In 1984's Ghostbusters, Egon Spengler blithely announced that "Print is dead." Fifteen years later, even with the rise of the internet, the medium is still alive and well. Literature has been telling stories and creating vast and unexplored worlds for years. Literature, it could be argued, is the forefather of all storytelling media from television to movies to video games.
Hollywood has been mining the world of literature IPs for decades: Independence Day, Jurassic Park, The Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, A Beautiful Mind, The James Bond series, The Bourne Series, the list goes on. So why then, when scanning the vast list of games on the MMORPG.com game list, do only Turbine's Lord of the Rings Online and Funcom's Age of Conan stand out as a novels-turned MMOs?
The absence of novel and literature IPs is made even more surprising given the success that Turbine has found in LotRO. Granted, The Lord of the Rings was an obvious choice for a transition from the written page to the virtual world, but the possibilities don't end there, and this list was built to prove it.
Not just any book or series of books would make a good MMO. In order to be made into an MMO, the IP in question would have to have created not just a few memorable plots or even characters, but would have had to have created a vibrant and living world above and beyond the immediate plot of the story or the people within it. That's the mistake that people most often make when discussing this subject. Often, there is an assumption that if the story was good and enjoyable, it would be a prime candidate for conversion. The truth is though that it isn't. The Bourne series from novelist Robert Ludlum is a prime example of this. While the books themselves were action packed and enjoyable (moreso, say many who have read them, than the movies), they centered heavily on the series protagonist and the world behind the scenes really wasn't anything exceptional or interesting enough to serve as the virtual setting. Ditto James Bond.
#10 Starship Troopers
While many are familiar with the somewhat campy 1997 film of the same name, the Starship Troopers IP actually started in 1959 in "The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction". The "Terran Federation" is at war with a race referred to in the stories as "the Bugs".
The IP's universe is explored in the novels through the eyes of young Johnny Rico as he joins the military and advances through the ranks as the war progresses. While a first person narrative might at first appear to be quite character-centric, it is through the character's eyes that readers learn the details of the universe, from brutal punishment to extensive training to the style and pace of battle and the political climate of the world at large.
While it may have been tried before, the MMO world is probably ready for another full scale futuristic War MMORPG and if Richard Garriott's name wasn't enough to carry the idea, maybe the Starship Troopers IP will be.
#42 - Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The number ten spot on the list goes to an author whose name is near and dear to many fans of the science fiction genre and the series that put a humorous face on the sci-fi genre: Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Adams' Hitchhiker books center around the universe's favorite whipping boy in hapless Arthur Dent, a character who learns that humanity represents but a small fraction of the strangeness in a vast, bizarre and ultimately quite dangerous universe.
The universe of The Hitchhiker's Guide "Trilogy in Five Parts" would serve as an excellent backdrop for an MMO. Not only would the MMO landscape do well to have an MMO (Dungeon Runners notwithstanding) that infuses its setting with humor, but the very nature of the books saw its protagonist learning more and more about the universe around him, creating a rich tapestry from which developers could draw to create a functioning, immersive game world.
#8 Fairy Tales
Perhaps the best known stories in literature are fairy tales. Nearly everyone, in one form or another, is familiar with a wide variety of these tales we tell to children. Snow White, Goldilocks, Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, are just a few well known classics.
Every individual fairy tale is steeped in its own traditions, setting and story but are held together as a genre through common themes and ideas.
Making an MMO out of a single fairy tale might not seem feasible, but creating a gaming universe using fairy tales and their lore as a background might prove an interesting diversion for adult and child alike. The idea isn't a new one. Disney was actually extraordinarily successful with its Shrek franchise based upon a similar theme.
#7 - Wheel of Time
Robert Jordan's epic Wheel of Time series has already spawned a Multi-User Dungeon (MUD) in its own image. With more than a dozen novels, the story and the world that has been woven are understandably vast.
Aside from the fact that Jordan's universe is popular and expansive, a Wheel of Time MMO would give players the opportunity to play in a world that skirts real life history (no elves or gnomes or Halflings, just humans), and fantasy (the premise is held together by a mystical prophecy).