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MMORPG.COM News: Debate: Major IPs and MMORPGs

This week Lead Content Editor Dana Massey and News Manager Jon Wood argue the merits of making MMORPGs out of major intellectual properties, such as Lord of the Rings, Star Trek or Harry Potter. Dana takes the yes side, while Jon argues against it. Here is a teaser:

Jon Wood: There are a number of flaws in the concept of companies developing MMORPGs based on major pre-existing franchises. I can clearly see why it is done. It creates a pre-made customer base and almost guarantees a strong launch. Unfortunately, from a gamer point of view, these games are doomed to fall short. All you have to do is look at game like “Star Wars: Galaxies”, which has been on the receiving end of a never-ending barrage of criticism because the game doesn’t live up to the epic expectations of either Star Wars fans, or MMORPG fans.

What another example? How about the criticism that Turbine has received for their new game, Dungeons and Dragons Online: Stormreach? Players have been waiting for a long time to get their hands on an MMORPG version of their favorite pen and paper game. Now that one is in production, the complaints are coming in about everything from the choice of gaming world (Eberron, which is the newest and least established of the gaming worlds from Wizards of the Coast), to the use of the 3.5 edition rule set. In short, many players are turning away from these games because they do not, and in my opinion, can not, live up to the enormous expectations put upon them by the strength of their individual franchises.

Read the entire debate here.

Dana Massey
Formerly of MMORPG.com
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios



  • DanaDana Member Posts: 2,415
    Your poll:

    Dana Massey
    Formerly of MMORPG.com
    Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios

  • ZippyZippy Member, Newbie CommonPosts: 1,412

    While the article brought up some good points I found the debate to be lacking.  The two major issues I have seen with IP releases  that were not brought up are:

    1.  The developers know that no matter how bad a game they make they will sell tons of boxes because of the name.  Rather than spending their time developiong a fun game it seems they spend most of their time hyping the game.  SWG could have been a smaller version of WoW but their dev team seemed to be run by their marketing department.  Maybe this is just the way SoE does things but they never seemed to care if the game was any good.

    2.  IP games are dumbed down in to reach non gamers.  This also ties into point one.  It seems that IP titles are marketed towards non-gamers and the game play is dumbed down.  WoW is similar in that it was a big name with a large fanbase that was made into a MMORPG but its also different.  In WoW they targted a non-core gamer audience but their focus was still on making a polished well done game.  Many of the design decisons may not be what expereinced MMORPG players want in a game but the game is well done and the devs stuck to their vision.  It can be argued that the content in WoW was dumbed down but unlike otehr big name IP's the quality did not get dumbed down in the process.  I would guess that WoW will be the exception.  There is less of a need for a IP game to be well done as it has a built in fanbase waiting to buy the game.

    WoW should be the model here as it shows what a well done hyped game that has good gameplay can do.  But I am guessing it will be the exception and SWG will be the model.  Much easier to rush out a poorly designed bad game without any coherent vision or soul rather than spend the time and work needed to attempt to make a great game.  SWG has done very well despite being a very bad game released years to early.   The SWG model has to be tempting to developers and investors.  It is obviously not easy to make a good game.  Look at how poor a game EQ2 turned out to be.  Buggy, souless, lacking any polish and from all appearances just randomly thrown together to make a game.  Making a good game whether or not its based in an exsisting world is at best a long shot.  But any company (makers of DnL and a few others excepted of course) can throw something together that will resemble a playable game.

    Using the SWG model deveopers and investors know they have almost a sure moeny maker.  Whatincentive is there for them to take risks in design descions.  Tailoring a game to the needs of experienced MMORPG players they risk losing the non-gamer fanbase.  Why should they hire top notch employees when they are almost assured of a success?   Why spend an extra year or two in development when they can see an immediate return?  The expectation that the game will be successful regardless of the product at least IMO is a strong persuasive argument for investors and developers to make a very conservative vanilla souless type game.  IP's that have a large fanbase seem to be a discouragement to making a great game and one that only encourages a mediocre to bad quality product.

    The debaters make a very good point about IP's restricting gameplay.  But the main problem I see with IP's or major names being made into MMORPG's is the temptation for easy profit and the perceived need to dumb down these games to attract non-MMORPG players.

  • MisfitZMisfitZ Member Posts: 368

    Zippy makes a good point, that developers use an IP as a crutch, in place of solid gameplay.

    Jon brings up my main grief with IPs: their (so-far) complete failure to live up to expectations.

    For example, Age of Conan will not have any kind of Open PvP. This directly conflicts the source material, yet for the sake of easy design, Funcom has decided to use a Consensual PvP system.

