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Managing Editor

Joined: 7/08/05
Posts: 6729

OP  1/06/07 8:44:45 AM#1

Dan Fortier and Garrett Fuller re-ignight the spark of the Staurday Debate to talk about the benefits and detractors of the fantasy genre in MMORPGs.

Dan Fortier:

It seems like we continue to see a never-ending tide of Fantasy MMOs. I know the trend is just an extension of the original D&D and early console titles and most of the successful online title were simply drawing on them for inspiration and fan base, but I can't believe that is the only reason. At least in offline games there is more variety in the settings. Developers, the good ones at least, are smart enough to know where the money is at and playing it safe seems to still be the only way to succeed in the industry. When will the first real step forward in MMOs step forward and bring us a mainstream title that doesn't have elves or magic swords?

Read the debate here.

Jon Wood
Managing Editor


Novice Member

Joined: 8/18/05
Posts: 3485

1/06/07 8:45:54 AM#2

link doesn't work.


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Joined: 11/19/03
Posts: 7445

The enemy is so dumb! They believe that WE are the enemy! - A famous orc commander.

1/06/07 10:39:10 AM#3

More fantasy and elves please!  I like them a LOT! 


Personnally, I don't think such a thing as too much elves is possible! 


There is a reason why there is MORE subraces of elves in old D&D than all other races put together...peoples like elves...a LOT!    See, the Wood elves, the aquatic elves, the drow, the shadow eleves, the sun elfves, the moon elves, the wyld elves, the half-elves, the grey elves...and I am sure the list is merely starting. hehe.

- "If I understand you well, you are telling me until next time. " - René Levesque about the denial NO on the poll to his dream, project and goal. (Free translation)


Novice Member

Joined: 9/10/05
Posts: 26

1/06/07 11:08:26 AM#4
I realy had my hopes up for two potentially break-out games - Neocron - remember that one? A cyber-punk world that started out with having the players - get this - kill rats!! What brainiac thought that would capture cyberpunker attention???) And City of Heroes. Great concept, great art, great super powers and costume custimization... but it fell down in content. Nothing to do besides kill things. Repetative, instanced "dungeons" and really nothing to do aside from running around beating up crooks. I don't think WoW is so successful because it's a fantasy game - it's so successful because: 1) It's accessible. You can have real fun and feel like your in a real world from the very beginning. 2) It caters to all the major play styles with activities for Achievers, Killers, Adventurers, and Socializers. 3) It WORKS. Simple to say - but it runs on anything and just doesn't break. How many games can say that? The one thing that no MMORPG has really done right yet is immersion. Why can't we get a Deus Ex or even Oblivion level of content richness? There's still a killing to be made for the developers that get it right, and that doesn't necessarily mean fantasy or non-fantasy, it just means a deep, involving, rich game that captures your attention from day one and keeps you involved. Oh, and it has to have fantastic graphics that run on a 5-year old pc. :)

Novice Member

Joined: 2/28/04
Posts: 8

1/06/07 11:25:56 AM#5
Have you both forgotten about EVE?  Yes, it started slow, but it has grown quite large.  It may not have been marketed as overwhelmingly as the big fantasy MMOs, but it's still a non-fantasy MMO doing quite well.

Novice Member

Joined: 1/02/07
Posts: 8

1/06/07 11:54:46 AM#6
Well, maybe if Interplay gets its corporate act together they will get the Fallout MMO on the rails.  IMHO, Fallout is THE sci-fi themed RPG IP out there that has a lot of dormant fans.  Just think about how much excitement gets stirred up over any shred of news about a Fallout 3 title.  I would drop every MMO subscription I have to play a Fallout MMO if it didn't totally suck.
angrybee Xfire Miniprofile

Apprentice Member

Joined: 1/12/05
Posts: 1285

1/06/07 12:29:33 PM#7

EVE would be more popular if the pvp wasn't so .. hardcore?  Guess, that's a good word for it.  The possibilty of being "podded" and losing hours. or perhaps days. of skill training really puts off a lot of american gamers.  Yes, I know there is more to the world than america but america has a good percentage of gamers too. 

