IP-based MMOs: Part 3 (of 5)

If you’re ever in the position where you’d want to tell a non-gamer about your hobby, you can either try to explain WHAT the game is (like, you’re a dwarf or an elf, and you go out hunting Meezle Monsters, except if you come across the Grand Meezle, you better have some friends with you or you’ll get smooshed with the Meezle Blaster, and that can hurt if you’re not in the Stance of Unmeezlement, but of course, you can’t use the Meezle Tooth Rot Ointment then). MUCH easier to just say, “oh, I’m playing that Star Wars game” or “yeah, I hung out with Bilbo in Rivendell the other day”. Because people UNDERSTAND when you’re playing in IP-based game. They can meet you halfway.

Game: Huxley IP: Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World

In response to what he saw as a very naive vision of a future where scientific progress would turn the Earth into a utopia, Aldous Huxley wrote “Brave New World”, a novel of a “negative utopia”. In Huxley’s brave new world, technology has turned the human race stagnant, with people genetically engineered to be suited for their jobs. Drugs and sleep conditioning keep people happy in their roles as mindless consumers and workers. Films as diverse as Blade Runner, Gattaca and George Lucas’ THX-1138 have all explored the themes Brave New World set forth. The issues Huxley saw 80 years ago loom ever closer today.

What has all this got to do with Huxley: the Dystopia, the MMOFPS coming ‘soon’ for the PC? Well, the title. Huxley is the last name of a person who wrote a novel about a dystopia. And … that’s about as much as this game is based on that IP. Huxley is set after a global war that leaves humanity divided into two subraces, the sapiens and the alternatives. They both fight monstrous hybrids for control of the powerful mineral lunarite. Characters can be one of three classes — tank, ranged, or melee dps, no surprises there. Innovative battleground maps such as “Part Pickup”, where the two sides struggle to be the first to complete a giant mecha, add flavor to the game.

Huxley initially was going to support 5,000 players per shard, with battles being as large as 100v100. Since then, they have upped the max players per shard to 10,000, but lowered the maximum map size to 32v32. Announced in 2006, Huxley had a public beta last summer, but there’s been no recent word on a launch date.

Game: LEGO Universe IP: LEGO

From their initial design in in 1949 to their modern form released in 1958, LEGO bricks have been keeping kids’ hands busy for more than fifty years. The LEGO empire, ruled from Denmark, encompasses not only their trademark plastic bricks, but amusement parks, robotics kits, full kid-friendly CAD/CAM design software and, naturally, video games. With LEGO bricks, you can design and make nearly anything you can imagine.

In LEGO Universe, currently in closed beta and due out later this year, the power of your imagination (which is a stat in game) is used to construct not only your character, but your equipment, transportation, the city in which you live and so on. Carefully moderated in the same way as other kid-focused titles such as Toontown and Wizard101, kids have the freedom to build whatever they imagine and see it come to life in the game world. Players band together to take on the evil Stromlings and bring peace and happiness to plastic brick people everywhere. Building your own rocket ship and using it to travel to other worlds? Genius!

Game: Lord of the Rings Online IP: J. R. R. Tolkein’s “The Lord of the Rings

J.R.R.Tolkein’s epic-length follow-up to his children’s book “The Hobbit” tells the story of a world where peaceful people would have to learn to master the darkness in their own hearts in order to defeat the darkness that threatens to engulf the world — or, like the fallen leader of the Council of Wizards, Saruman, embrace it. Informed by memories of the lost, bucolic English countryside of his childhood and his experiences in World War I, Tolkein combined Nordic legends, his academic philological research and the tropes of heroic fantasy into the famous tale of an unassuming Hobbit and his eight companions who struggle against impossible odds to defeat an evil whose power they cannot imagine.