    For another, Lord of the Rings: Online won't allow players to create characters of evil races (goblins, trolls, etc.), the last I heard. That bothers me, although I'm sure the main fanbase of LotR probably won't be too flustered over it.

    While I'm not complete against the concept of games made from established Intellectual Properties, the ones we've seen so far have not been what I would consider great works.

    World of Warcraft is the (technical) exception to the rule, however I don't believe it's fair to consider an MMo derived from a previous line of games equivalent to one taken from literature, movies, or television.

    Listen Asmodeeus, seven years ago, Ultima Online didn't even have those pathetic "quests" that you refer to or those "professions" of ninja, samurai, necromancer, and paladin. Nor did it have any of the neon crap, or bug mounts. It didn't even have any "combat moves." You turned on attack and jousted with simplistic swings. It was a better game then. if you can't guess why then just uninstall the thing and move along. - Crabby

  • PlanetNilesPlanetNiles Member Posts: 101

    Thing is these things will be made and most will be a steaming pile of manure. However there's always the chance that something blinding can come from it. If you have an IP that the Devs care passionately for or the owner of which either plays MMOs or has a habit of taking a direct hand in proceedings relating to their property then that chance increases. From out of the odure can come order.

    Personally, were I developing an MMO, I'd want to be as original as I can and plunge as deep as possible into the MMO "white space" but that would probably just amount to using my own IPs.

    The good thing about using pre-existing IPs is the likelihood of drawing more people into playing MMOs; the more players the more MMOs will be made and the more chance of finding a game that suits your personal style of play.

    "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference."
    -- The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

  • QuartermainQuartermain Member Posts: 1

    IP games are the bane of a gamers existence to be sure. Everyone has to live up to years of devoted dreams and aspirations fans have cultivated over years or even decades.

    The only answer is two part. One on the heads of fans andthe other on the heads of developers.

    Fans have to realize the programming restraints and the broken mentality prevelant in a committee based development comunity. Programmers are not the descision makers on 80% of the product. Marketing "wizards" and stock holders are gunning behind the heals of developers trying to get a product to market and on the shelves.

    Half the time the people involved in many power posistions are not lifelong fans steeped in the history and lore of the IP they want to make into a game. A sad state of affairs to be sure. The use of EBerron as a gaming world for DDO is a clear example of a marketting dog deciding that if they base the game in this new world WOTC might sell more books as well as the game.

    We as fans have to admit that developers and programmers can have descisions taken away and overuled by these other peoples. It is time to take in the games as free standing entities and judge them on broader merits than we had hoped to have to concider.

    Developers on the other hand have to do what they can to protect the IP for the fans. We gamers drop a lot of money, volunteer for alphas/betas, start fan sites, and even have online radio stations supporting their projects and we want a little come back on our time investement. We want something not exactly like the stories the game is based on, but at least recognizably associated with the IP.

    Once again DDO comes to a head here. The grouping mechanics, classes, and enemies are old favorites. They would have done better to choose Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance for a gaming world from a fan standpoint. But from a developers outlook it would have required inclusion of all the perenial characters of those worlds and story lines based on them. No matter how many times we saw Eliminster in the game, we would have all wanted to BE Eliminster.

    A happy middle ground needs tobe reached. And it will over time, as players get a little more stingy with funds for games that suck. For now we can all look forward to every half realized IP beinbg turned into a game. And that about 75% won't be wirth playing for free much less dropping 50 for the game and 20 a month to play.


  • ElandrialElandrial Member UncommonPosts: 178

    i just love when people say that teh point of making ANYTHING is to make the investors money.
    the point of making an mmorpg ,or cars or anything is to get people to USE it. THAT in turn will make teh investors money. just ask detroit which has been making cars the way that people DONT want. the name only last so long ,if the product is BAD or does not meets the user's expectations it will FAIL and guess what the investors will lose money.

    the reason IP will fail is that everyone has a pre-developed expectaion of how an IP should work.so chances are you will not make a game the way they perceive it,sure you will have a few who will love it.
    do you think EQ would have lasted as long as it did IF they had used an IP??when i play an IP i want to be IN the story,well so unless you want 10,000 gandalf running around. it aint going to work.ddo might make it since there are no real chars involved in it so any char can be part of the story.

    basically IP games are like IP movies,most of them SUCK.once and a while you get a good one.but they are few and far between.

  • lilkevlilkev Member Posts: 3

    I definately think they should continue to port Major IP's into MMO's. I play these such games to make a cool lookin character and get the chance to use and see the familiar things normally associated with the major franchise.

