to strong to optimally balance for gameplay purposes, or any other
number of dilemmas. To use Star
Wars Galaxies
as an example,
it’s hard for a player to seriously think of themselves as a
hero or a villain when the strongest of these characters already exist:
Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Darth Vader, and the Emperor.

Therefore, putting together a solid, yet MMO-friendly story should be
one of the top priorities for most original MMO studios. I asked our
panel of developers what their thoughts were on their own storytelling

“Many gamers are used to story being an afterthought,
something that exists only to appease role-players or fans of reading
lore,” Danuser said. “We've spent the last few
years changing that paradigm. Story is at the core of everything we do.
Our story drives the design of our gameplay, which in turn drives our
art, audio, and engineering. Everyone at 38 Studios is a storyteller,
regardless of the title on their business cards. Every system
we build, every piece of art we craft, and every line of code we write
is created for the purpose of bringing this IP to life and making it
something our players will always remember.”

“I may be biased, but I truly believe that you need that kind
of a commitment to your IP to really make it stand out in the
marketplace,” he continued. “Players will respond
to that love and attention to detail. Make a fun, polished game with
thought and heart, and success will take care of itself.”

The response from Funcom echoed Danuser’s sentiments. It
seems that backstory is the building block through which all good
things come.

“Building a world and making a game at the same time is
difficult,” Ellingsen responded. “A game is more
than just the game mechanics, it's also about the believability of the
universe where the game takes place, the characters you encounter, the
storyline you progress through and so on. Being original and creating a
believable universe while you're struggling with creating game
mechanics and making technology work can be difficult, especially if
you work with a small team who might have a few people working on
several elements in the game.”

“For Funcom it has always been very important to put a lot of
effort into building the game around the universe, instead of building
the universe around the game,” he continued. “We
spend a lot of time working on the backstory, the characters, the
environments and so on before we actually start the development
process. We're also blessed with a very talented team of designers lead
by Ragnar Tornquist, the creator of the Longest Journey games, and
there is certainly no end to his ability to create a believable,
original universe!”

href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: left;" src="/image/view/69004" />

On the other hand, Hi-Rez Studios has a different sort of mindset when
it comes to story.

“The storyline of Global
has gone through numerous
revisions, each one getting closer and closer to the kind of world we
had envisioned,” Knaack commented.  “Our
“game first” philosophy served as a destination for
where it needed to end up, while the world as it exists today was the
starting point.  From there, it was a simple matter of
connecting the dots in the most interesting possible way, keeping the
timeline concise while leaving enough hooks for expansion of the
original concept.”

“That being said, the setting is important enough that Hi-Rez
Studios maintains a full time writer to bring the project together with
a coherent fictional context,” he concluded. 
“We provide our community with an engaging back story to get
them into the game, but we also rely on our players and the groups they
create to provide the interesting narrative moving forward as they
cooperate and compete in our world.”

Too contrast the importance – or lack thereof – of
storyline, April Burba’s answer to this questions was
particularly enlightening. We’ll let her answer speak for

“I worked on both City
of Heroes
and Tabula
and the
differences in the size and depth of the backstory were jarring. style="font-style: italic;">City
of Heroes (before Villians) had a 300+ page story bible
where TR was
significantly less even including all the Logos symbols and their
meanings,” she said. “I'll let you take from that
what you will, however, I think it's important to understand that if
you are creating an MMO then you are creating a world for people to
spend an enormous amount of time in. Having an exceptionally deep
amount of lore for them to discover, play with and play through is not
a bad thing.”

To bring it back to the gamers, I had to ask the group what their
favorite MMO of all time was. Knowing that they might see through my
questions, I was surprised at their answers. Sixty percent of the
readers had favorite games that were original IPs, thirty percent
enjoyed games that were based on previous gaming properties (like WoW
or FFXI), and only ten percent selected previously established
non-gaming IPs.

href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: right;" src="/image/view/68717" />

Knowing their favorites, I then asked our Ten Ton Hammer readers what
game they were looking forward to the most.  In another
shocking moment, I discovered that only 43% of the gamers surveyed were
really looking forward to an original IP, while 57% stated that an
established IP product held their attention. Not surprisingly, the top
game out of those surveyed was Star Wars: The Old Republic, especially
after the title’s E3 bonanza.

From these two relatively unscientific statistics, it’s easy
to draw some conclusions. First off, it seems that gamers definitely
hold original IPs in high regard, considering that majority of the
players asked consider a novel game their favorite MMO. While it can be
said that these top spots belong to older games, it’s telling
that only a small percentage of established IP games hold that
“favorite” spot. When you compare games like style="font-style: italic;">The
Matrix Online, Star
Wars Galaxies
, and Dungeons
and Dragons Online
titles like World of
, EverQuest,
or Guild Wars,
you begin to
see the difference.

