Why Comic Book MMOs Don’t Work
This being the Internet, I’m going to make a sweeping generalisation and present it as fact. Obviously some people are going to wholeheartedly agree with my commentary and some will fervently disagree. If you belong to the latter camp, feel free to re-write the title of this post in your head to “why I think comic book MMOs don’t work”. There, now we’ve got all of the namby-pamby stuff out of the way, let’s get cracking with the reasons why comic book MMORPGs will never be a Hulk-smashing success.
I Don’t Want To Play Alongside Batman, I Want To Be Batman
It’s such a darn big flaw in the entire concept of MMOising the comic book genre. Who the heck wants to play Random-Rodent-Man and just ideally chat to Batman or receive a mission from him? Not me. I want to be Batman. I want to play games like Arkham Asylum and come as close as possible to being The Dark Knight himself without my wife filing for divorce. The comic books we love are built upon the foundations of inspiring characters and we play superhero games to become them, not to play their unknown sidekicks.
The Jedi Problem
As yes, the Jedi problem. Star Wars Galaxies faced an interesting conundrum when it was released: how to take the lore of its intellectual property, in where only a handful of Jedi existed, and yet give every player the opportunity to be one? Suffice to say, they never came up with a good solution and now the game is overrun, unfittingly, by Jedi.
Comic book MMOs face a similar dilemma. The DC Universe isn’t overrun by superheroes, they only exist in secluded handfuls. That’s what makes them unique. If players inhabit a relatively small area of game world and constantly bump into other superheroes, how does anyone feel special?
Lack Of Itemisation
One fundamental aspect of MMORPGs is the ability to enhance your character through itemisation and, in return, change your characters appearance. Now unless you’re used to watching the Joel Schumacher versions of Batman, you’ll know that superheroes don’t often change their costume. The resulting problem? A RPG in which everyone always looks the same… forever.
Action Gameplay (And Other Mechanics)
MMORPGs are a lot of fun but they’ve never exactly broken the mould with innovative or fast-paced gameplay. The old “press 1-2-3 hotkeys” formula is fine for Utgard the Warrior but for when you’re playing Superman? Or The Flash? Or Deadpool? Superhero games need a variety of gameplay, from insane power to amazing stealth, and require custom mechanics that simply cannot be achieved in the standard MMORPG setup.
We Can’t All Save The World
Part of being a superhero is getting involved in ludicrous situations that involve everything from saving the planet Earth to the entire fabric of space-time itself (usually in a massively confusing and incomprehensible way) and that’s hard enough to convey in a single player game, let alone in an online persistent world. How exactly do you save the Solar System from being devoured by Galactus when your party members haven’t even gotten onto that stage of the quest yet?
Being a comic book super-nerd, I suppose I’m more sensitive to these factors than others might be. Of course, being a comic book super-nerd combined with a MMORPG ultra-geek probably makes me the best person in the world (yes, I’m just going to go ahead and say it… in the world) to comment on this situation and the most qualified to come to my conclusion.
But what do you think? Comic book MMOs: the memory of Thomas and Martha Wayne (good) or green Kryptonite (bad)?