    For example, if i was to play a Star Trek mmo, i'd wanna be able to beam up to my ship, or use those, frankly, queer lookin hand laser's or somthin. I dont expect to be the center of attention in the universe, nor do i expect the game to revolve around me. Just the mere prospect of participating in a universe i know is cool. Being one of the "many" who get to be in an army of light-saber wielding jedi knights, or, being one of those cool elves in LOTR's that gets to carve down orcs and be some sort of sophisticated battle unit in a collective group is pretty cool too.

    If i was to steer away from mmo's for a moment, and look at games based on the World War II Genre, its allways really cool being part of a huge d-day "raid" with lots of ppl around you. To be honest, i find its more fun to participate in a setting such as this rather than a solo setting, and the same is such with mmo's.

    My love for a Major IPs comes from being able to interact with all the familiar things u see in the cool movies, not necessarily being the "lead" man. I mean, maybe there's a lot of criticism and very vocal people that dont like some of the things they do... but thats just it isnt it? Lots of vocal people doesnt necessarily stand for the hordes of players that, perhaps not so vocal, dont have a problem with the game? Upto now, there is still ultimately a lot of ppl still playing major IP games, and i for one hope they continue to crank them out, because they're still fun regardless.

  • CelestianCelestian Member UncommonPosts: 1,136

    DD0 isn't gonna flop because they tried to make a MMO using D&D, it's gonna flop because they did it terribly. It's not just that it's not "exactly" like D&D either. People can deal with minor changes in the game (look at NWN for example where the game had several changes but it's a much better translation than DD0).

    If this game wasn't D&D it would still fail just because of the DESIGN of the game. All instancing, shallow world(no woods, mountains, unknown areas to explor), boring cities, exp only from quests, no crafting, no housing and no solo content, twitch combat (as if we didnt have enough of those already) and no pvp. The game could well have withstood not having some of those features but missing them all and expecting D&D fans to just say oh well, it's D&D... well it's not even that.

    Turbine didn't put any effort into the game and it shows. The same happened to AC2.

    Games gotta be fun to get players, they don't need a existing player base.

  • knowomknowom Member UncommonPosts: 195

    First off this debate wasn't as intresting as the last two were to me personally but I'm not so much fascinated by the lore in mmo's so much as gameplay wether it be pvp or pve. It's probably the hardest debate topics to comment on tho out of the last three that you guys have conducted. I can't really say I'm for or against it rathre more neutral. There are pro's and con's to both sides. On one hand players get to finally carve out there own peice of the pie. On the other hand they're restricted to whatever the dev's come up with and allow or disallow. I guess thinking about it I'm more against it than for it because it's more restrictive and I like more variety, options, or freedom if you will. Lore becomes a real problem with franchise based mmo's I mean even when you look at EQ2 and World of Warcraft. They are both based losely or strongly perhaps upon previous games EQ2 obviously based upcon EQ and WoW based upon the entire previous warcraft series and books. If you look at WoW certain things just aren't possible because if they allowed it the lore of the world itself would change and the roleplayers might become unhappy with it. I suppose if it can be done right fine otherwise don't bother. It's like a movies take the terminator series 1 & 2 were both good movies and I have seen serveral times because they had some replay value to them however the 3rd one was very mediocre at best and can't honestly say I would ever care to watch it again. MMO's are the same way unless the replay value is there then they're bound to fizzle away because honestly who wants to buy or pay for a bad product twice.

  • bareshdracobareshdraco Member Posts: 54

    My only issue with IP's being made into mmorpgs is that they can never be all things to all people. As the argument states, people will come to the game with different expectations and with all of the consultation, development and goodwill in the world, you will never please everyone.

    SWG was a perfect example of this, it promised the opportunity to 'live the saga' yet look at the current state of the game. Not wanting to go into that area too much, but its major failing was the 'lack of star warsy feel' according to SOE / LA and there 'phantom consultation group'. Yet now, given its timescale in relation to the books and movies, they make jedi a starting profession? Hardly a starwarsy feel to have 75% or more of the players as jedi when supposedly there are only 3 - 4 left. How does that make the game feel more star warsy? (Only my opinion, I understand some people like the nge and others don't). Also, expansions could have maybe included more iconic features such as Hoth, rather than focusing on the elements from the new movies. Ultimately, it did not deliver what the fans wanted, but what LA wanted to promote to tie in with the launch of its movie and dvd releases. 

    Something like star trek should work really well as, from my understanding, the professions are based around the traditional roles in the series / films. (Engineer, Security, Medical and Science is it?) Starting within the federation gives a perfect tutorial situation, starting at the academy.  

