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08/04/2009 à 22:35
So I found an article on
a little while ago that talked about the dearth of good sci-fi MMOs on the market, and postulated some reasons why this might be. I love sci-fi, I was hooked on Star Wars at an early age (sorry Trekkies), and I've often wondered about the same thing—you can see the evidence of it in earlier blogs, like
which refers to
. The article, if you're interested, is
Now there are a lot of interesting ideas posed in this article, some of which I agree with and some of which I don't. But what I really found interesting was the recently posted response on TechRadar,
Massively suggests that Sci-Fi MMOs have had trouble gaining traction are due to a number of primarily aesthetic factors—the author mentions the tendency of sci-fi game designers to base their games off of intellectual properties with their roots in the old-school tabletop gaming days, leading to the creation of a lot of really convoluted rules-systems. After all, the future is more advanced, right? And what better way to signify that advancement than with increased complexity? Obviously this makes the games less accessible, and accessibility is responsible for a good portion of WoW's success.
The author also suggests that one of the reasons responsible for the lack of success with Sci-Fi MMOs is because they don't have the cultural heritage that fantasy settings have. There's some truth to this. The
Lord of the Rings
books had its first installment,
, in 1937, and LOTR is the godfather of nearly all modern fantasy. Having that "common ground" as a touchstone (everyone pretty much knows what elves, orcs, dwarves and gnomes are) makes fantasy MMOs more accessible than sci-fi MMOs.
I think this argument falls flat, though. The "godfather" position of modern Sci-Fi is shared between the first
movie (1977) and the original
television series (1966). The average WoW player is about 35 years old. According to the
Entertainment Software Association
, the average gamer is 35 years old, and has been playing games for 13 years. That would mean the average gamer was born in 1974, three years before
Star Wars: A New Hope
and eight years after
. I think the world has reached the point where we can agree that sci-fi fans have just as much of a common cultural heritage as fantasy fans.
What TechRadar proposes is that the reason why sci-fi MMOs don't work is very simple: "It's the levels."
The thought is that the central themes of fantasy stories are all about superhuman people doing superhuman things. The fantasy stories we love have most of their roots in mythology, which are always about individual people having godlike powers and doing uber-powerful things. The same is true of WoW—the whole point is to go from a level 1 weenie to a level 80 badass in Tier 37 armor, and then going and saving the world. Fantasy stories are about
This isn't true for sci-fi stories. All our favorite Sci-Fi characters are
. Who out there can honestly say that Luke Skywalker was cooler than Han Solo?
Sci-fi is supposed to feel more
to us. It's supposed to be about people who succeed against impossible odds—and that's interesting to us not because they're demi-gods, but because they're
demi-gods. And because of this, the whole traditional arc of a fantasy MMO (level 1 weenie to level 80 badass) doesn't
right. Sci-fi games want a sandbox treatment, not a linear treatment—that's the reason why the Star Wars Galaxies game update offended so many people.
So this begs the question:
Is it possible to make a Sci-Fi MMO compelling?
If the traditional levelling progression and gear progression mechanic doesn't work for a sci-fi MMO...what will?
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