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Proper Treatment of an IP

By Laura Genender on February 21, 2007 | Editorials | Comments

Proper Treatment of an IP

Community Spotlight: Proper Treatment of an IP
By: Laura Genender

Editor's Note: This is an edition of a weekly column by Community Manager Laura Genender. Each week, Genender 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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Star Wars Galaxies, Matrix Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Warhammer Online, even World of Warcraft – like any other media, our MMO industry has become host to a slew of games based on another IP (Intellectual Property). This week on the forums, poster Tristaan brought up the industry’s use of IPs.

More specifically, Tristaan brought up the industry’s misuse of IPs. "Developers have succeeded in destroying Star Wars, the Matrix, and LOTR," Tristaan says. "These should be on top…they are not and they won’t be."

Our moderator Anageth jumps in for the first response. "Keep in mind that people have their own personal ‘vision’. When MMOs based on popular books and/or films are released, the fans already have in their own mind what certain characters or locations are like."

Solanar agrees with Anageth, but adds as well, "I think the devs always concentrate on the main story of what happened [in the book or movie], ie Neo in the Matrix, Frodo in LotR, etc. It was a great story, but people want to play in the world of the Matrix, the world of LotR, no one cares what the characters are doing after the story ends."

I’m not entirely sure that this is true for everyone, and I think that Anageth’s post applies once again – each player enters a world with a ‘vision’. Some want to see the world, others want to see their favorite characters.

Kurush agrees with Tristaan that there is an issue, and goes into more detail. "Developers never have carte blanche over major licensed IPs. It was true in SWG, and it was true in LotRO. Both teams have to consult with a group that held control over IP." He identifies several problems that he has with IPs made into games: "Scale…When you’re watching the movies or reading the books…you see and read about huge cities, epic struggles, and huge landscapes. Then you go into the MMORPG and find cities that feel too small to be real, distances between major landmarks that are too short, and grand plots that boil down to a few NPCs handing out menial quests."

Kurush concedes that this type of technology will not be available anytime soon, but there is also another component – the population of our industry just can’t support such a largescale world. Lower level areas already feel empty a year into a game, and it’s already tough to get groups in many worlds – imagine how empty a world would feel if it was scaled larger, with more areas and the same amount of people.

Kurush’s second point is setting vs. gameplay. "Like it or not, all MMORPGs boil down to the same thing for gameplay: kill mobs. I don’t just mean it in a loose sense, either. In pretty much every game out there, you kill mobs in one of three ways…wandering into a wilderness zone…dungeon crawling…or instanced missions. To me, [instanced missions] have the potential of doing the best ob of putting you in the story. To being with, the use of instances lets the world change around you, as it puts the focus squarely on your party. Still, while these are interesting for story value, such instanced content doesn’t make you feel like you’re impacting the gameworld, in my opinion."

Poster Mars505 thinks that Turbine, at least, is doing a wonderful job with LotRO. "people in the game are commending Turbine’s effort to sticking to the lore. [They are] getting hardcore LotR fans to give speicifc info and the lore. It’s a solid effort that is going to make gaming enjoyable for a lot of people again."

CleffyII thinks that there’s more to it. "I think the reason why is more complicated than differences in how people view the same work. First there is the fact that the base story is already known about. Can’t exactly go on a journey to throw a ring into the fires of Moldar if everyone already knows the results. It’s always ’20 years later’ sorta deal, and in most cases nothing inspiring to make people excited about the story."

What do you think?