    Time will tell, but it seems to me that they are planning to start small (3 races, 4 main profession paths, leading to command after time) and selecting a time period that allows them to include content from all 4 series and all of the films if required. ( I would think a quest or scenario where it is possible to find and salvage an older style starship, maybe from TOS or the early TNG era may be included at some point). Early indications are expansions will bring more races, planets and the opportunity to join a faction other than the federation (perhaps the klingon empire, cardassian or romulans?)

    With DDO and LOTR also coming soon, it is imo, make or break for the future of IP as mmorpgs. SWG and the Matrix have failed to deliver. I hope that the development teams behind the new games have done there homework and will learn from these mistakes.

    For me personally, I am hoping for a success and am looking forward to STO as it has massive potential, as does LOTR and DDO. It will never be possible to please everyone, I accept this but I hope that others can also give these games a fair trial and not dismiss them straight off because of the wrong set of rules, or the timeline is not when they wanted it to be.

  • I voted yes...but I agree with both Dana and Jon, as both had excellent arguments.

    Moving from epic story to epic online world just seems like a completely natural evolution of IP. On the other hand, if the IP is not carefully nurtured and treated with utmost respect you'll end up with little more than a soleless counterfeit. Star Wars is the perfect example...

    IMO there's no sense of loving craftsmanship in the MMOGs that we see today...beautiful, awe-inspiring, epic
    stories are clumsily examined to determine profit potential; the "extraneous" parts are lopped off and gouged out, and whatever's left is thrown into a blender and reduced to a thin substance that can be delivered to unsophisticated, undemanding gamers via a 56k modem. Shameful.

    Hopefully the NextGen consoles will see the dawn of a new era for MMOGs, one where quality and craftsmanship are evident.

  • Nostromo21Nostromo21 Member UncommonPosts: 75

    I'm surprised no one has mentioned Guild Wars. It has the perfect structure to overcome Wood's arguments - the instancing in the PvE component would lend itself very well to any existing major IP mmorpg in that every player could be the hero, just like GW, from start to finish. The benefits gained from the 'illusion' of persistency in most mmogs is not worth the price imo. The vast majority of players prefer small groups or soloing anyway, though instancing like GW's wouldn't preclude high-level raid content & the like, which the PvP component of the game provides.

    They say that right before you die, your life flashes before your eyes. That's true, even for a blind man. ^DareDevil^

  • hadzhadz Member Posts: 712

    This debate certainly isn't as emotive an issue as the last couple, but it's interesting and valid nonetheless.

    I think the main point for continuing to make franchise MMOs is that the playing public WANT to play in the worlds that they've read/seen/heard about.  The fact that companies take advantage of this (and often make substandard games out of the franchises) is something that can't really be remedied, as there is no market pressure forcing companies to make better franchise MMOs in the future as the bad ones are still bought in quantities large enough to make them viable.

    That being said, of the current crop of franchise games I think LotR, Age of Conan and Star Trek Online all lend themselves very well to the MMO idea but I still think that they will all be complained about from the fans as none will meet their ideal.  The one that isn't suited to an MMO, IMHO, is D&D Online; D&D isn't designed as an online game and the idea behind it (while certainly being the "step-father" of most modern fantasy MMOs) is not MMO suited.  Turbine have done a fairly good job adapting D&D to an MMO, but have left out a number of things from D&D that could have made it better (like crafting and levelling to 20), and followed TOO strictly areas where D&D doesn't suit MMOs like the non-explorable world (a Dungeon Master would limit you to a certain area so that his storyline could be followed, but this DOESN'T suit an MMO as witnessed by all the complaining about it).

    Anyway, long-live the franchise MMO...but PLEASE devs, MAKE THEM BETTER!!

  • BeanchillaBeanchilla Member Posts: 260

    i think they should be.

    I mean sure, it will let down some fans,
    but i loved swg, it was fun they ruined it,
    i think swg is an example of how it can work,
    sure they ruined it, but any true sw fan had some fun with it.

    I think ip games can be done well,
    no matter what a game will let down some people,
    and more with a fan base,

    but thers always gonna be some people let down,
    with ips theres already a fan base so there gonna be let down quicker,
    but then again look at how many peopl will enjoy the game,
    Ip's can be done right, but they can be done wrong, as with any game, ip or not.

    Just another handsome boy graduate...

  • phunkymunkeyphunkymunkey Member Posts: 83

    Its not about IPs per se, that create poor results.  Its about companies seeking to market and create additional revenue streams while a property is hot.  "While a property is hot" equates to a measurable amount of time that does not allow for truly great games to be developed. 

    Big business means you create a playable game based on a popular property in a relatively short period of time to generate revenue.  The window for maximum revenue generation is small.  Game QUALITY is not important and can actually be detrimental within the time constraints given.  The average consumer wants want he wants when he wants it.