With that in mind, it’s astounding that the majority of
gamers polled still hold games in established IPs as their
“top” upcoming game. This just goes to show that
established IPs can definitely attract an audience, even if the end
products don’t live up to player’s expectations.
But who knows? Maybe the next crop of established IP products will
change that statistic.

However, it’s also worth noting that the *vast* majority of
cancelled MMOs have been original IPs. To my knowledge, only ONE MMO
that belonged to a previously established world has been cancelled, and
technically that one isn’t even shut off yet. In a shocking
move last week, Sony Online Entertainment announced that they would be
closing the doors on The
Matrix Online
. Compare that to the closures
(and re-openings and re-closings) of style="font-style: italic;">Fury, style="font-style: italic;">Shadowbane, style="font-style: italic;">Ryzom, style="font-style: italic;">Tabula
Rasa, Auto
, Meridian
, Asheron’s
Call 2
, Earth
& Beyond
, and a
whole host of others.

href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: left;" src="/image/view/66403" />

The risks equal the rewards for original IP creators. For every two,
five, or ten failures, one original IP title moves to the upper echelon
of gaming and becomes a standout champion. April Burba put it best in
this comment:

“That 1 time out of 10 where you really hit it out of the
park with an original IP is pretty much the best feeling in the world.
It's how true stars of the industry are made and it means you get to
make more games based on that IP and run your own money machine into
the ground.”

So will the use of horribly limiting IPs to create MMOs ever disappear?
Probably not. Internet MMO communities are constantly creating lists of
the "best untapped properties," which leads to even more fascination
with the development of MMOs in known worlds. With worlds like those
found in Harry Potter, the Wheel of Time, the Malazan Book of the
Fallen, the Forgotten Realms, Dune, Pokemon, and so many others, we
will always have development studios striving to find the sweet spot
that really calls to MMO gamers.

href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: right;" src="/image/view/33575" />

In an almost laugh-inducing moment,
while I was writing this article, I found a piece of information that
was truly intriguing. Ironically, the first true graphics-based MMO was
actually developed around a licensed IP. The original href=""
(available on the early AOL) found its
way onto store shelves
due to the fact it was based on the style="font-style: italic;">Dungeons and Dragons
game. With a foundation built squarely on the back of a licensed IP,
these MMO blacksmiths have certainly come a long way in stretching the
minds of gamers into realms that are not only perfect for MMO gaming,
but also full of ways for gamers to become the hero.

To end this article, I’ll let your panel of developers give
you their closing comments. As my final question to the panel of
developers, I asked them all what they’d like to tell the
gaming public about original IPs. I’ll let the developers
speak for themselves.

Steve Danuser:

Making an original IP
from the ground up is not for the faint of heart.
[Developers] need a strong guiding vision and a talented team capable
of turning that vision into something tangible. [The team should]
identify the pillars that the IP is built upon and use those as a razor
to determine which ideas fit and which need to be cut away. Most of
all, remember that there is no detail too small to ignore. Attention to
detail is what separates excellence from mediocrity.

April Burba:

Play more games! The
original IP you play today may be the Halo of

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Erling Ellingsen:

Embrace them. Give them
a try. To me, games are sort of like wine.
There are several well-established brands, and whenever I sit down for
a nice meal at a restaurant I have to admit I often go for that
Chardonnay I always enjoy. Sometimes, though, it can be hugely
rewarding to try something new, something I've never heard of, and
suddenly the whole bottle is gone! It's the same with games –
often there comes a long something that you've never heard of before,
but then you decide to give it a try and you end up playing it into the
wee hours of the morning.

style="font-weight: bold;">David Allen:

Everything at one point
or another was original IP. It all has to come
from somewhere. What happens when we simply sublet all of our future
products based on the focused creations of others? We lose our sense of
creativity and innovation IMO. Don't get me wrong; you can take other
IP and do something unique with it, but that's more the exception than
the rule. At the same time, there's nothing wrong with taking something
people like and giving them a way to experience it in a whole new way.
But creating something people have never experienced before also has
its value.

Nathan Knaack:

We would like to remind
the general gaming public that some properties
are easily converted into online games, but some are not. Instant
recognition brings with it the shackles of cannon.  Global
Agenda, on the other hand, was built from the ground up to be an
enthralling, entertaining, and rewarding experience for its players,
not an homage to finicky fans of some existing intellectual property.

However, we do reserve
the right to contradict everything we just said
in this interview in the indeterminate future, singing the virtues of
using well-developed, existing IPs if we ever announce Global Agenda 2!

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