Another problem is many non-fantasy MMOG's are either poorly supported or well , uh, suck.   Earth & Beyond was an excellent scifi small ship MMO but EA failed to support it.  SWG had great potential but SOE royally botched the implimentation of it.  Matrix Online of course seemed perfect for an MMOG, yet it didn't live up to the hype (plus it was very buggy early on).

Probably another reason for so many fantasy based MMOGs is that games are supposed to be an escape.  What is farther from Real Life than a magic wielding, sword swinging, dungeon crawling elf?  Since most fantasy movies suck, exceptions being LOTR/Narnia, fantasy fans need to get their "fix" from other sources.  


Novice Member

Joined: 4/27/06
Posts: 7

1/06/07 1:09:57 PM#8
I was one of those souls who spent a lot of time on the SWG servers. I admit there was a lot problems with the game, but  I have to say there really wasn't much of a change from your standard fantasy RPG.

Replace blasters with bows, lightsabers with swords, jedi with mages, and twilecs with elves and what do you have? All the basics of a fantasy RPG are there, but carefuly (or not so carefuly) hidden. I was a fan of the series and I had to jump on board.

What am I looking for now? I say one of the following franchises:

Fallout: The post apocalyptic setting can offer some interesting visuals, but I wont hold my breath. Developers may not feel there are many fans still out there since its been years since the last game.

Star Trek Online: A good mix of what EVE is and ground "Away Team Missions" will be fun. Also giant fleet battles will be one of the big draws for me.

Mechwarrior: Oh well, thats just a lot of shooting but maybe we can convince our Japanese counterparts to throw out a Gundam game.

Warhammer 40k: As in other posts, I'd like to see this one too.

As for games I think gave the MMO storyline a good diversion away from the fantasy genre I have to give credit to CoH/CoV, EVE Online, and even The Matrix Online (it may have fallen into the same cracks as SWG above but the setting gave me a break from choosing platemail from leather armor).

So in conclusion what am I looking for? I say I'd pick up a fantasy based RPG again as long as it has something different in terms of gameplay or a hook. I'm looking at you Conan.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 8/06/04
Posts: 157

1/06/07 1:13:19 PM#9

I think Anarchy Online was the first real attempt at a sci-fi MMO, and it was far from unsuccessful. Maybe Garrett is new to the MMO genre, relatively speaking, to have missed such an obvious title? Or heck, maybe I just give AO more credit than it deserves for being both innovative and fun. Yes, it's a bit dated by today's standards of graphics, but it has an amazing musical soundtrack, decent sound effects, and the graphics are still passable, even today. If anyone out there has missed out on Anarchy Online, Garrett included, I highly encourage you to give the basic game a try. It's totally free, for one (not a free trial, actually free!), and it's got numerous expansions out there to build on an already great experience.

As to the debate, to me it's irrelevant. Wrap your world in whatever trappings you like, but make it enjoyable. I don't care if it's a break from the grind or the best darned grind experience to ever consume my bandwidth, just let me enjoy it, and you can fill the world with elves, robots, or blobs of protoplasm.


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Joined: 11/20/05
Posts: 1172

"Don''t touch that squirrel''s nuts!" - Willy Wonka

1/06/07 1:18:12 PM#10

It seems like we continue to see a never-ending tide of Fantasy MMOs. I know the trend is just an extension of the original D&D and early console titles and most of the successful online title were simply drawing on them for inspiration and fan base, but I can't believe that is the only reason. At least in offline games there is more variety in the settings. Developers, the good ones at least, are smart enough to know where the money is at and playing it safe seems to still be the only way to succeed in the industry. When will the first real step forward in MMOs step forward and bring us a mainstream title that doesn't have elves or magic swords?

Man, you don't read your own Website, do ya. EVE Online basically just swept your own readers choice awards and its most decidedly not traditional fantasy lol Check facts, then debate guys lol

Are we to debate personal preference on what kinds of motif are better now? People either like fantasy or they do not, they either life sci-fi or they do not.  This really is a goofy topic, as its just personal preference and I can't really criticize anyone in a meaningful way if they like sci-fi and I didn't (which i do, its just an example). it is at it's most basic level, a personal attack.