    The flip side of the coin:

    A proven company like Mythic decides to take on an IP in Warhammer via Games Workshop.  Both have proven systems and years of history to back them up.  Whether the RvR system will work (i.e. can Mythic keep the flavor of the original and add some interesting twists) for the average GW fan remains to be seen.  What we do know is both companies have rich, successful histories doing what they do.  I'm betting this IP as an MMO has a chance, because both companies are smart enough to spend the time and "get it right".  Here's to hoping for heavy customization, PvP, and death penaties of some sort to reward the skillful players who can stay alive.  Such is the way of the Warhammer universe.  Grim and Gritty.


    Permadeath and environmental challenges are the next great step in the evolution of MMORPGs. Only through true adversity will one feel accomplished. Only in truly knowing you can die will true adversity present itself.

  • VasDrakkenVasDrakken Member UncommonPosts: 10

    I have to think that for an MMO the IP has to be a world with minor characters in to be a sucessful MMO, like Warcraft their where many minor characters in the storyline, many mini-series have them, Robert Jordans wheel of time would also work, but the MMO that keep crashing are do to bad games not the IP's The Matrix Online comes to mind, it was cool but it never got finished, SWG was a joke and they knew it, but that has more to do with their only being two groups which dominate the rest. As to harry potter example there is no I in Team and if your not setting up some advantage to allow people to interact as parts of a greater whole you may as well make a single player game, and slap a "Does not play well with others" sticker on it. I feel that it should be pointed out that DDO came close and fell short in the details not the major concept, if they had made so you could group with your friends not random strangers, and a few other really annoying things that got pointed out in the beta over eight months ago, when they could have been fixed, it would have been a niche game but might have survived as it is I doubt they make it six months. An interesting thought might be to have an IP used in reverse like say batman, only have the players be the villians attacking him, or really any other good guy where you can't play the major hero because your the enemy.
    I just the feeling IP fail becuase of lack of effort to make the work no matter how much effort goes into creating the game, if you don't except the limitations imposed by the IP you should not be using it.

  • delateurdelateur Member Posts: 156

    As others have said, it's not whether or not an MMO is based on an IP or not. It's simply whether the concept of an MMO based around such an IP (or any other idea that is entirely original) can translate into enjoyable gameplay that will reach a broad enough audience to sustain itself in the long term. I don't know how the dollars break down in terms of how many boxes a game typically has to sell to break even, but I would guess that this is directly related to how long the game spends in development before it is released. By basing a game on an IP, they are counting on selling a few more boxes initially because of the established fanbase, which is fine. However, word gets around fast if you don't have a good game, regardless of how popular the IP is. Take MxO for example. I'm a huge fan of the Matrix, and while I didn't like the direction the story took in every case, overall I liked the idea. MxO, however, was a true disappointment from a gaming perspective, even though I did enjoy for a short time the feeling of being "jacked in." I didn't buy the game at release, but instead waited until it dropped to $20, because I knew the core gameplay was lacking based on various revews, and it was only worth $20 for me to see if it was worth my time. No MMO can survive on initial box sales alone, period. If you've got a crummy game, it's going to fail, end of story, no matter how many fans you draw with a pre-established world concept. So, by all means, make those LOTR MMOs, or any other MMO you want to base off of an existing story, but for goodness sake, do it right! Give enough of your player base enough enjoyment to keep them coming back for a few months or a year. I could care less what you base your game on, as long as you give me a game that is fun! ::::02::

  • SmokeyASmokeyA Member Posts: 3

    I have only been playing MMorpg's for little over a year and i can honesly say i haven't.
    No game out at the minute or anytime soon really fits into what i see as an MMORPG.

    SWG came the closest and if it was done properly it would have been the MMO to end all MMO's.

    imho, MMORPG a contruct of a world where people live through there avatars, they have an affect on the out come of something eachtime they act.

    The best way in my opinion to do this and for it to be successful is with IP, take a great fantacy author, with sets of books all based on the same world, or series of worlds, with stories spanning generations.
    This rules out Tokien straight away. So choose maybe Feist's Riftwar saga and the ages that pass though all his stores, pick a time early in series when there would be alot of action, 'the rift war is about to start', and have a pre ordaned storyline, up to a point, and when a certain number of player made actions trigera flag, boom the war is on in full.
    With correctly selected IP like this, the map is already drawn, the players goals are 'players goals', they are not guided down a path, each race would have it's own starting point until they are ready to move on in the world, they don't have to be part of the story if they don't 'want' to be.
    They could become a soldier and ask to be posted to a garrison where they would spend there days repelling dark elves (PVP or PVE), or be posted to darkmoor and spend there time marching up and down there noble's lawn. in essence there should be an underling story, but the players should beable to choose not to take part. There should be 'LESS' time devoted to 'killing mobs' for experiance gane, this is simply the easy/lazy way to design a game.

