With the "just in time for the holidays" release of several highly anticipated titles, the gift giving season is winding down to the inevitable drunken New Year's crawl through piles of credit card bills and Schnapps-induced regret.
For gamers this means that we're about to hit that odd stretch of winter hibernation where nothing worth playing is going to be released until we're nearly driven insane with hunger. In order to survive during this famine we have to carefully ration the games that we've received as gifts so that we don’t succumb to downloading one of the 967 train simulators that they always offer on Steam.
Still, during this time of hunger and wanting, our eyes will wander to the future and we'll begin to glance longingly towards the next MMORPG that promises to be released; even if that game fails to realize that only one thing can save our beloved genre from the watered down grave that developers have been digging for it:
Every new online game has to be based in SPACE.
Admittedly, I may be a little bit biased as I’ve been playing a lot of Star Wars: The Old Republic as of late, but let's face the facts - there are really only two types of MMORPG: Those that contain "space" and those that contain "dragons". At one point gaming companies considered developing a hybrid of the two, but it was then discovered that "Space Dragons" themselves cannot legally be drawn or rendered without the aid of an airbrush and several pounds of high-grade marijuana.
Since then it has been a mostly dragon market, and because of that we're beginning to stagnate.
Now, I'm not saying that fantasy based MMORPG's have to go away entirely, just that dragons need to have a little time off. They need to rest and recuperate out of the heat of the spotlight so that our affection for them can grow and flourish in the dark recesses of our parent's basements once more.
During this recuperation phase, space games can fill the gaps in our hearts and imaginations by offering a bevy of strange and rarely tasted fruits. Things like:
As impressive and intimidating as a longsword can be in combat, nothing really says “come at me bro” like a dozen rounds of scorching hot plasma fired from a laser pistol. It has the gentlemanly elegance of a firearm mingled with the rebellious and puckish nature of exposure to highly radioactive materials.
You don't even have to hit your target in order to kill them; if you miss whatever ammunition you're using probably gives off enough residual radiation that they're still going to end up with an oddly pulsating neck tumor. These things aren’t laser pointers – they’re actually firing something. And if that something is glowing green and sizzling into the steel bulkhead next to your noggin, I doubt it is full of vitamins and minerals. You think that carrying a cell phone around in your pocket all day is bad? Try having two of those bad boys playing bread to your baby maker sandwich.
Smugglers and space-cowboys don't wear their blasters on their hips in homage of old gunslingers; they do it because their testicles are so swollen with cancer that they act as a natural separation barrier between the guns.
Plus, you know - they make that cool "pew pew" sound, so it’s all good.
New Races to Fight
Space opens new opportunities to create races and creatures we've never seen before. The problem with most fantasy based MMORPG's is that there is nothing new left to kill. The story always changes, but the players are always the same, and there are only so many ways to watch them die before even mass genocide gets a bit tedious.
I’ve personally killed more Elves than a Keebler forest fire, and to be honest I’d like some new blood on my hands. Space offers this in the form of endless alien races from countless planets. They can be created as quickly as they can be imagined, and they can be any shape, color or size.
Delegates from peaceful galaxies, wide-eyed explorers new to space travel, even cute and cuddly Ewok-like teddy bear people who have never known war can die horribly at the hand of my BallRadiator2000.
The options are as limitless as the stars. The bloody…bloody stars.
New Races to NOT Fight
The other problem with most fantasy based MMORPG's is that there is nothing new left to…get caught touching ourselves to dancing Warcraft characters on embarrassing YouTube videos that we hope and pray that everyone has forgotten about by now.
We've grown so accustomed and used to the norm that absolutely nothing “vanilla” does it for us anymore. Unless you have a Night Elf choking an Orc while a bound and gagged Paladin is dressed like a humiliated schoolgirl and forced to watch, we get nothing.
Not even a twitch. The magic is gone. From our pants.
If Captain Kirk has proven anything to us, it is that the vastness of space is chockfull of horny green skinned alien chicks who have an achin’ for that human bacon and are waiting to die horribly at the hand of my BallRadiator2000 – and no, this time I don’t mean the laser pistol.
We're Just Sick of Elves
Someone has to say it because we all know it in our hearts:
No one likes the goddamn Elves.
They're tall, graceful, and pretty much the stuck up cool kids of the fantasy world. Why would your average gamer ever relate to them? If gaming had a prissy cheerleader who leads you on just so that they could laugh with their friends as they dump a bucket of pig blood on your head, it would be the Elves.
And since when did longevity and age mean wisdom? If wisdom came with age old people wouldn’t be driving 45 in the passing lane and every electronic appliance in their homes wouldn’t constantly flash 12:00. Being old doesn’t make you smarter, it just gives you more time to perfect being a douche, and that’s exactly what the Elves have done.
They’re like slipper wearing Highlanders with hair care products instead of swords.
In space, there are seldom any Elves, and if there are? You can suck them out of an airlock and into vast nothingness surrounding your ship. Because in space no one can hear you…
Give the fantasy world a well-deserved rest.
Like vampires, bacon and now zombies, the next “kill the dragon of the week” game is becoming a tired cliché and we risk over-mining this truly precious resource. Or worse yet, we risk making it so mainstream that it loses that special place in our hearts that we’ve always held for it as it is becomes dumbed down in order to generate mass appeal.
They already took our THAC0, don’t let them take the whole damn genre.
Let’s play in space for a while and let the fantasy world heal naturally so that the next time we visit it, we actually want to stay for longer than the first free month. Plus?
Space has cantinas and holo-strippers.