Be Careful What You Wish For
I've seen it a million times:
A new movie, game, or sci-fi series comes out and instantly the forums are flooded with threads stating that the focus of our current mania should be made into an MMORPG. Avatar, Halo, Firefly; all of these titles have at one time or another been in development, and all of them have either been canceled or fizzled before they could gain momentum.
Somehow, we have it in our heads that just because something makes us happy, or brings us joy, that reincarnating it as an MMORPG would be the next logical step in keeping it alive in our hearts. The problem is, our love of something doesn't necessarily mean it will make a great game.
Don't believe me? Let's look at:
The Sims Online
The Sims are a fun and wholesome family game right up until the very moment you realize you have the power to kill off your creations in horrific, grizzly ways.
Then it's all indoor barbeques and wicker furniture.
Let's not lie to ourselves and each other by pretending that we're all good people. The very first time that the Grim Reaper showed up to claim one of your Sims, you were hooked. All purposeful game play went right out the window and you started moving all of the broken computer equipment to the center of the flooded kitchen just to see what would happen.
Unless you're an 11 year old girl, or a 37 year old single woman with more cats than a discount Chinese restaurant, not one of us *really* played The Sims the way that we were supposed to. We just want to make them bone and then kill them off by yanking the ladder out of the swimming pool.
There was no plot. There was no storyline or epic quests that furthered a gripping tale that swept you into its telling - there were only nude patches and the sobbing ghosts of half-starved burn victims.
And that's the way we liked it.
The Sims Online was destined to fail because it took away the only redeeming factors that kept us interested in the game; the manual removal of the pixeled blur so that we could watch them shower naked and the addition of nipples to the people that we were about to murder. Then they went even one step further and added something that no Sims game had ever even dreamed of containing...a scripted storyline.
What in the hell?
We don't want human interaction or plot based adventure in our Sims games, we want to play merciless "Death God" to a bunch of screaming lab rats that we hand crafted to look like Tommy Jorgenson. Only then could his many gruesome deaths serve as a warning to all of the other kids who would whip us with towels in 11th grade gym class, even when we told them to cut it out because it really hurt.
Lego Universe Online
Everyone loves Legos.
Sure, it's true that most of us never progressed in skill beyond the "make a multicolored wall or lame-ass brick gun" stage, but it didn't matter - Legos were FUN. But what Lego Universe Online failed to understand was that Legos were the lonely kid's toy, so the very concept of multiplayer gaming was doomed from the very start.
No one ever really wanted to share their Legos , and why would they? There were only so many "good" pieces in the bucket, and if you were forced to share, your many hued 9mm pistol could never be completed because your cousin was using up all of the pieces to finish his full scale working replica of the internal combustion engine.
Which brings us to the second joy that Lego Universe Online attempted to rob us of; the senseless and jealousy driven destruction of another person's creation.
That and the fact that Legos stop being a fun and nostalgia filled throwback to happy childhood memories the very first time that you step on one of the little f**kers in the bathroom hallway at two in the morning.
The Matrix Online
When the movie "The Matrix" first hit the big screen, I was absolutely blown away. I saw it a dozen times in the theater, bought all of the action figures, and wore a black duster straight out of a low-grade bondage porno flick everywhere that I went for the better part of a year.
The Matrix had everything that a geek needed to fuel his fantasies, and because of that it captured both our imagination and our heart in a way that few films truly can. So when one of my industry buddies informed me that he was working on "The Matrix: Online", an MMO game based off of the movie that I was completely obsessed with?
I soiled my skintight leather pants in bullet-time baby.
I mean, our game was finally here! A digital world where computer geeks could rule with an iron, yet ergonomically supported fist! We thought that we would be the new Gods of a kick-ass Kung Fu simulator chockfull of programmable hot chicks that had to do anything we commanded. We would become one with the virtual world, and even as our real bodies withered and rotted away, we wouldn't care because we were IN THE MATRIX!
Then I played the game, and I died a little bit inside.
The Matrix Online was one of the first games to ever disappoint me so greatly that I honestly contemplated giving up on gaming altogether. Bugs, crashes, glitchy game play with frustrating controls and poor keyboard design, The Matrix Online felt more like a virus than a program. To this day I still have six copies of it, sealed and unopened on my gaming shelf. I keep them there to serve as a reminder of two things:
1) The gaming world is a fickle mistress and there is no "sure thing". Even the strongest of geek concepts and obsessions can fall prey to poor design and implementation. And…
2) If you piss off enough people in the gaming industry, they'll start sending you copies of the game as some sort of twisted warning.
Kind of like the geek version of waking up with a horse head in your bed, but with more lag.
Star Trek Online
It honestly pains me to mock this game.
Not because I'm a particularly rabid Star Trek fan, or because George Takei is the closest thing that we may have to a living God, but because I plunked down 300 bucks for a "Life Time Subscription" and none of my peers will ever let me forget it.
Star Trek is a franchise that every true geek is forced to love to at least a small degree, or in some incarnation. Everyone has their favorite, be it Kirk, Picard, Sisko or even Dr. Samuel Beckett hoping that his next leap is the final leap home…
And even if you don't like Star Trek?
Even if you are one of the rare geeks that doesn't have even a passing interest in it, and you find it stupid and dull? You *still* know all of the references and pop culture jokes because the rest of us can't seem to shut up about it for more than two minutes.
It is part of our who we are. Resistance is …virginal.
So when Star Trek Online was announced, not only did I pull strings and cash in favors to get into Beta - I immediately bought the 300 dollar subscription that absolutely guaranteed that my eventual disappointment would be infinitely more painful than yours.
The concept was solid, but the game itself sadly was not, and we the fans were to blame. You see, where Star Wars fans are f**king psychotic, Star Trek fans are some of the most persistent, nit-picking whiners that you'll ever meet. The developers caved to the constant deluge of e-mails and death threats delivered in Klingon and tried to appease everyone, which meant that in the end no one was satisfied with the product.
The whiners left after they got their way, as most whiners do, and the casual fans were disappointed with the seemingly constant and confusing changes, so they left.
In the end the only people who are still subscribed to Star Trek Online are the diehard Trekkers who are just happy to be a part of the world that they love, the people giving it a second whirl now that it has gone free to play…and the morons who paid for the lifetime subscription and stubbornly refuse to uninstall it.
But then again, if I had been careful of what I wished for, I wouldn't have this cool solid brass communicator pin.
Who's the fool now?