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We've got a good reason to believe that Blizzard's next MMO is in actuality a new IP, which means it's the perfect time to discuss the potential of this newly crafted world. Assuming that Games Workshop isn't the inspiring factor for yet another Blizzard game, I'll lay out five settings that I hope will catch a few of you off guard.
Here's the thing about Blizzard, they rarely stick to vanilla settings. Diablo is the only real exception, but even it had the addition of the Japanese inspired Assassin class and Celtic inspired Druid class. StarCraft's races range over a several influences and Warcraft pulls stuff from all over the place, chief among them being some steampunk.
Will it be the same for this new IP?
Currently a popular choice with several of the MMO dedicated, largely because the niche hasn't been properly filled as of yet, steampunk offers a wide swath of varying settings. Although I've got a personal preference.
Warmachine is tabletop game that's a blend of both steampunk and dark fantasy. It's a world with large mechanized machines controlled by powerful mages, and yet it also has plenty of sci-fi influence too. One of the world's factions -- the Cygnar -- actually fuel a few of their most powerful Warmachines with slightly erratic electrical engines instead of furnaces. Mostly though, it's a very steampunk kind of setting where guys with swords, guns and magic constantly tear each other apart. I highly recommend it to anyone with a thing for the setting.
Blizzard has never been shy with their inspirational sources, and in the case of steampunk and Warmachine, I really wouldn't mind seeing them change their tune. The unfortunate truth is that Warmachine has always been a fascinating world unable to break free from its tabletop origins, which may be intentional on its creator's part. Even so, a Blizzard take on something like the Iron Kingdoms would be an instant hit whether people realize they want it or not.
Near dystopian futures never seem to go out of style, whether it's Neuromancer, Snow Crash, Blade Runner, The Matrix or Shadowrun. Of course, all these settings take their own paths in weaving a world of technology gone wrong. Some are more post apocalyptic than others, too. Most of my experience with them has been incredibly enthralling.
In the case of cyberpunk, I can see it being sparsely used or twisted into Blizzard's own take on what kind of dark future the world holds for humanity. Admittedly, it would be very interesting to see a cyberpunk MMO from the company who brought us such a game changing title in their first attempt. Still, assuming Blizzard did a cyberpunk MMO, I imagine it wouldn't be too much like anything we're used to up until now.
I really loved the world of Jade Empire, and film epics set in the magical far east always seem to capture my imagination. Something about the mysterious "Far East" in movies and videogames is just so very entrancing. Of course, much like the cyberpunk setting I expect that Blizzard is more likely to cherry pick anything they may use from Wuxia. Then again, they did create the Pandarens -- even if it was a little bit of a joke.
If they were looking to stand out in the crowded MMO market, a martial arts epic with a touch of steampunk or maybe even cyberpunk would definitely make everyone take a lot of notice. Something both modern and fantastical, with identifiable fantasy trappings alongside strange and less common locales of the far east.
A guy can hope, right? I admit, this one is a bit of a reach. But if anything, maybe one of the races in their upcoming MMO will be heavily influenced by wuxia. Maybe we'll see Pandarens redux for all I know.
Diablo fits into this category, but so do many other games and settings. Everything from BioWare's upcoming Dragon Age -- which leans a little more towards classic fantasy with elves and dwarfs -- to the aforementioned Warhamchine, which while heavily steampunk also carries many dark fantasy connotations.
It's hard to guess what's going to be popular in a couple years, let alone the several it takes to develop an MMO. Still, one thing you can count on is for people to be interested in a dark world with a mysterious backstory. That's why I'm fairly certain that whether it's science fiction, fantasy, steampunk or whatever, it'll probably be darker than World of Warcraft.
It's not a term you hear too often, but Science Fantasy is something everyone probably quite familiar with: Star Wars. This is basically a world where, while science fiction is seemingly the source setting, fantasy is always lurking somewhere in the background. Star Wars being the very obvious example with the Force, evil emperors and Jedi, but there are other settings as well.
A more recent franchise would be Mass Effect, which leans more towards sci-fi, but still carries some classic fantasy trappings like the game's reliance on dark energy to explain why people can perform the equivalence force push and create gravity wells. Still, Mass Effect is largely a sci-fi game first -- but the example holds.
Obviously this would be double edged choice with Star Wars: The Old Republic coming along in a few years. Could Blizzard out-Star Wars, Star Wars? That's a pretty tall order and something I don't even really know how to answer. Part of me just wants to see them try it, to be honest.
Whatever it is that Blizzard is cooking up you can bet that it'll be their take on an established genre. Will it be a mixture of one or more of the above? Possibly, especially since I did cover a decent spread.
There's always the chance that we'll all be pleasantly surprised by something completely unexpected. I would say that with two major fantasy heavy titles and only one sci-fi title under their belt, chance favors this new IP to be sci-fi focused. On the other hand, Blizzard can kind of do whatever they want, It's really up to the men and women in charge. Something tells me that whatever they do, it'll be worth playing regardless.