I was lucky enough to have grown up in the 70’s while the original Star Trek was in syndication. I think it aired in the late afternoon on school days, just before the parents got home and dinner took over, and we’d catch every episode we could, eventually surprised when we caught one we hadn’t seen before. When we finally saw the second pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before” with only a partially formed crew of those we all know (Kirk, Sulu, Scotty and a strangely hot-headed Mr. Spock – Dr. Mark Piper anyone?), it was an interesting view into the early days of the series. In the episode Lt. Commander Gary Mitchell is imbued with godlike powers and quickly becomes a threat to the rest of the crew, with the inevitable shirt-ripping fight with William Shatner in the climactic ending. It was a scarier episode than we had become accustomed to in the later shows, but moreso, we all noticed how much more rough around the edges Spock seemed to be. Of course, probably at this time, thoughts were about Vulcans being more closely aligned with their warlike Romulan cousins, and much still to be fleshed out. Even then, Leonard Nimoy had a presence as Spock that could not be denied.
We’ve got a number of new, smaller scale, independent fantasy MMOs in various stages of completion on the horizon – Pathfinder, Shroud of the Avatar, Crowfall, Camelot Unchained, Pantheon – as well as some larger scale efforts – EverQuest Next being the notable, though the sale of Sony Online Entertainment to Daybreak Gaming Company has many players doubting that game’s future. The one thing in common between all of them is a latching on to traditional fantasy tropes – elves, dwarves, swords, dragons…you get the picture. Sure, we have some space games coming too with Star Citizen and the recently released Elite: Dangerous, Defiance, Destiny, and Planetfall 2 but we seem to be caught between swords and spaceships (ok, some superheroes and zombies are in there too!).
Can we try something new? I’m the biggest fan of fantasy there is, but I’m thinking our settings could use a good kick in the pants. Or is D&D-style, Tolkienesque fantasy the only financially viable (e.g. safe) option when investing millions of dollars to build out a game? My guess is that a solid idea, excellent gameplay coupled with good marketing could take some other ideas further than they have gone to date. Just a few ideas this week to mull over, even if they never get built!
This last week, AOL shut down its “enthusiast blog” division, Joystiq, taking with it WoW Insider and Massively, three of the most well-known game reporting and opinion sites in the industry. It left the writers, with more than 20,000 articles under their belt, a bit bewildered and stunned. And perhaps surprised at, if you were not a regular reader, the great outpouring of sympathy on the discussion threads.