If you wanna debate about something like this, debate WHY the sci-fi mmo's thus far have sucked why you think they're alright, something from the same page, rather then arguing who likes apples and who likes vodka. Really, you're killing me lol

Frank 'Spankybus' Mignone
-3d Artist & Compositor
-Professional Amature


Novice Member

Joined: 6/27/06
Posts: 13

1/06/07 1:31:13 PM#11

Perhaps the reason so many companyies are going fantasy is that none of them have got it right yet.   Usually we have to put up with the company's Vision (tm by Sony) of what they think fantasy is.  I find it interesting that so many single player fantasy games "get it right" (by that I mean come closer to the average persons concept of fantasy) then most Fantasy MMOs.  I think the reason for that goes to the core of the Fantasy concept.   Fantasy and Heroism have always been inexorably linked.  Pick up any Fantasy novel (the true roots of Fantasy and not DnD) and you will be reading about a person (or group of people) striving against great odds.  In the end, sacrifices are made and the good guys win the day after acts of tremendous heroism.  The real question is, can this core concept of fantasy be translated into an MMO?  How easy is it to be heroic in a world populated exclusively by Heros?  Is there anything Heroic about slaying a great wyrm at the end of a long quest, knowing that the same wyrm will just respawn 3 hours later?  When you take the heroism out of fantasy  you are left with a bunch of pointy eared humanoids weilding pointy objects killing successively higher level orcs all day.

Personally, I think they should start doing non-fantasy mmo's more often.   In most cases, as long as people have phase cannons, light sabres, BFGs, etc., they are happy.  (Provided, of couse, the game is done well and you don't change all the rules mid-stream).  I have given up on any true rendition of Fantasy in an MMO.  I think it only fair that others get a chance to see their genre come to life.  Perhaps developers will be more successful.


Novice Member

Joined: 12/29/06
Posts: 58

1/06/07 2:30:32 PM#12

I would like to see a game on the caliber of A Boris Vallejo type art / feel.

Sci Fi but you know.. Chicks in leather with dagger AND blaster pistol and a space tiger on a leash..

Something fresh.

I do agree timer hack and slash is getting own. Need more skill based games instead of games that test

your level grind endurance.




Novice Member

Joined: 10/04/04
Posts: 3

1/06/07 3:58:46 PM#13

Why is the fantasy genre still on top? Some of the reasons, and it has a lot to do with "magic":

It has the longest standing, broadest and deepest tradition and lore. It's ready made: Who DOESN'T know that dwarves are short, trolls regenerate, orcs see in the dark, and maces are better to use against skeletons? It's the most readily accessible genre for mass escapist immersion.

It lends itself more easily to the good vs. evil epic and that means players stay focused on story and fantasy rather than technical aspects. Bad guys look bad (and even gross), and they do things like suck people's souls, eat children, and consort with demons. By the same token, magic obscures the rigors of reality and makes it easier to forget the details. In my mind, disarming magic traps and casting knock spells in fantasy is easier to gloss over than hacking computers or bypassing security systems in sci-fi.

It lends itself more easily to character development: magic allows characters to develop further and in bigger and more interesting directions than in other genres. Skills, attributes, powers, and equipment are virtually unbounded. That also means more end-game options.

Variety! Some sci-fi can come close to matching, but the fantasy genre seems to offer the greatest variety of obstacles with all the different races, species--and magic! Other genres can't compete if they don't have an equivalent of magic and divine forces. Physics limits your options.

Technology: I think other genres haven't "made it" in part because the technology just hasn't been there to support it. Laser beams and bullets need to go straight and fast (relatively speaking) and most people probably want a twitch element in those genres as well as a deep RP aspect. EVE thrives on a gaming sub-culture that does not have that expectation, but for most, nothing kills the willing suspension of disbelief in those genres than the kind of "curving-fireballs" and scripted player-environment interaction (or lack there of) we love and expect from fantasy RPG's like ye' ol' EQ. (City of Heroes gets away with it because it doesn't take itself too seriously--and it's super heroes in spandex!) But now that broadband is more mainstream, and the 'killer nic' and separate physics processors are somewhat feasible, full-fledged FPS MMO's with in depth RPG elements are a possibility.