    No Story world is stagnant and it is the stagnancy that kills the so called MMO's of today, and many are mearly RPG for a small group of people using a 3D world as a lobby area so they can join together and team up for certain dundeons. *which should work well for DDO*, Non to my knowlede have what it takes, but the industry seems to always be going backwards to make a quick buck, cashing in on IP's.

    SO NO, SONY, ATARI, and all other big companies out there, do NOT make an MMO out of great IP fantacy writers because you will go for the quick buck, make a clone with your own twist to it and spoil the IP for everyone. and YES any Dev's out there who believe they can create a world with a rolling story and allow the players in this constantly changing world *day one, npc joe bloggs is in the pub because he's had a bad day, next he's at work*, please create it, not scimping on content, not scimping on world, but keeping instancing to a minimum, *player housing, for instance*. Players may or may not find themselves caught up in part of the story line, players may or may not set 'jobs/quests' because they may or may not be too lazy to fetch some more ore to finish there horse shoe's.


    there are 10 types of people in this world, those who understand binary, and those who don't.

  • willybachwillybach Member Posts: 39
    There's afew of them coming up isnt there! LOTR, Star Trek, D&D, etc...as has already been said, a lot of a game's success will ultimately come down to what the devs are after, a quick buck, or establishing a long-lasting fanbase to their own particular take on a pre-existing franchise. Having read the posts on forums discussing LOTR and Star Trek, I really think these two might actually succeed. They seem to be wisely using such forum's to gauge potential players reactions to ideas and game design, though of course you can never satisfy everyone. Never thought of Harry Potter online..lol, could that work? Who knows...wouldnt mind flying round Hogwarts though on a broomstick.
  • DubbsDubbs Member Posts: 19

    I voted, Yes, to major IP's being devloped into MMORPG's.  Then I read through the debate thread here to examine other inputs into the debate.  Here's some of my thoughts.

    1) The "Resting On One's Laurels Argument":

    One thing about gamers that I've noticed, generally, is that we tend to think we know best.  But the fact is, until I stand in the shoes of someone who has attained the position to wield an enormous amount of dollars, or in the shoes of someone who is the lead programmer for games in this genre, I just am not willing to state many judgments about what was done with SWG or MxO.  I will say, that when these projects were undertaken, no one in the board rooms or on the floor were deliberating about how to screw over customers by making crappy product designed to sell on the laurels of IP alone.  People don't generally get in a position to undertake these projects by demonstrating a history of undermining the customer base.  There are, of course, exceptions, like Karl Rove, but I doubt you'll find that class of being much involved in what we're talking about here.

    What happened to Sony, in my opinion, was a matter of size.  What I am thinking about here is the process of turning successful novels into successful movies.  It is not surprising that Stephen King's novellas have made for some outstanding movies ("Stand by Me", "The Shawshank Redemption"), while his larger novels have been harder to pull off ("The Stand", "It", "Christine"). 

    So what happens, when people undertake to adapt something too large to a much more limited project framework, such as an MMO, is that sacrifices have to be made.  The LoTR movies, from a reader's standpoint, went astray on many points.  They were good, but if they had been adapted to the original format of six books, each of the six movies would have been more true to the writing and more satisfying to readers.  As it went, that was never an option for many reasons.  So cuts and changes were made, in order to realize the entire project.

    Star Trek is a pretty good example of where, I feel, smaller size is going to pay off.  I bear in mind the fact that Star Trek takes place in a very expansive world of Rodenberry's imagination, while being most successfully presented in episodic form.  Chances are better that IP's having this trait of digestibility will present fewer of the challenges to developers that cause developers to make sacrifices.  These forced sacrifices are what cause the fan base to accuse such devlopers of resting on their laurels.  There's simply no reason, on the grounds of this argument, to suggest that all MMO's based on major IP's will be failures.

    2) The "Great Expectations Argument":

    First off, anyone who wants to be Gandalf or Captain Kirk is in the wrong ballpark as far as bringing such expectations into an MMO.  For serious fans of these IP's, having some adventures similar in thrill to those of the main protagonists is the main angle.  I will admit, I don't honestly feel that the time of Frodo is such a great time in the history of Middle Earth to set an MMO.  If I wanted to satisfy expectations, I would set the thing during the rise of Gondor, or shortly after the fall of the Northern Kingdom.  As for the Star Trek MMO, well, Kirk wasn't the only captain out there, and I think players want more of a crack at being involved in the wrangling in frontier space than trying to obtain a position on the Enterprise. 