Before Turbine’s “Lord of the Rings Online”, Tolkein’s works had been the subject of an earlier effort by 90s computer RPG giant, Sierra Online. In the frontier days before EverQuest arrived to restart the MMO field, Sierra Online struggled to bring Tolkein’s story to life with Middle-Earth (later: Middle-Earth Online, because you just can’t NOT have the word “Online” in the title!) A game with little or no magic, permadeath, with an emphasis on story and roleplaying and a de-emphasis on quests and combat, MEO was a victim of mismanagement, technical complexity, and EverQuest.

Years later, Turbine acquired the “Lord of the Rings” license. Unlike MEO, which would have been set in a time after the events of the books, in the Fourth Age, Lord of the Rings Online would be set during the time of the books themselves. Players would meet and aid the Fellowship of the Ring in their struggles against the evils of Sauron and the armies of Mordor and take on missions and battles to hold back the tide of darkness to give the Fellowship time and opportunity to do their tasks.

Thought at launch to have the most realistic chance of topping World of Warcraft from its leadership position, LotRO has settled into the comfortable position as the #2 subscription-based MMO in the Western world. Players have followed the Fellowship through the Mines of Mordor, the golden forests of Lothlorien, the evils of Mirkwood and soon, rumor has it, the plains of Rohan.

Game: Pirates of the Caribbean Online IP: Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean was the last ride Walt Disney himself had a hand in creating. Originally intended to be a wax museum filled with static representations of pirates, advances in animatronic technology made it possible to build a water ride through stunningly animated tableaux depicting life as it might have been for a fictional pirate in the 1850s. At the end, a sudden drop down a waterfall brings riders back to the present day. Inspired by the attraction, Disney has to date produced three movies building on the theme of the pirate life. Starring Johnny Depp as the iconic Captain Jack Sparrow, the movies were such a hit that the ride itself has been changed to incorporate characters and scenes from the movie in an incestuous pas de deux.

Originally intended to launch alongside the second movie in the series but continually delayed, Pirates of the Caribbean Online launched in October of 2007. Like Wizard101, PotCO embraces a free to play model at the start that eases into a subscription as the player progresses. Players meet and interact with characters from the movies, visit the movie locations, sail their own ships, participate in invasions and ship battles, and in general have a grand old time saying “yarrrr” and “yohoho”. The true number of subscribers are unknown, but XFire has it lagging behind Pirates of the Burning Sea, the other player in the “1800s Caribbean Pirate MMO” genre.

Game: Playboy Manager IP: Playboy Magazine

I can only imagine the kind of spam I’m going to be getting after this article…. Sigh. The things I do for my readers!

Playboy was launched in late 1953 as a “thinking man’s” girlie magazine. Along with pictures of nearly-naked women, Playboy was one of the premier outlets for fiction in its day, publishing novels such as Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” in its pages. Playboy was also noted for its long, in-depth, sometimes rambling interviews with the leading figures of the day — renowned novelist Alex Haley once interviewed Martin Luther King, Jr. for the magazine. Since the availability of easy and anonymous porn on the Internet, the fortunes of Playboy and its competitors have sunk, but the brand and its bowtie-rabbit logo remains instantly recognizable the world over.

Jolt Online Gaming, a division of Activision and publishers of the browser-based casual games “Legends of Zork” and Utopia Kingdoms, announced last May that they were planning on doing to Playboy what they had done to Zork. From their press release: “In Playboy Manager, you play a crack talent agent managing the career of some of Playboy’s hottest up-and-coming models. Competing against thousands of other players, you will guide your model’s career toward her ultimate goal: Becoming a world-renowned Playmate with a permanent room in the Playboy Mansion!”

Game play is said to be based on trading cards, and almost certainly features the same sort of turn-based, semi-interactive action featured in its other titles. The game is currently taking names for its closed beta test. AND, they promise, THEY WON’T TELL YOUR GIRLFRIEND!

Tune in tomorrow for IPs based on SPACE BATTLES!

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Web developer for a Connecticut-based insurance company that's over 200 years old! Also a bicycler, a blogger, a kayaker, and a hunter of bridges.

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