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Coyote's Howling: Why a Horror MMO Won't Work

Column By Coyote Sharptongue on December 15, 2011

With the new release of Star Wars: The Old Republic, and over 216 thousand MMORPG titles in development getting ready to go straight to free-to-play everyone is starting to look around the corner in anticipation of the next new game that promises to break the cycle of clonedom that now plagues mankind.

In hopes of a new type of game play experience, or fresh concept in gaming, there has been a long standing cry from the community that asks:

“Where is the horror MMORPG we’ve been promised?”

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Imagine, fighting vampires, battling werewolves or surviving the zombie apocalypse! Logging in and becoming the next great slayer of demons, or maybe even the next great demon itself! Wouldn’t it be awesome? Wouldn’t a horror based video game that had thousands of players adding to the story be amazing?

No. No it wouldn’t.

And I’ve got several reasons as to why. Namely:

You Jerks Will Ruin It

That's right. That's my opening argument.

As much as I'm a fan of horror, and as much as I love the idea, concept and the very notion of logging into a game that fully immerses you in a world of unimaginable fear and horror; I know in my heart that it absolutely cannot work.

Because of each and every one of you.

"But Coyote, we won't ruin it! We love zombies and monsters and terror as much as you do! We would never do anything to destroy that atmosphere, we promise!" - You might say in your own italicized defense, and you might even believe it to be true. Hell, that statement might not even apply to a very small number of you. (A very small number)

But then the game gets released and I log in.

The stage is set, the tension is high and the storyline is in full swing. It sets the backdrop, painting a picture of a world in conflict and at war with itself. All semblance of authority or governmental control has broken down in a gore splashed onslaught of pure chaos.

The dead now walk the Earth.

It's up to me and a few other survivors to not only live, but to find our place in a world populated by monsters molded from the undying flesh of the ones we once loved. We have to battle not only for survival, but to avoid becoming the very monsters that we struggle against. The opening cinematic fades, the game loads, and I'm thrust into the world of...

...you asshats.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and nine hundred and ninety-nine of them are now vulgarities.

Horror Needs Storyline

In order for fear to feel authentic and really draw you in, a horror MMORPG will require above everything else, an amazing storyline. Even the monsters themselves are secondary to this one crucial element.

Hacking and slashing your way through a level might be exciting and fun, but it isn't actually scary. Red-eyed creatures leaping out at you from the darkness will definitely make you jump, but that isn't fear, it's your startle reflex. And as games like DOOM III have shown us, even that small bit of nervous energy will eventually turn to annoyance and frustration if it happens too frequently.

In order to truly tap into our nightmares, you have to enrapture us with story. You have to convey a message born out of despair and the distilled essences of fear itself. There has to be danger, risks and the very real threat of loss. Everything from the back story to the quests the characters embark on has to be crafted by masters and shaped into a piece that slides effortlessly into the whole of the puzzle.

Only then can you ensue that the players will feel comfortable in fast-clicking through the dialogue and professionally written ambiance in order to get to the “good parts” that they saw in the 20 second commercial during primetime television.

Like I said: you asshats.

There's No End Game Content

Okay, this has absolutely nothing to do with horror MMORPGs, their possible success, or the topic listed in this article. I'm just throwing it out there for all of you “hard core gamers” who ignore quest dialogue, storylines and painstakingly crafted content in a rush to be the first person on your server to reach level cap three days after release.

You play around the clock for 72 hours straight, often switching out with other dumbasses who have helped you plan your strategy just so that you can be the very first person to complain about how easy the MMO is, or how the developers put no thought into "end game play".  Then you form your little b*tch-and-moan support groups on the forums so that others of your ilk can pretend to be bored or disappointed in a game the rest of us are still downloading because it contains like 900 gigs of cut scene footage and they messed up our early access.

I mentioned this for YOU. Because we hate you.

We hate you so very much.

There Are No Scary Monsters Left

As I've pointed out before:

Vampires have become brooding, emotional d-bags with poofy hair and sparkly skin who'd seemingly rather suck a few things besides blood.

We've taken away all of their mystery and darkness and replaced it with feelings, love, and the rest of the crap that guys pretend to be aware of just so we can get to second base. They're now ruined forever, and any MMORPG based around them is going to be so chock full of Bellas and Cullens that the collector's edition is going to include a box of tampons and some glitter.

Werewolves are no longer the poor cursed souls who are destined to become murderous beasts who kill for the sheer pleasure of it whenever the moon is high. Instead, they stand around with no shirts looking remarkably hairless for dudes that turn into fur covered man-beasts and lament their curse to anyone who will stop paying attention to the vampires long enough to listen.

They're now noble protectors, honor bound guardians nature, and judging from their appearance, occasionally backup dancers for Lady Gaga and Shakira whenever they're in town. It's hard to strike fear into the hearts of man when you're doing a step-turn-step-kick in fuzzy pink legwarmers.

And zombies?

Zombies have been ripped from the pages of an incredibly amazing comic and slapped into a groundbreaking television show that keeps you on the edge of your seat in anticipation and forces you to ask yourself the tough questions that dance like manscaping werewolves on the lips of every fan. Questions like:

"Where the f**k are all of the zombies? What's with all of the crying and emotion? Have any of the writers even glanced at the goddamn graphic novels? WHEN IS SOMETHING COOL GOING TO HAPPEN?!”

So without that one key component, the ability to become realistically immersed in a game and allow yourself to believe that monsters really do lurk in the shadows around you, an horror MMORPG just isn’t possible. You can’t suspend disbelief if other people are unwilling or incapable of doing the same.

Especially if they’re running around with names like “TeamEdwaard” and “VampyreDiariesForevah”, because then it becomes less about the horrors of the game world and more about how scary society has really become in the real one.

-Coyote

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