Novice Member

Joined: 8/28/05
Posts: 675

1/06/07 4:05:05 PM#14
To start with Eve sucks. :P

Anyway I think one reason why fantasy is big, is setting. I would much rather play in a forest/village/small city than a modern city. I played both Matrix and CoH and while I do like CoH, I really don't care that much to on from zone to zone looking at skyscrappers.

That said I would love a WoD mmo. Something adultish, where you could killed normal npcs which makes it more likely you get ambushed by police. So you could play as a crazied vampire sucking the blood and kill every mortal you come across and having big battles with the cops. Or you could use social rolls to just take a little and stay under the rader.  I would love a game where your actions had consequences and changed your gaming experience.

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1/06/07 4:11:45 PM#15
I think Tyrian hit the nail on the head. I mean, every new Fantasy MMO is getting called a WoW Clone but WoW didn't do anything right for the Fantasy Genre or creating an Immersive/Persistant Digitial World. All of the new games coming out Chronicles of Spellborn, AoC, WAR, even Vanguard to an extent have something to improve their game's Fantasyness or Worldyness over WoW. Personally, a Sci-Fi MMO is a huge change and thusly a huge risk. If I were able to make a MMO, I'd make fantasy too. If anybody is going to make a Sci-Fi MMO anytime soon it'll probably be an existing company, Fallout, or that Zombie based MMO in pre-production.

Staff Writer

Joined: 1/04/06
Posts: 204

So many games, so little time...

1/06/07 4:43:26 PM#16

Me... I'd love to see a Steam-punk world.  :D 

With Vampires & Werewolves.   *nods*

Notice: The views expressed in this post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of or its management.


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Joined: 9/15/04
Posts: 195

1/06/07 7:41:35 PM#17
EVE has the same problem as Neocron.  Too much content geared around grinding npcs and other server-provided "experiences."

I like the backstabbing and the politics and the UO-in-space business though.  Especially as you can theoretically lose so much isk that you can't even respawn fully without a loan.  

EVE is going downhill fast though.  Most of the major RP stuff, especially the really diverse stuff, has gone down the tubes, and all the really interesting and original corps are steadily being ground into the dust by the complex camping npc farmer alliances.  Then they blob the dust when there's no one else to shoot when they NAP everyone that might pose a threat to them.

And then there's CCP practically endorsing logoffski..

Without the stupid npcs, only the really smart corps would be able to dominate the landscape and provide room for more players to carve out a niche.  Saavy corps are always in a race to fight each other on multiple and subtle levels.

Show us a game where the crafty viziers really hold sway over the charismatic royalty and I'll show you a game with some promise.  All in all, I'll take UO-in-space over elves any day.

Apprentice Member

Joined: 1/12/05
Posts: 1285

1/06/07 10:00:36 PM#18

Come to think of if there is a pen & paper rpg I'm surprised never gets mentioned as an MMOG:  Shadowrun 

Your basic elf mage can tac nuke a monster or choose to whip out his Ares Predator II heavy pistol and blow its frikkin head off instead. 


Novice Member

Joined: 3/01/05
Posts: 1

1/07/07 9:35:47 AM#19
SWG is also a fantasy game. Swords? Check. Strange creatures? Check. Magic? Check.
  User Deleted
1/07/07 12:56:36 PM#20
I agree with what some have already said here, in simple terms put:

fantasy works, because everybody knows it. WoW e.g. didn't make anything complex, they used dwarves, elves, orcs. warrior, priest, hunter. simple. so did UO (even simpler if you will in terms of races).  people recognize it, don't "have to think" to get into the basic lore without reading too much in forums, etc.

with sci-fi the "trouble" is, that the lore is sooooo different from movie/story/game to another, that only "hardcore" fans have time/nerv to dig deeper into it. at least so far (swg was a good attempt at main-stream sci-fi lore, but well, let's not dig into swg now)
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