    What most people expect is that the game will be fun.  I'd say 90% of the fans are looking only for that.  Having an impact on the story arc is an expectation that naturally diminishes in direct proportion to the extent that the story arc is anchored in place.  It should be noted that Star Wars didn't fail because of expectations related to the main story arc.  Star Wars failed in the little things that made up the Star Wars world, namely an abysmal lack of vehicles and meaningful droids, along with character classes that had no meat on the bones, like smugglers who never really got to smuggle anything in a meaningful way, or bounty hunters that never got pulled into fleshed-out power structures of economy and intrigue.  Players in SWG knew that the story arc was anchored hard into place.  The extreme majority of us didn't buy the game looking for that.  It was the running around on foot having to do everything for the first few months that pissed us all off.

    An MMO based on a major IP can meet expectations by attending to the world elements and providing a rich framework for imaginable side-stories to the main story arc.

    * * *

    The reason I feel pretty strongly about developing major IP's into MMO's is, admittedly, a little one-sided.  The brutal fact of the matter is that I, like so many gamers, am dying to see Vampire made into an MMO.  My faith in this hope was brought up rather short after beta-playing in DDO, which was so abysmally far from what I had hoped it would be.  So, really, I am just hoping these arguments against major IP's won't fly, even though there are to date so many examples of failure.  The main point I am sitting on is the idea, that the failure of major IP-based games hasn't been caused by the fact of being based on a major IP.  The causes have to do with other things, and ALL MMO's are subject to failure when afflicted by these other causes of shortcoming.

    This point is especially salient when I consider, after having participated in these forums for a few weeks, that I haven't found a single currently-running MMO that has a pristine recommendation by the forum base as a whole.  As many people as there are who love EVE, for example, there are others who don't care for the game based on some aspect of design.  WoW, Guild Wars, CoH, and all the others in the top 10 have the same thing going on.  As one poster put it, you can never satisfy everyone with a given MMO.  I simply find the ideas against major IP setting, as a basis in and of itself for failure, to be untenable and quite unproven based on the discussion so far. 

  • hikariukhikariuk Member Posts: 34

    I think the question is actually too complicated for a simple "yes or no" answer. The answer is "yes, if they do it right; no if they don't". Of course, the problem is defining what "right" is.

    If you ask most of the old SWG players where it went wrong, they'll tell you it was when Jedi were introduced as a playable class. Ignoring the mechanics of why it sucked, the simple answer is that they just shouldn't have been there as a playable class during the Rebellion period. But they're a major part of the Star Wars mythos and a major hook to get people playing, so they went in - creating a massive power balancing problem that lasted until the NGE, when they finally got nerfed to the point that they scarcely warranted being called Jedi anymore.

    That said the Star Wars franchise mythos is one of the best for building a roleplay game around; there is so much back story that has been built up over the last nearly 29 years that it's easy - you just need to be very careful about how you do it. Jedi are problematic, to say the least - even in the d20 table top it's near impossible to do a scenario with them in a "normal" party. Bioware when they produced the KoTOR game had a good solution, namely shifting the scenario 4000 years before rise of the empire, to just after the time of Exar Kun. And I think that's probably what you have to do for something like Star Wars. Don't try and be a part of the existing story, create your own story somwhere that isn't in the middle of an existing story thread, but is connected to it. I mean SWG even borrowed HK-47 from KoTOR and KoTOR has veiled references to things like the Death Watch Bunker on Tatooine (by stating that some Mandalorians settled there).

    Lord of The Rings also has a pretty good mythos surrounding it; there is plenty going on during the 4 years that book covers to be able to build a workable play setting without needing to be involved in the main story line directly. You also have everything listed in the appendix you can use; plus you have "The Hobbit" and "The Silmarillion" which give you even more back story to play with.

    Harry Potter I don't think would make a good setting for a roleplay game (massive or otherwise) there isn't enough backstory to build a scenario around; it's too hero(s) focused.

  • kapouillekapouille Member Posts: 1

    About the point Jon was making about SWG and DDO:

    • SWG has failed quite badly as the game was initially, oddly enough, not designed for its intended audience. It was first designed as a social based sandbox game, more like an impressive evolution of early Ultima Online than an action packed space opera game. It was only during the late beta stage that they realised it wasn't what the audience expected and basically attempted to switch the game direction. Sadly, it was far too late.
      On another hand, hadn't it been Star Wars, they would have been able to carry on with the original vision to the delight of hardcore roleplayers... But they wouldn't have had the necessary financial backing.
      All in all, SWG is still paying for these past mistakes...
    • I think DDO suffers from the comparison with NWN and Guildwars.
      NWN is a very good implementation of D&D rules/universe. One might argue that DDO isn't massively multiplayer either, but rather a session based game with a somehow transparent lobby system... Like GW. Concretely, had NWN a better matchmaking/lobby system with dynamic module download, hardcore D&D lovers would have the (almost) perfect product, especially with the DM tools. 
      Casual players are not bothered about D&D, and Guild Wars is the better product for them.
  • KormacKormac Member Posts: 297

    Should they be..? (Poll question)

    I voted yes - not because I want them so much, but because I am certainly not opposed to it.

