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Bill Murphy: The Shape of the Marvel Universe MMO

Column By William Murphy on August 05, 2011

It’s no secret I’m a fan of comic book MMOs.  From City of Heroes to Champions Online and DC Universe Online, I love them each for one reason or another.  But Marvel’s upcoming take on the genre, in which players don’t create their own heroes but rather play established Marvel heroes, has me perplexed.  I mean, I kind of get it in terms of Super Hero Squad, the comic giant’s first foray into the F2P online market.  But for a hardcore oriented MMO, I’m not sure if everyone will be on board with playing just characters from the Marvel-verse.  In this genre we’ve become accustomed to creating and building our own characters, and probably more than other MMOs, the Superhero/Villain game is one where players really relish the chance to build their own back-story, roleplay and design their own look.  Marvel Universe is casting that all aside, and while we know next to nothing about the game except that it will be F2P, let’s try to peel back some layers just for S&Gs shall we?

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What “No Created Characters” Really Means

Here’s my best guess, and maybe it’s even been said by the studio at some point and I’ve just missed it: Marvel Universe won’t be an MMORPG.  At least not in the same sense as Champions Online or other hero games.  If anything it’s going to be something akin to Vindictus, Rusty Hearts, and other lobby-based action MMOs.  I feel that the only logical reasoning behind the decision to only let players use certain Marvel characters is that the game’s going to be based around the action and a multi-player story progression and not anything remotely resembling an open world MMORPG.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a young sharp lad bit by a radioactive spider to think that much.

What games like Vindictus offer in terms of character customization is more along the lines of abilities, visual flare, and things of that nature.  Sure you won’t be designing your own hero, but throughout play maybe you’ll be earning alternate costumes, special upgrades to powers, gadgets to use, and so on and so forth.  Is it really so far-fetched and appalling that a F2P Marvel MMO will only allow you to play as Spider-Man if it also allows you to tweak and build out your favorite Spider-Man?

Adjust Your Expectations

I think it’s time we face facts, and adjust to what Marvel Universe will likely end up being: an action-MMO.  It’ll have RPG trappings, it’ll allow some form of character customization, but I highly doubt there will be a large seamless world or any crafting going on.  Instead what we’re likely to see is a harder-core representation of what we’ve seen in Super Hero Squad.  And that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  If you liked X-Men Legends, or Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, you will probably end up loving every second of Marvel Universe. 

If my suspicions are correct, anyway.  I’m still just talking out my behind right now.

Really, we can’t do much but sit back and wait when it comes to the Marvel Universe MMO.  We know now that they’re not bending just yet on the whole “play Marvel characters only” idea and we know that it will be free to play.  In universe where there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of characters due to variants and the like, I expect that players will be happy to see so many familiar and not-so-familiar faces on hand.  If the game tries to be an MMORPG like City of Heroes, it won’t work.  But if it tries to be a sort of brawler RPG like Vindictus it could be a phenomenal success.  While I’d love to see an MMORPG based in the Marvel Universe where I make my own hero or villain, I’m happy expecting that what I may get instead is an addictive action-MMO with a solid storyline from Brian Michael Bendis.  All I know is that I won’t be one of the nine million Wolverines running around in the shared lobbies.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.

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