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Fantasy Games?

Editorials By Jon Wood on January 03, 2007

Fantasy Games?

Community Spotlight: Fantasy Games?
By: Jon Wood

Editor's Note: This is an edition of a weekly column by Community Manager Jon Wood. Each week, Wood takes to our message boards and examines a specific topic raised by our community. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of MMORPG.com, its staff or management.

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Zindaihas started an interesting topic in The Pub the other day. He asked something that I hear asked time and time again whenever I’m talking about MMORPGs. “Are gamers really tired of the Fantasy genre?”

“When asked by other posters on this forum for new ideas,” he said, “I consistently see people say they want to see a setting in a world other than a fantasy world. I can understand that. It is overwhelmingly the genre of choice for developers, probably because there are so many possibilites with it and it is probably about as far from the dreary world of reality as you can get. But after being done over and over again, it might get kind of old for some. Is this the case? Is it possible to create a different MMO with as many options as the fantasy genre?”

“I played City of Heroes for a while which is a very interesting idea, but has its limits. I was a little turned off by the lack of items you could acquire as you can in a fantasy world. For me, I don't care if they keep coming out with fantasy MMOs, I just want them to be good. When I think of new ideas, I think of new ideas to improve the already popular fantasy world. How about you?”

Let me start by giving my own opinions on the subject. It doesn’t matter. Sometimes, I think too much time is spent deciding in what kind of world an MMORPG will be set. For me, it’s far more about the gameplay and feature decisions. Those are the aspects that will set one game apart from another in my mind. I don’t care if I’m shooting a pistol or swinging a sword, if the mechanics of the game are all the same, I don’t really see a difference. In terms of the City of Heroes example Zindaihas used, it is the unique gameplay elements that are available in that game that set it apart. It has very little to do with the fact that the game is about superheroes.

A number of my fellow members disagree with me, and feel that fantasy should go the way of the dodo:

“Personally, I’m getting tired of the “same” fantasy genre. Says ValiumSummer, “Seems fantasy means “Dwarves, Elves, Humans and Orcs” these days”.

”Yep, I am done with fantasy too.” Tagurit agrees, “We need more sci-fi.”

It’s Vhaln that I think highlights my point: “I think it's just a need for variety among veteran MMO'rs. We've played the same sorts of games,’ he says, “one after another, and asking for a different theme is the easiest way of asking for something new.”

”Personally, I don't care too much about themes, one way or another. Even a 16th century historical game like Voyage Century can hold my interest if the gameplay is good and different. Not that theme doesn't matter, I'd be more into it if it were sci-fi, or even fantasy - but if the gameplay weren't something different, I wouldn't have spent more than 15 minutes on it.”

The bottom line, as I see it, is that what we really need is something new. I believe that people are rebelling against the fantasy genre because that’s what we’ve seen the most of. That’s what’s disappointed us the most in the past (although fantasy has had its share of successes as well).

Here’s the problem. Video games are a business. There is a great deal of historical evidence to show that fantasy-genre video games are extremely popular, time after time. Think of any of the Baldur’s Gate series, or Neverwinter Nights. In terms of MMOs, the games most synonymous with our genre are fantasy. People who don’t play MMOs will most often name EverQuest and World of WarCraft as “the best” MMORPGs. If someone is going to invest their money in the production of a video game, they’re simply more likely to go with what they see as a “winner”.

Fantasy MMORPGs aren’t going away any time soon. What we, as players, need to hope for is more innovation whether it’s about elves and orcs or not.