    Most of them will be a waste of time, at least until somebody figures out what works and what doesn't. We've seen some hints that people are figuring it out already in this thread. Maybe they've got it right, in which case something good might come of it.

    I am convinced that the games of this kind will need to place themselves outside the existing storyline, simply because they're otherwise forced to work with  a script, either once for each individual, once for all, or repeating for all - three very unsatisfying options.

    Also, if you were in Middle Earth at Frodo's time: Technically, you should be able to go south with the utmost haste, intercept Frodo and steal the ring.

    I have no desire of slaying the Frodo. Nor do I want the ring. But if you're "there" and "then" the possibility needs to be there. Which is why I want the game to be elsewhere, some other time, or both.

    The future: Adellion
    Common flaw in MMORPGs: The ability to die casually
    Advantages of Adellion: Dynamic world (affected by its inhabitants)
    Player-driven world (beasts won't be an endless supply of mighty swords, gold will come from mines, not dragonly dens)
    Player-driven world (Leadership is the privilege of a player, not an npc)

  • anubis93anubis93 Member Posts: 20

    In a sense an MMO based on an existing famous IP is disapointing for the same reason many movie prequels are.  It is always dangerous to touch a masterpiece and scrutiny will always be brutal.  Those stories have an almost sacred quality to them and it can seem disturbing to mess with them.  An MMO will obviously not be the same as the story.  This applies more to MMOs based on movies than something like D&D of course. 

    But I still don't like MMOs based on existing IPs because it doesn't seem like a fresh unpaved universe where you truly feel like a protagonist.  I don't want to explore a world to find what is familiar from the adventures of some "demigod" of a personality over my characters in which I could never surpass.  I think it is more interesting to "make the myths," and have no idea when I first sign in what kind of things are out there. 

    Another thing is that I'm always nervous about those franchises because I always fear that the main reason the devs made that game is because they knew they could milk the cash cow the name holds regardless of whether they were qualified to make a good game.  I am not going to mention any titles here but some I have tried I suspect that the devs knew the game was going to suck but they knew that people would come running to try it anyhow because of the name.  These games are not about creativity they are about cashing in. 

  • AnofalyeAnofalye Member, Newbie CommonPosts: 7,433

    I think 1 of the big problem with taking a franchise is with the team itself.


    Instead of having the designers who create everything, they need to accept the fact that much of the work is already done and they have to fine tuned that.  Every person wants to "improve" something.  In the case of franchises, certains "improvements" are not desired and are plainly an ongoing aspect of the franchise.


    It take humility and modesty to accept this and to work onward.  "Enforcing" the franchise to the team rather than bringing a vision the designer is comfortable with.  Many great designers would be unable to do this.  Simply because they bring "Their vision".  Instead of bringing their vision, they need to defend and promote the vision of the franchise, which quite honestly is a trait you usually find in non-lead designers.


    WoW, L2, CoV are all examples of "working MMOs" base on existing franchises.


    I honestly think that taking on a franchise is harder, since the team need to believe in an existing setting, an existing system.  The team has to be able to say, "No, we can't do that."  An example of this is in D&D, they remove the XP per mob.  The idea itself can arguably be 1 of the best idea in the MMOs, but XP per mob is a strong root, a strong basic of what D&D is.  The team has to be able to recognize that and to defend it.


    Turbines should not work on any existing franchises except maybe their own, AC2 is a proof of a failure as to be able to follow up on an existing franchise...in this case they even are the creator of the franchise.  Expecting a team who can't follow up it own franchise to succeed with the strongest RPG franchise ever is a leap of faith IMO.


    Not every team can handle a franchise.  Sometimes even the creator of the franchise can't handle the follow up, since they want to change and redefine to many stuff.  It is hard to refrain yourself from "innovating", but in the case of a franchise, not every innovation is welcome.   You don't start selling Pepsi without any bubbles in it without changing some major aspect of the logo and advertising a lot so peoples doesn't expect the gaz to be in.  Same apply to MMOs and taking the follow up on a franchise is hard...nearly the perfect job for modest and humble monks...and we all know that if something, designers are not often modests, nor humble, nor monks!  image

    - "If I understand you well, you are telling me until next time. " - Ren

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