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Fair Game: Wayback Machine to the Future

Column By Lisa Jonte on February 22, 2013

First, many thanks to the glorious K.S. for the initial idea for this particular column, upon which I have expanded just a bit.  I’ve read a lot of books and played a lot of games in my time, of many I have very fond memories. The idea was presented to me that some of those beloved games (and books) of way-back-when might make for fantastic MMOs today. So the question is:

What games or books from your past would you do back flips to have turned into an MMO? For me, it was hard to narrow down, but I have a few here.

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GAMES:

Pirate Adventure

This was the first text-based game I ever played. It was installed on the one and only computer that sat in my merchandising class during my Sophomore year in High School. (Yes, I took merchandising. I also took typing, shut up.)

If it weren’t for that computer and the slim chance that I might get a turn at Pirate Adventure, (competition was fierce) I might never have gone to class at all. So, in the end, you could say that a computer game saved my grade. In any case, I would love to see Pirate Adventure (with perhaps a more inventive title, c’mon) reinvented as an MMO today. I’m not talking about the short-lived kind of reinvention that Zork got, but as a fully realized, non-text MMO.

I want to say, “Yo ho!” and be transported with a fully animated cut scene! I want to finally see that damn hut and the clues within! Moreover, I want to follow those clues wherever they lead. And I want to do it all without some jerkwad standing behind me, tapping their feet and whining that my time is up and that it’s their turn on the computer already.

Eye of the Beholder

Fast-forward several years and we finally had a computer of our own! It had games and, sweet mercy, those games were built with graphics!

Now, don’t get me started on DDO. I dabble in DDO from time to time and I certainly wouldn’t want this to be any part of that.  EotB would have to be a separate world unto itself. Sure, the basic storyline isn’t really big enough to encompass a huge, subscription-based MMO, but maybe that’s no bad thing.  After all, who says there can’t be smaller, episodic MMOs out there? What if some MMOs were built like books, rather than soap operas? What if they were meant to be finite, rather than just going on and on until you finally get sick of them and walk away?

No cash shop, no pointless pixilated swag to keep you hanging on long after your interest has waned, (because you paid real money for that mount/house/hat damn it.) Instead you could just buy a six month pass, finish within that time and move on from there to a different game. Wouldn’t that be a nice change?

I think EotB would be fantastic as a finite MMO. Also, as an MMO, I wouldn’t have to worry about the two archers in the back either being useless in battle or shooting me in the head, because game devs are a little better at designing that sort of thing now.

Phantasy Star III

First, kill all the chirpers. I picked this one, not because it had such a stellar storyline or graphics, but because it had what few, if any, other games have had before or since: Generations.

I love the idea of a generational MMO. Just like a finite MMO, this would have an end point for each player character. But unlike an FMMO, (I just now coined that initialism) retiring one character would allow you to begin with that character’s offspring and a few legacy items. New story, new friends, new challenges, new worlds, same game mechanics and no new UI to get used to. The story would certainly have to be expanded, that’s for sure, but I think it’s doable.

BOOKS:

Pride and Prejudice (No, not the one with zombies.)

Actually, let’s expand that from P&P to encompass all of Jane Austen’s literary world. By the way, I can actually hear a bunch of you rolling your eyes right now, (your eye-rolls are just that epic.)

But think about it, beyond the sedate surface image of tea drinking and parlor sitting, is a world of duty, betrayal, scandal, financial machinations, personal intrigue, acts of desperation and near constant war with France. Instead of a thousand variations on the usual, ‘kill ten rats’ quests, intellect and problem solving could be a real factor. Make it a sandbox, with no specific goal other than where and how far you can take yourself. Make stealth and “countenance” necessary skills. Add permadeath. (Hey, consumption was a thing, why not use it?)

Lose the idea of character classes and build PCs based on a set of personal circumstances, some of them randomly generated and all of them, with effort, changeable. Ambition is everything and social-climbing is limitless, so long as you can find the means and acquire the skills to make it happen.

Throw in some politics, a duel or two and a few shipboard battles and you’ve got yourself a game.

Watership Down

The Great Escape, Escape from Alcatraz (or New York, whatever) but with BUNNIES! (Stay with me here.) Not just bunnies, but angry, intelligent, badass bunnies determined to survive at all costs! Forget your game landscapes wherein absolutely EVERYONE is the chosen savior of the world. Forget cash shops and bought advantages. No weapons, no armor, just teeth, claws and attitude. Also, permadeath, because who are we kidding here?

Another finite MMO (seriously, I want those to be a thing) wherein you literally have to scratch and claw your way across a hostile landscape to reach your Leporid Nirvana. I would also have it that your character portrait changes over time, as you acquire and recover from damage. Because nothing says, “true adventurer” like a couple scars and a ripped ear.  Now it’s your turn, what game or book from your past would you like to see remade as an MMO?  What would it be like? Tell me in the comments!

And now, a few responses to last column’s comment thread:

To those who offered welcome:  I thank you.

And to the Mod Staff:  You guys deserve combat pay.

Until next time, may your escort missions be few and your drops plentiful.

Image attribution:

Bunny pic: By Vincenzo Fileccia via Wikimedia Commons

Hobbyhorse boy: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs


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