Last night, I decided to take part in an activity that I have not participated in since my childhood. I believe that great shame comes from the masses to the individuals that participate in said activities. This activity is something so profoundly shameful that I can not even mention its true name here. Lets just say it involved a large number of multi-sided dice, a stack of esoteric rule books, and sheets on which we recorded pertinent statistical information about recently created fictional characters. If you can understand what I was doing from this discription then it means that there are more sad creatures out there like me. If you are unable to decipher it, then you were probably the guy that stole my lunch money in elementary school.
While rolling up my new Dungeons and Dragons character last night, I began to reflect upon the next generation of MMO’s coming soon to a store near you. In the past, MMO’s have been based upon newly created fantasy settings. Worlds that had been created by the team that had designed the game. This started with EverQuest, Ultima Online, then Final Fantasy XI, and extends all the way up through World of Warcraft. These worlds only existed because the game desginers created the world. Sure, there may have been some history to the world, as with Ultima, Final Fantasy and Warcraft, but these worlds were still the intellectual property of the people that were making the game. This is now changing.
Three, soon to be released, games have plundered my childhood for their respective world settings: The Lord of the Rings, Conan the Barbarian, and the one that I am most worried about, Dungeons and Dragons.
The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar; well Peter Jackson has already done a great job of raping my inner child on this one, so I suppose I am least concerned over this. Yes, I know the movies were critically aclaimed and such, but I just found that the PBS cartoons that were made in the late-70’s did a much greater job of capturing my imagination than the movies did (and I watched them in the 80’s so I am not THAT old). Not much is available on this game as it is still a year off, but it looks to be well done so far. Tolkien created a world so rich and deep that I would think it would be pretty hard to screw it up. Turbine did create Asheron’s Call of which I have heard little but what I have heard has been good, so here’s hoping that it will turn out well.
The game next mostly likely to scar the memories of my childhood is the Conan MMO. Age of Conan: Hyberion Adventures is from the creators of the infamous Anarchy Online. This could be a bad thing, or a very bad thing. Anarchy Online was the game that best defined the term “failed launch.” Funcom seems to be taking a different approach (maybe to alieviate the fears of another failed launch, or maybe because they know they can’t get a launch right) with this game, and are putting a “single-player, massive online game” spin on it. The Ministry of Love is calling, they want you to pay royalties on any titles that are complete contradictions in terms. The game is supposed to follow closely from the books of Howard, which, from what I hear, is also a very deep story, but one has to question what level of quality the actual gameplay will have.
The final game that seeks to stab to at the spleen of my younger years is Dungeons and Dragons Online (What? No incredibly long and forboding subtitle? For shame!). Turbine is also working on this title, with Atari as the publisher. They are actually going to follow the Wizards of the Coast-created 3.5 ruleset (for better or worse) which is interesting because this system was designed for the real pencil-and-paper version of the game. As a 12 year-old I dreamed of this becoming a reality, being about to play the game that I so loved in real time with many different players. I am actually surprised that it took this long for someone to take the most well-known role-playing game ever made and turn it into a MMO. I still have great reservations though, as the game is using the newly developed campaign setting of Eberron. I find this a little distrubing because the most widely used campaign setting for Dungeons and Dragons is the Forgotten Realms. The Forgotten Realms has been the staple campaign setting for nearly 20 years, and has had endless excellent authors craft many distinct stories about all areas of the world of Faerun. Elminster would have been an excellent central character to attract all of the elder nerds to Turbine’s MMO. Waterdeep would have just been amazing. Well, for what its worth, I am definitely waiting to see how this one turns out. (I have already applied for the beta, hint, hint!)
So in the next year and a half I will either see my childhood dreams come to life in vibrant colors and great expansive lands, or see evil corporate fat cats tear out my still-beating 12 year-old heart and piss all over it with their black puss-filled urine just to make a quick buck.