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Fantasy MMOs

Editorial By Dan Fortier on January 06, 2007

Saturday Debate: Fantasy Vs. Non-Fantasy MMORPGs

News Editor Garrett Fuller and Staff Writer Dan Fortier sit down to discuss the issue of Fantasy vs. Non-Fantasy MMORPGs.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author and not necessarily those of MMORPG.com, its staff or management.

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?

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The domination of swords and sorcery genre is nothing new, but it seems like the time is ripe for a game based on another theme to find great success. Quality in a game is important but how much longer can they regurgitate the same classes, monsters, quests before a change must be made. Sooner rather than later, I hope.

Garrett Fuller:

I think the reason Fantasy is so popular in MMOs is because of the style of RPG it represents. Players can level up, join a group, fight in hand-to-hand combat with swords, or use magic spells. It is an easy place to create game balance and develop long epic story lines for players to follow. Think of those old D&D or paper & pencil games sessions you used to have, they would last for hours on end. That is exactly the type of game play that MMO developers are looking to create for players.

The other giant factor in MMO development is that many successful MMOs have been Fantasy based. When investors put money up to fund an MMO they want to know there is a formula that works. Right now, Fantasy is the formula that works very well.

Dan Fortier:

Well using plyers to pull out my toenails works great too, but it’s not much fun either. Diversity in the gaming industry is just about as rare as it is in movies so I don’t have much hope this is going to change any time soon. We all know that greed is the primary motivation and no one want to fund a title that is too far out of the rut we have dug ourselves. All it would take is one really successful game from another genre to prove that it can work to set a precedent. Maybe a Warhammer 40K MMO another Star Wars title could rock the boat a bit.

Garrett Fuller:

You know Dan, I wish they could put another Star War MMO out that was separate from Star Wars Galaxies. However, if we are talking about ruts, that game will never be able to dig itself out of the eternal depths it has fallen into. Sadly the first attempt at a sci-fi MMO was a mess, and it had the biggest IP in the world as its setting. Again, I have to point out that the fantasy genre works for an MMO because of the communal aspect of the setting. It has a whole good versus evil feel, or evil versus good if that is your taste. Players like to adventure together, that concept has worked in paper and pencil games, live-action games, and now in RPG video games.

The other side of it is that there are many more fantasy fans out there than I think people are aware of. Just because most fantasy movies are bad, does not mean there aren't tons of fans waiting for it to be done right. LOTR and Chronicles of Narina are an examples of fantasy films done correctly and they made a fortune. We will still see lots of fantasy MMOs on the market in the future. But we will also see more and more titles that explore different genres. As for me, if a Warhammer 40k MMO ever does come out....well, I'll play sci-fi again in a heartbeat.

Dan Fortier:

That’s just it, solid and engaging game play is always more important than whatever setting the game takes place in, although it never hurts to have a gigantic IP to give you an instant fan base that will at least try the game. Deep down we all know there is a market for game other than fantasy, but I guess until someone proves it we’ll just have to settle for a steady diet of high fantasy.

Alright, Garrett and I have had our say and now it’s your turn to weigh in on the topic.

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